Lockdown Blog

Queensferry under lockdown

Queensferry Heritage Trust is inviting contributions towards building a picture of the community during the corona virus lockdown. How have we been affected by lockdown? How will it be remembered in the future? We hope that the accounts we gather will provide a record of the present that will be of benefit to the future.

We invite all who live in and around Queensferry to contribute. You can send contributions, maximum 500 words and as a Word document if possible, to jenni.calder@gmail.com.

One

Covid-19

Coronavirus! It will never affect us! These were my first thoughts on hearing about the outbreak in far away China.

Aye right!

We had already booked a weekend visit to London taking in Tutankhamun’s exhibition, Greenwich museum and the ‘Come from Away’ show, and we decided it would be okay to go – as long as we remembered to wash our hands.

Just over a week later Britain was in lockdown! Stay home! Save lives! My son made it clear that I was to do exactly that – and he insisted in doing all our shopping, which was unnecessary but appreciated nonetheless.

How to survive isolation? Slow down for a start! Establish a basic routine, which for us was reading the daily paper, doing the crossword, having a half hour cycle, watching evening TV and, as the weather was amazingly fine, we spent many hours in the garden soaking up the sun.

Bit by bit we added to the routine – we set up a WhatsApp family group to keep in touch with my brother and two sisters. My brother and his wife were shielding in Orkney, my sisters both worked for the NHS, one a radiographer in Borders General, the other in the Eye Pavilion. Suddenly everyone was using Zoom, which opened up a huge variety of benefits: yoga chez moi, book club shares, club meetings, or just family chat time.

As lockdown became less restricting, we were able to spend more time exercising. We increased to two cycle runs daily! Walking in the lovely local estates was a delight and golfing became available!      

The biggest miss, as I am sure we all felt, was being unable to spend time with our family, and the first reunion with my young granddaughters was such a memorable treat. At last a small but important step in a gradual return to normality.

The past few months have been the strangest ever – and we are still not seeing the last of

The pandemic. But we have coped and we will eventually get back to ‘normal’.

Two

I know what a lock-up is but since the corona pandemic a lockdown is a new word which the whole world has learned the meaning of. And it brings different problems to different age-groups.

My husband and I are in the vulnerable age-group and having been blessed with good health we’re coping really well.

Zoom is a great tool for most occasions and we participate in music sessions, book club, yoga, family chats and a weekly quiz.

I love reading and apart from book club I’m working my way through a pile of magazines I got from a friend. I found a box of Spanish dvds so I’ve been having a go at that.

Walking the dog makes sure we’re out every day and since the lockdown (that just tripped off my tongue) the weather has been great. Queensferry people are very friendly and pass the time of day or chat , keeping the 2 metre distance. The birds, trees and flowers are all thriving.

Sadly, depending on their situation, not everyone can be so positive. Let’s hope for a vaccine to bring about a positive outcome.

Three

Parkinson’s Law states that ‘work expands to fill the time available.’ However, since the corona virus lockdown in 2020 an article by Bartleby in the Economist has suggested some alternatives. For many people working from home has changed this to ‘For the unconcerned, when unobserved, work shrinks to fill the time required’ so that they can enjoy more leisure time.  However, for the anxious home workers ‘work expands to fill all waking hours’.  In my family we encompass all three, one is worried about losing his job and the other gets the work done quickly to enjoy the sunshine.   Meanwhile I am in the former category as I seem to work all day and achieve nothing.  What we have forgotten is ‘Mrs Parkinson’s Law’ which states ‘heat expands to fill the people available’. Well, there are just the two of us!!

My husband has advanced dementia, and before the lockdown he went to day care twice a week and had occasional respite care for a week at a time, which I used to visit family who all live in England.  He also had social care once a week, and we had some help in the house. Suddenly it all stopped. The day care ceased, the social care and cleaner both had to withdraw.  His dementia has deteriorated rapidly – possibly lack of stimulation, and my ability to keep calm and cope with my frustration is hard. The decent weather made it possible for us to be outside and me do gardening. I had great plans of cleaning parts of the house that had hitherto been ignored – this lasted four days – anyway they just got dirty again.  Even bought a carpet shampooer – I used it once!

 However, there was good news. I saw an advert for a self- employed carer. She fitted the bill exactly and was prepared to come fully protected with all the PPE gear to help me look after my husband for an hour, or more if required. At last I was able to get out and have some time to myself. The other good things for all of us are the TV, computer, Zoom, Skype and the telephone which keep us in contact with the outside world. I have kept up with the singing group, my friends, art lectures, music concerts etc. So all is not lost. My family had organised several visits but again all had to be abandoned. We are trying again for next month.   I take my husband for car rides and short walks but he will not tolerate the mask so going into shops is difficult. I have great neighbours and they would do shopping or fix things – all with social distancing of course. So I take the good with the bad. The virus and lockdown has either brought people closer together or torn us apart. Hope I am in the former.

Four

One evening in May Arthur and I ate dinner in the far corner of the garden that gets the evening sun. No sound except birdsong and the occasional car on Station Road. We’d just bought Interrail passes for next year and over dinner were enjoying speculating on where we might go. We were assuming that travel in Europe will have returned to something like normal and that coronavirus and Brexit won’t scupper our hopes. The planning of these trips is almost as much fun as the actual travel and Arthur likes nothing better than absorbing train timetables and figuring out connections, although currently who knows what next year’s timetables will look like? Waverley to King’s Cross, Eurostar to Paris, down through France, Spain, Portugal perhaps… Sitting in a Scottish garden under lockdown imagining being on the move again. In the meantime, I had been putting off a necessary trip into Edinburgh but was struggling to overcome my reluctance to get on a bus.

When lockdown began to ease we had a garden get-together with children and grandchildren. It was wonderful to see them all in real life. Distancing has become a habit but it was hard not to revert to old ways. Since then we have been able to see family from Ullapool, Stonehaven and Edinburgh. Will we be able to get down to South Wales for October half term grandchild care? One thing we have learned is that all plans are provisional.

Later in the evening of our garden dinner we took the dog for her last walk. We crossed the footbridge over the railway path and looked out over the Forth. Everything was still, the water like glass, the bridges lit by the setting sun. Hardly a day passes when we don’t reflect on how lucky we are. Even the sound of revving racers in the High Street didn’t disturb that thought.

Five


During lockdown my wife and I have taken to sitting out in our garden at dusk to relax. We have been enjoying the extraordinary peace and quiet and the regular visits by two bats who entertain us for thirty minutes every evening.  It sure is easier than walking the dog!  We try not to think about what viruses the bats might be carrying.

Six

From Katherine, Patrick & Orla Shaw

2020 has been an unusual year. In January we began hearing of a new flu-like virus spreading through Wuhan, China. At that point it seemed so far away, and we had no idea about how it would affect our lives in the months to follow. Even now we do not know how this pandemic will change how we live in the future. During the February break we travelled to Ireland for a holiday and to visit family. Whilst we were away, we heard of the first case in the UK however travel then was almost entirely normal, at this point no one was wearing facemasks however the virus was getting a lot closer to home. One of the first major European outbreaks had happened in Italy and everyone was becoming increasingly aware of the threat posed by this virus. After the February break we returned to school and as the weeks went on the virus became more and more prominent.

In late March, our lives really began changing. Our Dad started working from home and all our sports and activities stopped. In school we were very aware that home learning was likely to happen at some point soon. We had seen many of our neighbouring countries lockdown so we were beginning to get an idea of what our strange new reality could look like. Three weeks before the easter holidays schools closed and my brother and I (who both normally attend Queensferry High school) began doing schoolwork set on Microsoft teams. Our younger sister began working through a booklet of worksheets sent home from her primary school. At this point it seemed short term and we were all relatively happy working through our online schoolwork. I remember thinking “we might get back after easter” however there had been warnings that we may not return to school that academic year. Another hardship we faced was the lack of sport on tv to distract us from this traumatic year.

After easter we began to realise that lockdown was likely to be longer term. We had cancelled our scheduled holiday to France and a much anticipated trip to see the Harry Potter show in London, and began finding a routine for our schoolwork. We were also spending a lot of time playing football in our garden and cycling around the various stately homes in Queensferry. We rarely saw anyone outside our family of 5. Around this time zoom calls became a big part of our lives. Football training was done over zoom, as were family catch ups and quiz nights with friends. Some school lessons were sent out as videos, we also did a lot of reading digital textbooks and answering questions.  At the end of May our school timetable would have been due to change, so I started studying the National 5 course on Microsoft teams.

The arrival of the shopping delivery suddenly because cause for celebration. What treats would we have this week? Our cooking skills all improved with each of us taking turns to prepare the family meal. We did jigsaws, had many movie nights, watched theatre productions on-line, having ice-cream at half time to make it more of an experience.

Slowly restrictions were lifted, allowing our lives to return to some degree of normality. One of the first changes was that we could form an extended household with our Grandad, this meant we could visit each other again. Throughout lockdown we had managed to keep seeing him from a distance however it was very nice not to have to do this in our gardens anymore. We were also allowed to meet our friends outside again which was amazing. Finishing the school year in 2020 was very anti-climatic. All 3 of us siblings finished our final week’s schoolwork at different points meaning that there was no one time at which the summer holidays started.

We gained a new cousin in Ireland and both our Irish grandparents suffered poor health. Having spent our lives visiting Ireland many times a year it suddenly felt a long way away. We can’t wait to make the short hop across sometime soon and hope the restrictions are lifted.

The summer holidays this year were very unusual. Hardly anyone travelled although we did manage to get away to Cornwall for a wonderful holiday. After months of missing football I was slightly disappointed to miss the first training session back even if I was having a great time on the beaches of North Cornwall. After arriving back late on Saturday night I was awake early on Sunday morning ecstatic to be going to my first football training session in months.

