The World Has Enough Idiots

Good Morning from Northern Ireland. I’m working from home today so feel free to distract me from the dreaded laptop. The United Kingdom is now nearing 50,000 positive coronavirus cases a day as the latest wave hits us. It’s know in some quarters as the ‘Johnson Variant,’ an unflattering reference to Boris Johnson, the BritishContinue reading “The World Has Enough Idiots”

Are You Willing To Risk Your Life?

Northern Ireland reached a historic milestone this week when it was announced that a million people had now received their first COVID vaccination. Not bad for our wee country which has an adult population of approximately 1.5 million. Added to that, over 1/2 million have now received both doses, offering up to 95% protection againstContinue reading “Are You Willing To Risk Your Life?”

Never Take Life For Granted

I spend a lot of time running around trying to catch up with where I’m meant to be. There is always a to-do list, be it in respect of my home, work or writing responsibilities. Today, for example, I’m not in the office but have a parent-teacher meeting to attend this morning. Then, this evening,Continue reading “Never Take Life For Granted”

One Step At A Time

Normality inches ever closer in Northern Ireland with the continued easing of lockdown restrictions. The signs are positive. Infection rates remain low and, perhaps more importantly, hospitalisations and deaths are a fraction of what they were several months ago. It’s a well-worn cliche but there does appear to be light at the end of theContinue reading “One Step At A Time”

Second Vaccination Day

Fionnuala, Hannah and I got out long awaited second vaccinations yesterday at one of the regional hubs. They can administer 1500 vaccinations a day and, I have to say, it was a slick, well-organised operation. We were in and out in half an hour and the staff were fantastic. Efficient and friendly, they answered allContinue reading “Second Vaccination Day”

One Million Jabs

Northern Ireland passed a historic milestone yesterday when it was announced over 1 million coronavirus vaccinations have now been administered. That includes over 800,000 first jabs meaning over 50% of the adult population have now received protection. Not bad, considering the first vaccination was given only four months ago. The rollout has been an unprecedentedContinue reading “One Million Jabs”

Lockdown Fatigue

I’ve been under the weather of late. Not firing on all cylinders, less than 100%, below par. It all started a few months ago. I was struggling to run and my times were abysmal, even dog walking was leaving me tired out. Then one day I carried something up a flight of stairs and wasContinue reading “Lockdown Fatigue”

Death Of A Troll

Almost 32 million people have now received their first vaccination jab in the U.K. with over 5 million of our most vulnerable citizens having received both. The rollout has been an unprecedented success and the British government is on target to meet its pledge to have offered a vaccination to every adult by the endContinue reading “Death Of A Troll”

Will We Ever Be The Same Again?

I’ve been a bit under the weather of late. Yesterday I slept for 13 hours which is huge for me and utterly unnatural. I’ve been off for a while now. I came home from a gentle three mile walk the other day and felt like I had run a marathon. And I know that feelingContinue reading “Will We Ever Be The Same Again?”

Happy St Patricks Day?

Happy St Patricks Day from Northern Ireland. It feels no time since I was writing the same words a year ago, when the country was in lockdown and all the pubs were shut. And, here we are, 365 days later, still in lockdown and all the pubs are shut. There will be no parades, noContinue reading “Happy St Patricks Day?”

Let Them Eat Cake

I woke up hopeful this morning as our power-sharing executive had announced some weeks ago that today they would release a ‘Covid Recovery Plan,’ outlining a gradual easing of restrictions and return to normalised society. Hopeful but not confident, as our political leaders have repeatedly let the country down with previous promises and assurances. And,Continue reading “Let Them Eat Cake”

I’ve Had My First Jab

All clinically vulnerable persons in the 16-64 age bracket are now eligible for COVID vaccinations so our Hannah attended for her appointment this morning at the local vaccination centre. She was slightly nervous but also very excited as she has been effectively shielding for the best part of a year and been barely out ofContinue reading “I’ve Had My First Jab”

Hindsight Is A Wonderful Thing

The United Kingdom passed a grisly milestone yesterday as official figures revealed over 100,000 people have died from coronavirus since the pandemic struck last March. Other figures indicate the death toll is much higher. Either way, it’s an awful statistic. That’s the fifth highest in the world and it is estimated it could reach 150,000Continue reading “Hindsight Is A Wonderful Thing”

I’m Taking The Jab

As I write, the United Kingdom has administered almost 4 million vaccinations in the battle against coronavirus. The current rate is 300,000 a day with the intention to ramp this up significantly in the days and weeks ahead as the government pledges to have delivered 15 million vaccinations of the elderly and clinically vulnerable membersContinue reading “I’m Taking The Jab”

Homeschooling Is Hard

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent chap. I’ve got qualifications, a degree in Modern History no less, and I’m pretty good when it comes to quiz show general knowledge. I read and I write and I like to think I’m fairly eloquent when it comes to conversation. When my nerves or shyness don’t get theContinue reading “Homeschooling Is Hard”

Has The World Finally Gone Mad?

