Somehow, I always knew that being surrounded by loved ones for extended periods was bad for your health, but here we are with the confirmation of same. There is a great irony in the fact that so many of the symptoms of Covid-19 are the same as those you feel after about 48 hours trapped with so-called loved ones - sore throat from shouting at them, headache from them shouting back, and cabin fever well past boiling point.
We thought Storm Emma was a painful experience, as we were trapped in each other's company for three days, but at least then we had snowpeople to fashion and snowball fights to escalate. Now we just have each other and a fear of the outside world.
It started well - on the first day there were arts and crafts, story time, baking, and actual effort being put into our parenting. By day two we realised that this was unsustainable and that teachers and childcare workers should automatically qualify for canonisation. By day three, I was ready to snap - it was Groundhog Day, an endless loop of ham sandwiches, laundry, terrifying news bulletins and counting rolls of toilet paper like a scatological Silas Marner, because if this thing was going to be our undoing, then by god we were going to have the cleanest arses in the morgue.
Pretty soon we had all the supplies we needed and were simply stuck in with each other, with no real reason to go out. It proved to be quite the valuable stress test on how we function as a family, like an episode of Lost In Space where Robby the Robot sighs wearily while counting down the clock to 6pm so he can crack a beer. But it felt nice to be together, because we were scared. What started as a bit of eyebrow raising over the hysteria in the jacks' roll aisle soon became the realisation that this was not a drill, this is a pandemic, and polishing our backsides wasn't really going to save us.
I can understand the people who flocked to cafes - it wasn't just about getting out, or living normally, or ignoring the best advice of medical experts; it was about being around other people. There's a scene in I, Robot where they question if the androids are becoming sentient because they stand close to each other when left alone, or why some seek the light if left in the dark. It's a bit like that - we are a herd after all, and a need for other people is written into us. I mean yeah, all those people living, laughing, and loving over their frappucinos are probably doomed, but I can understand why the giant shaved lemmings did what they did. There is a comfort in togetherness.
Besides, it is tricky enough to actually avoid other people. I discovered on my few trips out that it is quite the challenge to avoid the rest of society, or, as my wife now calls them, 'the infected'. But I had to get out as I was starting to understand why Charlize Theron's character in The Road just headed out into the apocalyptic landscape rather than spending more time with Viggo and the glum kid. Frankly, there is only so much Netflix you can consume before you think, yeah, I'll take my chances with the killer plague if it means I don't have to listen to some random YouTuber begging for likes.
So we wandered lonely as a cloud of the immunosuppressed o'er vale and hill, only to find that at every remote and secret spot we went to, others were there already, politely exasperated at our arrival.
Eventually we found a quiet woodland path that we had mostly to ourselves, so we walked along in silence and wondered what's next - economic collapse, climate meltdown, annual pandemics. It feels like the planet is gearing up to finally shrug us off and get on with its journey in peace. Who could blame it?
Paddy's Day was spent with a brief moment of contemplation about staging a mini parade in the house for the kids, but after careful consideration and despite the fact we had enough toilet roll innards to fashion an impressive tractor chassis, we decided to do what we did for all the quarantine period - just watch TV, continue fattening the curve by eating cake, and do that most Irish thing - endure and survive.
Health & Living