Saturday, March 28, 2020

Gratitude and Feeling Fortunate

As we move through this crisis, I am reminded daily of how fortunate Bill and I are and how much there is to be grateful for. First of all, we're in Ireland, where the messaging has been clear, consistent, culturally appropriate, and well-communicated. The steps being taken are based on science and every public health professional I've heard, whether from the WHO or elsewhere, has said that Ireland is doing all the right things. I find that comforting. There is a focus here on doing what we're doing for the good of society, which resonates with me.

We finished moving before things were shut down, which puts us in an easier situation. We are 'in the back of beyond' as a friend put it, but even so, this is a place where our needs, which are few, can be met without going anywhere else. It would have been more difficult had we lived in a couple of the other places in which we've lived.

Even though we live in the town centre, it is a very small town--the kind of place where if you blink, you'll miss it. So even with the 2 kilometre limit on being outside, we still have a nice walk we can do. Walking around the block takes us along the shore walk that I posted a few pictures of earlier in the week. The pier is not in that block, but a short detour to the right brings us there and it is not even close to the 2 kilometre limit. So we can take quick walks each day by going around the corner, veering to the right and walking down the lane to the pier, to the end of the pier, back to the shore walk, and around the block back home. When we did this part of our walk the other day, we passed no one else, so there wasn't even any need for social distancing.

I am quite an introvert, so staying inside and away from people is not a hardship for me. I do not socialise much even in normal times. I generally find gatherings exhausting. From the time I was a small child, I have had to force myself to engage with people in the ways society (and in my case, my parents) requires us all to do. I was trained well growing up, so I learned early how to turn it on and off, but as I get older, it becomes more of an effort to do so and  I have less inclination to play this game--less necessity as well. It's not that I don't enjoy interactions with some people. It's just that I don't want too much and not in large groups. Online interactions seem to be fine, as is apparently the case with many introverts..I do not have a smartphone and have no desire for one, am not on any social media at this point, and step back from the computer when I feel the need, so I am not constantly online, which may have something to do with this.

All that is to say that I am someone who is content to spend large amounts of time quietly at home with books, podcasts, stitching and other such activities. I have a great deal of compassion for people who need a lot of social interaction, because as I know from my own experience, it is hard to go against your nature, as they are now required to do. It is good to see people using technology to come up with creative ways to get the social engagement they need while still staying physically apart.

This must also be hard for the people who have children at home. It has been two weeks since schools and other places closed down and now the restrictions are tighter. This is as it should be, but it is a hardship for parents trying to keep kids occupied, especially for families who have members with special needs. And many will be trying to work from home and home school at the same time, which must be really difficult.

And there is the loss of income that people are experiencing. The government has put many supports in place, but inevitably, some people will fall through the cracks. Some small businesses will not survive. Our local community relies heavily on tourism and last week saw two big days eliminated for them--St Patrick's Day and Mother's Day. No parade, no people coming in from other places, and no local people packing into pubs and restaurants. We don't go out to eat very much, but I am inclined to start doing that more often when this is behind us, because the local restaurants will need our support. We can also go to a couple of the local pubs to listen to live music when that is happening again.

Of course, I am most grateful for the fact that Bill and I are both healthy and going through this pandemic together, as we've done with everything else for the past 40 years. We have each other and nothing is more important than that. My heart breaks for the people who are losing their loved ones. So while I certainly hope I do not get COVID-19, my focus is on doing what I can to help prevent the spread. It's possible that I could get it and not even know, but pass it on to others, which would add to the problem. So I will follow the instructions given by the public health and infectious disease specialists and remind myself of all there is to be grateful for while doing it. There are a few things we'd planned to do that we have to postpone. So be it. I have many things with which to occupy my time until this is behind us and we can get to whatever the new normal will look like. We can adapt. This can be an opportunity to really think about what is most important to us and to evaluate whether or not we've been living in ways that prioritise those things. Maybe some of us will find that there are changes we want to make as we move forward.

And now, I am off to wash my hands, make a cup of tea, listen to an e-audiobook, and work on a sock. Stay safe and remember--we're all in this together! ☮🌍💜

Friday, March 27, 2020

Lockdown

We've just heard from our PM again and we're essentially in lockdown starting at midnight and lasting at least until Easter. We're being asked to not leave our homes, except for certain essential journeys. We can go out for walks, but must stay within 2 kilometres of home and keep 2 metres of distance between ourselves and anyone who does not reside in our household. No gatherings in the home that involve anyone outside the household are allowed.

The Chief Medical Officer also spoke and he said there is some evidence that the social distancing we've already been doing is having a positive effect, but we're in a new phase now.

We were reminded of the fact that the government is making decisions based on the science. I am grateful for this, along with so many other things.

Stay safe, keep your distance, and wash your hands, everyone!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Home Turf

Yesterday, after we walked to the pier and along the shore walk to the end, we turned onto Quay Street and walked down that way for a while. When we came to a narrow road, we walked up that, too, to see what we would see.

Not far up the road was this abandoned house.
It's sad to see homes like this--it could be a cute house and probably was once, but now it's just left to the elements. The way things are built here, using concrete block and sometimes stone, means that there are many abandoned buildings still standing. The buildings last, even when windows and roofs are long gone. This one isn't so far gone yet, but if left alone, eventually, it probably will be.

