It's not about loneliness but mindfulness in pandemic era

Blissful: John Joe Quinn takes time out for creamy pint

Blissful: John Joe Quinn takes time out for creamy pint

Deirdre Reynolds

Time gentlemen, please!

The unstoppable march of time has been playing on all of our minds recently - but none more so than John Joe Quinn.

The Galway pensioner was enjoying a quiet pint on Monday evening when he casually became the side profile of social isolation around the world.

And it was all down to the small, battery-operated alarm clock tick-tocking away on the table in front of him.

Fittingly, the image taken by the owner of McGinn's Hop House in Woodquay proved a wake-up call of sorts.

As the countdown to the reopening of pubs across the country in eight days' time continued, many saw it as a damning depiction of Ireland's drastic Covid-19 restrictions, exemplified by the 105-minute rule - and John Joe as the very personification of the pandemic of loneliness that plagues almost one in ten people here, especially single men and women over the age of 75.

Personally, I just saw an auld fella sitting in a pub minding his own business - happily unaware of the professional head-patting and offers of free pints flooding in over on Facebook.

Far from fretting about going over his allotted time, the octogenarian later explained how he only brought the bedside clock to ensure he made it home on time to catch the news headlines.


"I don't know anything about computers or the internet," he shrugged off his newfound fame to the Irish Independent. "I'm an ordinary, plain man.

"I brought the alarm clock with me so I would get home in time to hear the news on RTÉ One at six o'clock.

"I always bring the clock with me, I never wear a watch."

Time is a concept that has seemingly stood still since Ireland recorded its first death from Covid-19 on March 11.

In the six months, 27 weeks, 186 days and 4,450 hours since, we've had more of it than ever before.

Yet, with lives, jobs, exams and weddings on hold, it's never felt more at a premium.

Sprucing up the garden, decluttering the attic: during lockdown, we were all desperately searching for ways to kill the time.

Some months on, it was the simple photo of an elderly man whiling some away that tapped into our deepest understood truth that, in the end, it's the other way around, no matter how much banana bread you bake.

In today's schedule-obsessed world, you can have FaceTime, family time, me time or - if you're lucky - even sexy time.

You can show off your hourglass figure on TikTok or call #TimesUp on outdated behaviour.

Still, it's the seconds and minutes we don't have that seem to beat the loudest.

For the 1,781 families across the country who've lost a loved one to the virus, they're positively deafening.

In the state of suspended animation that is 2020, pensioner John John is the ultimate emblem of mindfulness.

With an interminable winter ahead, taking some time out to enjoy a creamy pint on a Monday afternoon sounds like self-care to me.

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