2020 December

December 2020 collage
A collection of images posted on Flickr during December 2020

December is month 10 of the new way of living in 2020 – living with COVID as an integral part of our lives. It is also the last month when we are, in any way, members of the EU. The long 4 year process of leaving the European UniIon is finally set to end on December 31st.

Brexit happens as 2020 ends
Brexit happens as 2020 ends

Here in Scotland we feel SO cheated. In 2014 we were threatened with being ejected from the EU if we voted for Scottish independence. A lot of people were convinced that the only way to stay part of Europe was to remain a part of the UK. Then in 2016 the UK (or more correctly England) voted by narrow margin to leave the EU, and Scotland voted over 60% to remain. And now we are being dragged – against our wishes – out of Europe. To say we feel cheated and abused is very mild description of how we feel! All we can do is stand on the sidelines as the English government drags us, protesting, like a dog on a leash!

The outlook seemed better when I turn to the pandemic. The first vaccines against COVID-19 are being produced, and the first vaccinations are taking place.

COVID vaccine
The first vaccines against COVID 19 are close to approval

It is – or rather was, the first ray of COVID sunshine since the virus began to spread across the world, and changed all our lives! In personal terms nothing has changed – yet. It will take many months, well into 2021, before we are offered a vaccine. But the speed of the research and development of a vaccine, any vaccine, has been amazing! And there are at least three very promising contenders starting production.

The caveat that has been added as December progressed is that there is a new variant of the COVID virus here in the UK that is much more ‘successful’ in that it can transmit from person to person more effectively. As I write this on Boxing Day, it is estimated that transmissibilty has ‘improved’ by about 70%. So Boxing Day sees the whole of mainland Scotland under Level 4 protection rules. The virus is spreading once again at a frightening pace south of the border, and we to the north are not far behind!
The result of the discovery and initial reserach into this variant (provisionally called B.1.1.7 or the Kent variant) suggest that it is replacing existing strains, and could mean an explosion in cases across the UK and far beyond. It appears to have started in London and S. E. England, and is spreading north quickly. So far it seems to have travelled to Glasgow and surrounding areas, so we are hoping that today’s Level 4 rules will slow its progress!

Flickr Xmas card
My Christmas card for all my Flickr firends and contacts

Christmas is the time when we try to catch up with everyone, especially those who we’ve only been intermittently and occasionally ‘touching base’ with. This year it had to be an entirely virtual experience, sending ‘cards’ I made myself, and catch-up emails. Over the years our dedicated Post Offices have been reduced to one small cubby-hole crammed into a small convenience store. No way to celebrate Christmas by risking contact in such a confined space. Phone calls and emails is the COVID way!
We have brought out the Christmas tree, and added a few festive strings to lights – but it is hard to feel festive when the battle between the mutating virus and the vaccination roll-out looks set to define our lives as the new year begins!

Hogmanay card
Looking forward to 2021 what will it bring?

Hogmanay is a bigger Scottish event than Christmas, with mass celebrations and firework displays in all the major cities. Not this year! The fear is that any relaxation of the Level rules will risk a big explosion of new cases in the weeks after. So Level 4 restrictions are coming into place as Christmas Day ends. A dark and bleak end to a difficult year, though a fascinating one too!

Back to Journal Page
On to 2021 and a second year with COVID
Back to Notebooks cover

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell

2020 November

November 2020 collage
A collection of images posted on Flickr this November 2020

Yes, it is month 9 of living with the pandemic, and it seems that the promised winter ‘second wave’ of COVID is here.
Once again we are struggling to contain the impact on the NHS as the numbers hospitalised and in intensive care rise. The naive view of the ‘experts’ that somehow older people could be ‘careful’ and not be infected by younger members of their families has been revealed to be the nonsense we always knew it to be! Grandparents were called upon to undertake childcare, and free up younger adults to return to work, while also being exhorted to protect themselves as they are the most vulnerable group. Square that circle if you can!!

Here, we find ourselves sitting on the fringes of the medium to high infection areas, and quite well able to continue to ‘self-isolate’ together. For us the problems are all practical. Adjusting to not doing our own shopping, adjusting to so many functions of daily life moving online, and finding ways to keep active and engaged with the world beyond our gate!

Winter is really closing in, and we have had some wonderful misty nights and mornings to shoot.

misty morning
A misty November morning as the sun breaks through.

