As summer breaks go, a week-long staycation in the heart of Perthshire’s Big Tree Country wouldn’t normally top my list of summer destinations.
Spring, autumn, winter? Absolutely. I love this part of the world, as does my family. But July? No chance. The schools would close and we would be offski, away on our annual pilgrimage to Portugal, for three, four and, in recent years, without our now-adult children, five weeks at a time.
A fantastic Iberian road trip which would start with a car ferry over the Bay of Biscay to Santander and see us slowly wind our way down the length of Portugal to the Algarve for some sun, sea and sangria. Stopping over for a few days in beautiful rural locations like the medieval fortress towns of Beja, Alcacer do Sal, Estremoz and the stunning hilltops of Viana Do Castelo, the famous wineries of Porto and its world-famous Douro valley, or its fantastic and very friendly capital city, Lisbon.
Ah, the best laid plans? The pandemic, lockdowns and confusing quarantines put paid to all of that. Insanely, despite having very low rates of Covid-19 infections and a death figure of less than 1,750, travel to Portugal was discouraged. Holidaying in Spain, however, was allowed – but only if you were from south of the border.
If you lived in Scotland and decided to chance it and travel to Spain (bear in mind that the ferry ports are at the Spanish cities of Santander and Bilbao) then you would have to legally self-isolate for 14 days upon your return.
That ban, of course, was lifted a week ago – too late to save my holiday, which Costa fortune – but it now looks likely to be reinstated due to a massive surge in infections being reported in some of the country’s most popular destinations.
So, as a result of the travel restrictions and having no income now or for the foreseeable future, it’s a case of being unable to afford anything more exotic than a week’s Scottish staycation in an idyllic cottage near Dunkeld.
Now I find myself, with my wife, whiling away the hours, basking, unbelievably, in glorious sunshine, strumming my guitar, cycling around the many miles of beautiful country paths and rustic roads and listening to the soothing sounds of the Scottish countryside in summer.
But also worrying for hours on end about a very uncertain future in these uncertain, disturbing times.
Since the lockdown started I have lost my brother and three close friends. My successful business, built up over 30 years and which has hundreds of employees, has been closed and will remain so until the scientists and doctors, without question qualified in their field, questionably so when it comes to matters of the economy, decide I can again reopen.
It is now time, especially given that some of the health advice is contradictory. Schools and playparks are open, but kids can’t play in a soft ball centre or ride on the waltzers. Pubs can open but gyms can’t. Gyms opened in England yesterday but, a few hundred miles north, it could be weeks before Scots might be able to lift a weight or go for a swim.
For our officials and medical advisers to give our economy a little chance to recover, we need a spoonful of confidence, a little bit of gung-ho, not daily doses of fear and trepidation.
This new normal could, and surely should, be a little more normal by now?
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