Shackles are on again and the beaches of Co Mayo have emptied
‘Being among the last to liberate myself from the first lockdown, I feel more feisty this time’
Visitors have returned to their suburban prisons and the silence seems deafening. Photograph: iStock
I had just got used to being out and about, no longer approaching shopping trolleys with suspicion or imagining supermarket assistants as superspreaders, and the shackles are on again.
The wind is howling here in the wild west and the town gardener is ready to release the tumbleweed down Main Street, Westport. Being among the last to liberate myself from the first lockdown, I feel more feisty this time.
I think it must be because of my selection of masks; because Mayo eviscerated Galway in the Gaelic football coliseum in Tuam; because I missed my first granddaughter’s first birthday. She lives in Cork which could be in another cosmic universe now.
While her parents brought her to Fota Wildlife Park to see the cheetah and the gibbons and have a “last supper” picnic in the grass, I was home alone singing happy birthday to my mirror every time I washed my hands.
It is not easy to sing, smile and cry at the same time.
It was the Sabbath so I waited until around lunchtime to consider hitting the bottle. You see, my wine rack is bulging at the seams because way back at the beginning of the first incarceration I made a decision not to drink alone. I knew it could become a slippery slope in my self-imposed coronavirus cocoon. You don’t need to be over 70 to be scared.
But just because I am of a certain age doesn’t mean I don’t want to party (metaphorically speaking), live life to the full and occasionally dance on tables, albeit sturdy ones.
Although I’m not sure if I’d take to “bushing” in the local park – as one friend suggested her septuagenarian parents were in danger of doing if cocooning was reintroduced. Fortunately that diktat has not been restored for our most responsible age group. Although the image of older citizens gathering in little groups in green public spaces drinking cider and smoking weed has a certain appeal.
I’m laughing now at how when the midsummer reprieve came, I nervously drove the 10km from Westport to Castlebar to check if Lord Lucan was still missing and if the lawn – now known as the Mall – where his family used to play cricket wasn’t just a figment of my imagination.
I cleaned the cobwebs off my high heels too, plucked my eyebrows, found my ball gown and had a few al fresco fresh fish dinners with friends and family at Westport Quay.
But frankly these adventures became a tad more challenging as every family from inside the Pale appended tricycles and bicycles, helmets and harnesses, surfboards and paddleboards to their SUVs, and decamped to the wild west for that much-needed staycation.
By mid-July, Mayo had become Mecca, and not only on the slopes of Croagh Patrick, as queues of cars crossed the Shannon in the desperate hope that Oliver Cromwell was correct and the coronavirus didn’t fancy Connacht with all its fresh air and salty breezes. But for those of us who continued to take Nphet seriously, the influx of visitors was a tad unnerving and caused us to retreat again somewhat.
The irony now, of course, is that all the visitors have returned to their suburban and semidetached prisons. The shutters are down in hotels, B&Bs, craft shops and cafes.
The beaches and boreens of Co Mayo have emptied.
Even when the tide is flowing and the surf is thundering across the sand, the silence seems deafening as little clusters of locals and solitary figures face into the cold winter wind.