2020 – A POTTED PERSONAL REVIEW IN PHOTOS

2020 for me started in the beautiful state of Mizoram, in North East India, where I spent Christmas and New Year. Here is the city of Aizawl, built on mountain peaks, and with wonderful sunsets.

Back home to the Dingle Penninsula, in the South West of Ireland, to enjoy, endure, survive the winter storms and the powerful, magnetic and awe inspiring Atlantic Ocean.

And experience the beautiful beach walks!

But….who could have thought…the dreadful Covid-19 came along and threw us all sideways – or worse, in some cases.

I had planned a trip to Italy in March, but had to cancel. Social life was on hold for most people.

Luckily, I was still able to walk and capture the beautiful coastal images – for a while longer, before restrictions became stricter.

More time to study the birds in my garden, through the window.

As a little experiment I recorded myself playing flute with the bird song in the garden. If the image looks upside down to you, it will correct itself when you click it.

Local sunset, below.

Lockdown to a greater or lesser extend affected all of us, world over. Our individual experience of the world became very small, as we were obliged to reduce our social contacts and curtail travel. Many shops and pubs were closed. My regular trad Irish music sessions in local pubs, where I joined in with my flute were cancelled, indefinitely!

For a time my photography focused on my immediate area, and the garden. These sunsets from around the house and very local area take on a caged appearance, as indeed we were caged, all of us, in some measure.

I am very lucky that the local area has many beautiful places for walking. beaches were closed for some weeks, but cliff walks were possible.

My birthday celebration was a cliff walk, with friends. It was lovely.

Much garden navel gazing was undertaken. I never took so many photos of flowers and garden creatures before.

I never before appreciated how beautiful apple blossom can be.

Wildflowers became objects of scrutiny and much enjoyment too.

So many bees in the garden!

– And I discovered just how photogenic the humble daisies can be.

Thistles too!

I am so thankful for my good luck in being able to take many coastal walks.

Seaside and flowers together here. Lovely sea pinks make a wonderful show in early summer.

Beaches finally opened again, in June, I think. It’s all a bit blurred in my memory now, as Covid-19 figures rose and fell and lockdowns went in and out of different levels of severity.

Tourists returned in full force to the Dingle area in the summer, much to the relief of those whose livlihoods depend on tourism.

Sunsets around my area continue to fascinate, less cage-like with the summer foliage.

Lovely coastal and mountain walks. These photos were from different sides of Mount Brandon.

I updated my photos of Dingle Harbour, and took several shots around the town of Dingle.

The swallows raised two families in my shed. These first day out fledgling swallows only had a couple of weeks to grow strong before their long flight to South Africa. I wonder if they made it.

Some apple trees did bear fruit, though hundreds of babies were blown off the trees in summer storms before they were ready to eat. This is the entire harvest from several young trees.

Exploring beyond my own area, as easing of Covid restrictions permitted, I visited Killarney, South Kerry, West Cork and more.

The Gap of Dunloe, near Killarney.

On Cape Clear Island, above, off the coast of West Cork.

The small mainland harbour, Baltimore, County Cork, below.

Back on local Ventry Beach, below.

In October, a cruel hand was served on Dingle. After a several months of Covid-19 related hardships, Fungie, the globally famous Dingle Dolphin disappeared, without trace. Fungie, a wild dolphin has lived in Dingle Harbour of his own free will for 37 years. He was probably about 45 years old. Missed by many, whether they made a fortune running Fungie tourist trips, or whether they were just people who loved to see and play with the dolphin. For sure, Dingle will be a different place without him. This was a major event here. It’s not easy to explain how this wild, free dolphin touched the hearts of Dingle people and many visitors from around the world.

I have no photos of Fungie, preferring to leave that to the Fungiephiles who had developed considerable expertise. Here is a video from Jeannine Masset and Rudi Schamhardt.

More local captures below.

Fungie is gone, but the Dingle Peninsula remains the same beautiful place.

An autumn forest walk, above, in Glanteenassig Wood, on the Dingle Peninsula.

December shots from Mount Eagle, below.

The Blasket Islands, above.


Snow on Mount Brandon, shot from the garden, heralding the coming of Christmas 2020

On Christmas Day on a local Ballyferriter beach, Béal Bán, some brave swimmers rushed into the cold water, with an air temperature of about 8 degrees C. I did not partake, I prefer to stick to the heated pool these days. But it was fun to be there and support them.

Recent Storm Bella, seemed to last for about three days.

I completed a number of paintings this year, and failed to complete several more – so far. I’ve dicovered that I can be more motivated in that field when I have more activity in general in my life. The slower pace of things this year seemed to diminish my motivation in the more demanding creative side.

Now we are in a 3rd wave of the Corona Virus, with a new more transmissable variant of the virus in the country. In fact a case was discovered in Dingle recently. We have a high level lockdown again, going even stricter after today, but vaccines have arrived in the country; I for one will not hesitate to take advantage when it’s my turn.

So now 2021 approaches. May you all be lucky enough to only have contact with those people who are honest, compassionate and kind, who treat you as they would wish to be treated, and I wish the best of health and happiness to you all. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

KEEPING LOCAL

corona times

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The number of deaths and transmission rates of the virus are dropping now. Restrictions are easing. I am walking in the local area now; it’s great to be able to walk to the coast, walk on the cliffs and visit several beaches, all within the permitted range.

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This walk to three beaches takes me along the main road, for part of the way, where there is a wonderful range of wild flowers, most of them the same as in my garden, which I have already captured, but every picture is different, even if the subject is the same.

Above are two shots of the wild yellow iris, a lovely flower when seen on the roadside  or unused land, but an absolute menace in my garden where it grows enormous green spears and has massive roots like big tree branches spreading underground. They had colonised this garden for several years and have become too well established.

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Speedwell, above, and herb robert, below.  One of the things I really like about herb robert is the lovely red foliage that it sometimes has.

 

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I just like the tangle of leaves and light in this one above.

 

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I still haven’t identified this lovely small white flower.

 

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Red clover above

 

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My first beach, Murioch beach, above and three pics below.

 

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I often pass this garden with these unusual long eared sheep. They can be difficult to capture as they almost invariably turn away as soon as I point the camera.

 

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Goats in a garden.

 

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Second beach, above and three below, is Wine Strand, a delightful very small beach.  A young family is enjoying the warm sunny day.

 

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I normally prefer to catch a little more drama in my photos. This has been an exceptionally prolonged spell of beautiful sunny and mostly calm weather.  Shouldn’t complain!

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The beaches below are Cúl Dorcha, at Ballinrannig, which leads onto Béal Bán Beach

 

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Pardon me for mentioning it again, but the rocky hill seen here is Sybil Head (Ceann Sibéal) where Lucas Films had their Star Wars set for the shooting of The Last Jedi for several months during 2016.  The presence of the Star Wars film crew and actors in the area was a big boost to tourism – not that it was needed, but I suppose many did benefit from it.

Just to step back in time, here is a photo of Sybil Head from my home showing the temporary steel road that was laid at the time, and some blue containers can also be seen. This was taken in March 2016. I think more of the set arrived later.

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The children at the local primary school here in Ballyferriter, will not forget the visit they had from Peter Mayhew, who visited them at the school in full Chewbacca attire. They told me he had to bend down to get through the door.  It was so nice of him to visit the children.  It’s sad that he has since passed away.

DSC_3318 On Cúl Dorcha

I digress – back to my walk, still at Cúl Dorcha Beach.

 

DSC_3327 Cúl Dorcha

 

 

DSC_3325 ballinrannig ogham stone Above, at a grassy promontory at Ballinrannig, between Wine Strand and  Cúl Dorcha Beach is this Ogham Stone (pronounced ome, like home without the h). Ogham is an ancient Irish alphabet, dating back to the 4th century AD.  It’s the earliest form of writing in Ireland. The marks on the side of this stone are the ogham script. There are several of these stones to be seen in the country, and a large percentage of them are on the Dingle Peninsula.  At the end of the 18th century a big storm uncovered seven of these stones here and most of them were moved to other locations by Lord Ventry. This one above is the only one left at its original location.

A project to record these ogham stones and other carved stones in 3d can be seen on this website:  http://corcadhuibhne3d.ie/home.php  Several people in the community including myself have been involved in this project.

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I like to record some of the old farm sheds in the area, here are a couple of examples I passed on this walk. The one above, like many, looks like it was originally built as a home.  Many of these old stone cottages are now used for storage or for animals.

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Peacock butterfly, above.  Looks like some of his colours have faded.

 

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No idea of the name of these pink flowers, but we all know buttercups, below.

 

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So that’s the end of my walk. I appreciate your visit. Stay safe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE WILD THINGS

corona times

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Over the past week I have accumulated a number of more photos  of wild flowers and insects in the garden and beyond.  I am going a little further afield now and have some images of some coastal wildflowers as well as those in and around my garden.

Above are wild violas, very small flowers which are very common on the roadsides. Below are several photos of thrift, or sea pinks. They grow on cliffs overlooking the sea, and close by. The individual flowers are very tiny, but they grow in clusters and can be quite stunning.

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Below are white thrift, not so common as the pink variety. Don’t know the name of the above flower.

 

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Escallonia above, not a wild flower but I love the bee – he’s so fluffy he’s almost cuddly!

 

DSC_3111 dragon flies

I recently read on another person’s blog that dragon flies are scarce at this time of the year. Not sure where he lives but my garden is teeming with them, which I’m very happy about because they eat loads of midges and mosquitoes – yes we do have mosquitoes here, although some people think we don’t. I certainly know when I’ve been bitten by one!  Thankfully no malaria here.

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I’m really not sure what flower this is. It’s very small and reminds me of an antirrhinum.

 

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A hedge of primroses.

 

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Common dandelions.

 

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Above and below, herb robert.

 

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Below, scarlet pimpernel, which looks rather orange when you see it on the ground. It’s a really tiny flower but the colour just sings out.

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This fellow above looked like some kind of shield bug. He was hanging about on my window and I took this shot with my phone from the inside.  On reviewing the image later I was better able to see it.  He was not much more than 10mm long.

Irish wildflower photos available on my website:

https://www.helene-brennan.com/c802-irish-wildflowers-photos

I can receive enquiries through my website.

More soon. Thanks for visiting today, please come back. KEEP SAFE!

TWO NEW PAINTINGS

Restrictions are to be eased from today Tuesday 5th, in a phased way. This means most of us can get a bit more exercise and perhaps meet a few friends with appropriate social distancing. I, like most other people, have been spending time at home and close by.  I’m so looking forward to seeing a bit more of my local world. It will be a long time before our normal lifestyles can be restored.

Meantime I have been enjoying the nice weather in the garden, finding photo subjects in and around the garden and getting on with some paintings.

The paintings are coming along slowly. Oil paintings always take some time for me to complete because they usually take me several stages and involves drying time in between. It also requires me to not procrastinate too much.

These two oil paintings recently completed were inspired by the stormy views seen from Cosán na nEighe, a path over the cliffs from Clogher Beach, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, in the South West of Ireland.

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In the picture below are Inis Tiaracht on the left of the horizon, and Inis Tuaisceart (The Sleeping Giant) on the right. These are both Islands of the Blasket Islands group.

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Hopefully, more will be completed soon.

Thanks for taking a look. Stay well!

https://www.helene-brennan.com/c863-new-paintings-2018—2020

CLOSE TO HOME

corona times

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Looking beyond my garden, all these photos were taken within a hundred meters of my house.  I call this road above and below the escape road. I look forward to being able to move around with freedom again – sometime.

The three peaks above are known as the Three Sisters.

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Cruach Mharhain is the mountain above. This is a nice one for a walk – short and steep – keep you fit!

 

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Mount Eagle is to the left of Cruach Mharhain above, in the distance. Another lovely walk.

 

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Thanks so much for viewing. Stay Safe!

 

TWO WAYS OF LOOKING

I’m so thankful for the continuing good weather and to be able to spend time out in the garden. Rain has come and gone, usually at night, and the lovely sunshine makes it so much easier to stay at home. A plan has been announced, to ease the restrictions in a phased way….

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Just two photos today, of the same narcissus. I had a packet of these flowering bulbs that I should have planted last autumn, and didn’t get around to it. I recently found them sprouting but soft. I put them in the ground, hoping for the best. So far just two bulbs have come up.  This was the healthiest looking flower and I’m showing two captures of this here.

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More soon. Stay safe!

DAPPLED LIGHT AND LEAVES

corona times

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Still staying at home, but enjoying being out and around the garden, this being an unusually long spell of good weather (until today) for the time of year. All this sunshine certainly helps to keep one’s  spirits up while being confined.

This garden is not beautiful, it’s rather untidy and wild, recovering slowly from dereliction.

I was just thinking of that old adage “The camera never lies”, but every person who uses a camera knows you can be selective with the viewfinder.

So with a selective eye I have attempted to capture garden images that express this lovely sunshine and shadows of the trees in the garden, and also I have taken a close look at some of the beautiful delicate new leaves of the season.

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The fruit trees are over at the other side, looking rather small and insignificant.

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I love the sun shining through these fresh new ash leaves, against the blue sky.

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New sycamore leaves.

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Dappled light on the bright new sycamore leaves.

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Thanks so much for visiting. STAY SAFE!

 

WILD THINGS

DSC_2702 bee and flower

I’m still continuing with exploring around the garden for subjects to photograph, in the absence of opportunities to go out and about on the beaches and cliffs etc., due to the Covid-19 restrictions. These wild yellow rapeseed flowers are so attractive to bees that I happily encourage it in the garden. Currently there are apparently several varieties of bees around it.

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The bee in the picture below looks different from the usual bee visitors.

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I just love these fellows with their fancy hats below, ribwort plantain, they are called. They commonly grow wild all over the country, as far as I know. I would be delighted if someone could tell me their name. As kids, we used to play a game with these, each child holding one by the stalk and trying to bash hell out of the head of the other’s to knock the head off. At the time it never occurred to me that they were so pretty.

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This poor butterfly appears to have had a lucky escape from some pair of claws or jaws, I think.

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Above are wild bluebells by the roadside outside my home.

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I don’t have a clue what type of insect is on the apple blossom above and below, it’s possibly some type of bee mimicking fly.

DSC_2747 apple blossom with insect

DSC_2749 insect in buttercup

Buttercup with insect above. Below is some skinny type of fly, like a gnat, on a red currant bush.

DSC_2754 insect on red currant bush

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Wild primroses above.

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Wild daisies colonising the rockery, choking out a delicate campanula. I’ve left it for now, being such a pretty flower.

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Captured through the double glazed window. Not an ideal method for wildlife photography, but good to record the images of the birds on the patio feeder.

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Below is another recording of garden birdsong. The picture brightens when you click it. The purpose of the video is to play the sounds of birdsong in the garden. You can see the Atlantic Ocean in the distance, and with a northerly wind the sound of the incoming waves makes a bit of hiss on the recording.

And just to end this post I would just like to mention that I saw my first swallow of the year today! It’a great to see them return.

STAY SAFE!

BLOSSOMS, BIRDS AND BEES

corona times

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I’m continuing to search for inspiration in my own garden, while under restrictions imposed because of Covid-19. The apple trees are breaking into blossom and they look so gorgeous! This year they have a different significance. These photos will always remind me of the time I was confined to my home for fear of catching or spreading the dangerous corona virus. I never thought I would be prevented from walking on the beaches, but it has happened. Some of the beaches were getting too busy for safety, so they were closed.

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The weather has been just wonderful, most of the time, which makes it so much more bearable to be confined and out in the garden.

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I look forward to the apples. No sign of a blossom on the other fruit trees – cherries, plums and pears; but the apples trees are developing nicely.

Below is a video recording of birdsong at sunset. This one is a bit of a cacophony of sounds, from grasshoppers or crickets (or both), to various birds all chirruping together, some cattle in the distance, and all blurred by the white noise of the sea, which seemed particularly noisy on this occasion for some reason. One day I may get up and make a dawn chorus recording – but to be honest, it’s rare for me to be such an early bird.

This is for those of you who are confined to apartments, and who might be missing the sounds of nature.

STAY WELL FOLKS!

STILL PASSING TIME…

corona times

I’m losing track of time, but since my last post on this topic the restrictions have tightened and I’m limited to staying around my house.  So, I am trying to find subjects in my garden and very close by. No more cliff or beach walks, and another three weeks minimum of this has recently been announced. 

A local covid-19 case was diagnosed recently, a mile or two from here, with a holiday home visitor contact, I believe. This was the first I know of on the peninsula. It illustrates the importance of staying put and not travelling to holiday homes, running the risk of bringing the virus with you. Most people are observing this advice, but some do not.

The good news is that our government has announced a reduction in transmission rate of the virus and it’s now down to one or less than one per infected case, which mean the restrictions are working. The total number of cases in Ireland is 13,271, with 486 deaths.

I’m trying to get on with some painting; I procrastinate a lot, but it’s hard when the weather is so nice – I prefer to be in the garden topping up my vitamin D and doing a few jobs outside, in this wild unruly space, where the birds are happy and unfortunately so too are the brambles, rushes, rampant yellow iris, montbretia and fast growing indestructive willow. I’m so glad the japanese knotweed hasn’t found its way down here yet, although it’s not too far away! Any ambitions I might have about growing pretty wildflowers are fairly swamped by the over aggressive growth of these highly invasive species, which refuse to be controlled, so far.

I have however managed to complete some paintings; here is one of them. It shows the Tiaracht Island, one of the Blasket Island group, viewed from Clogher on the Dingle Peninsula. It’s an oil painting on canvas, 70 x 50 cms.

Tiaracht

Sunsets still happen, of course, although they have different levels of beauty.  I’ve previously captured and posted several from outside my home. Here are some recents.

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DSC_2633 Emlagh Sunset

 

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Above is Sybil Head, and I like to remind people that this was a location of the Star Wars movie The Last Jedi. The set, a replica of the ancient stone beehives on Skellig Michael, was placed on top of this headland for the entire summer during that filming.

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Above and below you can see the Three Sisters, iconic images of the Dingle Peninsula. Here they are at sunset and in bright daylight.

DSC_2511 The Three Sisters from Emlagh-

 

Below is a photo of the recent pink moon – not looking so pink here – just a tinge, perhaps. It was covered with clouds within seconds after this. I barely had time to grab this.  Atlantic clouds! It was clear over the rest of the country

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Like thousands of others at this time the birds are attracting my attention. There was a newcomer to the garden feeder recently; I’m still trying to discover whether he is a redpoll or a linnet.

I decided to have a  bit of fun recording myself playing some tunes with my flute along with the birdsong in the garden. The birds don’t always perform to order, and you have to take whatever type is active at the time, but there is usually some kind of peeping and chirruping. At first I tried sound files only, not wishing to video myself playing, but WordPress didn’t accept those files, so I had to start all over again using  video, which was difficult in terms of where to place the phone to get some kind of half pleasing image on it. The result shows an upside down image and the cold breeze did nothing for the tone or the tuning of my concert flute, but it was only for fun. I’d never have thought of doing it were it not for Covid-19. 

I tried a couple of bird related slow airs, here is The Lark in the Clear Air .

When you click on it the image it seem to right itself.  Don’t know why it won’t stay upright then! But the purpose of the exercise was really just to record the sound.

 

I consider myself lucky to have a peaceful environment and a good outdoor space in which to take some exercise and fresh air. It must be so hard for some people who have less comfortable surroundings in which to be confined, especially if they are trying to keep children entertained, or deal with stress and conflict –  even domestic violence.  I really feel for them, and especially those who are confined to apartments.  I’m not religious so I don’t pray, but I sincerely wish the best for everyone in these very unusual and (for some people) very difficult times. KEEP SAFE, all of you!