They can be difficult to shoot, as the camera struggles to find a focus in the misty morning.

night street lights
The ghostly street lights in the night mist.

Night shots can be very intense with big light contrasts

night mist
The night-time mist makes the world mysterious.

One area that has gained massively in importance is the technical. So much has moved online this year due to the pandemic, the lock-down, and the need for physical distancing in shops and work places.
Living in rural Aberdeenshire we do most of our shopping online, and have for many years. Grocery shopping in winter months moves online every year – so it is not so strange to move all our local grocery shopping online. But I miss being able to see what is available in the shops – to choose fresh vegetables, fruit and meat – and to buy luxuries such as flowers regularly too!
The pandemic has brought into sharp focus just how important internet connectivity is for everyone! Many people relied on the local library for internet connecivity, but the libraries have been closed here since March. And now banking, booking recycling slots, dental appointments and much more are reliant on the internet and smartphones.

Our biggest technical development has been in mobile phones. I’ve had a ‘smartphone’ for a while, starting with a neighbour’s old iPhone 5. Being a long time user of the iPad and Touch (which is really an iPhone without the phone) I was familiar with the computer system, so it was not a big adjustment. Even before the impact of the pandemic we realised that more and more functions depended on SMS messages to a mobile phone (for verification, identification and information).

iPhone screens
Living with a smartphone – 6 screens

My smartphone can and does track my sleep, alert me to deliveries, connect me to the emergency breakdown service for my car, bring me the news, take excellent photos and check I’ve cleaned my teeth properly! The least used function is making phone calls!

In our village we have very poor mobile coverage, mainly intermittent 3G which is affected by massive wind turbines across the howe. So adjusting to the new reality has been a bit of a bumpy journey and an expensive one! Smartphones are not cheap – especially if you don’t want a contract attached. The pandemic has accelerated the pace for us, and made us aware that we both need the skills and confidence to live with a smartphone by our side. The more we rely on it, the more important it has become that Mike has his own 21st century connectivity, and gets familiar and confident with using it. It seems that the days of having a mobile phone that is only a phone are consigned to the past! And the reality is that the longer we delay it, the harder it is to learn the increasingly complex little computer that accompanies us everywhere.
And so November draw to a close, with ever decreasing hours of daylight, and the first deep frosts and snowfalls ……

snow on the car
The first snow of the winter. The car needs de-icing!

Time to look out the de-icers!
And I’ll end the month with a second collage, of sunrises through November. We live in quite a deep valley, the Howe of the Ythan, which is the small river that rises quite close to us, and runs into the sea along our North sea coast. The steep hillside of the howe means that the sun has to be quite high before it lights us up …. dawn gives us a black silhouette and a sometimes dramatic sky! So mostly I shoot after the dawn display has dispersed.

November sunrises
A selection of November sunrise shots across the howe

But the skies can be so beautiful – vast open skies that the camera can only hint at! The colours are breathtaking, and it is a wonderful way to start any day! The selection here includes two shots I took after the sun reached us, and the black hillside has resolved into the familiar world of trees, fields, fences, sheep grazing, and the croft on the opposite hillside.
And so, on to December, which heralds the much discussed dilemma of how to minimise the spread of the virus as Christmas approaches … and more!
Back to Journal Page
Back to Notebooks cover

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell

2020 August

Collage for August 2020
A collection of images posted on Flickr this August 2020

As August began (month 6 of COVID) it was becoming clear that the devolved governments across the UK were moving away from the ‘follow England’ pattern that had been established at the start of the pandemic. The UK (England) government had been mishandling the pandemic from the start, being slow to react and ignoring the evidence of what was happening elsewhere in the world.
Scotland had suffered badly both in the spread of COVID-19 in the community, and especially in recorded deaths. So as England moved to lift the lock-down and ‘get the economy moving again’ there was a more cautious approach here. We remained in lock-down longer, until the indicators were clear that the virus was under control. But as August began the decision was made to get children back to school. We start the academic year some weeks before England, so we would be the first to see how the ‘back to school’ experiment played out in real life! It was a pivotal moment for us all, and watched with some trepidation. We have a small Primary School in our village, and older students travel to Turriff daily, so our village was deeply involved!

