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Frank Coughlan: If there's one thing I cannot do, it's nothing



'Hollywood's pockets are full, but its soul is empty.' (stock photo)

'Hollywood's pockets are full, but its soul is empty.' (stock photo)

'Hollywood's pockets are full, but its soul is empty.' (stock photo)

I have nothing to do and all day, and every day, to do it. Which isn't good.

There's a range of reasons for this. Mostly because college, where I am a third-year mature, is still out until the last week of the month.

That's on top of a Christmas that seemed, as it always does, to last a few millennia, and the strict instructions laid down after an operation I had in mid-December.

There are only so many books you can read (two fictions and munching my way through a third course-related history tome), ho-hum dramas you can binge-watch or movie classics you can reboot.

Even now I've been advised I still shouldn't drive and while walking is encouraged, indeed compulsory, a long hike in the mountains would, literally, be a stretch.

So here I am, twiddling my thumbs and drumming my fingers. Just irritable and waiting for my life to start back up. But this experience has nudged me into recognising a few things and woken me up to the reality of some others.

Firstly, I'm not any good at standing or sitting still. My brain and body like to be off somewhere else. Anywhere really, neither is particularly fussy.

Having time to do things but no deadlines to meet is akin to psychological torture.

I prepared myself for these weeks of confinement but it didn't make it any more palatable.

The past week in particular, now that everyone else has gone back to living fruitful lives, has been a special sort of misery.

More scarily though it has jolted me into realising that when I finish with Trinity in the summer of next year I will have a whole lot of nothing scheduled for my diary for then or ever. Just a big challenging blank.

I spent more than 40 years in newspapers. I loved it all. Its excitements and unpredictability, the friends I made, the crazies I knew. Most of all I loved the job, though some might suggest I never got the hang of it.

Giving that up was hard, but there is always a time to move on.

It's simply a matter of acknowledging it. But the word retirement never entered my head and I flinched in its presence. Still do.

Study became my new career, Trinity my new community. It was a completely different experience though oddly familiar, in as far as I simply swapped a spent passion for an unexplored one.

So what to do when the college has run its course? This lay-off has taught me one thing at least: sitting around twiddling those thumbs won't be an option.

Life, hey? Always with the challenges.

Let me bow to the march of technology

I had a sort of gentleman's agreement with technology. I wouldn't pretend to understand it as long as it didn't pretend to understand me.

I have always found that those with the best grasp of the whole ever-wowing world of digital are those with precise, logical minds.

That is those who think things through methodically. The sort, in other words, who read instructions on boxes.

That was never me. Whenever I did DIY (I don't anymore) there were always a few bits left over.

I can only use technology after it has been set up for me and I get by, by dint of repetition, folly, chance and stupidity.

I just got an email from Google Maps informing me I walked for 533 hours, covering 1,709km over 322 days in 2018.

I had switched on my Location History, it seems. Don't know how I did, because I didn't know I could. Technology, it seems, understands me only too well.

Irish Independent