Donn's Articles » Cocooning


We know about cocooning now all right.  If you are, or if you know anyone who is, 70 years of age or older, cocooning is part of your life these days.

Until very recently, if you knew anything about a cocoon, you probably knew it either as one of Ron Howard’s early movies, or as the protective case in which a butterfly magically metamorphoses.  These days, it’s something in which your dad has to live.

The conversations with your dad have metamorphosed (it’s a word, honest) too from, how was golf this morning, to, did you wash your hands?  It has taken him a little while to appreciate the enormity of this.  I suppose, when you have seen as much as 77 years will allow you see, it’s natural that it will take you a while to get used to a new reality, even if that new reality is temporary.  Honest.

Choir rehearsals were cancelled early, as was mass and therefore choir, so at least that.  The Thursday evening ritual, where four wise men get together over a glass or two to discuss – and usually solve – the problems of the world, has been furloughed.  Sunday afternoon dinners with the (other) grandchildren, the ones who live close by, have been re-scheduled.  The daily six-mile walk is now down the fields and not along the road.  It’s not easy, this cocooning.  Social life is part of life.  But it’s only temporary (see above), and he’s getting there.

He’ll wash his hands as soon as he gets off the phone.  Promise.

We tend to live in cocoons anyway though.  Metaphorical ones if not physical ones.  It’s human nature.  You concern yourself with the things that are important to you.  Like, from this vantage point, the fact that attendances at Belarusian league matches are falling is less relevant than the fact that the Irish Grand National will not be run on Monday.

If your career and your livelihood is in the retail industry, your primary focus during this extraordinary time is almost certainly on the issues that are facing the retail sector.  If horse racing or breeding is your livelihood, your primary focus is on the issues that are facing the racing and breeding industries.

The talk during the week was of a possible resumption of racing in Britain next month, under strict conditions.  That looked optimistic.  We know that none of the first four British Classics will take place on their respective originally scheduled dates.  Yet on Thursday, one of the main betting firms cut the odds of racing resuming in Britain in May to 6/5 from 15/8, with June extended from 6/4 to 7/4.  September or later remains a 10/1 shot.  HRI supremo Brian Kavanagh told the Racing Post on Thursday that there was a fair chance that Irish Guineas weekend could go ahead on its original dates, 23rd and 24th May. 

And yet, outside of racing’s cocoon, the trends continue.  The number of daily new cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland, in the 300s all this week, jumped to 500 on Thursday.  Twenty-eight deaths brought the total number of deaths to 263.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said on Thursday that restrictions on movement would not now be relaxed tomorrow, on Easter Sunday, on the day that the restrictions were originally set to end.  Dr Cillian De Gascun of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said on Friday that they could be lifted in the next couple of weeks.  None of that is very encouraging.

On the positive side, however, it looks like the social distancing measures that are being imposed are having an impact.  Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the Covid-19 modelling advisory group, said on Thursday that, at the start of the epidemic in Ireland, the average number of other people infected by one confirmed case was 4.3.  If that had continued unchecked, according to the advisory group’s model, the number of new confirmed daily cases in Ireland would be set to rise to a peak of 100,000 in 10 days’ time.

When the schools closed, the number of other people infected by one confirmed case had been reduced to 2.7.  This brought the projected number of new daily cases down to a projected peak of 60,000.  Now, according to Professor Nolan, they are confident that the number of other people infected by one case has been reduced to around one.  The key is to get it to lower than one.  Only then will the number of new cases start to decline.

It’s a bizarre time, and it doesn’t seem to get any less bizarre as the days pass.  It still takes you a few seconds sometimes after you wake up these days to remember again the situation in which the world finds itself.  

Most people in the country have a new reality now.  We’re back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and how many a person’s place on it has changed.  Fundamentally, a person needs food and water, safety and security, but satisfy his basic needs and all he wants is a Ferrari. 

There will be no VE day with this, no ticker tape in the streets, no celebrations that the war over this pandemic has been won.  Normality will return to the world in stages, please God.  The new normal may be different to the old normal, but that may not necessarily be a bad thing in some walks of life.  The key for now is surely to ride it out, adapt your mind-set accordingly, stay safe, stay healthy, stay at home if you can, heed the advice of the people who know best about these things.  And wash your hands.

© The Irish Field, 11th April 2020