Category Archives: Ecology

The Earth Dances

Thus, Shall we Dance

 

We shall dance, as the waters rise to sweep us under,

Clinging to one another as the cold creeps up.

 

As the fires near, burning all before them, we shall dance, locked in our final embrace, and thus they shall find us, as in the ashes of Pompey.

 

We shall dance, when the soldiers bang upon our doors, to take us away to the place nothing leaves except than screams and dead bodies.

We shall dance, to remember the disappeared, to hold their souls in our hearts, to follow their footsteps forward.

 

We shall dance the rains down upon the parched soil, the grass up into the sun. We shall dance the acorn out of its shell, the herds through their great circles,

We shall dance the great dance of the Earth, to the thunder and the birdsong, the cascade and the pulse of blood.

 

We shall dance our dirge to the tiger, the rhino, the great and diminutive wild brothers we have lost.

 

We shall dance to the Great Spirit, who sees all these deeds, all this destruction in the name of what you can not eat, what does not sustain, to sustain ourselves.

We shall dance, as we have done, for that is what we do. Thus have we always. Thus has it always been.

 

And if we live long enough, we shall dance upon your graves, and those of your ancestors, drumming them into dust for all this.

 

 

I wrote this poem during quarantine, when my family had a writing challenge to keep us entertained – we had to write something beginning with the phrase “we will dance” but in Spanish. I of course, wrote it in English and translated it for the zoom call! But it wasn’t quite the happy story everyone else wrote to cheer us up and pass the time.

But time passes, and little changes. Some things we want to change and some we don’t. And the things that stay the same seem to be the ones we want to change and those that do are sliding away from the wonder we have before us.

But we will go on.

The Lockdown Posts

 

While I was in my house for the duration, I posted a message every day on my personal facebook page.

Most had no photos, just text.

 

I am posting them all here for posterity… a little snapshot of two months using humour and faux complaints to entertain those who read my news feed…

 

I will try to add some of the photos for context. The links I sometimes attached are lost, as are the interactions of others – people’s replies on my news feed, which were fun.

 

I started at day 3 of our lockdown, which was Monday, after our schools closed on Friday and the kids didn’t go to school but stayed in their cousins’ and I took them home at 12. We were ready for a few weeks at home. It took a lot longer.

Of course, we didn’t get out back to normal after any weeks. But are slowly regaining our former freedoms. But we will be okay as long as we have the countryside.

 

Hope you have a few smiles.

 

(Day two – over that weekend…)

hope the hell someone shows this to Leo V. And Boris. we’ve only just shut down in Navarra, days later than we should have – and not even properly. still saying we can take students in school tomorrow… stupid people

 

 

(first post:)

from my vantage point of 3 days into lockdown, here’s some info you might find useful…
I have been to the stores twice. they are well stocked.
my family of 4 has gone through 1.5 rolls of toilet paper.

Stay home, but stay calm. Stay away from busy supermarkets.

 

(This was a post from my author page, with the intro..)

this will give us all a lot of time to think…

It’s day three of me staying at home because of the #coronavirus lockdown.
As I went for an now illegal run around the block this morning, I thought about book recommendations – seen a few requests on facebook.
well, I don’t know who has the copyright on The Diary of Ann Frank, but that book should be required reading for every teenager who’s home from school these coming weeks.
I’ve been to the Ann Frank house in Amsterdam. More than two years in that space gives perspective on our current crises and what we’re asked to do to help our families stay alive.
And for the single folks… About a Boy has some good tips on time management.

 

Day four of confinement.
When you calculate how much booze you need for your quarantine, don’t forget to include in your calculations the fact that your kids will be at home with you. Adjust accordingly.

 

(Day 5..)

Happy St Paddy’s Day to everyone from Locked Down Spain! We hope to use these masks for more than just messing when they let us out of our house at the end of this crisis. Meanwhile, it’s day five of our confinement – and the typical Paddy’s Day rain might seem to make it easier to stay inside, but it really doesn’t. Still, we have a tree to look at outside our window, and the distant hills… And I have a bottle of black barrel Jameson…
We’ll remember this Paddy’s day for a long time… no parades, no pints in the pub, but there is still magic and mystery in Ireland. Here’s a link to something you can read to yourself, or your kids.

Paddy's day.

 

Day 6.
You think you’ll be bored…. people will repost a million ideas of virtual museums and educational websites for your kids…
Yuu’ll be too busy to do half what you’d like to do.

Plus, if you have kids they’ll be using your computer for their virtual clases and downloaded lessons and you’d not even have time to attend to your own work from a distance, never mind watch a bit of Netflix.

