(As Northern Ireland experience some opening up of restrictions tomorrow I thought I would list ten things that I am looking forward to when we open up fully... No hairdressers...)
1.TO GO TO BALLYCASTLE
We live in a house that comes with the job. Our home is in Ballycastle and that has become a place over the last 24 years that we have come to love. Restrictions have kept us from travelling up there since Boxing Day so we haven’t been for over six months. We miss it so badly. Walks by the river, up in the forest or across the beach and my favourite novel reading sofa.
2. FITZROY FULL
Early on in the first lockdown my friend Doug Gay wrote a song called I’m Missing You which breaks into the most hopeful of choruses, “One day there will be such a gathering”. I long for that gathering. I don’t expect us to be full for some time… but one day… no masks… no distancing… songs rocking and singing loud… tea and coffee and a catch up after. Please God, soon.
3. A 25th ANNIVERSARY MEAL IN THE SALTHOUSE
I had much bigger dreams for Janice and my 25th Anniversary. I had Cape Town, Hout Bay, Camps Bay, The Winelands, in my dreams but that’ll have to wait. A lovely meal looking out over our favourite piece of Antrim glen, north Antrim beach, the Seas of Moyle with Rathlin with Scotland beyond. Of course the most beautiful part across the table!
4. AN END TO THE ROWS
Should we wear masks? Should we not? Should we open Churches? Should we not? Should we sneak around the restrictions? Our different personalities have dealt with the virus differently and I have found more tension on should churches be open than anything else I have faced in parish ministry. I have found it all stressful. It will be great when those divisions are eradicated.
5. A BROWSE IN A BOOK SHOP
I am no shopper. Since record shops closed even less. BUT I’d love a walk down Botanic Avenue, into No Alibis for a few signed copies of great northern Irish books and a wee browse in the record shop across the road, if it opens again.
6. LET US GET A COFFEE
There are so many conversations at planning meetings or on social media when in ‘normal times’ I would say. “Hey let’s get a coffee and a good yarn next week”. I long for those long lazy chats about what seems trivia but never is and about issues we know are deep to begin with. Whether back in my office or in a cafe on Botanic Avenue. Oh yes.
7. HUG PEOPLE AT FUNERALS
I did an entire series before lockdown about the importance of “being with”. As in Emmanuel - “God with us”. It will be great to be back with people in their times of most need, to touch an arm, hold a hand and give people hugs at funerals.
8. IN THE SAME ROOM FOR A 4 CORNERS PLANNING MEETING
We have been saying for years that the 4 Corners Festival comes out of a monthly afternoon of laughter. Where Zoom meetings have been suitable for Directors’ Meetings, Planning Meetings need that banter and bouncing off each other. That has been difficult on Zoom so I look forward to catching up on the laughs and inspiration.
9. A GOOD GIG or FOOTBALL MATCH
I am not a prolific concert goer but it will be nice to get to the SSE to sing Run with all of Northern Ireland at a Snow Patrol gig or enjoy Glen Hansard or Declan O’ Rourke at the Ulster Hall. Over The Rhine and Martyn Joseph in Fitzroy would be cool too.
Our daughter Jasmine has started the University of Reading this year and it would be great to take her to a Reading match. Promotion for Reading might make that against City!
10. EXPERIENCING THE NEW DIFFERENT
I am fascinated about how the “old normal” will transform into a “new different”. I don’t think we will just snap back but we will have some courageous decisions to make if we are to use this year of sabbatical to reset our ambitions, priorities and desires. I am looking forward to seeing how brave I am, and we are, at following that silver lining out of this dark cloud.