Sea, Sand, Sun, and a Smile

OK, so maybe it was a bit cool and sea-breezy rather than baking hot, but what a lovely afternoon yesterday for an impromptu trip to the beach at Nairn. Not the usual busy seaside town tourist spot with the white dunes and proper beach-front, but along the coast a little at the other side of town where it is much quieter, with far less sand and far more rocks.

But it was certainly warm enough for a leisurely paddle in the outgoing tide, for finding a few special rocks and shells, for feeling the cold wet sand squidge so solidly between my toes and then letting the warm dry sand powder my feet afterwards, drying them off… Altogether a perfectly natural setting for my slightly windswept smile πŸ™‚

Weekly Smile

Schools of Thought…

This week’s Provocative Question from Fandango asks:-

Do you believe that children should be required to return to school for the new school year?

Of my six grandchildren, the eldest is 18 and has already left school and the youngest is not quite two years old, so has not yet reached school age. But by the time our schools return here in Scotland on 11th August, we will have two five-year-olds due to make the important move from nursery to their first year in primary school, a seven-year-old with ongoing health problems beginning his third year, and a nine-year-old starting her fifth year in primary school.

All of our school-age grandchildren are really looking forward to attending school in person next month, but are understandably worried about the virus. They’ve missed their friends and have missed their teachers but know that lockdown happened to everyone to help stop people getting sick and dying. They have been keeping up as far as possible with schooling online, but it’s inevitably been a bit patchy over time and not quite the same as being full time in their purpose-built learning environment.

Scotland has chosen to have a much longer period of lockdown than England before starting to ease restrictions, and thankfully for now our levels of new infections and deaths are relatively low so we are in a position where schools returning full time is not such a contentious issue as it may be in some other countries. However contingency plans are still in place to allow for a differently organised ‘blended learning’ approach if this becomes necessary due to a resurgence of infection in the future.

So right now I must admit I feel pleased that schools here are returning soon, and as long as adequate safety measures are in place for all students and staff I think it is definitely the right thing to do here in Scotland. The children are keen to be back in their usual learning routine, five months has been a long time for them to feel like they have been missing out. They are happy to be at home, but are happy to be out at school too. They like their little bit of independence and the support of their peer group.

Too much longer away from school and I would probably fear their emotional health might begin to be seriously compromised, but children are generally resilient creatures with an elasticity of expectation and experience leading to an easy adaptability and acceptance of ‘what is’ that we have somehow lost as adults. The hope is they will catch up as their schooling progresses, make up for lost time, start to feel secure again in life. Hopefully lockdown will have provided a different type of lesson to be learned long-term.

But would I be feeling the same if I lived elsewhere? Probably not…

Weird But Wonderful

Yesterday was my first day back at work with real customers as well as just us staff in store (I work in the women’s wear section of a local department store), and to my relief it went fine – woo-hoo! On the whole customers wore reasonable face coverings, warily kept their distance, and calmly followed the correct procedures at the till without complaint. I felt a bit apprehensive to begin with, but as my usual sales-assistant work-mode kicked in I soon got used to the initial strangeness of it all.

We’ve been provided with full-face visors to wear at work, or we have the option of wearing our own masks if we prefer, and thin blue gloves are provided if we choose to wear them. Hand sanitiser is readily available for staff and customers to use, and we have perspex screens in front of the till points in use. I’m not fussed with gloves, I’d rather just maintain good hand hygiene, but face wearing some kind of face covering in all shops is mandatory here in Scotland.

In practice I found the visor to be really good to wear in regard to ease of breathing and still being able to see people’s faces when standing still or walking about, so fine when at the till point but not necessarily so practical for the inevitable lifting and bending and reaching when moving stock around – it got caught up and fell off or at got least shunted uncomfortably out of place far too often and I spent a lot of time yesterday adjusting it or replacing it, so the perspex became smudged and soon gave me a headache to be looking through it.

Hmmm… how best to overcome that little difficulty? I’m not generally great at having my mouth and nose covered directly for long periods of time – being asthmatic I tend to freak out at the feeling – but today I think I’m going to try to wear a face mask instead of my visor on shift. I’ve got used to wearing a mask when shopping myself, but coping for ten minutes here and there in and out of a shop is different than breathing through fabric for hours at a time at work. But it’s definitely worth a try.

Or I might take both visor and mask onto the shop floor, and change my face covering as necessary depending on the task at hand? The thing is, everyone’s in the same boat, no-one finds it easy because it feels decidedly odd for all of us. But we’re doing it because however restrictive and frustrating it is in the short-term it is helping us as a country reduce ongoing infection in the long-term, and that makes prefect sense. Sometimes we all have to do what’s difficult for the greater good, and that’s all there is to it.

Overall, though, even with my constant fiddling about with my face covering I really enjoyed my first ‘proper’ day back at work, and however tentative a beginning it may have been it is still a return of sorts to a normal life, or at least to whatever is going to count as normal for the next few months or so. Customers, too, were on the whole relieved to be out and about and enjoying a physical rather than virtual shopping experience. It felt good to have the normality of interaction with others again, even if at a safe distance.

Weird but wonderful is probably the best description of my day yesterday. It does feel weird to have to be avoiding yet accommodating a silent but deadly virus in every part of our daily lives, but at the same time it feels wonderful to have the opportunity to begin to end our lockdown limbo at last. Life goes on, cautiously and carefully, one small step at a time. But I’m taking nothing for granted, the threat to us all is by no means over yet. This virus is clearly here to stay, and the sooner we all accept that stark reality, the better for mankind.

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Tentative

Ness Island Walk

This afternoon my husband and I went for a walk along the Ness Islands – little low islands of trees and winding paths sitting slap bang in the middle of the River Ness, linked together by a series of small ironwork footbridges stretching across from bank to bank. Another dull grey day weather-wise, but we had a lovely enjoyable walk anyway πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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

Along the River Ness

Todays’ outdoor exercise took me along the river for a change, instead of along the canal, so I thought I’d share some images with you on this lovely Sunday afternoon πŸ™‚

River Ness, Inverness, Scotland

April A-Z: Z is for Zero Regrets

Z is always such a difficult letter for April A-Z, and this year is no exception, so I’m using a little creative artistic licence and going with β€˜Zero Regrets’.

Zero regrets for having persevered with my alphabetical posts throughout lockdown – 26 out of 26 in a timely manner is a decent achievement, and even though I had to change quite a few of my planned posts to fit my new restricted circumstances I stuck with my original topic.

Zero regrets for having moved back to Inverness at the end of last summer, and for having bought our lovely 1930s bungalow – it’s such a huge change from our little Victorian one-bed first-floor flat in London, but is all the more welcome due to the current stay-at-home strategy.

Zero regrets for the precious back garden view from our kitchen window, and for the peaceful enjoyment of sitting quietly in my plant-lined conservatory with a cup of tea and a good book, listening to the birds outside singing their hearts out for spring…

There are certainly a lot worse places to be stuck at home during a pandemic than here in Inverness πŸ™‚

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!