Social Isolation

A week goes by and everything changes.Suddenly it is all very still. The farmhouse kitchen table has ground to a sudden halt. A time of no guests, no passing farmers. Deliveries being left on the doorstep, thanks to our fabulous Roots and Fruit’s Julie and Jean’s Fresh Fish. The pottery is closed, and we have a very quiet single-track road leading through the farm just now as the Distilleries enter their ‘lock down’ too.

We are so going to miss our lovely guests at Persabus this spring. The hearty chats, with a good dose of ‘tail pulling’ from the teasing Happy Farmer, as he serves up his farmhouse breakfasts each morning. We were gearing up to a very busy season. Likewise, in the Pottery we took the decision early last week to close to the general public. It had been a time of frantic handwashing and sanitising. Worrying in a more heightened way about the health and safety of everyone who came through the door.

I am circumnavigating my way across an unknown territory. Helping guests to transfer bookings. Managing my way through positive PR, at a time when people are anxious and unable to plan. Following online podcasts, with outdoor pottery photos shoots, uploads, not to mention the headache of trying to decipher my way around the huge digital world we seem to have been flung into. Huge mountains, that for some are a simple step. I press wrong buttons on the keyboard, go around and around across online platforms, spending hours trying to achieve the most basic of steps. My head in absolute knots.

Overnight everything has stopped and changed.

The Happy Farmer has very quickly had to manage to get his head around the phrase ‘social isolation’ and all the implications it brings with it. Everything has moved so fast in such a short space of time. He has understandably had to have quite a bit of guidance from the rest of us with the finer details of this new way of living. For those of you who know the Happy Farmer, you will realise that he does ‘sociable’ in a huge, gusty, cheeky, welcoming, larger than life, kind of a way. Sadly, his infamous ‘adopt a tourist’ scheme, which has led to so many fabulous friendships over the years, is going to be on hold for the time being. The hearty night caps as he shares stories and makes connections with our lovely guests have come to a sharp halt. Instead he has his family all around him. A good dollop of daily nagging and lots of cheery banter. His phone has recently become his very best friend in life.

The island’s characters are silent just now, as the sociable heart and cheeky craic of island living has been cut from its centre, as we experience this strange time of ‘social isolation’, to protect our community. Suddenly for those with a connection, it is a digital world, as forums are setting up groups of volunteers to support the vulnerable and to make sure no one is facing this difficult time alone. Community spirit at its very best.

Each day arrives with the new luxury of time. We might be living on fresh air, our business stopped in its tracks, but the Happy Farmer is brimming with ideas as his old ‘building..itus’ (passion for playing with cement, stone, slates, bricks and generally wrecking every bodily joint in the process) takes hold. No guests and better weather always equate to building projects in the Happy Farmer’s eyes. Suddenly the Turner Art Pieces of bags of cement that have been idly loitering in various corners of the farm are being gathered up as plans start to come to fruition.

Seeds have been ordered too, diversion tactics on my part, as the farmhouse kitchen garden can once again be planted up. Raised beds are being excitedly constructed. The old propagators, made from scrap wood and covered with glass from old patio doors, are once again to be revived and new life breathed into them as finally there is time to grow vegetables once more.

Last weekend we waved a very sad farewell to our lovely Swiss campers who had become part of the family during their stay over the past couple of months. They headed off on a precarious journey home to Switzerland. Torn with their decision, but family was calling, and the motorhome they had won for their trip had to be returned. We had a night celebrating with them early in the week, before they trundled away down the road. We feasted on a huge platter of Islay oysters, and with an earlier visit from Jean’s Fresh Fish van to the farm, the Happy Farmer’s amazing homemade fish and chips followed.

With only essential travel permitted to and from the islands it is going to be a strangely quiet island. During this uncertain time, we thank you for your understanding and your support. Please stay in touch, and when all of this has passed there will be a huge hearty welcome awaiting you at Persabus. In the meantime, our thoughts are with the amazing people who behind the scenes are working so very hard to protect us and keep our community ticking, as we all do our bit and socially isolate. The workers on the ferries, at the ports and the airport. The fabulous staff at the Coop and our small general stores, Janice our lovely postie, and of course our most amazing Islay Medical Services team who are going to be there, providing their first class support as and when it is needed.

Stay safe.

Until next time…