Banana bread, home haircuts and Connell's chain: Marking a year of the pandemic

What we've learned and gone through in the year since the pandemic was proclaimed 
Banana bread, home haircuts and Connell's chain: Marking a year of the pandemic

President Joe Biden holds up his face mask as he speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic during a prime-time address from the East Room of the White House, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

We’ve been hosting a lot of unwanted anniversaries these days, as we reminisce on our last ‘normal’ week before Covid-19 took on full force.

Last Thursday, March 11, marked one year since the World Health Organisation officially declared a pandemic. On the eve of this day last year, President Trump banned most travel from continental Europe and Leo Varadker made his first speech laying out measures to tackle the spread of the virus here at home.

“I need to speak to you about Coronavirus,” he stated. “There will be many more cases. More people will get sick and unfortunately, we must face the tragic reality that some people will die.” 

One year on, there have been over 225k confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland and 4,509 deaths. We have lost, we have grieved and we have mourned - both for loved ones and for the lives we’ve left behind.

A whole new world

From Tiger King and Diana to Paul Mescal's chain, 2020 was one for the pop culture books.
From Tiger King and Diana to Paul Mescal's chain, 2020 was one for the pop culture books.

A lot has changed since we first started this Facetime-fueled journey. Phrases like ‘you’re on mute’ became daily iterations, as the acronym ‘WFH’ took over and Zoom’s stock skyrocketed 360%.

'Atheleisure' took over from couture on fashion magazine pages, dumbbells became the summer’s hot ticket item, and travel journalists focused on a new concept as coverage ran dry: ‘staycation’.

Searches for scone, pizza dough, and bread recipes took over the internet in Ireland, with the top Google searches ranging from ‘how to cut men’s hair’ and ‘how to make a face mask’ to ‘Donald Trump’ and ‘Normal People’.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex left their roles as senior royals one year ago. 
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex left their roles as senior royals one year ago. 

Philip Schofield also dominated Google in 2020, as did Caroline Flack. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced their departure from work as senior royals at the end of last March. US football star Tom Brady signed with a new team after 20 years with the New England Patriots. 

We had a plethora of new music from artists like Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, and a little known Tiktok favoured jingle named WAP came to the fore.

With the launch of Disney +, we also added a new bill to our bank accounts, as cinemas remained closed and streaming services became the new way forward. 

Netflix took over our lives with releases such as The Crown season four, Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance, and, of course, we entered a world where Tiger King reigned.

Also happening this time last year: Harvey Weinstein had just been sentenced in the beginning of a new age for the #MeToo movement, Bernie Sanders committed to staying in the US presidential race, and the N.B.A suspended play until further notice.

Later in the year, CNN became one of the top web searches for Irish audiences looking to keep up with the presidential election, Kim Jong Un’s rumoured disappearance took over in May, the whole of Ireland learned how to dance around their kitchens to Blinding Lights, a Matt Damon hunt ensued around Dublin and Tom Hanks, Boris Johnson and later Donald Trump test positive for Covid-19. 

Peaceful Black Lives Matters protests took place in every US state. Picture: AP/Jim Mone
Peaceful Black Lives Matters protests took place in every US state. Picture: AP/Jim Mone

The Black Lives Matter movement also finally started to gain the coverage it deserved following the outpouring of grief at the death of George Floyd, opening a new conversation across the world about equality.

All of this was before ‘golfgate’, a search for two paddleboarders off the coast of Galway, and Kamala Harris making history in November.

Life lessons

We learned a lot while all of this was going on. We learned what it meant to be a good neighbour. We learned that our friends might not be as strong as we think.

We learned how to be alone, how to play new games, and how to talk online. 

We learned how to host virtual cocktail nights, work meetings, and family quiz nights, how to wash our hands and sanitise every household surface imaginable, how to teach and be taught.

We learned how to do push-ups on any surface imaginable, how to fail at doing headstands, and embarrass ourselves on Tiktok. Our parents learned to Facetime, even if we can still only see their chins. 

Fr Kevin Kiernan or the 'Tiktok priest' priest with Vera McGrath.
Fr Kevin Kiernan or the 'Tiktok priest' priest with Vera McGrath.

We learned what it really meant to be a hero - and that most of them wear scrubs and uniforms. Most of all, we learned what really matters.

As of today, there are some positive figures to celebrate, with 536,617 vaccine doses administered across the country and 94 million people recovered from the disease worldwide.

Last night, US president Joe Biden stepped out to spark hope in his nation for a return to normalcy by July 4, with vaccines set to be available to all eligible US adults by May. 

The search term ‘staycation’ is breaking out on Google trends again, Airbnb occupancy in Cork is already on the rise, and businesses are sending out rough return dates to staff.

It finally seems like we start to see a hint of syringe-tinted light at the end of a very dark, banana bread fumed tunnel. As Biden said last night: “There is light and better days ahead.”

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