I come to you today (although a little unsure, as to how it feels!) - now in my sixty-ninth year.
I’ve actually experienced a thought process – since the above “monumental” event of Wednesday past – that turning sixty-nine is less of a concern, than the realisation of the fact that I’m now less than a year from my seventieth birthday (but with 12 months to prepare!).
My reflective thought processes over the past few days (you’d be surprised how such an event at this time of one’s life, brings the subject of time-management sharply into focus) have centred around shaving more time from the administrative elements of my life – subsequently apportioning said time in the direction of my general health. Naturally, it goes without saying that if “administration” is linked to gainful employment then an exception will have to be made!
The above paragraph has just triggered a thought along the lines of whether one day – not incredibly distant from now – extreme time-management may decree that these weekly Diary entries are shelved? Conversely (I’m now thinking, also) penning the weekly entries may become the only administrative task of a then “quieter” week. As they say - only time will tell.
Currently, I have booked a weekend away, towards the end of this month – once “free movement” within Scotland is permitted (from 26 th April onwards) – when I’ll be heading up to the small town (village?) of Crianlarich. I will then “base” myself there which (with the benefit of the local rail junction) will allow me to enjoy a return train trip from Crianlarich to Oban one day - followed, on the second day, with a return rail trip to the town of Mallaig.
The above “event” is less than three weeks away (although it’s hardly the Venice-Simplon Express cross-continental rail adventure!) but is definitely something to look forward to, knowing I’ll be freeing myself from these domestic restraints for a few days, ideally returning refreshed: buoyed by the opportunity to plan for my next excursion – hopefully further afield.
I may have previously mentioned that all the Covid restrictions over the past year have resulted in me having three flights “backed up” with the company Easyjet, thankfully able to be re-booked at little cost - once I’m in a position to assess which locations are, then, possible.
Realistically, I could be heading out the country at some point in June – depending upon which European countries will, by that time, have been allocated “green” status by the UK FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office): apparently, countries such as Cyprus, Portugal, Turkey and Greece will probably be among the first countries to open up for us Brits.
Given the choice, ideally, I would travel to Cyprus initially – based upon my familiarity with the region, and the enjoyable times I spent on the island, during the time Alice was stationed there with the UK Military (I can say that now, without fear of imprisonment!!). Remaining confident that I shall be travelling from these shores within the next three months, I’ll add another uplifting track to this week’s entry. This is an iconic song I happened upon yesterday: the inimitable Huey Lewis & The News with “The Power of Love”. Is it not great to be alive?!
Let there be light – and, yes, there has been, of late: one extra hour of it since last Monday.
The availability to, now, walk out after dinner for an hour, or even to undertake some light gardening during that time, has ushered in a welcome re-focusing of my usual daily schedule.
As simple and straightforward as it may sound, surely a major part of this life is having things to look forward to? Be it the weekend football game; the prospect of warmer weather; the anticipation of holiday travel or even looking forward to picking up your favourite book again.
Without such promising “events” to enhance our imaginary senses, life would surely risk deteriorating into a litany of pre-programmed tasks and responsibilities. We all welcome the opportunity to interrupt the daily cycle of (without appearing to be too harsh) life’s monotony.
The extremes of possibilities, in changing one’s situation, convey the realities of life itself. Naturally, the fortunate minority can alter their circumstances at the (funded) drop of a hat. Sat astride the pinnacle – possibly painfully! – of affluence, they just wheel out the Lear jet, at a few hours notice, and whisk themselves off to a location of their inexhaustible choice.
For the vast majority of the good folk of this world, the closest they ever venture towards such a lifestyle, as above, is to view it through the obligatory “flat-screen window”. I never fail to marvel (and respect) how the rank-and-file public just responsibly get on with the struggle of life and survival when – almost within shouting distance – others exist, cosseted in the trappings of extreme wealth and privilege, in many cases the fruits of ill-gotten gains.
This is surely no more in evidence than with our country’s favourite and – normally - most well-attended and revered sport: football. Each week, countless hundreds of thousands of devoted fans part with their hard-earned cash to troop along (or, more accurately at the moment, to upkeep their satellite service subscriptions) to essentially fund the lavish lifestyles of unarguably overpaid professional football players, living in a world far removed from the very legions of those very same fans that put them there. It’s nothing short of a travesty, folks.
Although I’ve worked myself into the ground over the course of many an arduous tour, I nevertheless continue to recognise the slice of luck that existed, to have given me that opportunity in the first place, to ply what is viewed as a fairly lucrative trade – provided you can summon, and sustain, the levels of stamina to carry you through such demanding schedules.
Currently, on the work front, my next substantial project (with Little Mix’s tour having been moved into next year – and The Who recently postponed, for the time being) will be with JLS, on their long-awaited Reunion Tour, this October and November. It can’t come soon enough.
No other alternative but to remain positive and confident (increasingly more achievable, with the lighter nights having transpired). Similarly – the music choices should remain in the same vein. Consequently, I’ve dug out this charmingly uplifting track – possibly “repeating myself” here - encapsulating what we all hanker for more of: “Freedom” from The Fortunes.Luv Ya!
