Last year I started the New Year on the top of Errigal with a hike to welcome the dawn on the summit. I had hoped to repeat that this year but my back has been playing up all week making it unlikely. Then to top it off there was a weather warning for high winds on Atlantic coasts and high ground. The predicted wind speed on the summit at dawn was 80-100km/hr so there was no way I was chancing that, especially in the dark.
After a lazy lie in we marked the New Year all together instead with a walk on Rathmullan Beach which is a regular spot for us and Catriona’s favourite. We ended up sitting in the car for almost half an hour as the rain hammered down before deciding to get some chips from the nearby van. Instead of going home afterwards as expected we were delighted to see the weather clear and the sun actually come out. We ended up with beautiful weather for a beach walk – a strong, bracing wind but no rain!
Afterwards we paid a brief visit to my Grand Aunt Ruby who had her 106th birthday yesterday! She had a busy day with some visitors and lots of phonecalls and was pretty tired from it all so we didn’t stay very long. She’s some lady.
Finally before heading home we called via Mum and Dad’s for a visit and to wish them a Happy New Year in person. This rounded off a very enjoyable, relaxing and family orientated start to 2022.
I’ve been very quiet on here recently and although it’s been 3 weeks since I last posted it doesn’t mean that life has been quiet, quite the opposite in fact.
The last two weeks have been pretty momentous from a personal perspective. It’s all been very surreal but also very positive but I’m going to be annoyingly enigmatic and park that one for a little while yet. More details over the next couple of weeks but it’s consumed my time and thoughts for most of the last two weeks…
Shortly after my last post I took my buff for a proper walk and ticked off another of my 50 nearest summits by climbing Altnapaste. This is a hill I’ve been looking forward to for a while now and I had almost the perfect day for a hugely enjoyable walk.
I hope to write more about that soon as I also filmed the walk and have some footage to edit and post also.
Last week I had a good long walk around the local roads and laneways. I left it quite late in the day so was short on daylight but stopped in the forest and made myself a hot chocolate as the last of the daylight faded. It was a really enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon especially with a head that needed emptying out for a while.
I also decided to take my camera on that walk and made a video for YouTube. I’m still learning and it’s far from perfect but the link is below if you want to have a look.
I’m still trying to work out why I’m doing the YouTube videos. I don’t fully understand my motivation for them. I don’t expect to be a YouTube star (although humble beginnings and all that) and I don’t have any great insights to impart but so far I am enjoying the extra element it brings to days out as well as the editing and post production process. As long as that stays true I think I’ll keep at it.
Despite my lack of book reports I’ve kept reading. I finished a very good book called The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille that took me just over a week to read. I’m a pretty fast reader so this was one of the longest books I’ve read for a while. It continues the trend of reading books that I have read before but many years ago.
My current read is a new author for me and it’s the first in a series. The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. So far I’m enjoying it even though it was written for a much younger reader than me!
I’ve also started listening to audiobooks on my daily commute again. I recently finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed which was mentioned in an Outside Magazine article mentioned by another blogger (Reg Spittle: Books and my Backpack). This was a fantastic story and I’ll definitely give a more detailed review of that soon.
So, that’s been the last 3 weeks for me, 3 more and Xmas will be past. Hard to believe that we’ll finally be saying goodbye to 2021 soon and hopefully welcoming in a more enjoyable 2022…
July is a busy month for our family and it starts straight away with my Mum’s birthday on July 1st. Two weeks later on the 14th it’s the turn of Dad and myself. It’s a joint birthday but this year it’s all about Dad as he turned 70. We had a family get-together at a restaurant in Letterkenny and then back to Mum and Dad’s for a few hours.
Just before this my blog passed it’s second blogiversary. I’m now up to 236 followers and have a good core group of regular readers, many of whom like and comment on a regular basis. This week I also passed a pretty big milestone for a blog that I don’t promote beyond my personal Facebook page.
However, by far and away the most important date this year is today. 20 years ago I married my soulmate. As Catriona eloquently said on Facebook this morning “20 years of you, me and us” We’re a perfect example of a couple that are better people together than we ever would have been apart ❤️
we haven’t changed a bit!