This pile of turf was a bit puzzling because of where it is.
It's a lot of turf--the work involved in cutting it, drying it, and piling it up would have been extensive,. The pile sits in a back garden (yard), behind a stone wall and in back of a house that does not look like it is currently occupied, but is having an extension built. I am not sure whether work has stopped on the extension or not as there was no one working on it yesterday. I wondered at first if someone who lives nearby was using the space to store their own turf, but the house across the road has old stone outbuildings and we could see in one of them that no longer had a door that they use it to keep wood. It's a mystery.

Back on Quay Street, we saw this tableau in a front garden. I didn't notice the daffodil peeking out from behind the little house until I looked at the picture. I love the old couple on the bench.
Today's walk was to Aldi for a weekly shop. We stopped at the hand/trolley handle sanitising station at the entrance. There were few people in the store and while most of the shelves were full, the produce section had some bare spots. I got everything on my list, though. They have marked distances on the floor for when waiting at the till--rectangles of bright colour that say, 'please wait here.' People were complying.

There was one person who passed us heading the other way when we were on our way there, but on the way home, the only people walking were on the other side of the street. When we got home, I put the groceries away and washed my hands. We went to the store today because we were about out of milk after last week's shop. We figured that since we were going to the store anyway, we might as well pick up more things at the same time and avoid any extra shopping trips.

The Irish government announced some new measures yesterday--closing non-essential businesses, telling people not to be together with people outside the household in groups larger than 4, increasing the financial assistance to businesses and individuals harmed by the pandemic, and more. Closures have been extended to April 19 and may be extended further. I read today that postal carriers will be checking in on elderly people. All in all, I think the official response here has been good. And although there are people who think these rules and guidelines should not apply to them, it seems that locally, people are taking this seriously, at least based on what I've seen.

And now, I'm off to make a cup of tea with a splash of milk 😀 While I wait for the kettle to boil, I will decide what book to start next. I would not have thought that I could be any more grateful for the existence of books than I already was, but I have found that there is always room for gratitude to be moved up a notch. I am more grateful than ever for my books and yarn!

 I hope all is well with you! Stay safe!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Along the Shore the Wind Did Howl

After breakfast, we headed out for a walk. Around the corner and to the shore we went, with a brisk and biting wind blowing at us. It was glorious. I was in a short-sleeved shirt and felt slightly chilly, but that's how I like it. I am happiest when it's in the 40s (F), so I'll take as many chilly days and sharp winds as I can get, especially at this time of year!

I realised that we hadn't walked to the pier, in spite of the fact that it's quite nearby, since the first time we came to town to look at our apartment. That was a few days before Christmas, so it's been a few months. I wanted to head in that direction, so into the wind we went.

There are some flowers in planters now--even finding cracks to grow through. The plant growing out of the side is sheltered from the wind blowing off the Atlantic.

The pier was built in 1923, but was destroyed by storms in the 1990s and had to be rebuilt.
This seating area by the slipway seems like it would be a lovely spot to sit with coffee or tea and a book or some stitching to just relax and hang out for a while. And the benches are far enough apart that people could enjoy the surroundings and also adhere to social distance guidelines.
A bit further on, the pier comes to an end.
We turned around and started back for the shore walk. I noticed the view of the back of town and the dark sky overhead.
Back over the pedestrian bridge we went. I love the sound of the river flowing towards the sea.
The tide was low.
There is a line of critter prints on the footpath.
Near the end, there was another planter with some splashes of colour.
Still, bare branches look lovely silhouetted against the sky.
In the wildflower garden, the daffodils are starting to bloom.
And on the other side, some leaves are starting to form.
I hope that, in spite of the ongoing crisis, you are finding ways to care for yourself. Stay safe!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Loop to the Lake and Back

It seems as though the panic buying has subsided here. That's good. They're asking people to try to get the grocery shopping done at times when the shops are not so crowded, so we went to Aldi yesterday morning to pick up a few basics. We wanted to make sure we could avoid the stores until later next week. Just as well, because when we walked by the Aldi car park today, it was packed.

Last night, Bill looked out the window and saw that there was a beautiful sunset over the water, so we went out and around the corner for a short walk along the shore path. The sound of the river rushing over the rocks to meet the sea added to the peace, beauty, and joy of the moment.

This morning, we decided to do a looped walk to a nearby lake and back. We went to the lake via one road, walked along the lake for a while, then turned around and walked back to the main road into town and came back that way. When we first came to Dungloe, I watched out of the bus window and was thrilled to see that the footpaths (sidewalks) run all the way from town to the lake on both roads. The road by the lake also has a footpath for a time, but even when it runs out, there is not a lot of traffic on that road, so it's safe to walk there. As we were walking in town, we saw a few people talking to one another, but not as many as we usually see. Those that were having conversations were standing apart--not 2 metres, but farther than they usually do.

Anyway, I snapped a few pictures of things that caught my eye as we were walking, so if you feel like coming along on our walk, scroll on! 😃

walking up chapel road

a front garden--now that's privacy!

at the lake

the pier at the lake--we walked along the road until just beyond the house you see in the distance
islands in the lake

daffodils--these grow in profusion alongside many roads and sometimes the verge is just a mass of yellow

shadows on the hills

another view
back on the road into town--someone's front garden (yard)

play on words

looking back
It was a lovely 3-mile loop.  It was nice to get out and explore our new surroundings a bit more. The scenery was beautiful. Thanks for walking along, in a socially distant virtual sort of way!

And yes, when we came home, we washed our hands well!

