Quarantine Diaries Part 2 – Keeping on Keeping On

Quarantine has kept on going. The Coronavirus  COVID-19 has taken over the news, and changed everything about how we conduct our lives. The past month had already been hectic and dramatic, between graduating college, getting engaged and losing my dad, but that was only Month 1 of dealing with Coronavirus in our lives. I’ve decided to keep on this record of the time, so that hopefully it will be something to look back on, to show the way we got through this crazy time. This period of life, the month after losing my dad, was one that was definitely more tough than I even expected, and involved a whole lot of putting one foot in front of the other. However, there were little things of note, so here’s a part 2 to the Quarantine Diaries.

March 24th

We celebrate Eliott’s sixth birthday at home, with a chocolate birthday cake and presents, with lots of phone calls wishing him Happy Birthday. He’s a bit gutted that he can’t have a proper birthday – and so am I, these things are a massive deal when you’re six – but he’s a trooper and seems to enjoy the day. we’ve discovered the Teach Your Monster To Read game for the iPad, which he’s really enjoying and gives me guilt free time where I hand the parenting over to the iPad – it’s educational, right? Either way, I’m back to work so with two working parents, the iPad has to do its share.

The news reports show the virus is spreading, a further 204 cases and one more death were announced, bringing the total number of cases to 1,329 and 7 deaths so far. A week after Leo Varadkar’s St Patricks Day speech, he addresses the nation again to tell us about restrictions being put in place for public health purposes, moving us from the Delay phase of infection control to the Stay At Home phase. We are told that we are in this for the long haul, and these measures seem extreme but are necessary. The government agreed a deal with the private hospitals to essentially operate as public hospitals for this time period – doubling the amount of ICU beds available to deal with the coming surge. All non-essential retail, hairdressers, social venues, libraries, gyms are told to close, and cafes and restaurants are strictly Take Away or delivery only. Schools will remain closed, and anyone who can work from home needs to. We are in lockdown, but they’re not using the word lockdown. Stay at home unless truly necessary, until at least April 19th.

March 25th

I spend the day exhausted, trying to get my work done while supervising Mario Kart. My mood is low and the feeling like the walls are pressing in is adding to the already anxious state I’m in from grief. My brain, my soul, my everything is tired.

The testing guidelines have changed for choosing who gets a test – you now either have to have confirmed contact with a confirmed case, be someone of an at-risk population, or have a fever and another symptom. This means many people who have been waiting for a test date are taken off the list, and clears some of the backlog which is waiting for testing. The changes are in line with the WHO guidelines which were updated on the 20th. However, this move does mean that it’s likely more cases are being missed, as both high profile cases in Ireland, Claire Byrne and Ciara Kelly, have stated that they didn’t have a fever but yet had confirmed cases.

Another 235 cases were confirmed today, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,564, and another two people are announced to have passed away as a result of Covid-19.

March 26th

Today we play with water beads for the first time – there’s something very soothing about feeling them running through your fingers! They manage to keep Eliott’s attention for half an hour, which is something!

I receive a beautiful delivery of flowers from a very good friend who sent them to show she was thinking of me while all of this is going on. People have been so lovely, so kind and reaching out to show they’re there – times like this really do show who you can fall back on when things get tough. I also get a lovely package of goodies from my friend who owns The Soap Ladies, including a hand sanitiser that smells incredible and feels nice on my hands because it’s got tons of moisturising stuff in it – times really do change when you’re getting excited about nice hand sanitiser!

We head for a wander in the woods close to our house in the afternoon, with Eliott picking up pinecones and sticks and filling his pockets full. The fresh air is definitely what we need.

There is a huge increase in the number of deaths reported today – we have gone from 9 so far, to 19 – an increase of 10 in one day. There are also 255 more cases reported. The deaths are referred to as being mostly in institutional settings, which means unfortunately, Covid-19 is making itself known in our nursing homes and care facilities where people who will be more susceptible to it will be affected. Leo Varadkar makes another speech, this time in the Dáil – these are becoming no less anxiety causing. He refers to Brexit negotiations as simpler times, and considering the drama they caused, the fact that he’s right is a bit dire. However, it turns out preparing for a No Deal Brexit pays off when you have a pandemic arrive on your doorstep – the measures that were being prepared for in the last few months can now pay off, albeit for a different reason (and with our fingers and toes crossed that Boris Johnson behaves himself and goes for some kind of a deal so that those measures aren’t needed).

