John Arnold: A conversation with my great-grandchild in the year 2040...

In his weekly column John Arnold looks ahead to a conversation that he's likely to have in 20 years time with his great-grandchild
John Arnold: A conversation with my great-grandchild in the year 2040...

MASS SUPPORT: Action from the 2010 All-Ireland Senior Football Final,when Cork beat Down. “We could go to matches, here in the parish and to huge games like the All-Ireland Finals...”

“AND tell me, great-grandad, what was it like when you were small, small like me?”

“Oh that’s a long, long time ago since I was as small as you are now, so you’re about six is it?”

“No — I’m six and a half actually.”

“Ah yes, when I was that age, oh that’s ages ago, ’twas around the year 1963, yeah, nearly 80 years ago, that’s a long, a very long time.”

“Great-grandad, you are really very old but when you were six and a half, what was it like? Tell me please.”

“Well, I think that was around the time we got our first television, do you know that back then it was just all black and white and we just had one whatyoumaycallit, just one channel — how many have ye now at all?”

“Oh my God, only one and black and white... ahm, we have I think 250 on the Ski Box and two hundred on the other thing.”

“Lord, that bate all out — 450 different programmes on at any one time, how many television sets have ye in the house love?”

“Dunno, I think maybe 15.”

“Ah yes, but then ye need something to do I suppose — I remember when I was young like you, we used to play outside in the yard.”

“What’s ‘play’ mean?”

“Wisha childeen, we’d have cabby houses made from boxes and covered with bags and plastic and we’d make cakes from mud and in the summer when ’twould be fine we’d play cowboys and Indians and tag and robbers and of course we used to go to other houses for birthday parties.”

“What were parties?”

“Ahm, parties were where ten or 12 children, maybe 20, would go to one another’s houses and have fun and games and have loads to eat and drink.”

“I wish we could visit other houses — it would be grander than just everything ‘virtual’ where we just press buttons and look at other kids on screens... and great-grandad, a girl in my class said her grandfather told her when he was young he used go to big matches in Thurles and Cork and Dublin — she said he said that thousands of people would be there — sure, that never happened did it?”

“ Oh yes it did, I went to games like that, big hurling and football matches…”

“But matches are only on television — people can’t actually go to them?”

“Yes, but long ago it was different, I was at games in Dublin in the 1970s and 80s — right up until ‘The Time’ and there was often 80,000 people there-and that’s pure true.”

“ But great-grandad, why do ye all talk about ‘The Time’, what was it?”

“Oh, it was awful really... as I said, when I was your age and growing up and when I got married and for years after we could go to matches, here in the parish — local games with our own clubs — and as I said to big huge games like Munster Finals and All Ireland Finals, and oh yes, before ‘The Time’ people could go to foreign countries on planes for holidays — imagine that! We went a couple of times, three I think, to Spain.. but then in the year 2020, the year of ‘The Time’, that all finished.”

“But why do ye still talk about ‘The Time’ and ye’re nearly crying?”

“Because allannah, that was really The Time when everything changed — no matches, no foreign travel, children had to stay at home, places closed down, ah yes child, that really was The Time alright… all because of the virus.”

“What’s a virus?”

“ A good question! It’s a kinda sickness that people get and you can’t see it, or smell it or taste it or feel it or hear it, but it’s there all the same and it killed a lot of people.”

“But why didn’t everyone in the world just go to the doctor?”

“No good, the doctors had no cure for the virus for ages, and no medicine.”

“But why didn’t they go to the shops and buy medicine?”

“Because the virus was a new and evil thing and it took a long time to get an injection to stop it”

Great-grandad, did God send the virus?”

“ No love, he didn’t, it just came outta nowhere, like other bad things before. Did I tell you that in the Spanish Flu in 1918, my great aunt Nora who was a nurse died of it —she’d be your great, great, great grand aunt.”

“Oh, was she very old?”

“No love, she was very young, only 26, that Spanish Flu killed millions.”

“ And after ‘The Time’, what happened?”

“As I said, the world changed, now we just have small games locally and if you want to go to a big game you have to get a doctor’s letter and you must go into quarantine for two weeks before a game with a crowd of more than 50.”

“What’s quernantene mean?”

“It’s like you have to go into a room on your own with no one for two weeks — do you remember last year when your mam and dad got a Permit to go away to Spain for a weekend because they hadn’t been outside of Ireland for ten years and they had to go into quarantine for the two weeks before they went, do you remember?”

“ I remember, I do — and tell me great-grandad, one time could people fly on planes and no Permit from anyone?”

“Oh yes, some people used fly all over the world for holidays. Since ‘The Time’ people can only fly on planes for work if they have a job in another country and then every ten years — like your mam and dad, you can apply for a Holiday Flight for up to four days away”

“What did they call the vir... thing?”

“‘Twas called Covid 19 because it was first discovered in the year 2019 and then got bad the following year — ‘The Time’ — and after that came Covid 20 and Covid 21 and so on... they got a cure for one virus but then another came and another and that’s why ye have to stay indoors most of the time and no playing in the mud or having fun in the streams or the trees or fields like when I was you’re age.”

“ But we never played in the yard... will it be always be like this or will it go back like when you were small again?”

“Well now child, if I knew the answer to that I’d be rich! But look, ‘twasn’t all bad after ‘The Time’ ’cause people helped each other and life slowed down a small biteen and do you know what people started doing more and more?”

“No — what did they do?”

“Well, a grá they started talking more and helping each other and put more faith in each other and in God too”

“Great-grandad... what’s faith?”

“Well now, faith is ahm, well I suppose it’s a bit like the virus — you can’t see it, or smell it or taste it or feel it or hear it or hold it in your hands it, but it’s there all the same and it helped a lot of people.”

“ Great-grandad, tell me what do you think, ’cause you’re very, very old — was life better or worse for everyone after ‘The Time’?”

“Better or worse? That’s a tough one, I’m not sure, but one thing is certain, life was very different, things were never the same again”

“Goodnight, great-grandad”

“Goodnight love and sleep tight.”

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