I am told by those who are or were teachers that the optimum time to get consensus in the staffroom is September. Over the years, many principals and boards of management made the mistake of thinking that May or June would be a great time to float new ideas and launch new schemes. They were sure, that with the prospect of a long leisurely summer facing them, their colleagues would agree to anything. An old friend of mine who knows his teachers tells me you wouldn’t even get a pay rise through a staffroom in May. If, however, you wait until September, you could possibly get agreement on a pay cut.
When we are tired we tend to be cranky, irritable and impossible to please, but when we are relaxed and refreshed we’re as biddable as sheep. This time last year, as the pandemic and its uncertainty stretched out before us, we were prepared to do anything to keep ourselves safe and sane. Over the past month, with the prospect of mass vaccination just over the horizon, we’ve become cross and cantankerous and nothing will please us. We seem oblivious to the looming prospect of liberation.
I was standing at my back door last week and saw my neighbour’s cows being let out for the first time this year. It was like watching the Grand National; the younger ones went off at a gallop, the smell of fresh grass leading them by the nostrils. The next age-group cantered with a steady and rhythmic determination and after them came those in late middle age making progress at a dignified trot. Bringing up the rear the old ladies bustled impatiently, like a bunch of grand dames slightly late for lunch.
They were a sight to behold, these liberated bovines making for the paddock. Soon enough we’ll all know what it’s like to bustle and gallop our way out of our confinement. But it’s getting more and more difficult to contain ourselves, and even a whisper that the spancils may have to be left on for a little longer is driving us mad. Nerves are very much frayed and tempers are short.
I have to admit that the tension is really getting to me lately. I find I’m badly affected by a malady of the spirit that might be called ‘vaccine envy.’ I know in my heart and soul that it’s completely irrational, infantile, juvenile, puerile, adolescent and stupid but, I’m mad jealous of the Brits.
I am, so there, I’ve said it, I’ve acknowledged it, I’ve embraced my inner weasel.
Do I feel better? No, I’m still mad jealous of the Brits; they might have made a complete hames of managing the crisis but they have plotted a way out of it that’s left us all sitting on our fists wondering what happened.
Whatever about my jealousy of the Brits, I’m furious with that crowd in Brussels, we would have done grand only they stuck their noses in.
From what I understand, a lot of progress was being made on the vaccine front by a number of countries acting in consort. That was until ‘our friends in Europe’, as Boris calls them, took it upon themselves to ‘streamline’ the efforts. To quote the late Brian Lenihan, they brought things to a shuddering halt. We can only hope that our vaccine shopping list isn’t lost under a heap of triplicate forms in the bowels of the Berlaymont building in Brussels.
At the risk of getting lost in metaphors and similes our experience of managing the vaccines has been akin to getting a puncture on the side of the road. You’re doing grand – you have the hub-cap off, the studs are loosened and you’re just about to put the jack under the car when the local know-all pulls up and says, “Oh let me do that, I’ll have you back on the road in a jiffy,” and before you can say a word he puts the jack in the wrong place and drives it up through the floor of the car. A minor inconvenience has become a major disaster and you have no option but to sit and wait for a tow truck. Of course you’d be furious.
Now that I’ve got all that out of my craw, perhaps I can silence my inner weasel, relax and explore the virtue of patience. But then I see the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste on telly and them the very embodiment of restraint and reason. My weasel wakes up and I want to shout at them, “Would the pair of ye go away and find a vaccine, wherever ye get it. Even if if all ye come up with is a coven of witches and a big pot, set them up on the Red Cow roundabout and whatever concoction they bubble up we’ll eat it, drink it or sniff it up our noses. Just do it.”
Happy St Patrick’s Day. Now, where are my blood pressure tablets?
First published in the Farming Independent, Tuesday, March 16th 2021