 

Day 7. It’s my birthday.
The good thing about this is that I can easily avoid all the fuss about it, when I’m not a big one for being the centre of attention.
The bad thing is that there’s very few people to share the cake with, and what with the new rule saying we can’t even use the building stairwell for exercise, as it’s common space, never mind go outside, well, I’ll be adding extra insulin – and kilos!
Oh, and we’re about 4 toilet rolls into our supply….
if you’ve run out of paper books to ready already, why not buy an ebook or two? the best birthday present from afar is a reader’s review

 

 

Day 8 of staying at home…
Get a dog, they say, and you’ll get exercise.
They were right.
Now every time I see someone walk their dog past my window I feel my solidarity slipping away and envy creeping in.
Because walking a dog doesn’t have to have a destination, like going to the shop does, and there are no shops in the park!

 

 

Day 9 now. A full week since my kids left the house.
I always said that apartment living was great – for many reasons. But I’d love to have to mow the grass in my garden today! Or not mow, but play with the daisies.
I have a garden, 40 minutes away, which I hope to see after another week. I’m told the daisies are blooming there!

 

Day 10.
Tickles.
I’ve never tickled my kids so much and so often in their lives as in the last ten days.
It’s great exercise for a four year old and in times of doubt and worry and things on the telly they don’t quite understand, it’s an amazing therapy. So hug your kids – if you’re not isolating from them – but tickle them too.

 

 

Day 11. Hoping to see some shift in the curve soon.
Meanwhile, I’ve discovered why our mothers gave us so many chores to do back in the old days – it keeps the little gits busy for a few minutes, or even half an hour, during which you can actually do something useful! I’m even considering pretending there’s a run on dishwasher tablets as well as toilet rolls so they can wash and dry and put away!

 

Day twelve!
They say this is going to go on till the 12th of April now… That’s a long time if you think about it.
So we don’t.
We count toilet rolls – about 7 gone, but I really don’t count toilet rolls. Why would I – there’s plenty in the shops now.
We don’t count beers. But when I went shopping on Saturday afternoon there was a serious dent in the supermarket’s supply – only a few crates of San Miguel and of course lots of the fancy expensive beers we should also be drinking right now because if anything this has taught us is that life’s too short to skimp on good beer.

 

 

Day 13.

It’s amazing how fast the days go by, really. But the death count keeps going up, though we’re supposed to see a drop in infections now soon (everything is soon, but not soon enough). The police are having a field day fining and arresting anyone out without what they say is a good reason. One Ould Granda was buying speed for his granddaughter – well, we can’t argue with that. But one lad was arrested for going out to buy beer – apparently not a necessity (well, only if you’ve got wine and spirits left at home) and now they say you’ve to spend at least 30 euro at the shops to justify the trip. So no popping out for eggs unless you add a bottle of vodka or two to the list…
In my humble opinion the cops would be better employed helping out in nursing homes, which are in a terrible state from sick workers and lack of funeral home workers up to the task of dealing with the dead – which the workers aren’t supposed to touch, apparently.

 

Day 14.
There are many lessons to be learnt from this experience. Our children are teaching us one important one:
Accept the situation and make the best of it.
As long as you have your loved ones, all will be well.
One day at a time, take the time to smile.
The world outside will be waiting for us.

 

 

Day 15.
This crisis, like every crisis, reveals to us the Haves and the Have Nots.

in this case, it’s those who have a balcony from which to applaud the health services, versus those who don’t and so don’t appear on the news singing.

Those who have a south-facing window which gets some sun versus those who are giving their kids Vitamin D supplements after two weeks indoors.

Those who have computers and internet so their kids can do all their assigned work versus those who are lucky the government is putting some revision lessons on TV.

Those who have a flat where you can swing a cat versus those who are watching tv because the only place to sit down is the sofa and the only way to avoid arguments from being in each other’s faces all day.

 

 

Day 16.

And.. for the first time
in forever…

I don’t give a fuck about the clocks going forward.

 

 

day 17.
now we know why those movie characters in jail were always doing push-ups.
The smaller the place of confinement the greater the urge to exercise.

 

 

Day 18.
Despite the applause etc., some bitterness is showing through. Some finger pointing goes on without trying to consider special circumstances – reporting old couples going for walks together when one has Alzheimers and needs to get out, or complaining that some nuns were playing football on the TV, when they were in their own garden and members of a closed order who haven’t been on the street in decades, never mind ten days…
There’s a message going around that kids with blue armbands are outside because their autistic – just so that the hotheads and finger pointers won’t lash them and their parents out of it for showing their faces on the street like they’re conspiring to kill us all.
Take a breath, and pause to ponder – is there possibly a good reason these people are outside? Yes, there probably is.
Unless they’re teenagers snogging. Then definitely rip them a new one.

