In Silence

It’s barely a five minutes walk from our cosy apartment in the Lanes by the harbour, where the waves of the North sea lap against the stone walls of the houses and boatsheds, the cobbled jetties, piers and little bays of rock and sand out to the knab that outrageous rock promontory that stands sentinel at the edge of the harbour. It is early morning and the soft wind is blowing in off the sea with that daily freshness that instantly reaches the heart and the head and things seem so much clearer.

The sun has risen over Bressey and glints across the water as the tirricks dance over the waves before pouncing to pick up an errant piltek and return with it for breakfast. The track takes a line just above the shore past the graveyard on the eastern slope and rises to its highest point where I stop and gaze across the wall, down over the cliff and far out to the southern horizon. The cliff face is terrifying. I tried once to go down across the rock to find a good place to fish, but soon lost my confidence, was frozen with fright and realising I could never trust myself to a caste and made a careful retreat to safer ground. Today I stand behind a solid masonry wall and watch the Fulmars performing their aerobatic displays. Like spitfires, effortlessly tilting and turning, they zoom in fast past the nest on the cliff to rise again into the wind. On the sharp dark rocks below, a line of shags with wings at ease stand erect. In conversation? Possibly. At a suitable distance apart, but on the same rock, a small group of black guillemots study the waves, as one fluttering with its white flashes speeds over to join them. Across the water, the gannets seem to fall over themselves as they find a shoal of mackerel. Like giant planes they glide over the waves then turn and dive headlong into the water disappearing in a white streak of foam. The soft wind caresses the long grass and wild flowers on the edge of the slope, sea campion, kattikloo, lammas flooer and sweet william all dancing to the same tune while the sea pinks shimmer on the edge of the slope. The smell of the sea breeze mixed with the grasses is intoxicating. It could be the finest of wines, it takes your breath away and transports you to another place and time. There is almost too much to take in. Nothing remains the same, in sun or rain in gales and stillness, the sea is constantly moving and every creature seem thrilled to the unspeakable joy of living.

This is the point where I abandon the camera and sketch book. Here, as in all of the nature, there is something that cannot be captured. It cannot be preserved in a bottle or a can or defined on a painting or live-on in a poem. True, we try and the artist and poets have so often opened our eyes and helped us see what we would otherwise be blind to.  The romantics, despite their bad reviews, have given us a way of looking at the world and we are richer for that. I am thinking of Keats and his “Ode to Autumn” that I learned at school and has stayed with me ever since.  The way the sounds and the rhythm and the colours come together gives you the taste of the apples, the smell the flowers, the bleat of the lambs and feel the weight of the bounty. It helped me see that season in a new light.

This morning, I read David’s Psalm 65 and it is pouring through my mind, as I stand here in wonder.  It is set in a very different time and land, possibly parched and dry, and so it is full of the blessings of water. You can almost hear it gurgle, drip and flood as it fills the furrows. You see the valleys filled with grain, the slopes with sheep and the rich produce that weighs down the cart wheels. What makes David’s song different from Keats, is that beyond all the wonder of the world he sees the hand of the creator, constantly and intimately involved in refreshing, renewing, recreating, restoring in this great living work of art. But it is not an abstract vague or distant entity, a mother nature, but a personal God who can be known, who speaks and who listens.  The first four verses alone tell us so much of this God. He hears our prayers, he takes away our sin, he chooses and calls and draws us near to his place where there is complete satisfaction, fulfilment and joy.  It is an astonishing song, but it is also intriguing as the literal translation of the first verse reads. “Praise waits, in silence, for you, O Lord”  I was curious about the idea of praise waiting in silence and wondered if it said something about how we approach God. Perhaps, before responding in heartfelt gratitude, in exuberant unrestrained praise, our first attitude should be one of total reverence, waiting for him in silence.

That’s how I feel this morning, when overcome with the wonder all around me but today eclipsed by the unspeakable joy of having just seen the miracle of a new life and held her in my arms, this fragile, and to my eyes, perfect creature, her tiny lips creased into a smile, and her eyes closed in carefree abandon.