Well, dear readers, it’s been a long time coming – but the clocks finally went “forward” today!
Consequently, we will experience another hour of light each evening, from here on in. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn’t be such a big deal (just part of the annual calendar) however – within the times that we currently live – such changes can make a great difference.
I can report the sun has made an impressive showing, as of this mid-morning Sunday – here in Sunny Dunny – further endorsing my wee town’s “claim to fame” and, as anyone who knows me well knows: natural light (the sunnier the better) makes a noticeable difference to my outlook.
On days such as this, buoyed by gently recurring waves of optimism, my creative side is liable to percolate to the surface and – based on one or two rather expensive excursions – at times boil right over, manifesting itself as unfettered and (provenly) mis-directed over- confidence.
Subsequently – and arguably a lot later in my life than should have occurred – I’ve learned to calm myself when a euphoric mood pops its head over the parapet of my character. Also, tenuously linked to this subject: I’ve probably (way, way, back in a past Diary entry) mentioned that if I’d kept my trap shut on – say – six specific occasions during my professional career, I would be penning this week’s entry from my villa in St. Tropez. I did actually spend some time in a villa in St. Tropez (to be expanded upon at a later date) many moons ago, during my time with George Michael - and kindly “furnished” and paid for by the man himself. I miss him.
Maybe, if only to experiment with a slightly different format from time to time with these Diary entries, I could probably think about dedicating a particular weekly entry to a notable Artist that I have had the honour to be associated with. George, no question, heads the queue.
During days such as today – when I’m on the “up and up” – I’ve little doubt that there is some form of commercial, yet ethical, angle to the “exploitation” of my career, to date. Naturally, I am fully aware that the general public are somewhat mesmerised (right word?) by the often-perceived mysterious machinations behind the music business. Yes, I know all about those!!
For the time being, I should not allow it to escape my awareness that I remain gainfully employed in this business meaning that, for the foreseeable future, the mass of secretive experiences I’ve amassed in a far, dusty, corner of my brain is heading to the grave with me.
I have in mind (to further cushion the ongoing Coronavirus “inactivity” that we are all dealing with) to document every show I have ever played, from late mid-1973 until now: since 2000, when printed A5, detailed, tour itineraries were commonplace, this exercise will merely involve time and application. Prior to 2000, will require me scouring archaic computer files; masses of fading, basic, A4 date-sheets and – least reliable of all – the dark recesses of my memory!
Wow! Where has the time gone, today? For an accompanying track, bearing some relevance to this week’s text, I will leave you with a classic George Michael composition: “Everything She Wants”. Recorded by Wham! of course - but taking me right back to memorable times. XX
This Sunday morning, not unlike many of its predecessors, finds me penning the Diary edition, with popular current affairs programme, “The Andrew Marr Show” on the background TV set.
This Sunday morning, not unlike many of its predecessors, finds me penning the Diary edition, with popular current affairs programme, “The Andrew Marr Show” on the background TV set.
This particular morning, the general feeling about the realistic possibility of foreign holidays, this summer, is looking increasingly under threat for the majority of us expectant Brits.
Earlier this week, the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (but maybe for not much longer – watch this space, next week!) announced further information regarding the easing of the current restrictions, here in Scotland only. Subsequently, as of April 2 nd , we are “free” to move around within the limits of our council area - in my particular case, being East Lothian.
Thereafter, the next notable date will be April 26 th which will apparently allow us Scottish citizens to move around our country with absolute freedom – albeit continuing to take care to utilise only then-approved accommodations on any planned travel, in addition to the now, ever present, need to continue exercising the cautions that have now become part of our daily life.
Continuant to the above, I’m not holding out any great hope that reasonably-priced Scottish accommodations will be on offer in the immediate weeks after the “opening date” of 26 th April – however I’ll definitely be “chomping at the bit” (poised upon my doorstep, car engine already running) to get out on the road and motor reasonably far from my home base, here in Dunbar.
However, one thing at a time: it’s not even 26 th March today – and already I’m (possibly, too closely) focussed on opportunities, post 26 th April. Based upon my personal experience of dealing with the Pandemic to date (coming up for one full year of “lockdown”, two days from now!) the next month represents a fair stretch to deal with. Deep breaths to be called upon.
On the (very) positive side of things, I will be buoyantly waxing – this time next week – about our clocks “going forward” one hour, effectively giving us another hour - and increasingly so, each day - of evening light: it’s an enticing thought to now be able to walk out after dinner!
Let’s not forget, also, that as the year slowly progresses the weather does not (or it shouldn’t!) become any worse. All these little “increments” are – I believe – key to our well- being and let’s not be in any doubt here: important for the maintenance of our mental health.
As I said earlier, let’s all take a deep breath here - and make the best of our time, through April 26 th . In my own mind, I’ve set myself a list of domestic tasks to be completed by that time, meaning of course that I can take off around Scotland with my home life in good order.