 

 

Day 19
Hamelin was a sad place.
Pamplona is almost as sad, but with some common sense, we could make the streets alive again.

 

 

Day 19. This shit sure does feel long now. Imagine how it feels to a 4 year old, or a toddler?

 

 

its day 21. yesterday I repeated 19.. shows how this thing is going!
anyway, today they brought the army into Pamplona.
Yes. The army.
I watched a patrol walk past my house. 8 men, in formation, looking around and up at the balconies.
I can’t see why they were walking down my street.
Ostensibly they’re here to help.
I don’t know how. I didn’t see them disinfect the bins downstairs. There are no old folks home on my street. Parking their trucks in the square where the children play isn’t going to help the kids get through this confinement any better, unless they’re going to volunteer to take our kids out for supervised walks to some green space.
All that I know is going to the stores now will involve being stopped by soldiers.
The residents of the city centre are not impressed by their arrival. Anyone who understands politics in Northern Spain will know why.
I fail to see how anyone in the government thought this was a good idea.
I’ve great respect for the army. They can help out a lot, when deployed properly. but as a Paddy, I have learnt about bad deployments. and a city (with no greenery to speak of inside the walls) under lockdown where people are already restricted from doing more than letting their dog shit and getting a loaf of bread once a day, is no place for army deployment.
But I’ll get back to Netflix now.

 

 

day 22. three weeks and they just announced 3 more – until April 26th.
Tired of watching how badly those supposedly working for us are doing things so shitily. There have to be more tests, yet I near from biologists that local governments won’t shell out a tenner to have people tested accurately, instead going for 17euro fast tests from China that only test for antibodies. They told us masks weren’t necessary, but we all knew that was just to stop us rioting in the streets because there were no fucking masks. We won’t get our kids back out in the sun and grass until things are organised right. And I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

 

 

Day 22. Sunday, wrote Mr Kipling…
I wonder how many other parents are thinking about faking symptoms in order to self isolate?

 

 

Day 23. Went shopping. Didn’t need bog roll because even with all four of us crapping at home we’re still only about 20 rolls in.
There are some shortages – people are taking my advice and drinking good beer, but there’s still lots of San Miguel despite everyone drinking at home rather than their local…
Cup-cake holders and other baking supplies are scant – but that’s my fault for not realising I could distract my oldest for hours by letting her have at with the kitchen.
only one minor incident with the microwave and a plastic bowl so far…

 

 

Day 24. Some unfortunate news from the UK,
and from Ireland…
People are already starting to get angry with others about them sunbathing or going to the beach. I’d advise everyone to be thankful for the permission to get out of their house in the first place and not invite the powers that be to start restricting movement more than necessary – they’ll be happy to oblige if it gets to that.

 

 

day 25.. the curve is starting, starting, to turn here. it’s still higher than I thought it would be after this long. No sudden drop after 14 days by any means. We’ll be inside another two weeks. But then, perhaps, we’ll get out. Doesn’t seem so long. Two weeks. no problem. we’ve done more than three.
And I might actually get some time to read since we’ve Easter Holidays!

 

 

Day 26
Newton had a nannie.
This is something any scientist worth the name has figured out in in this quarantine.
As for Shakespeare, well that lad might have written King Lear during lockdown for the plague, but he wrote a whole lot of other shit when he was allowed out and about, so we can conclude that he had a fecking nanny too. Or he had no kids.

 

 

Day 27?
This is going to be a lot longer than most Good Fridays.
Traditionally, I would scoff at Ireland having their pubs closed while here in Spain we can go for a beer.
Ireland started opening their pubs last Good Friday, so I stopped…
It was nice while it lasted, lads!
Here, meanwhile…
We don’t even have that crazy procession tonight – seems the pillowcases on their heads don’t let them avoid the physical distancing rules.

 

 

 

day 28. 4 weeks in. well, I don’t feel like I got a lot done in that month… read Gulliver’s Travels. Only travelling I did.
Reading The Shock Doctrine. Not happy reading, but important for the times we’re living and going to live.
Nearly edited a dystopian novella – adding some sentences relevant to our pandemic (it’s set in the future, of course) and… well, I suppose keeping the kids fed and watered more-or-less entertained while my wife tries to concentrate and also fulfilling my teaching workload counts too, right?
Oh, and we watched Tiger King and lots of news. too much news… not new news… stupid people telling us bullshit news.
what’d ya do in the pandemic Granda?
watched a lot of news, kid!

