Tonight the words ‘should auld acquaintance be forgot’ will echo a more profound meaning.
We started 2020 with heightened tensions between the USA and Iran, this was followed by Australian bush fires and the downing of a passenger aircraft in Iran. The world joked that maybe 2020 will indeed be the year the world ends… And then came COVID!
· Pro-Iranian protesters end siege of US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq
· US drone strike kills top Iranian security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani outside Baghdad airport in Iraq
· Floods and landslides caused by torrential rain in Jakarta, Indonesia, kill at least 53
· Iran pulls out of the 2015 nuclear deal, will not limit its uranium enrichment
· Chinese professor Zhang Yongzhen publishes the first SARS-CoV-2 genome map online, allowing health professionals worldwide to identify COVID-19
· 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Puerto Rico, island's largest in a century, followed by many aftershocks kill 1 person and destroy 800 homes
· Iran launches missile strike on Irbil and Al Asad bases in Iraqi housing some American troops in retaliation to assassination of General Qasem Soleimani
· Ukrainian Boeing 737-800 crashes just after take-off from Tehran, Iran, killing all 176 people on board
· Duke and Duchess of Sussex announce they are stepping back as "senior" royals, will work towards becoming financially independent
· The World Health Organization declares the Coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern at a meeting in Geneva
And so beings the story of Blackwood and Kirkmuirhill Resilience Group.
In early 2020 a friend text me as asked me to look at the hashtag #wuhan on twitter. The images coming out of China were horrifying. Many in the west remained ignorant about the unfolding events, the delays by the WHO in declaring an international emergency combined with the Chinese new year celebrations contributed to the early spread of this global pandemic.
Yet, even watching these events unfold there was part of me was still in disbelief, but now I think it was a lack of acceptance rather than disbelief. Its easy to refuse a hard truth than it is to accept it. Italy became Europe's first epicenter, warnings from the WHO screamed out for countries to take action. Pensioners grew more frightened and supermarket shelves emptied.
On Sunday the 15th of March I left the local swimming pool and headed to a bare shelved Sainsburys in hope of catching some dinner. Two elderly ladies in front of me walked the empty aisles in fear of what lay ahead. One turned to other and asked "do you think we will survive this coronavirus?" Filled with a concoction of compassion and justice I drove home determined that elderly people in my community wont need to ask themselves that question! A glass of wine and a facebook post later, BKRG was born.
So here we are, 10 months on from our initial lockdown, 10 months of BKRG. On the eve of the 23rd of March 2020 the UK prime minister called the UK into a national lockdown, on the streets of Blackwood and Kirkmuirhill volunteers were out in force distributing emergency response leaflets to over 2500 houses and a population of 4400. Much was the relief of many elderly people as those leaflets graced the inside of their letter boxes. Lockdown came and so too did the calls for help. Since the 23rd of March, the calls have continued.
After a few weeks into the response effort the team began to focus on the long-term mental health and physical wellbeing of those who were shielding and also the wider community. Mental health for shielding people became critical, the team established 'coffee & cake down the phone' sessions to try and keep peoples moral high. This then cascaded into high-teas, cream-teas, hobby packs, knitting packs and as shielding was eased, we could then introduce our coffee mornings and 4-stage social integration plan.
As early as June 2020 the team started to look ahead at winter, we asked ourselves what would winter look like during COVID-19. More importantly, what toll will a second lockdown take on people’s mental health after months of furlough, job loses, Christmas followed by the dreaded credit card bills in January. Add to that Hogmanay and the new year’s old firm match!
We anticipated a second full national lockdown, for the team the writing was on the wall, we were heading into winter with a virus with no cure coupled with low light, lack of exercise and depleted mental capacity, the second spike was inevitable.
So, here we are on the last night of 2020, its Hogmanay, it has been snowing on and off since boxing day, the frost has not shifted and to say it’s cold would be an understatement. The traditional steak pie and mushy pea dinner has been replaced with BKRG blog writing and first foot-in will be replaced with the log fire and the company of a Jack-Russell who, will probably not move from the fire until mid-June!
So folks, the reality is, we are heading into the new year with concerning numbers of COVID-19, a new vaccine does bring us some hope, however, the next 2 months are going to be tough. We don’t know what the impact of BREXIT will be and we don’t know if winter 2021 will bring us another Storm Desmond or a Beast from the East. What I can say is, the resilience group remains open for business and whatever 2021 throws at us over the next few weeks and months, we will continue to support both those who are shielding and the wider community.
For many tonight this will be difficult end to a difficult year, many will be recalling traditional Hogmanay’s from over the years and many will be reflecting on absent friends and family, for those who have been shielding since March, those emotions will only be intensified, tonight the words ‘should auld acquaintance be forgot’ will echo a more profound meaning.
So, lets leave 2020 behind us, lets step into 2021 hopeful but remaining aware of that fact that there’s still a long way to go. For the sake of auld lang syne lets beat COVID together - for the sake of auld lang syne! With a wee tear in my eye, Happy Hogmanay and all the best for 2021
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.