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.
Monday March 29, 9am
13 days, 5 hours and 18 minutes
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
So regular readers of Gulf News will know that since early March, I have been in Bali on holidays. It was a trip that was long planned and began before this current pandemic began. It was March 5, 2020 BC. BC? Yes, BC – before coronavirus.
I think from now on, a lot of people will be reflecting on how much their life will have changed before and after this pandemic. Hopefully, all of your family will make it through these difficult days together.
One-third of the world’s population are under some form of lockdown to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Because I’ve been away, I am required by Ireland’s health authorities to self-isolate. That means staying at home, only leaving my home for shopping, and staying within 2 kilometres of my home for exercise. Even then it needs to be limited to about an hour – And everyone must engage in social distancing. That means keeping two metres separation between people , not congregating in groups of more than 2 people, and making sure that strict personal hygiene protocols are followed. Everywhere there are hand-gel stations, posts too reminding us all that we need to stay part to stay safe.
Naturally, having been away for three weeks, the fridge was empty. Shopping is difficult but I was lucky in that my daughter, Emma, a schoolteacher who is off work because schools are shut, organised some for me.
I called by her house, sat in the car outside while she left the shopping bags on the pavement, and then I put them in the car. We talked for 15 minutes from 2 metres apart. Being schoolteacher, she’s a stickler for the rules – and rightly so.
Toilet paper is like gold. I have no idea how she was able to do it, but the shopping include two packs of nine rolls – if the worse come to worst, I’ll be able to trade them on the black market.
She was in the middle of helping neighbours organise a bingo game for the cul-de-sac in the Dublin suburb where she lives. One neighbour printed off bingo sheets, another has a karaoke machine and was able to stand in the middle of the street, call out numbers while all of the neighbours sat in their front gardens, together but isolated, and took part in the fun and games. Next weekend, they might try and organise a quiz but are worried that people will cheat by using their mobile phones, and won’t be able to police that.
MY ESSENTIAL VIEWING
I’m going to be spending a lot of time watching television and reading in the coming days. I am half-way through Dan Brown’s latest work Origen, a paperback that I picked up in an airport newsagent shop in Jakarta.
I have to admit that I’m beginning to find his writing a little boring and, if you’ve read one of his works such as The Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons, there’s a certain sameness that lacks that same page-turning appeal as they once held.
I’ll finish it, but I think it will take me a lot more to buy another.
I also picked up The Rooster Bar by John Grisham. He’s a good storyteller and always manages to get a twist in the tale. Beside, none of it is too serious reading, and I don’t think that I’m in the mood right now for serious reading. Isn’t the world a serious place right now. When you’re flying and nodding off on planes, you don’t want anything too complicated.
Here, on day one of this isolation, I am looking forward to Disney+. I signed up for the new streaming services about six weeks ago and it came on line in Europe on March 25 – perfect timing given that so many people are staying home. There’s a series there, a spin off from the Star Wars movies, called The Mandalorian, that I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into.
I think the key to getting through this period of isolation is to treat it as you would do if it was a normal day.
I will set aside time for work, time for exercise, time for research, and downtime for watching television. There are no live sports so movies and boxsets are the way to go. I have a Netflix subscription as well, and also have a Sky streaming service, NOW TV. Between three streaming services and 18 rolls of toilet paper, this isolation should be a doddle!
THE GOOD NEWS
These are difficult days for everyone. But all of the news isn’t bad, gloomy and doom-laden. I like this story from the New York Daily News:
“3D-printing enthusiasts all over the world are voluntarily making free, biodegradable protective plastic face masks for healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 outbreaks—and it’s all thanks to a small business in upstate New York.
Isaac Budmen and Stephanie Keefe are the masterminds behind Budmen Industries: a company that designs and sells custom 3D-printers.
The couple was inspired to start making the inexpensive masks after they heard about a coronavirus testing site that was recently set up in Syracuse—just six miles away from their home in Liverpool. Not only that, they read reports on how healthcare workers were in need of protective face shields.
“We started thinking about how can we help, what is something that we could do, with the resources available to us, to help the health care workers,” Budmen told the New York Daily News. “We thought, ‘that’s something a 3D printer can do.’”
Budmen and Keefe then developed a prototype for a single-use mask that can be printed in one hour and assembled in just two minutes. The elastic and foam strips used to secure the mask comfortably to the wearer’s face can be bought at a variety of stores.