I relax this evening with 200 other The Creep Dive fans on Zoom, or, relax as much as one can when a definitely haunted doll is doing things behind one of the hosts of a live podcast. It’s easily become a highlight of my week and one of the things I will say is a positive of this lockdown period.

March 27th

Leo Varadkar addresses the nation and tells us that we’re now properly in lockdown, but yet again, doesn’t use the word. For the next two weeks, until April 12th, we should not travel further than 2km from our homes aside from essential food shopping and for work if you are an essential worker, or to attend medical appointments. Those over the age of 70, or with complex medical needs, have been told to cocoon, meaning they are not to leave their house at all – measures will be taken to ensure they can have food supplied to them and be checked in on. It’s not quite as draconian sounding as the rules being laid down in the UK, where they’re being told they can go out only once a day for exercise, but the message is clear. Stay Home.

Speaking of the UK, Boris Johnson, who two weeks ago laughed about how he was shaking hands with Coronavirus patients, has tested positive and is isolating.

Miriam O Callaghan becomes the first woman to ever host The Late Late Show, as normal host Ryan Tubridy has been isolating with potential symptoms of Covid-19. I tune in on the sofa and watch this little piece of history being made, the first female host on the world’s longest running television chat show. Hozier is the musical guest live in studio and is incredible, but his last song, a stirring rendition of The Parting Glass, has me bawling. It’s gorgeous, but it’s not played as a funeral song for nothing, and less than two weeks after losing Dad, the line “But since it falls unto my lot, that I should rise, and you should not” breaks me. On the show it is dedicated to the memory of the health care worker who it is reported has passed away from Covid-19, the first in Ireland.

March 28th

I give in and join the hoards of people making banana bread – it’s a thing now, it’s everywhere you look online. This first batch isn’t pretty, and is made using a recipe that uses porridge oats instead of flour, but it tastes delicious. Either way, it’s stress baking.

The news tells us that there has been 294 new cases, as well as 14 new deaths.

March 29th

We go for a wander today and discover that we actually live quite close to Vernon Mount, with a wander through a nice woodlands that we’ve never noticed before, as we’ve never really needed to go exploring within our own 2km radius. The views from up there are beautiful, and I’m kicking myself that we’ve lived here two years and I’m only discovering it now. The fresh air does me the world of good, but I’m still feeling very on edge and anxious.

Feeling very emotional listening to the Air Traffic Control greeting to the pilots flying EI9109, which is bringing PPE in from China, thanking them for their service to the country. Not that it takes much to get me emotional these days, but according to Twitter, I’m far from the only one tearing up.

The news tells us that there has been 2o0 new cases, as well as 10 new deaths. It seems positive that it’s less than yesterday, but I’m aware that Sunday figures seem to be much lower with a peak the day after which may reflect on testing and how long it is taking to get results back.

March 30th

I start a comfort-re-watch of Veronica Mars. It worked for my thesis last year, it may well do the same now.

RTE starts their HomeSchool Hub programming today – an hour of school on television a day. It’s aimed from 1st class to 6th class, but we stick it on for Eliott anyway as an hour of educational content that gives us time to work. The three presenters are brilliant and it’s really public sector broadcasting at its finest use.

April 2nd

I have an appointment to see a GP (not my usual GP as she’s not in work this week) because the pain in my neck and shoulder which I had put down to being stress related has been getting worse. Thankfully, it isn’t rotator cuff damage, which it had looked like from similar symptoms (lovely nerve type pain down my arm to my elbow), but my entire back, neck and shoulders are in spasm so I’m given muscle relaxants and told to relax and minimise my stress. Ha. If it was only that easy.

My pharmacy has a strictly one person in the shop at a time rule. I collect my monthly prescription along with the muscle relaxants, and wait outside in the sunshine while they’re making it up. I pick up some masks that they’ve got while I’m in there, just in case. It’s weird seeing Cork City so quiet, mostly closed down with just a few shops open.

