Weather: this is improving, with milder and fewer windy days and there have also been breaks from the incessant rain.
We have now experienced two weeks of ‘lockdown’ and on the surface the alterations to daily life are not as obvious as they would be in a city or in a more populated place, but the quality of the days have changed. Somehow the knowledge that COVID-19 has resulted in a global lock-down permeates and threatens all places, even remote ones.
The days, however, continue to get longer and lighter, the wind still blows but the promise of Spring is in the air. The primroses have started to come up, we even spotted a couple of summer daisies and the roadsides are now lined with windswept, almost fading, daffodils.
Although there is not a massive shopping mall, to stroll around, the public social venues that are here: The Westford Inn, Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre, Sgoil Lionacleit Sport Centre, the various little cafés, the travelling Screen machine Cinema, all the yoga classes – have all shut for an indefinite amount of time. This has impacted the community. Social distancing has also been firmly implemented in the super-markets, which all now have 2 metre distancing, warning tape stuck to the floor throughout. Logistically, maintaining a 2-metre gap between customers, at all times, can be difficult. The narrow aisles and small spaces are not designed for these extreme measures, and can make for some awkward encounters. Despite there being a small population here there was still a ‘distancing’ queue outside MacLennans Supermarket in Benbecula, although this appeared good natured and somewhat baffled.
The local, North Uist gin distillery ‘Downpour’ is now making hand sanitiser, the first batch of this they gave free to caress, nurses and essential staff – this is in the true ‘Island’ spirit, which is much appreciated and community minded. This sanitiser is also, now available in all the local shops to ‘fill your own container’. Great initiative, lovely people, well done Jonny and Kate but don’t forget the gin!
Social media has come into its own, and the daily Facebook, Instagram and Twitter inserts express a variety of ways in which we are all dealing with our new isolated existence.
There are the songs, pictures of fun social events or holidays. Food and baking have been very popular (in fact flour has been, along with toilet roll and soap rather scarce). We have, ourselves, even put some themed dinners online, an amazing Indian curry and a tribute to the two beautiful freshly-caught loch trout. Hair cutting has also been a popular activity. Humour is still present in a lot of posts. There have also been some inspired online classes, which include yoga, drawing and a diversity of other pretty amazing initiatives. Hobbies are foregrounded, motorcycles polished to perfection and fabrics sewn and all are proudly ‘shared’ for the greater and wider community that exists in a slightly alarming virtual ‘big brother caring’ kind of way.
At other times, it is possible to feel that we are trying to tell ourselves that we all have the inner resources to cope with loneliness and isolation, to work through difficult problems of noisy neighbours (something we don’t have here) and complex relationships issues that become highlighted and exacerbated due to too much proximity and time together.
Most of our normal indoor activities remain as ever, focussed on our artwork, but we have expanded our leisure time to include Backgammon and we have now purchased a draughts and chess set. Our new routine has been to open the day with a yoga session (each to their own level…) and weather permitting, to take a long walk. This helps with cabin fever and keeping fit and ensures that we continue to engage with the world. We feel blessed to have this much freedom of movement and cannot imagine how families are coping in high rise flats, or how a single person is coping with the solitude of their own company. Our evenings begin around 5- 6:30pm with a game of Backgammon, this has been enjoyable and we are even becoming reasonable players.
This pandemic, COVID-19, has developed so quickly and globally. Everything is set to change, many shops and major retail outlets will disappear, pubs will remain closed, much of education, finance and commerce will use the opportunity to develop their programmes online, jobs will become even more casualised.
The arts will take years to recover with increasing amounts of public money being used to support the major flagship organisations to the cost of all others. Cash transactions will most likely now will also soon be prohibited. No doubt we will all soon get use to this new regime, we are adaptable, if nothing else.
Let us hope that the heroes of this pandemic, the frontline workers, in particular the NHS teams will not be quietly forgotten, and put back in the shade, and let us hope that those of us in Education and the Arts will have the opportunity to ensure that the things we value the most will grow and be valued in the future. Let us also hope that the Arts are not further side-lined, as creativity in the Arts and Sciences will deliver the only hope that we have for all our futures.
There are no known cases of the virus so far on North Uist although it has been mentioned, through the grapevine (the post office) that there are couple of confirmed case on Lewis.
The virus has also reached Orkney and Shetland.
Alice cat and Ange (AKA the White Lion) are seemingly unperturbed by this crisis, even though cats can be infected by COVID-19!