It’s been over a year since my last post. Where has the time gone?

When I wrote that last entry, my retirement had just started. The focus was no longer on “what will I do with my time”, but “who will I be”. Plans included moving to Edinburgh to take advantage of culture and heritage in Scotland and make the occasional trip to mainland Europe, which was a train and/or ferry ride away. I know that life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, but who could have seen that all the fear-mongering that was Brexit would lead to the UK leaving the EU?

And in the midst of that debacle, who could have foreseen the Covid-19 pandemic? Well, technically, quite a few people who worked on the Cygnus project in 2016, but the government decided that was the sort of fear-mongering they didn’t want to exploit because it would require an government bent on austerity to spend money on frivolities like healthcare. So, they were completely unprepared. And even when they had the chance in March to try to get a leg-up by participating in bulk purchasing ventilators and PPE with the EU — since the UK was still a member — they declined that, too, for fear it would rile their populist Brexiteer base. Now we watch daily briefings where the UK government brays that it’s winning the fight, while the death toll in the UK rises to be the highest in Europe, and just behind the US in the world.

So, here we are, locked down in Edinburgh. It seems that lockdown looks very different, depending on where you live. Here in Scotland, everything is closed, including fast food outlets and DIY stores, while in Nova Scotia I’m told that drive-throughs are still open and people can shop in Canadian Tire while maintaining proper physical distancing. I’m told that there are border controls set up around New Brunswick, which appears to have ‘flattened the curve’, while cases in Nova Scotia continue to rise. Here in the UK, the government is only now (thanks to pressure from Scotland and Wales) about to move to requiring visitors to the country and those returning home to it, to quarantine for fourteen days. Asked why they hadn’t done this much earlier, as New Zealand did, they say that it’s impossible to compare the two countries. If we were talking about geography and climate, I’d be inclined to agree. But we’re talking about a virus which even the UK government recognises “does not respect borders” – so why didn’t they act as though they believed that to be the case by shutting down the borders?

If I thought I was glad to be retired in November 2018, I’m especially grateful to be retired in May 2020. My RRSPs have taken a hit, but over time they will recover (if I live that long!), and I still have a pension to provide a regular income. I’m far from hurting. Every day I’m allowed to go out in sunshine and fresh air (in April, Scotland recorded the most sunny days it’s had since 1942), and I choose to go out if it’s cold and raining. Edinburgh is a fabulous city for walking. There’s so much natural and architectural beauty, and some steep hills help to maintain cardio fitness. And the number of dogs I see makes my heart sing, even while it makes me yearn to have another furbaby in my life. One particular dog that I see almost every day inspired a post all her own, which will appear in this blog soon.

When back in the flat, I have a yoga mat where I do stretches and exercises; drawing materials (pencils, pastels, paper); a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of van Gogh’s “Starry Night”; Duolingo to refresh my French and German, and to teach me Italian and Dutch; and lots of books. And when I run out of books, I can order more online to be delivered to my door. I’ve all but finished another book manuscript (the deadline for which has been extended because I couldn’t finish the last piece of research after the country was locked down because of the pandemic), and have some outlines to work on for other works I would like to write once I’m free to do research in archives again.

I miss my kids and grandkids, and remind myself that even if we were still in Nova Scotia, I wouldn’t be able to have them visit. Three of them live in other provinces. I am grateful for the weekly video chats I have with them all, and the occasional separate conversation I have with them individually. Though my flight to Canada at the end of this month was cancelled by the airline, I look forward to a resumption in services later this year so that I can see family and friends in Nova Scotia, and welcome my eldest daughter and her children to Scotland for Christmas. And I’m looking forward to having my eldest granddaughter live with us here in Edinburgh for six months.

I’m grateful to have two lovely neighbours living in the other two flats in our Georgian tenement. I’m grateful that, because we are all self-isolating because of underlying health concerns, we are able to get together on Friday evenings for a “landing party” – which entails visiting at a safe physical distance on the landing and in the stairwell outside our flat. Flowers, candles, music… the occasion is something we all look forward to.

Despite all this “looking forward”, I also find that I’m very much in the moment. I frequently stop to listen to bird song on our walks, and frequently record them to share on Facebook and to replay them if we were ever denied even our daily outdoor exercise. And whenever I think about what I’m “looking forward” to once things are open we’re able to circulate more freely again, I have a jar on the dining room table with lots of blank slips of paper. Each time I have a “looking forward” moment, I write it on a slip of paper, fold it up, and add it to the jar. Once it’s safe to move about again, I will take a slip of paper each day, and act on what’s written there.