Irish abroad: We’re back to alarm clocks, rushing and being busy - I don’t like it

‘Covid-19 is gone but it has changed our lives’: Readers share experiences of life after lockdown

Pedestrians walk past a billboard featuring New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern  in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photograph: Mark Baker/AP

Pedestrians walk past a billboard featuring New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photograph: Mark Baker/AP

 

Around the world countries are lifting Covid-19 lockdowns cautiously. Many are weeks ahead of Ireland. We asked Irish readers living abroad how they are finding life after lockdown. Here is a selection of responses.

Karen Lithgow, Wanganui District, New Zealand: ‘I miss the time we had during lockdown’

The noise level immediately went up a notch on the road when the alert was lifted. Our mornings are back to alarm clocks and chores before going out the door. Clock watching and pickups. After school activities have not started yet and I feel now is enough already. I put petrol in my car yesterday, the first time since March 20th. Normally this is a weekly necessity.

When I hear what’s happening back in Ireland I am sad. I grew up in Bantry. The people here have no idea what it’s like to live among Covid-19.

There’s not a great deal I like about life after lockdown. People are rushing, busy and the after school sports has not even started back yet.

I miss the time we had during lockdown, having the kids around and the craic we had. Being together every day and just doing stuff. People had time to talk on Zoom or the phone. Magnificent conversations were had with friends I would only normally talk to once or twice a year, but we had weekly catch-ups on Zoom.

But generally the mood has lifted. There’s a sigh of relief. Relief we haven’t got Covid-19 anymore. Relief we can go forward with business. The economic situation for some is that it’s about time restrictions are lifted but for others it’s too late. The lockdown has certainly has changed many lives in New Zealand. Tourism has been the hardest hit. 

Today New Zealand has lifted almost all restrictions. We’ve not been to our favourite restaurant since January, so we’ll take the kids there and support our local economy.

Hannah Ratcliffe, New Zealand: ‘Life after lockdown is not what I expected’

Hannah Sutcliffe saying goodbye to her mother in New Zealand: "Crying every step of the way through the airport as I wanted her to stay"
Hannah Sutcliffe saying goodbye to her mother in New Zealand: 'Crying every step of the way through the airport as I wanted her to stay'

In 2019 I was waiting to become a mother. In 2020, I’m waiting to see my mother. Being a first-time mam on the opposite side of the world is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do mentally and physically – Covid-19 has made the 10 times harder.

I’m a Dub and proud, but I moved to New Zealand in December 2017 to be with my Kiwi partner. A week into motherhood, my mam flew all the way across the world to meet her first grandchild, Thomas, who would be her new pride and joy. We had an amazing two weeks together, her spending every second she could with Thomas knowing she would eventually have to say goodbye. The time flew by and when it came to saying our goodbyes, it was worse than we could have imagined. Crying every step of the way through the airport as I wanted her to stay, to be my mammy and to support me in being a mammy. We smiled and turned the goodbyes into “cya later” because she had planned to return in April 2020 with my brother and sister. Little did we know then that would never happen.

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Seven months have passed, my son is thriving, he is almost walking, and Covid-19 has turned the world upside down. Every plan or expectation I had of being a mammy was put on hold while went into lockdown.

But life after lockdown is not what I expected. It’s a sad place. The relationships I’d built and worked on with other mams, I have to slowly build back up again. My son now stares at my partner’s family and friends cautiously before making any interaction because he hasn’t seen them in weeks. I had planned to return to work, but I’m not even sure if my job or position will survive this pandemic for me to return. My mam’s plans to return never happened.

The saddest part of all is that I don’t know when I will see my family again. The thought that my son might not meet any of my family for a very long time is heartbreaking. The fact that I don’t know when I will see my loved ones or my home again makes me want to leave New Zealand behind. I want to move home for good. The lockdown is lifted, people here can see their family and friends again, but when will I see mine? When will my son finally meet the rest of his family?

New Zealand’s borders might open soon and the country may have beaten Covid-19, but much of the rest of the world is still battling against it. I just hope in 2021 I’m still not waiting to see my mam.

Mark Hayden, France: ‘The French are very enthusiastic about wearing face masks’

There is nothing about lockdown life I miss. It’s the return of simple pleasures like that is probably one of the most enjoyable parts of life after lockdown while waiting for the borders to open again so we can get to see our families. Part of our routine here in normal times is taking our time over a coffee on the terrace of a café after we have finished shopping at the market. It’s so much part of what we do that we don’t even have to order – when the waiter sees us, he brings our coffees to us. Yesterday, we were able to enjoy that simple pleasure for the first time since early March.

