Like millions of others around the world, Gulf News Foreign Correspondent Mick O’Reilly is currently under Covid-19 lockdown. This is what life is like in social isolation in Ireland, where there are strict rules about who is allowed out, where, and under limited circumstances.
DAY 22: Monday April 20, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS: TAKE THIS QUIZ
I love a good quiz. The boss back in Dubai thinks it’s a good idea if I ask you some questions. So I’ve cobbled together this one.
I’ll do one every week with a different theme.
So let’s start with geography this week. Hey, we’re in lockdown, so we might as well start thinking of other places beyond our current quarters!
I’ve designed it in such a way that if you know everything, you score 50 points.
Remember – no cheating.
The answers are at the end of this blog.
It might be a good idea to write your answers down, then tot them up.
There are no prizes – just bragging rights.
HERE WE GO…
1: If the UAE is divided into seven emirates, and Switzerland into 26 cantons, Japan is divided into 47 what?
2: Which lake is called the ’jewel of the Italian lakes’?
3: Which island country in the southeastern Caribbean Sea is also known as the ’Island of Spice’?
4: What is the unit of currency of Poland?
5: The Sahara Desert extends into how many countries 5, 10 or 13?
6: Which city would you visit to see Gaudi’s fantastical architecture?
7: Which country has Vaduz as it capital?
8: Which country is also called the Hellenic Republic?
9: Which country is also called the Hashemite Kingdom?
10: What was St. Petersburg called for most of the 20th century?
11: What was the ancient city, carved out of red rock in Jordan, that was forgotten by many until the 19th century?
12: Which country has more volcanoes than any other?
13: What is Uluru more commonly known as?
14: In which country is there a natural gas pit nicknamed the ‘Door to Hell’ that has been on fire since 1971?
15: Which country is the world’s largest producer of cork?
16: Which country has the world’s highest waterfall?
17: Which Asian country is bigger than France, Spain and Germany combined but has a population of little over three million?
18: What is the highest active volcano in Europe?
19: The city of Valletta was chosen as 2018’s European capital of Culture but what country is it found in?
20: Which European country has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
21: What is the capital of Bhutan?
22: What is the capital of El Salvador?
23: Which US state capital is nicknamed the “Mile High city”?
24: In what country would you find Cape Horn?
25: What country uses 007 as its international dial code?
26: AUH is the airline code for what city?
27: What islands helped shape Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution of species?
28: Talangana was bifurcated in 2014 from what Indian state?
29: What unit of currency is used in Serbia?
30: What unit of currency is used in Norway?
31: The name of British Honduras was changed in 1973 to what?
32: What is the capital of the Maldives?
33: Name four countries whose names begin and ends with the letter ‘A’. Award yourself one point for each.
34: Name four more countries whose names begins and ends with the letter ‘A’. Award yourself one point for each.
35: Name five countries whose name is just four letters long. Award yourself one point for each.
36: Name five more countries whose name is just four letters long. Award yourself one point for each.
BEATING THE BIG LOCKDOWN
FIT AND DOING HER BIT
Having lost six kilograms during this lockdown – all thanks to Dr Joshi’s 21 Day Holisit Detox, I am admittedly a little consumed about my health and fitness levels right now. Hey, I’m turning 60 soon, and if I don’t get a grip now, I’ll never do it.
That’s why I chuckled when I read how residents of a street in northeast London are getting to know each other for the first time by taking part in fitness sessions outside their front doors.
Elyse Blemmings, who is known as the Mancunian Motivator because she is originally from Manchester, began hosting sessions for her street in Chigwell, after her neighbours spotted her working out during the lockdown. And the nosy neighbours wanted to join in.
The 31-year-old started out with two sessions last week, which were joined by several of her elderly neighbours as well as by children as young as five.
She has since gone on to get a large group of people involved.
PHYSICAL SOLUTION TO MENTAL HEALTH
Before the Covid-19 crisis chased us all indoors for long lengths of time, Blemmings helped run a club which aimed to provide a “physical solution to mental health” problems.
