April A-Z: L is for Lock-down

Across the world over this past year different countries have taken different approaches to lock-down, but overall most have imposed restrictions of some sort or another on their population as a whole.

Here in Scotland since 26th December last year we’ve been on our second full national lock-down. Initially required to ‘Stay at Home’ this has only very recently been changed to ‘Stay Local’. Thankfully such tight restrictions are finally beginning to ease and a handful of business activities were allowed to re-open last week – things like homeware stores and car showrooms, and also premises-based hairdressers, plant nurseries and garden centres.

And yesterday the Scottish Government announced that travel outside our local area will now be allowed from Friday. Non-essential retail can finally start to open up and also some self-catering and hospitality businesses (still within strict limits) from April 26th. However socialising at home indoors with family– the one thing I want more than anything – remains restricted for at least another three weeks from that date, and even at that point permitted numbers will remain limited for a further period of time.

Last year our first full lockdown lasted from March until things started opening up again from mid-July onwards – even so, many businesses were still required (or had no option) to remain closed well beyond that date.  Still everything was a long way from normality, as nationally we were all put into varying levels of restriction depending on local infection-rate numbers coupled with several other relevant criteria. Those same blanket levels are being applied again now, although country-wide this time.

One way or another we have not had any real freedom of existence for over a year now, and people are becoming increasingly tired of the continuing national caution even though we do understand the reasoning behind it. We all just need this to be over, but we’re not there yet, so we’ll all just have to bide our time a little longer and hope the introduction and implementation of the ongoing Covid vaccine programme eventually helps render the long-term threat of the virus null and void.

Passport to the Past

I need to renew my passport, so needed a new photograph with which to apply.

Our local supermarket has one of those photo booths that does digital images for passports and other formal documentation, so I went along this morning and did the deed exactly as instructed. I came home and duly completed my online application, and now it’s all done and dusted I’ve been sitting looking at my strange new photograph staring back at me from the little print-out provided.

There are of course so may rules and regulations around passport photography – no smile, no fancy accessories, no hair covering your face, no careful posing to get your best angle. No camouflage or intrigue allowed, no tactful hints nor graceful subterfuge. In fact no visible individuality or personality required to be shown at all – just a straightforward full-face-on mug-shot that bares your soul in a most disconcerting fashion. Raw reality packing its punches with no holds barred.

In my photograph I look… How best to describe how I look?

Blank, I suppose. Empty of emotion. Just a set of unremarkable features set into a gently ageing female face. Wrinkles showing quite clearly on my forehead, decidedly drooping eyelids and unsightly fleshy pouches gathering under my deepening eye sockets. The high cheekbones of my youth have lost a little of their shapely definition. Thinning mouth beneath a small neat nose, soft rounded chin, wrinkled neck. Greying dark blonde hair sitting with an easy, devil-may-care attitude on my shoulders. I look exactly like the middle-aged woman I am.

I am fifty-seven years old, and in this starkly unapologetic image I see myself as most of the real world probably sees me. Not carefully posed with my standard fake-prepared photo-smile or my preferred pouting-in-the-mirror-face, but instead I see a real reflection of me captured in the raw with resigned, been-round-the-block-a-few-times eyes and a defiant look of focused concentration. A little haggard, maybe, slightly careworn, but nevertheless appearing to carry my almost three-score years with the pride of a battle-scarred badge of honour saying – yes, the life I have lived shows in my face, and what of it?

I am surprised to find I quite like this blank-expressioned image.

She is growing on me, this mature in-my-face me with nowhere to hide. I am reminded of a portrait my mum painted of me fifty years ago. In the painting I am looking directly out of the canvas, straight on. Mum has painted me with my resting face on after hours of sitting still, not with the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t fleeting flash of a smile, and I realise in this new passport photograph I look just the same, but so much older. The association pleases me… the feeling of continuity across the decades, of shared common ground between me then and me now… a kind of visual deja-vu with a difference… 🙂

Difference

Since going through menopause I’ve noticed a definite difference in the way perfumes smell on my skin. Old faithful fragrances find themselves out of favour these days as hormonal changes alter my ageing senses and shift my own subtle secretions so that what once smelled sweet now tends to sour slightly on my skin, musty and mouldering.

