| 9.3°C Belfast

Richard O'Rawe: George Harrison, in his wisdom, created the song All Things Must Pass... Coronavirus will be a mere convulsion on humanity's odyssey

As a former IRA prisoner, self-isolation is nothing new to Richard O'Rawe. The playwright and novelist hopes the current Covid-19-imposed seclusion allows us to rediscover the courage and humility demonstrated by our healthcare workers


'By God, I hope that never again will we witness the spectre of our nurses and healthcare workers having to strike in order to get a living wage'

'By God, I hope that never again will we witness the spectre of our nurses and healthcare workers having to strike in order to get a living wage'

AFP via Getty Images

'By God, I hope that never again will we witness the spectre of our nurses and healthcare workers having to strike in order to get a living wage'

I commiserate with anyone who finds themselves having to self-isolate at home for the first time, but, if it's any consolation, you soon get used to it. I did. So did hundreds of other protesting republican prisoners, some of whom spent up to four years, from 1977 to 1981, in effective self-isolation while on the blanket protest in Long Kesh. But that's another and well-rehearsed story and, anyway, isolation can be splendid.

I'm an author and a playwright and no matter what I'm writing, I'm in self-isolation purely because I get so immersed in the subject matter, I become oblivious to everything that is happening around me. Other writers choose to go to foreign climes and locations to find the isolation needed to concentrate their minds.

For many, the prospect of self-isolating, in lieu of a busy office, or business schedule, must be terrifying. Years of working and collaborating with colleagues, signing contracts, making deadlines, finishing jobs, starting new jobs, sussing out new talent, feeling the adrenaline rush when winning a case in court, and then - WHOOSH- it's all gone.

Gone also is the camaraderie, the mutual appreciation, the pints in the pub to celebrate the concluding of the deal.

Now, the office, business or court is closed and you're stuck in a room with a computer, not sure if it's safe to walk out your front door, not sure how long you'll be stuck in a room with a computer before you get an email, or a polite phone call, telling you that you're out of a job.

But, cheer up! Everybody hurts sometime, don't they? And who knows? The old days may not be that far away.

I'm one of those people who believe that nothing happens by accident; that there is rhyme and reason behind everything. In the Name of the Son: The Gerry Conlon Story, the play which I wrote together with Martin Lynch, was cancelled in The Lyric before it even got an outing.

Initially, I was bitterly disappointed. It's a great story and show, which I think a Belfast audience would have appreciated.

Then, on Monday, while I was licking my wounds, I got a call from a mate, one who knew Gerry Conlon well, and he told me that he was relieved it had been cancelled because, although his wife and he had tickets, they weren't going to attend, due to the coronavirus threat.

I wasn't shocked; I had already come to the conclusion that, although the opening night had been sold out, there would have been a lot of empty seats and the last thing I wanted to see was a half-full theatre.

The point is: if there's rhyme and reason behind this virus, and consequently, this shutdown; what is it?

Unfortunately, I haven't got the answers because the ways of God - great though he may be - have always been a mystery to me.

But perhaps the shutdown is an opportunity to reconnect with your family or with those you love most. Or, to plot a new course, to get off the treadmill, or, for that matter, to get on it.

Why not organise a fitness regime that suits you? Maybe this is the break you've been secretly waiting for, the chance to escape the tedium of peeking at the clock on the wall, waiting for the hand to strike five o'clock?

Can you write? Have you a story to tell? How do you know you're not the next Hilary Mantel?

Her latest book, The Mirror and the Light, is the third in the trilogy based on the life and times of Thomas Cromwell and it's over 800 pages long. That'll keep you going for a while.

Perhaps you always fancied yourself as a potential Michelin Star chef? Why not open those cookbooks that have lain in the cupboard, untouched by human hand from one year to the next, pick some recipes, and cook yourself and your other half meals fit for Kings and Queens?

What I'm saying is: go for it! Don't allow yourself to vegetate. And no matter what, please don't feel sorry for yourself. There's no point.

The late, great, George Harrison, in his wisdom, wrote the song All Things Must Pass. This crisis will pass. Coronavirus will be a mere convulsion on humanity's odyssey.

Our economies will recover, the clock on the office wall will still tick towards five o'clock and, presumably, our pollution of Mother Earth will recommence with vigour (this has noticeably diminished due to many of us self-isolating and not driving our cars as much as normal).

We arrogantly view ourselves as the Masters of the World, but we are far from invincible.

An unseen, previously unknown little virus has brought us to our knees. Why? Perhaps, to answer that question, we need to identify and absorb the lessons of the coronavirus pandemic.

Aside from what science will undoubtedly discover from this virus, the first and primary lesson we must learn is the need for humility and courage.

We also need to treat our planet and our fellow human beings with much more respect.

We have the prototype. Our healthcare workers demonstrate that humility, courage and respect every day. They are risking their very lives to save ours.

By God, I hope that never again will we witness the spectre of our nurses and healthcare workers having to strike in order to get a living wage.

Please think about that. With luck, you'll have plenty of time to do so.

Richard O'Rawe's debut novel, Northern Heist, is published by Merrion Press, priced £12.99

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph