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Re-calibrating life

As a measure of our creeping away from most restrictive aspects of this pandemic lockdown, we had our first proper fish supper at the end of this week. Rockfish in Whitehills has adapted its layout to create a one-way system which allows 2-metre social distancing. They used to have 38 seats for eating-in customers. For the time being they're gone.

They have always taken telephone orders and that now enables them to book you in for a specific time; in our case 1830. And on arrival, the order of two portions of lemon sole and one portion of chips awaited collection; fresh and hot. Herself who had placed the order had not specified the enclosure for the fish. So they were battered rather than breaded as I might have specified. But it's a lovely light batter.

Looking at the kitchen orders behind the staff, it was clear that they were in for a fairly busy evening. This fine establishment says on their web site (http://rockfishwhitehills.co.uk/) that:

"Our family has over 100 years of experience in the fishing industry and one of our vessels, Audacious, was one of seven in Scotland to pilot CCTV on board to demonstrate our commitment to sustainable fishing."

So you know that this is not any old fish and chip shop. Note the "one of our vessels". It's well worth the six-mile drive from home.

On my return, the warmed plates are on the table, the salt and vinegar standing ready to be dispensed. Even though I have been adrift from Edinburgh for about two decades, the yearning for salt 'n sauce has yet to leave my system. None in the house. So it's vinegar tonight.

The rest of the family, Donald Ruirdh and Madelaine, the felines who occasionally allow us the illusion that it's our house and that we are in charge, have sensed the change in the catering arrangements. They are positioned at the other end of the kitchen table. As the contents of the Rockfish packaging are tipped, "warm reeking" (Robert Burns, 1789), from their constraints, the four of us gather closer together.

Apparently, some think this is a meal for four, not two. Our small bosses are not generally scroungers, but the presence of lemon sole on the table causes four mouths to salivate, and their small share is picked off and laid before them.

Last week also saw a Friday evening where I was "zooming" with my former business colleagues. Apparently, one spokesperson on the opposition benches believes that people of my political alignment have no business experience. We should perhaps invite her to listen in. Between us, we probably employed over a thousand staff and were a key part of Scotland's business infrastructure.

But actually, the conversation was a wee bit different. A little on health. Our group tops out at over 80 years of age and no-one has failed to reach seventy. So some health discussions, although most of us are pretty well.

A bit of pandemic talk; they seem to think I know the answer to every question; many but not all.

This week, some discussion about the choir that a few of them are members of. The annual concert, which involves over a hundred singers and a large orchestra, simply cannot be contemplated. The sale of a large number of tickets is essential to cover the substantial costs. Apparently, there are online get-togethers where people join in by singing along at home, lead by a central chanteuse or chanteur. But the technology doesn't allow the voices to be well-aligned to the timeline. So it seems that it's a singularly solitary and unfulfilling experience. Yes, you can see everyone singing, but you only hear one voice.

People are prepared to pay for my silence when the opportunity for me to sing arises. I have heard the recording. Their judgement is sound.

One of our number is a serious oenologist, with a collection of good wines in his cellar. He was absent this week, so we did not start with proper scrutiny of the contents of each of our glasses. Our Banffshire cellar, imprisoned in the kitchen within a cave automatique with a lockable door, is the domain of herself. She releases a bottle of refreshment for these fortnightly sessions. And keeps it at her end of the sitting room from whence she makes the occasional foray to top up my glass.

This week has made this especially necessary. Merely because of Thursday's walk. I had made the mistake of forgetting to actually plan my route. I concluded that as there was a previous slightly longer walk where two things of moment had occurred; I found a pound coin on the road and I turned off at the wrong point, I would rewalk it and get it right this time. Failed.

Found no more money; no surprise. But concluded this time that I would take the same turning as before as there was something of interest up that side road. But in failing to plan I had failed to twig that it was an eleven-mile walk. Herself phoned me to enquire about my whereabouts. Not because of any concern for my welfare, but because of worry that I might not return soon enough to collect the fish and chips at the appointed time. Priorities, priorities.

I can only recall one occasion when she really, really should have worried. It was the Second of November 1975. That was the one occasion when she attended to watch my jumping from an aircraft. It was my fourth parachute drop; an activity designed to relieve me of my fear of heights. It was also the one occasion when it went wrong. The 'chute failed to open properly. She displayed her legendary calm sough, saying only to me afterwards that she was glad that my life assurance was paid up. She probably also remembered that I had met my lawyer two days previously to sign a new will.

Ultimately I concluded that I was not really afraid of heights. After all, I could depart from a perfectly serviceable aircraft half a mile up without too much concern. I discovered instead that I was afraid of the ground. And to this day find it difficult to be six feet up a ladder.

I am now left with one major challenge in my life. I find it extremely difficult to cut the fingernails on my right hand.

Can we recalibrate my brain to think I am cutting those on the left?

Probably not.

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