Well, that certainly seems to be the case. It’s reached the point where I’m almost afraid to check the news headlines. Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Northern Ireland with record numbers of hospital admissions and deaths. Over 1400 have now died since March and there have been over 78,000 positive cases. Hospital occupancy ratesContinue reading “Has The World Finally Gone Mad?”

The 12 Blogs Of Christmas #9

We woke up to snow this morning and lots of it. A little late for Christmas Day but a pretty sight all the same. A blanket of it covers large swathes of Northern Ireland as the country enters the fifth day of a six week lockdown. There were over 2,100 positive coronavirus cases yesterday, aContinue reading “The 12 Blogs Of Christmas #9”

The 12 Blogs Of Christmas #7

No Christmas in the Black household is complete without honeycomb ice cream and I gleefully broke open the tub the other night. No need for a bowl either. Just a man, his ice cream and a large spoon. Some may view this as uncouth but I’m saving on dish washing later on. I’ve got theContinue reading “The 12 Blogs Of Christmas #7”

What If Jesus Was A Plumber?

Good Morning from a chilly Northern Ireland. A particularly chilly Northern Ireland as our heating boiler packed in earlier this week, meaning we’ve been slowly freezing to death, huddled around electric radiators and under mountains of blankets. We’ve been waddling around like Eskimos in multiple layers as the gales howled outside. The highlight of theContinue reading “What If Jesus Was A Plumber?”

They’d Argue A Black Crow White

I’m working from home today, attending a training course online via the wonders of technology. Don’t ask me how, though, I leave all the gadget stuff to Fionnuala who sighs, rolls her eyes and has the patience of a saint. Anyway, it saves me a commute into Belfast and seems to be the way thingsContinue reading “They’d Argue A Black Crow White”

Happy Halloween From Frosty

I met this chap during my lunchtime stroll around Belfast today. He looked so happy and pleased with himself that I hadn’t the heart to tell him that he had in fact turned up two months early for the wrong holiday. Maybe someone will take him to one side and have a quite word withContinue reading “Happy Halloween From Frosty”

Stay In Control

‘Control’ seems to be a buzz word at the moment, both in the media and on the lips of many. It’s a double edged sword. Some view control as necessary in order to prevent chaos and anarchy from holding sway. Others view it as a means of restricting individual liberties and freedoms. I’m somewhere inContinue reading “Stay In Control”

The Only Test I’ve Ever Wanted To Fail

Good Morning from Northern Ireland. I’m pleased to say my COVID-19 test was negative and the Black clan are out of self-isolation again. This was a big relief to all. We won’t be going far, though, as the latest set of restrictions came into effect yesterday meaning schools are closed for the next two weeks.Continue reading “The Only Test I’ve Ever Wanted To Fail”

COVID-19 In Northern Ireland

As expected, new COVID-19 restrictions were announced in Northern Ireland yesterday in an effort to combat the rising infection rates. On Wednesday, over 1200 people tested positive, a record high. This time last month we were averaging around 120 a month. Tragically, four people also died taking the death total in our little country toContinue reading “COVID-19 In Northern Ireland”

On The Brink Again

When the first wave of COVID struck little Northern Ireland in March and the country entered full lockdown, it was a surreal experience. We huddled around our television sets and watched the story unfold as cases, hospitalisations and deaths rose. It impacted massively upon our lives and lifestyles as schools and offices closed, the economyContinue reading “On The Brink Again”

I Don’t Want To Face The World Today

It’s wet and wild outside and I don’t want to get up. Thankfully it’s Sunday so I don’t have to, well not yet anyway. I’m not budging, content to stay under the covers and write some words instead. It’s still dark, very dark, so I can’t see what is going on outside. But I canContinue reading “I Don’t Want To Face The World Today”

Welcome To The Real World

It’s the weekend, a time when we should relax and recuperate from our efforts during the preceding week. It’s when we recharge our batteries and switch off a little from the trials and tribulations of work. Saturday morning should be good news. Yet, when I checked my social media accounts this morning and watched theContinue reading “Welcome To The Real World”

Raise A Glass To The COVID Dead

It would appear that the second wave is upon us. Well, in Northern Ireland at least, although the statistics suggest infection rates are rising across Europe. Yesterday, our Executive met and agreed new province-wide restrictions that mean people can no longer have visitors in their own homes. Many are unhappy with this decision given, inContinue reading “Raise A Glass To The COVID Dead”

What If We Could See Coronavirus?

