I expected it to be difficult to keep up the level of activity of the last few weeks when I went back to work but I had a plan for the week. I didn’t plan on multiple days of stormy wind and rain though.
Tuesday onwards has been pretty grim which had a big impact on my cycling. My plan was 60km each of my days off (Wednesday and Sunday) with 25km two mornings before work (Tuesday and Friday). Tuesday morning wasn’t happening as I really needed the extra hour in bed. Wednesday I did get out but the worst of the storm was to hit that afternoon into Thursday so I only managed a wet and windy 26km. It was still stormy Friday morning so the bike was out again. Today it’s Mother’s Day and #2 son’s 13th birthday so 2.5hrs on the bike was never going to happen. I had hoped for an hour in the morning but a walk was just about enjoyable, a cycle would have been hateful. A total of 26km for the week, how the mighty have fallen!
Walking has been more successful. I’ve managed to keep up my streak of walking every day. Even on the wettest days it’s not hard to dress up appropriately and make it at least partially enjoyable. My target for the week is 30km and finishing on 28.9 my only issue was skipping the 2km walk on Thursday morning. Heavy rain and hail showers was not my idea of a good way to start the day.
The biggest result of the week has been finally starting a strength and conditioning program. I’ve been following the Chain Reactions kettlebell routine from YouTube. Monday, Thursday, Saturday with a 2km warm up walk (skipped on Thursday). I’ve also added in some upper body movements to give a 25-30min routine. I was very stiff on Wednesday but OK since and hopefully it’s the start of a new habit.
Over the last 6-8 months there has been a lot of criticism of how the government has been handling the Covid19 outbreak in Ireland and I have been critical myself of the lack of direction and apparent lack of a clear path. A lot of media criticism has been around the failure of the government to ramp up testing and contact tracing services as well as the ability of the health service to cope with a second and third wave. In the last couple of days I have nothing but praise for the service.
My initial contact was with my local GP service in Lifford. Our service are particularly good and I don’t know how much of my initial speed was their systems or the HSE systems as a whole.
I spoke to the health centre shortly after 9am and received a call back from a GP at 9:30am. She went through my symptoms, asked about the rest of the household and recommended we all get tested. She booked the tests electronically and the appointments came through as SMS within minutes for appointments at 11:30am.
My knowledge of the testing centre was quite limited. I’d seen photos of the original setup in O’Donnell GAA pitch in the local media. I’d also heard that it was moved to a new facility in the car park at the hospital but I’d no idea of the scale of this new centre. Below are photos of the original and upgraded facilities taken from Donegal Daily articles.
All our checking in and testing was done without us leaving the car. We were initially directed to a reception block where our appointments were confirmed and our details checked. We were given envelopes containing the testing kits, tissues, masks and information leaflets. Conor’s and Catriona’s required additional work so we were directed to a waiting area until they were ready. It was like a less enjoyable version of the McDonald’s Drive Thru!
After a few minutes we were called forward to one of the large drive in sheds where two staff, fully kitted in PPE explained the whole process and completed the tests. They were very friendly and professional and made the whole process a lot easier.
The test for kids is different to adults so Conor was done first with the swab up both nostrils for a short twist. For the rest of us it was a swab of the back of the throat and then the back of the nose via a nostril. The test itself is hateful and uncomfortable but not sore and definitely manageable, over quite quickly. I’d say the four of us were done in less than 10 minutes including explanations.
I’ve seen some criticism this year that the Irish Army hasn’t been used properly to support the fight against Covid19 so it was interesting to see two of the testers yesterday were wearing Army uniforms under their PPE. It seems they are being used but under the radar and that they will be utilised further as the vaccination program begins.
We were told that the results could take 24-48hrs but woke the next morning to SMS confirmations that we were all positive with guideline links on what to do next and what to expect. At 9:50am I received a call from the GP to confirm the result in case we hadn’t received the message and again explaining what to do (isolate for 10 days), what to expect, what to look out for and how to treat the symptoms. She also completed the electronic declarations for social welfare to cover both Catriona and myself while off work.
Later that morning we both completed the online social welfare application. Again a very streamlined process made simple and easy to complete.
That afternoon we also received a call from the contact tracing service. It was mainly Catriona they spoke to but took details for both of us and the boys. Catriona’s work has had a number of cases already so they’re hyper aware and we have really good systems in place at my work. The boys have been off school since before Xmas so it was a relief to have very few possible contacts. While they are no longer testing close contacts without symptoms it’s reassuring to see that they are still following through to ask them to isolate.
I really do hope that the HSE has learned from how they have managed and handled the Covid19 pandemic and that once it is over they can take these new experiences and learnings and use them to correct many of the failings of the current system. I would like to think we will see an end to the endless bureaucracy, waiting times and endless queues in congested clinics. They’ve shown this year that dramatic change is possible when the will is there.
