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.
Tuesday. March 31, 9am
12 days, 5 hours and 18 minutes
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
So the Olympics will now begin at the end of July next year. Hopefully, this coronavirus mess will be all straightened out by then. Interesting to see that in the United States, President Donald Trump is predicting that things will be back to normal by June. In the United Kingdom, senior public health officials are warning that the crisis could last for another six months, putting us back to the end of September.
I think no one knows right now. All we can do is follow the instructions being given to us by public health officials and governments.
Certainly, we all have a part to play, and being in social isolation is out part for now in what is the most remarkable time of our lives.
Nothing else in living memory comes near the size and scale of this current pandemic. It will be a time when our children will be telling their grandchildren about the great pandemic of 2020.
I was reflecting on how spring is a time of renewal, a time of new growth, a time when young animals are born, finding their way in this world.
It is a time too for planting, for working with the soil, for getting our hands dirty and feeling the quality of soil and its importance in sustaining us.
I think now, given all of the current circumstances, it’s worthwhile remembering that seasons change, there is a cycle, and that the work we put in now pays dividends down the road come harvest time.
If I can get my hands on some seeds and some potting soil, it would be a perfect time to plant for the future. It’s also an act of optimism, that something will come, that life will be sustained.
That’s a good thing to reflect on while we’re all in social isolation right now.
MY ESSENTIAL VIEWING
I am not into zombies. I don’t like zombie movies. Have no time for the Living Dead series on television. But I did read a zombie book last week. And with all that is happening now, it seems rather timely. No, I’m not comparing the pandemic to the zombie apocalypse. All I’m saying is that The Girl With All The Gifts, by M. R. Carey makes for a very interesting read. Most of mankind has been affected by a pandemic… I read it in a couple of days over my recent holidays. A good yarn. A page turner. Just don’t read it last thing at night while you’re in bed.
Last night, on Netflix, I watched Lost Girls. It’s a good movie based on true events about a string of girls who disappear along the New Jersey coast. Their bodies are found. I won’t give away the ending but do keep watching when the end credits start to roll. Sad. Quite sad. It served as a reminded to hold your children and those you love close. We all need that right now.
THE GOOD NEWS
This made me smile. A lot. It’s good to know that just because you’ve got brains, common sense doesn’t necessarily go with it.
This report is from The Guardian Australia: “An Australian astrophysicist has been admitted to hospital after getting four magnets stuck up his nose in an attempt to invent a device that stops people touching their faces during the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at Melbourne’s Swinburne University, was building a necklace that sounds an alarm on facial contact, when the mishap occurred on Thursday night.
The 27 year-old astrophysicist, who studies pulsars and gravitational waves, said he was trying to liven up the boredom of self-isolation with the four powerful neodymium magnets.
“I have some electronic equipment but really no experience or expertise in building circuits or things,” he told Guardian Australia.
“I had a part that detects magnetic fields. I thought that if I built a circuit that could detect the magnetic field, and we wore magnets on our wrists, then it could set off an alarm if you brought it too close to your face. A bit of boredom in isolation made me think of that.”
However, the academic realised the electronic part he had did the opposite – and would only complete a circuit when there was no magnetic field present.
“I accidentally invented a necklace that buzzes continuously unless you move your hand close to your face,” he said.
“After scrapping that idea, I was still a bit bored, playing with the magnets. It’s the same logic as clipping pegs to your ears – I clipped them to my earlobes and then clipped them to my nostril and things went downhill pretty quickly when I clipped the magnets to my other nostril.”
Reardon said he placed two magnets inside his nostrils, and two on the outside. When he removed the magnets from the outside of his nose, the two inside stuck together. Unfortunately, the researcher then attempted to use his remaining magnets to remove them.
“At this point, my partner who works at a hospital was laughing at me,” he said. “I was trying to pull them out but there is a ridge at the bottom of my nose you can’t get past.
“After struggling for 20 minutes, I decided to Google the problem and found an article about an 11-year-old boy who had the same problem. The solution in that was more magnets. To put on the outside to offset the pull from the ones inside.
“As I was pulling downwards to try and remove the magnets, they clipped on to each other and I lost my grip. And those two magnets ended up in my left nostril while the other one was in my right. At this point I ran out of magnets.”
Before attending the hospital, Reardon attempted to use pliers to pull them out, but they became magnetised by the magnets inside his nose.
“Every time I brought the pliers close to my nose, my entire nose would shift towards the pliers and then the pliers would stick to the magnet,” he said. “It was a little bit painful at this point.”
Really. Imagine having magnets up your nose and a pliers hanging from them. Too funny! A perfect tonic for these times.
