Island Blog – Questioner. Answerer.

I walk today through soft air, breaking into it, splitting the atoms then turn to watch them come back together at my back, as if I was never there at all, leaving no evidence of my passing, not even footprints for the track is mostly dry. This is a relief, the dry track I mean, after months of slopping mud, the backlash of mudfreckles peppering the backs of my legs. Larch fronds dangle, long green fingers, the sycamore blossoms buzzing with bees. They sound like tiny airborne motorbikes. Coniferous giants, evergreen through the coldest of months push out just a little, bright lime against the winter-tired needles the colour of wine bottles. Even the fallen trees push out hope, in parts, still working with the sun, still holding on to life. These huge giants, felled in some vindictive gale, remind me of another giant of a man felled a few days ago, gone. Somehow, when a person I know goes down and stays down, one who lived a few doors away from my own, it feels sharp, needle sharp. He was about my age and always out walking, always full of craic and laughter. Although he will not know this Spring, not from this earthly place anyway, I will think of him whenever I walk along the little track, one he loved as well as I do.

I wander on, noticing with my usual gasp of delight followed by a greeting spoken out loud, new buttery primroses along the bank, more leaves coming here and, oh look, over there and even way up there! Violets too, tiny delicate lilac petals peeking out from behind the protection of a rock or a drystone wall, sudden lifts of pastel beauty, wood anemones too, or their foliage at least. Tree ferns fall from on high, way up the bellies of the great old trees, like tiny green waterfalls. They tremble as a luff breeze tickles them. I can almost hear them giggle. Rounding the apex of my walk, I watch for seals hauled out on the rocks, listen for their song, but they are not here this day. I say hallo to a beech tree who began her answer to the questioner sun by pushing out as far as she dared before turning her face upwards. She is a force indeed to be admired for her belly is wide, her backbone strong and she is a fine match for the others who grew straight up from a straight up beginning.

It ponders me.

The sun poses the question. He sends warmth and nourishment. He calls out the bees, the butterflies, the dragonflies and all the other buzzing things of which we are not quite so fond, the answerers. He rises the earth, eats it up, challenges it, is relentless yet life-giving, pulling up life from the nearly dead, just for one more summer, just one more, don’t let go yet, the Mother needs you, you and her little clueless people. And we, too, are answerers. We rise into the new warmth with smiles that need cranking up a bit as Winter finally feels the threat of meltdown and begins his retreat. We change our attitude, become more open like petals, delicate but trusting. We risk vest off, open more windows, sit awhile on a tree stump or a bench to listen as passing talk tells her tales of other lives, other hopes and dreams. We catch moments, moments that didn’t seem to exist behind our winter walls, sounds drowned out by lashing rain, sleet, and witchy winds.

Soft now. Let it be. Let us and others be. Questioner or Answerer, both are we. We can shine light in places without light. We can be curious about how someone else thinks, how they live. We can show that we care, that someone else matters just as we hope we do ourselves.

Island Blog – My Home, Music, Changes and Fun

Today the sun shone like it was in a competition. Brazen, warm, loud in the sky. The pufflet clouds moved around it, I think deliberately, because it showed them in their best light. Edges like fire and brimstone, smokey dark below. Quite the picture.

I did a bit of this and that. I lifted some paintings to the walls of the rooms that used to be his and are now not his anymore. His bedroom, a tangle of hospital bed, aids, plastic receptacles etc, all gone now. There is a king sized double for visitors, a new carpet, a blackout blind and curtains. In the office, now not the office but instead a wee kiddies room, a new carpet flats the boards, soft and cool and slightly sea coloured. I joined an online church group and it was very lovely indeed. Then I marched out, plus wee dog, to corral some beech leaves, soft limbs, gentle emerald leaves, for preservation. I watched my old and ferocious mother-in-law do this thing. Glycerine and water mix, pop in the limbs and wait. The stalks draw up the mix into the leaves that take on a shine and are preserved for ever. ish. I can hardly believe I am truly becoming Granny at the Gate, and if you haven’t already read my book then do it now. The replication of a life in every single sense (only I am never ferocious) is bizarre. God bless you old girl for your powerful spirit. It lives on. As you can see from your vantage point.

As I re-designed the rooms that were his, I felt a falter. Although he is gone and this lovely home is now mine, there is yet a sense of notmine. It never was when he lived. It was his or it was his mother’s and I find it quite hard to brush that legacy away. As I arrange for my friend, an antique dealer, to come when he can to remove the old maple dresser, the mahogany thingy full of ancient leather bound books, I get the whiff of traitor around my person. This would never have been countenanced when he lived. Now he lives not. Now this is my lovely home and I crave white space, minimalism and the moving on of old, maybe valuable stuff, that will bring money in for my kids. For our kids.

