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Cocooning has become the norm for Philip

Having isolated for some weeks, he knows it's not over yet

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Philip getting some fresh air in his garden

Philip getting some fresh air in his garden

Philip getting some fresh air in his garden

Award-winning journalist Philip Nolan, who has an underlying condition of diabetes, has been cocooning alone in self isolation in his North Wexford home for just over five weeks now during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When it all began for him on March 12, he acted fast when he knew that from then on he'd be physically shutting himself off from the outside world for the foreseeable future, but he did not find the concept daunting.

'On that Thursday morning I went up to Gorey and made a will. At that stage I thought to myself, you just don't know. In my mind there was every possibility I already had it at that stage. I just didn't want to leave a mess behind for my family.

'After that then I went to Tesco. I didn't go mad and panic buy but I bought enough basically to have a month's worth of dinners that I have in foil trays in the freezer. Most of that food is still there.

'I always figured it would be for a long time from the very start, but I've kind of convinced myself to take it week by week, which is really important. Realistically I could be here for another two or three months, but I don't want to think about that in those terms.

'What made it easier for me was the idea that it was all happening in spring. If this was November and we were heading into darker evenings and colder days and I couldn't get out of the house and into the back garden, that would really upset me in a way that this doesn't'.

Joking that he might finally find time to work on a tan, Philip is working from home as a writer, something he has done for the past 14 years.

His popular column in the Irish Daily Mail recently spoke about Philip's own fears of outsiders coming to Wexford to take in the sun.

The title was 'We are quiet, resilient and safe, and can stay like that, so keep away' and Philip spoke about his love of Wexford, having moved down full time over ten years ago in 2009.

From his cocoon, he pleaded with fellow Dubliners to stay put so that everyone could stay safe amid fears from locals in the run up to the Easter bank holiday weekend.

'I was expressing my anger at my fellow Dubliners, and I genuinely am angry still. They were told to stay in place and they should have done that. I'm acutely aware that I'm judging people as I'm driving up and down to the shop weekly in a Dublin registered car, so people probably think I'm a recent blow in when I'm not. But over the bank holiday weekend, there was a perceptible increase in traffic, the noise of children playing. Although the holiday homes near my house were empty, but there were more people going up and down to the beach on the sunny days. I definitely noticed it, no question'.

Once a week Philip leaves his home to collect his shopping at the local shop, Brook's supermarket in Riverchapel.

'I email the shopping list and when it's done they ring me and I pay over the phone by card. I drive down to the shop, and pop the boot without getting out of the car and they fill the boot and close it and off I go again, it's great.

'I'm cooking a lot more from scratch now, which I wouldn't have necessarily done before this. I've always liked to cook, but I would have saved something elaborate for the weekend. Now because I have a lot more time on my hands, I've time to cook. My neighbours and the local shops are keeping me very well fed. If I need any basics from the shop up the road, when they close up in the evening they drive down to me and ring the bell, run away and leave the stuff on the step for me'.

Comparing and contrasting life in Wexford during Covid-19 versus what it could potentially be like for Philip to be living in Dublin, he's happy to find himself situated in the sunny south east.

'If I was living in Dublin now, I might be able to talk to more people physically from a distance as a lot of the holiday homes around me are empty. I don't see an awful lot of people on a daily basis, so I don't have anyone to talk to over the garden fence.

'But equally, I probably would be more nervous about going out in case someone was breaking the rules, or a jogger came too close. Nobody jogs around here so that's not a worry for me. The proximity of people to talk to would be better, but the proximity of too many people would be worse if that makes sense'.

Philip said that the low level of infection in Wexford brings with it a sense of calm.

'I'm hoping this pattern won't change, but the level of infection in county Wexford is incredibly low, one of the lowest in the country which is reassuring in itself. But because I've been down here for so long, it is that thing of having people around.

'I have an external post box, so my postman Gerry has a key for it and so do I. One week I missed the email to say my delivery had arrived, so Gerry saw that I hadn't taken the item from the postbox. He immediately went to one of the neighbours to ask if she'd seen me because he was worried about me, and that just doesn't really happen in Dublin.

'In normal times I'd be up at the shop everyday, and I'd have a chat and a natter at the counter. Here you just get to know people in a way that you wouldn't in Dublin. At one point I lived in Shankill, the person at the sandwich counter in the local Spar knew my name, but it wouldn't be much beyond that. Here you get to know about families, their holiday plans and everything else, you get it all here. When I do go to Brook's and I'm driving along, people salute you, it's just those lovely little touches of living in a semi-rural community'.

Philip said that he is finding comfort in his home set up as well.

'Realistically, if I would be in Dublin I'd be living in an apartment rather than a house. Having the house here makes a huge difference because I've a dedicated office and I can psychologically disengage from work the minute I leave it. I never work at the kitchen table, I work in the office and the rest of the house is leisure. I probably wouldn't have that if I lived in a one bedroom apartment in Dublin.

'But I'm really missing the social aspect of my job, and the social aspect of my family life. I write about cars and travel, so this is the longest I've been in Ireland for a duration for quite some time.

'My sister and brother are in Dublin and I've another sister in the UK. We do the Zoom thing and Houseparty and all those things, but the one thing that I'm really missing is a hug. I'm sure this is the same for everyone who lives alone, but I miss the hugging and kissing aspect of family life.

'For work I would be in Dublin once a week or be on trips, there's a gang of motoring journalists who I'd see very frequently and I'm really missing that'.

Thinking ahead to the future, Philip explained that he is not fearful of it.

'I'm not by nature a scared person. If you give me something that I have to, I'll commit to it 100%. When I was told I had diabetes I immediately just put my mind to it and lost five stone. I just went for it.

'There's only one way to deal with a problem and that's to confront it, so I kind of feel the same way about this. While it seems like the world has spun out of control, I'm very much in control of my own survival. I've only me to worry about, nobody comes in or out of my house, I don't go indoors anywhere else.

'Any item that comes in to my house, I wipe down with dettol wipes, I take all the packaging off and tip it out while still wearing latex gloves, I throw all the wipes and gloves away and then I wipe everything down again. I'm not obsessive, but if you follow a ritual it does make life easier. It's that feeling of being in control.

'If I've any fear at all, it's that without a vaccine I can't see my life going back anytime soon to anything resembling normality, that's my biggest problem of anything really.

'I would be religious about getting the flu vaccine every September, but I think Simon Harris is right when he says we might be socially distancing for a long time. I can't see myself ever being out until a vaccine is available and I think this is going to be around for quite some time.

'Life has changed for all of us, and for me especially it's going to be a tough year,' he said.

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