Issue 214
August/September/October 2020


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Sep 20, 2020

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Lockdown and after…

SOME have been luckier than others during lockdown. Apart from people losing their jobs, it's the self-employed and small businesses who struggle. Shop-keepers, particularly those selling non-essential goods (whatever that means), have had it bad.

Wigtown book-seller and best-selling author, Shaun Bythell, in a Wigtown Book Festival blog, says he's missed his customers, not only because they provide him with income but also material for his books. Like other shop-keepers, Bythell has to sell online and, as an Amazon-hater, he baulks at using this behemoth as an outlet. But he's found that lockdown's constraints have brought unexpected benefits.

Queuing at supermarkets encourages conversation, resulting sometimes in friendship when, before the pandemic, these contacts were just nodding acquaintances. Restrictions on movement have forced people to get to know and appreciate their locale, rather than fly off to distant places.

Nepotism or not, I must mention Lucy Gladstone, my niece, whose restaurant in Ardfern, Argyll, suffered a setback. On February 28 Lucy, with three colleagues, opened her new-build establishment. Fitted out with new coffee machine, ovens, crockery and loos, they expected a successful season, with their menu of locally-sourced seafood, beef and chicken, along with vegetarian dishes.

Within weeks they had to close. Anxiety followed until they came up with the idea of serving take-aways on Friday and Saturday evenings. Advertising online with a new menu, they invited orders. With the pubs closed, a community well-disposed towards them and good food on offer, Lucy was soon catering for 60 to 80 customers each evening. Soon afterwards, they opened their doors six days a week.

Had it not been for lockdown, with extra time on her hands and a need to diversify, Lucy would not have started her bakery. So she could offer fresh food, she learned how to make sour-dough bread, baguettes and croissants. Added to these, she bakes cakes, quiches and Scotch eggs. "This experience has been a mixture of real panic and utter joy. I've mastered a new skill by making sour-dough bread – a long, involved process."

Lockdown made Lucy into a baker, an occupation she would never have contemplated had it not been for Covid 19. Her aim is to start up a purpose-built bakery, to feed locals, the yachting fraternity and visitors.

Jackie Perkins is an Edinburgh letter-cutter in wood and stone. Having moved to the capital in 2018 after her training, her fledgling business only qualified for limited government assistance, but she was relieved to get it. Nonetheless, she had to put work on hold during lockdown due to her suppliers closing and clients postponing commissions. Her real challenge, apart from financial, was 'getting through the mental highs and lows'. She came to look forward to her daily 45 minute cycle ride from her claustrophobic Edinburgh flat to her studio in Dalkeith as it involved a pleasant route by the sea and along the riverside.

Although she has always been aware of the outdoor life, it was lockdown that made her realise how important the sea, forests and hills are to her. With this in mind, and time on her hands, she worked on converting her van so that in the future, hopefully, she can make cross-country trips in it.

During these past months Jackie has been cutting on stone the words of John Muir, the East Lothian-born naturalist, 'And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul'. This is destined for an exhibition at the Garden Gallery, Hampshire, marking the tercentenary of the naturalist, Gilbert White.

She has worked on a second stone with another John Muir quotation, 'This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere,' which will feature in an exhibition at The Lettering Centre in Suffolk.

Inspired by Muir's words, Jackie admits that "as bleak as this period has been, and remains so for many, new beginnings hopefully await and I continue to remind myself of this all the time."

A video of Jackie, creating this piece will go online, as a substitute for it being shown at the end of August at the, now-cancelled, East Lothian Traditional Skills Festival.

MARY GLADSTONE


BOOKS FROM FAMEDRAM!

Classic Henderson Cookbook Offer - Henderson Book of Salads and Henderson Wholefood Cookbook
Click here for pdf self-address purchase slip

An extensive new preface by the Ross Herald of Arms, Charles Bunnett, Chamberlain of Duff House