Confessions No.2

I confess that I shed tears, randomly and without warning.

Tonight I watched the Channel Four News. When they showed footage from streets in Manchester and London of people standing on their doorsteps or leaning out of windows to clap for the frontline workers of the NHS I sobbed a little. It was more than a little blubber, something I might experience at a stressful, emotional, personal time; these were tears.

My parents, who were supposed to be here with me, sent me messages to say that they were clapping too on their street in Edinburgh. There were a few, they said.

My Uncle has come out of retirement to set up a testing laboratory in Middlesborough. He is working fourteen hour days seven days a week and staying in junior doctor accommodation.

Another Uncle, not related to me but dearer than family, is in a vulnerable state as it is. We spoke on the phone a few nights ago. We said that we would see each other again. I hope that we will.

It is easy to be lulled, by the sunshine and stillness of Applecross, into a false sense of security. And it is natural for the mind to want to shield itself from the panic of our present reality. I’m usually pretty good at staying positive, or drinking things under the carpet, but now and then I’m overwhelmed.

Often when I feel like this I have the urge to run, to escape. I have done before on more than one occasion; ‘No Mum and Dad I’m not getting on the flight home, I’m going to live here in South Africa for a while with this DJ I met.’ Not my smartest move.

Because of this instinctive reaction, this ‘fight or flight’ response to stress or trauma, I cannot blame those who would climb into their campers and come North. I cannot imagine how it must feel to be trapped in the middle of a city, where you don’t know your neighbours, where it’s dog eat dog in the supermarkets, where there is no community, only fear and loathing and the occasional outburst of ‘Sunshine on Leith’.

We have wildness here. We have vast expanses of land to walk our dogs and avoid all human kind if we chose to.

We also have small ageing communities, third-world-pot-holed roads and a lack of vital services at the very best of times.

I will not use names to protect as best I can the anonymity of the family. A girl from our community sadly and prematurely died a couple of years ago. She developed Sepsis after suffering what was at first the flu. She was to be taken by air ambulance to the Hospital in Inverness. By the time that the helicopter arrived, found a safe position by which to take her and her mother on board and departed again, despite the efforts of carers and crew, it was too late. She was barely an adult.

Can you imagine now the havoc Covid19 would reap on a place like this? It can take hours for an ambulance to reach us. It will take hours to drive to a Hospital ourselves, if we are able. We have no facilities in the community to facilitate a temporary military style Hospital like they have in London or other major cities with arenas and, albeit massively overstretched, medical staff aplenty.

Perhaps this is more of a plea than confession.

We choose to live here. When local council road maintenance budget cuts invite the prospect of being stranded on our remote Peninsula in bad weather, that is a hardship I can bear without too much bad feeling. I do not miss the convenience of everything being close by. I only switch on my phone once in a few weeks and only when I know I am expecting a message I can’t receive on messenger or I can’t remember someones phone number. Because I do remember phone numbers. I know the house number of most of the people who live here, they are either in my head or on a scrap of paper pinned by the back door.

This is the life I choose everyday. It comes with its breathtaking sunsetting benefits, green forest air and salty sea breeze. It comes with neighbours who know all about you, curtains that twitch and sighs that suggest you may burn for eternity. It comes with, at times, intolerable introspection.

Think of others. Have the strength to stay in your own home. Our thoughts are a spectre to all of us. We cannot run away from them.

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