Ailin Quinlan: Thanks to the dancing gardaí ... we all really needed that!

As she navigates a gloomy February, Ailin Quinlan talks about how our police force put a smile back on her face
Ailin Quinlan: Thanks to the dancing gardaí ... we all really needed that!

Garda Mary Gardiner, who organised the #JerusalemaChallenge. Picture: Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus LTD

AH listen here, how could you not be proud.

“C’mere and look at this,” I said to my husband. I’d been feeling pretty glum, to be honest. Glummer and glummer as February — never my favourite time of year — trudged slowly in.

Being more or less housebound bar the weekly shopping trip or the daily walk with the dog, has left my world smaller, blander and more tiresome by the day. Possibly because I haven’t been one of those flying out to Lanzarote or driving to the other side of the country to buy a burger, I’m beginning to feel like I was slowly going out of my mind.

Yet I listen to all the advice. Walking helps. Listening to the birdsong in the morning helps. I do try to focus on the little things, like the snowdrops poking their heads above the soil and the fact that the daylight is stronger, the mornings a bit brighter and the evenings longer.

Watching Unforgotten on Netflix helps because it reminds me things could be a lot worse. And I’ve ordered a few new books which are taking ages to arrive by post. Yep, everything helps a little bit. But the cumulative effect of all these little helps is nowhere near enough and I’m definitely starting to crack.

I was thinking about all of this I watched yet another tired, grey house-bound February morning expand outside the bedroom window. For once I couldn’t be bothered getting up and going for a walk. I just couldn’t see the point of it, so I stayed in bed feeling sorry for myself when I should have been out in the fresh air striding along three miles of a dark, unlit country road with the dog. But oh God; I just couldn’t bear the thought of it.

I couldn’t bear getting up and putting on my walking boots and leggings and my high vis jacket and finding the little torch. I stayed put. And then, when enough time had elapsed, I dragged myself out of the bed and got up to start the usual soul-destroying zoom-work-from-home routine, ignoring the dog’s accusatory stare.

“Leave me alone,” I grumbled and got on with it. But then they released the Garda response to the Jerusalema dance challenge from the Swiss police. I’d been amused by the Swiss Federal Police performance, especially after they did their thing perfectly, just as they boasted, and then turned around and flung down the gauntlet to the gardaí on Twitter.

I particularly enjoyed the provocative tone of the challenge which claimed the Swiss performance could hardly be topped in terms of “precision, discipline and perfectionism.” And there was no doubt that the Swiss police were extremely sharp and snappy-looking as they executed the dance steps flawlessly.

I couldn’t figure out why they issued the challenge to the Irish gardaí seeing as we’re so far away from them. Maybe, as someone said on the radio during the week, they put in the wrong letter and accidentally challenged the police in Ireland instead of Iceland.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Ray D’Arcy Show Garda Mary Gardiner — originally from The Glen in Cork city — who organised the whole thing, said she had “no idea” why the Swiss challenged An Garda Síochana, and she of all people should know. But anyway, the Department of Justice came out swinging, declaring the gardaí had ‘got this’ and calling on them to make Ireland proud.

The gardaí, I was delighted to read at the time, were on the ball about it. And the completed performance, which aired earlier this week and was organised by Mary Gardiner, is absolutely amazing and a credit to our garda Siochana.

Not only did our law enforcers perform the dance steps flawlessly, they did it outdoors, showcasing some of the most spectacularly beautiful scenery in the country while at the same time hands-down walloping into second place the Swiss performances which, while undeniably eye-catching, precise and utterly perfect, were primarily filmed in functional offices and classrooms or in somewhat grim car parks.

The Garda performances, however, took place against breathtaking snow-covered mountains as well as beach, ocean and parkland backdrops and on a rooftop. The show even featured two members of the Garda mounted unit on a pair of fairy-tale white horses, the most beautiful animals I have ever seen - as well as a most amazing Irish dancer. I only wish the Garda Armed Support Unit had joined in it as well, to add to the overall diversity of the show.

And yes, the whole thing brought a smile back to my face and acted as a pleasant reminder about how genuinely lucky we are to have a community-orientated police force like the Garda Siochana.

“Ah, that’s brilliant,” my husband said, after we had both watched it repeatedly. “Just brilliant.”

Thanks, guys.

CAR INSURANCE HIKE

Between all the lockdowns, I estimate that I’ve driven my car about half as much as usual this year, if even that. In other words, given the travel restrictions, the amount of time this vehicle has been out on public roads over the past 10 or 11 months since last March is a mere fraction of the norm.

So, therefore, the risk of accident or injury has also been massively reduced. I didn’t get anything back from my very high profile and extremely popular insurance company in terms of a claw-back recognising the reduced risk of accidents. Yet, believe it or not, when my annual car insurance premium came in the post this week, they’ve actually increased it by about €40. I couldn’t believe it.

“No way! This looks like it’s more expensive than last year,” I exclaimed. I went off and dug out the car insurance folder crammed at the back of the old filing cabinet.

I checked through last year’s documentation. And sure enough, despite the fact that the car was used less in 2020 than in any year, and that nothing whatsoever had happened to my policy in terms of claims or accidents, the insurance company has increased the premium for 2021.

Would somebody mind telling me how and why car insurance companies are getting away with this carry-on when health insurers are providing financial clawbacks to clients because of the impact of the pandemic ?

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