Sean Moncrieff: Covid has brought out the best in us. It still does

The delusional, the angry, the stupid and the selfish have always been with us and will continue to be

In our house, I’m the holiday Czar. Once we’ve agreed the location, I’m the one who books flights and accommodation and plans out where we might eat, do or see. In the run-up to it, I keep a daily check on the weather.

None of that this year. Best we managed was for the two of us to get a couple of nights away in Kilkenny. I did keep the eye on the weather, and – it being 2020 – the Covid rate: which, if you’re from Kilkenny, you should be offended by. This was a couple of weeks ago. The infection rate in Kilkenny was a reassuring trickle, while in Dublin it was starting to roar back. We felt like refugees from a zombie invasion, grateful that they let us into the county at all and slightly worried about how it might play out if Dublin went into lockdown while we were away.

We love Kilkenny. Because it’s beautiful, and because, despite being a city, it retains a town-like feel. It’s in the Goldilocks Zone: not too big, not too small. Cultured, but not pretentious. Confident, but not showy about it. If Kilkenny was a person, you’d totally go for pints with them. And a substantial meal, of course.

In all these respects, it was no different to Dublin, yet somehow it felt different

In truth, I didn’t do much planning this time, other than a couple of excellent dinners. Because the hotel was right in the middle of things, we knew we could take rambles around the town and perhaps go for a wander in the castle, which we did. The rest of the time we read, we sat, we enjoyed the unexpected burst of sunshine. But most of all, we felt normal.

Just like everywhere else, there were masks and queues and time limits and distancing. After the tour around the castle, we emerged like characters in Grey’s Anatomy, ripping off our masks so we could talk about some particularly complicated medical procedure which we just performed while talking loudly about our feelings. In the evenings, we had a little judgey-time, deciding which bars were taking a too-lateral interpretation of the substantial meal rule.

In all these respects, it was no different to Dublin, yet somehow it felt different. It felt like we’d emerged from the emotional fog of the past six months: changed, of course, but with a sense that time had started ticking again. There was a future that could be glimpsed, one where we would have to take all the usual precautions, but where we could start to plan again.

While we were there, there was a march in Dublin. Hundreds or thousands of people, (estimates varied) walked through the capital, stopping off outside the offices of The Journal.ie – presumably to demonstrate their hatred of facts – and then on to Government Buildings to demonstrate their hatred of face masks.

When we get on with things with a smile on our face, we can be an extraordinary, caring, united country

Social media went into convulsions over the event, with a lot of concern being expressed over the high turnout. Of course, we shouldn’t be blithe about such things, yet while we were in Kilkenny, we witnessed a far higher number wearing masks and practising the care for ourselves and each other that combating this pandemic requires. While getting on with life.

And this is happening everywhere. Covid may be a reality of life for some time to come, but another reality is that the bewildered, the delusional, the angry, the stupid and the selfish have always been with us; and will continue to be. So perhaps it’s worth remembering that when the sun shines – even when it doesn’t – and when we get on with things with a smile on our face, we can be an extraordinary, caring, united country. Yes, we’re all sick of it, but this pandemic has brought out the best in us. It still does.

We should remember that those people who marched, waving their tricolours, don't represent Ireland, do not represent who we are as a people. Not even slightly.

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