I’m no fan of An Taoiseach Micheál Martin and I did think that the start of his speech was a bit corny. However, by the end I felt it was the best government speech I’ve heard for a long time. Maybe it was the message, maybe it was the nationalistic theme and maybe it was even the man himself but I have to admit I was a bit emotional by the end…
Spring is coming and I don’t know if I’ve ever looked forward to one as much as I’m looking forward to this one.
Humans are social beings and we Irish are more social than most.
Just like the previous two vaccines the booster I received yesterday knocked me on my arse!
I had the vaccine at 11am and by the afternoon I could feel the familiar ache in my upper arm. I had dosed up on Ibuprofen and Paracetamol as a preventative and headed for bed early with quite a sore arm and a slight ache in my legs.
I didn’t sleep well, a bit unsettled and awake shortly after 5am. I could feel an ache in my back and legs in addition to my arm and when I eventually got up at 7am to prepare for work I was feeling pretty tired. I showered and changed feeling rough but figured I could get through a day at work and then BOOM! a cold sweat hit me, sudden nausea and very faint to the extent that I was seeing stars. I had to call in sick to work and crawled back to bed scaring the crap out of Catriona in the process.
I stayed in bed sleeping off and on until lunchtime when I relocated to the living room, feeling slightly better but still rough. As the afternoon progressed I could feel the aches and tiredness gradually lifting and this evening I’m feeling much better. I’m back to just a bit of an ache in my upper arm, pretty much where I was at lunchtime yesterday and hopefully back to 100% in the morning.
I really hope this is the end of Covid vaccines as I’m getting pretty fed up with them by now…
I finally got around to getting my vaccine booster this morning. I was going to book an appointment at the vaccine centre for a day last week but then our health centre announced a vaccine day. I decided to delay for a week for the convenience factor.
My first two shots were in the official vaccine centre in Letterkenny with a full-on Health Service setup manned by nurses and supported by Irish Army personnel. Checking in, proof of ID, short medical questionnaire, queues and 15min recovery afterwards – easily 30-45min. Today couldn’t have been much more different. Owen and myself arrived a few minutes early for our 11am appointment and were back in the van within 5 minutes! It wasn’t exactly hello, sign that, here’s your card, sit down, jab and piss off but it was close. That’s the way it should be 👌
From the experience of others and from my own experience of the first two vaccines I’d decided in advance that today would be an easy day. However, with the weather being settled and dry I was itching to get outside by the afternoon so decided to go for an easy walk in one of the local forests.
I packed a bag and half way round I went into the trees to make and drink a hot chocolate. I found a great stand of larch trees and a perfect spot to set up my stove and sit for a half hour. The larches have all dropped their needles at this time of year which meant it was bright under the trees and felt much more open than usual in a conifer forest.
Just before Xmas I’d ordered an ultralight stove and stand from Speedster Stoves. It’s a little alcohol/spirit burner but I hadn’t tried it out yet so brought that with me today to heat water.
The great thing about making hot chocolate like this is that it is scalding hot at first and needs patience and time to cool down. This forces me to slow down, relax and enjoy the moment. In the woods this is amplified further by the peace and quiet. I’ve used gas stoves before but the alcohol stoves seem much more appropriate. They’re virtually silent and being that bit slower also add to the need to slow down.
Unfortunately not everyone understands the value of sitting still and enjoying the silence…
As I mentioned at the end of my last post I had my first Covid19 vaccination yesterday morning. I was very impressed with the setup. The vaccine centre in Donegal is in Letterkenny and using the buildings of the local college (LYIT). It’s an incredibly efficient process and feels comfortable and modern, reassuring really. It’s staffed by a mixture of Irish Army and HSE staff. I had a 10am appointment and I had my jab by 10:06 which is lightening fast as far as HSE standards usually go! The normal wait afterwards is 15min in a staffed waiting area but as I have a penicillin allergy I had to wait 30min. After that I was back in my car before 10:45 having spent less than an hour there. I have been given the Moderna vaccine so get a second dose in 4 weeks.
Afterwards I went to collect my bike. The mechanic hadn’t texted me as promised but the bike was ready. The shop was flat out and I only had a chance for a brief conversation but the two niggling rattles/creaks had been easily identified and fixed.
My plan had been 100km on a route out of Letterkenny and fairly hilly. I was concerned about over doing it though so decided to go home instead and do a shorter spin, closer to home and on familiar roads. I had hoped to change clothes somewhere in Letterkenny and this was proving difficult anyway with restrictions still in place in many areas. When I did get home and was getting my bike ready I realised that my lights and Garmin were still plugged into the charging dock upstairs so I would have had to come home regardless!
