I was supposed to be in Sweden now. My diary clearly marks that I was to fly from Dublin to London then on to Stockholm, then drive to outside Gothenburg for four days.
There was a women’s Formula 1 race I was supposed to be attending — but that wasn’t the real reason, that was just the excuse.
My extended family from Norway and Sweden were gathering to mark Bordil’s 80th birthday. Her granddaughter, Aiya, races on the female F1 circuit, and the timing of the race was supposed to coincide with the wider celebrations.
It is a storm buffeting our lives. The only way has largely been to pull the coat closer, put your head down and walk through the gales that are now receding
Naturally, because of coronavirus, it didn’t happen. Someday I will get to Sweden, hopefully soon. It will always be there, but Bordil only turns 80 once.
When you get to Bordil’s age — every birthday is special.
So, instead of a big party — high-octane celebrations for an octogenarian as it were — there was a Zoom call for everyone.
Aiya is living in Texas and the F1 season is on hold. It was four in the morning when there when she connected to the birthday call and, judging by her sleepy condition, she looked incapable of steering a coffee cup never mind a high-performance car capable of more than 300 kilometres an hour.
Jake, in New Zealand, was marked absent from wishing his grandmother a happy 80th birthday with the rest of the extended family.
We called in from Ireland, there were people online from up and down the United Kingdom, across Norway and Sweden, Denmark and Spain, Canada and the US. It was like having the United Nations on my screen.
Ten minutes of the mayhem was enough — it’s hard enough trying to keep real meetings in order in person, totally impossible when everyone is so excited to see everyone else and have a virtual natter.
But it was better than nothing.
Food for the soul
Bordil was born at a time when Norway was under Nazi occupation, the post-war years were tough and, to this day, she hates to see even potato peeling go to waste. She uses them in a stock pot instead, where onion skins and other vegetable peelings go.
It becomes the basis of many great bowls of broth that warm your heart and feed your soul with a slab of well-buttered homemade bread that’s thick and tests the gnaw of every jaw.
We often talk and she believes that a lot of good will come from this coronavirus pandemic keeping us all apart. We will be stronger for it, we will cherish each other more, and we will better care of the environment — and let nothing go to waste: When you have nothing, you appreciate everything.
Yes, it would have been nice to gather in Gothenburg. But for now, we have all become a generation of babyzoomers — catching pixelated glimpses of family and friends from afar and speaking over each other because we miss the natural cues that signpost conversations, verbal and non-verbal communications.
When this pandemic started, I called cousins I hadn’t spoken to in eons, friends I had not phoned in ages. We were all doing the same, wishing each other well, hoping all were staying safe, offering words of encouragement. But the longer this pandemic has lasted, the more socially distant we have become.
It is a storm buffeting our lives. The only way has largely been to pull the coat closer, put your head down and walk through the gales that are now receding.
It has not been easy. But as least we can take comfort from the strength of others — people like Bordil — who have lived through worse and come out the other side. Onwards, then — and upwards.