By The Blackwater

Dear reader,
My name is Tom. It’s the Year 2020 – the year of the pandemic and
my last year in Primary School. This year, I was looking forward to
Confirmation, not isolation!
However, Covid 19 and lockdown are words that became part of our
everyday language. Parents working from home, some losing their
jobs, kids and old people confined to their homes. But for me, 2020
was the year to realise the true meaning of loneliness, yet the
happiness that can be found in discovering nature as a careful
Fortunately, I live on a small farm with my Mam and Dad; both
working. My time is taken up with farming, gardening and other
jobs. I leave my fishing rod strategically placed at the back of
farmyard for a quick and easy get away! Any chance I get, I take my
fishing rod and head down the bottom of our fields to the River
Blackwater. This river is a tributary of the River Innyside, which in
turn is a tributary of the River Shannon.
In the beginning, it was great to be relieved of school. It felt like a
great thing to get my summer holidays early, especially when we had
been blessed with the type of weather we only read about in books
or witness on holidays. Then shortly, I found out that living in social
isolation is not just as great as I first thought.
My parents have their own ideas about what I was going to do; mind
you, it isn’t all bad. I quite like being in charge of the animals. The
teachers in our school make great efforts through online schooling
and weekly worksheets but the temptation of fishing and observing
my new found friends is irresistible.
Friend number one: On my journey through our bottoms, I came
across a badger’s nest (they call it a sett) in the bottom of a drain
with her two cubs; probably outside of the den for first time. I
quickly realise that by standing my ground, at a distance, I get to
observe Mammy badge and her two cubs at their very best without
any interference. Very soon, Mammy badger picks up my scent. She
sniffs the air but because I don’t move, she doesn’t see me yet. The
wise badger encourages her cubs back into the burrow.
Friend number two: Crossing the same drain under a large ash tree, I
am routinely scolded by Mr. and Mrs. Pigeon who have a nest further
up. They soon realise I’m no threat to them. Eventually, it reduces
to a “Whoo, whoo,”, which I understand to be a “Good morning”.
The long walk through the spikey rushes brings me to my favourite
place in the river. Not only is it my favourite place, but it’s also the
favourite place of a hen duck hatching. One morning, I arrive to
discover there is no hen duck and I’m gutted to discover broken egg
shells on the rushes. My mind busily lines up the chief potential
suspects: Fox? Pine-martin? Mink? Maybe me?
Now fishing doesn’t feel as important though. I carry on and luckily I
do as the rushes move and mother duckling announces with a
“Quack” the arrival of the following chirps and whistles and busy
pecking of five curious duckies.
This is the year I’ve learned something from Covid 19. That animals
have been practicing social distancing since time began. It’s occurred
to me that us humans are possibly the most destructive creatures on
the earth.
Mammy badger doesn’t have plastic shopping bags. Mr. & Mrs.
Pigeon don’t clock up air miles, even though they fly! Mrs Duck’s
youngsters are highly entertained and educated by Mammy’s daily
excursions along the river and river bank.
A shortened version of the true story!
Tom Flood-Stories From The Waterside-2020