I took the opportunity to get some errands done on the way home and spent almost an hour chatting to my neighbour so it was after 2pm before I rolled out. It was just on the right side of chilly and a bit breezy but my route would have a tailwind for a lot of the exposed bits and be sheltered for most of the headwind bits.
I headed to Clady and up over the pretty challenging Glebe climb before descending to Victoria Bridge, one of my favourite river crossings around here. Back road to Strabane and home again via Clady and eventually the main road. 42km and it felt good. The bike felt great after the service and so much better having ridden the MTB on Friday. There’s nothing like riding off-road on fat tyres to make you appreciate the speed and agility of a road bike on tarmac. My legs were moaning a bit on the steeper climbs and despite a growing ache/numbness in my left arm overall I felt really good.
Yesterday evening the ache increased and I was definitely feeling tired. I was feeling a little bit woozy but thankfully nothing more serious than that. I took some paracetamol yesterday morning, afternoon and before bed last night just to be sure. This morning my arm is quite sore and tender to the touch. I still feel tired despite a good sleep and I feel slightly achy. The slight woozienss is still there but overall I think I’m just getting the usual symptoms that I’ve heard others describe and some of it may be tiredness from the combined effect of cycling the two days also. I am very hungry this morning (again this could be the cycling) and I’m just listening to my body and feeding it. Today is a family day so a chance to rest up and hopefully be fit for a big day on the bike tomorrow.
The good weather has stayed around for another week. Not as warm and sunny as last week but despite the grey skies and chilly winds it has stayed dry which is the most important. As my fitness is at a pretty good level and I’m going back to work tomorrow I thought it would be a good idea to get my 100K done nice and early this month, especially as the weather may not last.
I was tempted to go a longer route this month, especially having seen one of the guys in the club doing a great 110K route last week. However, I’m still not comfortable going far from home and having to use garages and shops for comfort breaks and food stops. I decided to stick with a similar route to the last two to be on the safe side and be able to have my break at home again.
I modified it slightly again though. This time I did three overlapping loops. Clady to Ballybofey (37km), Strabane to Killygordon (37km) and Clady to Killygordon (26km). I had my break at 74km which was perfect again. This route worked really well as there was a gusty, cold SE breeze. This was a real hassle on the first loop but the second one used the wind better by going down the sheltered back road and back the main road with a bit of a tailwind. The third loop was OK too but short enough not to matter.
At 52km the sun came out briefly and I stopped to eat a bar and admire the huge 5.5m tall metal sculpture at the border in Strabane. It’s officially called “Let the Dance Begin” but in typical irreverent Irish humour it’s known locally as “The Tinnies” as Tinney is a local surname. The artist is Maurice Harron who is a very far out family relation. The site of the sculpture is highly significant too as it’s the former location of the “Camel’s Hump” British Army border checkpoint from The Troubles and dismantled in 1999 after the signing of The Good Friday Agreement (1998).
The tone of the recent government announcements about lockdown restrictions suggest that we might see some relaxations from early April. I hope to go somewhere more interesting and further away for next month’s challenge🤞
Thursday was the last day of isolation and I’ve been trying to get some kind of fitness back again. Starting with a simple 2km on Friday I’ve walked every day gradually working back up to 6km. Today was my first day back on the bike.
Initially I’d planned a simple 26km loop down as far as Clady and back up to Killygordon. However, coming back into Killygordon I felt pretty good and decided to push on to Stranorlar. It was a really nice day, not much breeze, just the right side of cold and some nice sunny spells.
the roads are filthy!
In the end I finished with just under 40km and feeling way better than I expected. In fact I felt so good I also went for a 4.5km walk later in the afternoon.
Over the last 6-8 months there has been a lot of criticism of how the government has been handling the Covid19 outbreak in Ireland and I have been critical myself of the lack of direction and apparent lack of a clear path. A lot of media criticism has been around the failure of the government to ramp up testing and contact tracing services as well as the ability of the health service to cope with a second and third wave. In the last couple of days I have nothing but praise for the service.
My initial contact was with my local GP service in Lifford. Our service are particularly good and I don’t know how much of my initial speed was their systems or the HSE systems as a whole.
I spoke to the health centre shortly after 9am and received a call back from a GP at 9:30am. She went through my symptoms, asked about the rest of the household and recommended we all get tested. She booked the tests electronically and the appointments came through as SMS within minutes for appointments at 11:30am.
My knowledge of the testing centre was quite limited. I’d seen photos of the original setup in O’Donnell GAA pitch in the local media. I’d also heard that it was moved to a new facility in the car park at the hospital but I’d no idea of the scale of this new centre. Below are photos of the original and upgraded facilities taken from Donegal Daily articles.
