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Esther O’Moore Donohoe’s heroes of lockdown: Tay, candles and Marian Keyes

By January 16, 2021No Comments

Esther O’Moore Donohoe on what’s getting her through this latest lockdown (and why, as a nation, we are indebted to the icon that is Marian Keyes)


Listen to the piece here or read just below…

The true heroes of this pandemic are the frontline and essential workers of course but three lockdowns in, these everyday legends have also helped on days that seemed to never end. Here are my own personal lockdown heroes.


Christian Grey had a red sex room in 50 Shades of Grey with whips, feathers, chains and I believe, if you look very closely, a Nutri Bullet for post bondage smoothies. I’m delighted for him and Armie Hammer if that’s what they’re into, however I have created something infinitely more thrilling. In my pleasure closet, you won’t find a drop of lube or even a sexy hand sanitiser but rather, every hot drink and accessory you could ever desire.

If you’d rather knock back a hot chocolate than lick it off someone, the press just left of my fridge is where you want to be. I need the comfort of hot drinks every 30-35 minutes at the moment so I’ve made sure I’m stocked up. I’ve got normal tea, earl grey, rooibos, mint, coffee, hot choc and pods. I’ve milk frothers, cafetières and mugs of every shape and size to meet my needs and it’s a delight. Bar carts and sex dungeons do nothing for me mate, but a box of 240 Lyons Gold Blend tea bags? OH BAYBUH! I’m weak!


Walks, yes. Crafts, certainly. We love and we adore it all. But allow me to introduce the concept of New In sections on websites as meditative spaces. I start my weekly practice with the meat and two veg of New Ins at Lidl. Their This Week and Coming Up sections are some of the finest examples of the genre. Plants and Flowers? Standard. Office Buddies? Yes Lidl, please. And you know when you see Kit Out Your Car pop up you’re in for a good time. I can feel my stress melting away just thinking about them.

With a substantial German discount supermarket meal under my belt, I then head to Zara Home for brain dessert. ‘Ah! More borosilicate glass this week from our Spanish overlords’. No one knows what borosilicate glass is but Zara Home loves it and wants us to buy shit tonnes of the stuff. Finally, my meditation after dinner mint comes in the form of Dunnes Stores Home. We can’t see our friends but we can see Carolyn Donnelly Eclectic and Considered by Helen James. Carolyn could have a new velvet eye mask embroidered with elephants holding tiny umbrellas in their trunks. Helen could have a new pesto and lettuce scented beeswax candle on offer that will calm me right down. New Ins are brain balm bliss. And dare I say, New Ins are the new not going out.


We can’t wait for special occasions to light the good candles anymore. Half two on a horny Tuesday? Homes Under the Hammer marathon? Bought yourself a 1kg box of Crunchy Nut cornflakes? Get your matches out and get that good candle glow going bbz. In my personal collection, I’ve got pillar candles, tapered candles, fizzing candles, battery operated candles with timers and remote controls. I’ve got smelly candles and so many tea lights I could blaze a trail from here to Ogdenville, North Haverbrook and Brockway. Candles make things better so do not resist turning any and every moment golden.


Sometimes as I approach my local coffee shop I think I can see them scrambling to pull down the shutters? Nah! I mean, I know I have on occasion word vomited over them but isn’t that par for the pandemic course? ‘YES! You’ve got the candles back in! I am mad for the candles at the moment hahahaha. Can I get a flat white and I’ll take a bun as well while I’m here why not eh? Hahahahahahaha! C’mere did you watch Bridgerton yet and what do you think of the Sex and The City reboot? It won’t be the same without Samantha will it? Anyway better go have to get back to my babies – the plants ahahahaha. Okay see you tomorrow. This has been great. I’ve had a lot of fun. Bye!’ However melted their heads might be at random people downloading nonsense onto them every day, my local coffee shoppers, give me a caffeine and conversation hit that chatting to my monstera simply does not give.


Speaking of which, my precious wonders. My fonts and fronds of joy. My customers, for what I am but bartender to my collection of botanic miracles. I think about them near constantly. Should I move them? Have I moved them too abruptly? Are they now in shock? Will they soon die and leave me alone with my candles, my websites and talking complete donkey shite to the neighbourhood baristas? Hang on. Did that cactus just fling itself on the floor? Regardless, they give me something to think about other than the chicken katsu curry of doom we are living in and sure they’re something to look at when I’m on the loo at the very least. Let go and let grow. 


Let’s imagine the pandemic as a party hosted by your third cousin twice removed who used to draw on your Barbies and cut you a fringe when you were seven. She’s a dose and no one wants to be there but, there you all are. You’ve just stuffed yourselves with a chicken curry and enough Cuisine de France to last a lifetime when you hear something.The band has started up and it sounds like…Dancing Queen! What a banger. But you’re not dancing, you tell yourself because your cousin is a pain, so no. No way siree Bob! The dance floor is empty anyway.

And then, in your periphery, you see shapes making their way towards the dance floor from the four corners of the room. You turn your head to get a better look and it’s your mum and three aunts, sauntering in time to the music, shoulder to their ears, hands swaying in front of them as if they are Benny and Bjorn conducting an invisible orchestra. Suddenly, they arrive on the dance floor and start dancing like no one is watching. They don’t even know they’re being total legends but they’re making the best of a bad situation and now everyone else is like ‘Eff it Ted! Let’s go!’.

This pandemic party is one none of us RSVPd to but in the last week, Marian Keyes has led us all to the dance floor and let in some light with her writing workshop. When she did her first Insta-live, it was like going to a gig. For the first time in ages we all had something to look forward to, together. The next day on work Skype, we were asking each other who had ‘gone’ to it and if we’d done our ecker. It just takes one spark to get the party started and Marian has lit a tiny flame within us all and who knows where it will go? She’s our favourite teacher and I for one have never looked forward to getting homework more.


Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash