We are now both doses down with the Pfizer vaccine and made short work of putting our newfound liberty to use, with assistance from Rob J.
This will be a short post as I/we’re pretty wrecked having been up and back from Dublin today to see the GAA Hurling semi-finals, where Cork beat Kilkenny 37-32 after some nail biting comebacks and going into extra time. Even from the nosebleeds and with less than half the stadium’s capacity you can see the atmosphere of the place!
I guess I/we have been reluctant to write about the elephant in the room as we’re all currently still wading through the muck of it, in one way or another. Much like the term of the previous American president, we all just want the utter shitness of the pandemic to end. That’s really what it all boils down to, doesn’t it? End of post!
But that obviously doesn’t really help. Merely clock-watching doesn’t bring that horizon any closer (a la the detention room clock in The Breakfast Club).
Texting, voice-messaging, emailing, and video-chatting with y’all has helped tremendously and been a lifeline for us (so thank you, first and foremost). There has also been plenty of insightful writing on the subject of survival techniques from notable mastheads the world over, which have really helped us (the recent Irish Times piece on languishing comes to mind). We’re grateful to have all of you and these helpful resources in our lives. We only hope that we have been, or can be, as supportive to you and yours in your hour of need.
This however has been extremely difficult as deep down when one person’s tank is running low, and another’s is empty, there is very little fuel to go around. Certainly it makes the task of nurturing and looking after one another as we normally would very difficult. I think most of us have thought about this—or felt a variation of it beneath the surface—during this Covid era.
Adding to this the inherent limitations of today’s communications technology and its a miracle that we can even get our intentions across at all. “Zoom fatigue”—yep, obviously real. It just doesn’t cut it compared to the nourishment of real company, instead clearing the low bar of being “certainly better than nothing”. Texting/messaging: this suffers the “mental bandwidth” problem on the input and output stage, not to mention the absolute pain in the arse that is having to hunch over and exclusively use one’s opposable thumbs to operate (perhaps there’s some savage irony in that from an evolutionary perspective). I know I’ve had my fair share of messages that I’ve rightly bollocksed-up the intentions behind. If you have received one of these from me during this time (or prior) then I am deeply and genuinely sorry and intend to rectify this.
But it doesn’t stop there. We can add to the severe shortcomings of communications technology the full-scale information assault we face in our daily online existence and the “fog of war” maddening-effect-of-prolonged-crises-with-unobservable-endings. It really is a bloody miracle that anyone can currently stay in touch over long distances at all.
Anyhow, here’s something that might help. I’ve been thinking about Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs recently in relation to this, and I wonder if it might give us some better perspective on ourselves and our relationships.
As a napkin exercise (or serviette as we Aussies call them) I have taken each layer and tried to quantify based on our circumstances right now, starting with the bottom (first) layer and moving up to the fifth at the top. I’ve issued each layer a value between 1 and 5, 1 being uncertainty/lack of needs being met and 5 being certainty/sufficient needs being met. So if you’ll indulge a peak millennial talking about himself flagrantly on the internet:
- 4.5 – our mattress leaves a lot to be desired, but otherwise we’re “grand” on all things at level 1.
- 3 to 4 – civil disobedience here at the moment makes this a grey area to me. The current gov has responded poorly in many regards and demonstrated a lack of genuine leadership, sure, but we’re not in the position of Brazil—or India. Far from it. It can be unpleasant walking through town after dark with groups of lads getting on the piss, but they’re just going mad like the rest of us. We don’t know their circumstances, and while the littering is bad as a result there are no riots, looting, or anything close to that sort here. Thank God.
- 2 – The hardest part to all this for us has undoubtedly been going into lockdown the moment we finished getting set up in March last year. Yes, we have had each other through this and we are so very grateful for that, but if you are reading this now its most likely that we haven’t seen you since 2019. Again, not to state the bleeding obvious, but nothing beats that real in-person connection and the ability to plan to do so. We miss y’all.
