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Take a needle and some thread and start to work them through those little six-word stories on twitter that are a summary and a snapshot of these Covid-19 days.

Those stitches will begin to make something more – something much bigger.

All of a sudden, in our reading, our listening and in our thinking, we are digging deeper; learning more, hearing more – seeing more:

– There is treasure here amid pain;

– Taking one day at a time;

– Lockdown, isolation, apart, now our wellbeing;

– You learn about ‘you’ in quarantine;

– Birdsong as prayer, Birdsong as anthem;

– We hear more when it’s quiet.

The above are just six of those six-word offerings on twitter.

That imaginary needle and thread could make 60 or 600 or 6,000 words as they bring together and hold together our thoughts and our lines in these times.


Seeing them on that stretch I walk at Kinnegar in Holywood.

Seeing them since the BBC correspondent Julian O’Neill broke the story that, depending on the number of Covid-19 deaths, part of the old army base there could become a temporary mortuary.

In this place of quiet and calm, and in those tired and broken structures that stand out from the water, I saw a silent line – wake-like; waiting to pay respects.

Not far away, in the discarded gloves dumped on the street, you see the Orange and the Green and the Other of this place.

In this careless manifestation, it is an ugly image in ugly times.


I’m hearing songs differently; Glen Hansard’s ‘Falling Slowly’; Hozier singing ‘The Parting Glass’; Sinead O’Connor singing ‘Run’ – Dermot Kennedy with ‘Days Like This’.

My colleague Eamonn Mallie has started his own poetry school on twitter; my favourite readings so far are from Councillor Dr John Kyle – The Skylight and Deaths of Flowers.

Those recitals have been a prescription of words with healing and hope and reality in their lines.

Work the needle and the thread through all of these things and we see the new pattern from which we are working and to which we are working.

In the fear of now – in this different terror – we have been shaken out of our slumber; made to think about so many things we have long taken for granted and reminded of how delicate this world is and how fragile we are within it.

Another of the six-word stories on twitter offers this advice:

– Let’s slow down in the lockdown.


In Downing Street on Monday, on his return to work from the edge of Covid-19, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reminded us all of the still real and present dangers.

He recognised there is an impatience and anxiety about life in this long lockdown but, in the same sentences, warned of the risks of a second spike.

This virus hasn’t gone away, and, here, in an interview with UTV, Health Minister Robin Swann spoke of seeing “an onset of cabin fever”; his words urging patience and speaking to the need to hold to restrictions.

In life at distance, we have been awakened to the value and the importance of the closeness that, for now, has been taken from us.

With our eyes and our ears now wide open, everything is different and everything is changing; this the pattern and the picture in the working of the needle and the thread.

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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. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at www.merrionpress.ie

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