Weather: Cool at times with the winds slowly dropping and shifting from the North around to the more usual South Westerly direction. Sunny and bright. Small rain showers, mainly in the night.
The Spring tides have been exceptionally high as is usual, for time of year. The full (pink) moon on the 7th of April, was largely obscured by cloud. What could be seen did not appear pink sadly. There have however been some glorious sunrises – the colours of a peach, which have reflected gold into the surrounding lochs and there have been some beautiful sunny days with a fresh cool breeze. We have managed to have a couple of picnics in the garden, and even put the tent up for a couple of days (also in the garden) – although this was a little optimistic.
This is day 44 of Lockdown, May 5th 2020, it feels as if we are sleepwalking. To date there are no cases of COVID-19 on the island, so just in case.. all of the necessary precautions are being taken, and all of the distancing recommendations are being followed.
The Co-op shop, once a pleasant and social event, has now become a little stressful. The tills are surrounded with glass barriers, like they have in banks, and the floors are marked with angry fluoride tape pointing one-way directions, for customers to shuffle through, 2 metres behind someone else. Toilet rolls are scarce and flour and liquid antiseptic soap is still absent from the shelves. Other shops have workers wearing what look like clear welding masks, these mist up with their breath, and are open at the bottom. It is safe to say it has become unpleasant to go shopping, and a process of grabbing the required items hastily has become our norm, we no longer stop to chat. Nevertheless, under the circumstances the local shops are all doing sterling work, and we applaud them.
We have heard that the Post Office is going into overdrive, busier even, than at Christmas. Certainly, we have both contributed to this, sending parcels to our lockdown kin, parcels that would not have been sent, except for the unusual circumstances.
The local lochs are also amazingly untroubled by anglers, the fish at least will be celebrating our COVID-19 plague, and the traffic, even in this remote part of the world, has been reduced. There have been no tourists and no caravans or motorhomes.
April 13th, we were exercising by a nearby loch. The air was cold and sharp but the day was sunny and still. We, stood, watching some seals lolling about on the rocks – a stunning sight, and to have it at the bottom of the garden (better and more magical, even, than fairies).
We feel blessed to be here and fortunate that we chose to be here, at this time in our lives and ‘In This Day and Age’.
Our crofting neighbours Andy and Effie, have put four of their ewe’s together with their eight, now sturdy lambs, into the fields around Minish house. Their bleating and dancing presence is a reminder, should we need one, that spring is a special and optimistic time of year. Two of the ewes had twins, one had triplets and one had single lamb. Apparently, many of the sheep across the islands have had twins this year – this is a great fortune for the Crofters, doubling and in some cases further extending their existing flock.
Luckily for us and the people who live here, there has been more local fish produce available to buy, because of lockdown. We celebrated this and had a wonderful seafood weekend with langoustines, crab and lobster (a delicious cholesterol fest) with a loaf of Raphael’s wonderful sourdough bread. He and Rosie also gave us some starter dough to make our own bread. We, like the rest of the Nation, are all baking away!
The internet has been a lifeline for us and for everyone else, it has come into its own. We have conducted online tutorials, conference calls. Schools are providing Zoom classes – a new era has undoubtedly begun.
We have had some excellent family, social-media events courtesy of Skype, Zoom and Facetime, including inter-generational Easter egg painting, life drawing and some essential social catch ups.
Online classes have enabled situations such as: The Thursday life drawing class, that we have been doing, which is hosted in Glasgow with the model in Brussels and the contributing artists from throughout the U.K. and one from Australia. It is, of course different to drawing from life in a room, as it uses the eye of the camera to define the model rather than the eye of the artist – this could be a useful tool and way of working, in the future, for people living in remote places. There is, even, the talk of smartphone monitoring apps to test for the ‘virus’ the new world will be accountable, trackable and privacy will be carefully controlled.
However, lockdown and seeing only each other for days and days on end can be challenging, even in paradise. At this point we both consider and talk about some of the difficulties that some people and families are going through this time. Families without gardens, with dependency issues, with financial concerns and there must be people (even) without the internet. We are delighted to have been asked to donate one of our works to Trace, an online art fair offering affordable work by international photographers in aid of the two charities charities Crisis and Refuge.
Our daily online Yoga sessions have taken on a new importance, enveloping the house in incense and transporting us to a retreat in India as time appears to have slowed to accommodate this practice. Alice, cat enjoys these languid, soothing sessions and participates freely, but not in any helpful way.
There have been lots of movement from the abundant bird life in the area. We have seen many owls, thrushes, geese, swans, many varieties of duck and gull, cormorants, shag, redwings, skylarks, oyster catchers, curlews, sandpipers, herons and redshanks and most recently, a cuckoo ‘the sound of summer’. There is much nesting and mating activity. The grey seals are plentiful and sunbathe on the nearby islands, silver in the sunshine and occasionally making strange impatient sounding barking sounds. On a recent walk, close to Lochmaddy a pair of Golden Eagles passed close by over our heads. It was the closest sighting yet. For once the binoculars were at hand, and we were amazed at these incredible birds as they flew over the high ground before spiralling high into the distant blue sky. It was a breath-taking experience. We frequently see both Golden Eagles and Sea Eagles close to the house but it is very unusual to see these amazing, almost prehistoric, creatures at such close quarters.
Whilst walking on the moorland nearby we watched as the herons make their noisy way to their nesting sites in the nearby woods. There is a beautiful site on top of a rocky outcrop to stop and have lunch by the burn. we rested here, whilst fixing a wildlife ‘trail’ camera to a nearby bridge. When previously using this camera closer to home we made some relatively unimpressive images of sheep but we are hoping for something more exciting at this new site.
Boris Johnson has returned to work. What it is to have a hero at our time of need.
Ange (AKA the white lion) has been enjoying the warm, light nights and rewards us with an array of dead, headless rodents. The ticks are back and we now need to check his dense white fur for the nasty black ‘crawlies’. Alice cat is sweet and loving, she chases flies, whilst subtly conducting psychological turf wars with Ange.
We watched ‘Contagion’ on Netflix, it is difficult to say why, but at least we now know that it was Gwyneth Paltrow that started it…