LOOKING BACK ON MY PERSONAL LOCKDOWN: PART THREE OF A MINI-MEMOIR BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Okay, peeps, so let’s get on with the list we were working on of all the things that characterised my own personal lockdown of 2020; I believe we were up to number twelve?

12. Sport: sport was bloody everywhere in the lockdown. Now, I hate all sports, except for the one that has Cristiano Ronaldo in it, and I would have loved a sports-free three or four months, but no such luck. Irish people are obsessed with bloody sports. A mere lockdown wasn’t going to stop them getting their daily fix. Give us this day our daily sports…

First, the sports news on the news bulletins we watched daily told us of all the sporting events that were being cancelled one by one as the lockdown (and the coronavirus) took hold. Then, they told us how all the sporting organisations, teams and individual personalities were coping with the cancellation of their various sporting events. Well, negatively, one would assume…!

Then a series of whimsical sports news items began to permeate, not only the sports news, but the main news as well. A load of mad sports people were running marathons in their gardens, completing triathlons in their gardens, building swimming pools in their gardens and raising money for charity by doing mad sporty things, you guessed it, in their gardens.

And it looked like RTÉ and TV3 were all filming the same garden every time, as well. Oh look, it’s the studio garden, we’d say sarcastically when it came on the news, yet again, as part of an ‘inspiring’ or ‘heart-warming’ little end piece to finish on. I was really starting to hate these cheese-fest pieces with all my heart, I can tell you that for nothing. They were so sweetly optimistic and hopeful that they made me grind my teeth in reaction. Bah humbug, much?

Then the sports news people engaged in endless speculation as to when the various sporting fixtures might be allowed to resume/continue/pick up where they left off, etc. Would the various sports be able to socially distance their participants and any spectators?

Would spectators be banned, at least for a while? How much money had been lost on horse-racing so far this year, and should all players of every sport be tested for the virus before being permitted to take part in their sport of choice? How long would it be before I threw myself off a cliff out of sheer desperation? It was just endless, the speculation. But worse was to come.

Then, the sports fixtures/tournaments, etc. started to come back. Oh God. A different one back every day, with Irish television focusing on the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) as usual. One cannot underestimate the importance of our national sports body to the Irish public.

Our entire government could collectively mince down the street, each TD dressed as a wealthy dowager twirling a parasol and peering over the top of a lorgnette, and the headlines would still be about whether or not the GAA would be able to go ahead with a certain fixture. I’d ban all sports if it were up to me, except for the one with the men in the little shorts chasing the ball. That one can stay.

13. And now let’s talk about Le Sexe. Due to the two kilometre travel restrictions in operation, a lot of single people didn’t- couldn’t- have any sex during the lockdown, and a new phrase was born… quarantine-horny.

Were you quarantine-horny during the lockdown, because your sex buddy lived further away from you than the two kilometres? And then, when the two kilometres was increased to five kilometres, were you quarantine-horny because your sex buddy lived further away from you than the five kilometres? Did you live in hope of having the travel restrictions reduced so you could get your leg over?

The travel restrictions have indeed since been relaxed to twenty kilometres. If your sex-buddy lives further away from you than these twenty kilometres, then you, my friend, if you’ll excuse my French, are truly fucked, lol. Or not, as Le Case may be.

I wonder about those couples, though, who were self-isolating together or just stuck at home together for the ten or twelve weeks. I have some questions. Did they pass the time by copulating like rabbits non-stop? Will there be a baby boom in nine months time?

Did they wear masks when they did it, or did they do it from behind to minimise the risk of any infection spreading from mouth-to-mouth? Did people forget about STDs while worrying about coronavirus, or did they still remember to wear condoms?

I saw couples holding hands together and kissing on the streets during the lockdown. If this is what they do in public, I doubt very much whether they practise abstinence behind closed doors. Is the time right for the people of Ireland to rediscover sex and their sex buddies, or do we still need to stay at least two metres apart for the foreseeable future? I don’t know any man who could manage it from two metres away, heh-heh-heh. I truly wish I did, but I don’t. I think we might need some governmental input on this one. Guidelines, please…!

14. Getting in touch with old friends, because hearing about all the deaths on the news made you wonder if they were safe.