 

Day 29
Happy Easter!
As if any of us needs more chocolate.

But it could be worse…
Could be vodka.

Only kidding!

It’s vodka as well.

 

(there is no day 30, it seems…. Unless FB deleted it, like they deleted other content, conts.)
Day 31. A month.
I just want to point out that these old memes, from the old days (last month) said living ALONE… and in the friggin’ WOODS.

They never asked who could do it in their FLAT with stressed out spouse and bored/frustrated/worried kids who have to be homeschooled while you yourself will be working from home at the same time.

So, after my month, I think I deserve the Million Bucks!

that is all.

 

 

Day 32.
This is the part of the movie where they skip forward weeks or months, and come back when my quarantine beard is an inch longer (or I’m mad fit from all the zumba) without all the boring shite in the middle.

we could have a fluttering of the calendar, days falling away until mid May…

Or a montage.

Even Rocky had a montage…

 

 

Day 33…
This is not The Martian.

There is no fast forward.

We have to suck up every boring day of same old shite for however many years this lasts…

Today’s quibble:
I used to hate running.

Now I’d be happy to go for a run.

All my hate has been transferred to Zumba.

 

 

Day 34
So a couple of days ago Mariano Rajoy, the former president of the country, was filmed breaking the quarantine laws – out walking in his neighbourhood every morning as blatant as you please. This is the person who would have been in charge of this state of emergency if it had happened two years ago.
He sets an example, though, of how politicians, especially the right wing, could not give a fuck about us, or the rules they make us abide by. They really believe they are above us and the law.
We are the ones fixing this problem, by our sacrifices and they merely make life harder than it needs to be by their incompetence.

 

 

Day 35…
In the before time, I used to watch the part of the news where they talk about the stock market, and ask…

Who needs to know this?

The trends in the IBEX, FTSE, Ibex 100… that’s all just meaningless information to most of us.
It’s only relevant to a few lucky rich people.

Now, I ask myself the same question when they show the weather forecast…

 

 

Day 36…
You’ve probably noticed this by now everywhere, but it’s funny how when we were kids we had various chores….

One was to help put away the shopping after the weekly supermarket trip.

Another was we’d to wash, dry, and put away the dishes after dinner.

Now these two have multiplied by one another, and we’re washing, drying, and putting away the fecking shopping.

And we can’t even make the kids do it, much, either…

 

 

Day 37
we have positive news here in Spain… the govt. has decided to let us take kids outside for walks from next week. Kids who’ve not left the house (flats) for a month and a half.
They’ve yet to say exactly what time table and how far we can go, but they reckon between 10am and 12pm, less than 1km from home.

And yet, it was on the news that 60% of citizens reckon we should keep the kids inside…
WTF?
Who are these people?

 

 

Day 38.
A sad day in Pamplona. The festivals this year have been officially cancelled. We knew it was coming, but it’s a hard blow. It’s a lesson for us all that whatever we used to take for granted, and assumed would happen every year was really a luxury we should be grateful for the little things we still have.

ps, the clock counts down to 12pm on July 6th…
https://www.diariodenavarra.es/…/suspendidos-los-sanfermine…

 

 

day 39
Earth Day.
Well, fifty years on we can see a clear progress
in the wrong direction.
But this time now, is hopefully a wake up that all we have, and all we need, is the earth.
I see a lot of people who are not used to thinking outside the concrete box realise that going for a walk is the best thing they could ask for.
And today, despite the problems they and other migrants are facing, I saw the first swift of the season. Something that made my quarantine lighter.

The Little Alleviations

There are things that make this almost okay:
A kite fly past; the sight of storks soaring over
Distant river plain; bats, breaking out at twilight
Across the buildings; blackbirds warbling from
Rooftops, bursting forth louder than before due to
Absence of traffic drowning out twittering; blue tits
Appearing on balcony railings while waiting claiming
Arrival of swallows and swifts gliding above turtledoves.

 

 

Day 40. a “full” quarantine, as the bible says.
went to the doctors today (eye check up) and got to actually walk through town. So I took the route through the park and it was a beautiful sight!
The lawns haven’t been mowed in weeks!
I’m delighted.
The only things missing were kids, running and jumping and falling and hiding in the long grass, plucking and blocking dandelions.
I hope to hell they leave it like that for next week when the kids can get out.

 

yamaguchi 1

 

Day 41 (delayed)
sometimes the internet just doesn’t work.
And I wonder how people would deal with this if it happened back in the 80s.
Probably fine. We were used to being bored back then.

