Covid Connections in the Scottish Borders, June 3rd 2020



As I write this, we’ve just entered Week 11 of the lockdown here in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon and her government have been more cautious than Boris Johnson and his team in London, who have exhibited erratic, gung-ho tendencies. On top of that, the behaviour of senior politicians and advisors flouting government advice and rules – particularly Dominic Cummings (the current Guru of Spin), has caused anger, confusion and may lead to the total unravelling of attempts for an orderly return to the much-lauded, ‘New Normal’.  However, as ever, the British sense of humour has provided some hilarious moments. Have you got your Dom Mask or your ‘Dom’s Tour of England 2020’ T-shirt yet?

But, all around the world there are now a slew of mixed emotions, wildly differing governmental and personal responses and much confusion over ‘what comes next’. There are escalating worries about personal liberties, surveillance tracking apps, new quarantines, problematic travel rules and regulations – and the ongoing effects of the pandemic on employment, social, political and personal well-being. It all begs questions about how we may have been changed by the Covid Experiences. And how we may live our lives, a little, or a lot differently, into the future.

An Imaginarium

At a highly personal level, as a writer, photographer and sometimes performer, much of my time is spent in isolation, embarking on solitary explorations, which by their nature are often obsessional and passionate.  So, for me, there have been increasing moments of what I call, ‘Fantasy Dreaming’. Trying out new arts and crafts, new cooking experiments, and replacing old rituals such as a daily visit to the pub, with new rituals of the daily walk followed by an often extremely odd mix of films and news programmes, documentaries and surrealism.  I think that ‘Bunny Lake is Missing’ and ‘Once upon a time in Hollywood’ and the BAFTA-winning ‘The beast’ have been my three favourite lockdown films so far.  The walks and cycles out in local ‘Nature’ have frequently been magical. The weather has been Blessed. My weekly shopping trip, yes – on a bus – over the border to Berwick in England is a Major Expedition.  I’m lucky to be locked-down, albeit on my own, in a house with lots of toys and distractions, a garden, and drop-dead scenery and clean air in all directions.

Personally I’ve been finding some perhaps weird benefits of being ‘out of control, while in the controlled lockdown’. An opportunity to behave differently.  Here are three examples of how watching TV (that I wouldn’t normally watch) has informed my daily life.

1) Jamie Oliver’s cooking programmes. These led to my walk down by the local River Eye, gathering wild garlic and blending it into a powerful, strong pesto. I’m also now a fan of Jamie’s ‘Botham Burgers’, which are roughly 50/50 blend of a decent quality mince combined with herbs, finely cut onions, peppers, garlic (lightly fried), and in my case, stuffing mix replacing breadcrumbs, mixed with a couple of eggs and rolled into mini-balls. De-lish.

2) The Celebrity Bake-Off programmes.  These haven’t led to me experimenting with complicated baking other than the occasional magic-cookie. What they have done is made me re-evaluate the Bake-Off programme itself. Actors, musicians, sportswomen, models and artists have been part of the Stand-Up-to-Cancer campaign on the show. They’ve almost all been rookie-bakers. But all have been admirably willing to be playful, to make fools of themselves, and their challenges have been fun and imaginative. The presenters, especially Prue Leith and Noel Fielding have sparkled, sparring with each other and the celebs with wit and humour. Tasks like, ‘Bake a sponge and decorate it as your Dream Self’.  Actor Richard Dreyfuss was Absolutely Ace. Deadpan, ironic and wonderfully self-effacing. Great fun.

3) Grayson Perry’s Art Club. Grayson and his wife’s weekly show has allowed professional artists and creators to share their creations, alongside imaginative and oddball pieces of art and sculpture produced by Grayson. It’s very relaxed, in-yerr-face, up close and personal. I think that these inspired me and helped kick-start my experiments with dot-painting stones, which I had never done before. I started acrylic-illustrating my first stone in about Lockdown Week 6! Imagine painting with the head of a pin. Here’s some of the current batch. Definitely Hippy Art circa 1967-69!

 So, some positives about creativity, self-exploration, imagination, being in nature, making contact with friends and folk I know all around the world, plus whatever writing and blogging rants I fancy indulging in. Gotta have a good Rant!

I’m very uncertain how the next months, maybe a year or more into the future, are going to pan out. My Crystal Ball is all misted up!

I find myself annoyed and dismayed about the chaos and confusion of government ‘advice’ and ‘recommendations’ – often with no legal foundations. Up here in currently not-so-Bonnie Scotland, Nicola and her advisors in Holyrood have been dismayed by mobs of people heading for the coast and national parks – totally ignoring social distancing and travel restrictions. New laws and police enforcement are looming, methinks.  I’m in favour of a very gradual relaxation of lockdown regs – but my big BUT is that it has to be common-sense logical, likely to work and be enforceable. Also the tracking app and the Track and Trace systems are receiving heavy criticism and I can see why. They rely on a moral conundrum that ‘people will do the right thing’.  Not so sure about that assumption. Human nature requires a ‘carrot’ –“What do I gain by having a test, which will potentially lead to my self-isolation and worse for people I’ve come into contact with?” It seems a fair enough question.

A new ‘Normal’ where we will all have to be:  Brave in a New World order (perhaps). But there is now more than a whiff of civil unrest, and disobedience beckons. Perhaps and mayhem, maybe.


Luv ‘n respect (and creativity) in the Virtual World!~



 Alan Dearling

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