I chose music that kept me in the bubble of me and him. Sibelius, his favourite. The Swan of Tuanela, Valse Triste, and Grieg, Peer Gynt. I played them loud as I worked. Then I brought in my favourite, thinking, this is my house now and my music is also important. Beethovens’ 6th, the Pastorale. These have been on a loop all day as the sun beats in and the birds sing like they were the choir for the Second Coming.

A good day. A day of change, of down and then up. And I look around my lovely light, bright, open home and say to myself, How fortunate am I. How lucky, how glorious is this island place. And my neighbours have just come back, all children and garden talk and fun.

Island Blog – Without and Within a Human Heart

There are swirls of good advice-ness spinning around me like birds. You should #getoutmore. You should #interractwithotherhumans. And so on etcetera etcetera. Hmmm. Should is not a word I enjoy listening to. It sounds like two things. One, that I am not ‘shoulding’ as I should. Two that this is a judgement on my Now. Just to be clear, I am now speaking directly to anyone who is ‘supposedly’ hiding from ‘life’. Please excuse the overuse of hyphens,commas and speech thingies. I am feeling strong about this, wobbling on my wee rock in a big ocean of shoulds.

I walked today. Well, who could resist? The sunshine shined and. the ground warmed and the invitation was as hard to resist as the ones I recall as a turbulent teenager faced with a Saturday night watching Dixon of Dock Green with my parents. So, me and wee terrier set off into nature. We had spent the morning, she and I dithering about bird song and bird recognition. What is this bird? I ask her. She blanks and turns a circle or two before going back to sleep. I watch a huge white bird I don’t recognize pulling across the sea-loch, calling something not in my musical dictionary. I hear little birdsong I don’t recognise. Have I moved continents? I know my birdsong. I know the changes, the Spring songs, the calling songs for young, the mating songs. I know them. But, I am confounded. I decide it is all to do with the state of the world and, in small part, it reassures me. ish.

It thinks me. We change. All of us. The bird kingdom according to what works at specific times. Animals too, I guess. But we humans respond differently to a plate shift. Not only do we have to find a new way, or lose ourselves, but also this plate shift invites us to inventiveness. We can use this thing, this crash, this loss. Again I am talking to anyone who just wants to hide right now because the world is way too full of shoulds and oughts. Hallo.

The buds are budding. I look up and marvel at the pearl glitter of their outer cases. I see the emerald in the larch pines, just soft babies now and soon to be needle sharp. It thinks me of women. We start soft and turn needle sharp. Or, is that just me? I see an egret, a pair of yellow wagtails, robins that bounce with me the whole way, from branch to branch, saying not one word. I see mallards, herons, buzzards, geese. In my garden, siskin feeding their young, goldfinch, greenfinch, sparrow, blackbird, chaffinch, collard dove, starling.

Life goes on, indeed. But we are not animals or birds. A human heart needs to know itself and to challenge, without and within.

Island Blog – Someday Blues

It amazeballs me how anyone so practical and unsentimental can swing from joyous to dark subterranea overnight. But it sure happens to me. Perhaps, and this will bring on an eye roll from those in the know, it is a lot to do with bereavement and grieving. Grieving……an interesting word and not one I thought I related to, for I am not grieving, or I thought I wisnae. The thing is that words are semantical. They mean different things to different folk. Grieving, to me, feels like endless tears and slippers on all day long; it means I don’t eat or wash or bother with anything much or anyone much at all, and all of that is not me. I bother a lot about caring for myself. It is all a matter of pride and performance to me, whether or not I meet another soul for a whole week. I am not awash with tears. In fact, I have barely managed a baker’s dozen since he died. It isn’t that I am a cold fish, not at all, but after being right beside him for over 10 years as he slowly fell to ruin, I suspect I have gone through most of the stages of grief whilst he yet lived.

Today I awoke with it. Subterranea. I knew it the minute I attempted to open my eyes, knew they were slits in my pale face and that they would barely widen no matter what the day held for me. I lay back and considered the fact that I was not really in charge of myself at all; that something else was playing out its own drama on my inner stage, something I could not name but did not like one bit, as I did not like one bit certain girls at school, and for no obvious reason. Certainly not something I could explain nor would it be a discourse I might enter into, should someone ask me what or why. So what is this flip and doodle of days? Why, when I believe, or tell myself, that my craft is finally harbouring safely in a dock of my own choosing, does my ship ready about and head back to sea where chaos reigns and the weather is lord of all?