As restrictions lifted we remained in our own protective ‘bubble’ that hadn’t changed since March – we were free to travel to our local beauty spots for exercise, bur we remained largely self-isolating. Nothing had changed to make us feel we were less at risk. It was still the elderly who were dying! As we have no children or grandchildren, and no family living locally, it was ‘lock-down life’ that remained our new ‘normal’. So we sat on the sidelines and watched events unfold! August set a new pattern for us, following the daily coronavirus updates. both with our First Minister and online too. It was hard work, and took quite a lump out of our time …. but we wanted to know what was going on.

Continuing our lives as close to ‘normal’ as we could, I continued with my watercolour experimentation and learning.
I was faced with my usual problem, I have PVS/ME and that means my life is a balancing act between what I want to do and what my meagre energy will permit me to do. Do too much and the consequences are brutal – weeks bedbound as my body tries to regain a balance. Long Covid is just the latest manifestation of what has been dubbed ME or ‘Yuppie Flu’.
So with a head full of ideas about what I wanted to do with my watercolour adventure I started moving beyond copying Cezanne. I wanted to paint every day, so I planned to do a small daily sketch. A study of something close to hand (I have rooms full of objects I use in my photography) it would sharpen my ‘looking’ skills as well as my drawing and painting skills. I also wanted to take some of Cezanne’s pencil sketches and paint them. So I began!

sketch book pages
Daily sketch and Cezanne pencil sketch

If I was photographing snail shells, why not paint them too? And give Cezanne’s pencil sketch of a tree a more Scottish feel?
I so enjoyed it all, but found that my energy was exhausted very quickly when I was sitting at a table, painting. I began to remember why I had abandoned pastel painting in favour of photography. I could shoot in small bursts, and then lie down. Painting demanded I was sitting for a longer time, and using muscles in very precise ways.
Time to rethink.
So I had to take the painting much more slowly, and even reduce it to two or three times a week. Sad, but essential if I was to integrate painting into my life over the long term. So I found a way to make the most of the painting I could manage to do ….

Eggs blending photo and watercolour
Daily sketch eggshells and blend with photo

If I was photographing eggshells, then paint them as well. Then, when energy permitted I could make a blend of photo and watercolour … and get something new and creative using minimum energy!

landscape blending
Blending a Lensbaby photo and watercolour sketch

And a step further with the blending. A landscape that one day I might paint …. well…. I could combine it with a sketch and make a new artwork!
And finally my paint-filled month was rounded off with another idea. Again using trees from the local environment, but this time extracting them, and using their shapes to go in another direction. Using masking tape, and practising using wet washes, I began to create ‘ghostly’ trees.

tree into watercolou
Taking the bones of a tree and playing with it in watercolours

It might take weeks to explore an idea, but at least it was feeding my hunger to create, paint, and photograph! A world to explore that took me away from the world of the pandemic.

And finally, yes, we did manage to get out (with cameras) and enjoy more of the freedom to roam. I took my infrared camera with the most colourful ‘Goldie’ filter and shot the trees at Fvyie Castle loch.

infrared bench in blue
Infrared of bench in blue

Processing them into cool blues – and vibrant reds!

Goldie Infrared
Goldie filter infrared of trees at Fyvie loch

And so August ended with me feeling very tired, but very happy with the creative results. OK, it was baby steps, but the ideas were forming, and my first blundering steps were enough to encourage me to continue with my ideas!

on to September
Back to Journal Page
Back to Notebooks cover

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell

2020 July

Collage for July 2020
A collection of images posted on Flickr this July 2020

And so we moved into July, with summer, and all that usually implies. But it is month 5 of lock-down, and we were still rewriting what we mean by ‘normal life’.

I had been driving regularly since May, re-learning (or remembering) the skills, and gradually building up the muscles and the stamina that I need to drive. From a few miles from the the village I built up the distance I could comfortably drive.
So, on July 1st I made my first trip to Inverurie and back, to take glass to the recycling point at Morrison’s supermarket. That’s a round trip of over 30 miles – so I was well pleased!
Throughout July I drove through rain, low cloud, poor visibility and a growing level of general traffic. It took a toll on my energy (which is always limited by PVS/ME) and that meant there was little left on many days. I drove early in the morning, to minimise the heavy traffic and farm vehicles on the roads, and often needed a cat-nap mid morning.

car key
The key to more than my car!

