Lynette Fay: Could the end of The Covid mean that many people will move home?
Living through a pandemic has taught me that I have taken home for granted for years. It might sound mad but over the past few weeks I have found myself homesick
I HAVE often made the joke that, at times, I have felt like I live on the M1 – because I travel to and from Belfast and Dungannon so often. Even though I have lived in Belfast for almost 20 years, I still call Dungannon home.
Given its central location, and the changing nature of my work, an overnight stay has often significantly shortened my onward journey to work the next day.
At the time of writing, a debate is raging about whether or not we will get a summer holiday this year. Should we plan to holiday at home or abroad? I can honestly say that I would be more than content to just go home for a week or two and ‘holiday' in Tyrone. Move in with my parents for a while, go for walks around the lanes beside our house, call in on my close friends who still live at home and just breathe in the fresh air.
Living through a pandemic has taught me that I have taken home for granted for years. It might sound mad but over the past few weeks I have found myself homesick. How can you be homesick for somewhere that is only 40 miles away? Homesickness is something reserved for those who have moved away to another country. When I lived in Galway and Edinburgh, I never felt the homesickness that I do now.
On the odd weekend that I came home from Galway, my journey home took on average seven hours and consisted of two bus changes and then a lift from Monaghan to Dungannon.
At Blackwater cottage, just outside Aughnacloy, there is a Co Tyrone sign on the side of the road, which sometimes was adorned with a white and red flag, depending on how well the football was going. When I reached that sign, it felt great to be home.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I honestly can't wait for the day when I hit the road west again, cross the Blackwater and see the similar signpost on the M1 that welcomes me home to Co Tyrone – it's on the left hand side of the road, just before Tamnamore roundabout.
The sense of homesickness that I have been feeling during this particular lockdown was compounded this week when someone close to me lost a loved one. We have a group of friends who have known each other since primary school.
We found ourselves making time to call each other and reach out because this mattered. We all admitted that we have become so embroiled in the daily fatigue of the current lockdown, the pandemic in general, that we hadn't been making time to stay in touch. I was reminded just how lucky I am to have friendships like these.
I watched the funeral on Facebook. I had not done this before. Watching a family grieve like this reinforced the closeness of community – especially of the rural community here. I should have been there, so should many, many more. It's our duty to rally round and help out, to support. It's just the done thing, and I missed being able to do that. It's all I've ever known.
No matter how long I live in the city, I don't think that I'll ever be a city slicker. It's just not in my DNA. I have started to feel a little suffocated in the urban environment. This may be a fleeting feeling due to current circumstances, but I do wonder if the aftermath of ‘The Covid' (as the current pandemic is being referred to particularly in the country) will be a move from Belfast, home? Not just for me, but for many others.
It is said that the ‘homing device', that yearning to be at home, to live in the area where you grew up, kicks in eventually. For many, this is part of getting older. There is great comfort in the familiar.
It has been proven now in many cases that working from home is just as effective as being in an office. Although I miss human interaction in the workplace, working like this in future could present a world of opportunity, and could change how we have been living and working for good.
That's the bright side – for another day, which is very much in the future.