‘Outdoor housework’ has its attractions

‘Outdoor housework’ has its attractions Minister Josepha Madigan

I’m never been much of a garden person – rather concurring with whoever described gardening as ‘outside housework’. That is, chores  done to maintain some kind of domestic order, rather than for any kind of fulfillment.

But the Covid-19 lockdown did make me aware that there are people who have no gardens, and no access to a garden. These months have been really tough for those who live in apartments, or whose homes have no garden attached.

I’d never given much thought to those without gardens, but the lockdown jolted me into a sense of counting my blessings and showing some appreciation of my ramshackle garden patch. So, as the lovely May summer drew on, I’ve taken to sitting and working in the garden.

And with no airplanes flying overhead, and very little traffic on the nearby roads, how wondrous the garden birdsong has become! The birdies have been singing loud and clear, in full-throated musical voice. Is it the first time in my life that I’ve really listened to birdsong?

I’m trying to identify their different sounds now – the original tweets that long preceded Twitter: the thrush, the sparrow, the blue-tit and the very special throaty call of the wood pigeon. Then, above all, the joyful blackbird.


My garden is wild, and not at all like the exquisite pictures I’ve seen of friends’ gardens posted on social media, or on TV programmes like BloomwithRTÉ. Yet maybe I’m on trend, just the same, because a wild garden is now said to encourage nature, birds, bees and especially butterflies.

Gardens are often part of spirituality, and, however tumbledown, they prompt reflection. I remember an aunt of mine treasuring an embroidered sampler, hung on her kitchen wall: the words a little corny, but sweet and simple: “The kiss of the sun for pardon/The song of the birds for mirth/One is nearer God’s heart in a garden/Than anywhere else on earth.”

I’ve been given the opportunity to be grateful for my garden. Perhaps I may even take the plunge and attend to a little light ‘outdoor housework’.


Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s ‘Svengali’ was the full focus of media attention this week after it was disclosed that he appeared to have broken the lockdown rules he was enjoined to uphold. As it happens, his wife, Mary Wakefield [pictured], has quite recently become a Catholic. She says her husband is “a very kind man”; he may need some dedicated prayers forthwith to rescue him from his present difficulties…


Muslims, who adhere strongly to their Friday mosque attendance, normally kneel together in a closely-linked line. Some have found ways of organising their worship in changed circumstances – as in this very well-planned arrangement for Ramadan prayer in East Java, Indonesia [pictured].

Surely Catholic churches in Ireland and Britain can also devise a constructive way of social distancing – and insist the churches be allowed open again?

Might as well cut out the middle man…

Minister Josepha Madigan, has admitted that the original ‘four years’ waiting-time for divorce in Ireland was just a ruse to persuade a reluctant Irish electorate to endorse the dissolution of marriage.

It will be remembered that divorce passed within a whisker – half of one per cent – in 1995, with the said waiting proviso. “The price to win over a wary electorate was the mandating of a four-year waiting period in the Constitution,” she has written. The people, said Ms Madigan, didn’t want divorce to be too easy, so they had to be placated with a promise that evidently wasn’t intended to be sustained.

Anyway, that’s all done now, and the waiting time has been successfully cut to two years. Maybe that, too, is a ruse – presently there may be no waiting period at all? Just sign on the dotted line and your spouse can walk away any old time!


Ms Madigan says easier divorce doesn’t undermine marriage – it respects it. Well, that’s a point of view. So far – but only so far – there hasn’t been a dramatic rise in divorce petitions, although some lawyers are expecting a rush to the divorce courts after the end of the lockdown.

My prediction is not that there will be a rush to more divorce: but there will be an increasing reluctance to marry.

Marriage is already in decline, and the Irish have a tradition of being slow to marry, arising out of wariness about the division of land or small estates.

As the Mayo journalist John Healy wrote, the frail dynasties of small farms weren’t too eager to put their meagre inheritance at risk with an unreliable union.

The easier divorce becomes, the less point there is in getting married. As the American satirist and divorce veteran P.J. O’Rourke, has bitterly remarked about any future plans for matrimony and its dissolution: “Next time I’ll cut out the middle man. I’ll just give away a house to someone I hate!”