This week, I (appropriately) leave you with Sam and Dave – going way back here – assuring you “Hold On, I’m Coming”. That is my message to April 26 th – and I will definitely be there! XX
After last week’s late-in-the-day publishing of The Diary, we’re back on track this Sunday.
Currently, it’s 0940 on a rather bleak and nondescript day, here in the “Kingdom of Dunbar”.
On low volume, in the background, I have the excellent “Andrew Marr Programme” – anchored by the man himself, invariably dealing with contentious news issues, from the week gone by.
Today, the focus of the programme appears to relate to the shocking murder of Sarah Everard, for which a London Metropolitan policeman has been charged with the crime. There’s a lot of furore surrounding this event, with many questions being asked about the safety of our streets, particularly in the UK’s largest cities – specifically where women are concerned.
Now, I can assure you that I will be poring over the quality reporting contained within at least two of today’s “broadsheet” Sunday newspapers, to obtain an accurate fix on all the facts surrounding this issue. However, my initial – personal - observation is that if this convicted policemen (or any man, for that matter) decides he wants to commit such a premeditated crime against a woman – particular or not – then how does all the “campaigning” in the world avoid that? Realistically, this type of crime is very unlikely to ever be fully, finally, eradicated.
My close friend Sue, and I, were yesterday reflecting (at two meters distance, in different cars!) on many unsavoury trends that appear to be developing, lately, in the world around us.
The Sarah Everard case has been staggeringly stark to comprehend and, not unexpectedly, it has nudged the subject of Misogyny to the fore of the public consciousness, again, this week. Not to belittle the existence of Misogyny, however I’m personally in little doubt that the majority of the adult men in this country are great admirers, respecters (and lovers) of the female form. Obviously, there will always exist a decisive minority, who are quite the opposite.
Our (the UK’s) streets are, in the main - and discounting certain, notable, areas of particular city urban areas – safe to walk. Conversely, a woman taking a lone walk through the late evening streets in the likes of downtown Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami, or Atlanta is unquestionably inadvisable: yet those city streets are historically policed by armed officers. It still happens.
While I’m not in possession of sufficient information surrounding this tragic event of the last week, I also can’t deny my unease at certain aspects of the reporting - and the media voices.
On a brighter note – and off the back of Scotland’s continuingly successful combatting of the Coronavirus – I am looking forward to a Scottish government announcement, this coming Tuesday, which (as is being alluded) may detail a further easing of the current restrictions.
That’s definitely something to look forward to, as we struggle through the long grass of this crisis, hoping to eventually break free of its clutches. On that note, let’s plump this weekend for an accompanying track that echoes that sentiment, from a man – sadly - no longer with us, but yet instantly identifiable. Let’s share Freddie Mercury’s quest of freedom, shall we? XX
Good evening, to all you fine, upstanding, devotees of this riveting, edge-of-seat, episodic.
The key words here - so far, anyway - are “Good evening” as – probably completely throughout the Pandemic – I’ve always managed to fire through my weekly edition of the Diary to Kirstin (my trusty Website Manager – name check!) by midday, on the Sunday of its composition.
Serious deviation today, however, as I sit here at 8.04 pm in the evening – but with plausible reasoning. I may have mentioned that I have a “family WhatsApp call” each Sunday morning, being that both of our children are currently based on the other side of the world. Stella and I will always be guided by the children’s available time on these regular occasions, as we are happy to remain on the line with them, for as much time as they have available to talk with us.
Today just happened to be one of those occasions where, before we knew it, a pleasurable ninety minutes had skipped by – after which I was keen to catch an important football game in Scotland (not even my team, but a game that most bona-fide Scottish football supporters would not have wanted to miss today – with the result meaning Glasgow Rangers have won the Scottish Premier League title for the first time in ten years: a big, big, deal for their support).
Come 2.00 pm, when the game was over (and I was poignantly aware that I had not even committed one syllable to this week’s Diary entry) the weather – improving slowly by the day – was exhibiting clear blue skies and sunny interludes. Yes, it was of course futile to resist.
Then – you know how it goes – the weekly shopping needing done, after being parked down at “Whitesands” (a local, coastal, beauty spot - just south of my town) poring over the Sunday papers: the older one becomes, the more you recognise the therapeutic attraction of just “letting go” when the opportunities present themselves, although the work still needs done.
On days like these where – much as I am engaged in right now – you accept that you have to borrow from the night, to offset having kicked back in the day, then many normal evening pastimes - such as being plonked down in front of the TV – just plainly have to be sacrificed.
The above does not bother me greatly, even at the risk of having missed a programme (apart from the odd football game!) that I may have particularly button-holed for couch-surfing attention. I’ve received rigorous “training” in the “work comes first” ethos, having generally always worked evenings, in my line of work. Intense vocational focus always came easy for me.
