All of a sudden it seems like shit just got real. I’m going to be very honest with you here, on Friday morning I was composing a blog post about how I was going survive confinement with my children if the schools closed, never mind survival of the coronavirus. I was being, of course, facetious. This was prompted by the Older Child, who was doing laps around the breakfast bar on her scooter and came a-cropper. How the fuck, said I to myself, am I going to contain this pair if they’re only back from school ten minutes and one of them has already bust her lip? Second only to asking if there’s a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge, the most frequently heard phrase in our house is: ‘Do you WANT to end up in The Royal?’ Well more than ever, we certainly don’t want to be joining the queues there now.
But later yesterday, the good people at Radio Ulster, got in touch to ask if I’d take a call on Evening Extra about potential school closures. I started scouring the news reports more closely, and I texted a friend down south to hear exactly what their reaction was to Leo Varadkar’s decision. My friend Orfhlaith is a primary school teacher in Mullingar, and she, and the rest of the staff in her school felt that it was not an overreaction in the least.
Schools are, by their very nature, germ factories. Orfhlaith says she spends at least a cumulative hour every day, repeating the following: ‘Take your fingers out of your mouth; stop sucking your pencil; blow your nose on a tissue, not on your sleeve; stop eating your jumper, you’re not a moth. Wash after you’ve been coughing and sneezing into them.’ I’ve taught in many a secondary and grammar school, and I’m sorry to say that some of the older ones aren’t much of an improvement.
This is a DROPLET SPREAD VIRUS. What is the point in cancelling the Six Nations and Premier League matches if we allow infection to spread in schools up and down the country every day?
Orfhlaith then sent me a video of Anne Marie McLaughlin who is a respiratory consultant in Dublin. She was emphatic that this is NOT a school holiday and that we have a responsibility to protect our communities, and by minimising the spread of infection particularly in relation to the elderly.
The way I see it, as one of the doctors in Italy said, the more youngsters who have to be treated for minor symptoms, then that’s time taken away from older people for whom the consequences are more dire. The World Health Organisation are only after saying that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that the ‘herd immunity’ that Boris keeps on about, actually even works. Reassuring, isn’t it?
Down south, they seem to be a bit ahead of us here. They are setting up community links with elderly people who may feel isolated and volunteer groups are offering to call in and get messages for anyone who doesn’t want to risk the shops. I just stopped with an elderly gent on my street who was out weeding his front garden. He looked particularly woebegone. He said all his activities had been cancelled, his bridge and his stamp collecting club and his visits to a local school where he reads with primary five children. He was going to be spending a lot of time on his own, stuck in his house, he explained. He didn’t look too thrilled with the prospect.
So what are we going to do? Look out for each other I guess. Accept that we have to limit our outings for a while. Make changes. Suck it up. Buy lots and lots of wine. But seriously, it’s all a bit shite. I’m scared, and I’m sad, and my shoulders are up to my ears with the anxiety of it all. But humans are resilient and creative. We adapt, because we’ve had to, and we’ll do it again.
(I swear to FUCK, I was just about to press ‘publish’ on this post when the Small Child slipped when on a jigsaw puzzle and cracked her knee with a powerful whack on the tiled floor. She’s now hobbling about holding tightly on to an icepack, crying. Give me strength. It’s a Saturday, and the schools haven’t even closed yet.)