Behind the Mask: Mary

My name is Mary. The person behind the mask is generally positive but finding it tough at the moment. To cope I try to live in the moment and take one day at a time.

Initially I did not find the lockdown too difficult. I enjoyed spending time with my family. They are all young adults and we all got along and enjoyed each other’s company. They kept themselves busy by keeping fit and, as they are all boys, they enjoyed playing football together. We also went sea swimming together which we had not done since they were children. We even started some 1000 piece jigsaw challenges. I cooked nice dinners and persisted at baking yeast bread till I perfected my pizza dough and focaccia bread.

My son came home from London and it was a great opportunity to spend time together. I enjoyed gardening and we invested in a hammock and a BBQ and enjoyed outdoor living. I enjoyed the slower pace of life. It was also a time of nostalgia. We looked through boxes of old photos and screenshot them on WhatsApp to family and friends. I was lucky to get to the west of Ireland and enjoyed lovely swims in Galway and Mayo. I even got to spend a few days in Inis Meain, my favourite place in the world.

Picture: Inis Meain

On a sadder note my mother was in a nursing home and we did not get to see her for weeks. Eventually when we did, it was through a window as we were not allowed to go into the nursing home. My mother had dementia and it was very difficult. We celebrated her 88th birthday on Zoom and it was very sad. If someone had told us that in 2020 we would all be wearing masks and we would not be able to see our loved ones, we would not have believed them. Sadly my mother passed away and her sister and two brothers had to say goodbye to her through a window. It was heartbreaking. Fortunately they allowed her immediate family to be at her bedside for her final hours. Myself and my two sisters were with her when she passed. 

Work was very difficult during the lockdown because it is very hard to run a centre remotely. We did our best to move as many classes online as we could. Some tutors and students kept the classes and the learning going, using Zoom, WhatsApp, phone calls and posting work to students. A lot of our students were not set up to work online and it was very challenging. We used the time to upskill staff in using different platforms in preparation for another lockdown. I enjoyed being a learner again and I really valued the Zoom meetings with adult education practitioners from around the country. It was a great opportunity to talk to people that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to. It was a great support during the lockdown. We also had weekly staff Zoom meetings and again it really helped us feel supported and connected.

Since opening at the end of August we have put all the covid protocols in place. We were busy taking temperatures, hand sanitising and everyone was doing their best to stay safe. There were lots of complaints about the cold. Tutors worked very hard to upskill students to enable them to go online. It is a challenge but we are really encouraged by the willingness of the students to embrace the technology. They are all helping each other and sharing helpful tips and ideas. While everyone would love to come to DALC for their class, since the level 5 restrictions were imposed we have had to move all the classes online. The centre is still open for students who need support or need to drop in to collect assignments or homework.

Lessons from the Pandemic:

We have all learned to appreciate what is on our doorstep and I certainly enjoyed my daily walks in the Phoenix Park. We have also reduced our consumption of things that we don’t need, reduced our travel and air miles and thus reduced our carbon footprint that is better for the planet. Neighbourhood and communities are very important and need to look out for each other.

My post pandemiC WISH LIST:

  • The pharmaceutical company that discovers the vaccine distributes it free of charge
  • Stop out-sourcing the care of children and older people to private companies to make big profits
  • Improve our  public services including health , housing and education. 
  • Continue to allow people to work from home
  • Introduce a 4 day week for everyone 
  • Develop local industries and economies 
  • Multinationals pay appropriate levels of corporation taxes. 
  • The return of all the things that bring us joy, live music, meeting family and friends, parties meals out and family gatherings.   

Finally, the pandemic has really shone a light on the inequalities in the world and it has widened the gap between the rich and the poor. I heard it said a number of times that we all might be in the storm but unfortunately we are all in different sized  boats and some are struggling to stay afloat. I would hope that we’ve learned that inequalities hurt everybody. At a local and global level we could work together for a more just and equal society.

Mary is the Director of DALC