Enough has been written about the lows of 2020 and there has been, indeed, so many, many lows. The high number of deaths from covid, the tragedy of people dying with no loved ones present due to restrictions, the awfulness of private funerals without community support and as I write, the spread of the virus being, in the words of HSE chief Paul Reid, ‘rampant’ throughout the country with the very high chance all of us have of catching it unless we adhere strictly to public health advice. So I’m going to eschew all the lows and focus instead on my personal highs of 2020 and gratefully thank the Spirit of the Universe for so many blessings.
At the end of February, the family celebrated the engagement of Diarmuid to Paul. We had a wonderful meal in the Plaza in Killarney and the celebration continued at home for the rest of the weekend. We were all at pains to point out to Paul how lucky he was to join the clan and in fairness to him, he did seem incredibly appreciative on his wonderful good fortune in being the Chosen One and I must admit I was delighted at the thought of acquiring another son-in-law and a greyhound.
In the dark days of March as the virus reached our shores, I, along with other family members, waited for news of a different kind. And at 6.40am on the morning of March 12th, the text we had been waiting anxiously for finally came.
Our little granddaughter, Molly Johanna Hayes, with an admirable disdain for pandemics and crises, arrived safely into the world, an uncertain, frightened world to be sure, with no solutions in sight to the relentless march of the virus. But Molly’s arrival brightened up my world no end. In the space of three weeks, I had acquired a second son in law(ok, son -in -law in waiting) a greyhound and a granddaughter. The miracle of new life and a new title energised me and in a state of utter euphoria, I passed the word of my elevation to grandmother status to family and friends, waking most of them in the process as the dawn broke outside my window.
As I fairly bounced into school that Thursday morning, the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was already preparing to deliver his speech closing down the country and its schools. When I left room 11 after my last class of the day, I had no idea then that it would, in fact, be my last ever class, my last ever day as a teacher in Coláiste Treasa, a wonderful school with such a great staff, especially my own English Department with whom I had enjoyed so many laughs over the years. And all this brings me to the Momentous Decision!
I had been toying for a while about taking early retirement and leaving Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear, Romeo and Juliet et all to fend for themselves. I had been cosseting them for far too long. It was time for them all to stand on their own two feet. I felt in my bones it was time for me to leave the stage, thankfully I didn’t make an ass of myself like Lear did when he decided to jump ship and I didn’t do a Macbeth on it either and decide to murder the principal on my way out.
The decision was made easier by having been offered a contract for my novel so I was able to placate one of my friends who anxiously asked ‘But won’t you be bored with nothing to do?’
‘No,’ I told her, amazed that she could think such a thing. ‘I’ll be writing, bonding with my granddaughter, hill-walking with my friend and fellow retiree Nora, having socially distanced coffee and cakes with friends, planning the Kanturk Arts Festival, reading the massive pile of books by my bedside, watching films and…’ and besides, I can honestly say I’m never bored. I can quite happily state at a wall for an hour and do absolutely nothing, well, except eat a packets of Scots clan or chocolate digestives.
If it were done when it were done, then it’s well it were done quickly I thought of Macbeth and the decision he had to make and the point he made about acting quickly. So my mind being made up on the Sunday, I emulated Macbeth and found I had retired myself by the following Friday. It was a momentous decision, difficult but it was the correct one. Here I must thank Polonius, from Hamlet, for his invaluable advice and the spur needed to boot me off the stage as it were. This above all, to thine own self be true and thus it follows as the night the day, that then thou canst be false to any man.
The MomentousDecision was followed by the great high that is the publication just last month of my first novel, Love in the Shadows, available on Amazon, both as an e book and paperback and the articles and stories that were published this year in various magazines such as Cork Holly Bough and Ireland’s Own. There is also the coffee table book of photographs and short stories undertaken in collaboration with my friend, digital photographer, Viv Buckley. We intended releasing it in September but like most other events this year, it had to be postponed due to Covid. Hopefully, we will be able to launch it in the summer or autumn of 2021. December 2020 also saw the final print run of my short story collection Cry of the Curlew and Other Stories sell out and I’m truly grateful to all of you who bought the collection and made it the great success it was.
And finally, finally, the great blessings that are my family and close friends and the love and support that are always available to me in whatever situation I find myself in – and there have been a few over the years😂.
And now as I stare at the blank page that is 2021, I pray that the vaccine will be available to all of us in the country as soon as possible. In the meantime, let us be sensible, responsible and look after each other so we may be spared the spectre of contracting the virus.
A warm, happy and safe New Year to you all.
Go mbeirimid go léir beo ag an am céanna an bhliain seo chughainn.
PS: If you find the number of highs is incorrect and it should be two or maybe four rather than three, just remember I was an English teacher, not a maths teacher and say nothing!