Category Archives: lockdown

The tea has come

The thing about knowing you’d be cancelling a trip back to Ireland is the minor detail of the tea. The amount of tea in the teabox started deteriorating awfully quickly when I a) started teleworking and b) stopped drinking Coke Zero and coffee. It was already looking tight that I’d make it to the trip home to April anyway, but when April was swimming in a sea of cancellations and lockdown risks, it became necessary to act quickly. So 160 teabags were ordered and this morning arrived in between two conference calls. How beautiful. I don’t need to panic again now until I’ve drunk at least 100 cups of tea. That gives me time to order some more and not quite run out.

Anyway, day 2 teleworking was half and half; the morning spent at home, the afternoon back to the office for what may the last time for some time. All the conference calls were this morning which was badly planned on my part; I have a data cap. The plus side is that it was nice to be back in the office. Bigger desk. Two screens. Proper keyboard. Very quiet which is usually a bonus.

Walked home. You now have to queue to get into the supermarket, at least at 6pm anyway. I don’t know how this is all going to work. Social distancing means you have to stay away from people; I don’t know how many people the grocery store allowed in but there were about 10 queueing outside. I hope it’s quieter at 7am. I hope I am up at 7am.

ON the other hand I want a life where I don’t have to be up at 7am to go queue at the grocery store. There’s something all wrong with that. It reminds me of those spy books set in the 1970s and 1980s, talking about the queues in Soviet Russia.

Someone asked me what was it like there. “So, What’s it like there, Treas?”

Well, you have to queue to get into buy toilet roll at the moment but anyway. No what strikes me most is the quietness. Coincidentally, as I write this, 2 cars pass the front of the apartment. This is a lot. My street, which is usually jammed non-moving at 8am has been deserted these last few days.

There don’t seem to be so many aircraft floating around either although I don’t always hear them so the data is incomplete.

I talked to three people at the office today, maintaining the required gap of 2 metres, and then, when I came home, I realised the only people I will actually exchange words with in real life for the next few months will be the people on the cash desk at the grocery store. It’s a sobering thought. At least one of the cash attendants today was wearing a mask. I could see him through the window while I considered whether to queue or not.

The strange part is talking to Ireland. They are … getting there. Not quite up to the level of queuing to get into the grocery shops, and they haven’t banned people from going out yet. Hope that does not change any time soon. It’s not that I actually want to go out and run ten kilometres – I don’t – but a 2km walk is near mandatory or I am completely screwed. I have a 70 sqm apartment. I’d be hard pushed to walk between the living room and the kitchen enough times to make 2km.

On the group chat at work, we’ve been exchanging recommendations of YouTube videos for getting exercise when stuck at home. All of these recommendations have been matched with fables of the injuries people got when they were doing those exercises. I am somewhat skeptical.

So, there’s a growing list of things I regret not doing since Christmas. Nothing earth shattering. I should have bought a printer. I could do with a second desk. I need a million more shelves. The rapid reorg of my life to facilitate home working has led to any number of Luxembourgish eco-bags containing art materials, fabric and general stuff swished off my desk. It’s really strange to be thinking along those lines.

Today was Saint Patrick’s Day, well, it still is. I don’t think they reattributed it to Saint Andrew just yet. The first track that came on is a recently favourited track from a Zoe Conway album that she did with Julie Fowlis. It’s a setting of a Mairtín O Direáin poem called Faoiseamh a Gheobhadse. You can find it on YouTube.

Zoe Conway and John McIntyre

Mairtín O Direáin is my favourite Irish language poet. In fact, I think this is a reflection of my tastes in poetry which tend to the very accessible, very simple but also, very deep. Anyway, I wasn’t familiar with this but the general thrust of this is that he finds peace, walking on the shores of his homeland, amongst his people.

I feel that quite a lot these days mostly because I’m not entirely sure how to get the peace that comes from walking by the sea. I fake it by using the sound of waves on someone’s Soundcloud. It helps. Currently the most exciting thing in my life is that the number 30 bus goes by every 20 minutes. That’s a side track by the way. I was going to talk about the similarities to some random extent I see between O Direain in Irish, and my favourite Irish English language poet who is Patrick Kavanagh. Some account on twitter has been pushing a photograph of Maud Gonne lately and I have been taking the view that as well as not being totally lost on his Nobel winning poetry, William Butler Yeates doesn’t strike me as having fantastic taste in women.