I hope you're finding things to smile about, even in this crazy time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Calm, Informative, Factual

Last night an Taoiseach (pronounced tee-shuck--Ireland's PM) addressed the nation. This is the first time this has happened since we've been in Ireland, as far as I recall. I know that people like to give out about politicians, but I thought it was quite well done. His tone was calm and measured. He offered factual information. He did not try to pretend that it will all blow over. He was honest with us. He explained what measures are being taken and reassured people. He also expressed Irish solidarity with people all over the world. I felt his remarks were worth sharing here, because while a few parts are specific to Ireland, much of it applies to anyone anywhere. I should also say that before he was a politician, he was a physician.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig shona daoibh!
This is a Saint Patrick’s Day like no other. 
A day that none of us will ever forget.
Today’s children will tell their own children and grandchildren about the national holiday in 2020 that had no parades or parties… but instead saw everyone staying at home to protect each other. 
In years to come… let them say of us… when things were at their worst… we were at our best.
Our country is making big demands of our healthcare staff… big demands of every single one of us.  
Tonight I want you to know why these actions are being taken and what more needs to be done. 
We are in the midst of a global and national emergency – a pandemic – the likes of which none of us has seen before.  
So far the number of cases in Ireland has been relatively small.
However, we believe that number will rise to fifteen thousand cases or more by the end of the month and rise further in the weeks thereafter.
The vast majority of us who contract Covid-19 will experience a mild illness… but some will be hospitalised and sadly some people will die. 
We cannot stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back. 
We can, as you have heard by now – flatten the curve.  But only if everyone takes sustained action.  Nothing less will do.
We all need to take steps to reduce close human contact.  That is how the virus is spread.   Not just at public gatherings or public places but also in our own homes… places of leisure and work.
Large public gatherings are cancelled.  All pubs and bars are shut. 
We have also asked people to curtail or cancel social gatherings like parties, weddings and other celebrations.  I know these choices won’t be easy, but they are necessary.
More will be required in the coming weeks to reduce the spread of the virus.  At all times we will be guided by, and take the expert advice from our Public Health Emergency Team led by the Chief Medical Officer. 
We will always put your life and your health ahead of any other concern.  All resources that we have… financial and human… are being deployed to serve this great national effort.
We are watching what’s happening around the world and will learn from the experience of other countries affected by Covid-19 before us – what works and what doesn’t.
We know the best strategies focus on testing… contact tracing and social distancing.  So, that is our strategy.
We will keep our essential services, supply chains and utilities operating.
Many of you want to know when this will be over.
The truth is we don’t know yet.
This Emergency is likely to go on well beyond March 29th.  It could go on for months into the summer so we need to be sensible in the approach we take.
We will deploy our full resources to ensure that essential shops, workplaces and public transport can continue to operate.  People will still need to buy goods and avail of personal services in the weeks and months ahead.
However… to do so… we need your co-operation and that of business and industry to make social distancing workable.  This may mean changing how you do your business… but we will work with you to find safe and creative ways to do this.
This may mean adjusted opening hours… Staggering breaks… phone calls rather than meetings… and if possible working from home.
As you plan your life it will mean avoiding unnecessary journeys.   Shopping online from local businesses and getting things delivered rather than physically going to the premises.
In short – we are asking people to come together as a nation by staying apart from each other. The most basic messages of washing your hands properly and practicing good hygiene around sneezing and coughing are still the most important.
And… if you have a new cough that isn’t going away or a high temperature… stay at home and phone your doctor.  A test will be arranged for you.
At a certain point… we will advise the elderly and people who have a long-term illness to stay at home for several weeks.   We are putting in place the systems to ensure that if you are one of them, you will have food, supplies and are checked on. 
We call this ‘cocooning’ and it will save many lives… particularly the most vulnerable… the most precious in our society.
It’s going to be very difficult to stay apart from our loved ones.
Most grandparents just want to give their grandkids a hug and a kiss – but as hard as this is… we need to keep our physical distance to stop the virus.
Technology can help – check in with your loved ones on Skype or Facetime and promise them you’ll see them again soon. 
We’ve already seen our fantastic community spirit spring into action.
Phone your neighbours… see if they need help… and make sure those who are living alone are not left alone.
To all the young people watching – I know you are bored and probably a bit fed up.  You want to see your friends and you might even be wishing you were back at school.
You’re going to have to wait a while longer for that.
I hope you remember that this time is tough on your parents as well.
So I’m asking you to ask your parents at least once a day what you can do to help them.  Keep up your schoolwork and call your grandparents.
Keep up your schoolwork… call your grandparents and try not to fight with your brothers and sisters.
Like you, my family has spoken about little else in recent days.
My partner… my two sisters… and both their husbands are working in the health service – here in Ireland and in the UK.  They are all apprehensive.  They have heard the stories from China and Italy of hospitals being overwhelmed and medical staff getting sick.
I am so proud of all of them.
Not all superheroes wear capes… some wear scrubs and gowns. 
All of our healthcare workers need us to do the right thing in the weeks ahead.
Our community services and hospitals are being tooled up.
Essential equipment is on the way.
Retired staff are returning to service.  People are training for changed roles. 
This is the calm before the storm – before the surge.
And when it comes – and it will come – never will so many ask so much of so few.
We will do all that we can to support them.
I am also grateful to the many people who have joined this great national effort. 
Not just our healthcare staff but also our army cadets… librarians and civil servants who are learning how to do contact tracing. 
The early education and childcare workers offering to look after the children of our front line staff so they can go to work. 
The teachers and lecturers finding new innovative ways to teach students on-line and putting together contingency plans for the Leaving Cert and College exams.
The people who are stocking our shelves every day… and those who are serving customers.
Our hauliers… who leave their families on a Sunday evening and travel across the continent to ensure that we have the products, medicine and equipment that we need.  All who have kept our supply chain moving… we thank them… a different kind of frontline service.  
Our journalists and broadcasters who are helping to inform and educate.   All are deserving of our respect and thanks.
Coronavirus is already having a deep impact on jobs and economic activity and will continue to do so.
Some people watching will have seen their jobs lost… businesses closed… or their working hours reduced.  More will be worried that this might happen to them too… especially as we do not know when the Emergency will end.
I know this is causing huge stress to you and your families… on top of fear of the virus.
While we do not have all the answers now… we are doing and will do all we can to help you through the time ahead.
You will receive income support as quickly and efficiently as possible… and when we are through the worst… we will work as hard as possible to get people back to work and get business open again.
Everyone in our society must show solidarity in this time of national sacrifice.  For those who have lost their jobs and had their incomes reduced temporarily… there must be help and understanding from those who can give it… particularly the banks… government bodies and utilities.
We went into this crisis with a strong economy and the public finances in good order. 
We have the capacity and credit rating to borrow billions if we need to.
I am confident that our economy will bounce back… but the damage will be significant and lasting.  The bill will be enormous and it may take years to pay it.
The Government has already signed off a 3 billion euro package for health, social welfare and business – we will take further action as needed.
Tonight I know many of you are feeling scared and overwhelmed.   That is a normal reaction, but we will get through this and we will prevail.
We need to halt the spread of the virus but we also need to halt the spread of fear. 
So please rely only on information from trusted sources.  From Government… from the HSE… from the World Health Organisation and from the national media.
Do not forward or share messages that are from other, unreliable sources.  So much harm has already been caused by those messages…
and we must insulate our communities and the most vulnerable from the contagion of fear. 
Fear is a virus in itself.
Please take regular breaks from watching news
and media, and from consuming social media.  Constantly scrolling on your phone or obsessively following the latest developments… is not good for anyone.
Look after your mental health and well-being as well as your physical health. 
Tonight on our national holiday I also want to send a message around the world that we are all in this together.
To the people of China, Spain and Italy who have suffered untold heartbreak and loss – we are with you.
To all of those across the world who have lost a loved one to this virus – we are with you.
To all those living in the shadow of what is to come – we are with you.
Viruses pay no attention to borders… race… nationality or gender.
They are the shared enemy of all humanity.
So it will be the shared enterprise of all humanity that finds a treatment and a vaccine that protects us.
Tonight I send a message of friendship and of hope from Ireland to everyone around the world this Saint Patrick’s Day.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig shona daoibh!
Oíche mhaith.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Happy St Patrick's Day!