What is not increasingly becoming easy for me (and on which I’m not so intent on focussing upon!) is this current lockdown period, rendering me little realistic chance of spreading my (“Easyjet”) wings, much before the end of May this year. Time to stop thinking about that!
The level of my mood this evening (and Sunday evening probably faring as my most “difficult” time of the week) now requires an uplifting accompanying track: thankfully, there is a vast, reliable, library to call on. This week I’m going for a track, overhead on the radio within the last hour, from legendary soul singer Jackie Wilson, called “The Sweetest Feeling”. Much Luv!
Today starts a two-month period before I’ll, personally, experience any great “Covid changes”.
Although I note “today”, it was actually from Friday 26 th , two days past, that the majority of us are facing a further two-month period – through 26 th April – of the current Coronavirus restrictions: sure, there are a few advantageous “tweaks” along the way (mainly in relation to school pupils experiencing a phased return throughout March – and the ability for two separate households to meet outdoors again). However, April 26 th shall be called The Big Day!
At this stage of the Coronavirus game, two months represents a long time and, even when that hallowed day falls, that only sees all local Scottish council areas returning to a “tiered” system. Cutting to the chase, I will be lucky to take my currently booked Easyjet flight to Paphos in Cyprus on 21 st May. The complications besetting such a trip are several fold: there is the easing of restrictions at the UK end and then the hope that Cyprus are approximately in tandem with our Government’s progress, lest I find the way “barred” upon arrival out there.
For sure, the infection/hospital admission/death rates are heading – thankfully downwards - in the right direction and long may that continue. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (although who knows for how long, as she has just – this last week – become embroiled in a legal wrangle with her predecessor, and one time mentor, Alex Salmond) is taking things slower than “Borissey”, who has predicted the end to all restrictions in England, by 21 st June.
The man is dicing with a fairly ambitious plan there which, if he gets it wrong (and, for the sake of the British public, I sincerely would not want to see that to happen) would certainly stymie any future re-election process, when that time rolls around. Maybe that’s inevitable.
Back to how I physiologically steer myself through the next two months: reasonably strict adherence to a (now) fairly well-established “lockdown” schedule, is probably the only way forward – aided by increasingly lighter days and (by slower measure) increasing daily temperatures. Both of those factors are welcome developments to assist us, in holding on to our collective sanity. Each of us must deal with the situation in a way that works best for us.
Frankly, personally, I’m not dissecting this upcoming, continued, two-month “lockdown” period with any great forensic zeal: more, I am just employing an “each-day-as-it-comes” approach – not too dissimilar to the jailed prisoner who is chalking off his sentence, on his cell wall, on a daily basis. I trust I’m not coming across here, as being too melodramatic, as I certainly don’t want to – and shouldn’t - wish my (precious) time away. I just want to spread my wings again!
I’m going to (reasonably) confidently predict that my Diary entry for (say) Sunday, May 23 rd , will be penned from beyond these shores!! In the meantime, today heralds the commencement of a two-month “stretch” which will be the sternest test yet of my constitution, during this (now) year-long Pandemic. Being that we are looking at an upcoming eight-week period that will require resolute day-to-day management, between now and 26 th April – and allowing me a little “poetic license” here – what say we elect an accompanying track that bears some tenuous relation to that. Specifically, the iconic Beatles composition “Eight Days A Weeks”. Much love.
Well: today sees something of a “milestone”, Covid-wise, in respect of your intrepid author.
Meaning? Meaning that, Thursday past, I was the recipient of my “first” Coronavirus jab!
We are told that the effectiveness of the first inoculation does not come into its own, until three weeks after it is initially administered. Essentially, for my own personal situation, I will be taking great care over the coming weeks to stick with the same schedule, and guidelines, that I’ve stuck with since the turn of the year. This is not to say that – come the middle of March – I’ll be off to Cyprus: far from it! However, it becomes another “milestone”, for me personally and, so far, that psychology has enabled me to effectively deal with this situation.
Everyone is coping with these restrictive measures in their own way - although certain factors are, undoubtedly, now easing things. Chief amongst those is – probably – the increasingly longer days (by the end of the coming week, it will still be “light” at 6.00 pm) and this will be significantly boosted by the UK clocks going forward on March 28th, meaning that by the end of next month, darkness will fall fairly close to 7.30 pm. I’m well looking “forward” to that!
Slowly – but surely – my weekly schedule to see me through these coming months is taking the sort of shape that will bode well for me, in years to come, with more time to be spent at home.
However, I’m definitely of a mind that – unless work is calling at the time – then the months of November through February is a period, on future calendars, when I won’t be sitting where I am now, penning the weekly edition of The Diary. That’s not to say I may be absent from the UK for that entire four-month period (as much because I need one or two monthly “dry runs” in areas like Cyprus, Turkey, and Madeira - to assess the actual cost of doing so). I’ve composed what I believe to be a “working” monthly budget for such “local” European locations.Until such time as I’m in a position to make a couple of “scouting” trips to those, separate, locations, then I’m unable to fine-tune my budget calculations. However, with my experience – for example - of travelling extensively in Cyprus over the last few years, my estimate of monthly costs are based on those real experiences: the main difference being that, to considering staying for a minimum of a month- at the one time - I would need to look to rent a property locally, as one month of accumulated hotel nights would blow a hole in said budget.