I sigh. I have no answer to any of it. This is why I walk out in the fairy woods, wander (slip and skid) across the rocks on the shore and spend hours watching the sky change, change and change again. It seems to me that all I can do for now until this painful rollercoaster finally runs out of juice, until the music stops and the fairground moves on to somewhere else, is to move like an observer and not a player. In the morass of legal requirements and paperwork, of photocopies and of rifling through filing cabinets in the (vain) hope that himself kept at least some semblance of a paper trail, I will eventually find completion; not of me, but of his dissembled estate. Some order from his chaos. I hope so, and, if I don’t, then this will meander on for years and incur great costs, enough for lawyers to choose a 3 month winter holiday with wide smiles and a loud wahoo.

I am lucky, nonetheless. Our children are right beside me. They understand legalise as I do not. They gently guide and sort and support through this process of ‘enveloping’ up a life, a long life of decisions made; of carelessness and devil-may-care; of the wildness of just living and blow the consequences, consequences that now fall to me, to our children. A part of me gets it. A part of me remembers that man, the man I chose and the man who spent the next 42 years infuriating me as I grew up as he decided not to. In a long life shared, and with hindsight, it is easy to look back and to be wise, but I cannot. I remember not paying attention to things that required exactly that. I remember enjoying the crazy. And here is where I find contradiction. Had I been more engaged, braver, more determined to be the grown-up I purported to be, would the memories have changed? Would I have been able and willing to join in the wildness of his life, if I had been the schoolmarm in the relationship? Probably not.

So, as the days flip and doodle, I must keep on searching for a paper trail; keep on searching for the answers the probate lawyer seeks; keep on calling on our children for their support. I must, also keep walking in the wilds, watching the sky light change and change and change again, until the time comes when this is done, as tidy as it can be whilst accepting that I was concomitant to his way of living, and then to celebrate the chaos of those shared years.

I must engage with the sunshine and with the someday blues, both.

Island Blog – Mindful Boots

I can smell the frost as I awaken, even through the dark. It slips through the open window and tingles my nose. It is calm out there, no wind, no sounds of an earthly indigestion. I burrow into my warm duvet and listen, but not for long as I am always curious to open up a new morning, to invite it in and to marvel as my eyes widen at the beauty of it. Stags, baleful autumn moaners, challenge each other from somewhere deep inside the woods on the other side of the sea-loch, one that is quiet and settled. Mistwater sprites dance across its surface, lifting into the air before disappearing altogether and the grass yonder is almost white, sparkling crystals, unearthly.

Ice clouds pink in response to the sunrise whilst Ben Mhor rises into the sky, one that promises a clear sunshine day. Later, when the frost has succumbed to the burn of it, I will open the doors and remove a layer or two, to feel the warmth against my bare skin. These are glorious autumn days and I will love them for each of their minutes, knowing they will not last, as nothing ever does.

As each season gives way to the next, I feel a discomfort at first. It seems we go from skin out to skin in or the other way around. A thick cardigan becomes an old friend even if I haven’t given it a second glance for months. I feel the shiver of autumn or the rise of warmth in spring and feel irritated. Suddenly, it seems to me, more clothes or less are required and here was I pulling out the familiar, one that no longer cooperates with the weather. Well damnit! Now I have to think about what to wear, to clad my bones in something pretty (always) but appropriate. I am always resistant to ‘appropriate’ at first. And, then, over the following days, I find a new normal and wonder at my initial resistance to change.

Yesterday I lifted the very dead flowers from his grave. The sun shone bright and there was a friend at my side. I had thought I would feel something but I felt nothing at all. I am not a sentimental woman and he is dead and he is gone and there is nothing of him below the grass but old bones. The sheep scattered as we unlatched the gate and descended the hill, cautious of their slimy green leavings, moving our boots mindfully. It is a good way to move boots wherever it is we may go. It thinks me of life itself and the best way to live it. Traversing the distance between the gate and the grave we chatted of old ones, other ones who lie here, the characters, their quirks and scallywag games, their teasing, their strength of character and we laughed over shared memories.

Change will always come however hard we may try to fend it off. Returning home I make coffee and watch the view. I never tire of it for it is in a perpetual state of change as am I, as are we all. The key is to let go and follow it in mindful boots.

Island Blog – Fog, Rapturelight and Higher Ground

There are days when I wake in a fog, one that can last all day. I stop moving and notice it, the fog, how it swirls around me, inside and out. The hills have disappeared and the sea-loch looks like it’s coming to the boil. I can’t see where I am going on days like these and I wander through the rooms doing a bit of this and straightening that right up to lunchtime. I am unfocused, muddled, unsure but not afraid, not as I would be on the M25 or as ‘on’ it as I can be when all vision is suddenly erased. Even the tail lights of the car ahead look like red biro dots. Pulling over is not an option. Where is ‘over’ anyway? It is terrifying how much we depend on 20/20 vision, both inside and out, and it thinks me.

These inside fogs seem random, disconnected, certainly from the sunshine clarity of the day before and the store I put by it. When I stop to notice my feelings there is no single line of truth. I madly try to hold on to this-is-what’s-wrong but it slips my grasp and skitters away into the murk. I swear I hear it chuckle. Over long time of study, of reading experiential wisdoms, of daily practice on inner pause and curious noticing, I know enough to know I know nothing at all and, bizarrely, this comforts me. After all, my grabbing onto ‘this-is-what’s-wrong’s has only ever fetched me up on the sharp-toothed rocks of uncertainty. The key is to stop bustling and to wait, much as I would do on the M25 were I able to pull over to safety. And, so I do.

Eventually the fog begins to lift. I watch the density thin, dissipating into powdery swirls that float around me, ghostly white but now translucent. Rapturelight. Windowless opacity is opening into an eye, one that can see, albeit through vaseline, for now, but there is such an elevating hope in that first glimpse that I almost cry out with joyful relief. It feels like the moment an awful pain eases or when you finally top the ridge, exhausted, hot and thirsty to discover an incredible view of the world down below, a vow in your mouth to never again take anything for granted. Of course, we all do. It’s natural. How human we all are!

When I am inside a fog I no longer expect me to clear it by turning from it, ignoring it or pretending it isn’t there, thus crashing blindly through the morning. Nowadays I just stop and wait for it to pass, for guidance to come in, guidance that can permeate any fog effortlessly. It always comes, eventually and much quicker than I expect. This is being vulnerable, having enough courage to be vulnerable, to be open to something far greater than I and to allow it to guide me. When we are sick, our body warns us. When we are heading down the wrong path we are also warned. Something makes us stop, a fog, a drastic change in circumstance, a loss, an uncomfortable encounter or just something someone says. We stop, arrested, frightened, lost. It is deeply scary, such a place, but only if we don’t pay attention to it. Just sitting in that deeply scary place may sound like the last thing anyone would want to do but it is key to healing, to finding new direction, to 20/20 vision.

We try to keep our lives in order, predictable, organised, rigidly planned. However, this is not what life has in mind, not at all. Learning to surf the waves, to look within when a fog descends upon us, to remain curious and patient will bring us a new way of seeing. It will bring us rapturelight.

And we will find our way to higher ground.

Island Blog – This Day

This day I would like to wander through a wood. Looking up at the map of the sky, fragmented by the leaves of the canopy, and then down at the dappled light on the autumn ground, I see my boots, one step at a time. And I love them all over again, for they are my favourites despite the chunk ripped out of one of them by an excited puppy with razor teeth and fast legs for running away. I can see him now with my boot clamped in his jaws, looking back to see if the puffing shouter was keeping up. She wasn’t.

In the wood I look for fairy homes, little round holes in the tree moss and I whisper a hallo. It’s always best not to irate the fairies I find, so a polite acknowledgement of their whereabouts is quite enough. I hear the sound of a wind combing the pines, singing with them, perfect harmony. Beyond the wood the tide rushes in, funnelled through nip-tuck lines of granite and basalt, ancient and immovable. Butter yellow lichen coats the faces of these rocks, as if the sun just landed there for a while, for me to see. Bubble, burble, swish and tumble, the mussels cling on tight. There are hundreds of them and, at low tide, I can slither across the slipper rocks to garner a feast. Wild thyme still blooms, scabious too and the flash of blood shows me where the rowans grow, their shout for attention, their hallo to the sky.

After my wander, I know where I’m going. There is a delightful tapas bar down a skinny side street, tucked in between a second hand shop and someone’s front door. The patron is big and very Spanish and his welcoming warmth greets me as I push through the door. Tables line the wall and tapas dishes, the counter. Bright smiles, a proffered glass of dry white with olives and crusty bread SeƱora? Si, gracias. I wait for friends to join me, for I am a bit early. As I sit my eyes roam the walls. There is a big painting of the bull run through Pamplona streets, the festival colours bright and full of sunshine. A portrait of the patron’s wife, now deceased, fills a side wall. She is very beautiful and there’s a sass in her eyes. Her hair is tumble free and dark around elegant shoulders. He has spoken of her with me, probably with everyone, for she was his one true love.