The muscle relaxants have a secondary benefit – they get rid of the tight chest I’ve had for the last two weeks, which reassures me that it’s not my asthma flaring up or a symptom of Covid-19, just garden variety anxiety. It’s short term relief, but ticking something off the list is a bonus.

I get some lovely post, two books from Sophie White that I won in her giveaway on Instagram last week. I’ve been looking forward to reading Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown for ages, and it seems especially fitting right now.

The news this evening tells us of a further 402 cases and 13 more deaths were announced, bringing the totals to 3,849 cases and 98 deaths.

April 5th 

I do the weekly shopping and take a few minutes on my own in the car before going in just as a mini holiday – being in the house constantly with a six year old who likes to watch Youtubers playing video games, and my other half, is a lot. From talking to other parents, it seems Costa Del Car isn’t just my reprieve. I’m kept company by Brene Brown’s new podcast “Unlocking Us”, which I really like (and I was already a fan of her work).

I join the #CovideoParty crowd this evening and watch the Sex and The City movie, and give out about them all on Twitter – it’s a true bonding experience with others, and definitely a lot of fun.

The news reports a further 390 cases and 21 deaths, bringing the totals to 4,994 cases and 158 deaths. There are also reports that Leo Varadkar is after re-adding his name to the medical register and will be working a shift a week on phone lines triaging patients, like other GPs are doing. It’s being viewed as a publicity stunt, but I think fair fecks to him – while I don’t agree with his politics, and it’s absolutely not doing his PR any harm, it may also take a shift away from an overworked doctor elsewhere.

April 6th

I’m made laugh by this meme which is doing the rounds and feels VERY accurate right now – much as I know this is hard for everyone, hearing childfree people who don’t really have much going on giving out about how hard this all is because they can’t go to the pub is giving me a rather special eye rolling feeling. I am very thrilled that despite the Easter Holidays are going on, Homeschool Hub is continuing, which is allowing us to get some work done during the hour it’s on.

Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital with persistent fever and other Coronavirus symptoms – he doesn’t seem to be recovering but the press office from Number 10 is pushing the “its only a precaution” line.

The first online graduation ceremony takes place in NUI Galway, of 190 medical students. 16 more people have died from Covid-19 in Ireland, which brings the overall death toll to 174, with 5,364 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The HSE says the capacity to test for the coronavirus will be doubled from this week, to around 4,500 tests a day and a network of laboratories and 50 community test centres have been set up across the country.

Meanwhile, we’re stuck into Tiger King. Just like everyone else.

 

9th April 

Bubbles in the back yard is how today’s ten minutes of quiet is achieved. Myself and Eliott also bake chocolate buns.

This week’s Creep Live has a quiz, which is great fun. It helps with my feelings of needing to run as far away as fast as I can from my life as it currently stands.

10th April

We watch Contagion. Not the most reassuring watch, but it seems to be the popular thing to do as Netflix has it listed as one of it’s Top Ten watches this week. It does not help with the anxious feelings – I assume it felt a lot less realistic back in 2011 when it came out.

Another Leo Varadkar address to the nation. Today we’re told that the death toll in the Republic of Ireland from Covid-19 stands at 288. Over half of these are in our nursing homes. I find myself feeling lucky that we were able to be with Dad and Grandad in their final hours, as compared to the relatives whose loved ones were in nursing homes unable to be with their families due to infection risk – it feels weird to be feeling lucky about anything to do with losing them, but compared to others, we had a better situation. The current restrictions, meant to finish on Easter Sunday, are now being pushed out to May 5th. I know it’s essential, but it gives me a sinking feeling.

11 April

I watch Jesus Christ Superstar on the The Shows Must Go On Youtube Channel. Having been in our school production back all the way in 2008, it’s a musical I’ve always loved the soundtrack to, and this version, starring Tim Minchin and Mel B, is brilliantly done.

12th April

Easter Sunday. The Easter Bunny left the eggs at the front door at about midday, as per social distancing guidelines, ringing the door bell and wandering away. Very on trend.

Boris Johnson is discharged from hospital, after a dramatic few days in ICU. Much as I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone, I do hope the public way that his healthcare scare was shown did press home to those who doubted the danger of this virus just how unknowable it can be.