- 3 – Prestige* aside, this is where I see the languishing splitting us right down the middle. Finishing Mr Robot and every other show on Netflix, or Prime, or whatever stupid streaming service—yes it is a valid accomplishment (hence the middle score of 3). But alas, it is a pyramid after all. How do we know when we can return to focusing on this level? Do all the lower levels have to be satisfied, or become more certain to us, before this can improve? If “survive” is at the lower levels and “thrive” is at the higher levels, then this feels like one area where upward progress stagnates—and it is hard to stay hopeful about. Yet in spite of this I have no doubt that as restrictions start to ease in Ireland grabbing a pint with friends will be both relationship needs being met and an accomplishment.
- 3.5 – OK, why the high score here? Surely the highest level would yield rubbish results? Well, personally, I can say that during this time there have been bouts of pretty bad depression that have returned for me, but also pockets where it has been a creative boon being furloughed from work. I’m an enterprising and creative person, yet I’ve always worked in service industries/roles (because…life). I have attempted to use this time to get to some creative projects completed before returning back to the later. Some of the time I have recently spent on these projects has been incredibly positive. On the other hand, I know for a fact that this isn’t entirely the case with Aoife, who has worked her job through this entire time, so I’m sure her score here would contrast mine. This is one way in which we want to identify and address each others needs to make sure we both build up to thriving together over time. Starting with a bloody holiday ASAP! Amirite?!
So to sum up, mine looks more like the leaning tower of Piza—or an in-progress game of Jenga—than a pyramid. No wonder things feel wonky and uncertain.
I also have a theory that, due to the pandemic, many of us find it hard to relate in conversation when one or more people of the same social class or generation have found their needs structure hollowed out suddenly and due to circumstances completely out of their control.
This exercise has helped me to identify some of what has up until now been quite hard to pin down, and once I was able to do that I realised I can do at least a few things about it. Starting with owning a better understanding of what I’m going through and hopefully being better in all relationships as a result.
What about you? Feel free to do the exercise either privately or you are welcome to leave it in the comments below.
*Re. prestige: IMO one reason Instagram et al. is complete dog shit is because we default to showing a perfect pyramid when actually we are but rickety scaffolding underneath at best—held together by duct tape and each other’s love and support. Just my 2c!
This Feb is the perfect month. Well, certainly for making/breaking habits. It starts on a Monday and ends on a Sunday, with exactly four weeks in between. After being sloths and generally relishing the remaining Christmas tidings (as a pacifier against the reality of ongoing lockdowns) we have decided its time to change the circumference of our waistlines and make other various lifestyle improvements.
Seeing that many habits can be made or broken in 28 days, we are setting about to do exactly that in February. Here is going to see at least a few more months of lockdowns, so we wanted to put a sort of levy in place to buttress against the boozing and overeating of Christmas/Winter/various other justifications, and start making positive progress in 2021.
We didn’t make joint plans/goals for this year, but I don’t think that means we have given up on the idea necessarily. I don’t know if I can speak for all of our Irish/European comrades when I say this, but certainly the last 12 months has forced us to be more stoic and pragmatic. The goalposts have moved, almost on a constant basis throughout this crisis, but that doesn’t mean Aoife and I won’t (or shouldn’t) attempt a field goal when we can. I see stoicism as an optimistic strategy at its heart, though some folks associate it with cynicism or austerity. I want to make the clarification here that even though we, like all of you reading this, have undoubtedly had ups and downs throughout this crisis, we are ultimately optimistic about what is to come. We’re not giving up the game, just making a change of play.
We have instead focused on habits, what we can do now with what we have in front of us (this really is stoicism 101). If we can implement these things every day for a month we are confident they will set us up better for what is to come. Sure, if things here open up in summer and I am back at work then we would love to aim for a trip somewhere, anywhere. It doesn’t have to be mediterranean. When you can’t travel more than 5kms from home for the most part of a year, Brighton will do. Brighton would do quite nicely actually. I digress…
So my daily Make habits are:
- Some form of intellectual exercises (audiobook, Duolingo etc.)
- Music or other creative outlet. Even if the creative juices aren’t flowing—because its basically like trying to force breeding in captivity—just to put arse in chair.