MEME OF THE DAY
This meme was sent to me by my friend Dave who is under quarantine just outside Toronto. Sadly, there is a truth in what it says. At the end of the day, getting through this difficult time requires patience and staying put – and consuming a fair share of Netflix and other streaming services. That’s not so bad, is it?
THE LOCKDOWN DIET
Day 2 of Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”
I’m 48 hours into this thing and it seems a bit of a doddle so far. As to whether it’s making a difference or not, that’s hard to judge. Two days down, 19 more to go – but I still am tempted to make a pot of coffee even if there is no dairy milk in the house – just the almond variety as the detox calls for. I’m not so sure how that would taste in some Balinese coffee I brought back from my recent travels. Better off waiting, I think.
I started Day 2 with some hot lemon water, 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. Really, it’s quite good.
Lunch was the remainder of the soup I made the day before from two carrots finely diced, some shallots sweated down with ginger and garlic, vegetable stock, ground cumin and coriander.
I roasted a full chicken, a parsnip and a carrot, and took a breast with the vegetables for my supper. The rest of the meat was stripped from the carcass and put aside, and then I used the bones to make a large pot of chicken stock. That will be the base for some meals in the coming few days. Oh, and I had a small portion of brown rice pilaf left over from the day before.
I have to admit that this detox diet certainly isn’t hardship – I was expecting a lot more raw vegetables or other nasty stuff.
THE STOCK SHOCK
So, as part of this exercise in being socially isolated, I am pretending to play the stock market. I’m pretending that I started out with £10,000 – about Dh 45,000 – and seeing if I can turn this into a profit at a time when indices around the world have been on a rollercoaster ride that rolled back the gains since the great financial crash of a decade ago.
The rules are simple. I won’t be calculating in 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 12 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).
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 bought 3,000 shares, costing me £6978.00.
On Monday, the stock moved upwards, ever so slightly, touching 234p at one stage during the day. It closed at 232.72, up fractionally. My 3,000 shares are now worth £6,981.60 – a gain of £3.60 on the day.
I’m thinking it’s time to ditch these, but will see how it performs tomorrow. Remember, I can only sell at the close.
I also put money into Morrisons. It’s another big UK food and personal care retail. It closed at 180.15p (£1.8015) on Friday. I bought 1,500 shares, costing me £2,702.25. I’m quite proud that Morrisons got as high as 185.45p during trading and closed at 182.66p. That means these shares are now worth £2,733.90, giving me a profit of £31.65.
The day’s profit, then is £35.25
TODAY’S NET WORTH: £10,035.25
Tesco: 3000 shares, £6981.60
Morrison’s: 1,500 shares, £2733.90
Cash on hand: £319.75
% Gain: 0.03%
£ Gain: £35.25
I am now liquidating the Morrison shares – I don’t think they can sustain this growth for a while, so better to cash them in. I will keep Tesco for one more day and see what happens there.
After cashing in Morrisons, and with my cash in hand, I now have £3,053.65 to invest.
So what next?
Airlines are taking a hammering. So too travel companies. But people are buying personal care products, things like soaps and disinfectants, bacterial wipes and things like that. Unilever seems like a reasonable option. And they also manufacture foodstuffs that are in demand by those locked away. But Unilever shares are expensive, at 3997.50p (£39.975) each. I can only afford 75 – costing me £2998.13 – and leaving me with £55.52 on hand. In real life, there’s a minimum number of shares that can be purchased – but this is pretend.
Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
THE IDIOTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
On Twitter, #COVIDIOTS is being used to name and shame those who continue to ignore social distancing rules or gather in groups. Long may the hashtag rule! This is no time for selfish louts who believe that they are invincible to put the rest of us and those most at risk by age or weakened immune systems is danger.
There are reports in the Irish media of yobs who video themselves spitting at others. This is not fun. It is a crime. Anyone who spits now deliberately at someone else should face the most serious punishment under the law. Here’s one report from thejournal.ie on one idiot who spat at an Irish policeman. I hope they throw the book at him.
“A 19-year-old man has appeared before a special sitting of Cork District Court charged in connection with allegedly spitting at garda in the face having told him he had coronavirus.
The man appeared before Judge John King having been charged with assault and two breaches of the public order act.
The charges include that he was in threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to provoke a breach of the peace. He was also charged with whilst intoxicated engaging in behaviour which might have endangered himself or others.
As a precautionary measure, two members of An Garda Siochana have to go off duty for two weeks arising out of the incident. He returns to court on April 1.”
April 1? April Fool’s Day. How apt.
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 Readers@gulfnews.com.
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