To think I used to write daily during lockdown!  What changed?  In a word – or two – so much.  For me, those years were full of fight, energised by the need to try and open people’s eyes as to what was, actually, going on.  The facts were all there but most were too blind, or just too apathetic to see.  Like sheep, they followed, seeking security in compliance.  Now, as the many who tried so desperately to be heard – the so-called conspiracy theorists – are increasingly proved right, so the elephant in the room grows in magnitude, so big that it could burst but still the majority block their ears, unwilling to face the truth.  Only last night, sat in the theatre, a lady in front was wearing one of these ‘heavy-duty’ surgical masks.  Similarly, in shops, on public transport, the evidence of the aftermath – victims of the brainwashing – is there for all to see.  For fear is the key and, as the mainstream media reports the establishment of a new research facility primed to develop new ‘vaccines’ ahead of the next pandemic, the screws continue to be tightened.  There is no let up.

As another winter approaches, immune systems have been destroyed by the numerous doses of a ‘vaccine’ which, even now, is still in the experimental stages.  ‘Sudden death’ and ‘brief illness’ are words which are buried in the small print alongside the otherwise healthy – often young.  As the NHS flounders and one struggles to see a doctor face-to-face, every cough, every sniffle, every symptom is claimed as another Covid variant.  Meantime, look around.  Monitored at every turn, all freedom has gone.  The realisation is exhausting.  Most have given up in favour of an easy life.  What is the point?  In the words of someone very close to me, ‘The point is to continue down the path of pointlessness.’  Oh, the power of humour!  Would be funny if it weren’t so true.  Thing is, sedation has never worked on me.  Wonder why?

We spent last week in a cottage at Glen Tanar, a private estate in Deeside.  It’s twenty-five years since we were last there but ‘our’ loch, the ancient pines, the old boathouse and the huge boulders we used to sit on are still there, unchanged.  As though a stage backdrop, many of the original players are gone but sit for a while and their presence can still be felt.  That’s the power of Nature.  Truly humbling, one is reminded of one’s insignificance.  Mere footprints in the sand, those rocks remain while our very existence is more transient than the wind …  I walked along to the loch every morning – as I used to do.  The Voice in My Head could be heard telling me it was good for the soul.

There is part of a tree in the downstairs bathroom now.  It looks magnificent!  The perfect place. Always one to search for driftwood on the beach, or to pick up pine cones – the ones I have collected in St Wolfgang over the years are much-treasured Christmas decorations – I was so aware of the stunning palette of greens all around.  Deeside is so beautiful and its colours …  I returned with numerous cones and stones but the enormous branch above the bath downstairs is most definitely my pièce de résistance!  Determined to see more of the countryside, on the Tuesday, we set off to conquer the hike to Prince Albert’s Cairn in the environs of Balmoral.  Detailed as a distance of 6k and an hour and a quarter in duration, the words ‘uphill’ and ‘steep’ did feature in the description.  No problem.  My God, I know I am unfit but Manny, laughingly, pushed me up the final incline of Deeside’s version of Everest to reach Albert’s cairn!  That Albert must have been some guy …  Was it worth it?  Well, the 360-degree view was something to behold, having emerged from the forest, but swarms of midgies lay in wait for Becca much to her horror – and our delight!  My ‘tree’?  Acquired on our descent.  Somewhat larger than I had anticipated, it was the stunning grey/green of the fungi on the branches which I couldn’t resist.  It may have given rise to much hilarity but, as though a shield advancing into battle, I carried it carefully down to the car, undeterred by the funny looks.  To be honest, as shells immediately lose their lustre when removed from the beach, I expected the colours to fade and the wood to disintegrate but, thankfully, my ‘tree’ remains perfect.  A piece of Deeside, a special memory and a whole lot of character!  Interior designers, who needs them when Nature has provided a wealth of adornments on one’s doorstep for free.  Once upon a time, my mother encouraged me to always bring home a memento of a special place or a special occasion …

People.  We were struck by the friendliness of the ‘locals’ in Aboyne, Ballater and Braemar.  A refreshing contrast to the norm of today.  Helpful, interested and polite, they were happy to chat or just smile and say ‘Hello’ in passing.  It’s the little things … and the characters such as Rod McEwan of the renowned McEwan Gallery, happy to welcome us into his home/gallery on our road back to Glen Tanar, intelligent, quirky with a story to tell, as had Mark, the owner of my favourite coffee shop – At The Sign Of The Blackface Sheep, Aboyne.  I would travel a long way to that little café.  Delicious food, wonderful coffee and rather nice wine, too!  Then there was Marie of Thistle & Clay next door …  Look her up at  Organic in the true sense of the word, she makes – in-situ – soaps, shampoos, skincare and cosmetics.  All natural and brimming with goodness.  A true find.  All in contrast to the swarming tourists, most of whom were lacking in any social graces!  We passed many on our ‘gentle climb’ up to Prince Albert’s Cairn and I made it my mission to look every one of them in the eye and say ‘Hello!’.  Manny did his best to deter me but what better way to address rudeness than highlighting it?

People.  Those in Braemar were, once again, welcoming and friendly as I was reminded of the beauty of the surroundings.  Of course, we had to do a recce into the Fife Arms Hotel, now owned and re-furbished by Iwan and Manuela Wirth of internationally acclaimed art gallery, Hauser & Wirth.  A favourite haunt of Judi Dench, she afforded the 5-star boutique hotel much publicity this past Hogmanay when a video of her accompanying Sharleen Spiteri (singing Waterloo, of all things) on the self-playing piano in the foyer went viral.  Now, if I could wiggle my nose, there’s a couple of characters with whom I would love to shoot the breeze!  Judi Dench was always prominent on my list of imaginary dinner party guests I wrote about during lockdown – and remains so.  We were lucky enough to have tickets to see her in conversation with Giles Brandreth at the Playhouse last night – I Remember It Well.  Quite simply superb and deserving of the standing ovation they, both, received.  What a life!  What a talent!  Strikingly modest and self-deprecating, her intelligence is only matched by her twinkle. In the presence of greatness.  She was an absolute joy – as was Giles!  Oh, that they could be cloned …

Alexa, play Bob Marley …’

The ‘dulcet’ tones of the woman on the cash desk in the Balmoral Gift Shop.

People.  Seriously?  Whatever happened to job training?!

This is Trish, signing off.