It's a holiday here, but it feels a bit strange. It's so quiet. It feels more like Christmas, which is always very quiet, than St Patrick's Day, which is always more lively. There are no parades. Pubs and restaurants have been directed to close. People have been encouraged to skip having parties at home. Social distancing is not the usual behaviour on this day, but here we are.

It is supposed to rain all day and the sky is a uniform grey. But in spite of the grey skies, lack of parades and parties, and the social distancing, there are (literal) bright spots, like these knitted ensembles I saw in a charity shop window in Donegal Town a few days ago:
Someone spent many hours with these bright colours! I especially love the hats!

As always, on this St Patrick's Day, I am grateful to be able to live out in the middle of nowhere in this wonderful country, which I love. Wherever you are today, and in spite of the uncertain times in which we are living right now, I hope you have a wonderful day!



Monday, March 16, 2020

Shout Out

We went to the grocery store this morning, not to stockpile, but to pick up a few things that we can only get at that particular store, as well as the olive oil and porridge oats I could not get last week at a different store when the shelves were bare.

The shelves were pretty bare in Supervalu, too, which I suspect was a combination of the pandemic and the fact that it was Monday morning. I did get the olive oil and porridge oats, though, and everything else on my list except for white vinegar. There were signs all around the store saying there is a limit of 4 items per customer.

As we were paying, I commented to the woman at the till that things must be pretty crazy for the store employees at the moment. She said they are. I said,'You guys are the unsung heroes of the crisis, working hard to keep the shelves stocked and to make sure that people can get what they need all the while dealing with fearful people.' She said, 'We have no choice, so we just keep at it.' She seemed pleased to have been acknowledged.

As we were walking home, I was thinking about how so many people are showing up at their jobs and trying to keep things running smoothly in these uncertain times. Health care workers are on the front lines, of course. But there are so many others that might not immediately come to mind, like the people working so hard in the grocery store. I was also thinking of the public transport workers who continue to drive the buses so people can get to the grocery store or medical appointments. As we use rural public transport, we see how many people flag down the bus in the middle of nowhere so they can ride to the nearest grocery store or who, like Bill has done, take the bus to a medical or dental appointment. PJ, the guy who drives the bus we most often take, and his colleagues from other companies on other routes make this possible.

So here's a shout out to all those people who are doing their best, under really stressful circumstances, to keep services that people rely on running smoothly. Keeping in mind that, in order to limit their potential exposure as much as possible, these people rely on all of us to follow the advice given by the medical experts, I used the hand sanitiser as requested on the dispenser by the door before entering the building and again on the way out. After putting the groceries away, I washed my hands well--again. We're avoiding public spaces as much as possible, the grocery store being the exception, but that's done for now.

