I treated myself to an outing to Dundee city centre this week. One of those things we used to do without a second thought before lockdown, when you get to see real people and maybe even grab a take-away coffee.
The excitement! Perhaps places would still be closed but at least there might be signs of normal life.
And unlike the before times, parking wouldn’t be a problem. No need to pay for a ticket now and the town would be dead quiet with so many of the shops still shut. Or so I thought.
That was before I spent 20 minutes looking for a space, circling round Crichton Street, Whitehall Crescent, Castle, Union and Exchange Streets, wondering why every space was taken and what were all these people doing in the town?
I made the mistake of parking in one of the designated spaces outside the Caird Hall vaccination clinic a few weeks back – and landed a £30 fine for the privilege – so this time I persevered until I found a spot on Whitehall Crescent and stepped out into the sunshine.
A few minutes later, I was in the bank having a chat – one of those awkward muffled with masks ones – with a member of staff. Outside, City Square was not quite mobbed but much busier than I’d envisaged.
The lady behind the counter at the newsagents said they’d “been going like a fair” for weeks. And now the sun was out, take-away cappuccinos were being quaffed in the square like it was the Italian Riviera.
I popped into Fisher and Donaldson walking back to the car and felt like I’d entered Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
I’d imagined a more meagre, minimal offering, what with lockdown lowering all our expectations, but was confronted with the full, creamy, flaky, delicious works.
The man before me ordered three fudge donuts. I got competitive and ordered four. Then I asked Kate for two rhubarb tarts and a butterscotch cake. Everything looked so good.
Despite gloomy outlooks on the future of our high streets and headlines about high profile shop closures, a familiar picture is happening in Dundee.
We are not letting our city centre wither.
We Dundonians, are strong. Over generations, we have been through wars, factory closures, recessions, pandemics.
We bounced back and we are dong it again; our instincts driving us together (albeit two metres apart) in time honoured tradition, supporting businesses and our own wellbeing in every smile to passers by and catch-ups with friends.
It was quite something to feel a part of it. As restrictions lift and the weather warms, it can only get better.
I knew even when I was writing last week’s column about Prince Philip that not everyone would agree with my sentiments that – well, that I liked him – and that his death brought people together.
One reader tweeted to say: “He brought no one together ever.” Another proffered: “What a load of tosh.”
A reader from Forfar’ emailed to say: “Philip had a life of entitlement. He was luckier than most. He made gaffes which actually could be taken as racist. I don’t think your admiration is founded.”
Another, named Patricia, said: “I didn’t realise Philip had been abandoned by both mother and father. No amount of money makes up for that. He did well. I thought we did come together in show of Britishness and was proud. My heart aches for the Queen.”
That’s the thing about opinions. They are all right, to us, because they are ours.
There are grandfathers and great men, alive and dead from Dundee and elsewhere, who were just as worthy of admiration as Philip, many more so.
His life for me signified the lives of the others in that generation who might not have been so widely saluted.
Meanwhile, in her solitary grief, his wife showed observers what so many people have had to go through in the past year, facing funerals in a face mask unable to even hold the hand of a loved one for comfort.
It’s what they show us – a mirror image of what millions of other people have gone through – that touches the heart and makes the Duke of Edinburgh’s death (in my humble opinion) so affecting.
Congratulations to Fife driving instructor Phil Cooke’s photo of Kenmore in Perthshire after a heavy snowfall, which clinched him the Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year award in the winter scene category.
It truly is a thing a beauty – like a fairytale. It’s picture postcard perfect and a reminder of the beauty of Scotland.