A time to bare arms – Frank McNally on an appointment with the vaccinators

An Irishman’s Diary

Out walking in Kilmainham on Tuesday – near the old gaol, ominously – I learned the news that I was to be shot at dawn. Well okay, not dawn, exactly. On closer inspection of the text, it was to be more like mid-afternoon.

And I was given two days’ notice, which was more than gaol inmates usually got. In another departure, I had to bring my own blindfold (or “face covering”, as they called it).

Then, ruining the Walter Mitty effect completely, the message added that if I needed to reschedule my appointment, I should call the Covid-19 helpline.



Passing the monument to the 1916 leaders I wondered idly if, had they survived the Rising, some of them might have died instead from the Spanish Flu.

That virus was notorious for the toll it took on previously healthy young adults, especially people in their late 20s. One explanation is that exposure as babies to an earlier pandemic – the Russian Flu of 1890 – in some way rendered them more vulnerable.

Many of the 1916 combatants were in the high-risk age group, including Con Colbert (1888-1916), one of the executed leaders.

Richard Coleman (1890-1918), for example, survived the Rising but then died from flu in a Welsh prison. On republican posters, he was added to the list of martyrs as surely as if he had faced the firing squad.


My vaccination text had warned “be on time”, adding – a little tautologically – “but do not arrive more than five minutes before your appointment”.

Family members and others who know me well might suggest the second half of that sentence was doubly unnecessary.

But in defence of frequent lateness for weddings, funerals, and other occasions, I argue that it is often worse to turn up early. Just ask any party host.

Either way, surely, even in a post-Einsteinian universe, the message “be on time” rules out premature arrival as well as tardiness.

For my 3.05pm rendezvous at the Aviva Stadium, I left Kilmainham by bicycle at about 2.30.

And it was with a certain pride that I found myself pedalling down Lansdowne Road at 2.58pm, having allowed for at least 60 seconds to lock my bike somewhere. A feeling of smugness descended.

But then – oh no! – so did the dreaded Dart barrier, too late for me to even think about a Sam Bennett-style sprint.

My moment of triumph evaporated.


Despite this, I was even more on time than planned – 3.05pm exactly– when joining the vaccination queue. Not that it mattered. The military precision of operations at the Aviva was more to do with ensuring an even flow of people rather than their precise order. Although progress was constant, it took just over an hour from then to get to the top of the last queue.

I passed part of the time on Twitter, posting a location picture. This led someone later – after yesterday’s column had gone up online – to inquire if I had been surrounded by “Dart accents”.

No, I explained, for the simple reason that most of those being vaccinated were in their 50s.Even if they lived in Lansdowne Road itself, therefore, they could not have been at risk of the notorious vowel mutation that struck Dublin’s teenagers so viciously circa 1985.

Yes, they might say things like “cor pork”, which is sometimes also blamed on the Dart. But I would argue that that is just a continuation of the old south-county or “Rathmines” accent. The “Dart Diphthong”, as it should be called – the thing that causes “ryndabyte” – only emerged as a vowel variant of concern when Garret FitzGerald was taoiseach.

With one or two notable exceptions in Irish public life, you don’t hear it from anyone over 50.


When my daughter was small and waiting for an injection once, they gave her a teddy bear. She accepted it but then, slightly downcast by a wisdom beyond her years, remarked: “You know when they give you a teddy bear it’s going to hurt.”

Like many things, however, injections are no longer what they used to be. I hardly felt mine on Thursday.

Nor has there been even a rumour of the threatened sore arm since. They advise taking paracetamol immediately afterwards and again before you go to bed.

Alcohol is best avoided, meanwhile, if only in that it might add to unpleasant after-effects.

So I took a Lemsip when I got home and waited to feel under the weather. But hours passed and nothing happened. At around 10pm, I read five whole pages of Finnegans Wake and still felt fine. After that, I didn’t bother with any more paracetamol. Instead – so shoot me (again) – I poured a large glass of wine.