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Dublin: 16°C Saturday 31 July 2021

Thank you: A letter from my Ophelia-hit house to those who helped us

Aine Bonner is grateful her family made it through the storm unscathed but with no power, no water and three kids under 7, she’s counting the cost.

Áine Bonner

WITHIN THE PAST half hour, I heard the distinct beep of the microwave echo around my kitchen, which resembles a restaurant post rush-hour. The dishwasher and sink are full of plates covered in congealed ketchup following a few nights of chippers by candlelight. We’ve had no water supply for the past 24 hours to even rinse them.

But the electronic chime of the microwave meant one thing: the power is back.

A million thoughts rush through my head – what should I tackle first? A shower? My hair is stuck to my head having not been able to wash since Sunday. The washing machine? The dishwasher? I reach for the kettle: a cup of tea it is. It’s been a long week, and yet it’s only Wednesday…

Growing up on an island off Donegal, I’ve seen a share of storms

Life for the past few days has been chaotic, to say the least. Having grown up on an island off the coast of Donegal, I’ve seen my fair share of storms and Monday’s Ophelia didn’t really seem that bad until we surveyed the aftermath. Our estate was cut off from town both ways thanks to fallen trees. We had no heat, not hot water, no cooking facilities, no way to boil a kettle.

I work from home and thanks to the power cuts, I’ll be out of pocket for the bulk of this week. As a self-employed person, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. And with no wifi, no devices, barely any power on my phone and three kids under seven to entertain, the chances of me getting anything done were slim to none.

There’s something romantic about a power cut. I remember having to endure plenty of them as a kid. They meant no school and even though they meant no television too, they were always fun. Power cuts meant ghost stories, games, cards, reading by candle light. Somehow they’re a lot less fun as a grown up.

The kids slipped into ‘back-to-basics’ mode seamlessly

I really did attempt to bring back that enthusiasm and nostalgia and the kids were great about it all, to be fair to them. In a world where they usually have access to instant entertainment in the form of a Netflix button on the TV remote, they slipped into the ‘back-to-basics’ mode pretty seamlessly. I didn’t manage quite so well, but here we are, we survived.

Hurricane Ophelia may have passed over Ireland within a few hours on Monday, but in this house, we’re just starting to pick up the pieces. As I begin the task of clearing up the dirty dishes and laundry, we’ll be counting our own personal costs. They may be small enough in the grand scheme of things, and of course I’m grateful that we all made it through the storm unscathed, there are costs nonetheless.

I’ll have to dump a freezer full of meat and fish, of meals that I painstakingly batch cooked and froze in an attempt to be an organised working mother. My pay packet at the end of the month will be diminished because I couldn’t work. And eating takeaway for the past few nights wasn’t cheap for all five of us.

For now, top of the list is a shower and some tea

We’re currently building our own home so have a mortgage and rent to pay, so every penny really does count. To top it all off, we lost at least half a dozen mature trees from our site and the cleanup operation there will be huge. I haven’t allowed myself to think about that yet: for now it’s just a shower and some tea.

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down2 That gap in the tree line, almost the length of the field? Every single tree there fell on Monday. Source: Áine Bonner

trees A whole line of trees - some over 200 years old - came down and have to be cleared at Áine's family's house site. Source: Áine Bonner

fall1 The uprooted trees have taken away the road boundary - but Áine is grateful no-one was hurt there. Source: Áine Bonner

One thing that I’m really taking away from this week though, having witnessed the devastation to the West Cork countryside over the past few days, is that people are amazing. So many have been out in the dark and rain, working tirelessly to restore power and services to our community, and communities all over the south and west of the country.

Thank you to everyone who helped get us back on the grid

They, along with the emergency services and people who went out of their way to help the homeless in the city or their isolated neighbours in the country, are amazing. So if Ophelia taught us anything, it’s that we really are a great bunch who will go out of our way to help one another.

So thank you, to everyone who helped get us back on the grid.

Áine Bonner is a freelance media professional

About the author:

Áine Bonner

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