“Praise waits, for you, in silence Lord”.

Crawford Mackenzie

A Heartfelt Plea

I wrote to my MSP and to the First Minister again this morning. I doubt if I will get a response or if my letters will actually be read. In the past, the best I have had is a bland acknowledgment and a referral to the relevant spokesperson who responded by suggesting I take a look at the government’s web site. I have a terrible feeling I am wasting my time, but it helps me release some steam, for there is plenty of that to be released.

From the beginning I have felt that the lockdown was a terrible mistake and I was so disappointed that when the Scottish Government had the opportunity, as the issue was one of health, to steer a different course, in the end, we seem to have slavishly followed Westminster in its panic over Covid-19, for panic it certainly was. Any difference between the administrations was only cosmetic, over timing or extent and that doesn’t augur well for an Independent Scotland, if we are going to end up meekly following in line with Westminster.

But it happened, we are where we are, and we have to live with it, and I can’t express how totally depressing it is to sense that there is still no end in sight. The deadly slow pace of the lifting of all these extraordinary measures is excruciatingly painful and with each passing day gradually sapping the life out of our communities, in almost every area. This is not about me. my family or my close friends, but about our society and how we can mitigate the terrible harm that we have done by imposing this horrible lock-down.

I had a long and difficult conversation yesterday with someone who is part of a pastoral group in our local church. While we come together as a congregation for worship services in our church building, we also have pastoral groups, and this works in various levels, for study and prayer and for practical support. The groups include all ages married, with families, old folk and a number of single adults. Some have serious mental and other health issues and depend very much on the regular support which these group gives. I was moved and challenged with the conversation. Although I had suspected that the sudden loss of this precious opportunity of meeting together would have serious consequences, I hadn’t fully realised what it would cost for the most weak and vulnerable. The whole conversation seemed to be a desperate cry for help and at the end, I was left with her plea  “Please, can you do something, can you do something..”

I was stung by the plea and sat down to work out, as best I could within the current regulations, to see if there was some way that our pastoral groups could return.  The more I studied the rules and guidance, I realised that it would not and could not work in any meaningful way because it came up against the brick wall, the curse of “social distancing”. I really do think it is a curse, as it is totally against human nature and is slowly blighting our lives.

So my plea was simple, to end this horrible imposition and to do it now.  To release this muzzle which is destroying the very fabric of our society, turning us into an unfriendly nation full of distrust and suspicion of the “other” and causing terrible harm to the most vulnerable.

I am not holding my breath.

Crawford Mackenzie

Up close and personal

The utter stupidity of the idiotic continuation of the “social distancing” mantra is laid bare each day and it is hard to believe that this can continue for very much longer. After a five hours masked train journey in almost deserted carriages, the sleepy Yorkshire town, I visited with my client, was like normal, with lively closed packed pubs and restaurants, open inside and out and not a mask in sight. Something has to give, before the whole thing ends in total farce.

One of the most revealing things is the importance given to certain activities over others. This was clear from the beginning of the lock-down fiasco,when the retail outlets considered essential, not only included food and medication, but bike shops, pet shops and off licences. It had, as others have said before, all the marks of a prison regime, so food, medicine, a time in the exercise yard and a blind eye turned to alcohol and drugs to keep the lid on the thing, was the way to go. But it has also been clear in the areas where the best efforts are made to bring things back to a level of normality. The economy of course was first, getting people back to work, which may not be easy as we think. But then there was sport and the continuation of the English premier league which could not be allowed to fail. Then the pubs and restaurants, hair dressers and tattoo artists and most recently the tourism industry, with special financial help. Today I read that, under new guidelines, actors, apparently, can now be filmed kissing in intimate scenes where touching will be allowed. The relaxation was introduced after it became clear that social distancing filming would ruin such scenes. So, there we have it. The two-dimensional fantasy world, it turns out, is more important that the real world of relationships between real people, real families, real friends, real communities.