15. Seeing the Guards in their hi-viz jackets everywhere we went during the pandemic was hugely comforting. I liked that they had the power to tell gobshites who didn’t think the travel restrictions applied to them to turn the car right around and go the feck home. I forget some of the details of this particular story, but remember the guy who drove from one county to the other at the height of the pandemic to pick up a trampoline? Behold, I give you your Number One Gobshite…

16. Online shopping, because what other kind was there…? It’s my poor card that’s on a bleedin’ ventilator now.

17. It’s probably the first time in the history of the Universe that the whole world is experiencing the same thing at the same time. This aspect of the pandemic is so weird. We all went into lockdown more or less together, we endured the fear and the difficulties and the isolation of it all together, and now we’re all coming out of it together, give or take a few weeks. It’s a shame that it took a global pandemic to bring us together in the first place, but everything happens for a reason. Now that we’ve all connected with each other, I really do hope we stay that way.

18. Streets as quiet as Christmas Eve night every night, because, with the pubs and clubs and restaurants all shut, no-one had any reason to come into town after dinner.

19. Newsreaders saying ‘A Saint Patrick’s Day like no other;’ ‘A Mother’s Day like no other;’ ‘An Easter Sunday like no other;’ ‘A May Bank Holiday like no other,’ followed by depressing shots of an empty Grafton Street, Dublin’s main shopping street. All right, we get it! We’re living in strange times. No need to hammer it home…

20. Seeing more of your neighbours than ever before (not necessarily a good thing), because everyone’s either furloughed or working from home.

21. We became really attached to the Angelus during the lockdown. This is a religious thing; the Catholic religion, to be precise. It’s basically just one minute of church bells ringing out on RTÉ ONE television at 6 o’clock every evening, just before the Six-One News, the main news bulletin of the day for most people.

You’re meant to use the time for private reflection as you watch the images provided, often of older people working at various crafts that are dying out in these modern times. It always comforts me to know that probably half the country is watching these self-same images right alongside me at the exact same time.

At the weekend during the crisis, RTÉ ONE would put on a little programme called ‘IRELAND REMEMBERS’ as well. To the accompaniment of a very sad, dirge-like music and a background of images of people laying wreaths in our Garden of Remembrance, photos of people who had died of COVID-19 would appear on the screen.

Mostly these people would be elderly, but some were quite young, and it was not at all unusual to find me in floods of tears at the terrible waste/loss of all of these vibrant lives, young or old, by the end of the piece.

22. Finally, there’s my book. My debut novel, THIRTEEN STOPS, published by Poolbeg Books, was supposed to hit the shops in physical form this July. That’s not now happening, thanks to the fact that some of the shops here are still shut, and a load of other books that were meant to come out during the pandemic are now coming out ahead of mine, so mine will have to wait a bit.

The e-book is out for now, though (the link is below), to keep us all going, and the book is available for Print-On-Demand from Amazon if you’d like an actual print copy. Thanks to anyone who’s bought it so far (that’s a huge help, lol), and thanks for following the progress of this mini-memoir too. We’ve reached the end of our memoir, but not, I hope, of our association. May that be long and happy. https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

LOOKING BACK ON MY PERSONAL LOCKDOWN: PART TWO OF A MINI-MEMOIR BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

So, yesterday, I had a bit of a moan about the shops and services that shut down during the lockdown, leaving us all bereft of boozers, bistros and, most importantly, haircuts, lol. Today, let’s talk about… the News!

8. The News, with a capital ‘N,’ became a lifeline for my family and me during the pandemic. No matter what else we’d be doing during the day, the three of us would come together at half-five every day for The News. First on TV3, then the hour-long News on RTÉ One, a good-value-for-money bulletin that nicely bridged the gap between afternoon and evening for us as well.

We hung on the newsreader’s every word. How many deaths today? How many new cases of the virus? How are we doing for deliveries of PPE (personal protective equipment)? How many kilometres can we travel from home, and how long do the elderly have to stay home for?

What are the government doing about everything? How long are we likely to be in ‘severe’ lockdown, and when will we be able to ease up on restrictions? We lapped it all up. The News was- and still is- our main link to the outside world (topped up daily by online news reports). Sometimes, when one bulletin ended, we’d switch over to Sky News and watch that until we felt we’d had our fill.