But it was (and still is) essential that I can drive again. Other options such as taxis and lifts from neighbours are no longer possible in Covid times, and public transport has always been virtually non-existent in rural Aberdeenshire. So, with the increased vulnerablity to life-threatening infection that we both face, I can’t afford not to be practiced, skilled, confident and proficient once more! Although my little Fiesta is 12 years old now, it is the key to my freedom, and ability to function in times of need.

pink rhododendron
First shots with the Helios lens on the Canon 70D – pink rhododendron

At home the summer was blooming with the the garden full of flowers. I always shoot the rhododendrons as they bloom in sequence, the white first, then the red, and finally the one small bush of pink. My attention was still focussed on the Canon 70D and the problems of shooting in Manual Mode with only an Optical Viewfinder. I decided to concentrate on the garden and immediate surroundings, as I could keep going indoors to read the LCD screen and try to find the right balance of settings to stop over-exposing or under-exposing my shots. It made for slow and frustrating sessions with a large failure rate! I knew I had to master the Manual Mode for the in-camera multiple exposures I wanted to achieve, so I continued to use the old Russian Helios 44-2 lens. After all it was one the lenses I wanted to use (along with the Lensbaby) so I might as well stay with it!
The shot above was taken close to the house, using the Helios lens, and I think it was the 4th attempt at getting the exposure right!

The most wonderful aspect of July was that finally National Trust Scotland opened up their gardens again! After months struggling to find anywhere to walk, we could return to Fyvie Castle grounds! A real breath of fresh air, bringing a sense of optimism and freedom.

sunshine in the park
Fyvie Castle grounds, and freedom to enjoying the summer sunshine!

Here, shot with my iPhone, a boy lying contentedly on the lawn in the sunshine! It seemed to sum up our feelings of relief and delight! The grounds were sadly neglected, and it will take years to repair the damage the lock-down inflicted. But these lawns close to the castle had been mowed, and it was a joy to see them and walk our familiar routes round the small loch!
Later in the month we drove up the coast to Cullen.

Cullen beach
Cullen beach on a bright but cold morning. Freedom from lock-down at last!

And climbed up the cliffs above Cullen bay to see way across towards the Moray Firth. Just visible in the distance is a blue shape on the horizon – the far hills across the Firth!

The view across Cullen Bay
On the cliffs above Cullen Bay – such a sense of freedom!

It was this we had been pining for! We never meet many people on our rambles with our cameras. So with open air and so few possibilities for encountering the virus, we felt that it had been misguided to deprive us of exercise and a sense of well-being! The months of absence and deprivation had impressed on us how essential these outings are to us. We were both quite exhausted after each visit. How quickly our muscles weakened even when we had had our own garden to walk in. What must it have been like for those trapped in small flats in tenements or high rise blocks!
July gave us back some joy and delight, and through the joy came some hope.

And a final look back on July must include the onward progress towards my watercolour painting goals! I had started by copying Cezanne watercolours. I found about his customary palette of just 6 colours, and the few brushes he used. I was making progress! But now I wanted to expand the colours I used, to paint trees closer to Scotland’s palette rather than southern France! So I took out all the paints (tubes and pans) that I had acquired years ago. And I found I needed to re-learn everything … the names on the pans had faded. And I couldn’t remember the properties of the colours – were they translucent? opaque? staining?

watercolour paints and charts
Beginning to organise my watercolours!

So I had to spend time online researching, and I discovered that the range of watercolour tints and types had changed and developed massively! So I began to familiarise myself with the colours I had, and added a few more too. It was a re-learning experience in itself …. and there was more to come in August too ….

On to August ……
Back to Journal Page
Back to Notebooks cover

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell

2020 June

collage for June 2020
A collection of images posted on Flickr this June 2020

So June came – month 4 of the lock-down. Not seeing family and friends was not too bad, as we are scattered, so the phone, email and Facebook activity were our main ways of staying in touch. What we missed most of all was the freedom to go and walk by the sea, and in the grounds of the local National Trust Scotland sites, along with Historic Scotland and others. We live in the middle of farming land, where there is nowhere for humans to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Walking a potato field is not fun!

walking in the woods
Trying to find alternatives to our regular exercise/walking

Trying to find alternatives to our regular sites for exercise and fresh air became a preoccupation as the weeks of Lock-down stretched out. It’s surprising how quickly your muscles become weaker with little or no regular exercise!