Margaret Lakey, 79, has lived on the street for 50 years and says the workout sessions in her street have helped bring the community together.
“It’s just fun and one of the most important things is... we’ve got to know neighbours that we don’t really know,” she said.
“We’re waving, aren’t we, to neighbours we’ve never spoken to before.”
Blemmings, who usually streams her workout sessions online, says the routines will help to improve the fitness and wellbeing of those in her community.
“They know they’re going to get their heart rate lifted, they're going to have some endorphins and they’re going to go back in their house and say ‘I feel better today’ rather than just going through the same monotonous routine,” she said.
Good for her. I wonder if anyone in the UAE could start such a thing. Seems like a great idea to get around the isolation of social distancing. Two thumbs up. I like it.
COVID-19: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
This is a lockdown tale that will bring a smile to your face.
A long-lost wedding ring has been returned to its owner after it was found at a restaurant undergoing renovations during the coronavirus lockdown.
Three years ago, a New York man was enjoying a meal with his wife at a South Florida restaurant when his wedding ring slipped off his finger and through the wooden floorboards – apparently lost forever.
Since the coronavirus pandemic struck, Coconuts restaurant has only been serving takeaways, so manager Ryan Krivoy decided to replace the wooden patio deck.
When the decking was pulled up, he discovered a variety of miscellaneous treasures, including a gold coin and $100 bills.
He also spotted a silver wedding ring glistening through the piles of mud, engraved with the words “Mike & Lisa 08-21-15”.
The restaurant’s marketing manager Sasha Formica decided to post a picture of the ring on Facebook, initially thinking it would not get a response.
However it was shared around 5,000 times before making its way to Mike and Lisa.
Three days after the Facebook post, the wife called to claim the ring, the Sun Sentinel reported.
“She called and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but I'm Lisa’,” Formica said.
Lisa even sent the restaurant pictures of her and her husband dining at the restaurant in 2017 as proof, explaining the ring had slipped off his greasy fingers and rolled between the wooden floorboards.
“We were cleaning up the debris down there and we noticed a bit of a sparkle, and we picked up a ring,” Krivoy said. “Once we washed it off, we realised there was an engraving on the inside.”
The restaurant posted the ring back to the couple.
Krivoy took the £100 bills and a rare coin from 1855 – that may be worth as much as $2,000 – for the tip jar to share with the staff.
THE BIG COVER UP IN PORTUGAL
I once walked from the top of Portugal to Santiago de Compostella in Galicia – one of three such “camino” hikes I have completed. And I have promised myself that when this coronavirus lockdown is over, I’ll do a fourth – likely a six-week trek from the French border across northern Spain to Santiago again.
But Portugal remains a fascinating country. For a nation that shares so much georgraphy with Spain, its culture and food, history and heritage is unique.
And the Portuguese government is looking at when and how to open up after six weeks of lockdown.
One of the measures it is considering is making face masks compulsory on public transport. And it may impose beach restrictions as well. Much of the Portuguese coastline comprises long, long, long stretches of beach. Truly magnificent and likely one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
In an interview in Saturday’s Expresso newspaper, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said he hopes to relax restrictions on schools, stores, restaurants and cultural spaces from May onwards but such a plan would require new rules to keep people safe.
Portugal declared a state of emergency to halt the spread of coronavirus on March 18 and on Thursday extended it until May 2. Until then most non-essential businesses will remain shut, and restrictions on movement and gatherings will remain in place.
Costa said the plan, which is likely to be announced on April 30, could limit the number of people visiting beaches across the country which are usually crowded during summer.
“This virus doesn’t hibernate in the summer,” Costa said. “Mass gatherings cannot happen. Municipalities will have to take necessary measures so that we can go to the beach without overcrowding.”
They’re right, of course. But when this is over and if you do have a chance to travel to Europe, put Portugal on the list – and head off the beaten track too.
FINDING ART DURING THE LOCKDOWN
I was talking to a friend recently who lamented that they wished that had bought a watercolour set, some brushes and good paper before this lockdown began.
They loved art as a child but, like most of us, gave it up when life got in the way. Doesn’t that happen to so many of us?
