‘When it could be your last Christmas, this is not what you’d be hoping for’

Paddy Murray: I thought by now the world would have this pandemic under control

I wonder will mammies and daddies be leaving hand gel out for Santa as he delivers presents for their children this Christmas.

He stopped coming to me a few years ago. But I still manage to enjoy Christmas.

Up to a couple of years ago, it meant drinks in various friends’ homes, a good long lunch hosted by a friend who established, and has now revived, the Jingle Balls Club and then, closer to the big day, drinks in our own home for maybe 20 friends.

All those events are, at least for the moment, alive only in my memory.


I'm in what is probably the highest risk category of all: COPD stage four, a growth on my lung, immunocompromised and, generally speaking, marginally more healthy than the residents of Glasnevin Cemetery.

What optimism I have in relation to socialising is fast disappearing. I thought by now the world, and Ireland, would have this pandemic under control.

But the sad truth is, it’s anything but.

We haven't panicked again yet, but we are going to just like they have in Austria, the Netherlands and Australia and many other places where the virus appears to be causing havoc again.

Of course, we all want to get back to what we now call “normal”.

But I have to repeat what I said nine months ago. That's what the people of London back in 1941 wanted too. But normality of a sort only came to them four years later when their enemy, Nazi Germany, was defeated.

Our enemy is not defeated and is mutating from time to time as we get close to wiping it out.

Yes of course we need to get back to normal as soon as possible. Our economy needs it. Our mental health needs it. Our young people need to be able to live “normal” lives.

Quite simply, we can’t live with restrictions forever.

The constant horror stories are creating fear that, well, actually might just help bring this thing to an end sooner rather than later.

I think what now appears to be misplaced optimism somehow dissolved the fear that, at least for a while, kept most of us on our best behaviour, looking out for ourselves and for each other.

But nine months or so of being told we are “getting on top of it” and “we’re making progress” has resulted in the kind of confidence that is helping to drive up the figures.

Selfishly, the sad fact is that I am not alone being among the vulnerable. There are hundreds of thousands of us all over the country who have chronic respiratory conditions, who are immunocompromised, who are undergoing or have recently undergone chemotherapy. There’s a long list of conditions and treatments that make people of all ages vulnerable, not just us old wrinklies. Normality is a long way for them, that is to say us.

We can stay locked up. I’m staying locked up. And I suppose if I do, I’m relatively safe, though what visitors to the house might bring with them – despite my keeping well away from them – I don’t know and can’t control.

The truth is we are dependent on others making an effort to keep us safe or to at least consider us when they decide not to get a vaccine, not to wear a mask, not to use hand sanitisers and not to play it safe.

They have every right to refuse the vaccine. But publicans and restaurateurs also have every right to refuse them admission in the same way they can refuse admission to people who are underage or people who are under the influence or, even, people who are wearing jeans. That’s how it has always been.

I don’t know what kind of Christmas lies ahead, other than the one I see for myself: isolated, with occasional visitors sitting at the opposite side of the room from me. No hugs, no kisses, not even a handshake.

And when you know it could very well be your last Christmas, well, it’s not what you’d be hoping for.

Other people, healthy people, may be more tactile and may meet and celebrate in greater numbers.

But I think it is us, the vulnerable, who are the only ones who retain the fear that I think is, unfortunately, the key to getting everyone to obey the rules and finally beat this.

I suppose nobody is selling the Christmas cards I should be sending out.

They would read: “Have the best Christmas you can under the circumstances.”

Maybe not . . .