Sunshine through the trees in infrared
Sunshine through the hillocks and trees in infrared

I took cameras with me wherever we went, and captured the hillocks and difficult terrain in infrared and colour too ….

view through the trees
Still searching for a place to exercise!

Another inhospitable location … difficult to walk without keeping your eyes firmly on the ground beneath your feet, as the danger of spraining or breaking your ankles was very real!
I don’t think the decision to close down the GROUNDS of the National Trust properties in rural areas like ours was a wise one. The grounds were never crowded, and they provided essential spaces for essential exercise! Even with a garden, our health was being impacted by the closing of places to walk safely!

Indoors I was having more fun, and success as I continued developing my painting. I wanted to use some of the thousands of landscape photos I have taken over the years. I don’t think I could ever find the energy and stamina to paint outdoors, so I have to rely on the photographs I take together with the memory of the observations I make at the time of shooting. So my starting point was the trees that are all around us here. It chimed perfectly with Cezanne, whose watercolours include many tree studies!
I started by using some of my infrared shots, as they can give the clearest definition of the architecture of the tree, the ‘bones’ that you often don’t see until winter strips away the leaves. Infrared reduces the foliage to white areas … which I could then paint in from memory or imagination. The idea worked quite well – but I didn’t like my attempts at the foliage!! But then I had an idea. How about putting the IR and painted pictures together, rather than just throwing my watercolour away? I had already used this technique to blend together several photographic images … how about using this technique to create such blends?

blending painting and photography
My first experiment blending painting and photography.

My first blending experiment gently wove the colours from the painting with the original infrared shot. So I pursued the idea – whenever I came across a Cezanne image that reminded me of a local scene, I tried to merge them. Here an avenue of trees at Fyvie Castle echoed an avenue of trees close to Ceazanne’s home in Aix.

blending paint and photo
My sketch based on Cezanne’s avenue, together with a photo from Fyvie

OK – a very amateurish watercolour sketch! But I liked the idea of weaving the images together!

The other ‘newcomer’ during these pandemic months has been the purchase of a Canon camera. I’m a Sony fan, and most of my cameras are Sony – so getting a Canon, even an ‘old’ EOS 70D was a big step for me. Learning the onboard computer was the biggest challenge I foresaw. There would be a learning curve, especially as I wanted to use it Manual Mode. My plan was to be able to create multiple exposure images within the camera itself. This is something Sony have not developed! So I set about learning my new camera.
I shot first of all on Auto, with the kit lens. Just shooting from the front door, looking out along the path into the garden was my first step. I then took some of the shots and blended them together in Photoshop, to get the feel of how in-camera multiple exposure might look..

3 layer image of lockdown
using the Canon 70D and layering shots

As I looked at the result I realised I had (unconsciously) summed up the feelings of lock-down.

Next I moved on Manual Mode, and attached one of the lenses I wanted to use – an old Russian Helios lens that can give wonderful colours and bokeh effects. And this when I really stepped into foreign country!
All my Sony cameras use EVF, Elecrontic Veiw Finder. I hadn’t even heard of the alternative, the OVF or Optical View Finder. But WOW! was I about to discover what OVF means in practice!
Briefly with EVF I look through the view-finder and see what the result of my shot will look like. I can adjust the settings to make everything just how I want it to look, from focus to colour and light. What I see is what I will get! But the OVF just shows you what your eye is already seeing …. NOT what the shot you take will look like! You can adjust the focus – but otherwise you are ‘flying blind’. I found myself having to take a shot, look at it, adjust the settings and try again, and again, and again – before I could take the photo I wanted.
Imagine that you are walking down a tree-lined path, with dappled light, moving from strong sunshine into quite deep shade. With EVF I would simply look and adjust the image I see until I get an optimal balance of light values before taking the shot. Maybe 15 seconds to set and reset the camera. With OVF it takes me much longer and several test shots before I can take the final shot. No way to catch a fleeting light effect, to capture a swan suddenly coming in to land on the water! It felt like regressing to a much slower and clumsier age of photography!
Whether I want to shoot using the kit lens, or a specialist lens the problem is the same – to take multiple exposures I need to work in Manual Mode. So the problem remains. I need to shoot regularly and keep refining my skills and speed to reach my goal of making in-camera multiple shots!

