The Pandemic and I

Gubu.  We Irish have a word for everything, and the word to describe the effect the global pandemic has had on our lives was coined in the 80’s. Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre, Unprecedented.  A deceptively simple word which saves us from the overuse of multi-syllable clichés. And this is how it worked.

It was an average February day, dreary and uninviting, but my aunt was well dressed and groomed, willing to risk the elements for lunch outside the care home, and the possibility of some shopping.  A lovely shop assistant found her perfect shoes, the department store had the ideal warm gloves and I pushed her chair up and down the aisles while she enjoyed a whipped ice cream, taking in the everyday sights and sounds of life around her.  Back in her room, tired and happy, she settled down to watch the day’s football.  I never saw her again.  Gubu.

What I love about business is putting together projects, creating something new and exciting. Sometimes the pieces of the puzzle don’t quite fit and that particular idea is shelved, only for some elements to resurface in another idea that does work.  A new decade meant our coffee shop was 10 years old, and it was outgrowing its home.  I was working on an exciting plan involving large new premises which would serve both as an interactive tourist destination and a cultural hub for the community.  Then the planes left the sky, sensible people stayed at home and the bookshop /cafe closed its doors permanently.  Gubu.

When it comes to recycling, saving energy, buying local, I’m there – anything to save the planet (other than give up foreign travel).  I had flights booked for a business trip to Amsterdam, a holiday in Morocco, a family wedding in Mauritius, September in Birmingham for a book conference and who knows what other stamps the passport would have gathered later in the year.  Business trips became virtual (at the discretion of a temperamental WIFI signal).  The markets of Morocco became the middle aisle of Aldi, and the tropical island replaced by a windswept Achill, with hardy Atlantic trees known more for their resilience than the elegance of palm trees. Gubu

Yet even as the world reverberated with the sound of doors closing, windows were being pushed out, fighting to let light and air in.  Gubu turned out to be a two sided coin.

Grateful, Understanding, Brilliant, Unified

The nuns in the nursing home filled the space my Aunt’s family were not allowed to occupy, Sister Ann holding her hand as she slipped away from pain.  Gubu

Hundreds of messages of support, gifts, cards and letters from bookshop customers gave me the rare honour of knowing that something I did had made a difference.  Gubu

The Wicklow hills that previously were taken for granted showed they were an endless source of wonder and joy.  Achill proved that its climate was no prisoner to season or forecast.  In July we shivered through a birthday swim, while in October I stood in the sea with the sun on my back, not a whisper of wind.  Gubu.

So what about the way forward – the window opening beside the shut business door? One of the great joys of being a bookseller is chatting with fellow readers and using expertise to bring them to a book that will mean a lot to them.  Selling online is a poor substitute, reducing an art to a lowest common denominator. With the launch of Irish Local History Books I plan to put the sparkle back into selling books online by bringing together history lovers, both authors and readers.

Welcome to the site – I look forward to hearing from you!


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