‘I’ve never seen anything like this in my 84 years but I’m not afraid’

Retired Limerick farmer misses seeing his family but is not obsessing over the virus

I’ve never seen anything like this in my 84 years. My father was alive in 1918. School pals of his, three of that family, lost their lives to the Spanish flu. I remember him pointing out to us where they lived.

I am a retired farmer, living alone in Athea, Co Limerick. I’ve lived on my own for the past nine years since my wife died. The funny thing about it is that you can get used to living alone. Living alone isn’t too bad; it’s the fact of being restricted. Not to be able to do my own shopping, to go to the supermarket, to go to the village. Not meeting people is the biggest strain for me. I find that difficult.

I miss my grandchildren’s company and their birthdays and visiting my family. I miss visiting my local pub once a week to meet people and to hear the news.

I get up at 8.30am and have breakfast. I do my tai chi exercises on YouTube every morning. I've been doing that for about five years now. I did a 10-week course in Templeglantine and kept it up. It's very gentle exercises with deep breathing. It stretches my limbs, and I feel my lungs are strong. I find it very relaxing.



I tune into the 10am Mass on the internet from Abbeyfeale. The church in Athea is closed and our priest is cocooning. Local people living all over the world are watching. The priest says it's very different to be preaching to an empty church, but we've adapted. We're all in it together. My prayers are that the scientists will find a vaccine soon. It amazes me that such a small organism can upset the whole globe. That fascinates me. Then I read The Irish Times online – the headlines, Pat Leahy, David McWilliams and Michael Harding.

A son and daughter do my shopping for me and bring me dinners. They leave them at the door and then sit outside and I talk to them through the patio door.

I walk around my son’s farm next door in the afternoon. It’s unusual not to be able to talk to anybody. I do some gardening. I mow the lawn. I’ve planted roses outside the house and a vegetable garden: cabbage, broccoli, red onions, lettuce and potatoes. They will be growing away now and hopefully the family can come to eat them in the summer months.

I have to keep a very safe distance from my son’s family as his wife is working on the health front line. That’s particularly hard because they are nearest to me. I can hear them playing football but I have to keep away. But it’s a great comfort to me to hear them shouting and I shout back. But I miss not being able to be beside them. They play on the trampoline outside my house and I throw packets of sweets out the window at them. My grand-daughter Alice is five and she advises me to keep away from everybody. She’s very strict.

Another daughter who lives locally is a nurse and I haven’t been able to see her in about eight weeks.

I’ve gotten into my car; maybe that’s illegal too. The battery had run down and I drove a few miles over the road, but generally I’ve been very conscious of keeping to the rules. Hopefully this will pass over. I’ve a feeling that for my age group it will be next year. I’m in the “vulnerable” group and I think my age group will be afraid for quite some time.

Another son who commutes to Dublin for work is now working from his home. I’ve been showing him and his family how to plant a vegetable garden, from a distance. He’d never done it before. We measured it out and he made the ridges. He is very enthusiastic about it. I kept my distance and showed him what to do.

I was on a current affairs discussion panel for a local radio station on Thursdays. It kept me in touch with everything and was good for my memory, but that has stopped. I found it a nice challenge and I miss it. I’m very active in the Tidy Towns too and that has closed down completely. We usually plant a lot of flowers around the parish but that’s on hold now.


Every Sunday night at 8pm, my seven children and 21 grandchildren do a quiz on Zoom. They are in Ireland, England, Germany and Australia. It's great to see everyone. It was Oscar-themed on Sunday and I wore a shirt and tie.

I think things are more peaceful now. We’ve been waiting for the cuckoo to come. She hasn’t come to Athea yet, though she has arrived in Abbeyfeale I believe. The furze bushes are in terrific bloom, they seem to be very outstanding this year.

I’m not afraid. I’ve never slept better than I’m sleeping now. It’s not worrying me and I’m not obsessed with it. I listen to the radio and current affairs. I telephone cousins in England who are my age and keep in touch with people and find out how they are getting on.

I think the Government is handling it well. It’s a difficult situation – people are getting a bit uneasy now because it is lasting so long, but the majority of people seem to be in favour of keeping it up until we have more control over it. I see nothing wrong with that. It’s very serious. It has killed a lot of people and thrown the whole world into chaos. I wouldn’t be in a hurry to lift restrictions at the moment. It’s hard on everybody, but it’s one year out of our lives and I think things will come right eventually.