By Christina Noble
It’s the morning of day 4 ½ of my ‘self-isolation’, on my own. This house, Policy Gate, is 20 metres from the shore of Loch Fyne, a 50 mile long sea loch. There is a stretch of wild garden and woodland behind it. It is over two miles from the village and a mile from the nearest house, along a rough track beside the loch. I am 77. I live partly here, partly in North London and a bit in India. My son Rahul lives and works in India, my daughter Tara, her husband and two small children live in Winchester. My family has been here at the head of Loch Fyne for a hundred years. My sister and her grown up children and grandchildren live around here.
I arrived here from London on Friday by train to Glasgow and then on the bus. There were shining streaks of snow on Ben Lomond, the loch so blue and still. Not many people on the bus, sitting well apart. My neighbour had left my car for me to pick up at the bus stop so he wouldn’t have to meet me. Driving home along the track there was a fat and mottled seal, on the rock by the Black Hut, against the cobalt blue loch.
Tara rang in her lunch hour (she is a teacher). All schools are closed from last night. She is going to be expected to go to work because the school is to stay open for key workers’ children.
I walked along to the Ardno point in the evening sun, thin pink light reflecting in the loch. Very quiet, not much traffic on the far side of the Loch. I had Brussel sprouts with one rasher of bacon and a little grated cheese. I will have a problem dwelling all the time on what I am going to eat, and eating too much.
They tell us – the Government tells us – that ‘we are all in this together’ but it doesn’t feel like that. There is no togetherness possible here at Policy Gate. Lucy and John came by kindly when they came to feed their sheep, with my shopping, and some of their Golden Wonders and a dozen of their eggs. But they stood by their car and we talked briefly as I stood up by the rhubarb patch. It was hardly togetherness. And there is nothing I can do for anyone or anything, only for myself.
I understand the theory, the need, but there is nothing but negativity: there is nothing in my day that makes me feel I am doing anything for the country or the National Health or anybody. There is no role for me except ‘don’t do this or that’.
On 1st September 1939, the day after war was declared, my Mother arrived off the sleeper train at the local station. In the book I wrote which documented 100 years of this community, I described how on that first morning of the war my Mother…
“ went straight to join the others at Glen Fyne Lodge. Then that morning she and Tasia, Michael, Sisi and the children and nannies, moved down from The Lodge back to Ardkinglas; so evacuee families could go to the Lodge. It was thought that evacuees with mothers would need to use the Lodge and the Bungalow. None of the evacuees were to go to Ardkinglas; it was planned that the big houses were to be kept in case there was a sudden rush of evacuees later, or in case they were to be needed as hospitals or convalescent homes.”
At the time, my mother complained of a numbness, of not being able to think. And how difficult it was living with all these people around.
It was hard for her and I am sure would have been for me too, but she felt that she and others had things they must do and people they had to provide for. While I have nothing to do except think about myself and my rhubarb patch.
Monday was a slate grey day with an East wind that chilled your bones. The squirrels must have been hunched up, no sign of them until lunchtime.
It was a steak in tomatoes and cream sauce, and Golden Wonders and curly kale for my lunch. A steak and sauce lunch would taste so much better with someone across the table to share it with. I am so lucky, I am warm and clean, I don’t have money worries. I can wander in my garden and see if the rhubarb has grown and walk along the lochside with the seals and the oyster catchers and the peewits. But there can be no sharing.
I have the 4.30 slot of talking to Rahul and Tara to look forward to and many kind people phone me to ask how I am doing. At some of the time in the day I have a surge of courage and will power and expectation of getting things done. At others the tears are in freefall again, can’t be stopped.
This evening’s 8.30 news bulletin – Boris on Lockdown – he is so hopeless, it’s pretty much, ‘we will send coronavirus packing, we Brits are so strong, we are all in this together. But we aren’t. This is not just me self-indulgently moaning, there are people all over the country who have been so alienated for so long, they aren’t going to feel in it together. Someone somewhere broke into a food bank and stole a 100 toilet rolls.
I am tired, I’m going to bed.