We're all in this together!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Random Thoughts

A few things have been running through my mind lately. I've been thinking of two books in particular--The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver and Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I loved both books. It's obvious why Station Eleven is on my mind--the book takes place a few years after a global pandemic has left a few survivors scattered around. These people have to form new communities in a world that is completely new to them, without consumer goods, electricity, or the internet. The main focus of the story is a group of actors who travel around performing Shakespeare in settlements along the way. Even in the face of disaster, the need for art is alive and well.

Different parts of The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 come back to me at various times. The premise of this book is that US dollars become worthless pretty much overnight, because other countries finally get sick of the attitude of the US government. They band together and choose a different currency to be the 'world' currency. There are warning signs that the collapse of the dollar is coming, but people have an 'it can't happen here' attitude and refuse to believe it. The exception is an 11-year-old boy who tries to warm his family. Even though his warnings fall on deaf ears, they do end up having to rely on him to navigate the new world in which they live as things start to fall apart. There's even a border wall in the book--one built by Mexico to keep migrants from the US out of their country. What makes me think of this book now is the frenzied toilet paper grab that is underway. There is a scene in the book when they have to venture out to try to find some more.

The next thing that has popped into my mind a few times in recent days is not from a book, but is a real-life experience. Years ago, I had a Facebook 'friend' (we were not actually friends, although we did get together in person once or twice) who was an evangelical Christian of a conservative persuasion. She told me that I was the only non-Christian person she knew and spent a good deal of time on Facebook lecturing other Christians about whether they were Christian enough and wondering whether her god would be OK with her wearing jeans and not wearing a kerchief. I stayed out of these 'discussions.' I pretty much communicated with her only when she commented on one of my posts or when she posted cute cat pics or something. The rest of it was none of my business. One day, she shared a post that was about how, when the apocalypse arrives, no one better show up at her gate looking for help. She was stockpiling for herself and her family (in this case, it would be her and her husband as they had no kids) and she would be ready with her gun should anyone show up looking for help. Too bad they didn't prepare ahead was the message. The cruelty of this post took my breath away, but I did not respond to it. However, this woman's aunt expressed what I was thinking in her comment when she said, 'That doesn't sound very Christian.' The woman went on to sort of chastise her aunt, defending this idea that she would blow away anyone who needed help in a crisis. They went back and forth with the aunt becoming more distressed and the woman becoming more angry. Finally the aunt commented that the world being described did not sound like one worth living in, and expressed her hope that this woman would not now block her from the page. I felt so sad for the aunt. Eventually, this women's hatred and bigotry got to be too much for me and I removed her. I wish I wasn't being reminded of this episode now, but there is an abundance of selfish behaviour at the moment. Bill was reading a story this morning about people who went around buying up all of the hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial soap, paper towels, toilet paper, etc they could find and then trying to sell it on various websites. These websites finally started shutting these types of people down.Now one guy, who went around in a U-Haul to small towns and cleaned out dollar stores, is whining about how he thought his family would have it made when he sold this stuff at very high prices and what is he supposed to do with $17,000 worth of this stuff now that he can't sell it. There is so much wrong with that attitude. First there's the sheer greed and trying to profit from people's fear and illness. Then there is the lack of empathy for anyone else. If this guy is buying up this stuff from small town dollar stores, he is targeting people who may have little money and few options when it comes to acquiring supplies. There may not be all that many stores in their communities and they may not have transportation to go to a larger town. And even if they did, those shelves would probably be empty as well.

Of course, there are stories as well of people going out of their way to help others and finding creative, socially distant ways of doing it. Let's hope that as this crisis rolls on we see more of these kinds of people and less of the others!


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Well Supplied While Avoiding Contact

We've been asked to avoid contact with people as much as possible to try to delay the spread of the COVID-19 virus so as not to overwhelm the medical system. We're hunkering down and complying. I know that this will be a real hardship for many people for various reasons, but as a friend said in an email yesterday, it's business as usual for this introvert. I don't socialise much anyway. And having just hauled what seemed like a tonne of books, yarn, thread, and other stitching supplies and tools, it seemed like I would have no trouble occupying my time as we engage in social distancing. However, I did manage to top up the supplies before things started to shut down (including the library) and we were asked to stay home as much as possible.

We walk right by one of the charity shops on our way to the library and we've called in a few times. The first time, I thought to myself that it was good that I'd built up a stash of orphan yarn from charity shops and from former owners who didn't want it anymore, because it didn't seem like I would be finding it at this shop. In subsequent visits, I've happily learned how wrong I was!

A few weeks ago, we went in and I spotted this plastic container stuffed with mostly full spools of variegated machine embroidery thread, labels still on.
I don't do machine embroidery, as I work by hand, but I can use this for that, so I brought it to the counter and asked how much it was--as is so often the case, there was no price. I hate asking and every single time I have to, I can see that they hate it, too. They always seem a wee bit agitated and hesitant, as the woman did in this case. 'Three euro?' she asked tentatively. I smiled, nodded, and said I'd take it. When I got home, I counted 30 spools of thread, so I am very happy with this find.