Catriona had a rotten cold all weekend and the boys picked it up at the end of the weekend. Not to be outdone I started getting a sore throat and the sniffles on Monday too. I was determined not to let this one beat me like the last one derailed my December streak plans. Monday afternoon I had a bit of a cough that became a bit more persistent as the day went on. Tuesday I still had the cough but felt OK so off to work as normal. As the day went on the cough got a bit worse and by evening I was also feeling a bit breathless. At this stage I was starting to get a bad feeling.
At bedtime and I was feeling an ache in my thighs that was very strange and worrying. At this point I’d already decided to call the doctor in the morning and arrange a Covid consultation. I woke at 130am with pains across my shoulders and in my lower back. These, as well as the ache in my legs came and went all night preventing any sleep, even a doze. By morning I was also slightly feverish but only a little with a temperature of 37.8°C and a dose of paracetamol and ibuprofen soon sorted all symptoms shortly after getting up.
A call to the doctor and all four of us were sent for Covid tests in Letterkenny for 1130am with results expected in 24-48hrs.
As the day went on I was feeling a bit better, the fever was gone and the cough easing. The pains were a lot less and although I was tired I put it down to the lack of sleep. All of us felt OK and we were starting to feel a bit foolish and even talking about the fact that we had wasted resources with the only result being a talking point experience of the test process. I was feeling especially foolish about causing worry at work having informed my boss of my symptoms and test that morning.
After a solid night of caught up sleep I woke to see this on my phone:
All four of us tested positive but thankfully all of us are still only experiencing mild symptoms. The boys are pretty much OK to the extent that Owen thought this morning that we were pranking him about the result! Catriona has a chesty cough and both of us are more fatigued than usual but that’s it so far.
The advice from the doctor is to treat the symptoms as a normal cold or flu but not to ignore any changes for the worse. I’ve been reading Dr Google and apparently symptoms can worsen after a mild start and can go from mild to severe quite quickly. Increased breathlessness is the key one to watch for.
We now have to stay home until next week. I was the last to show symptoms but we’re all going to isolate from the same day (Monday) to be on the safe side. That means we’re at home and not allowed to leave the house until Thursday the 14th. Frustratingly that includes even going for a walk in case we meet someone. Assuming we don’t experience any escalation of symptoms that will be the biggest challenge!
noun 1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. 2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter 3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: 4. a member of the same nation, party, etc.
When does someone become more than someone you know and become a friend? In today’s world do you have to know someone in real life to call them a friend?
I have a number of different groups of friends and a lot of them I haven’t met. I have a small number of very good friends that I have known for a long time and are very important in my life. I have friends that I know through work both past and present and from past times such as the cycling club and geocaching. Some of them I interact with in person and some online only now. Then I have “virtual friends“, people I only know from an online perspective and have never met. Some of these are from Facebook/WhatsApp groups that have similar interests to me and others I have interacted with through blogs.
Over the last few months I’ve been interacting with these virtual friends more than my real life friends as a result of the lockdown and restricted movement. It may sound strange to describe them as friends but through the blogs and posts I get to see inside their lives, to varying degrees, interact with some of them and share some of my own life. Some of them, like the None2Run Facebook group, provide support and motivation as I work through that program, very much like regular friends do.
I don’t know when someone becomes a friend but I do know that the last three months would have been much more difficult without them – all of them.
If St Patrick’s Day was strange then Mother’s Day wasn’t going to be much different. We wanted to do as much as possible today while being sensible so we went to visit Mum and with a great idea from Catriona we wrote Happy Mother’s Day on A4 sheets and greeted her from outside her garden wall having already left her present outside the front door. It was a bit weird but we got to say what we wanted and she and Dad both stayed safe.
Catriona’s wish was a walk on the beach. We went to Rathmullan as it’s a big wide beach with plenty of space for keeping away from others and allowed us to visit Catriona’s Mum’s grave on the way.
When we arrived in Rathmullan the car park was as busy as I’ve seen it with about 40 cars parked up already. Having seen pictures of crowds in the Wicklow Mountains yesterday we were on the verge of turning away but as there was nobody actually in the car park we decided to have a look down the beach.
It was heartening to see how everyone was behaving. There were a lot of people out walking, lots of couples and lots of small family groups. Everyone was very responsible with everyone well spread out up and down the beach with lots of space. We saw a couple of groups of people meeting who knew each other but just waving. One pair of younger couples were kind of messing but one of the guys was pretty clear about the need to stay apart and made sure the other guy didn’t come too close while still being able to have a conversation.
It was really uplifting to see everyone enjoying the day, the first of the proper Spring weather and to be able to put aside the worries and concerns for just a little while but still being sensible enough to stay safe.
