Paul Healy’s Week

Another Covid target: the ‘Certain Type of Man’

 

Every day

 

Covid-19 is cruel. Covid-19 is ruthless. If it could talk, it might argue that at least it’s democratic, as its impact is felt by just about everyone, everywhere.

As we try to navigate this difficult journey, there are challenges all around. It’s good to see the schools reopening, even if many parents, children and teachers are understandably concerned.

There are a lot of people we should have empathy for, people we should be thinking of. Those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic have experienced extra hardship and anguish, above and beyond what we normally associate with bereavement and grief.

We need to think too of those in our community who, the loving care they receive notwithstanding, have spent lockdown in nursing homes or hospitals, trying to come to terms with disconnection from loved ones.

Frontline workers have been heroic, across the board. For many people – elderly ‘cooconers’ and others too – the Covid experience has brought sadness, loneliness, despair.

People are hurting in different ways, to different degrees. For some reason, an old friend came to mind this week. I think his face and name came to me as I listened to yet another painful report on the ongoing closure of our pubs.

There is a Certain Type of Man, and this old friend of mine is one of them. This week, rather belatedly, I wondered how peak lockdown must have been for him. He is in his late 50s. Both his parents are deceased. He has siblings, but lives alone. He farms by day, and (in normal times) pops into the local pub by night. Not every night, maybe every second night. Often, he will spend a third of the weekend in the bar, the racing pages and a pint in front of him.

He’s mild-mannered, sociable but never intrusive. He loves sport; it is central to his modest existence. He has no partner.

In peak lockdown, I imagine him jolted by the sudden upheaval in his comforting routine. I visualise him doing his farming chores, walking the land, boiling the kettle, cooking food, muttering perhaps to Joe Finnegan or Pat Kenny. I visualise it not being enough. No live football (then). No live racing (then). No pub. No outlet. No trip to the local GAA grounds. I know what the pub means to such men. These are not the revellers of popular categorisation; these are company-seekers. Often it’s a subconscious thing…the initial attraction might be the pint; in reality, the comfort, happiness even, comes from the camaraderie.

I have seen these men. Years ago, I served them. I have watched the nuanced morale lift these trips to the pub represent for them. There are of course much older ‘versions’ of the Certain Type of Man, men now robbed of a stool at the bar counter and the comfort of mischevious chat and shared revisiting of their youth.

The pubs were already struggling, and they may never recover, but the closure of small rural venues is being felt. Maybe the pubs need to remain closed for now, maybe they don’t. I’m inclined to think they should be allowed to reopen, with restrictions.

This man I knew – this man I know – I wondered the other day how in God’s name he got through peak lockdown. I wonder how much his heart must have been tested. The long, lonely nights. The wretched rolling news stories on his football-less screen. The poor dead of Italy. The numbers. The press conferences. The grim relentlessness of life just now.

Meanwhile, the gates of his GAA club steadfastly shut, as the sun – almost tauntingly – glistened. The pub closed all summer. No summer GAA championship to harmlessly dissect with his fellow experts. His friends much less visible, having faded behind their doors, into the privacy of their own somersaulted worlds. Yes, sport’s back on the telly, but now there’s the aberration of spectator-less games in the local pitches.

There are thousands of these men. And what of all the other men and women, perhaps especially lonely over-70s, who lived through these months of great, testing, challenge?

This crisis is easing a bit, but it continues, the virus still directing the course of our lives. Our so-called physical health is number one, but let us not forget our mental health.

Only now, six months or so on, am I wondering how brutal it must have been for the Certain Type of Man, for other men, for other women. I don’t know if peak lockdown loneliness – and its possible long-term legacy – could have been avoided, eased some way. I don’t have answers. I’m not ringing Liveline (yet). I’m not ranting on Twitter. Still, I do wonder if they discussed it all at the Clifden golf dinner?

 

All week

 

The dramatic ‘news’ stories continue to flood in, day after day. Seriously, what is the media obsession with…changes…in the media?

David McCullagh leaves Prime Time to join the Six-One News…(presumably a studio next door?). Cue gushing tribute from Miriam, as the likeable David presents his last Prime Time. Fair enough, I suppose.

The Irish Independent responds with a lengthy interview with David and Caitriona Perry, whom he will co-anchor the ‘Six-One’ with.

Meanwhile, more media frenzy as Claire Byrne gets a new role in radio, and Sarah McInerney is gently ushered to one side (for now).

It’s even worse/more dramatic at Newstalk. Apparently there have been a few switches there too. Incredibly, this game of revolving broadcasters (with the odd promotion) attracted much media comment and celebration and (virtual) backslapping over recent days.

Oh dear! Ciara will have to get up at 4 am! Broadcaster X (insert name if you wish) is so excited! Broadcaster Y (insert name if you care enough) is looking forward to the ‘new slot’ once he/she finds someone to mind their kids/cats.

Do we really care what time Ciara has to rise at? Imagine if it was like this in the real world. Imagine a press release from ‘Murphy Plumbing’. “John will take over plumbing jobs from Monday to Thursday. He’s very excited. It’s been his dream. He’s just going to go with it, let his clients do the talking, see where it takes him. Meanwhile, Michael has got the prime plumbing slot on Fridays and Saturdays. He’ll be rising at 6.30 on Saturdays. He’s available now for a photoshoot for Life magazine, holding a spanner aloft and sporting a knowing grin…”