The other day we popped in and I saw this pom-pom novelty yarn.
I like the colours in this, but I got yarn like this years ago in a mystery bag and did not like it at all. I tried crocheting with it and then knitting with it and was not impressed. But then I thought about weaving and figured it'd be worth getting to play with in that way. This yarn was marked (60 cents per skein and there were two), so I took them up to the counter. 'Do you knit or crochet?' the woman asked (not the same woman who sold me the thread). 'Both,' I replied. She smiled and walked over to a black bin bag that I'd been bending over in order to look at the books. She opened it to reveal bags of yarn inside--all packages of full skeins. The top bag was a yellow baby boucle, which I did not want. Under that was a bag of a different kind of deep reddish/brownish novelty yarn with a metallic thread. I would have considered a skein or maybe two of that, but didn't want a full bag. Then I found the buried treasure.
Bulky Donegal tweed (100% wool with flecks)--be still my heart! I eagerly tugged on the bag, looked at it and asked how much she wanted for the bag. She hesitated and looked uncomfortable. 'Five euro? Is that too much? she asked. 'Nope, that's grand,' I replied and put it on the counter with the pom pom yarn and a book Bill had found. She tossed in the pom-pom yarn for nothing. There are 20 skeins in the bag. And, when our daughter came, she brought several crochet and knitting magazines for me, so I have a few projects from those I am considering for this yarn.

As always, the charity shops are a great place to find books, some of which are happy surprises. The first time we called into the charity shop on our way to the library was just after we'd gotten our stuff here and I admit to feeling a little bit sheepish as I picked up a book of Alice Munro short stories while on my way to pick up more books at the library, knowing the books I'd moved were still in piles on the floor. I tell myself there are worse obsessions. The other day after the dentist, we had some time to kill before catching the bus home, so we called in at the library and chatted with the librarian there, not knowing it would be the last day the libraries would be open for a while. Then we went to a couple of charity shops, picking up a couple of books in each one. Bill got a novel by an author he likes, I got a novel by someone I've never heard of, and I found two surprises. One is a book about journeys around Ireland from history and folklore and the other is a book of social history about medieval women. Every time we walk out with books, Bill comments that we don't need any more books. And that is true--we don't need them. But we enjoy them, the money goes to good causes, and most of the ones we bring in are never intended to live with us forever. I keep a few, but most of what I buy gets put on the pile to be re-donated one way or another. When we moved, a friend brought three boxes of our books to an Oxfam shop. Sometimes we put them on an exchange shelf. There are books that bring to mind a particular person, so I give it to them when I'm done (if they want it). Or we give it to one of the charity shops. Our local one has fewer books than others, so we'll probably bring the current pile there at some point. And, as I joked to Bill the other day, while other people are panic buying toilet paper, we have our supply of books. They're there for us to spend quality time with and then, if the panic buying gets out of control, we can use them for --ahem--other purposes in a pinch. I saw a headline in an Irish paper today proclaiming that toilet paper manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand. And then there's this possibility, send to me by a friend:
We're ready!

Stay safe!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Panic Buying

The panic buying has begin here. We went for a regular shop this morning. I had planned to get some porridge oats--whenever we start a bag, I make a mental note to pick up another one the next time I'm at the store so we won't run out. We recently opened a bag, so it was on my list. No luck.
Bread wasn't on my list, which is just as well.
Same with pasta.
We were there in the morning, so I can only imagine what awaited anyone who decided to shop in the afternoon!

At the till, the woman seemed a bit frazzled. I asked her whether this had been going on for a while or if it just started yesterday when an Taoiseach announced the closures and other delay measures. She said there was some before yesterday, but then it really got crazy.

There were a lot of people in the store. Usually there are one or two tills open. Today there were at least 4. It was really something. Various government ministers have asked people not to engage in panic buying, because it makes things more difficult for others, but I think some people do not think through how their actions can cause problems for people who are more vulnerable. On the bright side, we heard on the radio this evening about various helping groups right across the country that are forming and coming up with clever ways to help people get what they need while minimising contact, as we're being asked to do.

There were a few things on my list that I could not get, but I'll manage without them.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

On Her Way Home

We were up early this morning to go with our daughter to Donegal Town, where she caught a bus to the airport for a flight this afternoon. She is now on her way back home. It was a lovely ride this morning. There was wind, hail, sleet, and later rain overnight and this morning, and clearly snow on the hills.
taken from the bus window as we approached ardara
We got to Donegal Town and the bus to Dublin was there, so we just had time for a quick good-bye and away she went. It was a quick visit, but the events overnight made me glad that she had a ticket for today. We learned this morning about the travel ban, and that the UK was exempt. On the bus, we heard that Ireland is also exempt, but that this was announced in a tweet some time after the first announcement. When Bill and I were on the bus back to Dungloe, someone called into a radios show and told the story about elderly relatives who were visiting Dublin and received a call in the middle of the night, telling them bout the travel ban. They became concerned that they would not be able to get home to Chicago, so they got online and searched for tickets for today. They found them, but they cost 3000 euro or dollars (I could not hear which it was--if it was euros, it would have been more than 3000 dollars). Because they were so worried, they bought the non-refundable tickets. It was at some point after the purchase that they discovered Ireland is not on the banned list. We just heard a story on the radio about people at Dublin Airport desperately trying to get tickets to fly home as soon as possible.

Also on the bus ride home, we heard about Leo Varadkar's (the Irish PM, called an Taoiseach, which is pronounced like tee-shock or tee-shuck) statement about the latest actions the government is putting into place. He ended his statement this way:
'I know that I am asking people to make enormous sacrifices.

We’re doing it for each other.

Together, we can slow the virus in its tracks and push it back.

Acting together, as one nation, we can save many lives.

Our economy will suffer. It will bounce back.

Lost time in school or college will be recovered. In time, our lives will go back to normal.

Above all, we all need to look out for each other.

