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Semper Vigilio

Today is day 130 since my personal lockdown as a "vulnerable" person started on 17th March.

Here's some things I said in my first daily diary back then.
  • "For a week or two, we've moved from handshakes to elbow bumps"
  • "I miss the gossip"
  • "It is quite surprising how much of my work is done via a computer keyboard"
For the members of our family who have had to be shielded, it's been somewhat tougher than for me. I have been able to take outdoor exercise every day, albeit when the weather has been bad, it's been indoor rowing rather than outdoor walking.

A visit to the shops roughly every eight to ten days has reminded us that there are still other humans out there. My walks have involved brief chats, or a "hullo", over the garden fence, but people in any number it ain't been. And Parliamentary activity has continued via Messrs Bluejeans, Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

The word "us" has also been important. My "shielded" family members live alone.

The day when the pre-17th March normal returns still looks distant. It will probably never come as many of new behaviours will become permanent.

Our previous carelessness in matters of personal hygiene should be replaced by regular hand-washing. There should continue to be greater attention to the effects of our coughing and sneezing in the vicinity of others.

This week saw me make two changes. My last haircut had been scheduled for 19th March - cancelled due to lockdown. The last tonsorial intervention had been 30th January. Yesterday saw my locks trimmed into a fashionably longer cut. But no longer hanging over the collar in curls. One hundred and forty-five days of growth to deal with.

My favoured hair salon has always had lots of space and has only had to invest in some screens at reception and PPE for staff and customers. Arrival involved a health questionnaire and then Vicki, my hair surgeon general, performed the usual offices, including a trim of my all but out of control eyebrows.

But there was more.

It was also a day for my first visit to a pub. As I was driving, it was a cappuccino rather than a kir royale which might have been an appropriate celebratory refreshment to share with my pal. We sat across a table at an appropriate distance. Wore our face masks on arrival and were served by someone similarly protecting us.

The table had, I must say I did not immediately notice this, a set of instructions sellotaped to it to which I clearly gave inadequate attention. The list was reasonable and now familiar advice. But the last item was the most important in that it required action.

My eye and brain had clearly concluded as it scanned a familiar set of asks, that I was doing all that was required of me. Accordingly, they didn't really absorb all the messages. It was an object lesson in the need for simplicity and prioritisation in any list. Didn't work.

Only when tidying up to leave, did I spot that they were asking for an email to be sent to a special address with contact details. Yup, I was closer to other people than for some time, and it might be necessary to track me down if they or I became infected.

But an hour having a gossip with another human being fair lifted the spirit.

And we when parted? No hug, but an elbow bump. I look forward to the next one. And perhaps someday, that missing embrace.

The other change in 130 days, I have been intermittently referring to in my diary. The cranking up of the importance of my computers. Or more appropriately, the cameras that are inbuilt to almost all of them now.

Although I first started video-conferencing in the early 1990s, I have never used it a home. The adaptations are now in place and it's a regular feature of life. Four meetings today. Twenty-eight video Committee meetings so far, more than I would normally have had, and debates and questions in the Parliamentary Chamber.

In countries around the world where atmospheric pollution has been, face coverings have been the norm. China and other countries in Asia are examples. I predict it will become the norm here too. Mine are currently in the wash. They need regular cleaning and sterilisation via a hot wash.

More disturbingly, I am using my car more and the train very little. That means my back is suffering a bit. Not because the car seat is ill-designed. It's my galluses cross-over in the middle of the back and the large metal clips at the waist. I now remove this vital "hold my breaks" gadget before driving over a couple of hours. My back says, thank you. But I still fear the day when I step from my car, having forgotten to re-attach them before then. The pandemic may have changed much, but the laws of gravity still apply to my trousers and to everything else.

I simply have to get back into the train. I will arrive rested and better informed. Reading and driving are contra-indicated. But filling my brain while seated at a table in an HST an absolute delight.

With the introduction of new timetables on 3rd August and the ending of recess a week later, the car will, once again, be spending most of its time in a station car park. But I may have to remember to fill my flask with hot refreshments and my bag with a sandwich or two.

So while we appear to be heading back to some aspects of normality, the Police Scotland motto, Semper Vigilio - always be careful, seems a good one for us all

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