Still hoping for a normal Christmas – despite Covid!

Our man Frank on rising frustration over Covid restrictions, chaos in our A&E departments, a rabbit from Sao Paulo, and special memories of Jim ‘The Gunner’ Roarke in Creggs…

At times during the last twenty months, we have started to believe that we as a nation have beaten Covid, only to be jolted back to the reality that no matter what we do, Covid simply will not go away.

Our vaccine take up is among the highest in Europe, and yet, the number of new cases is rising at an alarming rate. All over Europe, as the shadow of Christmas looms, so too does the threat of more lockdowns. Several countries are experiencing increasingly violent protests as demonstrators take to the streets to express their opposition to any more restrictions.

Up to now, we have left it up the discretion of the people as to whether or not they take the vaccine. While I am firmly on the side of taking it, I have to admit that my faith in its powers is waning. As I write this on Monday evening, I know at least two doubly vaccinated people who are now Covid positive. Neither of them are particularly sick, but the fact that they both have it has me worried as to the effectiveness of the vaccine.

As for me, I have got the booster. Once upon a time, getting the booster would make me feel nearly as invincible as Superman, but sadly not anymore.

In fact, last week I woke up with a bit of a cough and a snuffle. It was a dose that up to 2019 I would have totally ignored, or at worst, taken a hot lemon and a couple of Panadols for, knowing that in a day or two I would be back to normal. This time however, I immediately assumed I had Covid and arranged to get tested down in Castlerea the following day.

In the meantime, I followed all the HSE guidelines, stayed away from everyone, and cocooned until it was time for my test, which thankfully turned out to be negative. However, it did make me aware that in the future, no matter how many jabs or boosters I have, at the slightest sign of a common cold I will be off for a test that in all probability I won’t need.

The reality is that Covid is not going anywhere soon. We just have to learn to live with it, and look after ourselves the best we can. In case you think I’m being dramatic, only yesterday I spoke to a lady who told me she too rushed off to get tested after she had a slight sore throat one morning after getting up. So I don’t know the definitive answer, but it seems to me that if we follow the regular guidelines – especially washing hands, and avoiding too many close contacts – we might manage a somewhat normal Christmas.


New system needed for A&E?

Speaking of Covid and the pressure on hospital beds, on Friday last I had occasion to bring somebody to the Accident & Emergency department in Galway. Despite being told that things had improved in such places since the pandemic, nothing could be further from the truth.

As always, the staff (who were run off their feet) did the best they could, but for the life of me I can’t understand how there is no system in place to look after patients who are obviously in more need of attention than others. It doesn’t matter if you are in chronic pain and in urgent need of immediate medical attention, you have to take your place in the queue.

The other Covid-related change is that no one can go in with ill loved ones – once patients go in, they are on their own. My passenger got there at 6.45 pm on Friday evening, and when I collected her at 3.30 am on Saturday morning, she’d had no food, no medication, or no rest the duration. As I said, the beleaguered staff did their best, but despite the never-ending pressure, there has to be a way to attend to patients in accordance to their medical needs, rather than by their number in the queue.


‘Hopping mad’ over

Alfredo’s boarding pass!


It’s probably safe to say that most normal people (whatever that is) would, if anyone bothered to ask them, say that the most important thing in their lives is their family and friends. However, there is also a fair number out there who would put their pets first.

I have told you before that myself and cats are a no-no, but I have a soft spot for dogs. A good number of my immediate family members have dogs of various shapes and sizes, and there is no doubt that some of those animals are treated better than most humans.

Anyway, all this came into my head the other day when I read about a bunny named Alfredo and the unholy row his parents (sorry, owners) had with Dutch Airline KLM over their refusal to allow the pesky rabbit board their flight from Sao Paulo in Brazil to Dublin. Despite the couple having acquired a court waiver that permitted the pet to travel with them in the cabin, the airline wouldn’t let Alfredo on board, and all hell broke loose, with owner Gabriella hopping mad, and the husband (Gabriella’s, not Alfredo’s) getting involved in an altercation with security staff.

Thankfully, eventually peace was restored. The rabbit got to fly to Dublin, and KLM apologised for their error. As of earlier this week, Alfredo was settling in well in Dublin, none the worse for his ordeal, and enjoying the new smells Dublin has to offer. In an Instagram message, he said he was very happy, but the biggest problem he had was the fact the airline called him a rodent!

As for me, why anyone would want to bring a rabbit halfway around the world is a mystery, but it goes to show that when it comes to being good to our pets, the sky is the limit – although in Alfredo’s case, only after a major struggle!


Finally for this week…

Finally for this week, on Saturday evening last, friends of the late Jim Roarke gathered in the cold, clear November air, to dedicate a seat on the rugby club grounds in Creggs to his memory.

For all of Jim’s friends and his family it was a beautiful and moving occasion, and a fitting tribute to a man who was, like so many volunteers in so many clubs all over Ireland, almost an unsung hero.

Jim was one of those people who was willing to help out in any way he could whenever he was called on, all with the minimum of fuss and absolutely no dramatics, and his contribution to the wellbeing of his beloved Creggs Rugby club was immense. He was with us from the start, and himself, Vincent Canny and I made up the first ever delegation sent to a Connacht Rugby fixtures meeting way back in the 1970s. He played for us, he served behind the bar on many occasions, and was known to sit on the other side of it once or twice, and, in recent years when the new pitches were being laid, he was a regular driving a dumper round the grounds.

His three children – Marina, Bobby and James – travelled to be with us on the night, as did a large number of the extended Roarke family, and as one of his many friends, it was a privilege to be involved in an event that will ensure that Jim’s place in Creggs’ history will never be forgotten.

After the dedication there were festivities down in brother Mikeen’s Bar, and I’m sure there were many yarns and tales told about the Gunner (his nickname), but for once I gave them a miss and headed home. I must be getting old!