I’ve given myself an extension to Monday’s midnight deadline because I’ve been busy uploading your work for the past few months that I haven’t had much time for my own reflections. Don’t get me wrong, it was a privilege to read and share your work. I want to say a sincere thank you for all your submissions. I particularly enjoyed our brief correspondence and I’m sorry that I couldn’t always write a personal response but if your submission involved bereavement or illness, I hope I sent you a personal reply, I tried to make a point of that. Thanks to all of you who wrote letters to Andrew. I know it was a big ask but I have on good authority that the thousands of letters he received during lockdown (from Pendemic and other media coverage) were hugely appreciated. Many of you came back and said ‘what can I say or what words could I possibly write?’ I too felt exactly the same sitting here with the blank screen then I thought to myself, what good is it trying to be a writer or writing for a living if I cannot use that same craft to offer some comfort to someone enduring the unimaginable? So again, thanks for leaving the comfort zone.
In terms of my own pandemic experience. I was ok and am grateful to have gotten off fairly lightly compared to many of the horror stories both in the media and shared here on Pendemic. As per my first post, my son got out of Madrid in time and although it was an adjustment for both of us living together as adults, we appreciated our circumstances were better than most. My income was intact because I’ve always worked online and my sons are at an age where they want to be neglected. They are way ahead of me academically so any effort at homeschooling would have been counterproductive. Not all my family and friends were so lucky. Like many of you, I stood on the side of the road in tears clapping as a hearse passed with a handful of mourners we couldn’t hug. In Ireland, while I wouldn’t say we have quite mastered life, we know how to do death and sadly that ritual of sharing the loss in a full house for three days was denied to so many. Let’s face it, the pandemic sucked. We can blabber all we want about birdsong and dolphins in canals, but our lives and livelihoods changed overnight. The stress of this emergency, because that is what it was or is, proved too much for some with catastrophic outcomes. A lot of people are still struggling so if you get a bit of grief from someone, just let it slide or as I say to my sons, if you’re bored just do something good for someone else.
So I didn’t clean or declutter my house. I didn’t do a single online exercise class (oh the shape I’d be in today if only.) I didn’t binge many boxsets. I didn’t write much but sure the winter will be dark and long. I neglected my greeting card company and delayed a few gigs but I did have an idea on the 14th of March to build this website and asked a few friends to join me on this journey and what a journey it has been. Like we said in our statement, we didn’t start out with a master plan but you came along and shared your stories, left comments on posts, and chatted away on twitter. I am very proud of this little community we have created and all four of us are still reeling that the entire collection will be archived in UCD for generations to come. Not a bad outcome from a little WhatsApp group that was formed after we met at the John Hewitt International Summer School last summer.
The closure of submissions this week coincides nicely with the reopening of the open water swim season. Alas more neglect in terms of training but I’m back in the water and will be plodding my way around Dun Laoghaire Harbour this Sunday, then further afield in seas, lakes and fjords over the coming weeks. Anyway folks, it has been a pleasure but also a lot of work and it’s time for me to pick up from where I left off in March. Whatever will I do with all these extra hours in the day? I’m sure I’ll think of something. Mind yourselves.