The world news was even worse. Ireland actually seemed to be doing better than some other poor countries, who were hit extremely hard by the insidious coronavirus. China, of course, then Spain, Italy, the UK, our nearest neighbours, and now Brazil, all experienced (some are still experiencing) literally thousands of deaths. We saw pictures of eerily silent, empty European capitals that mirrored our own people-free streets, all as quiet as your average Christmas Eve night. The whole thing was chillingly apocalyptic.

We came to regard the newsreaders almost as friends. We commented daily on the womens’ attire and hairstyles, deciding together almost gleefully whether an outfit was flattering or not to a certain person’s height or figure, and we could tell when a male reporter had had his hair cut, or his ears lowered, as we say here in Ireland. A lot of the out-of-studio reports were delivered from streets near where we live, so we had great fun identifying the locations and saying things like: ‘I was only down there the other day,’ lol.

9. The personalities who have become the collective ‘face’ of the fight against coronavirus for the country as a whole are definitely worth a mention : our lovely kindly Chief Medical Officer, Tony Holohan, and the man who looks a bit like him who stands behind him and signs the news for the deaf; our super-concerned, super-posh Minister for Health, Simon Harris (no relation… I think!); and our esteemed Taoiseach (pronounced Tee-shock), Leo Varadkar, a trendy, young-ish guy whose speech-writers get him to quote from movies and popular culture in his lockdown speeches so that he’ll seem ‘down with the kids.’ Hmmmmm.

Never mind that we more or less voted his party out of power four months ago; he’s been clinging on to the virus for dear life for the duration of the lockdown (like a drowning man to a lifeline), garnering as much attention for himself as he can before he eventually has to make way for the even less charismatic Míchael Martin, who by all reports will become our first ‘rotating’ Taoiseach at the end of the month. Oh joy unconfined. La plus ca change around here, la plus c’est la bleedin’ meme chose. Capiche?

10. The familiar faces from other countries this lockdown include the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who proved he was human by catching the virus himself and nearly dying of it, and who staunchly stood by his adviser, the surly and rather ungracious Dominic Cummings, when the latter shamelessly flouted his own travel restrictions during the pandemic and got off pretty much scot-free, to the outrage of the UK’s more law-abiding citizens.

The ordinary people of Britain were busy enduring all the hardships and privations of the lockdown at its height, but seemingly the rules and regulations didn’t apply to the toffs and aristos, only to the plebs. Well, they could at least have told people…!

America’s President Donald Trump has become an object of fascination for us during the pandemic. We tune in to the News to watch his exploits the way that our eyes would be unerringly drawn to a terrible car crash on the side of the road as we drive by. What enormous gaffe has he committed today, we’d wonder; which country has he insulted now?

He’s had it in for China all lockdown, of course, accusing the Chinese of starting and spreading COVID-19, and even withdrawing America’s funding from the WHO (the World Health Organisation, not the dinosaur rock band) because he believes them to be too ‘China-centric’ in their dealings. Wow. He really doesn’t like China.

Then there was the time he appeared to be advocating the ingestion of household bleach to combat the coronavirus (the bleach companies were quick to disassociate themselves!), and the time- well, this was only yesterday- when he allowed thousands of Americans (though not as many as he’d have liked, apparently) to gather in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for one of his massive re-election rallies.

This, despite the fact that; A, the virus is still killing people in large numbers over there and the attendees weren’t even required to wear masks, and B, the place he’d chosen to hold his rally was once the site of a White Supremacist massacre. Not exactly great timing, right in the midst of the George Floyd-inspired ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Trump’s wife Melania too, this lockdown. Yes, she’s beautiful, but is she happy? What’s it like being married to Trump? Is he kind to her? Do they have proper conversations, other than just, we’ve got that function tonight so be ready at five-thirty, or pass the jam, dear?

Does he cheat on her? Do they have sex, and is he a selfish lover? What’s he like to have sex with? Does he favour the traditional man-on-top missionary position, or does he like to be dominated? Can he give a woman an orgasm? Does he have a big or small willy, and is it at least functional? Does she have boyfriends? These are things we’ll probably never know the answers to for sure, but it’s fascinating to speculate, and there’s no point saying it’s not…!

