Life

Jake O'Kane: A masked, socially distanced birthday meal was odd but we felt safe

I commented to the wife it was surreal being served by someone wearing a face mask, yet if a waiter or waitress had come to our table not wearing one, we’d have taken our custom elsewhere, such are the times we’re in

Jake O'Kane

Jake O'Kane

Jake is a comic, columnist and contrarian.

The lockdown has been devastating for our hospitality industry and unless we start using local restaurants, we’ll lose them
The lockdown has been devastating for our hospitality industry and unless we start using local restaurants, we’ll lose them The lockdown has been devastating for our hospitality industry and unless we start using local restaurants, we’ll lose them

LAST week was busy in the O’Kane household. We celebrated my daughter’s 11th birthday, which involved a trip to a restaurant for a meal. This was a special treat and the first time we’d gone out as a family since the pandemic hit.

Initially we’d thought about doing something at home but decided to go out to eat. The lockdown has been devastating for our hospitality industry and unless we start using local restaurants, we’ll lose them.

City Picnic in Belfast provided a very tasty, professional, safe and socially distanced eating experience. I commented to the wife it was surreal being served by someone wearing a face mask, yet if a waiter or waitress had come to our table not wearing a face mask, we’d have taken our custom elsewhere, such are the times we’re in.

I was pleased my daughter was able to mark her 11th birthday in almost normal fashion. I’ve noticed a big difference in how my two children have dealt with lockdown. While my 12-year-old son seems unaffected, my daughter is a different matter; I put this down to boys being able to retreat into technology or ‘interests’, while girls feel a stronger need to socialise.

What has affected my son during lockdown are his feet, necessitating his first trip to a podiatrist, and for this I accept sole blame. Along with my striking good looks and quick wit, the child has tragically also inherited my feet. O’Kane feet are so flat I suspect we’re only two generations away from being able to walk on water.

The reason for us having feet like flippers is evolution and survival of the fittest. Generations of my antecedents lived high up in the Sperrin Mountains, daily traversing ancient peat bogs so porous they half-walked, half-swam. There may once have been an O’Kane with normal-shaped feet, but they didn’t get to pass on their DNA as they invariably sank into the bog like a rock in porridge.

So, with every successive generation, our feet spread to cope with the semi-viscous land on which we travelled, resulting in my poor son enduring the indignity of a podiatrist looking at his feet and saying, “Dear God son, I’ve seen feet in my time, but none the shape of yours”. I’m conflicted; when I should tell him the only footwear he’ll ever find comfortable are Crocs and wellies?

The other milestone this week was my wife’s first trip to the hairdresser in months. She was thrilled to finally be able to ‘get her roots done’. This procedure involves having the portion of hair which connects to her scalp dyed the same colour as the rest of her dyed hair. I find it strange that ladies of a certain age pay a fortune to have their grey hair dyed out while younger women today pay to have their hair dyed grey. I’d call that a sophisticated con by hairdressers to get trade from both ends of the spectrum.

I have learnt, from bitter experience, what shouldn’t be said to a partner upon their arrival home from the hairdressers. On hearing the price, never say, “You paid what? You were done!” Worse still is to not notice at all, then when they indignantly point out where they’ve been, say, “Oh, you got your hair done? That’s nice”. ‘Nice’ seemingly is the worst word you could ever use. Say horrible before nice.

Finally, something which definitely wasn’t ‘nice’ was the illegal rave on Cavehill last Saturday night, which went on until after 5am on Sunday. Seemingly the PSNI, though informed by many residents, weren’t able to stop the event.

That one of the most heavily armed police forces in the world couldn’t find a way to pull a plug out of a PA system is worrying. One possible explanation for police inaction may be worries about possible damage to officers’ hearing due to the loud music.

Believe it or not, police officers in Northern Ireland share one common characteristic – they all have highly sensitive ears. Over the past 20 years, millions have been paid in compensation to retired officers for hearing loss. While most claims arose due to unfit ear protectors being used during firearms training, some officers claimed damaged hearing due to using police radios or even travelling by helicopter or motorbike.

I’ve just had an idea. If that’s the benchmark, then surely, I’m due a claim for damaged hearing caused by late-night illegal drum and base raves? Anyone know a retired cop I could ask?