 

Day 42 (late, also)
It’s amazing how many stupid questions students still send after six weeks of this.
Sunday morning answering emails from Saturday midnight
And my doctor said, “on holidays,” when I told her I was a teacher the other day.

 

 

Day 43.
Finally got time to write this idea about lessons to be learned these days.

(a link to Lessons Learnt)

 

 

Day 44
The birds are singing more and louder in the cities now that the traffic has died down.
But by Jaysus, it’s still not the same as the chorus in the countryside.
A feast for the ears.

 

 

Day 45 (late again! I am as bad as my students!)
Since Sunday we’re allowed out for exercise. A freedom we truly appreciate.
Yesterday we went for a walk outside the village, through the country.
But to our surprise and disappointment, we found that in our absence, while we locked inside hoping spring was flourishing in blessed isolation, the local council had decided that the brambles and bushes along the field access paths should be cut back. In April.
Clearly in Spain there are no rules about not cutting hedges during nesting season.
The really stupid thing is that this area has a lot of erosion. Those walls of soil under the fields are only held up by the roots of the bushes and will crumble during the spring and summer storms if we get a good downpour.

We’re getting lots of storms this week, and I can only hope that new growth can cover the bare earth before it’s washed into the river.

 

 

Day 46.
Missed yesterday, but hey, you didn’t notice. and when you look back on this, it’ll all blur into one long weekend in your memory.
Anyway, I’m reading this book. It’s taking a long time because I’m so super busy (as I’ve already complained about.) I’m on the bit where both American and British Governments had inquiries to find out what the hell went wrong, who was responsible and how to make sure it didn’t happen again (which it didn’t until roll on roll off put profit over safety again)…
It’s an appropriate comparison to our current situation – dipshit businessmen in charge, (on both sides of The Atlantic) no thought for safety over profit, wilfully ignoring warnings, and even going gung ho, full speed ahead into the danger zone like they were fucking indestructible.
Except there’s a titanic – or two – going down every day now.
And at least in the Titanic, old folks were taken care of.

 

 

 

Day 47
It’s May Day, international worker’s day.
Many of us are at home, not working anyway. Some without pay.
But lots are out there, working away the same as every day these last two months.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could swap jobs for today.
If the delivery workers and amazon warehouse staff and nursing home care givers could stay home and the oil company executives and airline CEOs and cruise ship owners could take their place – not that they need anyone in charge right now.
It’d give the former group some time to practice lobbying the government for bailouts and subsidies and grants and interest free loans; which seems to be all the latter group are good for.
And then, perhaps, the front line workers, with the ear of the politicians, might get the decent wages, the worker’s rights, the PPEs that are actually needed to keep our society stitched together.

 

 

Day 48

Spain has allowed adults to go out for exercise for the first time in two months.
If you live in a town with more than 5k people, your windows are 6-10am and 8-11pm.
Smaller than that, you can go when you want.
In the before time, we had been hearing of the problem of depopulation.
However, that might slow down now.
Telecommuting is now much more viable, houses with gardens rather than poky flats without a balcony are a godsend to mental health in lockdown, open spaces mean you can avoid your neighbours – which is why we have an open timetable (and few visits by police to make sure you’re not walking in the field behind your house a few days earlier than the restrictions were lifted).
I think this pandemic will make many reconsider rural living.

these are what I woke up to today…. first from my window, second the wall of our garden, when I went for my jog. viva the countryside!

website 11

 

website wall

 

 

Day 49
I have still not had to buy more toilet paper.
I have had no problem buying more beer and wine.
Whiskey levels are still looking good.
But I was running low on one vital item… TEA Bags.
Irish tea bags.
In the before time, my parents would have been visiting me here this weekend and resupply me, but of course, that trip didn’t happen.
However, fear not!
My brother and sister-in-law have sent me a care package!
I got tea bags and Tayto crisps (yeah, I was hoping for King, but don’t tell them that) soda bread mix, Keanes crisps, AAAAND a packet of Cadbury TWIRLS!!!
Hurray for them, and for the post office.
It really feels like being in prison now!

 

 

Day 50
After having classes with all my school groups, and chatting, I have discovered something I kinda guessed at, but was hoping would not be true…..

Nobody took the opportunity of the last 7 weeks to read a book they might not have read otherwise.

Those who read, read some more.

Those who don’t read played a shit load more video games.

 

 

Day 51.
They say we will have school opening in September with half the kids in class. That means kids have to rotate, one day on one day off, or something like that.
However it turns out, teachers are going to have to reinvent their classes again.
And the government better shell out for free internet access and laptops for all students,
Because if I am spending my life correcting work from off days, like I am spending it now, as kids send in work days and weeks late.and I have to keep sending messages and mails to ask them where their work is, and report to tutors for kids MIA, I will come down hard on the kids who’re not keeping up their end of the bargain.
There will be no excuses of “I had to share my computer with my little sister.”