I’m ready to roll with the above plan: however, of course, all bets are temporarily off until the UK’s international travel ban is lifted (I currently have three Easyjet flights “on hold”, from already-cancelled flights, to various European locations) and – painful, and realistically, as it is to admit to – I can’t see me setting foot on an airport jetway much before 1 st of June. Prior to that (hopefully!) – maybe from May onwards – “internal” UK travel could be possible.
Consequently, we all have to find the individual strength to ease ourselves through this continued lockdown – and therefore must call on every aspect of positive assistance that we can. Here, then, comes another, uplifting, accompanying track – aptly titled “Only The Strong Survive” – an unusual version from Elvis Presley! A wee bit too dramatic? Time will tell. XXX
I believe I can safely say this has been the toughest week of this “new” year, of 2021 to date.
A combination of factors, really: predominantly, the fact that we are still trudging our way through this most testing of lockdowns since the Pandemic arrived on our shores. Close on the heels of that aspect is that, since penning last week’s Diary entry, the snowfall of eight days ago is, more or less, still with us. In fairness to the weather, there has been no significant follow-up to the initial blanketing of the surrounding areas: however, off the back of almost sub-zero temperatures, any significant thawing has, therefore, been slow to materialise.
I trust I don’t come across as too much of a “killjoy”, where the snow is concerned: there is, however, a huge variation (certainly for me, but I suspect – also - for the majority of my demographic) in our levels of appreciation for snow, from when we were six years old, in contrast as to when we were sixty-six years old! Without sounding melodramatic, it has gone – for me - from delight to “danger”, over those six decades. Since upending myself last week on the thinnest, yet treacherously slick, ice that was “hiddenly” coating the Monoblock bricks on my driveway, I’m literally treading most carefully: bruising could easily have been “broken”.
“You just can’t be too careful” as my old granny used to say; how I wish she was still here to elaborate on that discussion. However, she would be very glad to know that some (it should have been more) of what I gleaned from her is still woven into my character to this very day.
Right now, I wouldn’t put my house on the fact that I will have the same opportunity to pass on the odd “life-tip” to any grandchildren of my own. In fact, I have to face up to the real possibility that the notable (my personal assertion!) Duncan lineage may “soon” grind to a halt!
This past week, I’m extremely - personally - satisfied that I’ve continued to catch up with certain folks from my past, that my formerly frantic career did not enable me to do so. I could pose the question (to myself): how can you be out of touch with people - that you (then) considered fairly close friends – for nigh on 25 years?! I am living proof that such a state of affairs can actually materialise. Pondering that “state of affairs” for a minute or two, as I am doing right now, I’m not sure I could actually rectify it greatly – given a chance of a “re-run”.
During what is, unavoidably, approaching a full year of “inactivity”, professionally (to be more succinctly articulated in a future edition of the Diary – remind me about that, folks!) I increasingly see many reasons to remain positive regarding what I have learned, personally, about myself, over that time: things that would otherwise have remained undiscovered in a work/touring environment – subsequently lying dormant for years to come. An acute thought.
It almost beggars belief that – in five weeks from now – we will have endured some form of lockdown measures for a full year. Something to compare with John Lennon’s “lost weekend”?!
On that note, let’s give the man himself the floor, in respect of this week’s accompanying track – but so much to choose from? This is surely somewhat relevant: “Starting Over”! XXX
Emboldened with our ability to have weathered January, we find ourselves charging, full speed ahead into February - this past first week being indicative of the remaining three to come.
I’ll elaborate on the above: there is no significant government Covid-update due now, until the end of February – meaning we all have to “keep at it” until then, in respect of upholding the basic preventative measures. There are encouraging signs that this belt-and-braces approach, from the public, is dovetailing with the slowdown of the country-wide confirmed Covid cases.
Personally, I continue to fine-tune my own personal lockdown regime – which I firmly believe will set me in good stead in the future: for a time when I will “naturally” be spending more time in my domestic environment. In years gone by – and for the majority of the last forty years – I could look back over any twelve-month period and summarise my annual activity, based around my touring activity: whereas I now look back to last March and find myself struggling to summarise what I have ACTUALLY accomplished over such an extended period.
As mentioned, in the body of past Diary entries, I’m certainly not staying in bed all day (although there is the odd morning – no doubt, heralded by a temporary downswing in my minor bi-polar condition – when I have certainly considered it!). I’m actually quietly thankful that there always seems to be things needing done, around the house and around the office.
We all appreciate a little R & R (Rest and Relaxation) – and its attendant benefits – however I’m sure I don’t want to reach the point where I have no practical household tasks requiring my attention. This is particularly relevant during times such as these, when current Covid regulations restrict me travelling far from my home base – or meeting up with friends socially.