13th April 

Bank Holiday Monday means a day off work – and I’m able to go for a ridiculously long nap in the afternoon with the thanks of screen time. It wasn’t really an intentional nap – I lay down to listen to a podcast and woke up three hours later, but it was clearly needed. My sleep patterns are a mess at the moment – I spend most of the day wrecked, but when it comes to bedtime I’m wide awake or unable to sleep because my mind is racing.

 

14th April

A tough parenting day. There are some plus parts, we make a 100 piece Frozen jigsaw (I help but he does a lot of it himself), and we do some more baking – this time carrot cake buns (ala Betty Crocker) with cream cheese icing and pecans on top. They’re delicious. However, there’s also a lot of screaming, a lot of refusing to do as he’s told, refusal to do suggested activities, and lots of me willing it to be bedtime or for the schools to be open again. None of this is easy. I’m also working on a report for work which is wrecking my head, and isn’t helped by all of the interruptions.

 

15th April

A month since Dad passed away. It’s a tough day. I speak to my brothers and my mam, but trudge on through the day because I have no real choice. There’s been lots of articles on how grief in the time of Covid is different, for me, there’s a feeling of not being able to manage it on top of everything else, so it’s getting shoved down into that little part of my body that will one day become an ulcer, until it bubbles up and hits me all in one go. I’ve not slept well, the image of Dad in the funeral home is stuck in my head every time I close my eyes, and for once sticking on You’re Wrong About to go to sleep doesn’t help. I manage to get my work done by bribing Eliott to do jigsaws, but it isn’t what I would call a productive day.

Sinead Burke is on Homeschool Hub. I chat to Eliott about how her height (and being a little person) is just one part of her, just like him wearing glasses, and he accepts that with no further questions. The inclusion of her section on HomeSchool Hub is an excellent move for visibility for including those with various disabilities and showing how nothing needs to hold anyone back from doing what they want to do – big gold star to them.  I tell Eliott that I met Sinead once when I was at Inspirefest and that she was really nice and he looks at me as if I’ve just said I met Ash from Pokemon – instant celeb factor, meeting someone from off the telly.

The news today tells us that HSE staff are being redeployed to nursing homes to assist in the Covid crisis, as it is very clear that they are being worst hit by this virus. The death toll has risen by another 38 deaths were reported, bringing the totals to 12,547 cases and 444 deaths. One of those deaths is reported to be a 23 year old, the youngest yet in Ireland. At the same time, the news carries coverage of two people who are taking the government to court with the idea that the lockdown isn’t constitutional. I cannot roll my eyes enough.

16th April

Myself and Eliott check out Google Arts and Culture and get a tour of a museum by a penguin. As you do. He’s fascinated by the dinosaur sections, but not so much by the art.

Another Thursday, another The Creep Live. The joy in my week.

17th April

Dillen turns 30 today. I’m disappointed that we can’t do a big celebration like he deserves to mark the milestone, but promise that his 31st will definitely be memorable. I make a melktert and put Happy Birthday Dillen in white chocolate letters on top as a birthday cake, which we have with those trick candles that keep relighting.

It’s a quiet Friday night in, just a nice dinner and talking about our plans for when all of this is over with. We can’t find any corkscrews which we know we definitely own, and I’m not sure that it would be considered an “essential” visit to Supervalu, so we wind up opening the screw top wine instead of popping the prosecco. Another time will have to do!

18th April

Given how closed in we are feeling with the lockdown, we decide to stick on The Simpsons Movie, which Eliott has never seen before. I am feeling rather like them when they’re locked inside the dome, stuck inside our 2km radius.

I am feeling very wistful about the concept of going for a Sunday drive, just getting in the car and going off somewhere. I don’t even need to get out of the car, I just need to get out of my house and see something that isn’t my normal view. I tweet about it, and realise half way through that it’s not even Sunday and I’m wishing for a Sunday drive. What are days anymore? We head for a walk but it’s raining, so it isn’t the most pleasant.

We have my Dad’s months mind mass at 6.30pm. On Facebook Live. I message my family on WhatsApp throughout. It feels completely and utterly surreal, especially when I see that the link my mother has shared with her brother on Facebook, to show him where it was, has been labelled a Watch Party. Just completely surreal.

