2021 September

petrol shortages in the UK
A bizarre sight of traffic jams as petrol forecourts run dry.

Well, I waited until the end of the month to write this. It has been such a tumultuous four weeks. I thought I might have a better grasp of what is going on as the month ends. There is a saying – “a week is a long time in politics” – well a month is even longer, and the landscape of our daily lives has been changing throughout September.
The key word for the month is ‘SHORTAGES’
We have been warned of shortages of imported goods from outwith the UK – consumer goods – food we usually import such as fresh fruits, salad crops and vegetables – microchips for cars and electrical goods assembled here. The start of a very long list!
We all know that in reality the root cause lies in Brexit, and severing ties with the EU.
Next there are the shortages of people, again mainly due to Brexit. Shortages in nurses, health care workers and lorry drivers, to name but a few.
Then there are new emerging shortages, in gas supplies, supplies of CO2, and finally as the month draws to an end, petrol.
ALL of these could have been predicted, and many could have been addressed and tackled months or even years ago. Brexit was always going to mean an exodus of workers in many key areas where wages are low, from seasonal fruit picking to NHS and care home workers to bar/hotel/restaurant staff. We knew that way back in 2016!
Among the less obvious were HGV drivers – on whom we depend for the distribution of just about everything. Since Beeching destroyed the rail infrastructure in the 1960s the ever deteriorating road infrastructure has had to handle ever more and ever bigger haulage vehicles. And September 2021 has laid bare the extent of the problem …. as we all queue at the petrol stations hoping to keep our essential cars (public transport is a thing of the past, along with rail travel) on the road.
So we are being educated about the 2017 decision to close our UK gas storage tanks, which used to give us 70% emergency supply. Now we have 2% emergency back-up, compared with 100% and more in France and Germany. And gas is used in electricity generation – so we are looking at power cuts this winter!
CO2 we learn is used in abattoirs for slaughtering pigs and chickens. This shortage will mean inhumane slaughtering, and reduced food supplies on supermarket shelves.
Oh yes! A trip to the supermarket is now a guessing game … guessing how many items on your shopping list will be available! Supplies might appear if there is a delivery (HGV drivers permitting) – or not, if there have been production problems, importation problems etc. etc.
This excuse for a UK government keeps calling on the ‘wartime spirit’ (as they seem to live in the past!) …. well, they are doing a fine job of returning us all to rationing!

And as if all these practical problems were not enough to keep us all concerned, Scotland saw a massive surge in Covid infection rates through August, and in September the rates have finally begun to stabilise and even fall. But whereas the rise was meteoric – the fall is proving to be painfully slow!

Dashboard for Aberdeenshire
Aberdeenshire covid cases shoot up through September 2021

In our corner of the country the Covid cases are everywhere. The darker the colour the greater the infections per 100,000. And although we are a largely rural area the infections are reaching us all. In my own small administrative district here we are nearly 500 per 100,00.

Aberdeenshire covid cases 2021
Our local area has growing covid infections through September 2021

So September has had the feeling of being battered from all directions!
But happily nature is unaware of our human preoccupations, and this year despite the late Spring and poor rainfall through the growing season, we have had a good crop of plums from our Victoria plum tree!

first plums of 2021
Our Victoria plum tree has overcome the bad weather this year!

And in the protected south-facing porch the geraniums I keep in pots have been a glorious display of pink….

pink geraniums in the porch
The porch protects the pink geraniums that we grow in pots.

And the month has not been barren on the creative front! I have been painting in watercolour and also keeping my cameras busy too. We have not been able to get out into the lovely landscapes and seascapes of Aberdeenshire as much as we would like, but the garden and the still life ‘studio’ have been my inspirations.

begonia flowers in a vase
My miniature vase with begonia flowers

Another image shot using the wonderful Yuta Segawa miniature vases I bought a month or two ago … here filled with a few begonia flowers from a planter in the garden.
And finally the images that I have uploaded to Flickr this September …

Collage for September 2021
My Flickr collage of all the shots I posted in September 2021

As September gives way to October, and nights draw in, temperatures fall, and the leaves fall too – we are left wondering what more can go wrong with this ‘government of all the imcompetents’ that has been in charge of our lives since 2010. Twelve years of growing disaster. As WB Yeats put it …
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”

So – on to October, where Covid-19 meets Beowulf!
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2020 September

September 2020 collage
My collage of all the photos and images I uploaded to Flickr during September 2020

We started month 7 of our pandemic experience with bright sunshine and the determination to get out and about as much as possible! So September 1st saw us driving to Fyvie Castle grounds for fresh air and photo opportunities.
When Mike is driving I usually shoot my ‘drive-bys’ of the countryside as we pass. With today’s smartphones taking such good qualty shots, I often use mine rather than an actual camera! Here we are climbing up the steep hillside out of the howe of the Ythan.
The barley has been harvested, and the fields are ready for hay baling. This croft and the trees on the horizon are a feature of the landscape we see from our house. But I rarely get to catch such a goood, close-up shot! And yes, that angle really is accurate, the hillside is steep!

hillside croft
climbing the hillside out of the howe

I took an unusual combination of cameras and lenses – an old Eastern European lens, the Meyer Optik (known now as the ‘bokeh monster’) and an old Nikon D90 which has been converted to shoot only in the infrared range. This one has the gentle 720nm filter, and was my very first infrared converted camera, and my way into the whole IR world!
[more about my adventures in IR here]
Trees are a special subject for me, and together with catching the play of light, a great obsession when I am photographing outdoors.

