King Leo, Lockdown and Being Sick to Death of the New Normal

Ben Dillon
9 min readJun 10, 2020

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Day minus

After reading both Adam Kay’s ‘This is Going to Hurt’ and Anne Frank’s, well, you know the one, I can’t shake the urge to keep a diary. Unfortunately ‘The Secret Life of a Content Marketer’ might be the least appealing read ever. If only I had the backdrop of a war or hospital residency to write against.

Day 1 (Mar 5)

This COVID-19 thing is far more serious than we thought over Christmas i.e. it’s no longer 5,000 miles away, it’s pretty close to Ireland. This could be devastating for the entire human race. The fear, uncertainty and panic is like nothing I’ve ever seen. However, from a diary-keeping perspective, this is absolutely splendid news.

Day 7 (Mar 12)

Leo just shut down schools and creches for the next fortnight. Parents are on edge. Not so much in fear of their children’s safety but the possibility of being stuck in captivity with a lifeforce that feeds solely off their undivided attention.

Day 8 (Mar 13)

Apparently hot things such as tea kill COVID. This is coming from a very friend-of-a-cousin-of-a-nurse source. Surely if tea kills it, every person in Ireland is a highly-trained coronavirus assassin.

Day 9 (Mar 14)

I heard someone say the phrase “the new normal” today. It perfectly describes how the abnormal is becoming everyday. At first I thought the advice to stop shaking hands was weird. Now the facemasks, the queuing for an hour at Tesco, the nightly leader addresses, it’s all just normal. The new normal. Splendid.

Day 12 (Mar 17)

A very strange day. Leo temporarily shut down pubs so that Paddy’s Day has become more like Good Friday than Mardi Gras. At night he addressed the nation. Nothing makes you feel more like you’re nearing doomsday than having your leader walk out to a podium during a breaking-news broadcast.

Not that I’m a huge Trump fan but Leo could definitely learn a thing or two about hand gestures from Donald. Great speech, however, very static upper body movement, especially hands — definite room for improvement.

Day 13 (Mar 18)

For the first time since Glenroe graced the airwaves, I’m watching the RTÉ News on a regular basis. I’ve been glued to it for three nights in a row now. The suspense and sense of intrigue is riveting.

Will Leo announce a full lockdown? Will he skip that stage and declare a state of anarchy? I’m putty in his hands. If he announced that we should slap ourselves, I’d be on board and slapped-faced before he even has time to say “oíche mhaith”.

Day 14 (Mar 19)

I’m finding myself looking up death tolls a lot. It helps me to gain perspective. There have been 2,000 deaths in Italy. It’s beginning to hit the UK and other European countries too. In a matter of days I’ve gone from mocking people for being over-dramatic to lecturing people who aren’t taking this seriously. I’m finding the hypocrisy hard to acclimatise to.

Day 18 (Mar 23)

Mass has been cancelled indefinitely. This is now serious.

Day 19 (Mar 24)

While in a bookshop I chat with one of the staff about the obvious. I confide in her that I’m finding it all very exciting. Observing the world’s reaction is quite fascinating I tell her. Unfortunately it turns out that she’s actually the owner. She tells me that she doesn’t find it “exciting” or “fascinating” that she’ll have to let her beloved staff go.

Note to self: Do not gush over the global crisis to anyone unless you’re 100% sure they’re also a fan.

Day 20 (Mar 25)

The next person that I hear say “the new normal”, I’m going to choke them until not-breathing is their new normal.

I think what gets under my skin the most is how quickly it’s being adopted. It’s like if someone kicked you square in the knee and then told you that pain is your new normal. 1. It’s not, it’s temporary, I’ll walk it off. 2. Since when does the word ‘normal’ need a qualifier? 3. Why are you kicking me in the knee to explain your point?

Update: I hate that I’m tracking this but there have now been 6,500 deaths in Italy and 433 in the UK. This reality could be Ireland’s soon.

