WAKE-LIKE: THE SILENT LINE WAITING TO PAY RESPECTS – By Brian Rowan

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We can see many things inside a picture frame.

The image above is but one example.

On Thursday, I tweeted the caption – stand to attention; and, then, I thought more of this place and that picture.

It is but a stone’s throw from the Kinnegar army base – long since abandoned in terms of any operational use – and part of which, depending on the number of Covid-19 deaths, could become a temporary mortuary.

With that thought, I then saw something different inside that frame.

In the calm of that place, it becomes wake-like, that silent line waiting to pay respects.

The Coronavirus has invaded our minds; trying to become our every thought.

So, for days now, I have avoided the television and radio at home; trying to manage the intake of information and detail.

I am reading what I need to read; often the words of the health correspondents Marie-Louise Connolly, Seanín Graham and Fergal Bowers as well as writing into my diary the daily log of the dead.

Thursday’s numbers – North and South – the highest yet as this virus takes its toll.

TOO MUCH OF THIS WILL WRECK OUR HEADS

Think of the conflict years – different, of course, from these days of this deadly virus – but there is learning from that Past.

In actual time, we got lost in a blizzard of events and news; numbed and dehumanised to such a degree that people became numbers.

News was in one ear and out the other.

Just recently, my colleague Eamonn Mallie reminded me of the “acceptable level of violence”.

Only afterwards, did we get time to properly reflect on a period still unanswered – still unsettling and unnerving and not yet properly remembered.

PANDEMIC

When it eventually passes, how will we remember this pandemic and its dead?

We should learn from that conflict past and do it properly; turn the numbers into names; have something permanent as a reminder and a memorial to these days of death.

In the here and now, we are already learning how to respect much of what we took for granted; our doctors and nurses and hospitals, the care workers and cleaners, those in public transport, the supermarket workers, those who empty the bins and those in the pharmacies who take the paper prescriptions and give us the things that heal and mend.

We have had to learn the discipline of distance and, in that, come to better value the closeness that has been taken from us.

Those of us, including myself, who have been able to shelter in our homes, have had the easy parts; being able to switch off the television and radio, find quiet places during exercise periods and take those opportunities to try to think about other things.

These are luxuries and benefits that the many on the different frontlines are not afforded.

There is other important learning from our Past; that being too close to all of this for too long will eat you up.

In this, the lesson and the learning is about stepping back.

I am thinking about those fighting to save lives, those in the briefing rooms of politics and health having to make the big decisions, those shop workers still having to deal face-to-face with the public and those journalists having to be across the detail of this virus and who are reporting round-the-clock.

The Past tells us that the mind and body will only take so much of that. There needs to be breathing space and time out.

Justice Minister Naomi Long has been clear that she hopes that temporary mortuary at Kinnegar in Holywood will not be needed.

Its preparation is part of worst-case planning.

No one knows what this unseen virus will inflict on an unprepared world that is now trying to catch up in terms of the means and the methods to push it back.

Already, its damage is too much.

Right now, we are in the Present of this pandemic.

Its Past will be a grim reminder of a fractured and fragile world and of the many fallen people in this very different war.


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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process and contributed chapters to 'Reporting the Troubles' and 'Brexit and Northern Ireland: Bordering on Confusion'.

2 Comments

  1. John Stevenson on

    BY THE LOUGH SHORE

    Walking over
    familiar ground
    Inwardly naming
    old friends I have found.

    Blousey dandelions
    common and cheap
    with wood anenomies
    strange bedfelllows keep.

    Lesser celandine
    robin run-the-hedge
    with honesty and plantains
    next to the edge.

    There’s herb robert
    and a blue-bell or two
    with an unnamed spurge
    and some feverfew.

    Imposter scurvy grass
    stitchwort interweaves
    below pretty toadflax
    with its ivy-shaped leaves.

    The lichens are glistening
    beyond lady’s smock
    as thrifty sea pink
    clings to the rock.

    As people now distant
    are avoiding each other
    Spring flowers come together
    like sister and brother.

    Brian,
    Thank you for the excellent journalism and your uplifting photographs. I wrote this poem this week after my wife and I had walked the lough shore that I know you enjoy. I have also been following Eamon’s daily poetry recitals which are excellent. So many thanks to you both.
    John Stevenson

    • John, It is a place of calm; a quiet space in which to take shelter at this time. Thank you for your kind words. When you have a minute, would you contact Eamonn at emallie100@gmail.com He wants to chat with you about your poem. Thanks again

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