Terry Prone: Statue to Douglass would be a beacon of anti-racism in Ireland

As a former hash-grower myself, I tut-tutted as only the reformed can tut-tut, writes Terry Prone.
Terry Prone: Statue to Douglass would be a beacon of anti-racism in Ireland

As a former hash-grower myself, I tut-tutted as only the reformed can tut-tut, writes Terry Prone.

A mural by Kevin O’Brien on the streets of Cork City pays tribute to abolitionist campaigner Frederick Douglass.
A mural by Kevin O’Brien on the streets of Cork City pays tribute to abolitionist campaigner Frederick Douglass.

DAY 82

It’s not simple, coming out of house arrest. Isolation has had its advantages. Some of us are pulled between freedom and incarceration like that vomitous ’70s hit song with the lines: “Torn between two lovers, feelin’ like a fool, lovin’ both of you is breakin’ all the rules…”

House arrest had many advantages. Starting with staying alive. It has also established a fundamental truth. Sartre had a point when he maintained that hell is other people, but the less metaphysical reality is that infection is other people.

Those under house arrest don’t get colds, flu, earaches, or a myriad of other infections that arrive, in normal times, like a mad game of pass-the-parcel, courtesy of other people. Take other humans out of the equation and we’re all healthier. Except the mad ones who hit themselves with hatchets or cut off the odd digit with an electric saw in the back garden.

And they, like the poor, are always with us.

DAY 83

This might be time to acknowledge one of the few upsides of climate change. Less rainfall is good for outdoor queuing. Drought and social distancing were made for each other.

Heading for my local supermarket before seven, I noticed a staggered procession outside An Bácús Beag, the little bakery down the road that produces the most delicious stuff. The numbers outside are not that surprising — customers are in it at the same time and one of them reaches into their pocket for change, one of the other two falls out the door.

However, what’s distinctive about this queue is how long and happy it is. But then, it’s a lovely, warm, dry morning. Social distancing is not going to be fun in the rain.

Although, in the spirit of looking at the bright side, I got a text at 9am from a DIY enthusiast, walking around Woodies having experienced no queue. Normality returns remarkably quickly. Someone better warn that Grafton St fox.

DAY 84

One of the full-page colour ads in this newspaper says the major grocery outlet involved is flogging face masks. Among the virtues of these masks, the ad announces, is that they are breathable. BREATHABLE? What? So some retailer someplace is selling masks that are not breathable? The murdering miscreant.

DAY 85

The leading article in the Irish Examiner today examined the statue-removal issue. That is good, because this issue seems to be going off the boil, which will leave me tempted to go throw a rope around William Smith O’Brien, child molester, in O’Connell St, Dublin, and see if I can yank him off his plinth.

I won’t actually do this, because I am law-abiding by nature and also about as muscular as a jelly baby. The editorial suggests we look at alternatives to some of the duds that cry out for removal, although it didn’t use quite those terms, and put up for consideration African-American former slave Frederick Douglass, who taught himself to read, wrote a powerful book about his experiences as a slave, and became a major figure in the abolition movement, spending time in Ireland with Daniel O’Connell and supported by Father Mathew.

Douglass portrayed his time in Ireland as refreshingly free of racism, remarking he had not heard the n-word during his time here. Putting up a statue to him would make such a positive statement about our commitment to being anti-racist.

DAY 86

Today, a man appeared in court for growing his own marijuana, which he attempted to excuse by explaining that growing your own obviates the need to get up close and personal with drug dealers.

You might think this a fair point. The judge did not. As a former hash-grower myself, I tut-tutted as only the reformed can tut-tut. Not that I grew the marijuana deliberately, you understand.

I was working at the time in the Institute of Public Administration in Dublin, editing their civics magazine, Young Citizen, and was astonished, one bright sunny morning, when my adored secretary, Colette, charged into my office, unbidden, snatched the potted plant off my desk, opened the window, hurled the plant out, closed the window again and turned to me with her index finger across her lips, at which moment my august boss, Jim O’Donnell, walked through the open door with a stranger.

“Terry, let me introduce Inspector Denis Mullins, who heads up the Drug Squad at An Garda Síochána,” Jim said, and I bowed and scraped to Dinny Mullins, inviting him to sit down and brief me on the increasing drug problems in Dublin at the time.

Afterwards, I went to the outer office where Colette and four other female administrative staff lived, to find out why the most calmly sensible woman in the world had suddenly behaved like a complete looper. Red faces all around.

The other girls confessed that they’d given me the vegetation at Christmas because I was so innocent, they knew I wouldn’t recognise it as what it was: A marijuana plant. Just as Dinny Mullins’ big quiet car had drawn up outside, Colette had remembered the potted plant and saved the day.

DAY 87

Everybody needs one friend who is clever, generous, and can assemble IKEA purchases. My pal — let’s call her IKEA Girl — is all three. A few days ago, she became enthusiastic about tile-painting. I never knew tile-painting was a thing.

I never knew it was even a possibility. But, enlightened, I went mad with desire to fix the tiles on the hearth in front of my wood-burning stove. I duly invested in tile paint and a brush and set out to do everything correctly. I laid down masking tape on the grout, which, because the tiles are multiple and tiny, took forever.

Then I applied the paint and warned the two cats that if they stepped on it and got stuck, that was their problem. Six hours later, I found the finish might have been improved by paw marks. Every brushstroke was evident. A total mess. The end result was a radical disimprovement of the pre-existing situation, with no way back.

IKEA Girl is dead to me, so she is.

DAY 88

Dr Louise Aronson, a geriatrician at the University of California, lets fly about over- 70s being excluded from clinical trials of potential Covid-19 vaccines. “To have them be this gravely impacted and not include them is immoral,” she says.

Not so long ago, women weren’t included in drug trials on the assumption that whatever worked for the guys would work for the girls, too.

Took a while before women hammered home the point the female body responds differently to medicine. Now we have trials excluding a group most endangered, presumably on the same kind of assumption. Immoral is one good word for it. Crazy is another.


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