Has it ever happened before? First footing nil. New Year’s dance nil. Watchnight service nil. Virus Three. Sadly they were germ-fests; we had to forgo them.
Our second complete lockdown started on Boxing Day. We were already in Level 4, so it is not like March 2020 when some were shielding, others advised to stay at home, and David and Teenie were bravely running the shop from Port Appin, with Bob Davis dealing with our orders. This time, for better or worse, we are used to the threat and Laura is heroically keeping Lismore Stores open (thank you so much Laura), so we don’t need a delivery rota. However, she has put strict distancing rules in place which is most reassuring.
So the festive season is over and down come the frills and furbelows, unless you need them for cheeriness. Or you are following the Christian tradition of leaving them until Candlemas or 2 February, the Feast of the Presentation when the Jesus was presented to the temple. It’s also the Feast of the Purification, when Mary, his mother, was purified and became an icon we could safely emulate. Make of that what you will. I make so much I can’t start.
Lockdown festivities started on 30 November with the Croic Ur Shed Christmas event when Hazel MacCormick of Lismore Luminations, Mairi Hawkes of The Oyster Croft, and Roxanne Prando of Shepherds Cottage, set up shop in Hazel’s shed offering candles, diffusers, handwash, oysters, alcoholic drizzles, soaps and moisturisers. Who needs the mainland? And with everything so beautifully made and seductively packaged, it almost converted me to shopping. Safe shopping. This was no superspreader. Masks were mandatory, and we were allowed into the shed only when someone came out and, as we waited, and it wasn’t cold, we were given mulled wine. I think three people were allowed at one time, so it felt incredibly safe. And it was a rare chance to see people.
The Christmas fair at the Heritage centre on the 6 December was Hazel’s shed on speed. Michael Handley, Iris Piers and others invited Lismore’s many creatives to complete the job of making off- island Christmas shopping redundant. New residents and old mingled at a distance, attempting to hear people through masks and to recognise them hatted and scarved. The attractively-stocked heritage centre shop was also open. Both Going Bananas and Sleeping with the Captain sold well. Thank you, Iris.
Earlier the school children had made the island a Christmas cake, each child taking an ingredient to school. They made a wish as they stirred.
They also helped make and distribute the island Christmas card, a tradition Ina MacColl and Beth Campbell started in the mid nineteen nineties. Before that the scout troop used to sort and distribute the hundreds of cards islanders sent one another. A labour and tree saving idea that deserves a place in the record books! This blog is a start.
Despite no Christmas service or visiting carollers, Laura Cook organised a socially distanced Carol Concert outside the church. Anne Livingstone and Mary MacDougall put together the programme and sundry other people assisted in making it an evening of safe, enjoyable carol singing.
At the café, Dan and Sarah hosted a socially distanced delicious Christmas dinner on the 18 December. Assisted by the lovely Bethany, they were great hosts with Dan making a speech of gratitude (it was his turn Sarah said) to all loyal café users. In truth, we should have made one to them for making the café pandemic friendly in a seemingly effortless way. They missed half the season opening only after lockdown ended in July and, when the season closed in October, they continued to offer takeaways once a week and also opened for a few hours on Saturdays which made a huge difference to many.
Festivities ended on New Year’s Day with a dip in the sea at Point. A Michael Handley idea which attracted quite a few swimmers. This may have been the birth of a tradition. Sea and river swimming is now popular everywhere. For many years most islanders thought the sea was for ferries, pleasure boats, and fishing and going in was possibly dangerous. I can testify it is a survivable activity and once you adapt to the temperature it is often lovely at any time of the year. The temperature doesn’t vary greatly. It’s always cold.
And now we are closed. The north end ferry is running a revised winter timetable with ferries every two hours for health workers and others whose visit is essential. We hope to welcome second homeowners and tourists as soon as we are all safely vaccinated!