The Empty Streets of Lockdown Limbo

It’s eerily quiet in Inverness town centre just now.

There are still a couple of essential shops open – shops selling food like Marks and Spencer and the Co-Op, and of course Boots the chemist (which was the main reason for my necessary walk through town the other day) but usually at this time of year Inverness is full of colours and sounds, full of tourists and locals alike mingling with occasional street performers like singers and kilted pipers adding to the general buzz of everyday life.

I took my camera with me, as I realised this would possibly be my only chance to record the empty streets of lockdown limbo – photographing a temporarily moth-balled ghost-town felt like an opportunity not to be missed. I didn’t wander while I was out, but I did deliberately walk back home a different way, creating a circular route that took in both the chemist and the supermarket without doubling back on myself.

It felt really strange and surreal to feel so alone and exposed in such a public space, like one of those weird nightmarish dreams where everyone has disappeared expect you. I did see a few other people out and about, walking as if on errands like myself, cautiously and considerately in the main, some with face masks and some without, but with everyone doing their best to keep a respectful distance from each other.

We’ve been in lockdown for six weeks now, and I’m hoping things will start moving again soon and restrictions can start to be lifted slowly but surely, allowing life to open up a little more each month while maintaining appropriate distancing measures. We still need to manage this deadly virus, without a doubt, but we need to achieve that in a way that is more manageable longterm.

Fingers crossed for a fledgling post-pandemic future for all of us, starting sooner rather than later, taking things one baby step at a time… One thing’s for sure, one way or another this current Covid 19 pandemic is certainly turning out to be an eye-opening education for all of us…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Education

April A-Z: Reflections on 2020

A-Z Challenge Reflections

I had such great plans for this year’s April A-Z, with the idea of sharing brand new photographs taken in real time of Inverness in Scotland, where we now live. But being in lockdown throughout the full month of April with no real advance notice whatsoever left me stuck without access to many of the people-filled public places I’d hoped to show.

But rather than change my theme altogether, I decided either to use some of those few images I already had (we’ve only been living here for six months) or to find alternative, pandemic-friendly topics to photograph in real time – and to my surprise I succeeded, 26 posts on 26 alphabetical topics posted in good time on each given day.

As you can see from the image gallery above, there were a few buildings, a few bridges, and a lot of landscape shots, and although it wasn’t my original intention I can see in retrospect I’ve probably shown you less of a generic busy tourist’s view of Inverness and more of my own personal, quiet experience of living here. So maybe no bad thing…

One thing I do feel bad about is not visiting enough new A-Z blogs this year – it just felt one step too far for me. I’m not in a particularly happy place right now and for me, and focusing mainly on my own posts and those of bloggers I already follow had to be enough. But I’ve done it, I feel a sense of achievement to have got through it all in such difficult circumstances, and look, I even have a badge to prove it! 🙂

Anyway, here are the links to my individual daily posts, just incase anyone wants another look back, or missed some of them at the time – welcome to my Inverness! 🙂

A is for Abertarff House

B is for Ben Wyvis

C is for Castle

D is for Department Store

E is for Eastgate

F is for Farraline Park

G is for Greig Street Bridge

H is for Home

I is for infirmary Bridge

J is for Jacobite Cruises

K is for Kessock Bridge

L is for Landscape

M is for Muirtown Locks

N is for Ness Islands

O is for Old High Church

P is for People in Passing in a Pandemic

Q is for Quotations

R is for River

S is for Swing Bridge

T is for Tomnahurich Hill

U is for University of Highlands and Islands

V is for View

W is for Waterways

X is for Level Crossing

Y is for Years Ago

Z is for Zero Regrets

April A-Z: V is for View

I had always intended having ‘V is for View’ for this year’s A-Z but the views in question were originally going to be taken from the viewpoint on top of Inverness Castle, looking out over the city centre. But of course the castle viewpoint, along with all other tourist locations, is closed for the duration due to the current coronavirus crisis, so as the month has progressed I’ve been wondering if I could find an alternative vantage point?

