by Colin Campbell
IT may be risky to catch too healthy a dose of that most elusive of all emotions during 2020 – optimism. But the past week for many must surely have been about the best of the year.
The revelation that a virus vaccine is on the way and could be available to people en masse within two or three months was hugely uplifting.
Scotland qualifying for a major football tournament on the same day was great news too, but I’ll place the vaccine far above that any day.
So it’s been a very good week, and for me that’s been despite recovering from a heavy bike fall, or maybe because of it.
I won’t labour the point about my own passing misfortune; people fall off bikes in Inverness all the time, it’s no big deal, although this one in my case involved a fractured elbow and other lingering aches and pains.
But it’s been a short, sharp reminder of how, when you’re sailing along without any physical problems you can take good health and free and easy movement completely for granted. And then a sudden jolt reminds you it’s not guaranteed in perpetuity after all.
Last week I read a searingly powerful article by BBC TV reporter Lucy Adams, who has been suffering from the devastating effects of “long covid” since she contracted the virus in March.
A fit young woman, and a keen cyclist also, she hasn’t only not been able to ride a bike for the last six months, on many days she’s barely been able to get out of bed, and hasn’t been at all comfortable in one either.
She’s had a nightmare of an ordeal.
In Inverness and the Highlands infection rates remain so low that the chances of catching the coronavirus are miniscule. Even so, that vaccine can’t come soon enough.
A survey, the results of which if accurate astonished me, found one in four of those questioned would either be reluctant to be vaccinated or would refuse it entirely.
It may be possible to see to some extent what their concerns might be.
But the sceptics, cynics and anti vaxers can respond as they wish. I’d extend a trusting arm without a second thought if I could tomorrow.
The prospect of getting the chance early in the new year is a massively encouraging turn of events. As opposed to the prospect of the current situation going on and on with no end in sight.
Isn’t anything, fractional risk or not, better than this?
On Saturday the newsstands in the city centre highlighted the grim problems in the central belt, where around two million people face being placed in tier 4, with the closure of all non-essential shops and essentially a return to full lockdown.
Inverness city centre at the weekend could scarcely have looked further removed from that plight.
There’s a jargonistic term used to describe how busy the precinct is, “footfall”.
Well I’d like to know the level of footfall in the centre on Saturday. Take away the masks and to me the precinct looked back to normal. Not the “new normal”, the much missed old normal, the real normal.
It was busy across its entire length and breadth. Compared with the first dead Saturday after reopening back in June the numbers there must have increased by tenfold.
The streets were a hive of activity, as was the Eastgate centre. There was a queue to get into the M and S food hall. There was even a queue at Waterstones to purchase books. And most shops have fully reopened.
During the past week the commercial news emanating from the centre has not been good. The long established Castle Street restaurant is closing down, the landmark Gellions and Hootanannys pubs are appealing for crowdfunding support to survive, the Market Bar is up for possibly virus-related sale. A report on Friday said the Cafe Nero chain, with a popular outlet on High Street, could be on the brink of collapse.
Appearances can be deceptive and there are serious underlying problems, particularly in the pub and hospitality sector. And few traders are likely to declare they’re flourishing either. But the appearance of the city centre at the weekend was good, with little or no visual evidence of the closure ravaged consequences which have been predicted as a result of the virus crisis.
These are still tough times for many businesses, and for many people, and they will continue for some time.
But now we need that vaccine, as fast as humanly possible. And then everyone may still pull through.