SOMETIMES it does feel as if everything has stopped working.
As I write it has just been revealed that there were mistakes in the State Leaving Cert exams for up to 6,000 students, that Dublin will remain in the stasis of graded lockdown, that the Covid numbers are still rising, that the British Prime Minister doesn’t know his own lockdown rules, and that the American President has done what we all thought was impossible.
He has cheapened public discourse even further by hectoring his way through the first Presidential debate.
And winter is only just beginning. These are tough times, aren’t they?
In the hectic days of the Celtic Tiger, and how far away they now seem, doing basic things like going for a walk seemed like a radical act.
If you weren’t shopping or working or driving a car or looking at apartments abroad it felt like you were deliberately objecting to the grabbing madness around you.
Well, these are far, far, different days but things like those walks might just be the answer again.
When the soft autumn rain stopped the other day I was talking to the farmer on the lane.
He’d be of my parents’ generation and, let’s be honest, those people, they’ve already seen a lot, been through a lot.
They are not really going to think that running out of things to watch on Netflix is a hardship.
We talk and look out over the fields and the cattle stand and stare and the birds fly over and away.
For a while we stand in silence and then chat away again.
Who knows what the answers are for these days but I can’t help thinking that some of these little things might help us along.
It is ironic in a way that it is the older generation who are hidden away at these times.
My father died last year and my mother is in her mid-eighties.
I’ve written before that if there are such a thing as Irish heroes it is that generation.
They have lived through days and times we have no understanding of and after having done so they are smiling and enduring with a shrug of the shoulders.
Some of us still have to work hard at achieving that.
With all of the aches and pains of age, all of the daily reminders of human frailty, all of the loss they’ve endured, they find contentment in the everyday.
They also seem less likely to jump at the easy resentments others are taking refuge in.
Not for them an easy blaming of the young or students for drinking and gathering. For being guilty of being young.
It is worrying how much of the social solidarity that was present in the early days of this pandemic is dissipating.
The right wing trolls and the willing fools who follow them are telling us all it’s a conspiracy. Others that its all the fault of the young. Of pub drinkers.
All we need now is an outbreak amongst some asylum seekers and it will be their fault.
We’re suddenly, it seems, quick to turn on each other and there are those more than willing to take advantage of that.
Two young Chinese men in Cork city were attacked in August, having to spend six hours in hospital afterwards, by people shouting China virus at them.
I wonder where they’d heard that? These are grim days, aren’t they?
But we stand beneath a tree as the rain sets off again. These Irish hills haven’t changed in lifetimes.
What I’m looking at now has been seen in exactly the same way by others long gone.
The same black cattle moving slowly along. The birds heading to roost.
And for all the bad there is good.
For every mindless yob punching someone in the street there are the votes behind the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, whose parents emigrated to Ireland from Hong Kong in the 1970s.
For every right winger flying the tricolour with hatred there is a GAA club welcoming players irrespective of race or background.
For everyone seeking to put easy blame on someone else there are those who know only the virus is to blame.
And there is an older Irish person who will shrug and smile and carry on because carrying on is the only thing to do.
We say goodbye, the farmer and I, head back up the lane, home to light our fires.