Róisín Ingle: My body has seized up while in lockdown

After a trip to the sea, I feel myself again. We all need to find our Shelly Banks

Róisín Ingle: It was time for an Emergency Grand Day Out.

My friend B was disgusted. She had just read our very helpful Irish Times guide 50 Things to Do In Ireland this summer.

B was not one bit happy with suggestion number 11: “Exercise more.”

“Can somebody explain this to me?” she grumbled on our WhatsApp group. “Why is The Irish Times asking us to do MORE exercise in a pandemic?”

Not being the exercising sort, I felt her pain. I should clarify that most of the pain I felt was due entirely to the fact that I am not the exercising sort. My body appears to have gone on strike during this interesting time. I have become the person who says “oof” or “oh, dear” in response to the considerable exertion involved in getting up off the sofa.


I’ve seized up while locked down, it seems.

The seizing up had already begun before coronavirus. Back when I worked outside the home, in some class of a large purpose built facility – the exact name for it escapes me now – I was ergonomically assessed after experiencing a niggling lower back pain.

After the assessment I was assigned a cherished piece of kit that I began referring to as my “standy up” desk. I loved my “standy up” desk, which was wonderfully multitasking, because when you weren’t in a “standy up” kind of mood you could also pull a lever so the desk could also be used while sitting down.

The only problem was, having a lifelong preference for a chair in most circumstances, I often found myself employing what I believe is technically referred to as “sitty down” mode far too often.

And now I find myself all seized up with a serious yearning for the “standy up” desk if not for the worky-type building (an orifice, maybe, something like that), although I do miss our lovely security people. I met one of them while picking up post the other day and was swamped by nostalgia for those day-to-day small interactions – “How are you? Lovely day out, isn’t it? Forgot your swipe card again there, Róisín? Not a problem…”

Never has there been a less appealing drive to somewhere so mood enhancing

My “standy up” desk is collecting dust in the you-know-where. In my house I work on the kitchen table, in my bed or in my back yard; I don’t need a swipe card, so I wander aimlessly around the least-noisy, lesser-cluttered parts of my house, saying “oof” and “oh dear” a lot and, every few days, checking whether I can still touch my toes. I can. (“But for how long?” the gloomy voice in my head asks. “Shut up,” is my unimaginative retort. But still, the question, like my lower back, niggles.)

Something had to be done. I remembered number five on the Irish Times list: Just keep swimming. I do not like swimming pools. This aversion should not need an explanation, but in case it does. Here is the case for the defence: chlorine, changing rooms, childhood verruca memories, changing rooms. And anyway, all the swimming pools are closed. But the sea? I love the sea, and the sea is not closed. (Except at places such as Merrion Strand, sadly.)

It was time for an Emergency Grand Day out. My children mobilised, making a double batch of their home-made burgers. My partner mobilised, nabbing the last two disposable barbecues in the hardware store. I mobilised, checking it was high tide and finding a chilled bottle of white wine, several packets of Doritos and a bag of jellies. Destination: my sandy childhood stomping ground, the Shelly Banks.

Never has there been a less appealing drive to somewhere so mood enhancing. To get there you have to do a driving (or cycling) equivalent of penance, passing through an industrial wasteland of containers and piles of scrap metal around Dublin Port. You hold your nose on the way past the massive, almost cartoonish, waste incinerator before emerging, miraculously, on a seaside road with a heart-stopping vista of Dublin Bay.

In the water I am not an "oof" or an "oh dear" person. I do not creak. Or groan. I am the child who came here to collect shells more than 40 years ago. I am myself again

You park in front of the red and white chimneys, looking out towards the Half Moon swimming club and the Poolbeg lighthouse. Ferries and freight carriers sail closely by. You see happy people on bikes, people on foot, people with kites but not too many, so even on a scorcher of a day social distance is maintained. Dublin can be heaven, you think looking at the walkers on the Great South Wall, even in a pandemic.

I have my togs under my dress. I wade into the shallow water with my daughters. It is warm. Please, don’t think I am exaggerating. The water around here on a good day is a balm, like a bath.

When it's deep enough, I swim and I think of my friend Ruth Fitzmaurice, who says you may not like the person who goes into the water but you always like the person who comes back out. In the water I am not an "oof" or an "oh dear" person. I do not creak. Or groan. I am the child who came here to collect shells more than 40 years ago. I am myself again.

I just need to remember that whatever happens, however many kilometres we’re eventually allowed to travel, the Shelly Banks will always be right here.

Number 51: Find your Shelly Banks.

roisin@irishtimes.com ]