Living in the midst of a pandemic has heightened levels of personal hygiene to unprecedented levels. We are (meant to be) forever washing or sanitising our hands, cleaning work surfaces and wiping down communal areas. We catch and bin our sneezes and sniffles and follow many other catchy slogans in order to keep ourselves andContinue reading “What If We Could See Coronavirus?”

Walking Towards Normality

After five long months, Adam and Hannah return to school tomorrow. Rebecca starts back the following week. It feels like forever since we have seen them in their school uniforms but tomorrow morning the alarm clock will be set for 6 a.m. and organised chaos will again descend upon the Black household. No more lyingContinue reading “Walking Towards Normality”

Are You Suffering From COVID-19 Fatigue?

It’s on the news every day, it’s the only topic of conversation in work, you see it everywhere you go. Mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing. COVID-19 has taken over our lives in an unprecedented manner. Will it ever end, Will a vaccine ever be developed to confine this terrible pandemic to the history books?Continue reading “Are You Suffering From COVID-19 Fatigue?”

How Has Quarantine Been For You?

When they vote for the most frequently used words of 2020, surely quarantine must be a front runner. The pandemic sweeping the globe has meant that it has jumped onto our lips and out of our mouths on a regular basis. Most of us have experienced lockdown from behind closed doors, watching our television setsContinue reading “How Has Quarantine Been For You?”

OCD – The Silent Killer

I have OCD and I’m not in control. There, I’ve said it, that wasn’t so hard was it? Even a few years ago, I would have veered clear of ‘outing’ myself and identifying with the mental illness. It was embarrassing, shameful and humiliating. But the longer I’ve walked this path, I’ve realised I have aContinue reading “OCD – The Silent Killer”

Me, My Mask & I

Yes, I know I need a haircut. My return to post lockdown society has not included a visit to the barbers yet. I hope to fit it in soon. Or allow Fionnuala and Adam to do it, seeing as they did such a good job last time. But today’s post is about my mask wearingContinue reading “Me, My Mask & I”

Do As We Say, Not As We Do

Face coverings became mandatory on public transport in Northern Ireland today. It has been widely publicised and staff at bus and train stations have been handing out free masks to commuters throughout the week. So, model citizen that I am, I duly boarded the train this morning with my mask on. This is no easyContinue reading “Do As We Say, Not As We Do”

Don’t Suffer In Silence

I fear I’m getting old. For everything hurts. A lot. Take last Saturday for example. I bent over in the kitchen to put some rubbish in the bin, only to discover I couldn’t stand up straight again. A sharp pain in the base of my back ensured that. Hobbling over to a nearby chair myContinue reading “Don’t Suffer In Silence”

What Is Wrong With America?

The Northern Ireland Executive announced on Thursday a raft of lockdown easing measures over the coming weeks. These include the opening of bars, restaurants and cafes; competitive sport to return; gyms, museums and galleries to reopen; and a halving of the two metre social distancing rule. Deaths and infection rates have fallen markedly. There isContinue reading “What Is Wrong With America?”

Start The World, I Need To Get Back On Again

I’m back to work on Monday. Well, I’m dipping my toe in the water, anyway, returning to the office on a part time basis. Our workplace is not officially back to normal but I’m returning in order to break the ice and help prepare for when all the staff are back. It’s been 12 weeksContinue reading “Start The World, I Need To Get Back On Again”

Don’t Forget To Be Silly

I’m currently wading through the final edits for my second novel, ‘A New Jerusalem.’ It’s been a slog but I’m finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. My family have kept spirits high and yesterday’s work was broken up by several Tik Tok videos involving dance routines, silly voices and airContinue reading “Don’t Forget To Be Silly”

Social Distancing – Here To Stay? – Part One

I visited our local fish and chip shop yesterday, a pay day treat for the Black clan. And while you might think society is returning to normal, walk into any shop or business and you can see that this is clearly not the case. Social distancing is here and it’s here to stay. Be thatContinue reading “Social Distancing – Here To Stay? – Part One”

OCD – Don’t Suffer In Silence

Thrilled to be sending a copy of ‘Skelly’s Square’ to Lily Bailey, author of ‘Because We Are Bad,’ the best memoir on OCD I have read. Lily is one of a number of talented mental health advocates who inspired me to write about my own experiences with this vicious, relentless, yet very misunderstood mental illness.Continue reading “OCD – Don’t Suffer In Silence”