In our local church we have been agonising, for some time now, over when and how we can return to meeting together, to worship God and sing and pray and share fellowship, uncluttered by all the rules and regulations. The loss of this life-giving activity is sorely felt and we may not know for some time what the cost of this deprivation on the lives of so many will be. The technological innovations have, of course, helped but nothing replaces incarnation.  How can you welcome, share, empathise, listen, get near, encourage, challenge, show sympathy,concern and all the things that go in a living fellowship of people, at two metres distance? How can you feel one when you are divided? How can you feel together when you are physically separated   It is very divisive subject, as there are some who, with every good reason, are extremely anxious and others who are quite sceptical about the whole thing.  The issue is not over cleanliness, hand sanitising, deep cleaning of premises, surfaces, books etc but over this horrible anti-social prohibition.

Now I know that it is unlikely that a secular government would see or know this. Why should they? “People of faith” as they call them are seen as a wee bit odd anyway and it is unlikely that they would have any idea of what goes on a church. But the church’s passivity over it is disappointing as it is troubling.

Crawford Mackenzie


[1] Which should properly be called the English premier league as there was a premier league in Scotland before the English one.

Masked

When I was quite small my mother told me, in the melodramatic way she would often speak about such things, to make sure the bedroom window was open when you slept, otherwise, she said, you might die in the night. I didn’t want to die in the night so, ever since, I’ve made sure the window was open even just a little. Now our bedroom window is only closed when horizontal snow is blowing in. For a long time the window was broken,anyway, so we couldn’t shut it. My mother’s advice at the time was a wee bit over the top as we lived, for most of our young lives, in old manse buildings where the draughts at times would resemble Atlantic storms. If we happened to die in the night it would not be due to lack of oxygen.

In school I remember the rather potted science lesson that we needed oxygen to breath and we expelled the burned-up oxygen, the carbon dioxide. Through the beauty of nature the plants did the opposite which made for a good balance. Inevitably it is more complicated than that but the principle is still intact. Anyhow, I knew, soon enough, that there would be plenty oxygen even in a small bedroom to see me through the night, but the need for fresh air was vital and the lack of it very unsettling.  I know I shouldn’t be, but I am always surprised when I get over the door and the fresh air hits me and my mood and temperament and the feeling in my gut can change so quickly and I am thinking  “So that was what was wrong.” I noticed this especially amongst children who can be cooked up in at home, bad tempered and unbearably irritable but immediately out in the fresh air all of that changes and they can become different poeple.

So I knew, when the call came to stay home and save lives, that it was quite wrong, that it was thoroughly bad health advice and a horrible imposition to force on an otherwise healthy population. To quarantine the healthy must be one of the most foolish things for any government to do. But they did it. No doubt, they will admit to this and other mistakes, in time, as they are already doing. They will fall back on the useful crutch of saying they were following the best scientific advice at the time, or as Matt Hancock bizarrely claimed, the guidance was “really strongly interpreted”, but by then the damage will be done.

Now we are faced with the next phase of governmental insanity with the compulsory wearing of face masks in shops and public transport. Now we are mandated to breath in our own carbon dioxide, just what my mother warned me about. It is true that fresh air will be pulled through the mask but it is inevitable that a  good deal of the air we breath in a mask will be recycled carbon dioxide. It is effectively breathing poison, liable to make you light-headed or dizzy and even sick.   We know that standard medical masks can barely filter out coronavirus yet to use a mask made from an old shirt or sock, or a scarf or a buff, or whatever seems to be ok. It doesn’t make any sense.  The effectiveness of these coverings has never been tested nor could it be. There is so many variables and so many ways in which a mask could be used or misused – touching it, taking it off to drink or use the phone, not sterilising it properly before reuse, and a thousand other things that we see people do all the time. It is totally absurd, but we have to go along with it.

Tomorrow, I leave early for a nine-hour return train journey. I am not looking forward to it. I used to love long train journeys but this looks to be singularly unpleasant. I can feel the claustrophobia already. Now, I am not a rebel and always try my best to obey the law and not step over the line, But, if I do lapse and someone picks me up, I reserve the right to roll my eyes. That is one part of my face they will still be able to see.

