Some are getting bolshie about Covid... I’ve become a recluse

Some people are going about their daily lives as if Covid has vanished... but not everyone, says Ailin Quinlan
Some are getting bolshie about Covid... I’ve become a recluse

“Most people are now starting to get bolshie about Covid. But personally speaking, I find you don’t tend to get too bolshie about it after you’ve spent nearly five months straight in bed and another two barely getting through the working day...” Picture: Stock

“YOU have to stop this,” I told myself sternly.

I stared into the mirror at the purple stain around my eyebrows. I’d forgotten to rub in the Vaseline first. Again.

And now I’d brushed the dyebrow mix onto my skin. Hopelessly I rubbed a bit of Vaseline on top of the stain with my stained fingers. There was nothing for it. I’d have to go back to the beautician and get it done properly.

It had been two years since I last flung myself onto a treatment table and offered myself up to the hot wax and the tweezers, and never had a beautician sent me off with purple fingers and violet shadows on my forehead.

“You,” I told myself sternly, “are in danger of turning into a Covid Recluse.”

In fact, I thought gloomily, I was probably one already. In 20 years’ time they’d be writing articles in medical journals about people like me. 

Weirdos who listen intensely to the daily round-up of Covid figures and are still afraid to spend any time in rooms or outdoor venues with more than two people in them. 

Oddballs who make the briefest of appearances at get-togethers, who are genuinely and deeply concerned by the lack, on so many buses, of windows that can open - whether or not they use public transport.

I heard a radio interview about this issue around the absence of proper ventilation on buses. Bus-workers were worried about the fact that commuters are now no longer required by the government to wear masks while on board.

One woman interviewed by the reporter said she was comfortable enough about being in this environment without a mask because she’d already had Covid. Didn’t she know you could get it again? I felt like ringing her up and warning her, but she’d happily disappeared into the breathing droplet-emitting throngs of Dublin’s commuter hum.

I know how paranoid this sounds. 

I’ll probably be the star interviewee for the study on the phenomenon of Covid Recluses, which will inevitably be published in The Lancet at some point, because I’m beginning to sound a bit like the hermit who sat on a pillar in the desert for years.

St. Simeon Stylites The Elder, also known as Simeon the Elder, who was born around the year 390, near what we now know as Aleppo in Syria, died in 459 after sitting on top of his pillar for decades. Simeon was a famous Christian hermit and the world’s first-known stylite, or pillar hermit (which, if you’re at all interested, derives from Greek stylos, ‘pillar’or stylite and means ‘pillar dweller’).

He was, in effect, a kind of Christian ascetic who lived on, yes, a pillar, preaching, fasting and praying, the idea being that the mortification of the body would help ensure the salvation of the soul.

Sylites, it seems, were a bit of a thing in the Byzantime Empire.

Nowadays, poor Simeon would be photographed and mocked. Pictures would be posted on social media. Internet trolls would have a field day. The emergency services would arrive and diagnose him with catatonia, following which he would be given anti-psychotics and tied to a chair in front of a buzzing TV in a poorly-ventilated hospital ward; all of which, it should be said, is a less pleasant fate than sitting on a pillar in the sunshine bothering nobody.

Most people now are starting to get bolshie about Covid. But personally speaking, I find you don’t tend to get too bolshie about it after you’ve spent nearly five months straight in bed and another two barely getting through the working day and then having to immediately return to bed.

And the other stuff that happens later on after you have allegedly recovered, possibly because Covid has weakened the immune system, or possibly because of your body’s response to the vaccine shots?

Let’s get really, really paranoid here. I don’t recall ever getting an ear infection in my life, or at least one requiring medical intervention. After spending a long, long week or 10 days waking up at 4am in a spinning world which left me queasy and dizzy, and blaming it on the latest effect of Long Covid, I was convinced by a colleague to go to the doctor.

The good news, my GP said, was that it wasn’t down to Long Covid at all. It was just a plain ordinary old ear infection and vertigo. But I bet it was down to Covid in some way.

My son rang before Mother’s Day and mentioned lunch or dinner. Wild horses wouldn’t drag me into a crowded Mother’s Day restaurant with loads of cheery families talking and laughing into each others’ un-masked faces, exchanging potentially infectious nasal droplets.

“What are you thinking about,” I asked, first, and carefully.

“I’m going to come home on Sunday and cook lunch or dinner for you and Dad for Mother’s Day, and I have a bit of a present for you too.”

“Will you be taking an Antigen test beforehand?” I asked suspiciously.

“Oh, yes,” he said.”

Well, that was okay then. I gave myself up to happy anticipation. He’s a decent enough cook – I should know, I taught him. The meal was excellent.


If ever there was a ham-fisted, cack-handed, blundering example of toxic officialdom, it’s the proposal for this so-called ‘Site of National Conscience’.

Not only does it sound like the kind of gesture made by a Communist-era Russia, but my God, did they ever, even for a minute, think how it was going to appear?

Yerra, lads, shove them all in together; men, women and children, all the victims of state, clerical and institutional abuse, whether their lives were destroyed by the efforts of a mother-and-baby home, an industrial school, a Madalen laundry a reformatory or any other “related institutions”!

Sure, in the end of the day, abuse is abuse. Let’s get the whole lot done in the one go.

This memorial centre is more an attempt to get a pesky problem off the government agenda than any sincere attempt to “honour all those who were resident in mother and baby homes, industrial schools, reformatories, Magdalene laundries and related institutions.”

It’s more like something that would have been dreamed up by Stalin.

I heard a furious victim’s advocate on radio who very clearly viewed her organisation as a key stakeholder, saying they were most most definitely not consulted - despite claims that the proposals for the centre were developed by the Secretary General to the Government, following “informal consultation” with key advocates and stakeholders.

It’s taken a decade for them to make this monumental PR cock-up. Dear me.

More in this section

Sponsored Content


Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more