Strange days, indeed


What a week it has been! I wrote this piece for the Highland News and Media Group papers on Monday – and so much has changed since then, for all of us. I hope the measures implemented keep more of us safe and healthy, and I hope our small businesses will recover after it’s all behind us. They need Government support – hard cash to pay staff rather than laying them off. 

Freelancers and those on zero-hours contracts need protected too. I have lost count of the artists, hospitality workers and tourism operators who have lost their income-streams and I’ve not been immune to that either. Events I was due to host between now and the end of May (a peak time for my business) have all been cancelled or postponed, and I heard on Tuesday morning that I’ve also – temporarily, I hope – been ‘let go’ from writing these columns. Revenue income at the papers is down, so to save staff jobs all freelancers have been stood down. I can’t pretend it’s not a blow – I’ve been writing for The Inverness Courier since 2002 and for her sister papers for the last seven years, but if I take a step back I can see I’m just a casualty in the bigger picture of trying to save the titles. 

I hope to be back in print before too long, but I’m planning to keep writing and sharing my thoughts here on a weekly basis – if there’s an appetite for that. And this is where you come in. If you usually read via my shared link on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, please continue to do so, but also please subscribe here. I’ll send an email every Saturday morning. Please feel free to share with friends/family (or editor friends who might want to publish – every little helps!) who you think will be interested. I’ll absolutely keep it free.

As a further blow this week, on Thursday, after consultation with my GP, I’ve been told I’m a ‘probable positive’ for Covid-19 so of course I’m in self-isolation. My asthma flared up, but oral steroids, antibiotics and more inhalers are keeping things under control – I also have paracetamol, food and (usual supplies of) toilet roll, and a willing army of friends who are taking great delight in ringing my doorbell and running away. Thankfully, most are leaving supplies and treats before they head back down the path at speed! Mr Marr has also come home to Inverness – he’s closed The Playhouse. 

Take care of you and yours, please stay well, and keep playing the ‘social distancing game’. And if I’ve not bored you enough already, please read my thoughts as of Monday – most of it still applies.

Much love, and thanks for your continued support. I already feel much less isolated! 

Nicky XX

It’ll be a whole new world on the other side

Goodness, these are strange times.

When the news broke around Christmas of a virus in China, who could possibly have imagined that it would lead to cancelled football matches, squabbles in supermarket aisles over toilet roll, hand-sanitiser being stolen from hospital wards, and most of mainland Europe being in total lockdown? Yep – me neither.

Media headlines are of little apart from Coronavirus – even Alex Salmond’s trial is being pushed off the headline spot in evening news bulletins. Fake news is causing panic, distress and mistrust. Those over 70 are – and we’ve heard this from our own elderly relatives – being made to feel as though they don’t matter. Some people are calling for the country to be put on total lock-down, irrespective of the fact that – at the moment of writing (Monday) – the best science suggests that lock-down is not the best way to ‘flatten the curve’ of the pressure on our already stretched NHS.

Best advice…

Keeping up with the latest developments is almost a full-time job, but the best advice is still to regularly wash your hands with soap and water, to avoid touching your face with dirty hands, and to self-isolate for seven days if you think you have the symptoms of coronavirus. That way you’ll minimise the risk of infecting anyone who could be at risk of serious complications, including death, should they catch it.

Squabbles over Brexit and Scottish independence, which have divided friends and families for the past three or four years, have rightly faded into insignificance while the nation decides how best to cope with this pandemic. Suddenly there are much more pressing issues; can the country manufacture enough ventilators to help our NHS cope? Who will look after the children of nurses, doctors and care home staff if/when schools close? And what is going to happen to local hospitality and tourism businesses if people are advised to stay at home? Many small businesses will go to the wall. Will our economy ever recover?

We’re on the cusp of something that will change all our lives

I get the strong feeling that we’re on the cusp of something that will change all of our lives in a way that few of us have ever experienced. We’re already feeling changes; the choir I sing in decided to cancel ‘for the foreseeable future’ and Spokes for Folks have rightly put all their rides for the elderly and vulnerable on hold. We missed last weekend’s rugby international in Cardiff too.

Events that I was due to host have either cancelled or are in jeopardy and many freelance workers in my circles are experiencing similar cancellations, whether they be caterers, event managers, photographers or performers.

Just looking at my own family – and your family will be affected in similar ways – Mr Marr is currently in talks about closing the theatre he runs, Daughter #2’s university teaching has been suspended, and my siblings – both of whom work in the healthcare sector – have had their work schedules ripped up and redrafted. My Mum is worried that self-isolating will make her ‘go mad’ – I don’t blame her! – and my Dad, who lives in Spain, is only allowed to leave his home to buy essential food and medicines.

Let’s get some perspective on our inconveniences – this virus is killing people

A lovely, talented friend made us these. Love them, although they did come with a caveat that they’re probably useless!

But suspended education, social isolation and loss of work, irritating as they are, pale into insignificance when we consider the ability of this virus to kill. Loathe as I am to quote Boris Johnston, he was right when he said that many of us will ‘lose loved ones before their time’. It may have been a statement designed to grab headlines, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Those of us who are fit and healthy will – should – shake it off in a matter of days, but it’s not ourselves we should be concerned about.

Stop looking at Facebook and imagining that gargling with garlic, sipping hot water, sticking soap up your nose or making your own hand-sanitiser with gin and aloe vera will save you and your family – it won’t. It’s time to take the official advice and hunker down. 2020 might have to be the year of thinking globally and living small. Foreign holidays and mass gatherings are going to be off the cards for a while.

I hope to use this time to explore more remote (isolated!) parts of Scotland and to get my garden in order – I’ll get back to growing veg and attack the moss that chokes the lawn. If it rains, the upstairs bathroom could do with a lick of paint. And I’ll still be able to read, write, cook, swim, walk and ride my bike.

If reports suggesting this virus will lurk till spring 2021 are right, we’ll be a very different world at the other side of this.

To receive this by email every week, click here. No cost, no spam, no ads, no sales pitch, no hassle… I promise. And please encourage friends/family to sign up too – the more, the merrier!

Any thoughts/feedback? For that or anything else, contact me here.