Crawford Mackenzie

Fresh Air and Sunshine

It is strange, but now sadly predictable, that in the critical heat of a crisis, common sense is always the first to leave. Watching it all unfold before your eyes is so frustrating, especially when someone comes along with the results of research which seems to prove what your grannie could have told you long ago.  

Today we had the results from a study in a scientific journal, the “Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology”, which find, surprise, surprise, that sunlight can kill the virus in about 30 minutes and being cooked up inside isn’t a great idea.

“Forcing people to remain indoors may have increased contagion among same household dwellers and among patients and personnel inside the same hospital or geriatric facilities.  In contrast, healthy people outdoors, receiving sunlight could have been exposed to a lower viral dose with more chances for mounting an efficient immune response.”

Now I cannot pretend for a minute that I know anything about the subject and there will be other scientist, especially those who favoured the lock-down method of combating the virus, who would take the opposing view, but when the science is not at all clear, I guess it is best to go with common sense.

One thing I do know a bit about is building. Yesterday I read about a study carried out by the Ministry of Housing responsible for building regulations in England. It came up with the finding, again surprise, surprise, that living in a hermetically sealed environment can seriously damage your health. Now I remember being at a seminar when the new regulations over air leakage in new buildings in Scotland were introduced. These define how air tight a new home should be, with strict tests to ensure that a building is compliant. I felt uneasy about it at the time and couldn’t see how this sat easily with the other important requirement, that a dwelling should be properly ventilated. Now we learn that there are serious risks to health directly associate with this regulation. It causes overheating in houses leaving people “stewing in their beds” with consequential “loss of productivity, domestic abuse and even deaths”. The push towards air tightness was driven, of course, by the need to be energy efficient and this is understandable, but the side effect doesn’t seem to have been properly considered.

It is astonishing how the focus on one specific objective seems to create a blindness to other equally important factors. The virus is racing through the population so we lock people in their homes to prevent its spread, not having considered that maybe that action might actually make matters worse. Air leakage from dwellings contributes to heat loss, energy inefficiency and ultimately global warming so we hermetically seal our homes, not having considered that maybe the consequential loss of ventilation might be a really bad thing.

I genuinely wonder how this happens. Is it because people become so locked into their own professionally specialised bubble that they can’t see the wood for the trees.  Is it because the way politics works, the immediate threat or issue, the one the media has locked on to, has to be the one we fixated on and it gets all the attention and resources? Or is it quite simply that, somewhere along the line, we have lost that virtue that we used to call common sense?

Crawford Mackenzie

https://crawfordmackenzie.net/2019/01/21/losing-the-sense/

Just three links

Posting links to other people’s thoughts seems a lazy way of doing things but now and again someone says something which expresses exactly how you feel, which seems so spot on and puts into words what you were thinking but were somehow unable to say. Sometimes they even appear in the main stream media.

Here are three such pieces, published in the past few days, one which I came upon myself, but the others which I have to thank David and Rachel for pointing them out to me.

The first is Jonathan Sumption on what we are doing to our children https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2020/06/12/damaging-generation-children/ ,

The second is Helen Coffey on what we are doing to our church family https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/coronavirus-life-after-lockdown-things-we-miss-church-christian-faith-a9550606.html

The third is Neil Mackay on what we are doing to our humanity https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18510141.opinion-neil-mackay-inventing-post-covid-scotland-stripped-humanity/

Crawford Mackenzie

This is what history looks like

It was something Douglas Murray said. He of the “The Strange Death of Europe” and “The Madness of crowds” and one of the few people who seem to have a handle on where we are.  It was in the course of an interview, when he was describing a story from Tolstoy’s “The death of Ivan Ilych” when the judge thought he was dying and remembered being on a train, convinced it was going one way, when it was always going the other way. “How on earth could something like this happen”, he was thinking, followed by the realisation that it was happening.  It seemed to sum up the way Murray wasfeeling about our present crisis. There was no end and no limit to the absurdity, the irony and the crazy happenings. The thought that “This can’t be happening. This is not what happens” quickly followed by a second thought “Yes this is what happens, this is history, this is what history looks like.” 

