As one perfect, sunny day succeeds another, lockdown life in our village increasingly resembles a version of The Truman Show
, that prescient movie in which Jim Carrey is the only member of his community who doesn't know that he's the star of a reality TV show, and that the world he knows is contained within an invisible dome.
It's hard to convey to friends and colleagues living in beleaguered cities just how unreal our situation now seems. BC (Before Covid), on our walks round the village, we'd rarely encounter another inhabitant, save for the occasional lone dog-walker. Now, when we venture forth for our daily constitutional, we meet more village residents than we've known in our entire 22 years living here. Truman-Show
style, we greet each other cheerily, exchange a few pleasantries, or wave across the street, being thanked for our courtesy for crossing over as the other person approached. The contrast with the views of deserted, post-apocalyptic Edinburgh or London streets that we see on social media, could hardly be greater.
Being on a loop road off the old A9, the village has always been fairly quiet, but now the most deafening noise comes from the bird life, which seems more numerous, and less wary, than ever before. Normally, such continuous sunny weather would tempt some neighbours to bring out radios and loudspeakers to accompany barbecues and family meals, but now, such is the general mood of courtesy and mutual consideration, even at weekends the only human sounds are the cheerful chatter of children (none of whom seem to mind the lockdown, though their parents may feel differently) and the occasional hum of a lawnmower or strimmer.
This sense of an unreal 'peaceable kingdom' extends to the neighbouring, larger village of Beauly, where my wife goes shopping every four or five days. Local businesses have adapted well to the new circumstances, and both the delicatessen and the butcher report that they've never been busier. Our branch of the Co-op remains remarkably well stocked, the staff are very well organised, queues are short, and most shoppers both friendly and aware of social distancing requirements.
We know that, personally, we're in exceptional circumstances: I'm used to working from home and still have plenty to get on with, and we have no dependents, young or old, to worry about; indeed we're both in the age and health brackets where others might worry about us! But, to reassure us, last week a note came through our letterbox from the village's community centre, detailing all the people we could phone for help, all the businesses delivering locally, and the food on sale four days a week at the centre's 'community cupboard'. I have never felt happier about living in our house, our garden, this village, this community. I'd love to know if our experience is typical of other villages and small towns across Scotland, and what that might mean for a vision of a new way of living with the virus in the months, and perhaps years, to come.
Soon after lockdown was declared by the Government(s), photographs appeared on social media, initially showing Edinburgh's most prominent hotel, bereft of all pomp in its boarded up state, with the accompanying explanation that this had been done as a security measure. Very quickly, what felt like copycat versions began to blight the main thoroughfares around the capital, as local hostelries were met with the same fate. Introducing to the landscape, not quite dereliction but definitely a tangible sense of crisis. Just in case there was any doubt and that we as a collective might need some kind of immediate reminder.
I digress though, as this is not the phenomenon to which I refer. To be honest, maybe better defined as a trend, the issue I am talking about is something that has cropped up (similar to the creation of dystopian landscapes previously mentioned) since lockdown, albeit in a more localised fashion.
Around where I live, they seem to be multiplying on a daily basis. Car covers, mainly ill-fitting, on the street. I have tried to figure out the reasons. My first thought was it may be part of an elaborate online tracking game for adults, similar to the Pokémon Go
craze a few years back, where players track down and 'collect' car brands or models, strategically placed around the city. Or maybe some people were car conscious and with everyone at home felt they might be car shamed for having a lesser model or unpopular, unfashionable vehicle, so were trying to hide the fact.
I even entertained the thought that it might be a security thing, however, in normal times, since these cars sit on the street for most of the year for any would be opportunist thief to check out and in the outside chance that a car is stolen during lockdown, it would most probably be easily traced due to vastly reduced numbers of cars on the road, that did not seem to figure. A cult then... gotcha!
It had to be a cult – an end of days cult to be more precise – whereby the cultists signify their membership by placing cover or hood on their cars (using hoods to signify membership of clandestine organisations is a well-trodden path, after all). I had cracked it, now to find out who owned which car, though I do have my suspicions of course. As a non-car owner and anti-cultist, surely it's my civic duty and you know what, maybe lockdown isn't that bad after all. I'll just get my notebook.
One final thought... surely these actions are also foolhardy in the extreme as once behind the wheel, it will be impossible for a driver to see the road in front of them!
As with all my absolutely true stories
, this one happened in pre-coronavirus days. In the retirement home where it occurred, men were few. When the lady residents heard another man was coming in, they were naturally excited and curious to see him – especially when it was discovered he was coming straight from Barlinnie Prison.
The old gentleman duly arrived and immediately impressed with his clean-cut good looks and charming manners. Eventually, one lady who could no longer contain herself asked why he had been in prison.
'Well,' he replied, 'I don't like to admit this, but I killed my wife with an axe'.
After a thoughtful pause, the lady said, 'So, you're single then?'
(the writer from Glasgow! – Ed)
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