Day 22 (Mar 27)

Leo has announced a full lockdown. He didn’t actually say “lockdown” but he can’t fool us. Being told to stay indoors and only go outside once a day for a prison workout is pretty lockdowny. I don’t believe this whole “only two weeks” thing either. Leo, you make it so hard to love you sometimes.

Another solid speech. Upper body movement was still quite limited. 7/10

Day 24 (Mar 29)

The most sadistic habit I’ve developed is incessantly checking these damn death tolls. I don’t mean to treat it as a game but when they tableise it, with most affected countries at the top, how else am I going to respond? There are now 33,000 deaths worldwide. 10,779 in Italy, 6,600 in Spain, 1,228 in the UK and 42 in Ireland. My continued observance of this table reminds me that this is quite a real situation.

Day 25 (Mar 30)

My news watching foray is over. I genuinely thought I was becoming a lifelong viewer. I blame 9/11. It set the standard too high. That was a tragic event but I could have watched it all day. Now I find myself yearning for another “where were you when” moment. I don’t like this disaster-hungry person that Sharon Ní Bheoláin brings out of me. This must end now.

Leo is also losing me as a follower. Quoting a meme while addressing the nation? You’re better than that. So few superheroes wear capes these days anyway. Ironman wouldn’t be caught dead in one.

Day 29 (Apr 3rd)

The Premiership was suspended indefinitely. There is officially no sport.

Remote work and no play makes Ben a dull boy. Remote work and no play makes Ben a dull boy. Remote work and no play makes Ben a dull boy.

Day 32 (Apr 6th)

I’m considering bordering up the house to stop coronavirus clichés from getting in. So far we’ve managed to evade the desire to bake banana bread and sourdough. I’ve yet to post a photo of a Zoom meeting nor have I attempted the dance from Young Offenders. However, I have watched all episodes of Tiger King, held a virtual quiz and am familiar with the work of Ghanaian pallbearers.

Day 33 (Apr 7th)

COVID-19 is beginning to hit the US hard. Trump is denying it like it’s a sex scandal and not a worldwide pandemic. He is a truly unusual man.

Day 34 (Apr 8th)

Confined to a 2km radius, my main walk involves multiple loops of the quays. This rather mundane walk has its attractions. For one, there’s this flock of seagulls that line up on the wall and synchronise dive off as you walk by.

My God, is this what I find cool now? Birds moving in unison? COVID-19 will suck the life out of me before it has any chance of killing me.

Day 36 (Apr 10th)

We watched ‘Contagion’ tonight. It’s crazy that the virus-infested world depicted in the movie is now real life. It’s also bizarre that the movie’s lead actor, Matt Damon, just so happens to be on lockdown in Dalkey.

Bar being kind of arousing when they say things like “social distancing” and “stop touching your face”, it’s a pretty awful movie.

Day 37 (Apr 11th)

I’m convinced that the more you see someone, the more attractive they become. The girl in your class, the barista at your local café or, I don’t know, your country’s Chief Medical Officer slowly morphing into George Clooney.

Day 40 (Apr 14th)

Lockdown is making me lose all social skills and I had such limited talent to begin with. Is asking someone if they have plans for the weekend still socially acceptable?

Day 43 (Apr 17th)

It looks like healthcare workers are the new celebs. They’re clapping for the carers in the UK and we’re feeding the heroes here. This definitely beats worshipping people with lip-fillers, sponsored ads and an innate ability to make others feel insecure.

As per usual, I’m expecting this pendulum to swing too far. I’ll give it six months before there are hospital-related glossy mags with click-bait headlines such as ‘You Won’t Believe Who Nurse Fitzpatrick From Midland Regional Hospital is Dating Now’ and ‘Dr. Murphy’s 6 Week Plan to Get Your Gut Microbiome Summer-Shredded’.

Day 46 (Apr 20th)

I’m learning so many new words over lockdown.

There’s ‘furlough’, pronounced like ‘merlot’ and not ‘for long’, which is a real pity. COVID-19 which stands for coronavirus disease 2019 and is not some highly technical medical-latin lingo. ‘Flouting’ which is pronounced like outing, which makes it sounds almost wholesome when you place the words ‘nice, little’ before it.

