This article first appeared in The Irish Times, 1 March 2021

Last week, I was invited by my East-London GP surgery to be vaccinated against COVID 19. Getting that text message was like holding a Wonka bar in my hand, ripping off the wrapper, and finding a golden ticket beneath. Here was a lottery I had finally won.

I carried this elation with me as I skipped down the road to the vaccination centre 48 hours later — a cathedral of relief and cheerfulness, where orange-jumpered volunteers greeted and guided me through like I was a junior-infant on the first…


Travelling to Ireland in a time of pandemic

This article originally appeared on The Irish Times

I have made many journeys across the Irish sea.

Since I moved to Nottingham in 2009, and then to London in 2010, I have returned ‘home’ for work trips, 30th birthdays, weddings, a job for which I commuted, reunions with old friends, christenings, research trips, Christmases, doctor’s appointments, communions, and recently, funerals.

Spending so much of the last decade travelling between these islands, it was difficult not to feel as though I was living in a liminal zone, neither here nor there, suspended between…


Italy

Washed hands

R rates

Toilet roll

Cancelled childcare

Joe Wicks

Queues

Confusion

__________

Isolation

Zoom

Unfinished work

Wine

Daily briefings

Death tolls

Fear

__________

Sleeplessness

Worry

__________

The phone call

Panic

The airport

Waiting

The nursing home window

My father’s hand

The last gasp

Empty church pews

The parting glass

The airport

Despair

__________

Tea

Toast

Butter

Joe Exotic

Wine

Tears

__________

The park

First steps

First shoes

Joy

__________

Isolation

Zoom

Unfinished work

Margaritas

Daily briefings

Death tolls

Fear

__________

Teething

Tears

Sleeplessness

Longing

__________

Sunshine

GAA shorts

First words

Laughter

__________

Thirty six

Candles

Cake

Familiar faces

Cold pints

Plastic cups

Release

__________

Open doors

Family

Hope


[This piece was read aloud on RTE Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany Programme on Sunday April 5th 2020. Listen here]

People say we do death well in Ireland.

When my husband’s father died suddenly five years ago, there was an exceptional outpouring of community support. His body was laid out in the family’s front room, friends brought casseroles, people drove from all over the country for the funeral. Memories were shared. Tears were shed.

This is not an unusual story. In fact, it describes every death in Ireland I have ever experienced.

We do death well, not because we grasp onto…


Most people start the New Year resolving to change some aspect of their life that they think could be better. The act of setting oneself a resolution is as much about absolving the past as it is about directing the future — I will stop drinking alcohol mid-week; I will stop checking Instagram every ten minutes; I will stop taking the bus and start walking. It offers a chance to wipe the vices of the previous year and to start again. …

Mary Jane Boland

Research consultant to Lord Puttnam; Writer; Irish in London

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