19th April 

I make a much more Instagrammable Banana Bread, topped with pecans. It’s still raining but Accuweather tells me it might be better tomorrow, so I have a slight bit of hope.

20th April

Accuweather is right. We head out for a walk on our lunch break to get some steam out of Eliott – he’s not thrilled at the idea of leaving the house, it’s a battle, but we do it. Another woodland track close to our house, it feels good to be out in the fresh air.

It’s the first day back to distance learning – we do some of the work given on Google Classroom, a few exercises on Study Ladder, and get him to do some writing worksheets. There’s also a lot of iPad time, with some of it educational (Reading Eggs and Teach Your Monster to Read), and lots of it not (far too many game play videos).

My trip to Supervalu involves me feeling very anxious because people don’t seem to be paying attention to social distancing protocol. I move forward to get away from the woman behind me in the queue who is edging up on me, and she walks up to make up the difference. I don’t say anything, and get out to the car having the confrontational conversation in my head. I just don’t get how people still aren’t getting this.

On the news this evening, a further 401 cases and 77 deaths were reported, bringing the totals to 15,652 cases and 687 deaths. We’re reassured that the 77 isn’t within a 24 hour period, but it’s still a stark figure.

21st April

We discover Cosmic Yoga keeps Eliott quiet for a few minutes – even if to me it seems completely baffling. I also find a Sesame Street special made about the Coronavirus which Eliott really likes – it’s basically Elmo doing a zoom call with various people and talking about what they’re doing to keep safe and happy. Lin Manuel Miranda and Anne Hathaway are two of the guests, and they have looks on their faces that definitely say “This is totally the weirdest thing I’ve been paid to do in a while”.

It’s announced that all mass gatherings in the state will be cancelled until September. No GAA, no music festivals, no big days out. We knew it was coming but it still feels like yet another blow to the hope that this will blow over – but we cannot be too careful.

President Trump announces that he is bringing in a ban on immigration into the United States for 60 days – it so far only applies to Green Cards, but it sounds like he’s looking to extend it at some stage.

23 April

I go to Mahon Point to pick up some things in Holland & Barrett, and do a shop in Tesco. It’s eery seeing it all closed up aside from a few shops. There’s a queue outside to get in, with a sign like those outside Santa grottos saying how long it should take to get in from here. All of these things are the new norm, but I’m not sure they will ever seem normal.

Today, a further 936 cases and 28 deaths were reported. 3 deaths that were previously reported were reclassified as unrelated to COVID-19, bringing the totals to 17,607 cases and 794 deaths. It was also announced that 45% of deaths from Covid were in nursing homes.

I start watching Making The Cut and it becomes an almost instant comfort watch, even if I’m not too pushed on the Heidi and Tim fluff bits in the middle. I’ve never watched Project Runway so this is all new to me but I LOVE it, even if all I can see is one of the contestants would really fit in with the Joe Exotic crowd from his aesthetic.

I have a video chat with my brothers and my mam on WhatsApp, which is really nice, even if my Mam has to drop off after not too long. We haven’t become a Zoom call quiz family (yet) but it may get there yet.

24th April

I get an email from my boss asking when I’ll be free for a phone call. I’m still working on the report about what we had been working on for the project before it got cancelled, but arrange to call him back in half an hour and say he’ll have it by the end of the day. The call is short, but clear: I’ve gotten my thirty days notice, unfortunately with the project on hold, they can’t justify keeping me. He was very complimentary but I am gutted, managing to hold it in until the call ends but feeling like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. Not that they’ve been unfair – I completely understand why it’s happening, but it’s just another kicking this year is giving me. For the first time, I REALLY want to ring my Dad and hear him giving out about how it’s their loss and they don’t know what they’re missing out on – he gave good rant. The fact that I can’t make that phone call means I spend most of the evening tearful – but I get the report in on time. I realise people have had it far worse than I have, lots lost their jobs weeks ago with no notice period, but it doesn’t make my misery any less to consider that. I label this my Annus Horribilis in a text to a friend and don’t feel like it’s an exaggeration. We order sourdough pizzas and comfort eat to our hearts content while watching Making The Cut. It helps, but only a little.

So another month, another record done. While this one wasn’t quite as dramatic as the last, it still kept me on my toes… To be continued.

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