For too long I’ve been lamenting what I’ve lost instead of wondering what I might have gained by these new nuances of self. So perhaps I need a difference in my approach to match the new menopausal me? Forget the past and find new fragrances that fit my new life phase… Maybe even something bolder to suit my older years… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Difference

Spiders, Dust, and Giraffes

We’re planning to redecorate our bedroom (a year and a half after moving in). I’ve already stripped off the old wallpaper, but underneath it had noticed some decidedly dodgy crumbling plastering above the door to the en suite bathroom with a rather big gap between the undulating plaster and the wooden door frame. Today my husband was re-plastering the uneven wall and we were discussing how best to ensure the door frame sits tight to the wall once we re-paper. My husband, wearing a dust mask for sanding the plaster, said:

‘We need to make sure we reduce the gap as much as possible – we don’t want any spiders, dust, or giraffes coming out from behind the door frame’

Or at least , that’s what I thought he said. The puzzled look on my face alerted him to the fact that I’d clearly misunderstood – it turns out we were discussing draughts, not giraffes – Oops! 🙂

One Liner Wednesday

April A-Z: E is for Empty

By the time this Covid 19 pandemic is finally over – whenever that may be – I wonder how many previously busy retail stores will lie empty across the UK, how many High Streets and city centres will become facsimiles of ghost towns, how many other businesses will have failed? One way or another this virus has killed more than people; it has taken both lives and livelihoods.

I was made redundant last month as the department store I worked for has ceased trading for good, and so my last two weeks of work after my furlough ended (the first two weeks of March) involved packing up all the stock to be shipped out elsewhere. So even once lock-down is lifted there is no longer the potential hope of everything going ‘back to normal’ for me because like so many others in a similar position I now no longer have a job to go back to.

It was so strange and sad for us to see the store slowly being emptied department by department, but oddly enough the packing up process itself somehow helped give us all some closure on the final closure of the business – a bit like a funeral ritual, at least it gave us a chance to say our goodbyes…

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

April A-Z: D is for Distancing

One year on the signs are maybe showing their age, but no matter – we’ve definitely all got the message by now. And we may be quite comfortably used to keeping our distance with strangers now when out and about, but with those we love it still feels plain wrong to be keeping apart, especially after so long.

It hurt so much being prevented from seeing people from any other households at all for extended periods of time, but it almost hurts more now that we’re allowed to see some people in very limited numbers outdoors only, but not be able to touch, not allowed to hug, not even supposed to stand too close together. Outdoors in the North of Scotland, sometimes even in Spring, neither the temperature nor the weather are necessarily conducive to comfortable gatherings in the garden for more than about five minutes at a time. I mean, we woke to a covering of snow again this morning!

So at this time of year being apart as a family feels almost harder now than it did during the last lock-down. Yes, we’re now legally allowed to meet outside again, but in practice it’s just too damned cold for the kids for that to be a workable solution much of the time. And then even when all other things are favourable and they can come round to visit, not being able to hug someone you love who just isn’t there is one thing, but not being able to hug someone you love who is standing right in front of you so tantalisingly close is almost unbearable… ❤

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

April A-Z: B is for Birdsong

Over this last year I’ve probably become more aware than ever before of the sheer beauty of birdsong. I think it’s the combination of (a) being at home alone so much due to successive pandemic lock-downs, and (b) far less traffic on the roads due to both lock-down and travel restrictions so far less non-natural hustle and bustle noise all round.

I can’t help but notice that the birds here seem to serenade me all through the day, from the brilliance of the early morning dawn chorus brigade to the impressive acappella trill of the blackbirds gossiping harmoniously in the garden. Even the seagulls soaring overhead, keening in minor key in tune with the ebb and flow of the tides, and beneath them the wood pigeons coo-cooing their low hollow woodwind tones, a bit more baritone than bass, all add to the mix.

And I just love it all! So I honestly think the heartfelt appreciation of birdsong has to be one of the biggest benefits of this pandemic for me. I suppose every cloud has a silver lining… 🙂

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

Scents and Scents-ability

I don’t ever remember either of my grandmothers wearing any kind of perfume at all. My dad’s mum was a farmer’s wife and had no opportunity for anything more fragrant than scented soap to get rid of the everyday smells of the farm from her person. And my mum’s mum was born with no sense of smell at all so the whole point of perfume was entirely lost on her.

My mum always kept her sparing use of scent strictly for special occasions, so for mum the rarity of wearing perfume went hand in glove with the rarity of wearing make-up and jewellery and fancy clothes. Her favourite perfume was L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci, a rich, strong childhood smell I associate even today with lipstick and powder and fur coats and heels – because I grew up in a time where women still wore fur to dress up.

L’Air du Temps is a ‘modern’ perfume, first introduced in 1948, with a traditional spicy/ woody/ floral scent, and although it suited mum well enough it smells awful on my skin so I never felt the desire to steal a sneaky spray or follow in her fragrance footsteps. If anything, it put me off – too over-bearing and cloying, but it was the one-and-only example I had. So I find it strange that someone who grew up with truly minimal interaction with perfume should have developed such an intense personal relationship with it in adulthood.