- Going for walks and getting some fresh air
My daily Break habits are:
- News Media*
- Any other form of mindlessly sitting on a device for hours on end
- Sugar / shit food
We would love to hear what yours are, if you have taken a similar approach, so please feel free to shoot them at us in the comments below.
Alternatively, if you’re a more fixed-goals oriented person and you feel comfortable sharing what your goals for 2021 are, we would love to hear about it in the comments section.
Also, with Chinese New Year around the corner, we want to wish y’all a happy new year! Regardless of your calendar of choice (ours happens to be a Taylor Swift calendar courtesy of Anika), the Chinese calendar seems like a good timestamp of the changing seasons (in the case of the Chinese, it is welcoming the coming Spring) and here, where the seasons have real and tangible effects of everyone’s lives, that is important and something to appreciate. So we wish health and happiness in the new year to you and yours, and bring on Spring!
* Trump is gone, but news media still appears to me to be in an existential death spiral. I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with separating the ought-to-know stuff from the parasitic, mentally harmful info. I’m not talking about fake news, the facts have been hard enough to swallow this last year—and in recent years. I noticed an uneasiness in myself when I have looked at the news, especially on weekends, and a spike in anxiety. I haven’t figured out entirely how I am going to manage this one going forward (weening-off-methadone approach perhaps), but if anyone has any success stories, suggestions or recommendations please let us know!
So our first and only “proper” getaway of 2020 was to the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, and it did not disappoint. Amidst stunning weather and narrowly missing the abrupt Covid changes we were so thrilled and grateful to steal away for these few days at the end of the year and New Years Eve.
For those wanting to see West Cork, you wouldn’t want to miss this!
We also have videos but the current WordPress plan is being a stickler for hosting space. We might look at doing something about that in future, but in the meantime will try to send some around to ye. 😊
Here we are on the other side of December and I wanted to (finally) write an update post about life here. The last few months have been spent largely at home as we got through our second Level 5 hard lockdown and now we’re back in lockdown for our third, and hopefully final, hard lockdown that will last until at least 31 January. The festive season, even with restrictions and masks, was joyful and magical so it’s nice to write a post reflecting on our first Christmas in Ireland as well as nearing the end of a full year here.
Firstly though, Christmas!
We spent December enjoying the ramp up in delicious treats and twinkly lights everywhere. Seriously, everywhere! One of our strategies for getting through the shortest days of the year was candles, candles, and more candles based on this article with the overall goal to stay positive and embrace this cosy season. Our late October/November lockdown was scaled back on December 1 just in time for the city to be properly decked out and a growing atmosphere of excitement for the season with people wandering around the streets with a Christmassy drink in hand. As new locals, everything has very obviously been a complete discovery for us so we tried to enjoy things as much yet as safely as possible. Getting bundled up to walk around our neighbourhood, spot lights and soak up pockets of winter sun made the lead up to Christmas especially wonderful. The sense of anticipation was palpable and now that we have a sense of what a ‘normal’ Christmas is like over here, we’re very much counting down to when we can visit markets in mainland Europe for the full advent season and all of the glühwein…hopefully this will be possible in 2021. An equally noteworthy aspect of ‘the season’ was European Christmas treats from local Cork specialties through to the Aldi, Lidl and M&S accoutrement. We are loving this and in the present tense are still working our way through chocolate truffles like actual truffle pigs…
One thing we’d done here and there over the years is a ’12 Dates of Christmas’ with small dates planned out for spending extra quality time together during such a busy time of year. This year, these dates were more of a distraction to find a way to have things to look forward to as we’re still erring on the side of not socialising with people, unless it’s distanced and outside, so this was a nice way to make things feel special particularly when we naturally had some wobbly times due to uncertainty etc. We matched our dates up around merry things like watching a beloved favourite podcast’s Christmas Special at home through to writing snail mail cards for loved ones. We do still have some things on the list – like learning to play chess together – so we’ll be ticking dates off into the new year, too.
We also got a projector as an early joint Christmas present and it has made life pretty magical to say the very least. We are working our way through the ‘roaring fire’ YouTube channel and relishing a pseudo-big screen that is probably the most grown-up appliance we’ve ever owned. A solid investment and worthwhile present that’s made nights (and, frankly, the now entire months) at home much more pleasant.
