For the last few months of this pandemic, my world has been shrunk to 5 kilometres. It’s not just me, it’s been the case since Christmas for everyone in Ireland. (In theory, at least). Now that our Covid radius is going to expand beyond 5km after April 12, I’ve realised the number 5 has actually defined my life in many ways.
There are 5 of us at home. Four humans and one dog. That’s 5 living beings, each of whom needs to be fed, clothed, cleaned, exercised, entertained, and kept in line.
The house is small – smaller than it’s ever been – with just 5 rooms in which each of us can be alone. Two kids doing their school day, two adults working on their laptops, and the dog sitting with whomever looks most likely to next go for a walk.
5 days a week we adults are working, though that often blurs into 7 days. No-one I’ve met can switch off at 5 o’clock. Certainly not my husband, an academic who’s never understood the concept anyway.
5 hours of schooling a day, that’s what the kids have been doing on average. For 5 days of the week they’ve attended school through a screen, sitting on their legs twisted under them, pyjama bottoms sometimes worn below the presentable jumper. This lockdown has been a bit easier as they, and the teachers, had a chance to adjust to it, and the social connections have grown a little stronger.
And after school and any homework are done – there’s about 5 hours of leisure. But what is leisure for them now, if it doesn’t include a screen? It doesn’t seem involve them taking out one of the 5 bikes sitting out in the garden. It’s often being told to take the dog for a walk on their own – 5 minutes at least, c’mon. Before the pandemic, our younger girl was playing 5 sports a week – as you can do when you’re only 11. All of that’s been on hold, while her skills have been put on ice.
She had just over 5 months of being physically in school during 2020. As in, sitting at a desk beside other kids and being led through fascinating learnings and challenges and curiosity through the superstar that is an Irish primary school teacher, running around the yard, kids teaming up and learning about life through companionship. Thankfully that has started back again in the last few weeks and we’re all the better for it.
My older daughter, a secondary student, will soon be pulling out her school clothes again, including the 5 mandated uniform masks they got in September. She’s starting to look forward to seeing her friends and moving amongst her peers, but it’s an awkward setup for a difficult age. Getting the news, about 5 weeks ago, that the Junior Cert is cancelled has lessened the stress.
I’ve been incredibly lucky with the outdoor world I have within my 5km. Best of all, I have the sea, which I’ve never loved as much. I’ve learned to visit it in the morning or in the dark evenings when thousands of other Dubliners who yearn for it are safely back home and not spreading their 99-and-coffee laden breaths in a viral cloud over our heads.
5km also gets me to my Dad’s house, making it that bit easier to manage this last year of spending good times with him and caring for him. We’ve seen about 5 consultants in about as many hospitals for his various conditions, and while we’re immensely grateful to not have been touched by Covid, life and sickness continue in the vacuum of different debilitating cocoons. His vaccine is now complete, which will make his world open up that bit more – when more things to do also open up. That is a blessing.
My 5km lets me reach my office building, which I’ve been able to use sometimes over the year, taking dominion over the four empty floors with its discarded post-it notes, forgotten cardigans, fossilised plants and the sanitising stations still unused by my 80-odd colleagues all still happily working from home in other parts of the city and country. At my lovely big desk, I find space I can’t find at home, either physically or in my head. And I feel ever grateful to have a job and enjoy my work.
We’ve been lucky to be within easy reach of 5 decent parks where our dog (our lockdown lurcher) gets a good stretch and we’ve gotten to know some other doggy people: if I’m honest, that’s been the height of our socialising and meeting new people in the last year. I can count on one hand the number of friends I’ve managed to meet face to face all year.
We did make it to 5 new Irish counties last summer, when the 5km thing wasn’t hovering over us. (To be precise, we holidayed in two counties – Antrim and Sligo – and stopped in about 3 others on the way there, for coffee and petrol). Wonderful stays they were, as we might never have visited these beautiful places – our summers are usually spent visiting family or close friends in the 5 other countries we have called home. We don’t know when we’ll get to see them all again, but sure they’re all in the same situation too (apart from my sister in New Zealand who’s gotten away scot-free).
Netflix and all that? I’ve watched perhaps 5 different shows in the last year. The Crown will be on to season 5 by the time I catch up with season 3. But we have still worn out the couch with about 50 “family films”, board games, charades, and Zoom calls with folks abroad: precious time together, when it comes down to it.
Sure look, at least 5km has been better than the 2km we started with last March, though that didn’t last too long. The next thing the government is giving us now is county travel and a 20km radius. And after that… the sky’s the limit. Well, yes, the sky would actually be our limit then. Sin scéal eile – that’s another story.