Quarantine by Eavan Boland – RIP

Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

Quarantine
by Eavan Boland

In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking — they were both walking — north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

From Code (2001), reproduced by kind permission of Eavan Boland and Carcanet Press

Creativity creates Optimism – It’s a Lovely Day after all!

Today, in lockdown, I told myself to cop myself on. I had been swaying towards feeling a little sluggish, a tad sorry for myself, and generally just a wee bit sad and frustrated about the state we have all found ourselves in, in Ireland. Having no control externally can lead to having no control internally so I needed to nip that in the bud.

So I decided to write a list of all the things I like about me and my life. It took me some time, but I did it. The temptation in lockdown is to over analyse and beat ourselves up for past mistakes, maybe even current mistakes. There is also the temptation to think we are not achieving enough in lockdown, for me anyway. But these are surreal times, there are no rules. We all just gotta do the best we can.  So I kicked myself, I did some meditation, and I remembered how amazing and wonderful I am, and how amazing and wonderful we all are. This kind of self-love is not narcissistic in my opinion, it is necessary and important just now.

And so the day went on. First and most important step, what will I cook today? I read cookery books voraciously, I record every cooking programme I can, and I am trying very hard to improve my skills in the kitchen during this period. But the culinary advice I seek most just now is my Mum’s. An amazing cook and baker, I ring her every day to find out what she and Dad are having for dinner and despite me not eating red meat or pork, her recipes are my go-to, and I have managed to adapt them to my own cooking. I haven’t seen my folks in a long time now but that little cookery connection makes me feel like they are present in my meals, and I know I am present in theirs.

It’s Sunday so as a self-employed person, I then planned my week ahead. I have a bad habit of working at weekends but this weekend I slowed that down big time, in favour of me time, or to more accurately define it, still time.

Like lots of people I plan to cook myself out of this crisis, but I also plan to work myself out of this crisis. Creativity does not stop because of lockdown. In truth, creativity is enhanced because of lockdown. Mostly, I am using this time to be as creative within my job as I can be.  It’s exciting times if you look at it that way. Creative times. And creativity kills the negative critical voice that can creep in. Creativity kills the temptation to feel sad, because creativity makes the world look a bit brighter. It’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to feel out of control. But use those feelings to create. Creativity creates optimism.

Remembering Bill Withers. It’s a lovely day after all.  (And its vegetable curry for dinner)

There was no rhubarb in Dunnes today…

Well there was one bunch…a pathetic limp little bunch that I couldn’t bring myself to purchase. I love rhubarb. I feel like I was reared on rhubarb. I just love the stuff. I have it for my breakfast every morning with oats..maybe its an O Riagáin thing. It’s possible. My older brother’s best man (and former housemate) commented on Fergal’s love of the stuff in his best man speech. Is it really that weird to love it so much? I talk to my Mum every day just now, as my folks are cocooning, (hate that word but that’s for another blog post) and every conversation mentions rhubarb…who has it and where can I find it?? (within 2km).

So anyway there was no rhubarb in Dunnes today apart from the one little limp bunch that I didn’t buy…

But it was great to get into town, I cycle in once a week now to do a weekly shop. I appreciate that I am so lucky that I live so near town, but initially, I found it quite depressing to wander into, what is essentially, a ghost town. But today, despite the lack of rhubarb, I found it way less depressing, in fact I found it strangely uplifting.

Several TDs were wandering through the streets, heading to Fallon & Byrne to buy their takeout lunch, and while everybody was obeying social distancing, it was comforting seeing that some businesses could continue to move, and that they were being supported by customers to be able to do that.

As I cycled home through Grafton Street, I could see that some shop doorways were being boarded up. That made me sad momentarily as I am not sure if that measure is to stop homeless people sleeping in doorways, or to prevent break-ins.  But neither that momentary sadness, nor the lack of rhubarb could dampen my joy of being out, being in town and seeing smiles on faces of all the staff in Dunnes, and people, just like me, doing their weekly shop.

