How to Stay Sane in a Pandemic

With June Shannon

June Shannon is a medical / health journalist who has helped many of us stay sane over the last year with her live tweets of the briefings by NPHET and Government. She has distilled down figures and words into easily understandable tweets and has regularly burned her dinner in the process.

June’s book recommendations are:

A Light That Never Goes Out by Keelin Shanley

Psychiatrist in the Chair – Biography of Anthony Clare by Brendan Kelly & Muiris Houston

Seamus Heaney 100 Poems

Barbara’s recommendation is Sinead Moriarty’s new novel which will be published in summer, called About Us.

June’s TV/Netflix Recommendations are the soaps – which seem to have been largely forgotten today. June is an avid viewer of both Corrie and EastEnders

June also recommends The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society movie which is on Netflix and Barbara recommends the book too.

How To Stay Sane in a Pandemic

With Dil Wickremsinghe

Dil is a mental health professional, an activist, a journalist and former broadcaster who presented Global Village on Newstalk.

Along with her partner, Anne Marie Toole they founded and run Insight Matters, a counselling, psychotherapy and wellness centre offering affordable and accessible mental health support, in Dublin.

The book recommendation this week was my suggestion and is the Dublin City Libraries One City One Book choice for 2021 and is the beautiful, gentle tale of Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession.

And the TV/Movie recommendation was The Morning Show – available on Apple TV

How To Stay Sane in a Pandemic

Episode 4 with TV Producer, Bill Hughes.

My guest this week is Bill Hughes, legendary TV Producer who has made over 1000 hours of music, arts, entertainment and documentary television since he began his career in the 1980s. He began his TV career in 1985 with the ground breaking MT USA which was the first music video programme in Europe. More recently, his company Mind The Gap Films was behind the very popular ‘Cutting Edge’ on RTE.

Bill had some really great recommendations for your entertainment in books, music and film. Enjoy.

Bill’s Book Recommendations:

The Hearts Invisible Furies, by John Boyne

That Glimpse of Truth – 100 of the finest short stories ever written, chosen by David Miller

Fabulosa – The Story of Polari, Britain’s Secret Gay Language.

And my book choice this week is Lady In Waiting by Anne Glenconner.

Bill’s Listening Recommendations:

The box set of The Collected Poems of Seamus Heaney from RTE

Jessye Norman – Four Last Songs

Passion by Stephen Sondheim

Bill’s Movie Recommendations:

Little Women – the recent version with Saoirse Ronan

The Women – from 1939. Avail on DVD.

Dublin Daffodils

This is the text of a my piece which was broadcast on RTE Radio One’s Sunday Miscellany on 15th March last. You can also listen back here

March is the month of the Dublin daffodils.  All over the suburbs of our capital city, in gardens, on grass verges, on roundabouts and central medians of our dual carriageways, there are great swathes of brave daffodils who seem to smile at us, regardless of the battering they may be getting from the wind and the rain.  They do their level best to remain standing, nodding their heads and bringing a splash of sunny yellow to our increasingly grey urban environment.

My father and my brother both died in March – different Marchs and many years ago.  My brother died very suddenly and in the immediate aftermath of his death, my world went very dark.  I found myself marooned behind a black wall of grief and shock.  Everything had seemingly changed and I felt as if nothing would ever be the same again.  Then one morning, about a week after he died on St Patrick’s Day 1996, I looked out my window and for the first time I noticed a large clump of daffodils, standing together in their bright yellow clothes that seemed almost irreverent to me, in my deep mourning.  What right had they to be so cheerful?  

But as I stared at them, willing them to show me some respect, something inside me changed.  Because it was those daffodils, on a piece of parkland outside my house, that made me realise how important it was for me to hold onto hope; the hope that although all may ultimately be changed, all will be well, in time. 

March is often the month when winter feels at its longest.  We are regularly becalmed in the cold, the rain, the storms and sometimes even the snow when we are longing to move forward into the sunnier, warmer, gentler longer days of spring and summer.  Sometimes we can almost smell those days which we know should waiting somewhere in the wings but which tantalisingly remain beyond our grasp.  But the daffodils know better.  They are fearless about breaking through the hard, frosty ground in order to deliver their message, year after year after year.

Last Thursday as I drove along the N11, listening to the radio and trying to come to terms with the new reality in which we all find ourselves right now, the bouncing daffodils once again caught my eye and made me think.   

They made me think that this too will pass.  These days of uncertainty, when many of us are fearful of what the immediate future might hold, will pass.  The Dublin daffodils, stand together in groups to give each other mutual support.  They dare to wear their bright finery while we are still in the grip of cold winds.  Their whisper remains as it ever was.  They say that even when everything goes dark, when nothing looks as it was, when we are unsure as to how to carry on, we must hold onto hope. We must stand together and encourage each other.  And we must never lose the belief that better days are ahead.

So, when it seems like we are all paralysed by the current crisis, when it seems that our world has stopped and our lives have been forced into some kind of weird holding pattern, we need to see and to listen to the daffodils. They tell us that all is not as we might think.  Beyond our awareness, this planet we call home is still turning, so that day still follows night and in time it will also deliver our summer.  And so, while we support each other through these uncharted waters and do what we need to do to stay safe and well, we need to remember that this time will pass.  And all will be well.  The daffodils tell us so.