There was less than 24 hours notice on travel restrictions, which limited us to a 1km radius of your address except for essential purposes, almost all shops were closed, and those that remained open had restricted hours in mid-March. This being France, the list of shops that could open included wineries. The Occitanie region, where I live, has about the same population as Ireland, but so far has seen fewer than 500 deaths due to Covid-19.

What has changed in the new “normal”? It is disturbing how it no longer feels strange to queue to buy bread in the morning. The queue is because at most two people are allowed in the bakery at a time. We can no longer choose our fruit and vegetables at the open air market, but have to ask the stallholder to pick it out for us. Bizarrely, however, these rules don’t apply in supermarkets, where the customers can fondle the produce to their heart’s content.

Perhaps the most visible, and strangest, sign of the new normal is the enthusiasm with which the French have taken to the wearing of masks. These are now compulsory on public transport, and some shops also require them, but many people seem to wear them whenever they go outside – even if there is nobody nearby. Indeed, it’s not unusual to see people wearing a mask while driving alone in a car.

Those are the more visible, hopefully transient, signs of the new normal. But the more serious, longer-lasting effects are largely or completely invisible – mass unemployment, greater inequality, and the massive debt burden that we, the older generations, the ones whose lives may have been saved by the lockdown, have imposed on our children and grandchildren. Was it worth it I wonder?

Patrick McKenna in Canada: 'The good news is that the lockdown has had only minimal effects on my better half and me.Here is home, now... but I won’t let my guard down especially because a second wave may come along.'
Patrick McKenna in Canada: 'The good news is that the lockdown has had only minimal effects on my better half and me. Here is home, now... but I won’t let my guard down especially because a second wave may come along.'

Margaret Horrigan, Rome, Italy: ‘Life is most definitely not back to normal’

My first outings after lockdown were moments of excitement and concern. I’m now pushing myself to get back to normal routines. I still haven’t taken the underground metro. It’s running with a handful of people in each carriage. Life is most definitely not back to normal but we are all trying. Queuing for supermarkets is still a constant. My first outing to a local restaurant was exciting but quickly dampened by people not socially distancing – cocktails and Covid-19 are not a good mix.

Grabbing my bag and heading out without a bother is no longer an option. Masks, gloves and hand gel require their own bag. I take the stairs down six floors to avoid the confined space of the lift but take the lift up with face mask on. There are very few mindless actions on the street as the public are all hyper aware for the most part. Queue jumping, somewhat of a routine for a few but not all Romans, has been highlighted as bad form. Although a few elderly people stroll to the front of queues.

It’s now a mystery to most of us why Lombardy is still well above the rest of the nation with virus cases. It is a worry too. A second lockdown would be very, very hard. I found a place in the local park that reminds me of a lane back home. I walk it three or four times a week and think about being home in Ireland. The heat here in July and August is suffocating. The shops would normally all close for two weeks or so around Ferragosto, August 15th. I doubt that any shops will close this August. Spring had been and gone, and taken the silence with it. Our intensive care units, a little like Italians, are no longer overwhelmed. There is hope.

Micheál A Mac Cleireach, US: ‘There’s nothing about lockdown to miss’

I’m beyond excited to get the hell out of lockdown. Teaching from home is useless. There’s literally nothing about lockdown to miss. Bars open in the US state of Delaware June 15th.

Bryan Morris, Guernsey: ‘People becoming more friendly with strangers over lockdown’

Since last weekend Guernsey has gone a long way back to “normality”. Restaurants, pubs, hotels, health centres, shops, cinemas, hairdressers, dentists, cricket clubs and more are open to the public. Physical distancing and the 14 day quarantine of arrivals at the airport and port is still being maintained with hefty fines for breaches of conditions.

There are some things I miss from the lockdown period. I had started going daily with my wife for long walks to the coast. Our house is only eight minute walk from Port Soif strand and the sea. I also noticed people becoming more friendly with strangers who now greet each other in passing by with a cheerful “hello” and “is it not a lovely day”. Hopefully this nice custom will continue.

In the meantime, my wife and I enjoyed the pleasure once again on Thursday of a visit to the shops in St Peter Port (the main town on the Island) and an excellent lunch at one of our favourite restaurants.

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