After a long and merry lunch, I wander through the streets, watching little gardens pass by. Voices lift in the air around me, ordinary people talking ordinary things. Where did we park? What’s for dinner? Where’s Wally? And yet not one of them is ordinary for we are, each one of us, unique, with our own life to live and our own frustrations, our own dreams. Who will live that dream? Only the brave.

I find my way home. Opening the door I smell the familiar smells and I breathe them in. This is where I live, where I am entirely myself. I may be alone now but I know who I am. Softly I relinquish the ties that bind, hanging them over a chair like a well loved cardigan. I put on some music, Sibelius. The swan of Tuanela was his favourite. Sinking into a chair I watch the day fade into dusk and I am filled with memories and gratitude as the beautiful and evocative melodies flow through the room, through me.

It is good, this day. And all is well.

Island Blog – Silence, a Woodland Choir and the Moon

It’s raining today. It should have rained for the funeral, spilling into the next day, the day we sent his wreath out on a rip tide, and on into day 3 when we all cried and hugged and farewelled in sunshine. So it is perfectly okay for the rain to rain today. In fact, it must be a relief for all those Cumulus clouds, pregnant with 1.1 million pounds of water, the equivalent of 100 elephants. Thank you, I tell them and get soaked, as I wander down the Tapselteerie track heading for the woods.

There is a wind blowing. Nothing whooshy that might tip me over and send my wheelie bins into Lucy’s garden, but just a woowoo sort of wind, warm and damp. It shivers the woodland canopy, making it sing. All those leaves twiddling, catching the air on their dying surfaces, lifting it into sound, into music, into song. I am walking underneath a choir and the piece they are singing is delightful. My moving feet create the percussion in dry spots where the fallen leaves and stalks are dry, and a marvellous squelch where they are not. It’s danceable to. I don’t, however. I never found it easy to dance in waterproofs. I am more of a lycra/bare foot sort of girl when it comes to dance.

I stop to stare up at the vanishing point, where the trees appear to bend towards each other in their final moment before touching Sky. Clouds move without argument, pushed by the wind and birds tilt and skitter among the fir trees, picking at cones, chattering to each other. Flit, chatter, chat, flitter. The wood is alive with life. And so am I. For I am not the one who died, the one who had marvelled at this natural magic for 77 years, captivated by that over which he had no control. The one who now rests in the goodly ground he tended, planted, developed and cared for all his life.

The sea chops, ruffled by the wind, catspaws. The rain on my face is soft as I push into it. Lichen abounds on the trees lining the track and star moss fills the ditches, sparkling with droplets, a diamond catch. Back home the fire warms the rooms even if the towels still aren’t dry on the kitchen pulley. I am resisting the autumn re-light of the range, holding on to the full tank of fuel, for the winters here linger longer than in other places. We can have snow at Easter and the cold finds its way into every crack and cranny for many months. By the time I have exposed my arms to sunshine, the rest of the country is tanned bronze. But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Seasons here are magical, natural, and the land beyond the busy tourist season is left to itself, not needing to submit to human will nor to compete with the sounds of vehicles, sirens, bells, elevated voices.

He loved all of this too. Peaceful is the way to live, he said. And, in the end, peaceful was the way to die. A perfect circle, like the moon, the moon who decided his every single day. What she says, goes, he said. Tides, weather, wind, rain, all of it. Even the Father Sun backs down when she decides to rise.

Sounds like a fine plan to me.

Island Blog – A Letter

Ten days since you died my husband. One week till your hillside funeral. All of your family think of you every minute, probably more often than even that. Memories come back, moments resurrect and stand tall, blocking our path. And yet we move on, doing normal things with an abnormal head on and a heart all flapdoodle but still beating. Mine feels like wings, as if there’s a bird trapped behind my ribcage unable to escape.

