Thursday Doors: Thistle Inn

I came across the back of this unusually-shaped public house while out for a wander locally, and wondered what kind of exciting front door would go with such a quirky building – disappointingly it turned out to be plain and brown and about as boring as you can get…

And of course like all pubs here in Scotland it’s still closed for at least the next couple of weeks due to current Covid restrictions so I have no idea what it looks like inside… Oh well, I suppose you can’t win them all! 🙂

Thursday Doors

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.

April A-Z: K is for Key Worker

Our Key Workers have pushed through it all

Many struggle, some stumble and fall

Yet they keep going strong

Working hard for so long

Though exhausted, still answer the call…

Throughout this pandemic, some people have continued working as before, perhaps in an even busier environment than usual. Doctors and nurses and other healthcare workers are an obvious example, but what about teachers and supermarket staff and postal workers and refuse collectors, taxi drivers and bus drivers and train drivers and myriad others. Life behind the scenes and beneath the surface of lock-down has continued to function regardless, so I just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has kept things going for us throughout – your ongoing contribution is much appreciated ❤

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: I is for Infection and Isolation

After confirmation of infection comes the inevitable need for self-isolation. One of the hardest things for me about having tested positive for Covid in January (when amazingly my husband tested negative) was that both of us then had to self-isolate at home for ten days, together yet separate.

Luckily we have enough space in our house not to have to share a bathroom, so we just stayed in different rooms for the duration and when necessary each used the kitchen at different times, carefully cleaning and sanitising everything we touched all the time.

On a totally practical, functional level it worked OK – thankfully I didn’t give him Covid – but on an emotional, dysfunctional level I felt truly miserable much of the time and just wanted to feel the reassurance of a loving hug several times a day, but because we weren’t able to touch at all (too great an infection risk) of course a hug wasn’t possible.

But we got through it, and thankfully we’ve made up for it in extra hugs ever since…

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: 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…

Who Indeed…

Who remembers the poor bloke from Hove who went on a sales conference in Singapore last January 2020, then went on a short ski-ing trip with his family in France, then flew home to the UK in early February and went to the pub, as you do, all before realising that while at the conference he had been in contact with a delegate from Wuhan, China…? So for two weeks he had just been getting on with his life, totally oblivious to the fact that he had been infected with Covid 19 and was inadvertently passing it on to others through his normal everyday social contact.

Remember this was all pre-lock-down, pre-pandemic – in fact pre- pretty much any understanding of the significance of the devastation this particular deadly coronavirus would have on the world. The papers all jumped on the story at the time and rather cruelly named him a ‘Super Spreader’ due to his asymptomatic status. I mean, it was cruel because the poor bloke did nothing wrong other than be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was the first Briton to be diagnosed with Covid. In February 2020. And remember he was asymptomatic, and unwittingly passed it on to several others.

So how come the UK Government claim that the reason they were (and still remain) so adamant in creating a national test and trace system that ONLY tests people with at least one of three main symptoms is that THEY WERE UNAWARE OF THE PREVALENCE OF ASYMPTOMATIC TRANSMISSION! Seriously guys, you’re the bloody Government! All you had to do was pick up a copy of any red-top tabloid back in February 2020 and they would have told you that there was clear evidence of under-the-radar transmission of the virus right from the very beginning – it was the very first case, widely reported in the usual sensational style.

But even now, one year on, if you go online to try to book a Covid test here in the UK it asks if you have at least one of three symptoms – fever, new continuous cough, and a change to your taste or smell. That’s it. If not that specific narrow selection of symptoms, or no symptoms at all, forget about it. Self-isolate if you think you’ve maybe been exposed, but officially we’re not interested in you. At all. No symptoms, no test. Yet when I caught Covid at the beginning of the year I’d already been feeling decidedly unwell for a few days before my strange sense of taste developed.

Headache, dizziness, ear-ache, sore throat – that’s how it started for me. I thought I might be coming down with flu. It was only around the fourth day when I had a strange metallic sensation in the back of my throat and developed a bit more of a cough than usual that I took a test. Things got a bit worse later on but I never did develop a fever. And had it not been for the lock-down imposed after Christmas I’d probably have been at work for those first few crucial days, so even with a mask and sanitiser and social distancing who knows how many people I might potentially have infected?

