Sometimes it’s a struggle.

I’m ready to admit it – lockdown is a struggle

I know we’re inching towards the light at the end of the lockdown tunnel but indulge me for a few paragraphs while I deviate from my usual state of breezy optimism. Because for all my talk of focussing on what I can do, rather than what I can’t, and for all my stoical words of ‘shortening my horizons’ and finding contentment at home, there are times when I really struggle. You too? Yes – I hear you. Does it help to know we’re all in this together?

Obligatory post-vaccine selfie. (B&W because I’ve not had my hair appointment yet… ;))

Admittedly yes, sometimes it does. Masking up at Caley Stadium on Easter Monday to queue for my vaccine was momentous. With cheerful, bright efficiency, hundreds of patients from Crown Medical Centre in Inverness were processed, punctured, and passed back out into the sunshine. Vaccination, for all its worries about blood clots and the politics of passports, seems to be our ticket out of this sorry situation, and I was thrilled to have reached my place on the list. Everyone else clearly felt the same way – the atmosphere was almost celebratory.

Suddenly I feel resentful

But apart from that, it’s all feeling a bit oppressive. Like everyone else, we’ve missed family, we’ve missed holidays, we’ve missed nights out and at home, eating, drinking, and laughing with friends. We’ve ‘done our bit’ by sticking to the rules, so we’ve played card games, cleared out cupboards and watched endless hours of telly. I’ve even taken up embroidery while Mr Marr does jigsaws, matching head torches essential. We’ve worn grooves in the pavement on daily walks, and I’ve swum, and cycled. Everything seemed to be ok. We were getting through, we were coping. But suddenly I feel resentful.

This isn’t the cause; but it was the last straw. Last week we sat at home, laptop between us, watching the funeral of a friend. The service was beautiful; the music, photos, videos, and the eulogy, even the saltire draped across the corner of the coffin, were all perfect. B died far too young but his was a life well lived. He didn’t care about jobs or status, he cared about the person you were. He brought out the best in all of us, with fun and generous laughter, making any gathering into a party. He adored his family, and he adored music, Nairn County and Scotland. Thanks to lockdown, we watched his funeral through a screen, unable to be part of a crowd of people who loved him, unable to share our condolences with a hug, a tear, and a wealth of inappropriate stories in the pub later.

At least we could watch online…

But thank goodness for technology – at least that virtual option was available to us. Being able to be part of it, even virtually, gave us a sense of belonging. We shed our own tears, shared our own memories, held each other close.

Our loss as friends is nothing compared to the grief his family are feeling. He isn’t the first friend we’ve lost during lockdown, nor is his the first funeral we’ve been unable to attend. Of all the horrors of Covid, families and friends not being able to say their goodbyes together, to visit their loved ones in hospitals and care homes, and to be present as they slip away, is the cruellest aspect of all.

Bag it and Bin it

At Clachnaharry, Inverness.
Disgusting, isn’t it?

The message is clear – if it comes out of your dog, bag it and bin it. Please don’t leave a dirty smelly mess on the pavement or in the park. If you’re deep in the countryside, at least deploy ‘stick and flick’ – getting it off the path will stop it sticking to the soles of my walking boots. But please, I beg you, don’t go to the bother of bagging it in plastic only to dump it by the side of the path, or hang it from a tree. I know you don’t want to carry it with you, but it was your dog, so it’s your responsibility.

And a final plea – if you provide a dog bin, (Scottish Canals? Highland Council?) please empty it! The beautiful Caledonian Canal deserves better than this…

Litter Heroes

There are two types of people when it comes to litter – those who arrogantly drop it, and those who pick it up. Bravo to litter pickers everywhere, especially to Matt Wallace and his team. Matt runs Clarity Walk, a social enterprise that aims to improve mental health and well-being through ‘No Phone’ nature walks.

On a recent walk in Inverness, they brought bin bags with them, and cleaned up 250l of rubbish in less than an hour. That’s outrageous. It didn’t get there by itself. But it’s also brilliant that they were prepared to get stuck in.

Matt and his team are awesome, but for goodness sake, they’ve better things to do than clear up after you.

The Team at Dalneigh, Inverness with some of the 250l of rubbish they collected during their Clarity Cleanup. Heroes!
Image: Matt Wallace

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, or subscribing online. 

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