Ireland is a great nation. And we are great people. We have experienced hardship and struggle before. We have overcome many trials in the past with our determination and our spirit.

We will prevail.'

I thought his words struck exactly the right tone.

Take care of yourself.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Drama on the Bus

We spent yesterday riding across the country and back as we went to Dublin Airport to meet our daughter, who is here for a short visit. It still amazes me that we can live in this very small town and still do something like this using public transport.

We were up early and got the first bus to Donegal Town, where we had just enough time to nip into the Abbey Hotel to use the bathroom before catching the bus to the airport. Had we missed that bus, another one would be leaving an hour and a half later, which still would have gotten us there on time.

It was a pleasant ride and we went through a part of the country we had never seen in the daylight hours, so that was enjoyable. We got to the airport, ate the lunch we'd brought, and waited for her plane to land and for her to emerge. When she did, she ate the lunch I'd brought for her and we hung out for 45 minutes or so before going to get the first bus of the homeward journey. While it was better to go through Donegal Town on the way to the airport, on the way home, our options were better going through Letterkenny, so we boarded the Route 32 Bus Eireann, took our seats, and settled in. Because the bus picks up people at the airport after it picks up people at a stop in Dublin itself, there were already people on the bus when we got on. We could not all sit together, so Bill chose seats near the back where there were two empty rows, one in front of the other. He sat behind myself and our daughter.

We don't often sit in the back if we have a choice. Often young school kids will be sitting in the back being a bit loud and thinking they're cool as tweens and teens do. They're not obnoxious, but we just don't care to be in the middle of it. It did not take long yesterday to think that this is what we would be dealing with, but we quickly learned that it was going to be worse than that. There was a group of young people--later I saw them and figured they were in their 20s--conversing and one in particular was mouthing off. At first we thought they all knew each other, but it soon became apparent that this was not the case and that one guy was going to be a jerk and the others were going to try to deal with him as best they could.

Before we had been underway for long, we realised he was drunk. He was constantly talking, often about nothing much, using 'like' and 'man' every other word. 'Like, man, I like, like you. I like you like, man.' Then he would intersperse comments like this with 'Huh? What?' in a loud voice. Then he moved on to talking about other people, always in a derogatory way, calling them foul names and talking about slicing them up. Charming. A couple of times he mentioned going to Dungloe to stay with friends and my heart sank. I did not want to have to deal with him on the next bus, too. Then he was on the phone with someone and said that he would stay in a hotel in Letterkenny, because he was drunk. I hoped he would.

Just under two hours in, the break stop at Monaghan Bus Station was scheduled. He began to talk to the guy next to him about how he really had to piss and could he wake him up when we were almost there. We got there pretty much on time and the guy had nudged drunk guy (hereafter known as DG) awake. Before the bus had come to a complete stop, DG was stumbling up the aisle, bumping into people as he went, me included. He got off the bus and disappeared for a while. Just before we left again 10 minutes later, he rushed back on with a bag from the neighbouring Lidl store. We proceeded. So did he.

Turns out he went to the store to buy beer and he started drinking these at a rapid clip. Lidl doesn't even sell cold beer, so he was drinking all of these warm. He didn't care. He downed one and opened another. He got louder, more obnoxious, and even nastier. He called some people and left vile messages on their voicemail. When the neighbouring people opted not to join him in his drinking, he turned on them, too and threatened them. We figured the driver couldn't hear him at first, but as he got louder and louder, people in the front of the bus started turning around to look. He dropped a can of beer and it sprayed on someone sitting near him. He dropped cans and they rolled into the aisle, spilling beer. He was crushing the empty cans loudly. As all this was going on, we were getting stuck in a traffic jam at a roundabout somewhere in Northern Ireland and time was ticking away. I started to wonder whether we'd get to Letterkenny in time for the next bus, which left an hour after we were due to arrive there. Most of all, I wished this idiot was getting off somewhere soon.

I wondered what to do and what would happen. As we got later and later, people were calling the people who were supposed to meet them at various stops and giving them an estimated time of arrival and telling them where we were. I suspect none of us wanted to be slowed down by waiting for the police and not sure what the protocol is in Northern Ireland for that sort of thing. We rode on and DG kept shouting obscenities and making threats. People were getting more and more uncomfortable. He yelled that the gardaí would arrest him when he got off the bus because he was drunk. I'm sure I was not the only person to hope this would be so. In the end, he never got that far.

We stopped at Strabane and I knew Lifford, the next town and part of the Republic of Ireland, was coming up. Lifford is also the last stop before Letterkenny. Many people got off the bus at Lifford. A few people from the back moved forward. One guy looked at me and kind of rolled his eyes and shook his head. DG was announcing loudly that he had not had a drink in 4 years until yesterday. One poor unsuspecting guy got on at Lifford and walked to the back of the bus. DG tried to engage Bill in conversation and then me, but we were not engaging, which he didn't like. The next time he began to scream obscenities, the bus driver pulled over, walked to the back of the bus and told DG, 'You stop yelling or I'll call the guards!' Then DG pushed the driver, who told him to get off the bus immediately. When he spoke, it was with an accent which indicated that English was not his first language. DG seized on this and started calling him a Polski fag, demanding that the driver take him to Letterkenny. The driver stood his ground and said, 'No. Get off the bus right now or I'll call the guards!' DG kept repeating his insults and demanding that he be taken to Letterkenny. I wondered how long it would take until the gardaí arrived, if it came to that, and wondered if we would be waiting for the next bus home, which left Letterkenny at almost midnight, instead of getting the one at 7:50 as we'd planned. Finally, DG stumbled off the bus. I think we were all relieved, but I did wonder what would become of him. He was in the middle of nowhere in the dark wearing black pants and a black coat with a black hood. He was very drunk.

