Blog From the North – July 2020

The Covid Files! – Bunty’s Blog

All I can say is that if you have to be locked down, Caithness is the place to be!  Wide, open views, the sea,  a garden, a drive-way with wild life – what’s not to like?

Of course, it is odd to be talking to neighbours on the phone, rather than face to face, to be masked on going to the shops, to be restricted in visiting, but Iain and I have been so lucky.  The Wick butcher delivers to the local grocer who delivers to the house; the fishman calls and two girls who used to help us in the garden shop for us at Tesco on a Wednesday.  My hardest work is getting the shopping lists together.

The virus has resulted in displays of tremendous kindness from everyone.  People phone to see if we need anything or if we are all right.  My locked-down ‘treasure’, Laura, arrived with a socially distanced tray of the most delicious baking;  the ‘postie’ dropped the tastiest home made cake with the mail.   We were both beginning to despair of the length and untidiness of our hair, but as soon as  restrictions were lifted and Laura came back to us, she exerted her (retired) talents as hairdresser and made a very good job of both our heads.  Our neighbour at the end of the drive had his cut by his niece in law who runs a dog beauty parlour!  He looks very good! 

Restrictions have eased for travel, thank goodness.  On the first day of freedom we were allowed to travel five miles, so we met our friends from Watten  (the other side of the county) in a lay-by at the Camster Cairns.  We have long laughed at the carloads of people we used to see on the verges of the main roads out of London, sitting with their picnic tables and chairs set out, seemingly oblivious to the passing traffic – and there we were doing the same.  The road, however is not populous and only two cars passed us all morning.  Then, oh joy, we were allowed to go further and nearly expired with excitement at the idea of driving the 25 miles to Thurso.  So thrilling!

There are drawbacks, of course.  The garage is re-filling with the stuff that needs to go to the dump when it is open.  Black bags are filling with the results of  ‘tidying up our papers’ and books are waiting for the Charity shops to re-open.  The good thing is that we actually are tidying up our papers as well as  weeding out unnecessary items of clothing;  ancient swimsuits that have emerged from long-unopened drawers;  shoes that went out of style ten years ago;  bedraggled cardigans that were stored because ‘they might come in handy one day’.  All on their way out.

The other, quite serious, drawback is that camper vans and campers are arriving from all over the country and causing a lot of unpleasant countryside damage and  disgusting litter.  More than ever we need to lobby the Council to re-open the public conveniences – closed to save money!  Travellers should plan ahead and maybe think what facilities they will use as many are still closed.

We got a report that fires had been lit outside the Heritage Centre at Latheron, but closer inspection seemed to reveal nothing untoward.  Of course it is tempting to come north where the virus problem has been limited and where lovely beaches and moors offer miles of solitude – even if the weather is a bit iffy at the moment, but the campers are not careful and for that reason are resented quite vocally. 

A stranger in the village shop refused to sanitize his hands on entry and bullied the owner’s wife, saying he would do as he wanted and she had no power to compel him.  Mercifully the owner, half the man’s height but more than a match in feistiness, threw him out.  We don’t need this.  It doesn’t happen regularly, fortunately, but it’s unpleasant when it does.

It’s easy to be smug, though.  When I look at how easy it has been for us to be in lockdown, I think  of the television item about a single father of two babies, one aged three and one eighteen months who live on the 15th floor of a block of flats in a very run-down area of London where the lift was out of order.  In order to give his children the hour’s exercise we were at that time allowed, he had to walk down fifteen flights of stairs carrying one child, the other held by his hand and then he had to walk them back up again. To him Caithness would seem to be Paradise.  As it does to us.