Alison O'Connor: Priority hoarding aside we are doing our best in a bad situation

Alison O'Connor: Priority hoarding aside we are doing our best in a bad situation

I watch my children walking or scooting ahead, and wonder what psychological scars will remain, writes Alison O’’Connor

Alison O'Connor: Priority hoarding aside we are doing our best in a bad situation
Empty shelves containing one pack of toilet roll in a Tesco store in Dublin. (Brian lawless/PA Wire)

Let’s begin with a confession. There is more toilet paper in my house at the current time than ever before.

I’m ashamed to say that out loud. But part of what is going to get us through this next tough period is accepting our human frailties. At a time when we’re living on our nerves, and the latest mobile phone news alerts, the demand for loo roll symbolises a quest for some vestige of control in our lives. When you don’t have a smidgen of certainty on anything else you seek comfort in having a stash of those white rolls of absorbent tissue.

My explanation/excuse is that being a journalist, a former health correspondent and generally a nervous nelly when it comes to health issues, I’ve had my eye on the coronavirus for quite some time now. I haven’t been filling my trolley with multiples of the same thing, just some here and some there over the last few weeks.

Even on Monday night on a trip to Lidl to do the weekly shop, with the voice of common sense and my conscience telling me the aisles would stay stocked, I found my hand reaching in on the freezer aisle for some extra frozen veg, and I had an extra linger at the pasta section.

Then the guilt kicked in, thinking of those who do not have the resources to buy extra or even the space to store it. Once or twice I interacted with the staff. They must be fearful and were clearly exhausted, but they were really helpful and pleasant.

When I’m not feeling guilty for my heavy handedness in the aisles I’m trying to remind myself how bloody lucky we are with a roof over our heads, a garden, and no one in the immediate family at a higher risk, although obviously there are those in the wider family that I worry about, a lot. I’ve always worked from home so there’s no change there. Well there is in that my beloved Max and I now have to deal with the constant presence of three other human beings in our workspace. Needless to say there are times I wish that loo roll was made of stronger stuff and I could use it to gently tie them up for an hour or more and place them in the shed. But those moments pass too.

Alison O'Connor: Priority hoarding aside we are doing our best in a bad situation

I’m trying to remember and feel thankful for all of the many ways in which I am lucky. There is all that technology at our disposal, making it so easy to keep in touch with friends, complete with sound and vision. Even if we’re not able to see people in person right now we can see and hear them on the screen. I’m making an extra effort to call friends, where previously it often seemed like there wasn’t enough time. Now I see what’s more important. I love to hear my 10-year- old with three or four of her friends on the screen, chatting away and laughing, especially the laughter.

I’m lucky that the coronavirus has got me up off my bum and exercising , as a family we (well the adults anyway) recognise that the best way to keep match fit here, in every way, is to get out walking or running or scooting. So much better that we are heading into the summer at this time, rather than wintertime – with brighter skies and longer evenings. When we’re out I’m noticing that we’re all smiling more at each other and saying hello from the appropriate distance.

I’m lucky that a dearly loved aunt who had an 88th birthday this week is a resident in Marymount in Cork. We couldn’t be with her, which was very hard, but boy did the wonderful staff there pull out all the stops. They made a lovely fuss, decorations, a birthday cake, cards. The woman who washes her hair came in on her day off to do it, with a plant as a present. They showed her our birthday video messages on WhatsApp.

On a wider scale I feel hugely lucky that I live in Ireland and not, for instance, the US or the UK. I feel lucky in our politicians and our senior health personnel and honestly believe their first priority is the health of each citizen, while also trying their best to protect the economy. That’s the way it should be but not, you realise, how it is being handled in the two aforementioned countries.

I’m not naïve enough to think that our politicians can ever entirely cast aside their politics, or the desire for one upmanship, or achieving the “prize” of government. But just for now, thank you, let’s keep things just as they are. Maybe in several weeks time or so (who knows exactly when), we might think about swapping in a few more ministers from outside of Fine Gael, certainly those who lost their seats (and that is not to sound ungrateful for their efforts thus far). Might we come to an agreement on a more widely based caretaker government for six months, including the Greens? To be honest though, I reserve the right to change my mind on this by next week, or maybe even before the weekend is over.

What we’re trying to do right now is to just get through, an hour at a time, because sometimes a day just seems too much.

I’m trying to concentrate of all those positives previously mentioned, because in an instant, especially after a period of Covid-chasing online, I can feel utterly overwhelmed and scared.

Alison O'Connor: Priority hoarding aside we are doing our best in a bad situation

On a macro level I’ll be worrying about the future of us all and on the micro discussing with friends how we’ll cope without the services of our hairdressers and should going grey be the new black? I can be out walking and enjoying the sunshine and then feel the harsh crash of reality when I see the signs up in the window of all the local cafes, restaurants, beauty salons, nail bars, saying they have closed due to the virus. How many will re-open? How are the staff affected?

I watch my children walking or scooting ahead of me, and I wonder what sort of psychological scars will remain with them.

Did my generation ever imagine that how we felt during the economic crash could be multiplied and magnified just a decade later, and that we could all be in such fear. We’ve hardly recovered from that, and now this.

I find myself wanting to go back to having the time to worry about the climate crisis; not that I’m being logical here given the urgency of that situation, and how it will remain long after the Corona virus crisis has passed.

All these questions and so few answers. Right now it’s the waiting that’s the worst.

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