Thursday 9 April 2020


Public Information Statement
I'm here to edutain you but I'm also here to help. If I share the gaffes I have made, it's partly to save you from doing anything so foolish. As the Corona death toll creeps past 200 from the Republic it gets increasingly likely that we'll know personally someone who gets killed by covid-19. That got a step closer two nights ago when a friend reported the death of an elderly member of her community: "sadly passed away due to Covid-19: travel-related within her immediate family and very difficult for all of them". That last phrase must be an understatement of the guilt and judgement bubbling away just beneath the surface in so many families. I hope they are kind to each other and reflect on there but for the fact that I can't ski go I.

Tuesday also brought into focus the collateral healthcare damage from covid-19. Lunchtime on that day, I was asked by The Beloved if I could take a 60-something friend to hospital because the friend's 70-something partner was, or should be, cocooning. TB couldn't do the <nee-now nee-now> run herself because she was i/c her own 90-something father. My Yaris is fire-engine red and I could defo make an attempt at the <nee-now nee-now> sound effects through the open window; so of course I said Yes. And txtd  the injured party "I am invincible and HAVE WHEELS, call me if you need a lift to A&E." Of course, they didn't take me up on the offer. If your beloved was going to hospital you'd surely not delegate the chore to the neighbours. Things looks okay so far: broken leg requiring a pin and therefore surgery in a hospital where the orthopedic surgeon is not yet relieving the decimated ranks of intubators in ICU. So good timing.

As well as hospitals, covid-19 is also doing a number on funerals . . . and that number is 10 mourners max in the chapel and at the graveside. This is a huge wrench in the works of the Irish social calendar where the whole office will come to your mother's funeral, as well as third-degree relatives and all the neighbours and the neighbours' neighbours. We had a death [neither covid-19 nor collateral, just a shit-happens death] in the family last week and the funeral was in Mount Jerome on Saturday afternoon. Accordingly we attended-by-skype with Pat the Salt. Even that is invitation only because the band-width isn't infinite. As with all the best funerals several aspects were unintentionally funny - that's why we call them funerals. Invitees are sent a link to a skype channel with 10 lines of instructions:
Please ONLY click on the above Chapel Skype Group Link on the same day of the service starts
NB!! Please note that the chapel attendant will open the Chapel Skype Group Link just before the service starts.
If as a guest, please type in your name and click on "join conversation"
Remember that it is essential that the individual who wishes to view a service with Skype to:
(a) Have a reliable Wifi signal for the duration of the Skype call
(b) Ensure that the Microphone setting on the Skype Call Screen is muted during the service
(c) Ensure that your camera is off during the service
No, the message doesn't come all in red, but a disconcerting more or less random amount of it is.

What could possibly go wrong? Well . . .
a) dead people tend to be old and so do their friends-and-relations, so they may be a bit ditsy on computers; never done Skype before; didn't know that their computer has a microphone
b) some other oldsters might not know that their phones have two cameras [both of which shd be off]
c) people younger than me, otoh, are far too busy to read and obey ten [longer than a tweet, I R 2 tired] lines of instructions
d) old people have been known to leave their landline phones off the hook, so they cannot be reached.

Pat's team in Tramore were regaled with the sight of his elderly rellies occupying half the screen muttering "what's happening? is this right? oh Sinead, is that yourself? how's Padraig" then a peculiarly disconcerting flash of some wizened bare feet at the other end of a bed. All the while the MtJerome skype-master is sending frantic but unread messages like "would everyone please switch off their mics" and "sorry for the delay" and "the service is about to start" . . . and then we got a full screen view of the chapel incl a pixellated view of the distant back of Dau.I's head [see lives <2km from MtJs] and the obsequies began.

It wasn't at all at all an old style Irish funeral: there were no hang-sangwiches, no cups of mouse-trottable tea, no wake, no open coffin, no hugs, no "sorry for your loss", no crushing hand-shakes from the farming neighbours. We'll get back to that post-covid, and we're still finding our way in this New Normal. We'll get there.

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