Freedom under a leaky tarpaulin.

Have you tasted it yet, that tiny little fragment of freedom we’ve been given? I can’t quite believe how much I have ‘socialised’ this past fortnight. Three times, at least. And it’s given me a taste for a tiny bit more.

Last Friday was a friend’s birthday. At lunchtime I popped round on my bike with a bunch of tulips, and she invited me to stay for a cup of tea. I loitered in the garden while she put the kettle on. Then we sat, drinking in the unseasonable warmth of the sun, and basking in the opportunity to have a face to face chat. It might be the first time I’ve seen her this year without a screen between us. It felt good.

A night away from Netflix and jigsaws

Look carefully – it’s held up with bungees and a rake. No Health and Safety officers were harmed, etc., etc.,…

Late Saturday afternoon we lit the fire in the garden and got the chairs out; two twos, a pair on either side of the grass. Typically, it started to rain, so we rooted in the shed for a tarpaulin. It wasn’t pretty, but with a handful of bungee cords, several clothes pegs, and a garden rake balanced on the back of a bench, we almost stayed dry. I’d guess that tarp was 95% hole-free.

We ate chilli and chocolate brownies, drank Prosecco and Guinness, and laughed. As darkness fell, I lit candles and fairy lights, and we made plans for the places we’ll go to and the restaurants we’ll eat in when lockdown eases further. It felt better than good. It felt almost normal. In the morning there was a patch of scorched grass where the fire had been. It’s a reminder of a night away from Netflix and jigsaws, and a reminder to put the firepit on top of some bricks next time.

Lots to look forward to

Alongside longer days there’s lots to look forward to. I now have a hair appointment, I’m getting my eyes tested, and I’ve booked a trip to the dentist to fix a tooth that broke at Christmas. I’ve also managed to get a reservation at Stonehaven Caravan Park so we can take our van down there to see my folks over May weekend. We won’t be allowed in their houses by then, but we will be able to walk with them along the beach, have a pint at the harbour, and sit in their gardens.

Next stop on ‘The Plan’ is Glasgow, to catch up with Daughter #1 and my in-laws. And then it’ll be home to work through our favourite local pubs and restaurants, in twos and fours, and slipping back into the habit of non-essential shopping. Hugs and indoor meets are a long way off, but after June, once we’ve been vaccinated, won’t things just get better and better?

Let’s not stuff it up again

Freedom is coming, gently, but surely, so please, let’s not stuff it up again. We have to hope that our political leaders – whoever they may be in May and June – don’t bow to pressure to allow free passes for summer holidays abroad. Let 2021, more than 2020 was, be the year we explore more of what’s on our doorsteps. Let’s pour the money we would have spent on foreign holidays into supporting the hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, pubs and shops that need our business so badly. Let’s visit all the bits of the Highlands, Moray, Aberdeenshire, and the Islands that visitors come from half way round the globe to experience. I know, it might not always be sunny enough to lie out in a bikini here, but the sun will shine in Greece or Spain next year too, guaranteed.

Th unmistakable Stac Pollaidh. I know that technically we *could* still go here, but it feels too far. Roll on the freedom to climb again.

I want to play my part… in Assynt, Caithness, Moray, Glen Affric…

Like most of us, I’m desperate for a holiday, but it doesn’t have to be abroad. I just need a change of these four walls. Take me to Caithness’s beaches, or along the Moray Coast, to the Assynt hills or the wilds of Glen Affric, and I’ll be happy. I want a new view to look at, a new path to cycle, a few books to read and a map so I can spend the evenings planning new walks. I want to swim in lochs and waterfalls and run screaming from an invasion of midgies. I want to eat from the best natural larder in the world and melt my flip flops over an open fire, dram in hand. Of course, I’d love to feel the warmth of Mediterranean sun on my skin, but more than that, I want to play my part in bringing back our freedom.

Freedom. It such a loaded word. Who would have thought it could be found under a leaky tarpaulin?

This column is published by Highland News and Media in six of their newspapers across the north of Scotland. If you can, please support print media and the future of independent  journalism by buying a paper! 

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