 

 

 

Day 52

If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.
They say.

Today I have nothing to say.

(Here I posted photos I’d taken in the village.)website 7website 6

 
Day 53
I have nothing to say today, either.website1

Some more photos…
Day 54

How often to we look down and notice the struggles that go on below us?
How often do we consider just how small are our troubles in the context of the world?

website 5

you have to zoom right in to see the struggle ensuing.

 

Day 55 (late again, but god I’m busy!)
Interesting article about the impact of having a garden or not in the Financial Times.
We need to get ourselves, and especially our kids, out into the greenery, however we can.
Here are a few photos of some poppies popping up in some barley, a paddock so full of orchids I had to pick my steps to avoid stepping on them, and the victims of the drying ponds (it rained last night, but too late for many) some of which I rescued and put into a little pond I made out of a plastic tray.

website 4website3

 

website2

 

Day 56
This is the last day of our confinement.

Tomorrow we can go to small shops, bars and visit friends and family – all within our province of Navarra.

I’m going nowhere… it’s Monday, so I’ll be chained to the computer as usual.

But things will be different… A birthday party in the village can be celebrated by all the kids, since there are fewer than ten of them here!

Parents will watch from a safe distance, and wash everyone before and after!

It’s a new kind of life, but it’s life.

 

 

(The final post, more or less….)

 

A study of the Spanish population shows that only around 5% have gained immunity from Covid 19.
It’s going to be a loooong road, folks.

 

 

 

 

We continue on still, with restrictions being lifted slowly, but we won’t be going back to normal. Ever.

But we will go onwards to something new.

 

Cloud Impressions

clouds 3Thoughts on Clouds.

 

There are many useful words

To describe pre-precipitation atmospheric condensation

Or as we call them, clouds.

Precise nomenclature of

Scientific phenomena,

Predicting what weather to expect:

Stratoculnimbus, cumulocolumbus, cirronimbulus,

 

No matter what construction,

None suffice

To describe

A scene

Of scudding shades of purple and blue and white,

Whorls and wisps and fluffy tufts,

Grey layering over the landscape like heavy cream,

High, hazy hovering, herringbone brush strokes:

 

Thus do poetic panderings, pattering,

Find themselves equally insufficient.

 

Nor would a photo, nor even painting

Do any justice            .

Nothing works as well as our unspoken

Constructions, sometimes,

 

So we simply suffice with stopping,

To stand, and stare, and smile.

 

 

clouds 2

Learning Lessons

 

The last few days have been busy with schoolwork. The central government and local governments have been trying to figure out how to organise the end of the school year.

Some people want every student to pass. Some want kids to go to school in July.

The instructions the dept. of Education have given schools are so vague they’re like the bible – you can interpret it any way you want. We have to decide and defend what we decide to do. To anyone who gets their back up if things aren’t the way they want. Usual shite.

We are trying to decide now, how many percent each term gets, how much up or down a kids grade can go if they don’t hand in the work we’re doing now …

But, really, there are more important things.

They’ve only now figured out how they are going to organise letting our kids out to go for a walk, to feel the sunshine on their faces, to feel the breeze on their skin, to look up at the sky and clouds, to see the trees already in leaf and flower, to run and jump and roll in the grass. Compared to that, who really gives a toss about their grades?

This is the hamster wheel.

They want us to keep worrying about the things they tell us are important, keeping up, getting ahead, cramming our days with lessons and assignments for fear others will leave us standing and we’ll loose out in the rat race.

It also stops us from pausing and thinking, what is important in life? All the consumerism and getting bigger cars, or seeing our loved ones, going for a walk?

There were paediatrics and psychologists on the TV the other day, saying kids are fine inside for a few more weeks. That they’re adaptable.

Well, that’s as maybe. Kids in refugee camps adapt to life there, but that doesn’t mean they’re not profoundly and negatively affected.

I fail to see how in 2020 these experts haven’t read about the need for kids to experience nature, to throw sticks and stones in the river, to climb trees, to pick flowers and chase pigeons, to dig (mud or sand) and build imaginary castles. To follow, and perhaps squash, ants, to interact with the world around them.

Kids who do this are much happier than kids who only see concrete and streets and screens.

We need to rewild our kids, and keeping them cooped up has been a step backwards.

