Lockdown life on the Isle of Skye

Lockdown life on the Isle of Skye, doesn’t seem very different from life as normal.  At least not in the daily routines and pace of life. Meeting people for a blether doesn’t happen often in the best of times, we’re at the top of a steep road and gossip doesn’t flow uphill! The Postie still passes the time of day, as do the bin men. All at the proscribed distance of course. An occasional frown of tension or concern will pass across a face. That’s new but I think we are all showing those signs, and putting the world to rights over the fence is a much more serious concern now. The weather has been glorious, sunny, dry, almost warm and no midgies.  All the outside jobs that have been waiting for good weather need to be done now, no matter what else is happening to the world. After the wettest winter in memory these few weeks of sunshine have been a blessing. Hard not to appreciate it and be grateful for the slow down which means we can make the most it. But it is uncomfortable to find such joy at the same time as seeing the despair of the world as we face COVID-19 and global lockdown

The new studio build continues, slowly

Ceramic Art London was cancelled the day before I had to leave Skye. Of course this had to be the first year that I was ahead of myself, packed and ready to drive with a day in hand. So I spent the day spent repacking and cataloguing so that I could head South, avoiding London, to deliver to the Stratford Gallery and Make Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Two gorgeous galleries which I have been longing to show with for a few years. It was so frustrating to be within touching distance of places to visit, shops to browse, views to linger over. I delivered the work and left, heading North and home. Three days on the road but it was quiet and, frankly, a pleasure to drive. There was less preparedness the further South I was. Consternation in the midlands hotel as staff wondered what they were would be doing tomorrow, but no new hygiene protocols or social distancing. That was then.

The texture of Constance and Change

The first two weeks of lockdown were exhausting. I got home from the South just in time, full of adrenalin and plans for live streaming demonstrations, virtual CAL and internet sales. But my subconscious knew that it had been absolved of all responsibility by the sudden closure of the world. The relief of getting off the hurtling train of commitments was immense. I celebrated by going to bed and sleeping. It was a long celebration, interspersed with obsessive news watching and zero creativity in the studio. I managed a couple of live streamed demos on Instagram and Facebook but it’s all a lot more complicated than the ‘just a couple of clicks’. A new camera (and software, and broadband upgrade and research etc) is needed if that is to become a regular thing, which I think I would like to do.

Endless blue sky

Over the course of a couple of weeks the local community galvanised itself.  Put into action were all the social support networks necessary to look after anyone who needs help in this changed world. More often than not days ahead of central government advice. The reality of a place like this small corner of Skye is that these networks are always working, we simply don’t see them for what they are. The neighbourliness, family connections, the hospitality, the gossip (to some extent), the local pub and shop are all ways of keeping an eye out for the folk around us. The local shop in particular has been amazing. A couple of years ago the Community Trust took on the responsibility for the shop after the keeper of 30 years retired and we moved its entirety to a different building over a weekend. Last autumn it moved again into a couple of shipping containers to allow work to begin on new purpose built premises. These metal boxes are now the hub of the village. The part time assistants have taken on onerous responsibilities to feed and protect us. When London ran out of loo paper, we didn’t. When bread was scarce and flour became currency, we had plenty. The vegetable range is miles better than at the supermarket and the social distancing in the car park is as sociable a time as the pub was. I expect this is happening everywhere and that communities are rediscovering their hearts; that looking out for each other is more sustaining and nourishing than relentless competing.

After a few days of lockdown there was a noticeable tension on local social media. Posts of visitors arriving, of a local business promoting Skye as a great place to self isolate (and keep his business rolling!). Outrage and horror! The threads were hilarious, and then disturbing. ‘Go home’ banners quickly appeared on the bridge, the famous Highland hospitality seemed to be evaporating. The fear was tangible. The closest ventilator is 120 miles away in Inverness and serves the entire Highland region which reaches from Kintyre to Caithness.There are 320,000 people in the NHS Highland catchment area, and 10,000 people in Skye. Last week our fears were realised when the virus arrived and rampaged through one of our care homes. The elderly are close to home here, we all have connections to the bereaved in some way.

