A couple of months ago, I never knew what “thistlebond” was. It’s a strange, gloopy substance, like paint that has been mixed with a generous serving of sand. It’s used in preparing walls for plastering, should they need it. Some of our new home’s walls and ceilings do, while some others have been covered with plasterboard.
In some ways, applying it to where it’s needed signals that we are approaching the final act in our drama of renovating our home. Once the thistlebond was applied and plasterboards were ready, the plasterers could come down from Dublin to Cork and take their role in giving the drama a happy ending. Instead, the lockdown has provided opportunity for an unscheduled interval. The cast of various tradesmen are now confined to the green room, and only the two directors look on at the emptied stage, occasionally trying to tweak how the set looks during the downtime.
An interval allows for an opportunity to reflect, however, on what has taken place in the story so far. Normally, one would go to the theatre’s bar, grab a drink, and stretch the legs. Regular theater-goers might even catch up with other regulars, and see how the producers are interpreting the script, or comparing other plays in other theatres.
Yesterday was a day for connection. Videos to friends in Glasgow and Nottingham, showing them how progress was coming on with the house, and listening to how they were adapting to their lives. Both work at schools, but while one was working from home, the other’s school had stayed open to look after the children of healthcare and other “key” workers. Westward across the waves, two friends in the US joked about how they were getting withdrawal symptoms from their love of travel, and invited me to join them on a trip to Vienna, Copenhagen, or Cologne “once this was all over”. I told them I’d never refuse an offer to go back to my soul-home of Denmark, and that it would be a perfect opportunity to dust off a passport that has almost been forgotten about.
Then an important letter arrived. An email from Robert O’Driscoll, the Consul General of Ireland based in San Francisco, and the husband of a friend of mine, Caoimhe. In writing to the Irish diaspora on the west coast of America, the local Irish-American community, and other friends of the consulate, he wrote a few lines which struck me:
Many of you know my own interest in the history of the Irish community here in Western US. It is a history in which the resilience of our community and their service features prominently. Many in our community are answering the call of service, and I am confident that our resolve, our sense of shared purpose and our togetherness will get us through this. We must take responsibility to look after ourselves, to look after each other, and to each play our part.
I read the email outside the front door of my half-made home, on a mild and quiet evening in Cork, some eight thousand kilometres from California. Despite the distance, Robert’s email hit home that no matter how far we are from one another, we are experiencing the same sense of concern, and possibly the same struggles to stay positive each day, but same desire to hold on to hope. The desire to see the end of this, and visit one another, hug one another, and spend time without the need to log onto Zoom or turn on a camera. In reading that letter, I felt truly connected once more, more than a video call could manage.
Thistlebond works as a kind of adhesive – something that your average person may not easily appreciate when building a home. Strong bonds, however, are exactly what keep our home from falling apart.