On to July and a lifting of some restrictions!
Back to Journal Page
Back to Notebooks cover

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell

2020 May

collage for May 2020
A collection of images posted on Flickr this May 2020

And so May began – Month 3 of our ‘lock-down’ as we started the move to self-isolating in March, before it became law.
With the lifting of the ‘shielding’ group and move to the ‘most highly vulnerable’ group, we were free to venture beyond the garden gate! So I decided that this was the time for me to recapture my driving skills.

Ford Fiesta fascia 2008
Inside my little 12 year old car

With PVS/ME and assorted ‘challenges’ such as shingles, I had found little energy to maintain my driving. I have my small (12 year old) Fiesta that I love – but as the years flew past the traffic on the local roads got bigger and faster and there was just so much more of it. So lock-down gave me an opportunity to re-learn my skills on very quiet roads. It had to be a slow process, as the ‘cost’ in energy was high – one small session could take days of recovery. But if I could persevere then the prize (several months later) could be – would be – that I was a confident driver again. Such a vital goal for us, as we have no support network here, and shops, garages, dental and medical centres are all miles away. Public transport is almost non-existent at the best of times, and there would be no taxi service or helpful neighbours to call on in a pandemic! I needed to drive! So a whole lot of energy, time and focus was spent on driving through May, and indeed through all the summer months!

painting materials
sorting out my painting materials for the new challenge

Rather ambitiously I also decided that the lock-down could give me a second prize – a chance to start my painting again. With the very limited energy that PVS/ME permits I had given up my drawing and pastel painting in favour of photography, as I could achieve more within the energy confines. So I had an Art room lying idle with lots of materials – and the constant wish to pick up where I had left off, which was the extension from pastel into watercolours.
If I was to be largely confined to the house and garden – it could prove to be a perfect opportunity to begin again with my journey into watercolour painting. So I brushed the dust off the books I had amassed, and looked through the folders and drawers, the cupboards and shelves, and began to explore and re-learn!

notebooks of colour charts
colour charts for mixing watercolours

My adventures in watercolour have had a difficult road to travel. In 2016 I tried and felt I was making progress – when shingles struck, and wiped out all my energy and all my watercolour efforts. So starting yet again in 2020 I began by revisiting my 2016 sketches so I could pick up where I had left off – so rudely interrupted by illness!
I love Cezanne’s watercolours – I think they eclipse his oil paintings with great delicacy of touch and depth of observation. And they are a masterclass in technique, brush strokes and the use of colour. So Cezanne is always where I start…. and I began by reworking a few of my efforts – sketches I had studied from the originals in 2016.

copying Cezanne
Learning from Cezanne. 2016 and 2020 compared

Hmmm! I have lost a lot of skill in the last 4 years!

Learning from Cezanne
Learning from Cezanne. 2 from 2016 and one 2020 compared

It is back to basics, and relearning in a big way! Get out the huge tomes on Cezanne, and study the quality photos they have of his work from pencil sketches to watercolour sketches, right through to finished watercolour works! If I needed something to stave off boredom while living in lock-down – I have found it!!

So on to June, and lock-down in summer
Back to Journal Page
Back to Notebooks cover

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell

The invisible boundaries!

The gate
The invisible boundary is our gate, though there are occasions when I step across the road!

Lock Down! We’ve been this way for most of March and the whole of April. Our driveway never had a gate, just the gateposts and a low boundary wall. This morning the misty start to the day had me out with my camera before anyone else was stirring!
As the sun came up and the mist dispersed it caught the last flowers on the ornamental plum tree by the gate. Just the kind of morning when we would usually pack the car with cameras and head up the coast to shoot the headlands and the bays of Aberdeenshire. Or maybe drive inland to wander round the walled gardens of Leith Hall, before a fish and chip lunch!
Dream on! It will be a long time before what we took for granted, and counted as ‘normal’ will return. But we do have a quiet village, a good garden, and such lovely views, especially when the sun shines ;o)

2020 April

Collage of April 2020 photos
A collection of images posted on Flickr this April 2020

And so April began – month 2 of our COVID-19 experience.

