June: 2020.

The animals keep me going.

Because of my health issues I am shielding in lockdown. 

Living up here  I have no neighbours. 

I live in the middle of nowhere and so, instead of being stuck in the house, I can actually go out. If I lived in a flat –   I would be going mad!

If I did go out and  saw somebody I would panic.

But because of where I am, I don’t have that feeling of …not being able to go out… or being stuck indoors. I can go out and be with the animals.

I have the freedom.

And there’s no worry of bumping into to anyone because I can go far up the fields and never see anyone.

irish landscape view

I took annual leave  on the 16th March and was to go back to work on the 18 March –   just when lockdown was just starting.

My boss phoned and asked how I felt about going back and I said I was a bit nervous because of my health. 

 I spoke to my consultant who said: ” No, you should be staying at home”.

And that was me!

And I haven’t been back to work since.  

Because my parents were coming over that week from Scotland for a visit I had everything in. I had all the food in, the oil was filled  and I was really well prepared.  

One of the girls I work with, and her partner, do all my shopping.

They have been brilliant.

greenhouse with plants and poly tunnel

I have a greenhouse and every year I say: “I must clean that greenhouse out and start doing something with it”.

So, I ended up clearing out the greenhouse, and started growing things. 

Then I bought a polytunnel and….  it’s just taken off.

I have lettuce ..and now the radishes are coming through so..  I’ll just have a salad and I’m like: I’ve grown that!

I made rhubarb jam. Yesterday, I made bread. Things that I would never have done. I’m keeping myself busy.

Ewe between trees

All day I’m out with the animals so I’m spending a lot more time with them. The dogs are loving it. 

I have 2 donkeys, 5 dogs, 6 cats, 8 chickens, 3 roosters,  3 drakes,  a goat and a ewe.

2 ducks and a hen  animals

I live beside a forest and there is a little bit of a hill where people often sit.

A  lot of birdwatchers come up here.

This car pulls up every day with a man  and woman. And he’s shouting down: 

You know, this is what’s keeping us going. She just loves coming and sitting here. And all we do is just watch those donkeys playing in the field.

So, I’m shouting back to them:

 “ When this is all sorted and everything’s back to some sort of normality,  come down and I will introduce you. You can meet the donkeys”. 

Having the donkeys is nice because they keep me going health-wise.

They are absolutely brilliant. 

sheep and goat by fence, animals

Another ewe and two lambs have recently taken up residence in my field.

It keeps the goat in the field.

The goat has a habit of jumping over the fence and since they appeared he is quite happy. 

I lost the pig. It’s still real sore, even though it’s two years now.

She was so friendly and intelligent. The goat, he was her best buddy and was lost when the pig died.  

The ewe is another friend for him.

For me, everything, is about the animals.

That’s what’s keeping me going.

country lane with fence no animals

I have no mobile reception, no internet reception and no TV. 

 My TV reception was  lost when we had that storm in February. 

 I don’t even miss it because I keep totally busy with the animals.

It’s weird. I don’t think I would be lonely…. I like my own company. 

At work  I am a people-person but when I leave and  come home and I’m like….this is my time.  

But if I lived in a flat on my own.. yeah, I probably would be lonely  – if I didn’t have the animals. 

upper hall and window

I’ve lived here four years in October.  

My house has a sitting room, living room, kitchen and 3 bedrooms with a garage.

There are a couple of outhouses and a couple of sheds.

There is a lane that goes down to the house. If I’m looking out the window and look up I can see the cars going by. If there is anybody coming down the lane I can see them from the window. 

There are fields all around for the animals and I live opposite a forest. 

I get my water from an underground river and a well, which is run by electricity, to bring the water into the house.

So if the electricity goes off I have no water. 

fields and stone wall  no animals

It’s really nice here. It’s not for everybody – especially not having the internet. For me it’s not a big deal.

It’s just a really nice place.

If I need to do anything online then I do it at work on my break.

I’m still high-risk so for me probably the next time I will be going out will be to go back to work.  

In my head I feel I am really blessed.

While all this is going on people are stuck in flats and  I can just walk out my door with no fear. 

Every time I speak to my dad he says: “ We are coming over tomorrow.

They are joking.

The two of them are shielding and stuck in the house.  My sisters and nieces go up and drop the food at the door and talk to them from the garden. 

front door

That’s the hardest bit for me….knowing  I can go out and about, and they are stuck indoors.

I am looking forward to getting in my car.

Getting on the ferry.

Driving to my parents’ house,  getting them into the car.

Driving back to the ferry and driving them up here so they can have a bit of a break. I’m really looking forward to that.

I am worried about them but I know that they are OK,  because my sisters are looking after them

Yesterday I got a box from my eldest niece: two cheese and onion pies and a Balti pies, a jar of ginger and rhubarb jam  and six tins of vegetarian soup. 

 It was a really, really, nice surprise.

I was doing videos on Facebook and wearing different hats every day. My cousin sent me a funny tartan hat and  a  friend sent me a hat from Holland.