Worrying about how to decide who’s passing or failing because they missed out some weeks of school is a disservice to kids, when compared to wondering what they’ve learned about life – what they’ve learned about helping in the home, being nice to one another and their family, if they’ve read books they might not have had time or inclination for otherwise. We should wonder if children have been able to use this pause in normal life to see how unnecessary some of our normal life is, how easily we take things for granted, when they actually are the fruits of many labours, trials and sacrifices (like having a public health service and unemployment payments) in the past, of their own family, of themselves now.

It’s been a few weeks. They can make up all this over the next few years without any problem. Hell, the government effectively took weeks off the school year by changing the repeat exams from September to June in the last three years. Perhaps they can fling that great idea out the window in light of this situation?

It’s not as if the Spanish curriculum wasn’t already overloaded with too much information to memorise and not enough time for understanding.

The government has a responsibility to make sure our education system works for everyone, true. They also have a responsibility to make life – not “normal”– acceptable, worthwhile, enjoyable and beautiful for us and our kids.

That’s why we have public parks and gardens, playgrounds and ensure natural amenities like riverbanks and beaches are clean and healthy to visit.

When asked about taking kids to grass, one government spokesperson said it was better not to, because cats can get coronavirus and might have shit in the grass.

I shit you not.

Where are the feral cats going to have got coronavirus from?

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Long grass in the local park. Perfect for kids to get back to nature rolling around in. Notice absence of feral cats.

Denying green spaces to kids has been necessary, but the depravation of those, in my opinion, is more detrimental than the deprivation of 6 or 8 hours a day sitting in a desk listening to me and my colleagues talking about the world, however interesting we make it.

If the government wants to ensure that every kid can get their required education while we are going through this crisis, well, ensuring every family has enough money to buy a personal computer, and have decent internet access, would have been nice prior to this.

Decent wages and proper housing policies will go a long way to making everyone in society more prepared and able to adapt to these crises, and I say that in plural because this is neither the first nor last crisis to be dealt with.

We will spend the next month teaching the bare essentials of the courses. The minimum content so that kids can continue in September with the next year’s course without holes in their knowledge. I can’t see why we don’t trim down the course for every year.

As for grades. Well, I’m finally giving quizzes where the points aren’t collected. They are just for the kids themselves, their parents, and me, to see if they understood the material, what they had problems with, and what they should try to revise. The numbers 5, 6, 7 or 8 out of 10 aren’t so important. Everyone will go on to learn more stuff next year. The way it used to be.

My own kids won’t be going to school in July. They’ll be in the village, listening to the birdsong they can’t hear now, running in a garden instead of the hallway, plucking flowers they can’t now see, rolling in grass rather than the floor, looking at the clouds horses and dogs and cats and birds rather than the TV all day – doing puzzles only because they want to, and not because I’ve turned off the telly on them, reading a book in sunlight and not inside.

A delayed St. Paddy’s Day post…

I started writing this last week, but incredible as it might seem from quarantine, I’ve been crazily busy in my little box!

so here’s what I wrote,

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone

It’s a strange one. Hopefully just a blip on our normality, one we’ll remember for being the odd one out rather than the first year of a few way of doing things, a new way of life.

It’s a day to think about all the Irish around the world – which in turn makes us think of all the other migrants, emigrants and immigrants of every other country and culture that venture out into new lands and mix and mingle to make a more united world.

Some of those would like to be home now. Because they don’t know if they’ll get home soon, or when, or if ever.

And there might be loved ones they’ll never see again. Some who won’t be there when this is over, and whose last goodbyes we won’t be able to attend, either in the hospital or over a grave.

That’s a hard thing to say, though everyone is thinking of it – and if not, well, they’re really not aware of what we’re facing here.

And that reality of death should drive home to us – and definitely drive us home, where we all need to be right now, staying a good distance from those outside our immediate family/friends circle with home we’re sharing air and surfaces – the important things in life.

These are those same friends and family, both whom we can touch and not right now.

The simple things we never think of, like simply going for a walk.

Fresh air, exercise.

Sunlight.

The sight of a tree, of a sparrow, a butterfly.

A smile from a stranger, a neighbour we’ve never talked to, the cashier at the supermarket.

 

And the unimportant things. Like hedge funds. We need hedgerows, not hedge funds, someone said.

We could simply stop trading for a few weeks, and we’d all be better off.

If they’ve closed the bars, and the shops, why not the stock exchange? How vital is it, really? What’s needed now is work, willingness, good faith and a calm comportment. Not overabundant in Wall Street.

