Write your way out of boredom in this never-ending lockdown

Get those memories down so that those who follow you can know who you were

Paddy Murray

And on it goes.

A year has passed, largely without pubs or restaurants or most of the shops we used to like visiting.

It has passed, in many cases, without the company of friends and some family members who live just that little bit too far away or who live in another country and couldn’t come home for a visit.

So what have we done with our time? Well, Zoom has become second nature to us. We have Zoom meetings with friends and family and are now so comfortable with it, there might even be a glass of wine visible as we chat away.

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And if we didn’t already know, we have learned what “binge-watching” means and got ourselves hooked on The Queen’s Gambit and I May Destroy You and other series, good and bad.

We have read books more than ever, despite the slightly ridiculous regulation that won’t even allow bookshops to organise click-and-collect for a population bored out of its tree. And, oh yes, we’ve learned what click-and-collect means if we didn’t already know.

But there’s another thing some people have done. And that’s write.

Write it down

A few years ago, I was working on a project in my old school. (It won't please Ross O'Carroll Kelly, but that school was Blackrock College.) I worked with the college archivist, Caroline Mullen. And it was she who first said to me that I should write it all down. Everything.

“People come in here regularly,” she said, “and they tell me their father was a student here in the 1960s or 1970s. And they ask if there are any old photographs of him in school annuals or whatever. And they tell me that he told them all about his school years when they were younger. But they hadn’t listened. Then, inevitably, they say, ‘He died a few months ago and we’d just love to know more about his school days’.”

And then Caroline said that every life is interesting – at the very least, it’s interesting to those who follow. Who doesn’t want to know a bit more about their grandfather or grandmother? Who doesn’t want to know where they came from?

Apart from everything else, when I started to write things down, I started to remember things. They were mostly, but not all, happy things. I remembered a happy childhood with the kindest parents you could wish for, school days as a brat and being persuaded into journalism by my mother who, even in her 80s, used to remind me that “You were the only one we had to go down to the school about”.

Old photographs

I began to rummage through old photographs I didn't even know I had. My First Communion, me on the under-12s rugby team, me with long hair as a student in Rathmines. And though I didn't really take notice at the time, life as a news reporter was interesting and was different from day to day.

So I wrote it all down, ostensibly for my teenage daughter, Charlotte (who right now isn’t that interested), and for whoever follows her.

Cousins have traced my mother's family back to the 18th century. My grandfather went from being born in a lock-keeper's cottage in Rooskey to death at Ypres in 1917. His wife, the first Braille teacher in Ireland, died just seven years later.

Even thinking about that occupied hours of my time.

So get writing. This lockdown isn’t over yet so there’s time to get those memories down so that those who follow you and those who follow them can find out who you were and what you did and what you were like.

I’m lucky. The Liffey Press agreed to publish my memories.

But that’s not what it’s about and it’s not why I wrote them down.

In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if I didn’t say too much – as usual!

And Finally – A Journalist’s Life in 250 Stories, by Paddy Murray, is published by The Liffey Press