Her travel plans were ambitious, but her hopes were modest: Nuala Barry just wanted to walk out her gate “and feel free” for the first time in almost six weeks.
Somehow the disappointment of planned but cancelled trips to various parts of Europe over the coming months seemed insignificant compared to the devastation she would have felt had the Government failed to relax its cocooning rules.
“I am a great woman for walking and I just wanted to be able to go out my gate and go for a walk and not feel trapped. I know I will have to keep my distance from people, but I will finally feel free,” she says.
Nuala, who will be 80 in December, and her husband Mike (83 in June) was a great woman for travelling and for socialising, meeting up every Tuesday in Scoozi’s restaurant in Cork city with Eleanor Walsh, her best friend since they met in school 75 years ago, and another schoolfriend, Ritann Allen.
"I haven’t seen them since all this started, we just chat over the phone,” Nuala says.
Trips put on hold
A lot of activity has been put on hold since the pandemic arrived: A planned trip to Copenhagen at Easter, a Bridge holiday in Cyprus in May, a June trip to Benidorm with family, an annual September trip to France with family, and to round it off, another Bridge trip abroad later in the year.
Despite all the missed trips, what Nuala misses most are the hugs - she has 12 grandchildren, ranging in age from 26 down to 12.
'I am a big hugger'
“I am a big hugger. I miss not being able to hug my grandkids. My daughter Fiona drove up from Midleton on Mother’s Day with her kids and I stood at the front door talking to them, but I couldn’t hug them,” she says.
She would have liked to shake hands with or hug the grown-up children of a neighbour, Eileen Coughlan, who passed away in a nursing home in Kerry last week.
Mrs Coughlan’s remains were driven by the family home in Ballinlough in a hearse, giving neighbours a chance to pay their final respects.
Eileen and her sister Cora used to play Bridge with us every Sunday, before she got sick. She was great fun and sang at every party. Her party piece was ‘Carrickfergus’.
“We were able to watch the funeral Mass online and her grandson, George, sang ‘Carrickfergus’ and I’d say Eileen’s relations were in bits. Some of them couldn’t travel to the funeral, because of the restrictions.
“None of us [neighbours] could go so it was so lovely to see all the people in the park coming out to say goodbye,” Nuala says.
Nuala will have the opportunity to see more of her neighbours now that the cocooning rules have been relaxed, but she appreciates the need to keep her distance.
Mike measured it and 21 times around the garden is a mile. I did three or four miles a day. Now I can walk out the gate.
And what about future trips further afield?
“I do love travel but I think the impact of the pandemic is that it has made me a bit frightened. I don’t know if it will be possible to feel safe anywhere, the way things are going,” Nuala says.
“What I am looking forward to though is meeting up again in Scoozi’s with Eleanor and Ritann.”