At this current time, I’m pursuing the framework of a “lockdown” schedule, which will bode well for me in future times, albeit with a few ongoing tweaks. A major factor to dial into this situation – that cannot be dismissed – is the cold and wet weather at this time of year, particularly here in God’s country. What I would give to partake of my dinner outdoors this evening: however, here in Bonnie Scotland, that privilege is at least three months distant!
The key (much easier said than done on many occasions) is to rigorously retain a positive outlook: in my case, I keep memorable images of the likes of Cyprus, Vietnam – even New Zealand – stored towards the front of my imaginary file drawer, labelled “Reference”. Every so often – admittedly, on increasing occasions – I briefly slide such images out of the “file”, subsequently re-assuring myself their reality remains achievable before the end of this year.
In the meantime, I would gladly settle for being able to pitch an overnight bag into the car and scuttle off for a long weekend up in the Western Isles: however, realistically – and I sense I am already wincing as I write this – that may not come to fruition until early Summer.
Stay positive, stay positive – which means upbeat! Which in turn, allows me to give the stage over to Ms Toni Lyn Washington, for this week’s track, asking “Are You Happy Now?”. Maybe.
The “hardest” month (for as long as I can remember) finally draws to a close - in twelve hours.
Of course we, particularly those of us of advancing years, should not be tempted to wish our time away: however, for several reasons, I feel relieved that February is almost upon us.
Even climatic conditions cannot be under estimated – illustrated, close to home, by me having taken a tumble on my driveway, Tuesday past (on a “mono-block” type surface) on a very thin sheen of “black” ice, that completely escaped my gaze. I went down with a fair “clatter” – but, thankfully, nothing broken. Albeit I’m still experiencing tenderness in the area of my left hip.
Bad falls (such as the above could have been) become increasingly commonplace – particularly during periods of extreme weather – as one faces one’s advancing years: in future, I have since purchased a sturdy pair of walking boots, complete with “ice grips”. However, that little mishap was definitely a wake-up call, in respect of employing acute awareness, going forward, to guard against accidental slips and falls during wintertime. Not that I’ll be based in Scotland over future winters: as has been part of my master plan for a while (and unless work comes calling) - if only to assist in erasing the “pain” of January this year – I’ll be in sunnier climes!
On the brighter side (almost literally) of things – and within the next few days – we shall actually make it to 5.00 pm with remaining daylight on the skyline. This heralds another “mood milestone” as we gear up to tackle February. Come Tuesday (2 nd Feb.) the Scottish First Minister will announce any changes to the current lockdown system that may come into place, from the middle of February onwards: in this respect, I’m not over-confident of any significant relaxation of the current measures – this to avoid any embarrassing about-turn, by the government (i.e., returning to the current lockdown) before Spring is upon us.
Here’s one way, I believe, to view our present situation: January is (almost) behind us; the darker days – light wise - are receding; the temperatures are slowly creeping upwards – and the Covid case statistics (over the last week) are clearly showing signs of a gentle slowdown.
Beyond argument, is the unforgiveable Covid death rate here in the UK, as a whole – now up over 100,000: the fifth worst in the world. The most glaring aspect of this fact is that all of the other four countries who are currently “ahead” of us (USA/Brazil/India/Mexico) are landlocked! Compare our current figures against those of another notable island – being Japan: a country with a national population of 126 million (versus 68 million in the UK) has, to date, reported 4,935 deaths. Such a statistic brings home the UK’s woeful Pandemic management.
The accountability for this government’s handling of said Pandemic should not, way down the line (when we are again experiencing some vestige of normality) be “swept” under the carpet”: knowing our government they will conveniently fudge the findings of any future public enquiry.
In closing this week’s entry with an appropriate accompanying track (although, knowing me, this will surely be a “repeat”) there can only really only be one contender at the end such an unforgettable month (and they are – were - a Scottish band!). I give you “Pilot” with “January”!
As I sit by the window this fine morning, I can report to you: a carpet of snow lying in Dunbar!
This is only the second time this year that we have seen evidence of snow here, although on the previous occasion (three weeks back) it was here – and then gone – within the space of twenty-four hours. Conversely, this current snowfall arrived - heavily - three nights ago.
Of course, we continue to be “locked down” here in the UK in general – and Scotland in particular. The next Coronavirus update, from the First Minister of Scotland, is due on 2 nd February, however the current lockdown restrictions are likely to stay with us until the middle of next month, at the very earliest. This reinforces the need for everyone to keep the “hatches battened down”. If we require any impetus to focus on such a requirement, we need only cast a glance at the staggering UK Covid-19 death toll, to date (yesterday, sitting at 97,329), to know that – by the time I pen next week’s edition of the Diary – the figure will, sadly, have crested the 100,000 mark (meaning the fifth highest mortality rate in the world).
We just have to stay positive (and safe) in the hope that the vaccination programme continues apace and that this manifests itself in a noticeable reduction in reported Covid-19 cases. Logic would normally indicate this to be how the situation would pan out: however, particularly with (differing) “offshoot” strains of the virus having been detected in Brazil and South Africa, this virus could quite easily defy such logic. We cannot take anything for granted right now.