For Christmas Day, the O’Sullivan family blessed us with an epic hamper of everything we needed to make our own traditional feast. This surprise was so incredible and stunned us completely. Rob, Kathleen and Paul thought of absolutely everything down to relishes and brandy cream which has kept us going from 18 December through Betwixtmas and the new year.
Simon stepped up as head chef for the meals with a glazed ham that didn’t last 24 hours and a spiced beef that similarly barely made it past the 30 hour mark in our house… Spiced beef is traditional Cork Christmas fare and we devoured ours in hoagies on St Stephen’s Day with plenty of mustard and enmental cheese. From the above, we are still working through the Biscoff spread and we have a second Christmas pudding that we’ll tuck into any night now. We spent Christmas Eve facetiming with family then on the day itself, we opened presents with a Baileys coffee before going on a long walk in a stunning blue sky winter day. We came home for more ham, more Baileys and our Christmas movie of Die Hard 2 chosen for its Christmas Eve timing and setting in an airport…needless to say, we really miss those…
Overall, Christmas was a quiet and peaceful day that filled our hearts and bellies, and then some! We actually really don’t miss the summer heat at all although we do yearn for the beach and our traditional getaway to Wooli for a week over new year. All in all, while things feel very different, as ever the main thing we miss is loved ones as our sense of ‘home’ rather rather than actual places. It might not have been what we dreamed of 12 months ago however we’re where we want to be, family and friends are all safe and healthy, and life truly is good.
Some reflections on our first year here and 2020…
After nearly a year here, it’s strange to think that this time in 2019 we were finished packing up and selling things and in the transit phase of getting over here. We often discuss the parallel universes of what might have happened if we’d delayed the move by even a few weeks or if we’d known what the majority of this year would hold. It’s obviously impossible to know for certain but I know that I speak for both of us in writing here that we wouldn’t have been able to stay the course without support in all its myriad forms. We always knew that this year would be a state of flux without a community around us like we had back home and this has become even more profoundly true as all community went remote even with the people we know here. Then, when it became apparent that meeting people, building a community and ‘setting up a life’ would be on hold somewhat indefinitely, it reinforced just how important it is – no matter the circumstance – to prioritise staying connected with loved ones is. We see how vital it is for all of us and know we wouldn’t have made it this far without connection with loved ones.
It’s meant so much to us to have you check in on us, play remote quizzes and Catan and Hearts with us, drop us voice messages and video messages, and send us postcards and care packages. You’ve shown us again and again what truly loving the people around you looks like and we have new reference points for what caring for one can be. Learning this lesson and feeling that connection of humour, concern, interest and friendship is something that we treasure above everything. Even though 2020 is going to look so weird on all of our ‘résumés’, figurative and literal, this is the important stuff that I will carry on in all the years ahead and for every single thing, we are immensely grateful.
Thank you so much and all our love, Aoife & Simon xx
This last weekend we were blessed to receive our first OS visitors, Annalise and Tendayi.
They were in good form as well as good health, and really lifted spirits here in Beale’s Hill. Though recently returned from Italy we opened with an accidental pizza tour of Cork, followed by hikes around the spectacular Gougane Barra region and Ardmore coastal walk.
Both places were not far from home, which makes us all the more grateful for the stars aligning, the heavens to “plug it” (for a while), and for us to enjoy the quality company of friends that seems to be in such short supply in this Covid era.
Other highlights include frenzied rounds of Monopoly Deal, Hearts, and Uno Flip whilst Aoife cooked up a sensational menu. Also pints, vinos, and a mind-blowing M&S chocolate…
We hope this post finds you and yours safe and healthy.
We managed to steal away for a couple of weekends in July and August to Cobh and Kinsale. Of course, tourism boards around the world right now are pushing for local travel, but both places were < 1hr trip from home and were just what the doctor ordered. So marketing aside, there is some merit to this! As Rob J would put it, “You can’t a good summer’s day in Cork”. See for yourself: