All I can say, to my shame, is that much more than a single moment of self-pity had dragged by when I heard the radio presenter talking about Cherry Trees.
And then the station played this beautiful, wistful song by Cork musician John Spillane.
Hardly anybody sings or dances
Hardly anybody dances or sings
In this town that I call my own.
Yes, well, it’s all been getting a bit much, hasn’t it?
After a rotten 12 months, we were given the gift of what must be the first gorgeous, sun-soaked, non-rainy St Patrick’s Day in Cork in about 50,000 years, and there wasn’t as much as a clot of mashed shamrock in the gutter or a plastic flag to be seen blowing along main street.
Every time something good happens — the creation of vaccines or a fall in the number of Covid cases — it seems to be automatically followed by something uncontrollably bad, like interrupted roll-outs because of a scare about a vaccine, or because there are simply not enough of them coming into the country.
I was becoming enveloped by the psychological flood-waters of all this dreariness when Spillane’s voice came spilling out of the radio:
Let me tell you ’bout the cherry trees
Every April in our town
They put on the most outrageous clothes
And they sing and they dance around
I paused. When was the last time any of us danced or sang? God, I thought, come on, he’s right. It’s nearly April. We’ve had a year of it. You’re still alive. You need to lighten up. Let’s not go into the job losses caused by this scary viral illness which has killed so many, has almost killed so many more and which, in the form of Long Covid, lasts long beyond what many patients initially presumed was a blessed recovery.
Let’s forget the destruction of a whole cultural and traditional ethos of sociability, smiling at people, handshakes and community support, or the potential effect of all of this on the psychological well-being of our small children.
There’s the disappearance of fun in the grim, endless days when time turns slow and syrupy and everything seems to be the same.
And then there’s the unfairness of the whole thing, because in the face of all this misery and suffering you have so many people who choose to make no sacrifices at all and who leave all of that boring, unprofitable, responsible stuff to others.
And, just in case there’s any smidgen of levity left in you, there’s the economic apocalypse we face once we finally climb out of this hole we’re in.
And the multiple smaller, random, unpleasant stories of a society that sometimes seems, over the past year, as if it’s in a kind of slowed-down meltdown.
A sample: People in cars egging pedestrians with guide dogs. People kicking up an almighty stink when someone doesn’t do something and then neglecting to say thanks when they do. Rubbish and litter everywhere. The careless and lack of caring on behalf of the authorities which has led to, for example, a massive surge in drug crime in Ballymun, with gangs taking over houses while a community lives in fear and garda numbers in the area are slashed and slashed again.
Dancing? Singing? When was the last time we did any of that? Actually, what exactly does it feel like to dance? We’ve nearly forgotten.
We’ve somehow gotten lost in the greyest of grey fogs. Stop. Now.
We’re coming into April again and as the boy from Bishopstown advises us:
You have to hand it to the cherry trees
And they seem to be saying,
To me anyway;
“You know we’ve travelled all around the Sun
You know it’s taken us one whole year
Well done everyone, Well Done”
Cherry Blossom in the air
Cherry Blossom on the street
Cherry Blossom in your hair
And a Blossom at your feet
You know we’ve travelled all around the Sun
You know it’s taken us one whole year
Well done everyone, Well Done
On behalf of me and the Cherry Trees, Well Done!
Spillane is right. So many have been lost to Covid, that those of us who are still here to see the arrival of Spring should celebrate, even when there doesn’t seem to be that much to celebrate.
You know me, sometimes I think I’m getting old
Not as young as I used to be
We’ve lost a year to Covid — but we should give ourselves a Well Done. For simply getting through it. And we should try to see the cherry blossoms.
It’s April again, guys, and you’re still here.