It was also something that David Starkey said about history. We think history changes gradually and morphs smoothly into different phases. He said it didn’t. Things slowly build up and then explode. History pivots on one small event. A bullet takes the life of a Duke and the World is catapulted into a war when million are slain. A plane flies into a tower and hundreds of thousands die in a land far away. A cartoon is published in a newspaper and gunmen are on the rampage. A mobile phone video is released and statues are thrown into the sea. History it seemed, turns on a pin and in the case of the current crisis, in a matter of a few days, over a weekend, when the nightmare of lockdown was birthed.

We have seen the build-up, for a long time now. This was best explained for me in the two most incisive studies that I have read on the subject: “Dominion” by Tom Holland which showed how we have what we have and “The strange death of Europe” which showed how we are throwing it all away. The dismantling of marriage and the dismembering of the family, the relativity of truth, the fluidity of reality, the replacing the real with the material, the worship of the gods of health and wellbeing instead of the one true God. David Robertson in “The wee flea” has at the same time consistently shown that by destroying the root we eventually destroy the fruit. In one of his more recent and devastatingly pertinent posts (https://theweeflea.com/2020/06/09/a-free-peoples-suicide-the-end-of-law-and-order-in-the-west/) he suggests that law and order itself is on the point of collapse.   

So with each day as the news become more and more bizarre, it is genuinely quite hard to believe if it is all true, if this is actually happening. Whether it is the sudden obsession with statues, the police kneeling before protestors, the laws clamping down on individual’s liberties but winking at thousands on the march. the insanity of social distancing in schools, or the prime minister mumbling about bubbles. And I was recalling a conversation with one of my siblings recently, when we were wondering about the world and the seismic changes that have taken place in recent years. Could our parents have possibly imagined that this was at all possible? No, they simply would not have believed it.  Truth be told, I would not have believed it either. I would have thought “this is not what happens” but now I realise, when I recognise the sound outside my window, the sound of our world crumbling, I realise “Yes, this is what happens”. This, it turns out, is what history looks like.

And I imagine a history class in a future era where the pupils are studying “The rise and fall of Western Civilisation”. The reasons for the fall were clearly documented and now very obvious but the curious thing is what actually tipped it over the edge. It was a tiny invisible organism that travelled from the East.

Crawford Mackenzie

Beyond Bizarre

We are going to need some new words. Bizarre is no longer strong enough and insanity and madness barely get to the mark. Once we have heard the craziest pronouncement from a government official another one comes along to top even that, when we hardly thought it possible. The theatrical antics on display daily in these strange scenes at the tri-podium draped with a surreal strapline, the minister flanked by their advisors, the chiefs of staff from the twin pillars of science and medicine, with the meek media dutifully waiting their turn to pose an innocuous question, have a strange comic element to them. It is really hard to take seriously. These people must be having a laugh. But it doesn’t seem they are.  Yet you wonder why they would put them themselves through this trial each day. In the age of twitter, it seems hardly necessary. I particularly feel for Scotland’s First minister who seldom seems to be able to trust a depute for the task. Perhaps it gives extra kudos and gravitas to the words being said. Perhaps it carries a level of sobriety to the situation in the hope that the public get the message. But the trouble is with all these things the effect quickly wears off and people can get pretty bored with the figures, the predictable pattern and the school teachery scolding.

One of the weirdest things is the way that Ministers are so suddenly involved in the detail and minutia of our lives. If someone told you this would happen a year ago, you would not believe them. So many activities are now being micro managed, whether its to do with care homes or protective gear of what we can do and where and when and how. So much is now about our personal lives and behaviour. We have, for example, the repeated mantra about handwashing. Goodness me, we have been reminded so often, since we were little, that we should always wash our hands. It was on every sign in a public toilet “Now wash your hands”. We have been told that our hands are the dirtiest part for our bodies and that it is the most important thing in food hygiene. We’ve known that for years, still, it now needs the government, of all people, to tell us, dirty beggars that we are.