Catriona’s favourite thing is to walk on the beach and it was great we were able to give her that today.
After a very busy and successful first week in my new job and twice having to withdraw plans midweek to cycle due to either tiredness, bad weather or both I was determined to get out cycling this morning.
My initial plan was to lie in until 8.30 and be on the road between 9 and 9.30. When I woke it was raining hard and with the forecast I decided to go back to bed and eventually got on the road for 10.
With the earlier rain I decided to go for my waterproof socks which then required my slightly roomier winter shoes. Probably too warm but at least I’d be dry.
I’d decided on the 50km route and being optimistic I decided to head into Clady and tackle the climb up over The Glebe. This is a two stage climb that is 2.3km long, averages 4.3% and is classed as a Category 4 climb on the current Strava segment.
My record on this segment is 6:49 putting me in 31st position on the leaderboard. Today’s effort was 9:13 which would be equivalent to 115th. It sounds like a big difference but I’m happy I made it to the top today without stopping and in 2016 I was in much better condition. It’s also not my slowest time and not far off my average.
The current Strava segment shows it as one climb but it’s really two with a short flatter bit in between allowing for a slight recovery.
The hard work of the climb is more than made up for by a nice, fast 3km descent to Victoria Bridge. This was much easier and I was only 11sec off my PB 😆
The rest of the run was into Strabane via Victoria Bridge and back home via Clady, Castlefinn and Killygordon.
I wanted 50km so went up the road towards Ballybofey a few kilometres to get the distance. Met a couple of guys from the club that I hadn’t met before. One of them had a puncture and I was able to lend a hand by supplying a CO2 cannister and pump.
On the way back home I also had a chance to see the local annual Vintage rally setting up.
In the afternoon the boys were at Robert Emmets Summer Camp and we went down for the BBQ and the round up including photos with two of the Donegal team and the Anglo-Celt Cup.
Afterwards we called to visit Mum and Dad who were away last week. As they’re in the middle of renovations and staying with Mum and Dad we also saw Rachel and her family.
Home for dinner, bike cleaned and oiled and a relaxing evening at home. Fully recharged for another week at work.
London is noisy. There’s a constant background hum, even at night. It was Owen that first mentioned it but it was only when we got home that I realised how much.
When you ask people for advice (Simon and the Oyster Card! ) then you should pay heed and follow that advice
Following on from the above, if you need to clarify your previously received advice ask someone for help.
The Underground is a really good way to get around and there are specific apps to help you plan journeys as well as the overland trains. However, don’t forget about Google Maps. It covers trains and buses as well as pedestrian journeys.
The Oyster Card is the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to pay for the Underground.
There are very few convenience type shops in the centre of London. Bring snacks and drinks with you as they are expensive in the attractions. Boots is an alternative as the bigger ones do sandwich meal deals.
Kids (ie. our boys) get hungry and very hungry way before adults do.
Book attractions online in advance of your trip and look for multi buy options as the more you book the more value you get.
Allow time for queues. All 3 attractions we did had a 30min queue to get in.
Saturday mornings are mega busy at attractions and best avoided.
There are lots of very helpful people to assist you at the Underground (Blue Hi-Viz vests) and along the streets, mainly at attractions (Pink T-shirts and/or Hi-Viz vests).
Despite the rumours not everyone will step over you if you were dying. There are many lovely people that will help a stranger.
There are quite a few homeless people around but they tend to keep themselves to themselves except when begging on the Underground – or throwing beer at me 🙈
It’s worth getting off the Underground and wandering around by foot. However, the distances do mount up quite easily as the main sights are quite spread out – London is BIG.
London is expensive to get around but food and drink are reasonably good value if you take time to look around.
It’s a great place to visit – plan ahead and get the most from your trip.
When we booked our flights we chose a later flight for Saturday to allow us to have an extra day to explore. However, we didn’t have a plan for how to spend this last day.
On our last trip to England (August 2014) we made a day trip from Catriona’s brother’s in Bracknell to London mainly to visit the Natural History Museum. The boys enjoyed it and as Conor couldn’t remember it much (he was 6 then) he asked to go back today.
Today was not a good day to visit the museum! We should have realised that a Saturday in the middle of the school holidays would be busy but it was jammed! The galleries were packed, really uncomfortably so, very warm and stuffy, incredibly noisy and generally an unpleasant place to be.
We had a look around at a few things but after an hour decide to give up. Thankfully we had such a good week that this experience didn’t spoil our trip as we were already taking home some great memories.
I was really disappointed by the dinosaur display. It was fantastic in 2014 but much reduced now. Too many display boards and many fewer dinosaur displays.
One full gallery was given over to this huge Moon sculpture. It was impressive but I couldn’t help wondering if the room could have been put to a more interesting use? On the plus side it was air conditioned ✅