Now that art supply stores and everything else is closed, this lockdown is an opportunity missed to get in touch with those things from our past.
I do, however, draw great inspiration from Parisian Agnes Goyet who has turned to her life indoors for inspiration as France’s coronavirus lockdown frees her up to pursue her hobby – art.
Goyet, who normally works as a real estate manager, is among many amateur artists finding new forms of expression as governments order confinements to contain the outbreak.
Professional musicians, chefs, actors and athletes around the world are also taking to social media to reach out to the public from inside their homes.
OUTLET FROM QUARANTINE
After nearly five weeks in her apartment, Goyet said that updating her watercolour journal had become a daily necessity, as an outlet to escape the pressures of quarantine.
“My journal of drawings is my door, my small opening to the world,” she said, showing off sketches depicting everything from her television set as it beamed French President Emmanuel Macron’s latest speech to her indoor plants.
“I think the lockdown has fostered a lot of creativity,” she said. “We find beauty in everything. Even a simple bunch of radish becomes pretty.”
Goyet, who has been posting her watercolours on Instagram, lives in a 94-square-metre apartment with her two adult children. Since the lockdown began on March 17, she has only stepped out to shop for groceries and once to go jogging.
She said she normally kept journals of her travels, and her usual subjects included nature, architecture and street life. Despite finding joy during confinement, Goyet added that she had one date in mind: May 11, when the French government has said it will start easing some lockdown measures.
“I wait for only one thing, which is to go back to a bistro, take a seat the terrace and to be able to draw outdoors,” Goyet said.
How true indeed. Or just being able to go to a bistro would be such a treat. Soon, no doubt. Soon.
MEME OF THE DAY
This meme was shared with me from a friend of a friend in Australia on Facebook. Sadly, there’s an irony in it. How many of us have spent hours at meetings when now we’re finding that an email would have sufficed? Will work ever be the same again? Do we all need to be in offices?
THE STOCK SHOCK
The stock markets were closed in London for the weekend
After three weeks of pretend trading, my portfolio stands now:
Net worth: £11,124.42
Just East Takeaway, 100 shares: £7756.56
Morrisons, 1800 shares: £3,340.88
Cash in hand £26.98
% Gain + 11.1%
£ Gain +£1,114.42
Just a reminder that I started out with £10,000 in play money – about Dh45,000. It’s all pretend, I don’t pay for trades and I can any amount but only at the end of the a trading day.
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my daily collection of covidiots, a reminder that some people are a verb short of a full sentence.
SCAMMERS CLONE GERMAN STATE’S WEBSITE
Some scammers will go to extraordinary lengths to make a dirty profit during this pandemic.
And in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, scammers have caused real pain to the self-employed and small businesses trying to get badly needed aid from the local government there.
It’s taken North-Rhine Westphalia officials some 10 days to get their systems back up to speed accepting the applications because brazen cyberthieves duplicated the official website and were taking all of the details on a cloned version.
State Economy Minister Andreas Pinkwart said the process to receive the aid would continue to be digital and that the money would be paid out next week.
As the coronavirus lockdown began, the German government swiftly approved a total of €50 billion (Dh200 billion) for rapid support to the self-employed and the smallest businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
LIKE BEES TO HONEY
With that amount of money available to help those in need, fraudsters saw an opportunity – just like bees to honey.
They intercepted prospective applicants by cloning the state’s official website. When users entered their data into the fake site unwittingly, it was the fraudsters and not the government that was receiving it.
Scammers then took the data — including things like name, address, employer information, tax details and bank details — and then used it to apply for the money themselves on the real website – albeit with different bank details.
A state prosecutor’s office told German news agency DPA last week that it was suspected the scams were being run by “a professional criminal organisation” that appeared to cross national borders.
North-Rhine Westphalia is not the only state to have been affected. On Friday, Hamburg, Berlin, Saxony and Bremen all reported similar cases of fraud with their state aid websites.
This Teutonic tale of woe should serve as ample warning that we all need to take the utmost care when giving any details out on the web.
