Bridging the gap between total lockdown and the freedom to meet with people from another household, albeit outdoors and maintaining social distance, brings a mix of conflicting emotions. The joy of seeing in person those sorely missed for weeks while resisting the strongest instinctive urge to hug, is bittersweet, to put it mildly.
Having listened to all the daily briefings and guidance, one recent directive has stuck fast. Until now I have maintained an image of Covid 19 as a miniscule version of those knobbly rubber balls that were designed to work some kind of magic in the tumble drier. Permission to venture forth came with a warning in words urging us not to get gallus and a definite directive not to become a bridge for the virus to cross. A disorderly mob of tiny drier balls gathered in wait to cross from the tyre pressure pump used today and make their way by some uncharted route to the bridge of my nose. How many as yet unfathomable bridges do we provide and how many more barriers need to be in place? Come round but bring your own cup; go before you come etc. It takes a lot of pre-planning and continuing vigilance. But the thought of providing a bridge hit home, so if the message sticks with everyone else, we should be fine.
Several road bridges will have been crossed in the last few days as families make their way to reunite in gardens, parks and on beaches. What a relief for folks to see those precious to them in the flesh. What a blessing it was in sunshine and not on a dull dreich day. It tugs at the heart strings to think of those meeting for the first time and a dear one of their number is not there because they have become part of that distressingly high number which continues to increase.
Everyone has something they have missed, either one particular interest or so many it is difficult to rank them and sad to accept how long we will have to wait. There is a footbridge over a busy road that I regularly crossed with a feeling of eager anticipation, because being on it meant I was en route to the theatre, a concert or the cinema. All high on the list of what needs patience but plenty to remember. Films about bridges come to mind. It’s surprising that some are still remembered because of their impact or circumstances prevailing at the various times. The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Bridge too Far, The Bridges of Madison County. There’s the music too – Over Troubled Water and who remembers Billy Jo jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge? Pause for a chuckle that these irrelevancies come to mind so easily!
Bridge of another nature is usually where my allegiance lies. Virtual anything doesn’t replace the real live thing, and so some of you may be able to empathise. Others may find it strange that a significant miss for me has been the green baize, the physical feel of a hand of cards, and the mental challenge of achieving what it promised when first assessed. Social distancing would be difficult to maintain around a card table but face coverings may be an advantage when a partner feels the need to grimace if the promise, unfulfilled, cost much more than the effort invested.
My Granny’s wisdom, very often shared in sayings not always readily appreciated at the time, have nonetheless remained ingrained. “It maks nae sense tae burn a bridge that ye might need tae cross anither day.” We all know that various bridges need to be burned in life, for good reason, but it’s a good plan and comfort to know that materials for a dugout canoe can be sourced if required.
Some bridges we have to cross need a helping hand. A main feature of my childhood was a seemingly endless old rickety wooden bridge spanning the mouth of a dark brown river, not high, but scary for short legs jumping over the missing spars. Faced with the choice of getting to the best sand dunes and dookin’ in the bay, or being left behind by fearless cousins, a strategy of hanging on to the rail with one hand and any available hand with the other, was adopted when my increase in weight reduced the willingness of my wee sister to provide a coalie backie. That old bridge was replaced by a more stable structure by the time I was crossing with the next generation. Although anxieties resurfaced they were held in check to avoid transfer, until attempts were made by the more adventurous to walk along the handrail as if it was a dyke. I have since learned that access to the dunes via the bridge is no longer possible because it is deemed unsafe. Such a shame that today’s children can’t roll down the dunes and a disappointment to many brides. What we called the Seatoon Beach and took for granted, in more recent times was designated a beauty spot for wedding photographs. Imagine trying to do that first dance with sand in your shoes! Much, much later my wee sister provided all the encouragement, bordering on bullying, I required to step on to a very high, very long, very swingy rope bridge across a gorge, over the trees in an area of Amazonian Forest, one at a time and no turning back. I agreed to do it provided she went first, on the basis that I would see if it was safe and there would be a photograph to record my bravery. Okay, it’s role reversal and still happens if required, but coalie backies are definitely metaphorical!
Anyone who has required and endured the agonies of the procedure and cost of a bridge firmly housed between teeth, will understand concern if it has become a wee bit wobbly as the result of a rock hard Brazil nut. Throughout its twenty years of hard labour, I thought it invincible. I make no reference to the best before or use by dates of the prosthesis or the mouth in which it is lodged, but will look forward to a reunion with my dear dentist who put it there and has cared for its wellbeing since.
There are countless bridges in this country, some familiar because of their proximity, some favourites for Poo Sticks fun, and those perhaps never crossed but known because of pre-lockdown traffic and weather reports. There are the iconic bridges crossed on foot, sailed under or conveyed over in a yellow taxi, not counting those on a bucket list to revisit or experience on another “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity” if such rational is required. On the other hand, there may be bridges we have to mend and to build. Each to their own thoughts on that.
In the meantime, it is becoming clear from reports that many have paid little attention, possibly for what might be deemed very good reason, to the warnings and guidance given to protect themselves and others from the unthinkable prospect of another peak in the numbers. Maybe making them roll round semi clad in a big tub of knobbly drier balls would be a wake-up. It would be too unkind to order a stint of wearing full P.P.E. and these virtual experience goggles for a ten minute insight to an Intensive Care Unit. For now, before the need for changes in the law becomes essential, let’s try reasoning in the hope of persuading.
I have just heard a proposal to set up air bridges between countries, as a way of lifting travel restrictions and now I am remembering the suggestion of a structure spanning the sea between Scotland and Ireland to bridge the Brexit border issue. One thing is certain. We all have bridges to cross to make sure we reach the other side of this pandemic and some positive change. It will take grasping of metaphorical hands but we can hold on to the hope it can be done safely if everyone joins in – coalie backies available if required. To paraphrase Mr. Lundie, “Anything is possible. If we want it enough it can happen”.