On a personal level, we each have to individually determine a plan to ease our way through this situation, until such times as a proven reduction in cases/hospital admissions/deaths allow our government to then feel confident, of carefully “relaxing” certain aspects of the restrictions.
Personally, I have steeled myself to the belief that the present restrictions will be with us, at least until the end of February. No way should the government allow themselves to be seduced into easing certain aspects of the current restrictions, until they are absolutely sure (a challenge in itself) that there is no possibility of the virus then gaining a fresh foothold.
It’s inconceivable that – over time – we find ourselves “yo-yoing” in and out of various levels of lockdown measures: therefore, it follows - being now at the worst stage of the Pandemic, to date - that the government have to tread extremely careful, to avoid any backward slide.
Listen to me, eh: apparently assuming a measured and sensible view of the ongoing situation – while quietly, internally, “chomping at the bit” to be on the move again. At this point, a weekend break in the Scottish Highlands (even relatively snowbound, as these areas are at the moment) seems like “worlds away”. As for being able to fly abroad, out of the country, well …………
On a further positive note, each increasing day gives us another few minutes of precious light: my next “milestone” is watching the 6.00 pm news – when I can my back fence from the window!
I’ve surely utilised this week’s accompanying track previously, however who better to succinctly summarise our situation than Mr Lenny Kravitz with “It Ain’t Over ‘til it’s Over”! X
It is indeed a sobering thought, to reflect upon the fact that we are only just over nine weeks away from when the UK first entered the Covid-19 “lockdown” on 23 rd March, last year. Where has all that time gone? Sure, I have accomplished much progress on the domestic and personal side of things: but I can recall having done extensive world tours in the same amount of time!
The Covid restrictions currently in place, when I wrote last week, have been augmented within the last seven days, mainly to control the UK borders more effectively: anyone travelling into the UK, from 04.00 am GMT tomorrow, will require to show evidence of a negative Covid PCR test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure of their flight – in addition to having to self-isolate for ten days, after their arrival int the country. Actually, now within only the last few days there have been discussions to further enhance the latter restriction, by “ordering” arriving passengers into a ten-day quarantine period, at specially nominated airport hotels.
Furthermore – and let’s see if our UK Government has the testicular fortitude to follow through on this – there has even been dialogue to the extent of having such hotel- quarantining costs covered by the incoming passengers. Sadly, this can be filed under “too little, too late”.
Of course, from my personal point of view, the action of closing all UK “Travel Corridors” has put a serious dampener on any travel plans, for the near future. I actually have a 13 th February flight booked on EasyJet, travelling out to Cyprus, however it is surely only a matter of days until I receive the ominous communication from the airline to inform me that they will have, no doubt, cancelled the flight - subsequently offering me to rebook, probably in the summer.
Believe it or not, that will then total a “credit” of three EasyJet flights: the aforementioned Cyprus trip in addition to a Turkey flight – currently rescheduled into August – and a rebooking voucher in respect of my recent decision to postpone my 22 nd December flight to Tenerife.
From a financial point of view, I am “fortunate” that I have now pre-paid those three flights (and not lost any deposits/booking fees, on associated hotels) – therefore I don’t have to save too hard, to go on my holidays! I also still have the physical Euros and Turkish Lira that I transposed from sterling, meaning that – mostly – my spending money has also been “paid for”.
“All dressed up and nowhere to go” could sum up my current situation – along with thousands of other would-be vacationers whose travel plans for 2020 never materialised. Please don’t hold me to this, but – surprisingly, as yet – no British based airline has gone out of business: sure, FlyBe “recently” declared bankruptcy, however that state of affairs had been incubating well before the end of 2019. The package-holidays company “Monarch” (who owned their own planes) and the small Scottish Highlands & Islands airline “Loganair” have also suffered as late, although both were experiencing their difficulties before Covid-19 took any serious hold.
Well, good and loyal readers, have I not spread multitudinous tidings of joy and hope in this week’s Diary entry?!! My spirits remain buoyed, my outlook positive - my bank balance reducing! In pursuit of continued positivity, there is no question this week’s accompanying track must be upbeat: let the Foo Fighters demonstrate the art of “rocking out” an old, standard, tune!
Well, well: ten days into the new year already and things remain “gloom” here in the UK, folks.
In terms of the severity of the daily reported cases of Covid-19 - and the associated, current, fatality rates, the situation is now on a par with the statistics of the original outbreak, back in March of “last” year. Worse still, these figures continue on an upwards trend, in a “race against time” - hopefully to have the approved vaccinations induce deceleration in the spread.
Ironically, for the time being anyway, the Government restrictions placed on the public are less stringent than they were, back at the beginning of the Pandemic (I won’t belabour you with the detail of the differences) however I suspect that is about to change in the coming days, with no sign of an abatement of the spread of the virus – in particular, with the latest strain, originating mainly in London and the “Home Counties”, just a few days prior to Xmas.