So it is the little things that really cheer you up. 

white duck and brown duck

It’s OK living on your own with the animals…. but you do need people.

It’s like when people phone – and even though I might have spoken to them 3 days before – it feels like I haven’t spoken to them for a year.

They don’t get a word in because I don’t shut up! 

The next person who phones you tell them the same things. You say: have I told you this before?

I end up talking and talking and talking.

river  in country

Recently, the sheep crossed over the river and I was trying to get them all out so I climbed over the stones in the river.

On the last stone  I went down.

I didn’t hurt myself or anything but I just knew there was something not right. I had broken one of my front teeth. 

I can’t get a dentist  – so that’s another good thing that nobody sees me.

I have never had long hair.

Whenever it gets to my ears, it just annoys me so much.

But because it was so hot I just thought I’m just going to cut my hair. It’s going to be such a long time before the hairdressers open and nobody is going to see me so I just took a pair of clippers and shaved away.

And, I like it. I think it’s brilliant.

Now I can dry it in 5 minutes. It’s growing fast.  By the time I go back to work it will be fine.  

The animals are mostly outside.

The dogs – mainly the Jack Russell and the Westie –  come into the house but they all have their own houses outside. 

To be honest I only go into the house to go to bed.  I’m out all the time.

bedroom with mirror and view

I get up about 5am.  

Now, because it is so light it’s around 4.30am. 

You kind of get a routine that the animals are used to and if you are not there  by half five  the donkeys  are like shouting at you.  And once they start, the cockerels will start and the dogs will start.

This is not a place to come to if you would like a long lie in the morning. 

Normally I go to bed about 9pm and then read for an hour. Because it is so light it is like going to bed before the birds have gone to bed.  

I have a cuckoo

It was nice when it first arrived but a couple of weeks down the line you are going  nooooo…

It’s there first thing in the morning and it is constantly going throughout  the day in different parts of the fields. 

You hear  it up in the forest, then it comes back down again.  When you go to bed at night it’s still going. 

I had starlings in the four corners of the house. They’ve all gone now but I could hear them in my bedroom.  

And there are bats at night.

There are a couple of bat houses in the trees. 

You hear different things at night, different noises.. and different kind of birds. 

telescope looking from interior at view

When it’s dark, it’s dark.  There are no streetlights just the stars at night and the sky…

There are times I will go out to the animals and I just stand  and look up.

I have a telescope and… I just wish that people could come up here and see this. 

People are in towns and the streetlights are so bright. Here, the night skies are amazing.

It really is absolutely amazing.

bogland in country fields

Five minutes up the road  I have a peat bog where I cut the turf.  

I got in touch with the forestry and they said they were not giving out any plots.  But  there was an old lady that I visit and she had a plot  so  she transferred the name over. 

It is a lot of hard work. 

But again, it’s really peaceful where it is. Now, there is nobody up there at all this year.   

I get radio Scotland here and if I want to listen to U105 I have to get into my car. That means in the house I can’t get the local news.

kitchen with cooker and window

There were times at the very beginning of lockdown … it was like:  I don’t  know what is going on out there in the world. 

If you don’t talk to people on the phone  you  wouldn’t know what is going on. 

It’s a bit like the film 28 Days Later

There are  always little things going through your head when you are walking about..

I could be the only person left alive in this world!  

grow bags by doorstep

What I will remember about this time is that I finally got to clean out  my greenhouse and grow some vegetables and fruit.  

And … having more time to think.  

I have done a lot of  thinking about things in the past… about people  that I have met through my life.  People that you know and you wonder how they are getting on. 

There are people I know who have died from coronavirus. That brings you down.  That’s hard. 

One of my friends in London got it. It was really, really awful.

And then one of my other friends phoned to tell me that  my other friend had died from it. Her dad was 99 and she was looking after him.  It was while she was organising his funeral that she felt ill and ended up in intensive care.  

She died two days later. 

That was a real blow.  She was 60 and she was fit.

When you hear that it kind of makes you think…. All these things start to circle round  your head.

That’s what I call a scary day.  

It’s sad everything that has happened. And they talk about a second wave.

country view with blue flowers

You think: what am I going to do? I don’t want to go out there ever again!  

You start thinking all the worst things  about what’s going on.

So I’m really glad I live where I live.

I am so glad that I am not ill and living on my own.

Nobody has come down here. Even the doctors, who know you are vulnerable and high risk.  

There must be people out there who are on their own and have nobody, and nobody’s been near them. 

If I was  in my ’80’s living here on my own with  no internet. Well how would I know what’s going on?

I have cameras around and I have an alarm if anybody comes down the driveway  it sets off the alarm.

People say to me: “don’t you worry something might happen to you –  like a fall?” 

I fall all the time.

My knee would give way and I just roll over and get up.  These things happen.  

Here, there is nobody, just the animals.  But if things happen you deal with it. 

It might never happen, so why worry.

You just go day by day and …..enjoying growing all these vegetables.

All photos by respondent

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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