Since the dynamic duo’s project has been featured across on national news outlets, they have recruited the help of local teachers to produce the masks in classrooms across the school district. Budmen Industries has also published the templates and assembly instructions for the masks for free on their website.”
MEME OF THE DAY
This meme was sent to me by my friend Yorick. He’s my next-door neighbour in Spain and constantly posts memes and videos on our neighbourhood WhatsApp group. Most aren’t fit for Gulf News readers’ eyes. This one passes the test:
THE LOCKDOWN DIET
So, because I’m in lockdown for two weeks, I thought that I could use this time too to get into better shape. And I’m just started Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”
Hay, if Gwyneth Paltrow boasts that’s “Dr Joshi is truly special. I love him”, then it’s got to be good enough for me. Besides, the blurb on the back of the book says: “Just 21 days with Dr Joshi will change the way you eat forever and leave you looking and feeling fantastic.” That makes me feel better just reading it.
Breakfast starts with a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon in in. Not bad – but I would kill for a coffee. No coffee, Dr Joshi says, just green tea.
I had a half-bowl of oatmeal porridge heated with water, half a banana sliced on top, some almond milk as well over it, a squirt of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Ok – not bad. I’ve done worse.
Lunch is a soup I’ve made from two carrots finely diced, some shallots sweated down with ginger and garlic, vegetable stock, ground cumin and coriander.
I have to watch me measurements when it comes to making a brown rice vegetable pilaf – a put some fresh diced asparagus, diced shallot and diced carrot in there, and a baked chicken breast marinated in some olive oil and lemon-pepper spices.
So far, so good. But I’d still kill for a coffee. I’m starting this thing weighing in at 99.0 kilograms. Should be interesting to see what happens. See, lockdowns can be positive if you put mind, body and belly into it. But I’d still kill for a coffee…
So, here’s a look what a deserted beach looks like on the south coast of Ireland. It’s a cold day, the temperature is about 6 degrees Celsius and there’s a cold easterly wind blowing. But its fresh air and a great day to be alive.
THE STOCK SHOCK
One of the phenomena of this pandemic has been its effect on global stock markets. Yes, markets go up, markets go down, but there are many people who invest in them.
I have invested in stocks over the years and I’ve had more winners than losers but never quite had the time nor resources to invest fully.
Then it struck me: Why not use this time to pretend I’m an investor. You can play along too.
For the rules, we’ll give ourselves £10,000 (Dh45,740) to invest, and we won’t be paying brokerage fees. And the deals can only be done when the market is shut. So, I’ll buy at the close of one, sell or not at the close of another. It will be interesting to see how my play portfolio ends up at the end of this lockdown in less than 14 days’ time.
For simplicity’s sake, I’ll be using those public traded on the FTSE500 – the London stock exchange (https://www.londonstockexchange.com/exchange/prices-and-markets/stocks/indices/constituents-indices.html).
Here’s how I’ll invest my £10,000 initially and why:
People are spending a lot of time locked in at home. They’re shopping online. They’re buying food. They’re stockpiling. Grocery stores would be a good buy.
Tesco is a major retailer and it delivers. It’s got to do well. It closed at 232.60p (£2.326) on Friday. The lockdown could last longer in the UK.
I’ll buy 3,000 shares, costing me £6978.00
Along the same line of thinking, I’ll put some money into Morrisons. It’s another big UK food and personal care retail. It closed at 180.15p (£1.8015) on Friday. I’ll buy 1,500 shares, costing me £2702.25
TODAY’S NET WORTH: £10,000
Tesco: 3000 shares, £6978.00
Morrison’s: 1,500 shares, £2702.25
Cash on hand: £319.75
% Gain or Loss: 0.00%
£ Gain or Loss: £0.00
THE IDIOTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
There are a lot of idiots out there on social media, people who seem to think that they’re experts on how and why this coronavirus started.
One report I’ve read – it’s the same one that is calling for a global day of meditation on April 5 to make this all go away, says that some 3 million people in Wuhan, the city in China where the coronavirus is believed to have originated, has disappeared because of radiations sickness.
Please! Enough, spare me the cuckoo conspiracy theories. How about meditating on your one sanity instead.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
So, dear readers, I know you’re in lockdown most like when you’re reading this. I’m here to help, to answer your questions, to help suggest ways of getting through this. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s it for now. Let’s check in with each other tomorrow. And stay safe.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe