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NICKY MARR: Searching for silver linings in the face of scary change

By Nicky Marr

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Nicky Marr - coach/writer/broadcaster...Picture: Callum Mackay..
Nicky Marr - coach/writer/broadcaster...Picture: Callum Mackay..

Does it feel like it’s almost over? South of the border restrictions will be almost non-existent from Monday, and Scotland could follow soon. Last weekend, Mr Marr moved back to Edinburgh after a 16-month stint working from our dining room. We had long wished for more time together. We never imagined it like this.

It feels in some ways as though life is easing back towards normal, but it doesn’t take much to shatter that illusion.

Hospitals and hospitality are struggling. Long Covid is little understood. Our high streets have been devastated.

Masks and caution are a way of life now.

Not one of us has been left unscathed. But far from all being in the same boat, I don’t know two people who have had the same experience. This transition feels like the end of something that has kept us safe, and the start of something unknown. It’s certainly not back to “normal”. So how do we rationalise it all? History will judge our governments. But how has it been for you?

Sixteen months ago, Mr Marr locked the doors of the theatre he runs in Edinburgh and headed north to “ride out” this new pandemic. As his staff refunded tickets for the following few weeks the feeling was this would be a short-lived break in proceedings. But then – as a nation – we started to see infection figures rise.

Keeping up to date became a full-time job. We watched daily news briefings, learned about the ‘R’ number and watched in horror as Italian hearses queued to bury their dead. We also watched Italians sing to each other from balconies during a lockdown we were yet to experience.

Our own lockdown was imposed, to “save the NHS”. There was a shortage of hospital beds, and the country was running out of ventilators. We left home only for essential exercise and supplies. But supermarket shelves lay empty as the nation panic-bought pasta, toilet rolls, paracetamol and flour. Disinfectant and hand sanitiser were impossible to source.

Universities and schools switched to online learning and home-schooling was introduced. We brought Daughter #2 home from Glasgow University, and started doing PE with Joe. Restaurants, bars, hotels, and tourism businesses closed.

Those of us who could, worked from home. We clapped those who couldn’t, our key workers, on Thursday evenings. Did our applause make them feel appreciated? Maybe. Did it help with a lack of PPE? Almost certainly not. The word “furlough” tripped off our tongues as if we’d always known it. Many slipped through the net.

Those over 70 were encouraged to stay inside. The virus tore through care homes. We weren’t wearing masks yet, and there wasn’t a reliable test. These were scary times.

Our “new normal” was of deserted city centres, traffic-free roads and skies that were silent for a lack of flights. Holidays were cancelled and holiday companies and airlines collapsed. Yet airports remained open, and new variants arrived.

Retailers hit the wall. Nature began to grow into the space we had vacated for her, and our gardens got the attention they’d been craving.

Things seemed to be improving by mid-summer. With relaxing restrictions, and winter’s news of a vaccine, life seemed hopeful. Then the slap of Christmas lockdown. Now cases are up again, but hospitalisations are down. I thank science for the vaccine.

What we thought might last six weeks has lasted over 70, and its impact will linger much longer. But I’m still looking for silver linings where I can.

Today, I got to eat my lunch in peace, without any judgement or comment. In my book, a fish-finger and gherkin sandwich is a thing of great joy. Mr Marr, in his theatre, was too far away to object.

Fish finger sandwich.
Fish finger sandwich.

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