However, as I climbed Tomnahurich Hill the other day for my ‘T’ post I was absolutely amazed by the wonderful view looking towards the Black Isle through a deliberate gap in the trees so took these images specifically to use for today’s post. The images show the views to the north from left to right, looking out from west to east, taken with the telephoto end of my standard kit lens, followed by a wide angle view looking straight ahead.

Our house is somewhere in there, but is hidden behind other buildings so is not actually visible in any of the shots. At the top end of the wide street in the middle of the wide angle image, slightly to the left and up is a dark green tree – our house is very close to there.

And lastly, I cropped another wide angle image to create a kind of panoramic view from the Kessock Bridge on the left to the Inverness Castle on the right, covering the city centre in the middle – Failte Gu Inbhir Nis – welcome to Inverness 🙂

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed somewhat due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip!

April A-Z: U is for University of Highlands and Islands

The new Inverness College building on the outskirts of the city is the largest of the 13 partnership colleges and research centres that make up the University of Highlands and Islands, which is the newest University in Scotland, having only been granted university status in 2012.

When I was growing up there was no higher education provision at all within the Highlands, and anyone wanting to study for a degree had to move away. All further education was delivered from the original Inverness Technical College building on Longman Road, which was in the process of being demolished when we arrived back in Inverness last August.

As an adult I actually studied a pre-nursing course at the old college, and my work placement on that course was at the old Royal Northern Infirmary hospital along the river, which at that time provided all geriatric nursing provision but now houses the UHI Executive Offices.

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed somewhat due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip!

April A-Z: O is for Old High Church

The base of the tower of the Old High Church dates to around the 15th Century, making the lower tower the oldest structure in Inverness – I wonder if that includes this lovely little wooden door inserted half way up the wall?

The rest of the current church itself was built in the late 1700s, but apparently there have been multiple churches on this hilly spot since the times of St Columba, who reputedly brought Christianity to the Pictish peoples who lived at that time in what is now Inverness, preaching from St Michael’s Mount here on the banks of the River Ness in AD565.

Since the early 1700s there has been a curfew bell rung every evening – originally at 5pm but nowadays at 8pm – as when Inverness was built mainly of timber structures, walking with an open flame would have been a definite fire hazard and without a lamp it was deemed too dangerous to be out and about in the dark.

From our house we can actually hear the curfew bell ringing in the distance but it’s quickly become one of those everyday background noises you just seem to filter out because it’s just always there. Obviously there’s no actual legal curfew due to fire risk any more, just a stay at home strategy due to coronavirus, but 300 years on it’s nice to have that continuity of tradition.

When I was young I used to think it was called the High Church simply because it was on a high hill, and I was almost right – apparently in the days when the church steeple would easily have been the highest building around, it literally was the high church! 🙂

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed somewhat due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip!

April A-Z: F is for Farraline Park Bus Station

For as long as I can remember, the functional rather than pretty bus station in Inverness has been called Farraline Park, although confusingly the street address for the bus station is actually Margaret Street. The white concrete building to the left is (and always was in my memory) the Rose Street multi-storey car-park, and the old stone building along the back was first built as a school (known as Bell’s Institution) in 1841, with the original school playground area out front now laid out as several bus station stances.

I’d never really thought about it before, but I had absolutely no idea what the name ‘Farraline Park’ actually refers to – so I’ve been searching online and found an old map from 1874 showing the old school building itself and its grounds clearly marked as ‘Farraline Park Institution’ so I guess that’s my answer… I’d normally go to check it out at the local library but as with everything else, the library is closed for the time being and Google is being surprisingly elusive on the subject…

Actually, just before I left school in 1981 I remember the public library being housed in that building for a while before it moved to its current location. And I understand that before housing the library, it was used as a temporary Police Headquarters in the late 1960s and through the 1970s while new premises were being built. No idea of its current use, if any. Hmmm… Definitely some local history to be looked up at a later date though.

And I remember directly below the multi-storey car park (incorprated into the stark grey concrete facade at ground level) was located the old registry office, where at the time all births, marriages and deaths were recorded, including my own children’s births, and also that of my eldest grandson – although by the time my other grandchildren came along, thankfully the registry office had moved to its current, much more pleasant situation along by the river. Not exactly the most romantic place for a civil wedding ceremony, underneath a multi-story car-park and next to the bus station! 🙂

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed somewhat due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip!