The comfort of the familiar

The shock of having the virus so close has somehow settled my feelings and brought more balance to this strange state of life. The sense of unreality is gone, there is reason for the rules and precautions. I think my subconscious has accepted the truth of the risks we face. With that, concentration is returning along with the desire to work creatively again. Finally after weeks of sunshine the mists descended again and the rain poured, filling the burns, settling the dust and washing the air. Cloud shadows pass across the sea, shafts of light examine the hill sides which change colour from ochre to green. Perhaps it is this comforting return to a damp and gentle grey normality which I find more settling.


  1. Emma Chilton says

    Hi Patricia,

    It is a difficult and strange time, isn’t it? Your emotions seem like they’ve been up and down. I know to some extent how you feel. Very surreal! I’m pleased you are beginning to feel creative again and look forward to seeing what clay pieces you end up making.

    Love the studio too, I hope at some point in the not to distant future I’ll be able to come back to Skye and see it in the flesh.

    Take care and keep safe

    Emma Chilton

    • patricia says

      thanks for reading it Emma. To be honest I have felt like a bystander observing the ups and downs! I didn’t want to push myself, the old habits aren’t going to work so well in this situation. I am SO looking forward to people coming back again. The kettle will be on. Keep well yourself xx

    • patricia says

      Thanks Veronica, I hope you’re keeping well down the hill. Lots to do in the garden if you’re mobile enough for that, but I’ve heard the midgies are back. Do you have Katherine with you? I’ll wave when I’m passing. Keep safe, xx

  2. Chris Smith says

    What a wonderful piece Pat. Describes many of my feelings very accurately. We’re so lucky for these views and general atmosphere and most of all………that shop!

  3. Peter McDermott says

    Lovely Patricia and beautifully written, I particularly love the phrase ‘shafts of light examine the hillsides’ :)

    • patricia says

      Thanks Peter, now waiting for the torrents of water from the sky! Hope all’s well at your end xx

  4. Rita Evans says

    So enjoyed reading your article. The sense of community, connectedness, humanity, and love of your land made my heart swell. I do hope you do more video tutorials as I enjoyed the one I was lucky enough to see on Facebook.

    • patricia says

      thanks Rita. Yes I’m feeling quite sentimental about it all from the safety of isolation from it! Will plan for more tutorials. Keep well and safe

  5. Adrian Bates says

    Hi Patricia, thanks for the glimpse of your life on the island – a different perspective, but with a common thread to which I can relate very well. I look forward to more!
    Best wishes,

    • patricia says

      Hi Adrian, thanks for reading it. The views from the window are different but the experience seems to be a shared one. All the best to you

  6. Skip Schipper says

    Good to hear of your travails and reaffirmations of the landscape that sustains you. Instead of “Lock Down” I interpret our condition as Reliable Retreat – the government, with a small G, use such ugly words to increase paranoia in the public and succeed in creating an almost science fiction landscape.
    The “Global Village” conceived by Marshal McLuhan in the 60’s didn’t work out too well and it took the Corona Virus to bring us together again and value even more the communities that are the most relevant to us all – I drink to that with a discounted Corona beer on occasion – I raise a glass to you both !

    • patricia says

      Hi Skip, There have been positives to come out of this, but I am glad my part of the global village is not a city flat with no garden. The willow keeps growing, the mountains keep eroding. Keep well,cheers to you both.

  7. Vicky Ware says

    Thanks for writing your article – I really enjoyed reading it. We are very lucky in that living in a very rural community lockdown has been no hardship for us. We always have a well stocked larder (so no panic buying) and our community (like yours and many others) always looks after the vulnerable. A few new groups have set up and everyone is pulling together. It is already bringing us all closer. I was, however, expecting to be more creative!!! Too much knocking down walls and creating veggie gardens.
    Lots of bread pots going out though!!
    Keep safe and well. Vicky & Tim x

    • patricia says

      Knocking down walls sounds like just the thing to achieve the right state of mind! I suspect the creativity will come later. Glad you’re well. Bring me a bread pot next time you’re coming to Skye, I’ve started making bread again. xx

  8. Tim ware says

    Thankyou Patricia, you provide a much needed link to the island with its many happy memories. It was with great concern that I read of the Portree outbreak.

    • patricia says

      Yes portree is an unhappy situation, it’s reminded us to remain careful. An Acarsaid has tested clear, thankfully. Glad you are well, hope to see you on Skye as soon as…