This is very judgmental of me of course. Maud Gonne was probably a perfectly lovely woman. And I didn’t like WB anyway.

Moving swiftly onwards, I have yet to develop a Home Working Listicle. I still haven’t worked out how not to go completely mad but there are two reasons for that a) I don’t have time because I have to cook and therefore I have to wash the ware and b) I’m learning Lord Franklin in DAGDAD on the new guitar so help me god why did you make Luka Bloom so talented. I’m not learning his version of course. I’m making up a perfectly good one of my own

But mostly, I’m not gone mad because of the screen. Three days in with the screen and Oh I am in love.

The sewing machine might be in trouble.

It’s a strange world

I’m in Luxembourg, one of the richest countries in the world. I’m working from home for the foreseeable and glad for the right to be able to do so. The Luxembourg government ordered that all the restaurants and cafés and pretty much any non-essential businesses apart from groceries, pharmacies and banks should close. A lot of people cannot work from home and a lot of them today aren’t working at all. Not sure whether post offices are affected but I’ll try to find out. I have a Seanad vote sitting here when I find someone to sign the identity paper that came with it. It would be pretty annoying if my first time to exercise a right to vote in the Seanad got stymied by a virus.

I went out for a walk after work this evening, and after I had been to my local grocery store to get food – they were clean out of pretty much everything but they did have a reasonable selection of pizza. Hopefully tomorrow they will have some meat and a few more vegetables. They had installed their response to social distancing. They painted a yellow line on the floor, a bit like at passport control, and confused the hell out of many of their customers who did not know where they were supposed to stand. The queuing set up will take a while to get used to, I think, and I’m going to struggle because they make you stand right with the display with a whole pile of chocolate miniEggs for Easter. The temptation to just get some chocolate is Almost Too Much To Bear. The supermarket was curiously full of parents with children too. It was like being at Mass on Christmas morning with a lot of excited children’s voices.

The walk though, that was strange. There was no traffic; the odd jogger giving me 2 metres and practising their social distancing. Every ten minutes, a bus went by, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so few cars. And you could smell things. You could smell the pile of woodchip that they’ve spread somewhere near one of the schools not too far from where I live, and the wood that some workmen had thrown in a skip near the supermarket. Normally I would not notice these things, but in the quiet…it’s seems like every sense is a bit more intense.

We’re really right at the start of this experience I think. I hesitate to call it an adventure; and anyway elements of it I hate. But it’s going to have the oddest impact on the most mundane parts of my life. My electricity bill is going to completely sky rocket. I’m here all the time, and computers which were switched on maybe two or three times a month are now on at least 5 days a week. And there’s a screen. And I use so much more of my internet data allowance. And I’ll drink so much more water. All because I am here.

All day long. Mostly listening to Icelandic soft piano music in the background, except for the inevitable conference calls. Why am I using so much data again? It’s lonely. My weekend reading list filled up with “how not to go crazy while teleworking” but to be honest, the biggest issue for me was how to stop working. The odd thing reminds you. The need for bread and the fact that if you don’t get there in time they are out of bread. There might be a few rolls left if you’re lucky. If you don’t need bread, it’s possible you miss normal knock off time.

We have the tools to stay in contact; I keep a chat window open with my team and they are great. It’s not really the same as dropping down the corridor to them, but hey, we do it. And I stay in contact with a few other people who work elsewhere. We swap stories. One of my friends said that one of his joys was that he could work on a Windows machine again (heh). The world has discovered – once more – when something must happen, it will happen.

I saw a comment on twitter during the week that people should, if possible, journal what this time was like; historians in the future would value it. And to try and handwrite it as handwritten papers tend to last longer than digital records. This stunned some techbros on the thread actually. This, I don’t really see as journaling the experience of what might turn into much more of a lockdown, more a mind clearing exercise for me.

It’s hard to say what normal will be when all of this is ended. I don’t think we’re going back to how life was 3 weeks’ ago. In some ways, that might be attractive. Walkers could very easily take over the streets given how few people will be driving. It’s hard to say how many airlines will survive the complete and utter standstill in travel that is coming. It’s hard to imagine how long this is going to take. You try to predict it based on experience elsewhere but it’s not getting normal in Italy any time soon.

I like to think that maybe, there will be some recognition of the need for all of us to work together and that the ability to do this, the will to do it, will stand to us later on. That the need to refocus ourselves will cause us to take that step back and smell the sweetness in the air, from two metres away, of course.

In the meantime, we take each day as it comes.