Fragrance fascinates me, the way the initial heady top-notes in that first sharp haze give way to the softer mid-range heart-notes that in turn surrender to the deeper base-notes, and then the final dry-down. It amazes me how fragrances can smell so different on different people – and how even the same fragrance can smell so different on first application than when it finally fully settles on the skin’s surface, blending with body temperature and body oils. And how some scents seem to cling close for hours while others evidently evaporate into thin air after only the briefest of bonding.

I just love the way perfume makes me feel good in myself, for me it’s intoxicating, a perfect mood-enhancer. Sometimes I prefer something a bit sweeter, at other times something a bit fresher. Sometimes something fun and feminine, at other times something more sensual and sexy. I find I don’t stick to one recognisable signature scent, but own several similar perfumes that I love to mix and match depending on my mood and the time of year and how formal or informal my day ahead may be. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t spritz on a little scent on my pulse points, whatever I’m doing.

Over many years’ experimentation I’ve found that as a general rule lighter florals work best for me, usually blended with cool citrus or warm fruity notes, whereas most heavier oriental woody notes just smell somehow ‘wrong’ on my skin. However it seems hitting menopause has caused a slight alteration in the way perfume reacts chemically with my skin. Some things that smelled really good on me before now smell a little… off. So I’m back to experimenting with a few new smells again in the hope that maybe I can find myself some new favourites for the future.

One thing’s for sure, the right perfume will always have the ability to soothe my senses… Ooh, it feels so good to smell good 🙂

An Arse of a Farce

I’m feeling quite put out that my first serious participation in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections since moving from England back to Scotland 18 months ago has been effectively hijacked by ridicule and revenge, like a Monty Python sketch gone hideously wrong. The Scottish Government is run on Proportional Representation although for many years the SNP have pretty much been in charge, and the current First Minister of Scotland is SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon.

There was already a bit too much of a ‘People’s Front of Judea’ versus ‘Judean People’s Front’-style bickering and back-biting feud evident at the top of the Scottish National Party for my liking. And with the cringe-worthy news this week of previous ego-meister Party Leader Alex Salmond newly breaking away from the SNP in some sad little splinter faction, basically adding his brand new ‘Popular People’s Front’-esque ‘Alba Party’ to the indy-mix all on his lonesome, it’s become even more of an arse of a farce…

The question of Scottish Independence has been on the go up here for as far back as I can remember politically, from the 1970s and the indomitable Winnie Ewing who in her time has since served as a Westminster MP, a European Parliament MP, and also a Member of the Scottish Parliament. In fact, her son Fergus Ewing is currently serving as the cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism in the Scottish Government and is to be on the ballot paper again in our area for this next election. I might even give him my vote this time around, but I haven’t decided yet.

The thing is, I’m not a one-dimensional one-trick pony when it comes to my voting habits. I have no specific party allegiance and in my lifetime have voted for different parties, depending on the particular political landscape of the time, where I was living, and the personal bona fides of the candidates in question. Over the last forty years I’ve variously voted SNP, Liberal Democrat, Labour, and even Green Party on occasion. Never Conservative though, it’s never been a party that has spoken to me or for me, and I can’t imagine a time when it ever will.

I’d been so looking forward to the opportunity to have the choice of voting SNP again, but now it’s here I’m not so sure which way I’ll go. The dual economic threats of Covid and Brexit have together created a climate of need for political togetherness moving forward, a time of healing and soothing across the world, and right now I’m not sure what the best way forward for Scotland may be. So one way or another there’s lots for me to figure out in the next few weeks before finally making my mind up on May 6th…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Figure

Scottish Parliamentary Elections

This year we’re going to be holding Scottish Parliamentary Elections on 6th May – there have been two local elections since we moved up from London 18 months ago, but this is our first ‘big’ election since living in Scotland again.

We’ve already had our voting cards arrive in the post, and a useful Government leaflet explaining the whole Scottish Parliamentary election process, but so far only one candidate flyer has dropped through out letterbox. Hopefully we’ll be getting some more through soon or we’ll have absolutely no idea who’s actually going to be running in the election, and so who to vote for!

There’s been a right stooshie lately – no, probably more of a stramash – relating to the way the Scottish Government have (mis)handled a lengthy investigation into past allegations of inappropriate behaviour by the previous Scottish National Party First Minister, leading last week to a failed Parliamentary vote of no confidence in the current Scottish National Party First Minister.

Hmmm… Not exactly setting a good example of a strong and stable leadership, having such serious squabbles at such a high level of Government just a few weeks before an election – recently it’s been far more of an ongoing soap opera saga within the highest echelons of the Scottish Parliament than pedestrian politicians on the ground doing their usual pre-election propaganda stuff.

I suppose we’ll just have to see how it all plays out in the ballot box locally and nationally in about six weeks’ time… 🙂

PS A stooshie is a row or a fracas, whereas a stramash causes more of a commotion and uproar!

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Run