I HAVE been away for a long weekend, and can report that all is not well.

Mea culpa, ken? As my own area had been inundated with camper vans and outsider-looking people (vacant expression, louche apparel etc), I’d formed the impression that it was acceptable to have a holiday within the invisible borders of Scotia.

Hadn’t the First Minister himself – I forget his name now – decreed that we should go out of patriotic duty to support the tourist and hospitality industry?

It wasn’t easy to detect at first but, slowly, signs of hostility crept through. I didn’t get it in the neck personally, maybe because I didn’t look like a holidaymaker,

doing everything I could to blend in by wearing a smock and chewing a straw. But, on speaking to natives and reading the local paper’s letters page, I found stark evidence of a grim, unbending bellicosity towards “strangers”.

It genuinely took me by surprise. I didn’t know anyone in my own area who held such views about visitors but, then again, I don’t get out much.

Regular readers may complain that, only last week, I indulged in an authoritative and logically impeccable rant about visitors. But the focus of my disturbing analysis was on shorts-wearing and bad driving. The Covid angle didn’t even occur to me.

I must say that I do partly understand the fear and protectionism, perhaps particularly for small islands. But the sinister Lord of the Flies aspects elsewhere disturb me.

One native I spoke to said: “Apart from people with B&Bs, all of us around here are against visitors coming back at this time. Mind you, I’m going away myself next week.”

He said it was dog eat dog, and every man for himself, which sounded a little barking to me.

His arrant hypocrisy was also clear to see in another place I visited, the one with the hostile letters page.

The massive ferry there had barely 20 passengers (just five of us on foot). But, returning in the early evening on a Saturday, a huge queue of cars was waiting to board: islanders returning from a wee break, coming back home to where they could moan about people taking a wee break.

Trying to be uncharacteristically hopeful for a minute, I’m sure these brutal, tribal attitudes are fading, even as we speak. In the meantime, I would advise trying to blend in or disguise yourself as a local.

Find out in advance about what sort of hats they wear. Eat local delicacies and, walking down the street, wave about a bridie, kipper, black pudding, bannock, or whatever. Don’t draw attention to yourself.

Many visitors I saw clearly didn’t give a hoot: folk in camper vans or clutching maps and foolishly asking for directions or fetching up in swanky sports cars on the North Coast 500 route.

Perhaps their honesty is more appreciated by locals, compared to me sneaking about scared to say or do anything that might give me away. Indeed, one solution that defensive locals might adopt is to have visitors ring bells as they approach, like lepers

did in days of old.

Apart from all of which, if you’re social distancing, and you don’t have any symptoms, what difference does it make where you’re from?

During my forced and unwilling stay on this ghastly globe or planet, the impression I have formed is that, always, self-interest is the basis of all Earthling affairs. Rationalisations for resulting attitudes and ideologies are concocted to cover it up, but that’s always the starting point.

Thus, those involved in the tourist hospitality trade will say that the Covid risk in Scotland now is negligible, while the commonality assert – or, more usually, whisper – that it is still a threat, particularly from evil outsiders bringing it in from elsewhere.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between, meaning that decent citizens only need to ca’ canny, keep the heid and apply common sense. Oh, and if visiting, purely out of decency rather than Covidian sensibility, try not to look vacant, drive too slowly or wear louche apparel such as shorts. Thank you.

TEARS FOR BEERS

For the first time in months, I’ve had a pint in a pub. The experience was deplorable.

I hadn’t visited this particular establishment – actually a hotel bar – for many years, but had fond memories of it.

The first indication of peculiarity was that customers had to use a side-entrance to hide their shame.

Outside, I consulted my movable telephone to find out if we had to wear masks but, ending up none the wiser, decided to wear one – then waddled in to find myself the only customer so doing.

After standing at the vacant bar for a bit, a fellow in a face-shield eventually appeared and asked if I’d phoned earlier. “No,” I said. “Hmm,” he said.

He checked a clipboard then directed me to a table before disappearing again. Aeons later, he returned. I ordered a pint of

local ale. Again he disappeared. I waited. And waited. He returned and said they didn’t have any. So I ordered a pint of trusty Tennent’s

and it, at least, was glorious.

But afterwards, I must say that, for the first time in recorded history, I was glad to leave a pub. These are disturbing times.

SCHOOL? IT'S JUST THE PITS.

HOW sadly funny to learn that students could find post-Covid school “strange”.

It was always strange. And such a lot of nonsense. The only purpose of secondary school is to keep adolescents off the streets. Educationally, it’s a waste of time.

Perhaps it’s changed now and, if anything like primary school, they just sit around at tables like a Mad Hatters’ Tea Party. But I recall history being bilge about the Corn Laws, mathematics indecipherable formulae of no earthly use, science diluted in test tubes to dullness.

I liked Latin, but have no idea what good it did, and I can’t abide classicists (snobs who insincerely forswear snobbery). French stuck with me. My teacher wanted me to study it at university but my ambition was to be a postman.

Practical English career-wise I got from mimicking book language and adopting journalistic tropes where everything is “launched in a bid to …” and intros are cod-dramatic: “It was the strangest carrot in the history of Diseaseton’s county show.”

I agree with keeping adolescents out of sight, but they’d learn more down the pit or in factories. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned that way.

HOME ALONE

How predictably surprising to read that workers were unwilling to return to the office.

The office: even before Covid, it was a place of rampant halitosis and constant moaning. And that was just my contribution.

It’s difficult to tell if employees are unwilling to return because they fear colleagues gobbing on them fatally or because they’ve learned to like working at home.

The only thing I liked about offices was the lavatory. They were ever my refuge, a place to plan how to get home. They were cooler too, far from the stuffy heat kept on high to keep the women happy.

As a home-worker of long standing, I’ve some advice. If you must have someone to talk to, put figurines on your mantelpiece. Keep a stock of pies and chocolate handy to aid inspiration. Go to the door every so often to see if anyone’s there. Pick up the phone ditto. Stay calm. Don’t hallucinate. Drink discreetly.

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