All our checking in and testing was done without us leaving the car. We were initially directed to a reception block where our appointments were confirmed and our details checked. We were given envelopes containing the testing kits, tissues, masks and information leaflets. Conor’s and Catriona’s required additional work so we were directed to a waiting area until they were ready. It was like a less enjoyable version of the McDonald’s Drive Thru!
After a few minutes we were called forward to one of the large drive in sheds where two staff, fully kitted in PPE explained the whole process and completed the tests. They were very friendly and professional and made the whole process a lot easier.
The test for kids is different to adults so Conor was done first with the swab up both nostrils for a short twist. For the rest of us it was a swab of the back of the throat and then the back of the nose via a nostril. The test itself is hateful and uncomfortable but not sore and definitely manageable, over quite quickly. I’d say the four of us were done in less than 10 minutes including explanations.
I’ve seen some criticism this year that the Irish Army hasn’t been used properly to support the fight against Covid19 so it was interesting to see two of the testers yesterday were wearing Army uniforms under their PPE. It seems they are being used but under the radar and that they will be utilised further as the vaccination program begins.
We were told that the results could take 24-48hrs but woke the next morning to SMS confirmations that we were all positive with guideline links on what to do next and what to expect. At 9:50am I received a call from the GP to confirm the result in case we hadn’t received the message and again explaining what to do (isolate for 10 days), what to expect, what to look out for and how to treat the symptoms. She also completed the electronic declarations for social welfare to cover both Catriona and myself while off work.
Later that morning we both completed the online social welfare application. Again a very streamlined process made simple and easy to complete.
That afternoon we also received a call from the contact tracing service. It was mainly Catriona they spoke to but took details for both of us and the boys. Catriona’s work has had a number of cases already so they’re hyper aware and we have really good systems in place at my work. The boys have been off school since before Xmas so it was a relief to have very few possible contacts. While they are no longer testing close contacts without symptoms it’s reassuring to see that they are still following through to ask them to isolate.
I really do hope that the HSE has learned from how they have managed and handled the Covid19 pandemic and that once it is over they can take these new experiences and learnings and use them to correct many of the failings of the current system. I would like to think we will see an end to the endless bureaucracy, waiting times and endless queues in congested clinics. They’ve shown this year that dramatic change is possible when the will is there.
Catriona had a rotten cold all weekend and the boys picked it up at the end of the weekend. Not to be outdone I started getting a sore throat and the sniffles on Monday too. I was determined not to let this one beat me like the last one derailed my December streak plans. Monday afternoon I had a bit of a cough that became a bit more persistent as the day went on. Tuesday I still had the cough but felt OK so off to work as normal. As the day went on the cough got a bit worse and by evening I was also feeling a bit breathless. At this stage I was starting to get a bad feeling.
At bedtime and I was feeling an ache in my thighs that was very strange and worrying. At this point I’d already decided to call the doctor in the morning and arrange a Covid consultation. I woke at 130am with pains across my shoulders and in my lower back. These, as well as the ache in my legs came and went all night preventing any sleep, even a doze. By morning I was also slightly feverish but only a little with a temperature of 37.8°C and a dose of paracetamol and ibuprofen soon sorted all symptoms shortly after getting up.
A call to the doctor and all four of us were sent for Covid tests in Letterkenny for 1130am with results expected in 24-48hrs.
As the day went on I was feeling a bit better, the fever was gone and the cough easing. The pains were a lot less and although I was tired I put it down to the lack of sleep. All of us felt OK and we were starting to feel a bit foolish and even talking about the fact that we had wasted resources with the only result being a talking point experience of the test process. I was feeling especially foolish about causing worry at work having informed my boss of my symptoms and test that morning.
After a solid night of caught up sleep I woke to see this on my phone:
All four of us tested positive but thankfully all of us are still only experiencing mild symptoms. The boys are pretty much OK to the extent that Owen thought this morning that we were pranking him about the result! Catriona has a chesty cough and both of us are more fatigued than usual but that’s it so far.
The advice from the doctor is to treat the symptoms as a normal cold or flu but not to ignore any changes for the worse. I’ve been reading Dr Google and apparently symptoms can worsen after a mild start and can go from mild to severe quite quickly. Increased breathlessness is the key one to watch for.
We now have to stay home until next week. I was the last to show symptoms but we’re all going to isolate from the same day (Monday) to be on the safe side. That means we’re at home and not allowed to leave the house until Thursday the 14th. Frustratingly that includes even going for a walk in case we meet someone. Assuming we don’t experience any escalation of symptoms that will be the biggest challenge!