Nation shares its pandemic ‘silver linings’

It's been a week of reflection on what the past two years have been like, writes Michelle O'Driscoll
Nation shares its pandemic ‘silver linings’

Rory O'Connor AKA Rory Stories of "Hell Week The Profetionals"  Picture Andres Poveda

WE’VE been adjusting as a nation to the somewhat sudden and unexpected easing of restrictions, getting our heads around what that means going forward.

Dining after 8pm still feels a little wild, gathering together in a group of more than four households still counts as living on the edge.

It’s certainly going to take some adjustment back to living with minimal restrictions. Understandably, it isn’t over for many who are vulnerable – the virus is still in circulation, and that means caution cannot be thrown completely to the wind.

We’ve been reflecting as a nation on what we’ve been through during the pandemic, the sacrifices we’ve made, the upheavals we’ve experienced over the past two years. Some of this retrospection actually perfectly illustrates the phrases “you’ll look back and laugh” and “if you didn’t laugh you’d cry”.

In the midst of the upsetting and sobering sacrifices, of which there have been oh so many, there has also been some light comic relief.

Rory O’Connor, best known as Rory’s Stories online, and most recently in the public eye for his epic contribution to RTÉ’s Hell Week, posted one such reflection on his Facebook page. He said: “To think back to the day, when ya couldn’t go further than 2k from your gaff, guards everywhere asking where ya going, queueing up to do your food shopping, burning your hands with sanitiser and starting to think Guinness taste nice from a can. We’re in some place now!!”

Thousands of responses under this post followed, as it obviously prompted a trip down memory lane for many. Some were nostalgic for the silver linings of lockdown. 

The stillness and birdsong, clear skies and daily walks, more time together because there was nowhere else to be, getting to know neighbours that had only ever got a salute previously, zoom quizzes and home cocktail kits, and time doing things we enjoy but would never otherwise have slowed down to do.

The Irish humour shone through in these posts too; people looked back on dodgy home haircuts, €9 meals, zoom meetings with cameras or mics on when they shouldn’t have been, Claire Byrne broadcasting from her garden shed, being taught how to wash our hands by Luke O’Neill, the banana bread, the Tiger King, and the never-ending DIY projects.

There was lots of laughing at the absurdity of some of the restrictions, particularly around the purchasing of clothes. One poster was told she couldn’t buy the children’s shoes from the shelf in the shop but was advised to order online through Click and Collect and then come in to pick them up.

Another unfortunate poster stepped over red tape to buy hair-bobbles, only to be shouted at by security that they couldn’t buy those, they had to go get the plain ones over by the shampoo!

And lets not forget the appointments for Penneys, a “new low” as described by one poster.

But potentially the winning story was of the man who needed an eye- sight test to renew his truck licence, and his GP got him to complete it through the window!

The challenges of lockdown featured in a humorous way too; home schooling while working from home, and going “off the wall from the stress of it,” the disinfecting of groceries and post, wrapping tea-towels around faces (pre-masks) when relatives called with supplies, and the story of one woman walking past a neighbour out on a country road, who took a big deep breath in, and held it for the ten seconds while passing her out!

Boris Johnson wasn’t the only person not complying with restrictions, and some of the posts highlighted the efforts people went to in order to get outside their 2km radius, “feeling like a bandit” driving to drop off groceries to somebody in the next town. Somebody had to rehome a dog, and for the journey put on a nurse’s uniform to sail through the checkpoints! Another had a pill box with stones in it packaged up as medication for delivery, complete with a slice pan and some tomatoes on the passenger seat for “full effect”.

There were anecdotes of forged letters and DIY wedding invitations, and every other sort of explanation imaginable. 

People went to extreme lengths to get out of the house, driving in rings with their takeaway coffee just to kill some time.

A particularly funny post told of a lady in the queue for Dunnes Stores who spotted her friend a few loops of the queue back and waved frantically, but in vain. Instead, she tried to ring her, and witnessed her friend take out her phone to answer it, saw from the screen who was calling, then rolled her eyes and put the phone back in her bag!

Despite the banter and laughter around these posts, there were contributions also from those who had been and continue to be incredibly impacted by the restrictions. A father posted a picture of his new-born baby, who they finally got to take home from hospital after 102 days of only one parent at a time being able to visit. A cancer patient posted that we wouldn’t be laughing if experiencing the pandemic from their perspective, and the fear of what could happen should they contract the virus.

So much about the past two years has been anything but funny, and there are some incredibly harrowing stories out there of what has been endured.

One of the gifts of the Irish is our ability to find those silver linings, to laugh at ourselves and the situations we find ourselves in, without disregarding or discounting the suffering.

These posts provide a huge amount to laugh at in what was an incredibly challenging time. They serve as a fantastic tonic if you’re looking for a boost, well worth scrolling through for some light entertainment.

Some have suggested that Rory should compile them into a book for charity – I would certainly be queueing up for a copy!

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