CLOSED BUSINESSES RIPE FOR BURGLARS
Police in Ireland have warned that businesses that have been shuttered by the coronavirus lockdown are now being targeted by burglars.
With no one in shops, cafes, bars and other locked-up outlets, the lockdown is providing an opportunity for light-fingered criminals.
Police have been called to the scenes of a number of break-ins or attempted burglaries at premises in Dublin in the last three weeks.
Officers suspect that a criminal gang which used to target suburban Dublin has now moved closer to the city centre to carry out the crimes.
Premises with expensive fixed assets and stock, such as pubs, are being targeted by the burglary gang.
There has also been an increase in break-ins in Cork, Limerick and Waterford in the past number of weeks.
As far as the criminals are concerned, it’s a case of making hay when the sun shines – an opportunity too good to be missed.
DRINKING THE PLACE DRY
Did you hear the one about the man who broke into a bar and made himself at home?
Police in New Haven, Connecticut say a 42-year-old man broke into the Cuban restaurant, the Soul De Cuba Café, in New Haven last Saturday. Once inside, he allegedly consumed thousands of dollars in food and booze. That included around 70 bottles of booze.
“In addition to eating and drinking at the restaurant, Ortiz removed beverages and property from the building,” officials said, adding that the glutton was nabbed when a manager went by to check on the shuttered eatery.
He has been charged with burglary, larceny and criminal mischief in connection with the incident.
SHOOTING FROM THE LIPS
American comedian and podcast host Joe Rogan is boasting how he obtained two Covid-19 tests even though he does not have the virus.
“I got tested yesterday, and I got tested two days before that. I’m just going to test myself every three or four days,” Rogan said on the Joe Rogan Experience.
Rogan has been rightly lambasted for his actions.
One tweeted: “If you can’t get a #coronavirus test it’s cause Joe Rogan hoarding all them.”
Another added: “A close friend, a doctor, presumably had coronavirus but couldn’t get tested in New York. Cool that Joe Rogan is able to test his pals like it’s nothing.”
With healthcare workers and others in need of tests, Rogan’s selfishness is stunning.
A STAR ON YOUTUBE
YouTube micro-celebrity Jeffree Star is under fire for ignoring social distancing. If you don’t know who he is, don’t worry – I had to google him too. But apparently he’s a big thing given he recently spent $14.6 million on a huge mansion in California.
(With my daily videos for this Gulf News blog, maybe I could make a mint too on YouTube? But I digress…)
Now Star has gone out on numerous non-essential mansions and went shopping for a new car – a custom-made pink McLaren. And he’s inviting pals over and sharing the photos on social media.
His hair stylists, friends and social media manager make regular appearances – ignoring social distancing too.
Oh – and Star also visited his dermatologist’s office to get Botox.
Just what we all need now in lockdown…. Botox! That’s one way to fill a day for sure!
1 Prefectures; 2 Lake Como; 3 Grenada; 4 Polish Zloty; 5 10; 6 Barcelona; 7 Lichtenstein; 8 Greece; 9 Jordan; 10 Leningrad; 11 Petra; 12 Indonesia; 13 Ayers Rock; 14 Turkmenistan; 15 Portugal; 16 Venezuela; 17 Mongolia; 18 Mount Etna; 19 Malta; 20 Italy; 21 Thimphu; 22 San Salvador; 23 Denver; 24 Chile; 25 Russia; 26 Abu Dhabi; 27 Galapagos; 28 Andhra Pradesh; 29 Dinar; 30 Krone; 31 Belize; 32 Male; Multiple rounds 33 and 34: There are nine – Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria; 35 and 36: There are 10 in total – Cuba, Chad, Fiji, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Mali, Oman, Peru, Togo. (Guam is not a nation but a dependency of the US).
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I’m not an expert, but I might be able to help you make a bit of sense of this. And we can all get through it together. Isn’t this what this is all about.
Send your questions for me to Readers@gulfnews.com.
That’s it for now. Let’s check in with each other tomorrow. I have used files from Reuters, Twitter and other European and North American media outlets in today’s blog. And remember to stay safe.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe