One big drawback of being unemployed last year was not having my own transport. It meant I was dependent on the bus to meet people, especially as I live in Ballincollig, seven miles from Cork city.

Social media is great for maintaining contact with people, and of course you can email or ring people too, but there’s no substitute for talking to people face to face. I can well understand how unemployed people can drift into social isolation quite quickly unless they make a determined effort to go out and meet others. And it gets you out of the house.

Of course your friends may very well be working during the day, which makes life even more difficult. I did make an effort to catch up with a few friends last year, but it wasn’t that easy. I’m not the best at reaching out to people. I have this reservation that makes me stop asking people. Sometimes I surprise myself by contacting people to meet up for a coffee and chat, but it’s a challenge. Why? I have no idea.

Last year, having time to kill, I flew over to Getmany to stay with my good friend Mareike and family (there she is in the picture above with her  girls Orla and Alva). It was a perfect way to chill out for a few days and re-energise myself. I came back full of life, penning a series of blogs that proved really successful. It kept me going for months afterwards.

Don’t for a moment think I’m lonely – far from it. But it’s important to have more than just the company of your partner and family, the diversion of books and TV, meals and holidays, or life becomes pretty stale. You might think that’s quite enough for anyone, and yet surely there is something missing if you exclude the gossip, laughs and the chatter of friends? They make you forget for the time you are with them that you have no job!

Anyway, at least I’m more mobile now and have my own car. I realised pretty quickly once I left the Irish Examiner that you need your own transport. It liberates you from the confines of your home, especially now that winter has set in.

Anyway, several people have reached out to me. Today, for example, I drove to Cork and had a great chat with Anne O’Leary, a former colleague whom I hadn’t encountered in 8 years, although we’re friends on Twitter and Facebook. It’s amazing how you can exchange tweets or messages but never take it a step further. Is that just the way we have come as a society or is it just me?

Right now I’m drawing up a schedule to keep myself busy. I’m  putting aside time for writing blogs, restarting my book, seeking work, time for reading, etc. I’ll also be carving up plans to meet as many people as I can. It’s all about having a plan and keeping myself occupied.

Here’s hoping the next few months will be hectic and productive on all fronts!