11. We’ve had to get used to a whole new vocabulary connected to living side-by-side with this virus. We’ve learned phrases like social distancing, no bloody harm if you ask me, because Irish people for far too long have all crowded together to eat, drink, dance, socialise, shop, bury our dead, marry our couples and protest against various injustices, and all one on top of the other like a horrible conjoined blob-monster from a science fiction movie. It’d be no bloody harm, as I said, if we learned to put a little bit of distance between ourselves and our fellow man for a while.

Other phrases/words we’ve picked up include self-isolation, PPE, the containment phase, ‘the new normal’ and ‘cocooning,’ a word invented by the government to try and keep the elderly safe at home while the worst of the virus rampaged through the country. I’m not sure how successful they were at this, unfortunately.

I asked one elderly lady from my community how she’d gotten on while cocooning. She looked at me blankly and said: ‘Cocooning? What’s that, lovey?’ Another elderly person of our acquaintance, an old man, replied: ‘Was I cocooning? I was, in me hole!’ when asked about his lockdown experience. That means no, he wasn’t cocooning in the slightest, by the way.

So, um, there you have it, anyway. This just confirms my own personal long-held views that old people (like cyclists!) don’t think that the laws of the land apply to them, and they can just do whatever they feel like doing, whenever they feel like it. When I get to that age, I am so going to do the same…! And the numbers of people I’m going to shove out of my way just because I’m an old person going somewhere will be too many to count.

More new vocabulary for these strange and unusual times included ‘flattening the curve,’ ‘furlough,’ ‘easing out of lockdown,’ ‘a step-wise plan for easing out of lockdown,’ ‘full lockdown,’ ‘partial lockdown,’ a ‘spike in the statistics’ and, finally, the infamous ‘second wave.’ This is the wave you give someone when they failed to see your first effort, lol.

That’s it for now; I’ll finish up the few remaining bits and pieces of my list of lockdown oddities during the week to come (including the no-sex-during-quarantine thing!), and I’ll see you guys then!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

CORONAVIRUS: COPING WITH THE BIG LOCKDOWN IN DUBLIN…! BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

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CORONAVIRUS: COPING WITH THE BIG LOCKDOWN…!

BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I must admit, yesterday, the first full day of the big lockdown here in Ireland (I’m in Dublin), was a rough day for me. I had a touch of cabin fever (well, more than a touch, I had the whole cabin, log fire, moose head over the fireplace, the log-pile outside the back door, the zombies in the forest getting closer and closer, the works!), having been in the house voluntarily self-isolating since Monday.

Two days is a long time for me to be in, okay? I’d normally be buzzing around the place like a busy bee, taking the son and heir to and from school, doing my bits and pieces of shopping, chewing the fat with shop assistants and neighbours and other local characters, then trying to get some writing done before the school day ends and I have to spend the rest of the day feeding a teenage boy with hollow legs, lol.

Now, of course, the schools are closed, so feeding the Boy has become a full-time job. I’m not kidding, he slinks back into the kitchen after meals, going, are there any snacks? Any snacks? I’ve just fed you a meal so enormous that even Henry the Eighth himself would have difficulty finishing it and you’re looking for snacks? Ye Gods . . . !

My daughter’s work is closed for the duration now as well, thanks to COVID-19, because apparently a bookshop is not an essential service (I thoroughly disagree, by the way!), and the government has ordered all non-essential shops and businesses to close. She’s helping out with the Boy’s ‘distance learning,’ which takes about forty-five minutes a day or as long as his ADHD will allow for.

The pubs, of course, have all been closed for nearly a fortnight now (not that I ever get near them anyway, sadly), and will presumably remain shut until at least mid-to-late April, 2020, which is the absolute earliest the schools will re-open.

All our favourite cafés and restaurants have either closed (McDonalds’ is shut, and they never shut!) for the moment or can only run a takeaway/delivery service. This means that, in the whole of Dublin, or, more correctly, the whole of Ireland, there’s currently nowhere you can go, outside of your own home, to sit with a cup of coffee and a sandwich and watch the world go by for half an hour. This is pretty much an unprecedented situation in a country as sociable as Ireland, and an upsetting one.