March 23rd had seen Boris Johnson placed the UK on a police-enforced lockdown with strict measures to contain the spread of the virus. The lockdown meant that we were under strict instructions to go out only when necessary – for food, medicine, or exercise. It also meant that no one was able to see friends or family – and shops, restaurants, bars and offices across the country were closed until further notice. When the lockdown was first announced, the initial time it was ordered for was three weeks.
We had no idea what lay ahead, though reports from Italy had been coming through since late January, when the WHO declared the coronavirus a ‘pandemic’, meaning it had reached all around the globe. Italy was the place we looked to (mainly online, as the UK media were not focused on Europe much). And the news from northern Italy was both horrifying and scary. The spread of the virus, and its lethal potential became very clear. Could we in the UK heed the warnings and take early action to avoid a disaster here? Those were the questions we were asking as April began.

Personally we began to look online for advice and information as nothing was forthcoming from the Westminster government.

A new ritual of washing incoming deliveries in dilute bleach.
Ensuring enough fuel for the central heating boiler as well as cars.
Trying to locate hand sanitisers and face masks (not easy at all)
Finding out which ways of protecting oursleves were most effective (an ever-evolving journey of discovery!)
Thinking in terms of living without help in either house or garden – and starting taking on that work load (not very successfully!)
Thnking in terms of much more home cooking, and keeping the freezer stocked with home-made meals.
Contemplating possible rationing, as everyday items became ‘unavailable’ due to panic buying.

Not what a normal Spring might offer as we emerged from a long, cold winter!
And we were finding life becoming ever more complicated, with ordinary tasks taking twice as long as ‘normal’. A lot of time was spent online trying to find out as much as possible, to help us in our highly vulnerable situation. Together with the underlying stress of the presence of the virus, it meant we were sleeping badly, and waking feeling tired. To me this felt very close to a return/relapse of my underlying ME/PVS and this added to my stress levels!
The advice on offer in the UK was pretty basic:

basic protection April 2020
Mid April and the ‘how to protect yourself’ protocol

It was basically suggesting we treat coronavirus rather like ‘flu.

How the virus spreads - April 2020
How the virus spreads and how to avoid it – April 2020

Basic hygeine and avoiding close contact. Looking at our position as we moved from March into April we should have been well placed to prevent the descent into virus chaos that ensued!

Our position in the UK about April 14th 2020

What developed over April was stark and alarming, and moved us up to the top of the deaths table!
Here in rural Aberdeenshire we had no idea how fast and far the virus was spreading. We had experienced an early incident in our local town of Turriff, but just how ‘at risk’ were we? We had no idea, so had to assume that we were at great risk … hope for the best but plan for the worst!

Monday April 6th
We got official notice that we were in the ‘Shielding’ group. We felt relieved that there were contact points both online and by phone to give us support.

Wednesday April 8th
We felt well enough to go for a stroll in the grounds of Fyvie Castle (within the 5 mile radius for travel). But on arrival we found that the entire site, including all the grounds were closed, gates locked, and access denied. We felt so deflated, as it was/is a life-line for us as it offers open spaces that are uncrowded, and grass to walk on. Both are important, as walking on roads or pavements are too painful for Mike’s back injuries.
We tried to find somewhere else to walk – but the ground was very uneven, and without any paths ….

Walking through the trees 1
Finding alternative places to walk … as Fyvie Castle grounds are closed.

We did find it was beautiful in the wild strips of trees that lay between the cultivated fields, but no substitute for the grounds on Fyvie Castle!

light through the trees
Finding alternative places to walk … as Fyvie Castle grounds are closed.

So our Shielded status together with the closure of safe walking places meant we were restricted to our home and garden. We needed to find a completely new ‘normal’ to maintain our health and sanity! We both needed to keep moving as much as possible, to prevent muscles weakening and creating problems … so the garden was going to have to be our exercise ground. That was easier for me than Mike, as any prolonged standing, stooping or bending causes him pain. So garden chores fell to me, along with cooking etc. indoors.

Monday 20th April
Are we shielding? Or are we not? Confusion! Probably we are no longer on the Shielding list! We have discovered that maybe the command to stay restricted to house and garden rather outweighs the benefits. If we are not officially ‘Shielding’ then I am free to start recovering my driving skills.

By the end of April we were getting used to the UK lock-down with a 5 miles radius for travel, stay home except for essential outings, clean all incoming items, shopping online with grocery deliveries, social distancing of 6′ and face masks ready if needed.

So – on to May and new activity brings new energy!
Back to Journal Page
Back to Notebooks cover

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell