Friday the 13th. Diary of the longest day by Joy Redmond

It’s bright when I wake, sometime after 7. The Fitbit app tells me I’ve slept 4 hr 7 min but it’s feels a lot less. I should go back to sleep, it’s going to be a long day but instead decide to get up and out. Hard enough to get a space in Lidl carpark at 8.28 am. I don’t need that much, some extra veg but I’m keen to deliver that bag of shopping before my quarantine. Rather, I hope to be in quarantine tonight after picking up my son from the airport but there are still 16 hours to go.

There’s plenty of stock but the queue of trolleys backing up each checkout is creating agitation, the manager walks around reassuring people that new tills will be opening shortly. I’ve filled one pull along basket with toiletries, nappies and wipes. In fairness to the guy on the till, he tells me I’m buying too much and I explain it’s for the Direct Provision Centre in Courtown and add that I’m way too old to be buying nappies so he smiles and lets it through. The others shoppers didn’t hear our quiet exchange or perhaps don’t speak English so they’re liberal with the dagger looks, I half run to the car.

At the Centre, nobody is on reception and I see the residents eating breakfast in the dining room. I wave through the glass doors and they wave back and our non-verbal communication is messy, neither knowing who’ll make the first move to open the door. I do. I put the shopping on the floor inside the door saying perhaps something you need, and back out keeping the door ajar.  They seem offended until I say ‘I don’t want to bring germs from outside in’ and one young mother smiles and says thank you. We all smile and I leave, teary-eyed wondering how many of them have sons not making their way to crowded airports.

It’s a workday, I log in and dial into the weekly call. After yesterday’s announcement, the company has gone fully remote. I’ve always been remote, in more ways than one. I’ve the two screen set up, the work on the big screen and the laptop hosting social and personal apps with one column on trending tweets of Covid-19 space Madrid, chirping away in the background.

A friend pings into a WhatsApp group wondering if yoga is still on and I want to tell her to cop the fuck on and it’s not like the snow, when the schools closed we hung out all day and cooked together. There is a reason the country is closing. We all calmly throw in our tuppence worth and say we’ll be moving to video meet-ups. She calls later in the day and admits she didn’t know what she was thinking and instead brought her dog for a walk.

The release of my big project which is 99% complete is to be deferred as it will likely be lost in the noise. I work away on it anyway tweaking and improving it. My inbox fills with sales opportunism with ‘corona virus’ in each subject line. I can see the dollar signs and greasy palms between the lines, off to thrash with you. I’m in touch with customers for permission to cite the in my paper and we ping back and forth on working remotely and I offer advice from a dab hand with one eye on those trending tweets. My eyes well up, I’m due a period.

I’ve told him to go the airport 4 hours before his flight because there might be delays. I didn’t tell him that the footage of Madrid airport last night on the news was like an evacuation scene from the Killing Fields. His timestamps say he hasn’t been online since yesterday so he’s either still in bed or packing.

Our club committee can’t agree on whether to cancel training. Some of us are 100% yes, the national body is issuing ambiguous updates like ‘to carefully consider if training is necessary’ which I’m reading between the lines to mean if you’re an Olympic hopeful but the rest of you amateurs can stay at home. Their updates are coming in on the hour which starts a new wave of yays and nays. I message the secretary privately and say just put up a poll and let the majority decide, we’re going round in circles and some comments are getting personal which happens when people get stressed.

I run a few more stats for my paper even though half of me thinks it will never see the light of day. Carry on regardless. Spain declare a State of Emergency so I ping him in a casual tone to see if he’s on his way and he replies shortly, so won’t quite have the 4 hours I’d hoped. The Spanish government announce they are meeting tomorrow to scope out the plan which softens the knot in my throat.

Meanwhile, I’ve come up with another improvement to my project which involves haranguing work out of my colleagues, they’re up to their eyes but dig in. He pings to say they’ve arrived and the airport is “eerily quiet” which is not good for my nerves. Is it tools down, everyone gone home to their families?

I say oh great, go directly through security so you can relax without the bag but he’s in the queue to check a year’s worth of belongings. He’d asked last night should he pack as if he’s not coming back, and not wanting to cause alarm I said sure just bring suff you can’t live without and maybe leave your shabbier hoodies and coats behind. He says there’s no-one on the check in desks, I want to say just leave the goddamn case behind and just go through security but we still have time on our side so I’ll save that for another hour.

I’m tearing up at any opportunity so I’m keeping social media to a minimum but I cry watching a video clip of a strong woman (Democratic Rep. Katie Porter) take on a weak man (Head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention) on behalf of an even weaker population to secure free coronavirus testing.

I’m dying to find out how the check-in queue is progressing while not coming across as desperate via text.  More tears and guilt when I think of his friends and casually try to find out who has already left and who’s still there, I don’t want him to think he’s on the last flight out. I’m hoping the National Emergency hasn’t come up on his Insta feed and I feel awful for keeping it from him but at 21 I made big mistakes with the best of intentions and I don’t want them to initiate a ‘one for all and all for one’ type bond. At 21 you are loyal, at 46 I’m selfish and can’t jeopardise him not leaving.   

Making a cup of tea in the kitchen, someone on the radio is saying that a woman bought 11 tubs of SMA formula in the local shop in Ballina leaving none for another mother who came into the shop a few hours later. I think what a bitch and then worry that I only spent €50 in Tesco the other day on cupboard staples but it’s enough, it’s plenty and if it’s not to hell with it, we’ll die with dignity.

My sister in Cuba, is pinging back and forth, trying to sound cool and casual too because my son is her favourite and she’s worried sick like all of us that he won’t get out before the lockdown but we exchange a few pleasantries and jokes, the family way. I’m worried for another sister living in England with this bullshit strategy. Bojo isn’t publishing any data about their expert plan on herd immunity. They’re letting nature (and capitalism) take its course to cull the weak. I despair of our neighbours on either side that have voted in white privilege that is screwing them.

The bag is through so I say oh great, rush along there through security so you can have a pint on the other side, again all casual. I’m only fooling myself.

The workday is over, I’m making dinner and I have his flight pinned on the DAA arrivals page on my phone. On schedule it says but it’s not due to leave just yet. They’re boarding but I still can’t chillax having sat on the tarmac for 4 hours before taking off a few weeks before, I’m taking nothing for granted. 6 mins after it was due to depart, he pings to say ‘jetting off now, see you soon’ but I don’t take a breath until I see his flight has left Madrid Barajas.

His father arrives in to hang out with younger brother while I head up to the airport and I learn he has made no plans to stock up his house or self-quarantine once we bring him home. I said you have to get yourself sorted now before we get back or you can’t be here. What’s with so-called intelligent people not heeding guidelines?

I’m parking the car and he pings ‘just landed’ but I take my time thinking he’ll be ages getting his suitcase off the belt. I see him before he sees me. He’s 6’3″ and strong but he looks shook, he’s too young to have been abroad with peers trying to make sense of the unimaginable. All way home, he tells of the surreal week and the mind and mood changes of a country in crisis. In the door, it’s wash the hands and no hugs and a round of pulled pork wraps and a beer. The Late Late show is on +1 and poor old Tubs get a roasting from all of us. It’s business as usual for the moment.


Joy Redmond writes for business and pleasure. Say hello to Joy on twitter.


  1. beautifully written, brought a tear to the eyes and he’s not even my son!

  2. Wow that was fantastic Joy I could feel the tension and the relief

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