By the end of the summer holidays we were ready to return to school, I was especially excited by the prospect of seeing all my friends together which had not happened for months. With rules on meeting other households inside still enforced I managed to have a camping sleepover in the garden the week before school returned which was a great chance to catch up. Returning to school felt very different, not least because we were in an entirely new building but also because of the new precautions. We were encouraged not to sit facing others in class, hand sanitiser was everywhere and a temporary one-way system was put in place. Also, all our classes are now in double periods to reduce movement around the school, and in primary schools you can’t leave your classroom unless it is break or lunch, and you can’t mix with other year groups. A more recent change to the rules sees us wearing face coverings in the corridors and social areas, but primary schools are exempt. As the term continues, we do not know what is happening with rules changing all the time, talk of a ‘circuit breaking’ mini lockdown and uncertainty over exams. All we can do is wait and see…

Seven

We spent a sunny September afternoon picking brambles in the field next to the Forts. The only person we saw was the man driving the tractor harrowing the field. The virus hasn’t halted the season’s activities. In due course seven jars of bramble jelly were produced. There’s something very satisfying about jam and jelly making. The apples in the garden are abundant. The Braeburns in particular are targeted by squirrels. Every year we try to harvest them before the squirrel raid but they often beat us to it. From one day to the next they can strip the tree bare, a task that has every appearance of a planned, co-ordinated manoeuvre. But even as we curse the squirrels, these familiar activities are a welcome reminder that some things don’t change.

            Like everyone, we fret at not being able to see friends and family. Christmas is going to challenge our powers of invention. Zoom get-togethers only seem to underline the distance. Now we wonder if a big family get-together planned for next summer to mark two significant birthdays will be possible. Meanwhile here in Queensferry you could almost believe that the world hadn’t changed. The High Street is busy. The school playgrounds again resound reassuringly with shouts and screams. Less welcome is the return of school-run traffic. The Hawes car park is full. Families are strolling about with ice creams and fish suppers. The litter is returning to pre-lockdown levels. We are now so used to seeing people masked that it almost seems normal.

Eight

From Dundas Avenue

As a gardener my government instruction was to continue working, and with customer homes in Edinburgh, I was not locked into Queensferry wholly. I appreciated this, keeping more variety of grocery shopping, reached on my way to work, that otherwise would have been beyond legal distance during maximum lockdown. But as work is part time, life was localised for some of the time, well appreciating our facilities. 

Our arterial location supplies us far better with shops than similarly sized Lossiemouth. While they have to go into Elgin for Tesco, I always had it 10 minutes walk away. As appreciated during winter freezes too, and supplemented by the Scotstoun shops 5 minutes away. Especially so in lockdown, choice of shops is so key in case anything goes wrong at one.

It was another very felt privilege to be in reach of the seaside even during maximum lockdown’s rule of one hour’s walk. When the vast majority of the country was cut off from the seaside by law, to be allowed to experience the Hawes ghost-town-like with the occasional person and no cars.

Several Facebook groups to keep folks updated had all different characters. One was marred by some completely absurd volatile reactions over the post office’s frequently tweaked opening hours. Some characters leapt into personal attacks just because you asked after this and had not seen a post made on it further up a busy page at a regular time of day unknown to you as a new visitor. Or because you shared about the post office’s lunchtime closure and were concerned for folks to know of it, some interpreted that as critical of the post office at its time of serving us in crisis, and jumped on you angrily for it. It might not occur to them I was caring for locked-down elderly family by going to the post office. Showing that the crisis’s effect on real people was not all romantic community spirit, even in a safe small town some characters instead made irrationally angry and jumpy.

So choice of pages mattered, just like choice of shops. I wish more folks troubled to investigate the choice of video-meet servers, Whereby and Discord being successful plus others I saw used, instead of all flocking to Zoom. Some folks’ devices had problems connecting to Zoom sound, could unpredictably be fine in one group’s meet but unobtainable in another’s. The setting to show everyone in turn overloads small devices with data. In socially shared efforts to fix these, I discovered that if you can’t get into Zoom because it keeps trying to make you load its app and your device can’t, just change the /j/ in the meeting address to /wc/join/. Then you get in trouble-free. Only thanks to that discovery got I access to any use of Zoom at all. So I am keen to pass that on ever since.

Nine

What do you picture when someone says ‘student life’? For many, they think of people staggering home at 3am smelling of cheap beer and on the hunt for a greasy kebab. For most years that lifestyle has been ritualistic for freshers; a rite of passage. But not for 2020. With courses almost entirely online, pubs shut, halls in lockdown and socially distanced dining, it has to be said that student life is not thriving. While the wealthy students of Pollock Halls are hardly the worst affected by the global pandemic – that designation may have to go to the million that have died – we can’t pretend that the situation hasn’t had a crippling effect on these kids.

Gap years cancelled and students shipped off to university to be locked down and told they might not be able to go home for Christmas; hardly what they worked so hard to get in to university for. The final kick in the teeth being how few students have shown even the mildest symptoms despite the halls being uniquely infested with the coronavirus. Students are making some of the biggest sacrifices socially – it is most artificial for students to be home at 6pm when they should be throwing up behind a wheelie bin in the early hours. Imagine putting the best years of your life on hold purely for the benefit of others, yet to be blamed routinely in the papers for the second wave. Would you be whining too?

There is only one group of people thankful for this change in student culture. The mums’ of freshers, thrilled that their sons now go to bed earlier than they do.