A sign of the Times: Niamh on working from home

Irish Times journalist and Ballaghaderreen native, Niamh Towey, moved back to Roscommon during lockdown and found a new appreciation for her home town. Here she shares her experience of remote working during lockdown…

Coronavirus has brought me equal amounts of fear, loss, hope and excitement. Working from home in Roscommon for The Irish Times was a distant dream before the pandemic hit – an intangible concept, something which I was afraid to hope for because of the inevitable disappointment I felt I would face.

Now, I have hope. I have lived in Roscommon while working completely remotely for the last four months now. I have seen the trees which line The Avenue (*my avenue) in Ballaghaderreen go from bare to green, I’ve seen my family most days and my school friends when the lockdown lifted. I have had a break from extortionate rent, the buzz and hum of city life, the nighttime glow of streetlights. I go to the bread van (Dun Bakery) in Ballaghaderreen every Friday, I shop in Padraig Mulligan’s for paint and chat about potato blight remedies with Michael. The middle aisle in Lidl, Castlerea is my new Grafton Street, the post woman Mary is my weekly gift giver.

I’ve jumped into Lough Key on easy evenings after work, walked with my next-door neighbour and lifelong best friend on our lunchbreak. Before, we met at the CHQ in Dublin’s IFSC.

Recently my boyfriend and I moved into my Grandad’s old house in Redridge, Derrinacartha, and that has given me a whole new sense of perspective. Grandad has been in town now for a few years, but he has left the place immaculate. I painted the walls and put throws on the couches, aired out the wardrobes and lit the range, trying to give it a woman’s touch.

But as I sit here at the kitchen table looking out onto the road, I can’t help but think my Granny Kathleen was the real Queen of this castle, and I am a poor substitute for the woman we loved and miss so much. I think of her every day I am here and I feel closer to her now than I have in years.

The lockdown has given me these unexpected joys, but also an anxiety that can be hard to shake some days.

I worry about my job security, about the house we are buying in Dublin. I am nervous about my Grandad, and my parents; hoping they are being cautious but also that they don’t worry too much.

It upsets me to think about people who can’t be with those they love, and the ritual of grief which some people close to me have been robbed of.

I am sad for my siblings and the time they have lost with their friends in college; I miss my aunts and uncles and the mayhem their visits bring.

Mostly, though, I worry about whether I’ll ever see the beer garden in Gings in Carrick-on-Shannon again.

Although Roscommon has been a revelation these last few months, I am beginning to miss Dublin’s variety, its endless selection of restaurants, pubs, concerts and museums. I miss my work colleagues and the sanctuary the office gave us on hard days. I want to walk around the city’s streets and meet my friends there who inspire me and keep me ambitious.

Coronavirus has given me a lot of anxiety, worry for the future and upset over what has been lost to it. Equally, though, it has given me hope that my life might not have to be lived in one place – coronavirus might just have given me the best of both.