At about 6:30 last night, I received a call from the Causeway Hotel. Before even picking up, I knew why they were calling. And it was no surprise to hear the friendly voice at the other end tell me that our booking for early April was cancelled, that the hotel had to close and that when ‘this thing blows over’, we’d be sure of a warm welcome.
Although disappointed, I took heart from her typical Northern Irish optimism, buoyed on too from having spent most of Saturday afternoon in the garden, out in the fresh air, soaking up the sunshine, fingernails dirty with soil. Plants were moved, seeds were sown and the grass had its first cut of the year. Never has the smell of freshly cut grass felt so reassuring. And while I have always been thankful for my little garden, I look at gardens with different eyes now – as safe havens that help to keep us grounded during these challenging times, that help not only our physical but our mental health.
Later on Saturday, I was reminded on Instagram that it was the first day of spring. I had lost sight of that in my newly formed obsession of checking the news at least every hour. For all of us, our reality has changed beyond recognition. And I don’t mind admitting that I’ve felt anxious and a little frightened, feelings I’ve not had to contend with that often. I’ve since curtailed my exposure to the news – I want to feel informed but not overwhelmed and I’m sure many of you feel the same.
Just last Tuesday, on the quietest St Patrick’s Day I’ve known, I took a wander round Hillsborough Castle Gardens. Early in the day and with just a handful of people around, social distancing was not a problem and was, in some ways, very welcome. I’ll leave you with some pictures from my visit. Whatever the next few weeks and months have in store, I hope you all stay safe and healthy.