Róisín Ingle: I decide to check flights arriving and departing on the Dublin Airport site

I feel like a peeping Tom, sticking my nose into the lives of people going beyond 5km

Aer Lingus airplane Airbus A320-214 landing at Heathrow Airport, UK

Aer Lingus airplane Airbus A320-214 landing at Heathrow Airport, UK

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They are touching down in Dublin every single day. Flights from all over the world. People flying back from Lisbon, Frankfurt and Tenerife. I know this because, while out for a State-sanctioned walk well within my 5km, I decide to check on the flights arriving and the flights departing on the Dublin Airport website.

I sit with my laptop and take-away coffee, drooling over all the actual planes with actual people in them flying off to Paris, Amsterdam and London. I see all the messages the travellers are seeing as they make their way through the airport. I bite my lip with envy: “Baggage delivered. On approach. Go to gate. Gate closed. Final call.”

I watch the flights arrive and depart, depart and arrive. I feel dirty, like a voyeur or a peeping Tom, jealously sticking my nose into the business of people going so far beyond their 5km it’s not even funny. Lucky duckers. Yes. Or something that rhymes with that anyway.

Meanwhile, back here in Lockdown Central, every time we drive to the supermarket we are quizzed by friendly gardaí about what we are doing and where we are going. “Shopping,” I say. “Food shopping,” I clarify.

I don’t tell them that sometimes we are actually going to town to browse the shops that are still open, the ones that sell more than just food, Dealz and Centz and EuroGiant, getting our kicks there buying random, inexpensive items we didn’t know we needed. And scampi fries. I don’t know if the gardaí would view that kind of retail therapy as essential so I say “food shopping” and they smile and say “carry on, so”.

Mostly though, these are honest, upstanding people who can’t even be bothered to make up a pandemically justifiable reason for leaving the country

Meanwhile, a few miles away from Lockdown Central at Dublin Airport, people are checking their pockets for passports and buying sucky sweets to stop the popping in their ears as the planes ascend and depart for Manchester, Edinburgh and Kaunas. I am not familiar with Kaunas. So I check. It’s in Lithuania. They are coming from and heading off to Amsterdam and to Wroclaw.

That is where they are going but why are they going? The Government is, after all, advising against all non-essential travel. Perhaps they are all going to funerals of loved ones abroad or for essential medical treatment. Perhaps.

Mostly though, these are honest, upstanding people who can’t even be bothered to make up a pandemically justifiable reason for leaving the country when we’re not supposed to leave our 5km.

It has been reported that more than 9,000 people, including 7,600 Irish residents, gave “holidays” or “visits” as their reason for travelling in a two-week period in February.

They are off to Brussels. Gdansk. Milan. Madrid. You’d get a real goo on you for a bowl of proper pasta or some decent tapas watching the live departures and arrivals.

They are going to Istanbul. I remember a trip there once years ago, the majesty of the Blue Mosque and haggling over a carpet we never bought in the end.

No offence to St Stephen’s Green, I love the bones of you, but I want to walk with my friend in Central Park as it bursts into spring

They are off to Chicago. Which reminds me I’ve never had an authentic deep dish pizza. They’re coming back from Kerry and Donegal. Even those places sound exotic to me now.

Oh look. New York, JFK. Kill me gently why don’t you, Dublin Airport website? No offence to St Stephen’s Green, I love the bones of you, but I want to walk with my friend in Central Park as it bursts into spring and buy a turkey sandwich from a deli and breathe in yellow taxi fumes and stroll along the High Line.

They are going, some of them, to Chisinau. Another new one on me. It’s in Moldova. If you were driving to Chisinau from Dublin it would be a 37-hour drive all in. It’s 3,390km from Dame Street to downtown Chisinau. That’s what’s called crashing your 5km in style.

While I check the flights arriving and departing, departing and arriving, I get talking to an Italian couple who are sitting in my new secret spot which has a picnic table and a view of the Poolbeg Towers and Samuel Beckett bridge, which my children call the Sammy Bucket bridge. I like to think Sam would approve.

God love anyone who sits 2m away from me these days. I am hungry for interaction with strangers. The stranger the better. I am sick of the familiar. The recognisable. The same old same old.

It’s lockdown in Italy too, my new friends tell me, as they wait to pick up some sushi, but it’s the kind of lockdown where restaurants are open during the day until the 6pm curfew kicks in.

There’s not much to show for three months locked down at Level 5

I tell them about the flights. To and fro. Back and forth. In and out. They laugh and say we know. They tell me about a friend of theirs, a woman who flew away from Dublin a couple of weeks ago for an “essential” surgical procedure and came back with cosmetically modified features and a dose of Covid.

“True story?” I ask. “True story,” they say, as they collect their food in brown paper bags.

“Ciao,” I call after them. “Ciao,” they wave back. Later at home, I scroll through the news about the introduction of mandatory hotel quarantine (but only for those coming from “high risk” countries) and the news that our daily case numbers reached nearly 800, higher than they’ve been for several weeks.

There’s not much to show for three months locked down at Level 5, I think, as I stir bolognaise sauce and sip on a glass of Chianti. I am miles away now. Much further than 5km from home.

In my head, anyway. Only in my head.

roisin@irishtimes.com