The final half hour of our journey was quiet and when we pulled into the bus station, the driver apologised for 'that guy.' We had 20 minutes to spare before catching the last bus of the day. We walked over to the bus stop and waited. And waited, waited, and waited some more as 7:50 came and went. A couple of other buses pulled up, but not that one. We were waiting for a Local Link bus. This was the first time we had taken that bus, since we haven't lived here for long, so we started to get a bit anxious. No one else was waiting for that bus. It was hard to see what vehicles were coming, because it was dark and all I could see was a line of headlights. Finally, at about 8:05, I said to Bill, 'It looks like there might be a small bus coming this way, but it's hard to tell.' After the light chnged, a small bus did indeed pull up. It said Feda O'Donnell on it with no Local Link logo at all, but because we knew Bus Feda operates the Local Link run between here and Letterkenny, I decided to give it a try. I opened the door and asked if he was the Local Link. 'Where are ye going?' he asked. 'Dungloe,' I replied. 'This is the one. Come on in.' And relieved, we did. There was one other woman who got on the bus after us and she got off at the first stop. Then it was just us for an hour until we got home. I was so grateful that DG did not get on that bus to go stay with friends. It would have been horrible. I also thought that, had we not known that Bus Feda does the Local Link route between here and Letterkenny, we would not have known to ask if that was the right bus. Had we been tourists, we might have just stood there. It would be good for them to at least put a placard with the Local Link logo in the windscreen in the summer, so people know.

I'm sure it is a beautiful ride in the daytime. For much of it, there weren't even any streetlights. I look forward to seeing the countryside some other time. We were all grateful to get home!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

February Books 3 (The End)

It was a busy day today. One of the things I did was attend the book group that meets at the library--first time since we've been here. Since it was the first time I was there, I had not read the book they discussed, but it was interesting to hear what they had to say nonetheless.

Here is the end of my February book list:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
The second in the Inspector Gamache series. Reading this, I can see why people say to read the books in order. There’s a backstory that is unfolding regarding a case from Gamache’s past and the continuing repercussions. The third book is in transit.


Women, Art, and Society by Whitney Chadwick

Fleeing Xinhe Street by Zhe Gui, translated from the Chinese by Ana Padilla Fornieles
Saw this in the e-book section of the library website and borrowed it:
In a town where everyone has secrets, Wang Wuxian is the original conman. With a huge heart and a house full of strays, he scams everyone on Xinhe Street by getting them to invest in the One Plus One Guarantee Company. Hu Weidong is a fool that bites the bait, leaving his shoe business at risk of ruin while his wife Jiang Lina tries to pick up the pieces. Chen Naixing is the brains behind the whole operation and has the most at stake when things turn sour. All the while, Ai Mengya is the only one that has a handle on the situation. In the end, there is no easy way for anyone to run away from the trouble on Xinhe Street

The Sun Fish by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
poetry collection

I hope this is a good day in your neck of the woods!

Monday, March 2, 2020

February Books 2

Here is the second post about the books I read in February. Because we were spending a lot of time and energy trying to get everything sorted, I did not write much about the books, opting instead to take pictures of the descriptions on the back or dust jacket. I apologise for the poor quality of some of these--by the time I looked at them, the books were back at the library.

Still Life by Louise Penny
This series of Inspector Gamache novels has been recommended to me by several people and I made a mental note to look for these books in charity shops. I had read that it’s best to read them in order, so figured I’d take what I found in charity shops and borrow from the library to fill in the gaps. I was really happy when I found this, the first book in the series, in a charity shop. I got hooked pretty quickly and had requested the second book from the library before I finished this one. So fun to have a new series to dive into!

The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark
I found this at a charity shop at the same time I found the Louise Penny book above. I always pick up Muriel Spark when I see her (which is not often). I wasn’t sure I would like the book, but I was quickly stuck into it and enjoyed it a lot.

Wild Atlantic Words by MEAS writers
I found this at the library. It’s a collection of short stories by a group of writers from south Donegal. It was a fun read, especially the stories that are set in places I am familiar with.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
I has started listening to the audiobook of this several months ago and didn’t get on with the reader, so stopped listening, making a mental note of the title so I could eventually get the book from the library. When I saw it one day, I checked it out. I got on just fine with the print version. I cannot say I liked the book (it seemed a bit too quirky, weird, and sort of uncomfortable), but I thought it was a good read nonetheless.

The Big Windows by Peadar O’Donnell
This guy seems to be a big deal here. He was a local and there is a building named after him down the street from us. I think there used to be an annual festival in honour of him, but I am not sure whether it still happens--guess I'll find out!When I saw the book on the shelf in the library, I figured I should read it and I will seek out more of his work so I can learn more about him. I found the book really interesting. It’s a good story which illustrates a way of life, but also reminded me about things that are universal. While the setting is a rural Irish village on the ‘mainland’ of Donegal (located in the hilly area around Slieve League, an area I have visited a few times, so can visualise the landscape), aspects of the behaviour of the local people reminded me of people I have known in the various small towns we have lived. Even though the village in the book was far smaller and more isolated than anywhere I have lived, and the story took place a century ago, I have known people in larger US towns that are not isolated behave in exactly the same ways.
Happy reading!