Too Tired To Care

Tiredness. It’s a by product of this pandemic. A lot of us are tired a lot of the time. Tired of the rising death toll, the deceitful, treacherous politicians. Tired of the relentless trickle of bad news. Really bad news you couldn’t make up in a million years if it wasn’t for the fact itContinue reading “Too Tired To Care”

Researching Book Three

Another day in paradise. Or lockdown hell, whichever way you wish to look at it. I woke up to more five star reviews for ‘Skelly’s Square’ on Amazon. The USA and UK are now tied at 56 five star reviews each. These mean so much to me as they bolster my ever fragile confidence. TheyContinue reading “Researching Book Three”

My 10th And Final Marathon

The Belfast Marathon, which I was training for, was unfortunately cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. But they offered a virtual alternative which you could run any time in May or June. I hadn’t really trained for it but went for it this morning with a target of anything under 4:30:00 in mind.Continue reading “My 10th And Final Marathon”

My 10th And Final Marathon

The Belfast Marathon, which I was training for, was unfortunately cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. But they offered a virtual alternative which you could run any time in May or June. I hadn’t really trained for it but went for it this morning with a target of anything under 4:30:00 in mind.Continue reading “My 10th And Final Marathon”

Social Distancing – Northern Ireland Style

Rebecca, Charlie and I made some new friends on our walk this morning. Apparently the cows of Aghalee don’t believe in social distancing, preferring the…ahem…herd immunity approach to combating coronavirus. They were a friendly and curious bunch but a left a lot to be desired with regards their personal hygiene and toilet training. Rebecca lovesContinue reading “Social Distancing – Northern Ireland Style”

Back To Work…For A While

I returned to Belfast this morning for the first time in almost two months. I had volunteered to work a four hour supervisory shift in the office where a skeleton staff are performing key duties. While my own team have been closed down for now, I offered to help another team who are still operatingContinue reading “Back To Work…For A While”

Woke up…Ran A Half Marathon

Five loops of the village this morning in bright sunshine amounted to a half marathon. I haven’t run this far in some months now, so was quite anxious at the prospect. I actually tried to talk my way out of yesterday until Fionnuala gave me a pep talk, ‘encouraging’ me to lace my trainers upContinue reading “Woke up…Ran A Half Marathon”

They Sicken Me

The weekend has brought more sunshine to the United Kingdom. Yet, dark clouds are gathering. Thousands breached rules on social distancing to hold street parties to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Some of these scenes were screened on television news outlets to almost universal dismay. Many others flocked to parks to picnic, partyContinue reading “They Sicken Me”

The Internet – A Double Edged Sword

Since we went into lockdown six months ago, grocery shopping has been quite a stressful business. Maintaining social distancing, one way systems around supermarkets, the handling of items that maybe a dozen people have already handled. Your mind is in overdrive and you’re on constant alert. Even Fionnuala, a veteran at this new way, admittedContinue reading “The Internet – A Double Edged Sword”

Are You Wasting Away?

I’m in a queue. The council have arranged a rubbish collection in an adjoining village and we’ve seized the opportunity as our wheelie bin is full to the brim. Being in lockdown means more food consumption and general waste. The queue itself is very orderly. Us Northern Irish are good at waiting in line. EverybodyContinue reading “Are You Wasting Away?”

I Want To Stay In

As the lockdown in the United Kingdom enters its sixth week there is evidence that the public resolve to adhere to government guidance to stay at home is wavering. Footfall and traffic figures are steadily creeping up again. At a time when the number of hospital deaths from COVID-19 passed 20,000 yesterday. That’s not includingContinue reading “I Want To Stay In”

OCD In A Time Of Plague

Yesterday was a struggle. It dragged interminably and a restlessness descended upon the house; a sense of boredom and frustration. There was plenty to do, chore wise, but we lacked the motivation and desire to launch into any new tasks. Personally, I could sense obsessive thoughts circling my carefully constructed defences like vultures hovering overContinue reading “OCD In A Time Of Plague”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #19

It’s our sixth week in isolation. In some ways it has flown by, in others an excruciating drag. The lockdown will continue for at least another two weeks, as the U.K. death toll now sits at over 16,000. There have been 207 confirmed deaths in Northern Ireland although current figures don’t include deaths within careContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #19”

A Trip To The Supermarket

Today I ventured out to the supermarket for the first time since the lockdown and introduction of social distancing measures. Fionnuala suggested this would be ‘good experience’ and handed me a list of items to purchase. I’m anxious when tasked by my wife at the best of times so this was a particularly challenging event.Continue reading “A Trip To The Supermarket”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #18