And then we have the quite bizarre advice at a recent briefing that our trips should factor in when we might need to stop for the toilet and the even more bizarre advice for couples living separately, when they could meet up for intimate relations. It makes you realise ‘Gosh, they think we are children’ and they say that they want to treat us like adults! Well I suppose that figures. It’s what we say to children – “Now I want to treat like adults”.

The quite unnecessary and over the top intrusion into personal behaviour follows the intrusion into other aspects of public life and work. Two specific areas where I have involvement, the building industry and the church, demonstrate this so well.

THE BUILDING INDUSTRY

The closure of all building sites by the Scottish Government will, I am sure, turn out to be a monumental disaster for an industry that has never really been all that well organised. Yet I wonder if those who advised on the decision have any clue about what goes on in a building site. Most work is out of doors where the possibility of contacting a virus is almost non-existent. Even when the work is indoors the area is seldom sealed. It is most often open to the elements, with air constantly moving and not the environment favoured by viruses. The real dangers are dust and fumes, falling from heights, electrocution and machinery, the later three which account for the majority of accidents on site. In addition, building contractors have strict controls on health and safety and this is one of the reasons why accidents and deaths have been drastically reduced in the past decades. And, there are trade unions who keep a keen watch on the health conditions of workers. Managers of building sites are then perfectly able to act responsibly and deal sensibly with a crisis of this kind. But no, it needs big government to step in and tell them to close and what they have to do when they re-open.

THE CHURCH

It’s the same with churches. Many congregations had already put in place sensible precautions and some had cancelled services well before the lock-down was announced.  But instead of allowing responsible church administrators to make their own judgements about what action to take, the government had to come in, close the churches and will only allow them to re-opened if certain conditions are met and when “it is safe to do so”.  In this crazy new world, it is the government, apparently, who are the arbiters of what is and what isn’t safe. The guidelines themselves, make a mockery of what a church is and what it means to come together to worship God. As with building sites, I suspect that those who have made these decisions have no idea what goes on in a church building. 

Thinking through and trying to picture what a phase three “Covid compliant” opening would look like, makes us realise that it will be almost farcical. Some measures are, of course, quite sensible and actions that any responsible organisations would take: such as a high level of regular cleaning of surfaces and hand sanitisers at entrances, but others would be quite disproportionate.  Take “Social distancing”, as an example, that creepy Orwellian phrase designed to make quarantine sound palatable.  If we hold strictly to this policy, it will cut into just about everything we do and almost every aspect of how we function as a local congregation. It does violence to the whole idea of coming together. There has been suggestion that singing, which increase aerosol range, should be banned and musical instruments too, especially brass and woodwind.  Hymnbooks, bibles, psalteries and all books and leaflets would be removed and tea, coffee and mingling quite out of the question. Have we really grasped what this would mean? How can you welcome a visitor across a strict two metre divide? How can you carry out any meaningful pastoral conversation with that invisible chasm between you and the person? How can you really relate, show sympathy, concern, support or effectively listen from behind a mask? How can you build trust when the overriding message is one of fear and mistrust?  It just doesn’t work. All the important things we intuitively learn from body language, all the small movements that tell us so much, the posture, the movement of the hands and  eye as well as our own attempts to comfort and encourage with the holding of a hand or touching of a shoulder, all of this will be lost.

If it is still our intention to maintain a liberal democracy and cherish freedom then it really is time that  government be told, politely but firmly, to stay out of our lives. How we manage our own affairs, how we conduct our lives is none of their business. It is surely also time for business and organisations, churches, schools, clubs and societies to to step up to the plate and remind the government that they have been doing this for some time now, that they do care and that they do know what they are doing. It is time to say “Gives us a break – stick to your job and we will stick to ours.”

