Sunday 22 March 2020


Mothering Sunday, one of the great Spring festivals didn't appear unexpectedly in 2020 and a certain amount of preparation went into it. With Coronarama in full swing, it was difficult <foolhardy> for Dau.I and Dau.II, let alone The Boy in England, to come home with cakes and honey this weekend. On their behalf therefore, I made a sort-of-simnel cake for their mother: it had little cubes of marzipan  (and sultanas) running through it rather than, as traditional, a gurt big slab of the stuff baked into the cake's midline. Last night, I was instructed to receive a 3-way-incommming Skype call before breakfast which would be a welcome >!surprise!<. It was so surprising that the Bean an Tí was in the shower when Skype started its bing-bong-bing, so the kids had to try again in ten minutes. That was the best possible start to the day that's in it.

The day started off chill; but by lunchtime the sun was out and it turned into a perfect Spring day, crisp, fresh, the pear-tree and the quince showing leaf, a light easterly wind to keep things moving. And I tell ya b'ys the World was on the move this afternoon. We've lived up our lane in one of the remotest parts of Leinster for 24 years, and I've never seen so many cars parked on the county road nor such a commensurate steady tramp of people, their dogs, teens and children heading past our gate for the hills above. It is insane; and not only at ours: Gardai have been forced to close public carparks at tourist hotspot Glendalough following complaints about people not taking social distancing seriously despite the escalating coronavirus crisis. The move follows reports of large crowds congregating at entrances to the mountainous beauty spot, with shocking photos showing throngs queuing at busy coffee stalls and other pop-up shops.

The Beloved warned me off about inviting all and sundry in to see the yard, the ringstone and the sheep. I admit I do have a tendency to lean on the gate sucking a bit of straw like a rustic codger and passing the time of day with passers-by. For at least the last 18 years, for example, we have been servicing the Blackstairs Challenge - a 30+ km hill walk in the month of May: always providing water and more recently lashing out a slap of flapjacks to boost the blood sugar of the trekkies.
Everyone now knows that we have a tap in the yard convenient to the front gate. For me the problem was not so much that I'd cop some spittle while chatting to an infected but asymptomatic visitor; rather it was that a dozen different people would sneak in and touch the tap to create a pulsing fomite (*) of Covid-19. The original 2007-vintage tap rusted to buggery a couple of years ago and I replaced it with one which allows it to be padlocked closed. Not my choice; in fact I felt uncomfortable about there being a demand for such a product - who would be stealing water?? But it turned out to be just the thing this weekend (and the foreseeable future); I made us a sign [L] and wired it to the tap asking people not to touch it.

The gate has been shut these last few days because of rogue sheep-in-the-lane but I think I would have closed it anyway although I hate doing this normally - feck it, next we'll have automatic gates and a chain-link fence and be prisoners in our own castle. But as the raree show continued up and down the lane hour after hour, I made another sign to hang on the gate:
Isolation Unit
Stay Safe * Hugs L8R
It's like the foot & mouth
Except it kills people
This went through a few iterations: "COVID-19: It's like the foot & mouth except it kills people" seemed a bit too passive aggressive for "What in the name of madness are you doing taking your kids into this maelstrom of people? Go Home! do not pass Go, do not collect £200; do not stop at the garage for ice-creams; that petrol pump handle hasn't been cleaned this week". I softened it, as I thought, with the "Isolation Unit" to imply that there were old people in the house <true dat> . . . or someone with cystic fibrosis. And I have a genuine concern for the health of everyone, not least because unimaginative imbeciles can spread this virus as well as [better than] anyone else and so added "Stay Safe". I firmly believe that these dread days will pass and the survivors will continue to walk up our lane for their physical and mental health and because it is wonderful to roam about in the hills. "Hugs L8R" was meant to convey this.
(*) Fomite: n. object or material which is likely to carry infection, such as clothes, utensils, furniture . . . or outdoor tap.

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