BROADCASTER and author Rachael English is still on the radio regularly but hasn’t been into RTÉ for over two months.
“I think the last time I was in the building was on March 18. Ever since then, I have a little box that uses the wifi and it came from Radio Sport. They ordinarily are the users, it even has a link to Croke Park on it, they’re unlikely to be able to use that for a while,” the Shannon woman says.
Presenting Morning Ireland to hundreds of thousands of listeners isn’t the kind of thing one normally does from home but Rachael has got into the habit of it. “It takes a little bit of getting used to, but a lot less than I thought it would. It was a great relief there for a few weeks that it was possible to do it like that. There was one day that the wifi went down, not during the programme but the night before there was a big crash and you thought this is so precarious, but everything was sorted out. “In fairness, I’m very lucky to be able to do this, a few people do have to go in, the programme editor goes in, but they have perspex screens up and everything and they had to reconfigure the entire newsroom.”
A very well-established author at this stage, she feels she may have written more than if the pandemic had never emerged. “Because of the writing, I’m maybe more slightly accustomed to being on my own for certain amounts of time and having to get on with things. That’s been quite useful.
“For the first couple of weeks I found it hard to write, like most people my head was just all over the place, you’d be going between the phone, the radio and television and everyone was obsessed. Then I just got into a bit of a rhythm and perhaps I ended up writing more than if times were normal.”
At home, it is just Rachael and her husband and she hasn’t been able to make it to Clare to see her mother and father. “My parents have been brilliant. They’re in Shannon and they’ve spent a long time now not being able to go anywhere. They have a neighbour, Helen Jones, and she’s been very good to them. There seems to be a great support network around the place, people have been great.
“I think the weather has been a help. It’s really grey today in Dublin and we were just saying imagine if we had just been through eight weeks of this?”
She feels the impact on her household could have been much worse than it has been so far. “I suppose we’ve been lucky. My husband works for The Irish Examiner so he’s been able to work from home and we’ve kept our jobs.
“Over the last few weeks, it seems like a minority position that the only way your job is not disrupted is by doing it from home. We’d all like more freedom, but in the grand scheme of things it hasn’t been too bad for us.
“There are people who it has been far worse for. Sometimes if you are having a bad day you need to remind yourself of that and it’s not the worst affliction in the world not being able to go out.”
She has a lot of sympathy for anyone who loses a loved one at this time and is denied a traditional funeral. “I’ve come across people who have had relatives die, not from Covid-19, but other illnesses and the whole support system of having a funeral is ripped away from you. That must be one of the worst things, that there’s no comfort there. We heard of somebody a few weeks away who wasn’t able to go to his mother’s funeral, she was in the north and you just think oh God, that’s terrible.”
Asked about what she is missing most, Rachael says it’s the buzz of a hectic newsroom and freedom to go places. “I suppose I am missing the buzz of going to work. Even if I go back into the office within the next couple of weeks, I know it’s not going to be the same, it’s all socially distanced and the thought of a socially distanced newsroom is such a bizarre thing. Also I suppose the freedom; the freedom to go someplace, go down and see my parents.
“Myself and my mother had made plans to go to Galway for a few days and so many things like that have fallen by the wayside. Not massive things, just all the little things that you took for granted,” Rachael concluded.