There is little more that can be done by each of us, as individuals: other than to stay housebound, except for time allowed outside for exercise. As regards the latter, I personally feel that the current restrictions are not tight enough (allowing people to drive to a place of exercise). This has manifested itself in far too many cars on the roads, at this present time. If exercise, for the next few weeks, comes down to just a walk around the housing estate or incorporating one’s exercise period within a visit to the food store, then so be it. If such tough measures dictate than we can slow this virus significantly, then we’ll just have to “buckle down”. This virus thrives and multiplies from the proximity of human beings: therefore, if said human beings do not come into close contact with each other, the virus can’t migrate.
Of course, the current situation is doing little for my future work prospects and – much as I’m loathed to admit it to myself – I suspect that one or two already-rescheduled tours that I was destined to have an involvement with (having already been “pushed” into 2021) may yet find themselves the subject of further re-scheduling, towards the back end of this year.
As I hi-lighted in one (possibly more) of my Diary editions, towards the end of last year, I am in a more fortunate position than most, being into the fifth decade of what has been for me – for most of the time anyway – a fairly successful career. While I have certainly “splurged” considerable amounts of money on a few notable (if only “notable”, due to the losses!) projects, down the years, that has not been the case during – at least – the last fifteen to twenty years.
What I have at the moment, I am now firmly holding onto – especially with my future work prospects being “well up in the air”. No doubt, like the majority of us, I’m having to dig into my savings to underpin my cost of living. Thankfully, with our social movement very much restricted during these times, personal expenditure is minimal: allowing those of us who are fortunate enough to be mortgage free at this time of our lives, not to be haemorrhaging money.
It sounds like a line from an old movie, but “all we can do now is wait”. I would naturally be misleading you if I did not admit to missing the lifestyle that has comprised my livelihood for almost 50 years now – as much for the camaraderie and rapport, as for the lost earnings. I have to believe everything will be back to normal, this time next year: therefore, this evening I leave you with Hurricane Smith, sending a message to my business, with “Don’t Let it Die”.
Welcome to the year of 2021 – however, the news this morning, here in the UK, is not great.
Listening to the lunchtime news, a couple of hours ago, I have heard that the Scottish parliament have called an emergency meeting for tomorrow (Monday, 4 th ) to discuss – and endeavour to mitigate – the predicted Covid-19 increase in positive cases, which have, alarmingly, gone “through the roof”, off the back of the Xmas and New Year holidays period.
I’m back! From where, you say? From where I left off earlier, with this week’s Diary entry hardly started - at 11.00 am this morning. Reason being - my son had called from Australia just before midday and we spent quite some time catching up with each other’s situations. After which I became embroiled in the usual weekend domestic chores: thank God that houses actually, considerably, appreciate in value, as there’s an undeniable amount of work involved in keeping them up to scratch! Trust me, folks, there’s few feelings comparable to waking up one morning (more than likely, in the second half of your life, I would be the first to admit) to find out that you are suddenly mortgage free. Yes, I’m there now – however I achieved that feat a good ten years later than I should have: but I can absolutely assure you that I’m not letting go. I still pinch myself some mornings to know that I pulled through an odious situation.
On the subject of reality – and casting a nod back up to paragraph two – this Covid-19 situation (certainly here in the UK) has all the hallmarks of turning worse before it turns better, at least through the best part of January, I reckon. Only within the last thirty minutes – with the BBC-24 news service on in the background here, at home – the Scottish parliament have announced the convening of an emergency meeting in Edinburgh tomorrow, to address the ever-escalating positive cases of Covid-19: worryingly, now, an “offshoot”, strain of the virus.
I’m fully prepared for the very real possibility that we could be heading back into a, full-on, “lockdown” situation, such as we were subjected to back in March and April of “last” year. Back then (if I recall correctly – it was a while ago now!) we were allowed outside of our own homes for one hour daily, for exercising and/or dog walking – with an additional allowance to have the time to shop for household essentials (which – I think - was curtailed to once a week).
Come this time next week, I’ll certainly have a clearer picture of the situation to convey to you: however, I fear, the only “positive” thing I’ll be reporting on will be the rise in positive Covid-19 cases. We, as a nation, are going to have to be prepared to ride out this “third spike” at least until the end of this month. Once we are into the earlier part of February, we have to believe their will come a reversal in the daily cases/hospital admissions and (sadly) deaths.
With God willing, by that time, the overall Covid situation will be aided by the countrywide vaccination roll-out: a procedure – morally and priority wise by – that will take the best part of the first six months of the year, to ensure that the entire UK population are vaccinated.
Apologies that – while we must continue to fan the flames of hope – the news for the coming month is hardly encouraging. Yet, the light is discernible at the end of the tunnel: we’re just unable to accurately gauge the length of the tunnel. On that note, here comes a personal message for you all from the “Oxford” vaccine, in the form of an iconic Sam and Dave tune!
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