The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

But out of the window, everything looks normal...

With at least two, possibly all three of us in the house being in a high-risk group where the Corona Virus is concerned, we figured it was time to completely self isolate.

It seems really odd it was only a week ago Maggie and I were sitting in a cafe and discussing whether we should go ahead with the launch of our daughter's new business venture, Megalicious (see www.megaliciousfood.co.uk) on March 21st.

Over the past few months we've been planning, applying for funding support, and working closely with The Usual Place, where Meg has been training for the past 3½ years, gaining qualifications in Professional Cookery and Hospitality.

Everything has been moving towards setting up Meg's gluten-free home baking and pop-up cafe business, which would have been launched with a pop-up cafe at The Usual Place itself. In essence, she would have taken over the cafe for the day, using their facilities and staff, but with her products, menu, and branding.

Set to happen on World Down Syndrome Day we were hoping to get some serious publicity for it. As well as The Usual Place and Down's Syndrome Scotland helping to promote it, Princes Trust Scotland have also been involved (in fact they were so impressed with Meg, they invited her to become one of their Young Ambassadors), as has the local Business Gateway.

When you add to that the amount of local support Meg has, this was set to become a major event.

Two weeks ago we were designing apron logos, feather flags, postcards and flyers, as well as trialling all the gluten-free recipes. Corona Virus was something that still felt distant and might not even happen here.

But by last Friday, as we sipped our coffee, Maggie and I wondered if we would still be able to do the launch before it reached this corner of Scotland. Already large events were being cancelled, and various officials were beginning to say they were no longer going to be attending meetings, unless it was remotely via the Internet.

At that point, the fear was if we went ahead with it, perhaps few people would turn up and it would fail to have the significance we wanted.

I tried to phone Heather – the CEO of The Usual Place – to get her thoughts on it, but she was off until Monday.

Over the weekend, we attended a couple of producer's markets that we were hoping to get Megalicious into, but the conversations with organisers indicated that these would probably be the last ones for a while.

We started to realise that even if the launch was a great success, everything would be shutting down very shortly afterwards and all the momentum would be lost. And we wouldn't be able to have a 2nd launch a few months later that would have the same impact.

By the time I did get to speak to Heather, it was obvious that delaying the launch was the best thing to do. Indeed the following day Heather made the decision to close The Usual Place until further notice, as many of the staff and trainees have disabilities and underlying health issues. And today the government told all cafes they had to close by the end of the day until they say otherwise.

By Wednesday we had pretty much moved into self-isolation. The only thing left which required me to leave the house was I had the car booked in for a service in Dumfries on Friday.

Although I was very hesitant to take the risk, the fact is I wanted to make sure the car was OK in case it's needed for emergencies. So wearing disposable gloves and armed with a tiny bottle of hand sanitiser gel with a little bit left in it (fortunately discovered in my glove box, as you cannot get hold of them for love nor money any more), and a handful of anti-bacterial wipes found at the back of the cupboard, I took the car in.

Watching the News, listening to the radio, and following the conversations on social media, I was expecting empty roads, deserted towns and lifeless buildings with the occasional sheet of newspaper being blown down the street.

And yet I couldn't really see any difference from any other day. Cars aplenty, few parking spaces, pavements with lots of people apparently going about their daily routine.

It's a real struggle trying to get my head around the difference between everything I'm being told with what I actually see.

Intellectually I know that the virus is invisible, that there are several days when people can have it and be contagious before they show any symptoms, that most people won't even experience much beyond something like a cold, and so it would be very easy for me to be infected without realising and bring it back home to Maggie and Meg. And by the time they showed symptoms the Health System is likely to be overrun and it would be a lottery as to whether they would get the treatment they'd need.

Death is a real possibility, and not as remote as we would like.

But I look out the window and people and cars are going past, while the sun is shining and there is no obvious sign of threat.

Because this is an entirely new situation, unlike anything most of us have experienced in our lifetime, there is no existing narrative to tap into.

We don't have the stories to help us make sense of it. No films, books, or childhood tales.

The closest thing we have are the Zombie Apocalypse movies – and that's really not helpful at this time.


"Let's go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for this all to blow over."

But it explains the panic buying, and that apparently in the US gun and ammunition sales have gone through the roof.

How long before someone is shot in a supermarket over a toilet roll?

It's really frightening.

And yet...

Where ever I turn there are also massive acts of kindness, compassion and a desire to pull together in a community spirit to help each other in these unprecedented times.

Selfishness and stockpiling are the acts of people in fear – so worried that their flight-or-flight instinct has kicked into overdrive so, "me first and sod the rest of you" is their first reaction.

But humans have evolved as social animals.

We do not have huge muscles, dangerous claws, sharp teeth or a poisonous bite: compared to most animals near the top of the food chain we are quite puny.

Instead, we have survived, thrived, and taken over the world because of our ability to cooperate.

We have empathy, we can connect to others, and we invariably feel better about who we are when we know we have helped someone else.

And it is this we have to find a way to hold on to if we are going to get through the next few months and beyond.

The world is not full of selfish people who would beat us up for a small bottle of hand sanitiser.

While there might be some, the world is actually full of far more people who want to make sure that other people are OK too.

2 comments

Eryl said...

For the last week I have been railing about people carrying on as if nothing is wrong. Going to busy cafes and bars, shopping for all number of inessentials, congregating in public spaces, etc, etc; then a friend put a post on Facebook asking how extroverts were coping and it dawned on me, there are people whose sanity depends on externalities. The literally need other people for validation, and now they're being asked to isolate themselves. It's no wonder they're dashing out to mix while they can. I don't think they're being selfish, as I did last week, I think they're panicking and rushing to the safety of the group. We are pack animals, we rely for so much on our group(s). I'm an introvert, I could probably last for years on my own, as long as I had something to create with, but some people can't do that, I now feel really sorry for extroverts. And all those people who decided to go up Snowdon one last time over the weekend, or to Skegness, or Largs. At times like this we can lose our ability to think rationally.

Apologies if that's a bit ranty.

All my fingers and toes are crossed for you, Maggie, and Meg. The launch of Megalicious will be all the better when it comes. X

Kim Ayres said...

Eryl - I'm one of those extroverts who comes to life in the presence of other people, and I struggle hugely if alone for too long.

I wasn't going to go out to be with groups of other people, simply because I couldn't possibly think of putting Maggie and Meg and risk.

I do feel extraordinarly fortunate that I have Maggie and Meg to share my life with, and that we all get on well together. I really can't imagine for a moment how I would cope on my own in an empty house under these circumstances.

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