So, anyway, getting back to yesterday, I was stressed to the max. Cabin fever, panic about the virus affecting me or my children, panic about getting to the shops and pharmacy for essential supplies, feelings of irritability, loneliness, isolation and even boredom, which was odd considering I have so much to do.

I’m having my trilogy of romantic fiction books published by a traditional publisher starting this summer, but only two of them are written, lol. I still write a film-and-book blog, which means more and more to me as the years go by, and I self-publish my erotic horror fiction and film reviews and erotic poetry with Kindle Direct Publishing, so it’s really not like I’m short of things to do. I guess the virus-worry was getting to me.

We all decided on an early night last night, anyway, so as to bring that awful day to a close, a day in which I’d binged on all the bad news and had grown more agitated and doom-and-gloom-laden with each passing hour. Yes, I snapped at my kids, but don’t worry, the little blighters snapped right back with all the entitlement and confidence of kids born from the ‘Nineties onwards. Don’t forget, they have all the answers, so ask them if you have a question about anything at all . . . !

Today was a much better day in a hundred different ways. The sun continued to shine, as indeed it has all week, and my son and I ventured out this morning to do little jobs while my daughter had a much-needed lie-in, the kind she can’t normally get while the shop where she works is open for business. Every cloud, eh . . .?

The fresh air definitely blew a few coronavirus-encrusted cobwebs away. You simply cannot over-emphasise how much good you can derive from a simple walk in the sunshine. We walked through the park and sat on a bench and watched the daffodils dancing in the breeze. There was life before the coronavirus, I reminded myself, and there will be again.

Everyone we passed was behaving beautifully under the new restrictions and social guidelines. Friends, colleagues and even married couples were all ‘social distancing,’ leaving at least two metres between themselves and everyone else.

It was so heartening to see people actually following and respecting the guidelines laid down by our Health Service Executive, because it’s only by observing these guidelines that we can ever hope to pull ourselves out of this morass in which we’ve found ourselves, through no fault of our own. It depressed me greatly during the week to hear reports of people ignoring the recommendations and flocking in their droves to local beauty spots and other places, but today, at least, everyone we met was playing a blinder.

I felt ridiculously emotional and, yes, grateful as we went into all the shops and businesses we’d normally visit at least once a week, and found all the staff working away cheerfully there as usual, albeit wearing masks and gloves and a further distance away than normal, but still there, still providing us with the goods and services without which we’d be hard put to survive.

I genuinely feel as grateful to these guys (and gals!) as people do to the veterans who fought for their freedom in the two world wars. No exaggeration, but they’re risking their health to bring us a continued service and I want to thank them for it. What I really want is to hug them for it, but in the current climate, that’s maybe not such a great ideal, lol. But I certainly had tears in my eyes, much to my poor son’s bemusement, as we started for home.

Mammy, are you crying about a writing thing?” he ventured, because that’s apparently the subject I cry about the most.

No, lovey, I’m just crying because I’m happy today went so well,” I told him, but he still rolled his eyes. Oh, the joys of pandemic parenting!

On the way home, we encountered two community guards of our acquaintance who were patrolling the park, making sure everything was nice and safe for the people using it. Did I feel protected, looked after, as we stopped for a chinwag? You bet I did. And then, before we finally reached home, a neighbour whom I know only slightly did us a stunning and unexpected kindness, which I won’t go into here, but let’s just say it was the icing on the cake of a lovely morning.

Then, when we got home, first my son’s special school and then what I call his ‘Autism service providers,’ the clinical services folks, each got in touch by phone to ask if there was any extra help or support we needed during this stressful time. And then, my lovely editor emailed me a preliminary sketch of the cover for my first traditionally-published book and I loved it! My cup of love and goodwill towards all men literally runneth over right now. I feel blessed.

Yesterday I felt like throwing in the towel. Today I have hope and things look much brighter. That’s the power of fresh air, a little exercise and sunshine and making contact (safely, from a distance of two metres!) with people who care. Tomorrow, I may be back binge-watching the terrifying statistics and biting the heads off loved ones or anyone else who looks crooked at me, but for today, I’m fine. It’s enough.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com