We arranged to have our days off together today. Yesterday evening we went for a lovely meal in The Hidden Pearl, Sion Mills. Today we went back to Portstewart and had lunch in the Anchor Bar where we first met.
We had a lovely day driving and walking around a town that is full of memories for me, having lived there for a few years but with a very special memory that we both celebrated today.
It’s Catriona’s birthday this week and as we’re all at work and school she wanted to celebrate today with a family day away, especially as we appear to have temporarily skipped straight from Spring to Summer.
On the way down we stopped at my brother’s coffee van (#curiouscoffee). I’ve stopped a couple of times already on my way to work but as they are only open 9 weeks now it was a first visit for Catriona and the boys.
Coincidentally Mum and my sister plus kids had a similar idea and we met them there and sat having a chat for a good while.
The main aim of the day was to go for a family walk. We had chosen Glenevin Waterfall outside Clonmany but the car park and trail were closed. According to Google it’s “temporarily closed” so it must be a victim of the lockdown restrictions.
Our next choice was always going to be a beach walk anyway so we headed for Pollan Strand less than 10 minutes away and walked pretty much the full length of the beach. It was 6km in glorious warm sunshine, as close to Summer as it gets in this part of the world.
On the way back we stopped at the Four Lanterns in Buncrana for burgers and chips topped off by 99s in Raphoe. An extravagant day of spoiling ourselves but a lovely family day out.
I expected it to be difficult to keep up the level of activity of the last few weeks when I went back to work but I had a plan for the week. I didn’t plan on multiple days of stormy wind and rain though.
Tuesday onwards has been pretty grim which had a big impact on my cycling. My plan was 60km each of my days off (Wednesday and Sunday) with 25km two mornings before work (Tuesday and Friday). Tuesday morning wasn’t happening as I really needed the extra hour in bed. Wednesday I did get out but the worst of the storm was to hit that afternoon into Thursday so I only managed a wet and windy 26km. It was still stormy Friday morning so the bike was out again. Today it’s Mother’s Day and #2 son’s 13th birthday so 2.5hrs on the bike was never going to happen. I had hoped for an hour in the morning but a walk was just about enjoyable, a cycle would have been hateful. A total of 26km for the week, how the mighty have fallen!
Walking has been more successful. I’ve managed to keep up my streak of walking every day. Even on the wettest days it’s not hard to dress up appropriately and make it at least partially enjoyable. My target for the week is 30km and finishing on 28.9 my only issue was skipping the 2km walk on Thursday morning. Heavy rain and hail showers was not my idea of a good way to start the day.
The biggest result of the week has been finally starting a strength and conditioning program. I’ve been following the Chain Reactions kettlebell routine from YouTube. Monday, Thursday, Saturday with a 2km warm up walk (skipped on Thursday). I’ve also added in some upper body movements to give a 25-30min routine. I was very stiff on Wednesday but OK since and hopefully it’s the start of a new habit.
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!
noun 1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. 2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter 3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: 4. a member of the same nation, party, etc.
When does someone become more than someone you know and become a friend? In today’s world do you have to know someone in real life to call them a friend?
I have a number of different groups of friends and a lot of them I haven’t met. I have a small number of very good friends that I have known for a long time and are very important in my life. I have friends that I know through work both past and present and from past times such as the cycling club and geocaching. Some of them I interact with in person and some online only now. Then I have “virtual friends“, people I only know from an online perspective and have never met. Some of these are from Facebook/WhatsApp groups that have similar interests to me and others I have interacted with through blogs.
Over the last few months I’ve been interacting with these virtual friends more than my real life friends as a result of the lockdown and restricted movement. It may sound strange to describe them as friends but through the blogs and posts I get to see inside their lives, to varying degrees, interact with some of them and share some of my own life. Some of them, like the None2Run Facebook group, provide support and motivation as I work through that program, very much like regular friends do.
I don’t know when someone becomes a friend but I do know that the last three months would have been much more difficult without them – all of them.