Way back in Ancient Times (c. 2005), when Facebook was still called The Facebook, YouTube was still in development, and Tiktok was just a noise that clocks made, I was a young Transition Year student who had never even heard of Boards.ie. We were lucky in my school to have a strong English department who encouraged reading, writing and public speaking. They ran a competition that year for speech writing. Alas, I did not enter it myself!
I still remember one of the outstanding entries, cleverly titled "2020 - the Year of Perfect Vision". It was witty and optimistic, peppered with imaginative references to students and staff and all the things that we would have accomplished by the time this far-away year became a reality. At that stage we probably hadn't even picked the subjects we'd be studying for the Leaving Cert, but we knew who the talented musicians, artists, rugby players and athletes were.
What's happened since then? That year group produced several doctors, teachers, architects, designers, a journalist, a local councillor, two Irish international rugby players, and a wide variety other professions and life-stories. Many of us stayed in touch with our own little gangs and see each other at Christmas and weddings. Some of the lads are parents now themselves. Some, like me, are still figuring life out as we go along.
I think it's safe to say that none of us could have predicted the way the world would be in 2020, though. The last few years will be remembered for many reasons, and many of those will be negative. Reeling In The Years will have to do a whole episode just on January to March!
The concept of climate change is nothing new to any of us, but this series of weather warnings is taking a lot of getting used to. Flooding is still getting worse at this end of the River Shannon due to seemingly incessant rain. The world watched Australia burn for well over six months. Parts of Canada had unexpected levels of snowfall. The world has always experienced extreme weather conditions, but in 2020 we're exposed to every disaster around the world and expected to react to every emergency as if it's something we can fix with donations and thoughts and prayers.
The Covid-19 strain of coronavirus, on the other hand, is something that genuinely does unite the globe at the moment with 125 countries (so far) reporting cases. Today we've seen the Irish government announce the closure of schools and colleges and pre-schools. The GAA and the FAI have called a halt to all activities. Concerts, races, festivals, gigs, and myriad events are postponed or cancelled altogether. Travel to other countries is curtailed and supermarkets are full of senseless panic shoppers. As of this evening we have had 70 confirmed diagnoses in the Republic, one fatality, and a further six patients in intensive care due to complications with this infection.
It's a lot to take in, and that's without the likes of Brexit, the future economic consequences the pandemic, the usual stuff with Donald Trump, trolling and bullying on social media, the ongoing debates around identity politics, the fallout of Caroline Flack's suicide, the sentencing of Harvey Weinstein, and the inconclusive results of our recent General Election. I, for one, could do with some good news for a change!
Who knows, maybe the next 15 days of enforced isolation will bring more people back to Boards. Maybe we'll fall back in love with the old-fashioned phone call. Those of us who don't get ill will have more time to read, listen to music and podcasts, watch films and TV shows, play video games, make art, meditate, sing, cook and write.
To paraphrase Paddy Kavanagh, we live in important places, times when great events are decided.