April A-Z: E is for Eastgate

Nowadays when people in Inverness talk about ‘Eastgate’ they generally mean the sprawling modern shopping centre, built to sit like two linked saddle-bags across each side of the main road into the city from the A9 and the A96. Both sides of the shopping centre include their own built-in multi-story car-park, one underground and one overground, both leading directly into the shopping mall – very civilised, especially in a part of the world where it rains a lot!

But when I was growing up here in the late 60s and early 70s, the whole area of Eastgate looked completely different. Approximately where I was standing to take this pic would have been the back of a dark and dingy derelict building, behind which was a seedy-looking partially-walled area of rough ground where every weekend (meaning Saturday – no Sunday shopping at that time!) you could find the ‘barrows’, temporary market stalls of cheap and cheerful wares perfect for teenagers like me – think Del Boy Trotter from Only Fools and Horses and you get the feel of it all 🙂

And where the shopping centre building in my picture sits now was the well-used old livestock auction mart, strategically placed next to the train station, which is just off to the left in this picture. The current road (just visible on the edge of my picture) didn’t exist at that point, or at least not following this particular route. On the other side of this new road, just off to the right of the picture where the other half of the shopping centre now sits, was a large open area of car park and a few more dark and dingy derelict buildings. The original road into the town (called Eastgate) ran along in front of those long-gone buildings and carried straight down onto the High Street, which is still the High Street today but is now fully pedestrianised.

As with so many British towns today, the arrival of the ubiquitous shopping centre with its standard offering of large chain stores has moved the overall main shopping experience away from the old town centre, leaving the High Street with its huddle of smaller, local shops with frontage along each side of the road struggling with seriously decreased footfall. However thankfully in Inverness there are plenty of good tourist shops happy to fill the void, selling tartans and tweeds and woollens and other such souvenirs of Scotland to our many seasonal visitors, so under normal circumstances the High Street in Inverness is still a reasonably vibrant place to shop 🙂

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed somewhat due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip!

April A-Z: C is for Castle

Inverness has had a castle of one sort or another on this site since the 11th Century, but this particular red sandstone version was built in the 19th Century and housed the Sheriff Court for as long as I can remember – this is actually where I did my civic duty by carrying out jury service in a court case many years ago. But a newly built Justice Centre has very recently been opened in a new location on the outskirts of town, leaving the castle building free for development as a tourist attraction into the future.

The statue standing outside the castle is of Flora Macdonald, who during the Jacobite Rebellion helped Charles Edward Stuart (the Young Pretender, the Stuart claim to the British throne) escape back to France after the bloody Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746 – so exactly 274 years ago this month.

When I was young I used to hear the romantic stories of Bonnie Prince Charlie getting away ‘under the skirts of a woman’ and I always used to wonder how he ever managed to crawl along curled up between a woman’s legs (literally under her skirts) without anyone noticing – it was only years later I realised it meant he actually dressed up as a maid-servant in order to evade capture… Duh! So now every time I see the statue of Flora Macdonald it makes me smile, remembering my youthful naivety…

Oh, and I’ve also included a close up of the main door in honour of yesterday’s Thursday Doors! 🙂

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed somewhat due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip! 🙂

April A-Z: A is for Abertarff House

Abertarff House in Church Street is the oldest secular building in Inverness.

It was built in 1593 and after a long and chequered history of use (including a period of disrepair) has been restored by the National Trust for Scotland. Since 2018 it has been open to the public – although due to the current Coronavirus pandemic it is closed, as is most of Inverness, and Scotland, and the UK, and the world for that matter.

I had hoped to take the historical tour and take some proper photographs to share, but was waiting for the weather to pick up before doing my tourist bit. However it seems I left it too late and now we’re in lockdown limbo so sadly that particular post (along with many others) will have to wait for a later date, sometime in the future when life returns to some semblance of normality.

So for now, here is a side-on view of the outside of Abertarff House as seen from the street.

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip! 🙂