Crawford Mackenzie

Pride is their necklace

(Psalm 73:6)

Pride is the real killer that’s for sure/While Lust, Greed, Envy, Malice, Rage and Bitterness all play their part/And just as surely drag us all the way to hell/Pride does it with far greater efficiency/In time/Lust’s fire will burn out/Greed will sicken itself/Envy will poison its own soul/Malice and Rage and Bitterness will flap their wings/But in the end they will exhaust themselves/Pride stays

Pride won’t let go/Like encrusted food on the fork/defying the scorching spray of the dishwasher/Like greasy film on the cooker hood/that no Fairy can remove/Like body fat scum on the shower tiles/that laughs and laughs at Domestos/Like the chameleon virus/deftly dancing on the edge of our antibiotic shield/Pride sticks

Pride conceals itself/It lies for years undetected/It changes shape and style with every new revelation/It hides in the cloak of religious zeal/It slinks behind a mask of goodness and good intentions/It has no colour, sound or smell

But pride stinks/Like a bloated fish on the foreshore/Like undiscovered rubbish in the bag where maggots gather/Like boiling bones when the pot burns dry/Like putrefying flesh after the massacre

Pride is only defined in the negative/It is what humility is not/Humility is/The sweet fragrance that rises from a life at peace with God/It fills the room and touches all around/It softens the hard heart and brakes the spells of years/It makes the ugly beautiful/It joins the broken bits together once again/It surprises with joy and healing and beauty

It is the loveliness we have only seen/In just one person/The only One/Who though he was God/Didn’t hold on/But let go/Came down/Became a slave like one of us/And made himself humble/Humble to death

And….Pride’s days are numbered

THE NEW NIGHTMARE

Yesterday the Scottish Government produced its route map out of the Coronavirus “Lock-down”.  The message was clear. There is light at the end of the tunnel, we will meet again, but we don’t know when. You will get your freedom back, the freedom we have taken from you,  the freedom to associate, to work, to trade, to congregate, to socialise, to worship, to play, to travel, to welcome strangers, to visit and embrace your family and your loved ones. You will get that back, but only when we decide the time is right. Only when “The Science” tells us it safe to do so. And just in case you become too relaxed about it, if things change, we can reverse things at any point. So be warned.

From the beginning I felt that the prison term “lock-down” had more than a little resonance to the situation we were in. I think I have been right about that. Now we know that before being fully released we will be effectively be in an open prison, allowed out in stages, on day release, where we will be given some freedoms to demonstrate that we can use these responsibly. Once we have proved we can, we will be given more until we have full freedom, but even then, we will still be out on licence and liable to be brought back in at any moment. Too many Portobello incidents, and we will all be back in “lock-down”. That has been clear.

It is really hard to believe that all this is happening. But it is. It is really hard to believe that almost all good people have accepted it with barely a whimper of protest or question. But they have. It is hard to believe that the shaky models, the selected statistics, the loaded graphs, the unequal comparisons as well as that mysterious “R” number have been given such an uncritically free ride. The merest scratch would have shown that the case for the “lock-down” was and is based on the shakiest of foundations and would not withstand any serous intellectual challenge by people who know. Do you think that the government and all their advisers together could hold their case in an open debate with the likes of Jonathan Sumption, David Starkey, Lionel Shriver or Peter Hitchens? No neither do I.

It is unlikely that the politicians and their advisers will have the courage to admit that they made a mistake, an error of judgement, and even in a future enquiry they are likely to shield behind a Nike defence that it was “Right at that time” It is also unlikely that the general population, we who have invested so much in this sacrifice, will want to believe they have been fooled. But I think we have.

What truly scares me is the legacy of the “lock-down” which may survive for a long time after the whole thing has passed by and forgotten like any other seven-day wonder. We can see that legacy already being introduced into the “New Normal” with the continuation of that cruel and inhumane policy of “Social distancing”. Nicole Sturgeon said that Scotland should “take care not to slip back into old and bad ways of doing things”. She didn’t say what the bad ways were. Maybe it was just the filthy habit of not washing hands, or careless sneezing or spitting but I suspect she was hinting at a new normal where social distancing becomes the norm, where the fear of infection eclipses everything else, where we see every stranger as a possible carrier of a deadly disease, and we withdraw into our own bubbles, avoid embracing, touching, reaching out, offering handshakes or any form of physical expression of welcome or concern or comfort to others.

Welcome to the New Nightmare.