And this is where the narrative of our lives really began to change.
I am old enough to remember the shivers of fear that the AIDS advertising campaign had in the 1980s. The falling tombstone, and the sense that there was a hidden ‘enemy’ out there! But nothing really touched me and my life. And after that there was SARS, and again life went on as before. No reason to panic when the next unwelcome visitor put in an appearance … surely not!
Originally known as known as “2019 novel coronavirus” the virus is officially named “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” (SARS-CoV-2) and in non-specialist use as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) it has come to dominate our lives in so many ways!
The first frisson of fear came on March 4th when our hairdresser told us there were rumours that a case of COVID-19 (and death) had been reported in Turriff. Now that is really close! Maybe rural Aberdeenshire is not going to left in peace this time!
By mid March we were planning for possible restrictons, realising that things could get difficult. We don’t have a shop in our village, and we are dependent on being able to drive to local towns for our groceries and other supplies from their shops and small supermarkets. Online deliveries are possible too. So we might be OK!
Looking at the news, especially online, we followed the progress of the virus as it spread from Italy across Europe. In a few weeks it would be in the UK in a big way. We expected the UK government to close down air travel, and monitor closely international travle of all kinds. But nothing happened!
There was a strange kind of limbo. The country seemed to collectively hold its breath! I stopped sleeping properly, felt tired on waking, couldn’t concentrate or do anything much. I tried to act as normal, photoshooting for Flickr and writing for the ‘Zen Camera’ section of Inedita – but I found myself watching ‘easy’ TV and playing cards or word games on my iPhone and doing jigsaws on my iPad!
Sunday March 15th
We woke to a Kafkaesque world. I wrote in my diary: “All people aged 70+ are to be locked down for up to 4 months. I guess we are being encouraged to die quietly behind closed doors – by starvation if not the virus.”
We started to make emergency trips to the supermarkets, to stock up with food. Self-isolating was not a massive problem as we are mainly just the two of us. We have a house and garden, and neighbours are not very close by. Maybe we can make it through 4 months, if we can make essential trips to shops and some exercise at our local beauty spots and at the coast. Fingers were crossed!
Wednesday March 18th
We walked around the small loch at Fyvie Castle. It was cold enough to freeze my fingers as I shot. This is the time when I get out my landscape lenses and metaphorically dust them off for a summer of shooting the countryside and seaside all around us. The winter is the time for indoor photo shoots, as the cold really takes my energy away. So I took an Infrared converted camera with me, to familiarise myself with it again. A new (to me) Sony A5000 with a 850nm filter, that I needed to get used to. It didn’t matter if all the shots I took were duds, and thrown away – the main aim was to ‘limber up’ my outdoor shooting.
Little did we know, but it was the last time we got to walk round the grounds of Fyvie Castle until lock-down was officially lifted in July! Somehow it seemed appropriate that I was shooting with the darkest IR 850nm filter, as there were dark days ahead. The mood of those shots was sombre, and (looking back) full of foreboding.
After that the ‘shock of the new’ began to take shape. Schools closed, supermarkets were overwhelmed and shelves stripped as panic buying gripped the nation. We found our local supermarkets were beginning to organise for ‘social distancing’ and arranging time slots for NHS workers, and for the 70+ (locked down). The postie started putting parcels on the front step, ringing the bell and stepping back. No more signing for a parcel – COVID changed that rule!
We decided to start our own ‘mini-greenhouse’ in a large plastic tub – to grow salad leaves and herbs. It worked out well over the summer, giving us some tasty additions to our salads. But eventually the plants went to seed and we dismantled it in September. All is ready to start again next year!
We also started with sprouting seeds, alfalfa and mung beans to start with. Again it went well, except we misjudged the quantities, and became overhwelmed with alfalfa that kept on growing! Again we have the seeds and the jars, and will try growing more over the winter!
This is the time of year when I have the cameras out to shoot the Japanese ornamental plum tree by the gate. It was a welcome escape from the encroaching gloom and impending threats that lay, invisible, beyond our gate!
As so often happens it was cold and windy enough to bring sprigs of plum blossom indoors to shoot!
Wednesday March 25th
One of the days that Tesco organises a one hour slot for the 70+ age group. We didn’t have face masks, but did have some disposable gloves, and plastic pouches for credit cards etc. I tried using a knitted scarf as an improvised mask (months later I learned knitted masks are positively dangerous, and worse than using no face covering!)
As things began to sink in we realised that we wouldn’t have the possibility of help from neighbours, or to call a taxi if needed. Age-related lock-down has implications! I really felt the need to get my driving skills back … to help with the practical situation, and also to feel less helpless!
The month ended with the clocks moving into Summer time – and overnight snow to complete the irony of upcoming summer 2020!
On to April – and the word ‘pandemic’ enters our world
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