Yesterday we were told the lockdown was to be extended until 08 May, when it would be reviewed again. This didn’t come as a surprise to anyone as only the most foolhardy would want to revert to normal at this critical time. The experts say the U.K. is nearing its peak as deaths are expectedContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #18”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #17

Yesterday evening we sat outside in the back garden as a family. It’s rare to get the five of us in the one room at the same time but we listened to some music, played by DJ Fionnuala, before retiring inside when it started to get dark and chilly. Before that, it had been anotherContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #17”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #16

Good Morning to you all from a grey and damp Northern Ireland. The lockdown continues here as the U.K. death total neared 9,000 yesterday. The experts say the curve is starting to flatten but almost 1000 people died yesterday, which does little to raise hopes or offer light at the end of the tunnel. 10Continue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #16”

Something To Do During Lockdown

Haven’t done this in a while, as not sure if it was appropriate, but here’s a little plug for my debut novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.’ It was released last summer and has done rather well with over 150 five star reviews to date on Amazon and Goodreads. More people are apparently readingContinue reading “Something To Do During Lockdown”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #14

The U.K. death total passed 6000 yesterday, an increase of over 800, which showed how premature the calls of some had been for a relaxation of the lockdown rules. There is a light at the end of the tunnel but this is a very long tunnel. There were three deaths in Northern Ireland, bringing ourContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #14”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #13

People. Sheesh. We are in our third week of lockdown in Northern Ireland, yet some are already asking when the restrictions will be relaxed. Three weeks! Look around, there are still thousands of people dying across the globe every day from this relentless pandemic. Yet, you’re playing the martyr because you’re being asked to stayContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #13”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #12

My 12th lockdown blog. In a way the time has flown by, in other ways it drags interminably. Today is grey and chilly. The weather forecasters predicted a warm weekend and there were fears people would leave their homes and flaunt government instructions to stay at home. Hopefully the cooler conditions will dissuade anyone fromContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #12”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #11

The forecast for the weekend remains good but the furthest we are going is our back garden. We are digging in for the long haul. Adam and I are power hosing the yard today, Rebecca is on weeding duties and tomorrow we are fence and furniture painting. The pandemic does give you the time toContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #11”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #10

Another sunny day in Northern Ireland, but another 12 deaths bringing our country’s total to 48. Over 3600 dead in the United Kingdom as a whole. It’s getting to the point where the numbers are almost irrelevant, they lose their meaning and impact the more they rise. Every day is worse than the one before,Continue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #10”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #9

Fionnuala was out early this morning to the supermarket where she picked up our pre ordered shop at the ‘click & collect’ point outside the store. Lots of treats including pizza for lunch. The kids have been crying out for a ‘games day’ so the Monopoly board will be coming out afterwards. Hopefully, the fiveContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #9”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #8

Today marked the end of our 14 day self isolation. Adam and I ‘celebrated’ by going for a 5K run along the towpath out of the village towards the Broadwater reservoir and back. We met about a dozen people but made sure to adhere to social distancing guidelines. It was great to get out intoContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #8”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #7

Today is our last day in self isolation. Hurrah! We are all well, it’s a lovely spring morning and I can hear a wood pigeon cooing outside as I write this. Tomorrow Adam and I are going to celebrate our newfound freedom with a run along the towpath which stretches from our village to theContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #7”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #5

I will never take anything for granted again. During this lockdown I have become increasingly fixated on sales of my first book and finishing the edits on my second. This is what I do. When stuff gets real and scary I tend to hide in fantasy land. I struggle to cope with the situation soContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #5”

Coronavirus Northern Ireland #4

Day 11/14 in self isolation begins. I miss running. Before the craziness of this kicked in, I was struggling with my running, half heartedly training for a marathon that has now been cancelled. I chose not to run more often than not when I had a choice. Now when I don’t have a choice, allContinue reading “Coronavirus Northern Ireland #4”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #3

It’s Day 7/14 of our enforced self isolation. Fionnuala and Hannah are recovering well while Adam, Rebecca and myself continue to display no symptoms. As the schools have closed, our kitchen has turned into an online classroom, where the girls busy themselves with coursework forwarded by their teachers. Adam has been busy in our garage,Continue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #3”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #2

So, we are a household in self-isolation. Hannah had a cough and high temperature last week and we were advised to self isolate her for seven days. Following that, the government advice changed to if any of your family displayed symptoms then the whole household had to go into self-isolation for two weeks. Yesterday FionnualaContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #2”

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #1

It’s a worrying time for us all and no different in Northern Ireland regarding the coronavirus. At present, government are adhering to the mantra of improved personal hygiene. Our Prime Minister has told us to regularly wash our hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds; the time it would take to sing ‘HappyContinue reading “Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #1”