This virus has a two-week incubation period. Not everyone gets the same symptoms, and some people do not get any symptoms at all. Whether pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, if you don’t test the entire population to see how the land lies, you can’t possibly begin to control transmission. Lock-downs alone are not the answer, not without adequate testing and tracing too. Restrictions have to be there for a reason, to tackle the problem head on not just kick it down the road to be dealt with at a later date… Grrr…!

OK, enough of a corona-rant for today – and sorry for shouting, but really, at times Boris and his gang are the absolute limit! 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Who

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…

Lock-Down Wedding

Yesterday my eldest daughter got married to her long-term partner, with none of either family in attendance but with our full blessing.

They had originally planned for a small civil wedding ceremony followed by a hotel reception for close friends and family, but as continuing current Covid 19 restrictions mean that weddings can only be attended by five people in total – the celebrant, the couple to be married, and the two witnesses required by law – and with no reception to be allowed afterwards, they were faced with a choice.

They could either postpone both aspects of their wedding – the legal marriage and the celebration, or they could continue with the legal part as planned, get married now in the local registry office and simply hold the reception at a later date once restrictions are lifted enough to allow everyone they wish to attend to be there, whenever that may be. So after much thought and deliberation they chose to get married quietly, intimately, alone.

Yesterday they both dressed up in their wedding finery and made their precious vows to each other without any distraction. Even the six children of their blended step-family were necessarily absent – the youngest stayed with me, the middle four were all at their respective schools, the eldest has already left home and is living and working away. Their mid-morning wedding ceremony was recorded on their phone so we could all watch it afterwards. They took informal photographs themselves, which they also shared with us later.

Altogether it was a beautiful day for them, with a beautiful, meaningful ceremony, and I know that when the time is finally right we will all get together to celebrate their lovely lock-down wedding with lots of hugs and an abundance of love. I asked my delighted daughter this morning – so now that it’s over did you enjoy your quieter-than-planned wedding day? ‘You know what’, she said – ‘It was absolutely perfect!’ ❤

Weekly Smile

A Bittersweet Farewell

Even though lock-down here in Scotland continues potentially until almost the end of next month at the earliest, meaning all non-essential retail stores remain closed, I’ve found myself back at work this week along with many of my old colleagues. Thanks to ongoing Covid restrictions providing the final nail in the coffin, the department store I work for has now formally gone out of business lock, stock and barrel, so from 1st March we have been taken off furlough in order to pack up and clear the store of stock over the next couple of weeks.

As England is due to re-open non-essential retail at the beginning of April, all stock from the 15 Scottish stores that will now no longer be re-opening after the extended lock-down up here will be re-allocated in bulk to stores in England. And after we have cleared the stores here we will be made redundant immediately. The plan is for the English stores to re-open only to liquidate all residual stock over a 4-6 week period, and then they will be closing too, the end of a business that began over 240 years ago.

So it’s a sad time for all of us and yet there are still things I can find to smile about. We are physically back at work for now, masked and hand-sanitised and socially-distanced as before, and that is giving us the chance to spend time catching up with each other in the workplace when all forms of socialisation with anyone outside of our own immediate household is currently against the law. We find we can chat comfortably amongst ourselves while we work, gossiping and joking and laughing together again, and that feels so good after nine weeks of nothing.

We can once more feel the familiar companionship of being an efficient and effective team working purposefully towards a common goal, and with no customers in our huge still-closed-to-the-public multi-level store we can all spend this precious time tentatively talking through our communal experience of becoming unemployed en masse in the next week or so, discussing potential plans and possibilities and hopes and fears and so feeling less alone in our sadness.

It is a bittersweet farewell, and of course no-one ever wants to face losing their livelihood, but in a time of unprecedented social isolation and loneliness we are at least there in person to experience the store being ritually dismantled in real time, and in doing so we are able to achieve some sense of closure at its disappointing demise. And of course we are also ending our time together as an employee group by building good work-family memories to take with us into the future, and that is something for which I’m sure I will be eternally grateful 🙂

Weekly Smile