My life has been transformed by covid. Before the pandemic, I lived very remotely on Mull. The nearest neighbour was 1.5 miles away and the sea was across the road, which was wandered by stray cows and sheep. I’d wake and lie listening for the wind and its direction. If the roof tiles were clattering, it was from the west and blowing hard, and I would plan to dive fish down the east coast, using the island as a windbreak and hoping that I wouldn’t have to deal with katabatic wind (when they hit high ground, accelerate and hurtle down with tremendous ferocity, often knocking birds flat and whipping water into mini cyclones).
I’d get up, head to the boat in Tobermory, meet my crew, brew coffee, roll cigarettes, pump dive bottles then head out to swim for about three to four hours.
That was then.
Covid has forced us to adapt. With our restaurant market gone it seemed better to stop fishing and concentrate on supporting other small fishermen and producers. The Ethical Shellfish Company has transformed into a provider of unbelievably good live shellfish and other gourmet produce to private individuals, not just chefs, who are prepared to pay for zero compromise on how we source and pack.
Now I’m renting a strange former lodge house in the Moorfoot Hills, south of Edinburgh that looks like a war memorial. Unlike Mull, the soil is deep and my veggie patch is not salt burned by Atlantic gales.
In the mornings, I wake, quickly light a fire. Then it’s press ups, 20 minutes rowing, some stupid boring weights followed by 10 minutes under an ice cold shower which leaves me profoundly alert but badly washed. I’ve long worshipped cold water.
Breakfast is whatever is about. Toast or porridge, or cereal or eggs or black pudding and eggs or just coffee and nothing at all.
We now have a small dispatch unit in Edinburgh, and on packing days I’ll head there, where I’ll be met by my dear friend, ex- wife and business partner, Juliet, and our son, Luke. He's the youngest and an organisational genius, so will have prepared the customer labels and booked time slots for the couriers to collect. Oscar, our eldest, will be heading towards the unit with live shellfish from the west coast.
Working fast and as efficiently as we can, we pack boxes according to Juliet’s immaculate order sheet. Her planning is meticulous and she has a merciless eye for the detail. We pack our orders in 100 per cent recyclable boxes, sheep’s wool insulation and paper tape.
We load our courier’s truck, clean the premises, take a stock take and start planning the local deliveries for the next day.
Oscar heads off to his boxing gym where he is an aspiring middle weight. There are hugs all round and sighs of relief we split to go our separate ways. Life may well change radically again post covid, but I am reveling in having a spell on land. For now at least I am no longer hostage to the wind.