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A Portlaoise story in a time of Covid lockdown

A Portlaoise resident writes that every town has a story to tell, and the Covid-19 tale will not be epic or glorious or even sensational, it is a tale about ordinary people straining through extraordinary in a harsh time.

coronavirus covid-19

Market Square Portlaoise during the Covid-19 lockdown. PIcture: Marcin Malek

It begins with the conviction that the whole world lies at our feet and that the proverbial wolf from the brothers' Grimm fairy tales has grown old and is no longer a threat to us.

So, we lived in blissful ignorance until one December day, when suddenly wolf came out of the woods and showed us his fangs. We called him Covid-19.

And that’s where the fairy tale ends, and everyday life happens.

At the beginning it was a shock, in some cases close to panic, numerous people stormed the shops and left all their wages there.

Fortunately, after a few days, we managed to overcome fear, and everything is back to normal.

Well, almost everything. Our wallets capacity significantly decreased, while stocks of toilet paper enormously expand.

Some of us also bought military-grade gas masks resistant to all sorts of threats including biological agents and, most importantly, radioactive contamination!

We got to wear latex gloves and face masks; the only problem is with the antibacterial disinfectant gel. Sometimes it seems to me that people just drank it, which is why it is still unreachable.

We had to confine ourselves within four walls of our houses and apartments. Children have been forced to leave school and undergo self-isolation.

Adults had to change into teachers and introduce a remote learning regime at home.

Many businesses went to temporarily shut down, while others had to adapt, which often put a smile on the faces of the weary customers.

Some of us had to work a little bit more than others – doctors, nurses, carers, Gardaí – all frontline workers, but also postman and delivery drivers.

We have been separated from loved ones; parents, nanas, grandpas, and sadly wolf took some of us to.

However, looking at the events from a slightly brighter side: now we have a lot of time to spare, and the only obstacle is our imagination.

Thus, we build, renovate, create, read, write, learn, cook, watch movies for which there was no time before. We keep up with sons and daughters, and we get to know each other as we never could afford before.

We walk, exercise, roam within 2 km of our confinement, and suddenly we realize something we ignored earlier - how we miss our borough!

With all its colours, shadows and greys, with all forbidden (just for now) wonders it has to offer. How we lack the hustle and bustle of all the places that we have not previously thought about.

Now we appreciate how strong we are bonded together. Me and my town… an extraordinary place that has something that cannot be expressed in words.

Other cities may be bigger, wealthier or modern. But Portlaoise makes you sense something different about itself.

Maybe it is its past? Surely, for some people it would be the future, in which they place themselves with their family and friends from the neighbourhood.

Or perhaps it is an odd but faint impression of something unknown, unpredictable, a gaze into a domain of apparitions and shadows, full of secrets and suppositions.

Whatever it may be, one thing is for sure – especially now, this place has the power of attraction like a magnet.

When it seizes you, you have no choice but to immerse yourself and let the current float you wherever fate commands.

Yes… there is a thing about this tiny spot on the map, a touch of beauty and austerity existing simultaneously at the same plane. That is what we see, what drives us to persist and to put our roots deeper and deeper, down to its core – love and devotion – no more and no less.

I see the town and its inhabitants as one living organism, a complicated network of connected vessels that cannot exist without each other. We are the bricks, foundation and the concrete that binds all together.

We have to acknowledge that we are making history right now. However, we also need to bear in mind, that day will come (and it will come quickly) when this, very same history will pass its judgement upon us, and there will be no excuses.

So, love where you live, stay at home, keep the distance, and prepare for a new and better world without the vicious wolf.

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