Pre-pandemic and current lockdown number 153, my life wasn’t too different from today. I’d take Fred to school, do my work, have my lunch, collect Fred, do a bit more work and a few jobs in the afternoon, before making dinner. Of course I’d start my day with breakfast and a walk with Daisy in the park. Now I still do the day in more or less the same order, but it’s the little things I miss. The unexpected extras that pop up during a day or week – lunch in the Grand; the odd trip to Cobh to taste the Beamish in Ryans or going on an adventure with Ed Galvin to see an old building or ride a train line that he missed over the years.
A big thing I miss is being able to pop in, out of the blue, on neighbours. We’ve been friends with Finbarr and Donna since around the time they arrived in Springwell in early 2014. I met Finbarr at a housewarming, and immediately we started talking about football, and I think we were both delighted to swap numbers so we could arrange a pint some night. By that stage I’d been living in Tralee for three years without once going out for a pint, so it wasn’t a big miss, but I do enjoy the fun around a pint or two. As the saying goes, ‘It’s not the drink I love but the company it keeps.’ Over the last few years I’ve been popping over to Finbarr’s for a lunchtime coffee when he’s home on a break, or to drink a few beers in the evening while watching a football, GAA, or rugby match. Something we can’t do anymore.
What we have been doing is having a coffee outside. Nearly every day during the lockdowns, Finbarr and I manage a coffee in the open space outside our homes. We’ll text each other with a ‘coffee?’ or ‘socially distanced coffee?’ or something similar, and strangely enough, we manage to fit into each other’s schedule. Coffee may last twenty minutes, an hour or just a quick gulp in the rain. Once we had to take shelter in a neighbour’s doorway, wondering if Mike was watching us on the cameras from his office. A neighbour laughed while telling her husband to come away from our private coffee club one day, to which I replied: ‘we’re interviewing him with a view to membership.’ Family members on both sides wonder if they are losing us, and we’ve been called, ‘The Men’s Club,’ ‘Men’s Shed’, and my own favourite ‘Last of the Summer Wine.’ Sticks and stones. On Christmas Eve, we had a few beers outside Finbarr’s house, and those two bottles in the silence of that crisp evening with the bells of St Johns playing carols in the distance may only be bettered by Christmas Eves when I couldn’t wait for Santa nearly 50 years ago now.
Last night I was watching the end of the France Wales match, on my own. There were two empty cans of ale, and a glass drank dry on my little table. It was a typical match Finbarr and I would have sat through before, with maybe a few others, and over a couple more cans. At 10 o’clock, I texted him, and yes, we both agreed it was a great game that may have gone either way. I could picture Finbarr in his front room with no doubt a similar table scene. He too would have with no one to share the atmosphere with and I laughed at the thought of the two of us drinking our beers and texting each other, though we were no more than a hundred metres apart.
Finbarr is back to work on Tuesday. Let’s hope it’s a sign that the end of these times is on the way, and we can get back to doing the little things that make life so enjoyable. I baked a batch of biscotti for our last couple of outdoor coffees, and they will be eaten over the next week. Having one on my own in the kitchen while reading the paper, though, just won’t be the same.