This morning I cleaned your room, now that all the hospital kit has gone. I took my palette knife and some white filler for all the many holes left in the walls, holes that remind me of hand rails and other attractive supports, no longer needed. Neither are the holes. There is a big enough one in me and in our little island home, even if I can move about more freely. The furniture is not pinned to the edges any more for easier wheelchair access. Actually, I did think you were a bit over the top in that particular demand. A wheelchair isn’t that wide, after all. Then I realised you had lost your innate spacial awareness and the evidence of that loss is scraped along doors and lintels and walls. You were pretty nippy in that chair, nonetheless, turning on a sixpence, making U turns and scoots forward when space allowed, and even lurching at great speed down the ghastly yellow ramp which is now looking for a new home.

The leaves are beginning to turn now. Conkers (we always looked for them didn’t we?) are landing on the track but I haven’t found a big one yet. You told me you always won conker battles and you also told me that you soaked them in vinegar overnight, making them like concrete. Scabious peppers the grassy banks finding the best sunshine spots. I saw 6 kittiwakes the other day, your favourite bird, flying seaward up the loch. I don’t think I have ever seen them here before. They came just for you.

The garden is looking a tad tatterlicious and the sweet peas gave up fighting the last big wind, but even broke-backed they bloom and their scent keeps wafting indoors, reminding me how much you loved them. I pick them for the house but soon they will be over for the year. Season rolls into season. You knew the sound of each one, its taste, its demands and its gifts. As one thing dies, another begins to live and that is how you saw life and death – the same circle, a never-ending story.

I am so happy that your dying was peaceful. No fight at all, no panic, no fear, just a soft leaving. And you wanted to go, you said so, to anybody who was listening. And so it is and was and ever will be when someone who cherished every second of a long adventurous life finds the living just too much. We didn’t want you to go but knew you did. We also knew that your living state was very compromised. But even at the last, your humour shone through those cloudy old eyes. Even knowing that the Great Beyond was calling you, hands held out in welcome, you whispered to me ‘ I don’t want to leave you.’

And then, you did.

Island Blog – Fly Right

The sealoch is flat, mirror flat, holding the sky in its belly. A lone gull skims across the surface, its wings never touching the water. How does it manage that? If I was that gull, there would undoubtedly be an error of judgement and I would tumble, wonky chops, into the brine. High overhead a young buzzard cuts the blue, chased and mocked by two gulls. I watch the slide and rise of them, the sunglow through their wing feathers, the way they tumble and flip. So free up there, it seems, but I know that’s not the truth, even if it does look glorious from where I am, stuck to the gravitous ground, pulled to the earth and destined never to fly unless inside the guts of a plane. Which won’t be happening for a long time to come. But, to watch these dalliances, these moments of sublime grace and wonder is to inhabit, just for a while, the world that is theirs, the world above my head, the world all around me, the world of nature, survival and imagined freedom.

As the day unfolds, so do I. In a good way, naturally. The thoughts I had yesterday, the things that happened, the word exchanges, the moments of understanding, release and acceptance unfurl like petals to let in the sun. I am wholly delighted to be one with faith in my higher self. Despite sinking at times into the cold watery darkness of a sea-loch, I always hold fast to the belief that all will be well in the end, and, if it isn’t well, then it isn’t the end. Not because I am so damn smart at living, but because the invisible beneficent powers of goodness are always working for me, for all of us. It isn’t down to just me, the one who could misjudge my wing flaps and tumble into the brine, and thank goodness for that. I have no illusions concerning my ability to straighten up and fly right all of the time.

When I got the call yesterday to say that we are now to ‘shield’ for another 12 weeks because of the high risk factors in this house, I sank a bit. Another 12 weeks? That’s end August. Not only that, but my weekly escape to the shop is now cancelled. Further, we are asked to separate within the home. Now that bit is impossible. Not only is this a mouse house, but I am primary carer and contact with my husband is required regularly. So, the requirement is that I go nowhere apart from my solitary walk for fresh air and exercise. Enter fear. I already knew that self-isolation is going to continue for a while yet, because my husband is very vulnerable and needs superhuman protection. But hearing it spoken out gave it gravitas and heavy boots. It was a wonky chops moment, the chance opening of a doorway allowing fear to slide in.

And then comes a new morning. The pines stand as tall as they did yesterday, backlit sunrise pink, the colour of a smile. The air show lifts my spirits and I know that fear will not survive on my watch. No matter how long this confinement, we can get through it with sparkle and laughter. The sign is outside the gate. ‘Please don’t come in’. It felt weird writing those words. I am more known for a Welcome sign, but in this time when the best I can possibly do is required on an hourly basis, I know I am not alone. I know there will be hundreds, if not thousands of people facing an extension of lockdown in order to protect someone vulnerable.

And if they can do it. Then so can I. All I need to do is fly right, most of the time.