I’m sitting at my desk, fire lit to chase the damp, facing a window streaked by rain. Mind you, there’s nothing much to see anyway. The sky is a solid grey and the horizon has been reduced to the front field. Beyond the big oak is a land of fog.
Two weeks ago, I was sitting at an outside bar, enjoying a mojito to the sound of the sea gently lapping the rocks. And the heat. I was mostly enjoying the heat: 30C during the day and 23C on the terrace at night. I won’t tell you where we went. Suffice to say that it was an island in the Med. Take your pick. They are all gorgeous – at least to me. It’s probably something to do with the fact that I spent the first five years of my life on the Med, but also something to do with it being the cradle of western culture with all that mixing and matching, and the fact that it’s simply gorgeous. And the food. And the wine. And the sun…
Going away to the sun was definitely a good idea. One week on the Med and I have returned full of energy and Vitamin D. I feel like I’ve finally shaken off the last of the lockdown blues. The exit from my Covid cocoon coincided with the Government lifting most of the restrictions in the hospitality sector. Bring it on. I’m ready. I will bravely go forth and socialise. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’m quite ready to hit a heaving nightclub, but I intend to accept every offer of an interesting, socially distanced outing.
Returning from holiday, I realised how lockdown had made me unused to things that I have always taken for granted. Like sitting in a restaurant with a bunch of people you’ve just met and enjoying their company. Or sparking up a conversation with a total stranger. I hadn’t realised how much I miss people watching.
I’m not being complacent. I know that the figures are looking bad. I’ll keep up the mask wearing, the hand washing and social distancing. I’m more inclined to do things outside than inside. I’ll still be doing a little risk assessment each time that I consider the opportunities for outings on offer. Due to my age and nasty life-long nicotine habit, I am not a good candidate to catch Covid. So, I do intend to be careful. However, I feel ready to go to the cinema, attend a gig, or do something for Halloween. In fact, when a friend invited me to go to Dublin to attend a performance of her play, it only took a few minutes for me to decide that this was an outing offer worth accepting. Pre-Mediterranean, I would have found it a difficult choice to make. Sometimes you must go away to come back.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that my general mood has changed. Despite the high hospitalisation figures, I’m ready to give it a go. The shadow of another surge requiring a lockdown is something that I’d rather not consider just yet. It took a trip to the Med, with all the busses, airports, taxis, and interacting with total strangers that it entailed, for me to realise how isolated I had become and how much I missed people. Big ones, little ones, old ones, and young ones. Strangers and familiar faces that I have become unfamiliar with over the past 18 months.
One of the things that I love most about West Cork are the people. There’s no ‘craic agus ceol’ without people. Lockdown was not good company. In fact, we haven’t had much craic since before Patrick’s Day 2020. I’m not saying that we should all go mad, but a bit of music and dancing would be brilliant. Dinner with friends. Talking rubbish in a pub. It’s all before us – hopefully.
It’s going to be a dark, cold winter. We all know it. We also know how that feels in lockdown, and I hope that we won’t see another one. In the meantime, I’m going out. Carefully and responsibly, but out. It’s about time. Fingers crossed.