I found myself on a Grand Parade bench on Tuesday, dodging showers, and eating my takeaway lunch from the English Market, surprised at all the people walking about clutching shopping bags.
A mere two meters from me (and my lunch) a man urinated against one of those new, chained-to-a-tree, wheelie bins that have been installed but that’s a whole other column! Once I got over that surprise, I realised I had genuinely forgotten what normal city activity looked like, and for a minute I started to pine for the quieter streets. Just for a minute.
I think I, and many others, are suffering from a touch of Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological response that happens when hostages bond with their captors. If you spend a lot of time living with someone, it can become the norm.
So I’m taking baby steps with the easing of restrictions and am very wary of slipping into a hectic, over-scheduled lifestyle.
If Covid-19 has taught us anything, apart from washing your hands, it’s to stop and smell the roses and to appreciate the small things in life that bring happiness. So here are a few.
I have taken to buying myself flowers. A bunch every two weeks. They are grown near Kinsale in an earth-friendly and chemical-free way and you can get them in the English Market.
I think they are so beautiful, they are practically medicinal!
The novelty of eating new foods has been largely lost the past year, but lately I’ve been on a quest to find new things to taste in the city.
Lao Dao Jian Bing is a Chinese street food shop specialising in Chinese crepes and bubble tea on the corner of Grand Parade and Paul Street. The basic jian bing crepe is made with mung bean flour and is filled with egg, scallions, coriander, sesame and crispy wontons crackers.
If you eat it on Daunt Square with your eyes closed and pretend the sing-song Cork accent is a Mandarin dialect, you can be transported, in your imagination at least, to a far flung destination with no hotel quarantine stay required.
Bringing a few plastic stools to Anderson Quay to eat spicy noodles from the Marina Market is another way of pretending you are on a city break somewhere like Amsterdam.
In fact, outdoor dining in untypical places is a much more memorable way of marking a birthday than the standard ‘dinner and drinks’ outing of yore. But much layering of clothes (dress like it’s November!) and a flask of hot tea are essential. Plus a hot water bottle if you really want to go ‘out out’.
Denied to us for so long because of the 5km restriction, the simple delight of going to the beach had faded in my memory. Meeting up with friends at the beach recently was truly restorative.
The kids played in the sand and the freezing waves (do they not feel the cold?!) and the adults drank tea (see essential flask above) and ate biscuits.
I love my hairdressers. I have two. I can’t remember how I ended up with two, but one cuts and one does colour in two different establishments in town, and I have been going to them for so long and I enjoy my conversations with them so much that I couldn’t just have one hairdresser.
Mr Colour is great for chat about history, current affairs, good books and tips on how to get the best from tomato plants. Ms Cut has the best laugh in Cork and an hour with her is a tonic that she could sell on the internet for lots of money.
So yes, I was looking forward to getting my hair chopped. I extracted as much pleasure out of the experience as possible just in case it’s another six months before we’re allowed back again!
I once played on the winning side at a final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The important thing was we got medals, the fact it was under-12s camogie is irrelevant.
After peaking so early in my sporting career, my love of organised team sports has waned since, but I will happily give a few hours of my life to cheer on Cork in the hurling or football.
I have been content cheering from the couch watching the recent matches. I can’t begin to entertain the possibility of actually going to a stadium and squashing next to other supporters to watch a match in person. Watching the liveliness and fervour at an U-7 football training session is suiting me just fine for now. As I said baby steps.