A lovely Irish musician said to me recently that he gets dressed up to go to Tesco…those lucky Tesco customers (was what I was thinking, like who knows he might bring a keyboard next time?).

Me, I wasn’t too dressed up today, but my weekly shop to Dunnes is till my social  highlight just now.

And then I came home and I started to work again…if you haven’t been checking out all the lovely videos we have been posting to the Kíla socials, it’s really time to do so x

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Pat Tierney was a poet who died in 1996. Some of you may remember him from Grafton Street where he recited poetry, both his own poems and poems of others. He also wrote a self-published autobiography called 'The Moon on My Back'. The title was inspired by a dream he had had, as a child, that the moon was chasing him. He was energetic, joyful, and charismatic but he was HIV positive. The 4th of January 1996 was the first full moon of that year and that was the day that Pat died. Colm O Snodaigh penned a song about this, as Gaeilge, called 'An Ghealach ar mo Thóir'. Anyone who has been to the The Kíla Sessions at @whelanslive , may have heard him sing this. It is an unreleased song, as yet, but we recorded it while in Paris in March at the @centreculturelirlandais . At the moment we are calling these jam sessions, The Paris Demos. Dave Hingerty filmed this, during the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown (social distancing rules were respected) and we think it is absolutely beautiful. Inspired by Pat Tierney, the song and video brings two virus pandemics together, that each in their own way, brought the world to a halt. Codladh Sámh Pat agus Go raibh maith agat. Filmed & Edited by @davehingerty Recorded & Mixed by Brian Hogan ( @preachersson ) #poetry #writing #scribbling #poem #pattierney #poet #music #irishmusic #newmusic #band #musician #dublin #graftonstreet #Ireland #paris #france #art #kíla

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Day ???

Since my last post, I’ve been tested. For Covid-19. It was negative. I was tested a week after I was referred ( and at that point I had no symptoms) and I received the results 2 weeks after the test. So was I negative? Or could I have been positive? Who the hell knows? Do I have questions about the Covid-19 testing system? Hell yeah. Is this blog post about that? Hell No. I’m well, I have a lovely home, I go for walks and cycles and I am bloody lucky in my book just now. I have some freedom.

I still have my Irish Navy neighbours though ( see last blog posts). The L.E. Samuel Beckett left us so now its just me, my neighbours, and the L.E. Niamh. Niamh is slightly less intimidating than Sammy B. I feel I have less to prove if I sit beside her in the sunshine. Sitting beside Sammy B made me want to reach for my notebook, and pen, and then realise how I would never be as good a writer as him. But, you know, I take my lessons where I can get them.

I’ve found it hard to write this blog. I wanted to do a daily update but I just could not do it. In truth I have found it hard to concentrate  on any form of relaxation. On the other hand I have not found it hard to focus on my work. That bit has been easy to a certain extent. And Zoom calls with Kíla are a whole new world for me, entertaining, inspiring and challenging.

I’ve also learnt not to sweat the small stuff. Sounds clichéd but I don’t mean it to be. Things that bothered me before the ‘Virus’ no longer bother me..not only do they not bother me, if these things are not worth caring about, I simply let them go and I focus on me, my job, and my life.

Another thing I have had no difficulty in doing, is laughing. I laugh a lot. Sometimes at myself,  and of course sometimes by myself. I find myself very amusing. Laughter is a gift, and a gorgeous gift at that.

And I really adore the amazing quality of talent that is appearing on social media these days, and not just from Kíla or Aindrias, across the board.  I also do some work for A Lust For Life, and their content is just phenomenal just now, particularly in caring for people’s mental health at the moment.

Im gonna finish this post with a little clip from my trip to New Orleans in January with Kíla for Folk Alliance. Aindrias popped down too and although it was a very full on conference, on the Friday night there, once we finished work, we just laughed and we danced and we listened to, and watched great music (oh and the video isn’t too dark…the Manager knows best :) ).