A diary of the times that are (part 8)


8.20 am. I bring some parcels of the Roscommon People into the office, and then lock the door from the inside…our new normal. I browse through the latest edition of the Roscommon People. As I told Dan Dooner in an interview with RosFM later on Thursday, we’re trying to balance Covid-19 coverage with some humourous content and some nostalgia too.

Most of all, we’re engaged in the very challenging task of trying to ‘publish in a pandemic’. The economic tsunami is devastating for the local media, as it is for so many small businesses. But we’re determined to try to steer a course through these choppiest of waters. We’re very grateful to local agencies, SMEs and individuals for their ongoing support. Quite apart from the fact that we’re a locally owned small business – invested in the fate of all that we’ve built and worked to grow – we’re proud newspaper people, who are  determined to provide a quality service to our loyal readers and the wider community. And we’re very grateful for the loyalty of those thousands of readers.

Back in the very quiet office, it’s revealing to note how the email activity has diminished. Where we used to receive hundreds of daily emails, sometimes it’s down to 40 or 50 a day now. Almost all of them are Covid-related. They range from very important updates from the health authorities and industry spokespersons, to emails from businesses or charities who are desperately trying to salvage something from this wreckage. But the incoming emails are much smaller in number than before, much less varied, reflecting the stalling of normality. Life is very, very grey. Even that Nigerian prince who used to email offering us a multi-million euro share of his inheritance – if only we’d forward our bank details – has stopped emailing. Just when we needed him. Typical.



9 am. It’s a glorious morning – so that’s wonderful. Plus, the bins have been emptied again (yippee). So, a beautiful 1st of May, yet we know that Leo will soon be rehearsing his lines for ‘Lockdown: The Sequel’.

This wonderful weather we’ve been having…it’s like we’re in a very upmarket restaurant, browsing a fabulous menu…but with the kitchen door locked and the cookers redundant. The weather’s been great but we can’t maximise our enjoyment of it.

Still, there is the garden, and for many of us, an opportunity to walk outdoors and savour and appreciate the beauty around us. With our lives currently defined by lockdown, these excursions bring us closer to nature, in all its magnificence. It’s so superior to the rat race that Covid-19 abruptly turfed billions of people out of. But of course the rat race gave you a chance to pay bills, when you finally got a draw your breath.


Friday evening

The Taoiseach’s address this evening seems to have been well received. It was clear over the past ten days or so that while people have generally been compliant with the restrictions, the public wanted to see some light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why our under-pressure leaders have unveiled a ‘Reopening the country’ plan…basically a series of phases over the next three months or so, each one (hopefully) inching us closer to normality, or at least to that dubious ‘new normal’.

The detail of each phase will take a bit of getting used to, including for the Taoiseach, who had an uncomfortable few moments on the Late Late Show (where they insist on force-feeding us ‘Covid content’ every Friday night). The embarrassment began when Leo firstly struggled to answer a question, and then rather awkwardly tried to rescue the situation by sheepishly fishing a scrap of paper from his pocket. On Twitter, the keyboard warriors predictably poured scorn on Leo’s lapse. But the critics should show a bit more empathy. Late Late Leo was a tired man, and that’s hardly surprising. After yet another long week, he probably could have done without another late (late) night.

During the same interview, Leo caused a bit of a stir by suggesting that the All-Ireland(s) could (possibly) be played this year. Cue raised eyebrow from Ryan. “Of course that’s a matter for the GAA” Leo quickly clarified, as ‘GAA people’ across the country sat up in their chairs and wondered if they’d heard the Taoiseach correctly. Few enough share Leo’s apparent belief that the GAA season can be rescued from the off-the-ball challenge of Covid. On Twitter, a few of the many bewildered were quick to bluntly point out that the last people they’d confidently take GAA/sport advice from are Ryan and Leo. But it could be even worse. What if Shane, the Minister for Constituency Garda Stations and Sport, is advising Leo?



Honestly, the dreams you have during lockdown! Unbelievable! It would appear, from debates I’ve heard on radio, that many people are having more dreams during the Covid crisis, and stranger ones too. Of course people’s normal schedules have changed, our mindsets have been turned upside down, there’s additional stress in our lives. Plus, someone said that because we might have less to do during the day, our subconscious is going into overdrive, with an inevitable impact on our sleep pattern, and on the nature of our dreams.

One of the more straightforward ones that I can recall was last night, when I dreamt that someone had launched a third newspaper in Roscommon! Of course I scanned the newspaper (in the dream), page by page. It was really bland, except for one magical touch. As I held it in my hands, the main headline kept disappearing and being replaced.

If I’d had that dream a few decades ago, I’d be claiming credit for inventing the Internet…



The endless media coverage, while sobering/depressing/enlightening/necessary (take your pick) is a reminder…for now, Covid’s always here, in our midst, and there is no room for complacency.

We talk about ‘the figures’, but we need to be aware that ‘the figures’ are human beings.

The death toll in the UK is horrendous, in America too. There is the sense here in Ireland, if one can use the term, that we are ‘managing’ the virus. But there is no room for complacency, and there is already a wall of sadness built up…grief, loss, heartbreak.

With the deaths, indeed with all deaths at this time, the surreal reality that a traditional funeral cannot be held.

Our hearts go out to those who have suffered, who are suffering, who have been bereaved. To cocooners, we say, you are in our thoughts. Please ask for help (local helpline: Freephone 1800 200 727) if you require it. And we all need to continue to follow the guidelines.