Infrared sunshine and trees
Sunshine and trees at Fyvie Castle, caught in infrared.

The infrared light range turns the greens of the grass and leaves white, which makes the foliage very delicate, and also makes for a scene that looks like winter!

Fyvie castle walk in infrared
Fyvie castle walk, and driveway, caught in infrared

Branches, tree trunks and tarmac give wonderfully contrasting dark tones. We can walk down this driveway, listening to the pigeons cooing, and the leaves rustling, and the cares of the world seem far away.

Autumn leaves in the sunshine
Autumn leaves caught in the sunshine

This time in colour, with the heavy Meyer Optik lens. It can really capture the rich colours of the autumn leaves. As September began the autumn colours were just beginning to appear. We had fingers crossed that there would be a sunny dry month ahead, to give us the best of the flaming reds and rich golds as the leaves turned.
And a week later we were back to see how the colours were progressing …

across the loch at Fyvie Castle
Across the loch at Fyvie Castle, Aberdeenshire

This time with a Canon 70D and another old lens attached – a Russian Helios 44-2. The Canon is not my usual camera – I use mainly Sony. So I struggle with this 70D!
But the views of the loch and the trees are always beautiful and so calming. I think this year, more than before, we value the therapeutic effect of our trips out. Instead of thinking only in terms of exercise and photography, we now find the added value of reducing the stress levels, and refreshing our spirits.

As we picked out more calm days with the promise of sunshine, we went adventuring up the coast twice during September – once to Banff Bay, and then further up the coast to Cullen, both favourite haunts we had missed through the long lock-down months!
We rarely have the luxury of choosing times when the tide is in or out … we need to go in the morning when our energy is ‘in’. By lunch-time it is most definitely ‘out’ and we need to head home for a siesta!
Banff Bay found us enjoying the sand as the sea retreated ……

The beach at Banff Bay
The beach at Banff Bay on a chilly September day

while Cullen found a wild (and very noisy) sea delighting us with crashing waves.

Cullen Bay stormy weather
Cullen Bay with the waves crashing. Wild and noisy!

We kept true to our plan, and visited the grounds of Leith Hall twice in September too. It was exactly a year since we were last there! This time entering the Walled Garden we met our first sign of Covid changes, with a one-way system to walk around and a reminder to ‘social distance’. On our second visit we found some of the gates we often use to access the top levels of the gardens were locked. We met almost no other people as we wandered around with our cameras … glad at least, and at last to be able to enjoy the fresh air and the gardens.

Leith Hall
Leith Hall nestling among the trees

The Hall looks as majestic as ever. I’m not sure if it is open to the public again, but our main delight lies in the tree walks, the flower gardens and the wonderful views.

Leith Hall autumn colours
The autumn colours at Leith Hall. Shot with the Lensbaby

The autumn colours were showing in some of the trees. This one is close to the huge rock garden, which is being rescued, rebuilt and re-planted according to original plans recently found at the Hall.
So September had the feel of sunshine, the outdoors, visits to favourite haunts, and a whole lot of photographs!
But that was not all. At home we had a surprise with the best harvest of plums we’ve had for years.

the plum harvest
2020 has been a bumper year for our plums!

We are aware that the single Victoria plum tree we have is now over 20 years old, and maybe past its best in producing plums. Some years the frosts kill the flowers in Spring, some years there is not enough rain, or too much – not enough sun or too much. So a sudden bumper harvest was a great surprise and delight. Home grown plums, fresh from the tree, taste so good! We collected a bowl like this every day or two for about two weeks.

But of course I can’t look back on September without reference to the pandemic!

This month saw the biggest gamble, as it was decided that schools, colleges and universities had to open again. It began with schools. Here in Scotland we start the school year a few weeks before the rest of the UK, so we were the first to try out opening up our schools, both Primary and Secondary. Personally we looked on with sinking hearts, as young children are notorious spreaders of infections. Is coronavirus so different? And teenagers and college students are the least likely groups to follow the guidelines on social distancing and avoiding crowds! But the ‘science’ said differently … at least in September! But as the month ended there were signs of infection rates picking up. October might prove to be a difficult month!

On to October and autumn arrives.
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