How are you feeling today?
I’m feeling good in general, I’m quite open to potential today, to what I’m going to do. It’s probably not going to be a lot but I’m feeling mentally open and receptive.
What’s something that you really miss right now?
What I really miss now is something that I had taken for granted, which is physical contact – to hug somebody, even when you meet a friend and you hug and it’s just a two second embrace, it’s that sense of togetherness that’s been taken for granted my whole life. You see someone and you just hug them, or it could be a handshake or a pat on the back or something, and now it’s just so bizarre. If I do happen to meet somebody on the road, there’s this very, very clear kind of chasm between us, and that has to be maintained. I know it’s necessary, but it’s a dehumanising thing, the proximity change. You don’t even remember the colour of this person’s eyes, the details of the face… I know generally, that’s the person, but you don’t get the smell or … It’s almost as if it’s from a screen, even communicating in real life, there’s such a distance between us it might as well be a screen. Everyday physical contact, that’s the thing I miss the most.
What is something that you’ve gained?
I won’t say I’ve gained new insights but I’ve gained a sort of clarity on my own ideas. It’s sort of brought them into a better focus in terms of my own plans and the direction my life was taking. I was planning to open a studio practice and part of my hesitancy was the inevitable solitude of doing this kind of work, but to go a step further and maybe set up a studio in a village where there won’t be as many social outlets. My hesitancy came from that idea that there could be a bit of isolation and I don’t want to plunge myself into that, but after this experience, or right now, I have no hesitation to do this. There’s a human need for intimacy, for closeness with other humans, and that’s something I’ll have to work to bring into my life. The daily experience I’ve had here has given me the strength and the faith to do this and to go ahead without fear, because it’s been a very positive experience. It’s just a question of managing how to make sure that there’s lots of social contact – it could be online, but ideally face to face – to make people a fundamental aspect in that equation. Just the solitude thing can be very daunting but basically I’ve gained the confidence to take it on and make it work, in light of these events, I’m sure I can do it.
Who are you most worried about right now?
Immediately, it would be my parents, because they are cocooned. And then the circle broadens and then I have very close friends who would have compromised immune systems. Immediate family comes to mind first, but I also think about my former students in Dublin – they were already in vulnerable situations with the money-grabbing landlords and sub-standard accommodation and many of them with lower levels of English. My family are obviously connected here with community and there’s lots of people I can turn to, but the students are, in some cases, thousands of miles from home… I always felt a strong affinity for their well being when they were in my care, and even now, the ones I’ve maintained contact with – I really wonder how they’re managing and try to make sure I can reach out and if it’s just a chat that i can offer them, at least it’s something.
What are you most hopeful for?
I’m most hopeful for what I believe is a continuation of this expansion of goodwill, maybe it’s reigniting this sense of the human spirit, this sense of community – that that would be as apparent as it is now in the future, or that it would even continue to develop. This reevaluation – what do I actually need in my life? What do I actually need to be happy? How many holidays do I need? And how much is that coffee? It’s a very grounding thing and I would certainly hope that this direction would continue. There’s a lot of people at home with their families – my cousin is at home with his partner and baby all day every day and he says it’s just like falling in love all over again – it’s incredible. I feel so much gratitude for people in those situations, it’s exactly what a child needs, for their parents to be around all day. For many of those parents, I can’t imagine them readily jumping in to some kind of crazy dynamic where they have to commute for three or four hours and barely see their child. I’m hopeful for a restructuring, a reevaluation for many people, many companies, I’d look at this work from home thing – it’s proved to be very successful for many businesses and I really hope it continues in that direction, that this humanity that we’ve renewed can continue to develop and continue to thrive. This feels like a strong line in the sand for the Celtic tiger era, the excesses, the materiality of it, the bullshit of it – none of that can bring you the sense of wholeness that a person needs.