I have a job interview this morning. This means I have to leave the house. I haven’t been doing that much lately, due to unemployment and general anti-social tendencies. As soon as I get off the Luas, I scrub my hands with hand-sanitiser. When I shake hands with the people interviewing me, I reassure them that my hands are germ free.
I’ve started counting to twenty while I wash my hands. I’ve also started washing them more and more frequently as the corona virus gets gradually closer. I’ve been following the news about China, and Italy and the Diamond Princess cruise ship since the beginning of the year but now, with cases confirmed in Northern Ireland and the cancellation of the Six Nations match with Italy, it’s starting to take up more space in my brain.
This evening, I get a call to say I got the job. I’m delighted and more than a little relieved. It feels like a weight off my shoulders. I’d been unemployed for 4 months, and while I had been taking a bit of a break and being a bit fussy about what I was applied for, I was starting to worry that I may never work again. It’s a piece of good news for a Friday evening. I’m looking forward to joining the world of work again.
Storm Jorge is on his way and there’s heavy rain and wind forecast, but it’s a beautiful sunny morning in Dublin so I walk into town for lunch in Kim Chi. It’s a treat for being a newly employed person. Afterwards I go to see The Fall of the Second Republic at the Abbey. In the theatre, all the talk around me is about the virus, whether we were safe sitting so close to each other, what outings people would and wouldn’t give up. I don’t know it yet, but this is the last show I’ll see before the theatres close.
When I come out of the Abbey the storm has turned up as promised and I get the Luas home in the rain. I get soaked on the 5 minute walk from the Luas stop.
The first case of covid-19 is confirmed in Ireland.
I start my Monday morning in the Criminal Courts because today is my first day of jury service. While I am keen to do my civic duty, it is standing between me and the start date of my new job so I’m hoping I don’t get called to serve on a trial. I spend the morning in a big, crowded room with the other potential jurors, all of us waiting to be told what to do. I’m reading One Perfect Day by Ira Levin, who also wrote The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby. It was written in 1970 but set in the distant future, in a creepy utopia where everyone is happy and healthy and well-looked after, but also constantly monitored and heavily medicated. It’s a good read and helps pass the time.
They start calling names shortly after 12.30pm. My name is not called and leave around half one.
Back in the criminal courts for another day of waiting around. When it’s time to select a jury, the court room appears on the big screen, the judge introduces the case and then name and numbers are drawn from a drum. During today’s second jury selection my name is drawn. I’m brought up to the court with the rest of the “raffle winners”. When my name is called a second time I’m handed a bible and swore in. The trial is expected to last 3 days which means I’ll still be able to start my job next week.
When I arrive in the courts this morning, I’m brought up to the dining room, to the table is assigned to my jury. This is where we’ll go each morning and lunchtime. The first job of the day it to decide what we want for lunch. There’s a choice of three dishes and we’re given a little slip of paper with A, B or C on it, depending what we chose. When it’s time to go up to the court, we have to move as a group – all 12 of us, plus of our Jury Minder – squeeze into the lift together. No room for social distancing here.
For various reasons, we’re dismissed early and told we won’t be needed again until the following Monday. Again, I’m wondering how long this is going to take and when I’ll be able to start the new job. There’s no many unknowns and it’s hard to cope with the uncertainty.
I meet a friend for coffee in Bang Bang. I give her a tube of hand cream as part of her birthday present, to combat all the hand-washing. We chat over coffee and sandwiches. It’s lovely to catch-up but still the virus is never far from my thoughts. On my way home I go into Boots and buy multivitamins and some zinc and vitamin C effervescent tablets. I don’t know what’s coming but feel the need to prepare for it in anyway. Giving my immune system a bit of a boost can’t hurt and helps me feel like I’m doing something useful.
Monday morning and I’m back in the criminal courts again. Hand-washing has ramped up. I scrub my hands after I arrive, and again before we go into court. On my way home at the end of the day, I drop into the supermarket to buy a few bits. Tinned tomatoes, pasta, chick-peas. Things I eat anyway, but don’t necessarily need right now.
I go to the library in the evening, joking that I need to stock up before we get locked down. I already have piles of unread books at home, technically I’ve been stock-piling for years, but now the St. Patrick’s Day parade has been cancelled and things are starting to feel more serious. I am actually worried about the libraries closing before I have a chance to take out a load of books.
There are 34 confirmed cases of covid-19 in Ireland.
Being in court all day – without my phone, listening to the lawyers and the witnesses – is a good distraction from the virus. During the breaks though, we’re all looking at news on our phones. News and rumours. Rumours about schools being shut down, about the army being deployed. On my way home, I go into the supermarket and buy a few more bits, just in case. Bread, cheese, more tinned tomatoes.
This morning, during a break from our jury deliberations, we go downstairs to the main room and Simon Coveney is on all the big screens. He’s talking about how schools, colleges and creches will close from 6pm today. Later museums, theatres and other cultural institutions are added to the list. I was looking forward to attending the Where We Live festival in Project this weekend, while also worrying about distancing myself from people in the theatre.
Hand sanitisers appeared around the court building today. We wonder if the courts will be next on the lists of closures. It feels like a lot of people move through the building everyday. The dining room is busy at lunchtime and we’re still all crowding into the lift, 13 people at a time.
In the afternoon we return our verdict and are excused from jury duty for the next few years.
There are now 70 confirmed cases of covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland.
I finally start my new job. I’m a bit nervous. I refuse to shake hands with any of my new colleagues. Not that many people try and nobody insists but it still feels strange. The building is half-empty, lots of people are working from home. I get a tour and meet the colleagues who are left. We all try and keep our distance.
My evening plans have been cancelled – I was going to a theatre double-bill in Project – so I head straight home after work.
