Norrie T MacDonald, the 19th hole
Way out west, we still continue to look at the rest of the world through a prism of barely concealed awe.
The numbers that people quote, daily, on the news and social media, are greeted with an incomprehension of the ramification to real people’s lives.
As I write this there have been 4.5 million cases worldwide and 300,000 deaths.
There have been 236,000 cases and almost 34,000 deaths in the UK (and we were aghast at the figures from Italy), and here in Scotland we’ve seen almost 15,000 cases and over 2,000 deaths.
Yes; we are real people too, but although we’ve seen a few cases of Covid-19 here in the Outer Hebrides, we’ve not had to deal with the ultimate consequences.
The numbers are quite meaningless until you start to count them in terms of people you know, families affected and funerals you cannot attend.
The ongoing tragedy of the Home Farm nursing home in Portree recently has brought to sharp focus for all of us just how devastating this virus can be in a micro-environment.
How vulnerable we all can be, how quickly a ‘situation’ can develop and why we cannot let our guard down for a minute.
Seven weeks ‘in’ and we daren’t, for a moment begin to get complacent.
Yet that’s the inevitable consequence of a month with no new cases, a testing regime available locally, a ‘moat’ around us and, thanks to the vigilance of Caledonian MacBrayne and Loganair, the drawbridges firmly pulled up.
We have seen a fantastic, local, volunteer response; enabling people to remain socially distant whilst having access to their most basic needs, and we have carried that most basic and necessary element of all: luck.
While all this unfolds around us and laps against our shores, the wider world continues to weigh up their place on the ‘curve’, measure the all-important R-number and decide on how to ease back into a semblance of what used to be normality.
The balancing act of doing what’s best for the community, versus what’s best for the economy, is vexing epidemiologists, statisticians, economists, health-care professionals and, most worryingly of all; politicians.
There was a time when we could trust what we heard from the mouths of our honourable members.
We took for granted that those elected to steer one of the most ‘advanced’ democracies in the world would certainly be at the forefront in terms of leadership, and honesty.
Unfortunately, a trend from across the pond appears to be spreading.
It’s frightening to see the rise of stupidity across the western world and how it’s being manipulated to political ends.
People congregating, displaying moronic banners, and marching to ‘demand’ an end to lockdown because it ‘infringes their rights’ and because they can’t get a haircut.
The right to be a moron trumps all.
As much as coronavirus is deadly and dangerous, the fight against ignorance should never be underestimated as any less dangerous a threat.
Stupid tends towards parochial and xenophobic, dangerous and misguided.
Witness the calls this week to further strengthen our borders and police (presumably with armed guards) our ferries and airports.
I’ve seen people complain about a foreign number-plate being spotted in their village and go onto social media to ask if this is acceptable.
The car belonged to an islander.
I’ve heard people judge that there were ‘foreigners on the ferry the other night’ and go on to ask how this was possible, that it would be the beginning of the end, and how Armageddon must certainly ensue.
Calmac were a ‘disgrace’.
The returning, Norwegian crew, of one of the vessels which keep our salmon-farming industry going, never knew how close they were to disembarking to torches and pitchforks.
The best response to all this heightened call for enhanced vigilantism came from the Harris Forum.
We need to be better than this.
To rise above whilst remaining safe.
To keep it ‘real’ and realise how the world works whilst understanding our place in it.
From Armadale to Askernish and Adabrock, one day we will come out of lockdown and begin to count the cost.
It needn’t be at the expense of our sense of decency and welcome to all.
As for Calmac (and Loganair): they have been doing a sterling job in very trying circumstances.
Ditto our own, local, leaders.
The recent mixed-messages coming from those who lead and govern us at the highest level have been little short of dangerous.
I’m a little more than baffled by the notion that it’s now acceptable to go out and meet someone from a separate household as long as social distancing is maintained.
What have the supermarket queues been doing for the past seven weeks?
But then again, those of us from the golfing fraternity have been dealing with what might be perceived as ‘anomalies’ from the outset.
Our initial reaction was, that of all the sports which could/might continue during any restrictions, golf stood out as a distinct possibility.
They way most of us amateurs play, social distancing is often inevitable.
The government advice was, in all sensible-thinking golfers’ minds, difficult to swallow, but correct.
We understood the rationale behind the decision.
More importantly, most of us consider ourselves to be law abiding citizens (I dare say some felt like Gerard Butler), and wouldn’t dream of alienating ourselves from decent society.
The sun shone, the fairways and greens were being maintained and looking magnificent, and we cast envious eyes at the runners, joggers and dog-walkers.
We bit our collective lips; like footballers, shinty and rugby players across these isles, and knuckled down and sucked it up.
In time of life-threatening crisis, there is always a right and a wrong course of action.
Sports can wait.
People are dying.
I’ve seen pictures of people who have been jumping onto golf courses, to play during the lockdown with apparent abandon, all over the internet.
These, I would venture, aren’t members of any club; certainly, if identified as such, they should be banned ‘sine-die’ forthwith.
We were asked to turn the clubhouse into a resilience centre for coordinating responses to vulnerable groups across the islands, managed by NHS Western Isles, and threading together foodbank, baby items and clothing, plus support and logistics for deliveries across the archipelago.
Some things are a no-brainer.
Our sportsmen and women have been amongst the first to volunteer in their local communities.
We would expect nothing less of them.
Of course sport doesn’t matter just now, but we can all agree that there’ll be a huge sigh of relief when we can get back ‘amongst it’.
Our own winter leagues at Stornoway have, after not much debate at all, been agreed to have been won by Eddie and Nathan Rogers (CarHire Hebrides, pairs) and Neil Clayton (seniors, singles).
The distinction between won and ‘awarded’ might be vexing many at the moment.
At any time at all our winter leagues may be truncated by weather (we’d already missed a dozen or so Saturdays) so it’s not based on a set amount of dates or fixtures.
Deciding who won was simple.
The winners won.
In the wider world of sport, the debate over ‘who’s won what’ continues to rumble.
Never more so than within the halls of those tasked with running Scottish football.
They can agree (just wait for it) to relegate some teams and promote others based on their current positions (but with a quarter of a season left to run).
Some teams are separated by the thinnest of margins and get denied, while the perfectly legitimate claims of Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts are ignored completely.
But the big issue will be the ‘awarding’ of the SPL title to Celtic.
Now I’m pretty sure even Celtic fans would prefer to win it rather than have it ‘awarded’ to them with that asterisk which will forever blight their second nine-in-a-row.
Ditto Liverpool looking to cement their first title for 30 years.
The Dutch, being Dutch, decided to cancel their league and void the whole thing.
As a life-long Rangers fan, I can’t argue with the title or the asterisk, but trust me, despite utterances to the contrary, every Celtic supporter would rather cross the line under their own steam.
The whole fiasco over the ‘process’ behind how the national leagues are run deserves a proper investigation, despite their constituent clubs deciding ‘nothing to see here’.