 

Meanwhile we’re all inside, life is busily going on outside without us, glad for our absence. Songbirds can be heard now the traffic has gone down, the air is cleaner – for those blessed with a dog and an excuse to get out, but also for the rest of us with windows open to the spring – and I can only hope that the park maintenance has been reduced to unnecessary and the personnel redeployed to cleaning tasks (the street cleaning machine still trundles down past our house first thing in the morning though I doubt there’s much rubbish to pick up) so the grass and wildflowers can grow a little more unruly and insects can have a boon from our misfortune.

I only know that the first place my children and I will visit when we’re allowed out of our flat will be the park, to run in the grass and fall down in it and pick daisies and blow dandelion heads.

Till then, we’ll survive on our houseplants and fish tank and the tree outside the window and the birds that visit it.

Paddy's day.

 

And the knowledge that every day we stay inside the air quality improves, planes stay on the ground, and people realise they can survive perfectly well without buying plastic trinkets and clothes to fill their closets and that the water in the tap is good enough without having to fight over bottled water.

 

Stay safe, stay home, stay well.

 

Suddenly Spring

Suddenly Spring

 

How quickly it comes, now, this thing called spring:

Crocuses suddenly splatter bank in violet and blue

Blackbirds burst out with twilight tunes as

Bats trawl back and forth for rising flies proving

This apparent death of winter weather is true.

 

Considering I was sledding in a village near where this photo was taken yesterday on this very day last year, I only hope a blast of snow doesn’t kill the flowers unfolding, nor catch the bats too early out of hibernation.

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolution?

I’m sure some of you have made resolutions. Many of you might have decided that it’s pointless. But for anyone wondering what you could do to improve your life, just decide to get out of the city more often – once a week if you can. I guarantee you’ll feel great!

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Walk on the poppy side of the line, of course!

 

Sleepless in Fields

 

Zipping round town, ticking off lists, picking up kids,

Checking inboxes, replying to inquiries, meetings and

Meeting deadlines leads to lying down dead Friday night

Rather than revelling in the darkness inside or out.

 

Yet, rising in the wee hours, Saturday, in the woods

Ere dawn, a weekend in fields breathing walking, stalking,

Hiking, biking, till Sunday last light leaves us feeling more

Energetic Monday morning than the longest lie in let.

 

New Year

Happy New Year everyone.

2019 was a stressful year.

2020 might not be much better.

But here’s some advice to keep you going.

Remember this….

Best Medicines

 

The best medicines are, in order:

1 Sleep

2 Laughter

3 Sex

4 Alcohol

5 Hugs from kids (or animals if you’re stuck)

6 Paracetamol

7 Tea

8 Fresh air outside the city

9 Diet Coke

10 A view of hills or mountains.

 

You might have your own order, but you won’t go far wrong when life is shite. Be careful with 4 and 6 of course!

You’re all adults out there…

 

Free Audios of Chapters of my Novels

For anyone who’d like to hear the first chapters of my novels, they are freely available at the link below, or just clicking HERE.

https://fidbak.audio/davidjo’brien

So far there are chapters of the three parts of the Silver Nights Trilogy, and of The Ecology of Lonesomeness.

I plan to add the first chapters of my other novels soon.

And they’re read by the author, too, so you will get to hear what I sound like in real life – or remind yourself of my strong accent if you know me already!

Enjoy!

And please, feel free to leave a comment – or a review of the books!

 

 

 

Winter Poem

Closing up Camp

 

Fish flash lethargically argent in the creek,

Creeping upstream, gleaning the last

Of the caddis flies until torpor takes them.

 

Sun beams golden in glowing leaves but slants

Lower now, more weakly heating us, huddled

On the morning porch hugging our mugs.

 

We don’t swim before breakfast, only

Paddle after our afternoon nap, picking black

And other berries to boil jam and packing

Pumpkins for the car; chopping lumber

 

For the evening fire still keeps off falling

Chill, but within weeks we will give in to

Winter’s grip and slip away to the city.

 

Closing shutters against storms and snow,

Emptying water tanks and pipes from icing,

Clearing closets of anything attracting rodents

Or racoons and slowly strolling round the

Leaf-strewn lawn, taking one last long look

Out across the fall-reflective lake, then forsaking.

 

Still, thinking of spring keeps back sadness,

Slipping through seasons until suddenly

It’s our last, and we must shut up for good,

Or have it opened sadly in our absence,

Our passage through camp just a forest path.

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I write this back in September, thinking of the camp of my friend Tamir, who would have turned 60 a few days ago. I don’t have many photos of his summer place in autumn, but I am sure right now it’s deep in snow and the lake is starting to freeze over till springtime. Thus is life, as long as we still have springtime. And memories that shine like sunlight to keep us warm meanwhile.

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