I’ve decided I need to do a big shop. Up to this point, I’ve just been buying random tinned foods, pasta and paracetamol. I need to figure out what I’m going to cook. I want to make things like bolognese and curries and soups that I can freeze in batches. I make a list. The aim is to have enough food to stay away from the shops for at least two weeks.
On my way to the supermarket, I worry that it’s going to be too crowded. I worry that there’ll be nothing left on the shelves. I get there it’s fine. It’s busy, lots of trolleys being filled, but people are making space for each other and having chats. The atmosphere is almost jolly. The only things I can’t find are chick peas and red lentils. I buy more cheese and lots of wine.
My aunt calls to cancel a family lunch planned for the next day. All week we were wondering if we should go ahead or not. It’s now definitely cancelled because she and my uncle both woke up with coughs this morning. They came back from Spain a few days ago so they are afraid they might have covid-19. The party’s cancelled while they try and get tested. Better to be safe than sorry.
It’s the first day of lockdown in Spain and my mum and my sister are at home with no kitchen. They live in an apartment in Andalusia. Work started on the new kitchen last week and right now it’s an empty shell with no sink and no oven. The builder is going to ask the police if he’s allowed to continue to work on it this week.
Monday morning and my second day in my new job. I’m a bit distracted, I’m glued to my phone, checking up on people. I want to know if my cousin is able to get her chemo today. (She is but can’t bring anyone in with her.) I want to know if the builder is coming to sort out my mum’s kitchen. (He gets permission from the police but all of his suppliers are closed so there’s nothing he can do.)
At lunchtime I buy more soap and more hand-cream in Boots. I buy stamps and a Mother’s Day card to send to Spain. I buy a birthday card and a cake for my sister. Her birthday is still over a week away but I don’t know when I’ll be in town again. Back in the office, I’m set-up on a work laptop so that I can work from home. The building is closing this evening and who knows when we’ll be back in.
I’m not one for going out on Paddy’s Day, either to the parade or the pubs so the stay-at-home advice doesn’t bother me today. I spend the morning watching the mini-parades online. St. Patrick driving out the corona virus is my favourite. I also enjoy the Muppets singing O Danny Boy. I sit out in the garden in the afternoon, enjoying the warm sun and a cold gin and tonic. It still feels like a bank holiday and a break from everything that’s going on.
In the evening, we watch Leo addresses the nation. He does a good job – he’s serious without scaremongering.
It’s the first day of working from home. I’m mostly trying to figure out what my job is and what I should be doing. I’m working upstairs and my sister’s working downstairs. We meet up for lunch and morning and afternoon tea-breaks.
There are 366 confirmed cases of covid-19 in the Republic.
Today we got a cat. It was my sister’s idea – her argument was that it’s an ideal time to get a pet because we’re going to be at home all the time. She sent a few texts asking if anyone knew of a cat looking for a home and my auntie offered one of hers. Edgar arrived today and he’s a delightful addition to the household.
A week ago I had never heard of Zoom. Today I have two separate Zoom meet-ups.
On the Zoom family chat, my aunt and uncle tell us that they got tested for the virus on Friday. They are now waiting for the results but have had no symptoms since last the weekend, so they think they’re probably fine. In Spain, they still have no kitchen but the gas hob is set up and they have a fridge and microwave so they’re ok.
Week 2 of working from home. I’m finding it hard, my attention span is shattered and I struggle to focus on anything for more than 10 minutes. It takes me a while to realise that this is more than just struggling to work during a global pandemic. I was out of work for four months, and now I’m trying to remember how to be an employee and how to interact with colleagues, while also trying to figure out the new job and get used to working from home. I’m trying to manage it by being kind to myself, reminding myself that’s it’s ok to find it hard. I’m also making lists and trying to do one small task at a time.
All the while the global pandemic continues. There are now 1125 confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland and over 40,000 people waiting for tests. Six people have died as a result of covid-19 in Ireland.
Today is my sister’s birthday. Cards came in the post, she got a Just-Eat voucher and a homemade voucher for “future pints”. We have birthday cake, and candles and singing. I put the candles in the box instead of the cake because it doesn’t seem like a good idea at the moment to breath all over food.
I’ve started writing down my scheduled Zoom meet-ups in my paper diary. This is partly because the blank pages and the cancelled events are depressing me and partly because my brain is turning to mush and I worry if I don’t write it down, I will forget to turn up.
There is so much I’m grateful for. I’m grateful to live in a country that is taking this threat seriously. I am grateful for good broadband. I’m grateful that my mum has good broadband and we’re able to keep in touch. I’m grateful for the lock-down which means I don’t have to nag her to stay home because the Spanish police are doing that for me. I’m grateful to have a job that I’m able to do at home, grateful to have something to do and for the wages. I’m grateful to have a house that I like spending time in, that’s comfortable and roomy. I’m grateful to have a garden. I’m grateful that An Post is still working. I’m grateful to the wonderful medical staff and all that they are doing, while at same time hoping that I won’t need their services. Everybody morning I’m grateful to wake and feel well. Really I have nothing to complain about.
This diary was written retrospectively this week. It’s an attempt to record how quickly things changed and also to paint a picture of where I’m at right now. It felt important to do that because there are going to be more fast, dramatic changes over the next few weeks and months. It stops where it does because I feel like the extra restrictions on movements that came into affect on Saturday morning marked the beginning of a new phase of the crisis.
This meant I didn’t write about how different my grocery shop this weekend felt in comparison to the last big shop two weeks ago. It felt a lot less less like Christmas Eve and a lot more anxious. And who knew the end of the world would involve so much queuing? I know we will get through this, that it’s not really the end of the world, but it feels like the end of the world as we know it. We will be changed by this and when we come out the other side, the world will be different as well.