‘Herd Immunity’ is one I don’t fully understand yet, though I think it means sacrificing the weak to the COVID Gods?

Day 47 (Apr 21st)

There was a jellyfish spotted in the canals of Venice, which is apparently global-newsworthy. The environment is thriving again. And all it took was putting the entire world on house-arrest, banning fun of any kind and bringing the world economy to its knees..

it really makes you think.

Day 49 (Apr 23rd)

I would totally be on board with going outside and clapping for our barbers.

Day 50 (Apr 24th)

The makers of Dettol had to release a statement saying, “Please ignore the President of the USA and don’t ingest or inject our product.”

Sometimes life just doesn’t seem real.

Day 51 (Apr 25th)

Kim Jong-un is dead, apparently?

I first read the headline as “Kim Jong-un un-dead” by accident. It’s kind of worrying how little the news that the North Korean leader is now a zombie fazed me.

Day 57 (May 1st)

Leo has announced a five stage plan to reopen the country. Hand gestures were absolutely magnificent. A nice wavy hand movement to show the flattening of the curve. A few punchy hammer fists to emphasise a point. I’m all aboard the Leo hype-train again.

My one slight grievance is in his manner of smiling. I can almost picture him asking his advisor, “So, in this bit about reading letters from the public, do you want me to activate my mouth-smiling mechanism?”

Day 61 (May 5th)

So it turns out that Kim Jong-un is in fact undead.

He was dead but now he’s alive and well and opening factories. Turns out he was just keeping a low profile. Does North Korea even exist? That’s what I want to know. You can’t get a Ryanair flight there, you can’t see it from space, their leader is a zombie and very few people bar Denis Rodman and Matt Cooper have gone there. The jury is out.

Day 63 (May 7th)

One of my friends said “the new normal” today. Thankfully I didn’t lash out as she was actually asking if I’d seen the new Normal People. I slowly unclenched my jaw, fists and let the steam from my ears simmer down before saying, “Why yes, yes I have, amazing. Although I’m not sure if I’ll ever forgive Conall for asking Rachel to the debs. Men can be such pigs.”

Day 70 (May 14th)

I haven’t heard the name Greta Thunberg in approximately 70 days. Although I like her, I fear that she is going to suffer some serious second album syndrome.

Day 74 (May 18th)

It suddenly dawns on journalists that it’s been 100 days since the general election and there’s still no government. The vultures are having themselves a field day. It’s as if they’ve forgotten about everything in between. The 99 days where people were dying, businesses were placed on life support and coughing in public became a chargeable offence? That was a tad distracting wasn’t it?

In other news, Joe Wicks has become some sort of cult leader for kids under 10.

Day 80 (May 24)

The latest is that we’re not allowed to say “back to normal”. I’m sick of getting grammar lessons about how to use the word normal. Soon people will insist on saying the “new new normal”. Surely when they get to four “news” someone is going to have to step in.

I used to have hopes and dreams. Now my only dream is that I can find the first person who said “new normal” and slay them. I’m hoping that if I kill it at the source, the use of “new normal” will spontaneously explode worldwide and order will be restored.

Day 1,250 (7 Aug 2023)

Today, Leo delivered his best speech yet. I really hope that he’s given the nod when they get around to forming a government. His hand movements were simply enchanting. He has completely mastered the ‘holding an expanding beach-ball’ technique and I love the fact he left the fame-hungry world of healthcare to become a politician. And the way his long, flowing locks danced as he demonstrated the flattening of the bump? Sometimes he looks so much like British Prime Minister, Joe Wicks, it’s scary.

Unfortunately, he’s extended lockdown by another two weeks. But then, hopefully, everything can go back to typical.

Two more weeks, that doesn’t sound too bad.

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Ben Dillon

Everything I write is half nonsense. The other half is pure gold. Not on InstaTwitBook but please connect on LinkedIn — /dillon-ben