It was a good morning as mornings go. I was up early. I had a quick cup of tea and tidied up a few bits I’d left undone the evening before.

I put on a washing and as first light was breaking; I headed out to walk my dog, Lola. Bran and Speedy, the working dogs, joined us. We did the small circle through the fields which takes about thirty minutes.

I put Lola back in her run and the cattle dogs waited for my husband Tim. As I came into the house, I could hear my daughter Julie chatting to her little boy Ricky. The minute Ricky heard me, he ran to me.

“Hello Ganny,” he said and with that we had a gorgeous morning hug. Tim was on his phone catching up with the news while having a cup of tea. We talked about the plans and commitments for the day and I had my porridge and got ready for school.

Ricky was anxious to get going. He loves his babysitter Mary. He knew he’d have a fun day. He struggled with his bag but didn’t want help. He had to climb into the car unaided. There’s no hurrying a toddler. It all takes time. Still, we were away at 8.30am.

I have enormous admiration for working mums that have to organise babies, toddlers and school going children before starting their days’ work. Morning Ireland was on in the car. I had the radio low so I could keep up my conversation with Ricky. Coming over Inniscarra bridge, he shouted “horses Ganny!” Sure enough, there were horses grazing in the field. Then in a serious voice, he said “Manie.” That’s his word for Mary and I understood that he wanted to tell Mary about the horses.

I love being part of his life and understanding some of what goes on in his developing mind. Traffic wasn’t so bad and as I was turning into the estate where Mary lives; my phone started to ring and I saw Mary’s name coming up. I heard her anxiety in her voice: “Katherine, I’m so sorry but my daughter was on the phone just now. My granddaughter has tested positive (in an antigen test) for COVID-19 and she was here playing with Ricky last Tuesday.” We had a hurried chat and I told her that I’d consult with Julie.


I pulled into the side of the road to ring Julie. I was panicked and not sure how to proceed. This is as close as we’ve come to COVID-19 in our family. We discussed the situation wondering could Ricky go to Mary? Could I continue onto school? Could I teach pupils? Was Ricky a threat to my son Diarmuid? Both of us were concerned that Ricky might get sick but we didn’t discuss it. The little boy started to get impatient.

“Horses, Manie! Ganny!” In other words: “Get a move on Granny, I need to tell Mary about the horses.”

Ricky was a close contact. I was also in the room with the little girl when I collected Ricky on Tuesday. We determine that I wasn’t there for 15 minutes, had my mask on and was never less that a metre from her. We decided to proceed as normal.

The management of school staff and pupils is a daily challenge

By the time I got to Mary, she had her antigen test on the go and had tested negative. I went to school and had a chat with two of the teachers on the management team. Under the current guidelines for schools and with no contact tracing being carried out, I was deemed safe for teaching.

The guidelines

As Ricky was asymptomatic and the contact was outside of his home; there was no need for restricting his movements. Nevertheless, Julie has booked a PCR test for him.

Meanwhile, large numbers of pupils and staff are absent from school due to COVID-19 restrictions. The management of school staff and pupils is a daily challenge. Each day brings a new set of problems related to the ongoing rise of COVID-19 infections. School staff and families are trying to do the right thing.

Our isolation room, where possible cases are assessed, seems to be constantly on the go. I don’t like where this is going.

Don’t forget to keep up the sanitising, social distancing and mask wearing. It is a nuisance but continues to be necessary. This journey is not over.