In one of his stand-up shows in the UK, the Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert affectionately said of the Irish: “Everyone’s a comedian in Ireland”.
Whatever about that, we’re all lockdown experts now. Or we thought we were. With an update on lockdown/the restrictions well mooted on Friday, most people seemed to expect a two-week extension, to be followed in due course by an extra week or so. As if the powers that be were trying to ‘add extra dates’ to our lockdown while we weren’t looking.
As it turned out, the Government didn’t hold back, extending lockdown by three and a half weeks. It seemed to take a lot of people by shock. Friday evening was gloomy.
Later, the Late Late Show opened with an address to the nation by presenter Ryan Tubridy. Having missed the last two Fridays due to contracting the coronavirus, Ryan was emotional but upbeat. It was probably the second best address to a nation in the past week, Queen Elizabeth still maintaining first place. President Trump’s box office addresses (CNN most nights) are disqualified until they go for testing. Are they real or fake? Is it comedy or drama?
I know the Late Late Show team are well intentioned, but I think their approach during this Covid-19 crisis has, at best, split the nation.
As I tweeted on Friday night, the nation does not need the Late Late Show to be Prime Time Extra. Ever since the crisis struck, the Late Late has concentrated heavily on the virus and its impact. Interviewing frontline workers and health experts is very worthy, but there are enough news/current affairs programmes that can do so. The Late Late Show, during Covid-19, should be a distraction from the gloom, dare I say it, even light-hearted entertainment. And if that’s not practical, given social distancing and so on, it should be cocooned for the duration of the crisis and replaced by either a classic movie or highlights of great ‘Late Lates’ of the past.
It’s the morning after the night before…after Leo locked us down for three and a half more weeks, minimum. Wow, it’s really hitting us now. At least the weather is beautiful. I mow the grass, listen to some classic music, and enjoy the way an afternoon in the garden can declutter the mind. But I miss not having to check my phone or the TV for the soccer updates from the Premier League and The Championship.
Meanwhile, it’s an Easter without Easter Church services, which emphasises how strange these times are. And it is beyond sad that traditional Irish funerals are suspended at this time, due to Covid-19 regulations. This is surely extra anguish for many bereaved families. Our thoughts are with them.
For the first time in decades, there’s no Easter Parade in Roscommon Town. The void is felt in Strokestown too, which also hosts an annual parade.
It’s remarkable to see Roscommon town virtually deserted on an Easter Sunday. So, what are we missing? Well, there’s the early morning atmosphere-setting, as members of the organising committee zig-zag around the town putting the finishing touches to the preparation; the adrenaline rise for small children as, in their meticulously constructed costumes, they line up in bands or with their clubs/schools; missing too are the familiar local characters, a few usually in fancy dress, taking pride of place on a float as they bring life to some local wit’s topical concept.
Most of all, what was missing on Sunday was streets lined with thousands of people, with toddlers on their fathers’ shoulders, mothers clasping their child’s hand, people craning for the best view, sweets flying through the air, a mock bride and groom in a vintage car (the man invariably blushing), Danny Burke, his drum and colleagues from the Castlerea Brass & Reed Band, all the colour and fun, a man eating fire (never try this at home) and adults nodding and smiling and shaking hands…yeah, shaking hands. Afterwards, when the parade floats disperse, a local economy boosting rush to shops, pubs, restaurants and takeaways. None of it happened this year, instead, the town almost apologetically silent, save for the odd car and the soft sound of the slow-turning wheels of baby buggies.
It’s strange the programmes you watch on TV during lockdown (if we had decent broadband, I’d be dipping into YouTube too, but quite honestly there are undiscovered African tribes which have better broadband than exists at Newtown, Roscommon).
I’m on the lookout for slightly off-centre documentaries on some of those great but rarely watched channels. It’s all very random, but promising. I came across one which featured fascinating footage of Paris in the 1920s. No social distancing in those days, except for the significant distance between the High Society and the poor pariseans, many of the latter suffering in dirty slums while making daily visits to soup kitchens.
I’ve also discovered a series in which historic old black and white footage is transformed into colour by the magic of modern technology. The episode of ‘Britain in colour’ which I watched at the weekend was a fascinating look at the Royal family through the early decades of the 20th century, up to and including Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953.
Home movies showed the current Queen Elizabeth as a child, while there was fascinating footage of King Edward and Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee with whom he had a relationship, which in turn led to his abdication from the throne.
It’s hard to know how this lockdown is affecting our elderly residents. Obviously it affects different people in different ways. I’ve noticed a large amount of people enjoying time in their gardens – thank God for this excellent spell of weather.
I’m sure some elderly people who have been requested to ‘cocoon’ are finding it difficult, even bewildering. This is such a change from the normal course of our lives. Hopefully it will all pass relatively soon.
For now, it is important that we keep in touch in whatever way is practical with people who may be lonely, feeling isolated, vulnerable. Readers are reminded of the community support helpline which is Freephone 1800 200 727. Stay safe.
* All previous Covid-19 diaries can be read on roscommonpeople.ie