I live in Scotland. There are a lot of golf courses here.
I’m not telling you anything new about the golf courses. This has always been known.
Scotland is famous for golf. It’s like telling you there is sand in the desert. I’ve passed by many courses but until recently I’d never stepped on one. Then, as Covid ripped and we all looked around for places to walk, like Caesar I crossed the Rubicon. And what a world lay rolling in front of me to be conquered. Such walks, such tended thickets, such panoramic views to the Campsie Fells and round beyond Ben Lomond and south-west on to Arran.
Glorious late spring weather helped, of course. But, when the crowds thinned out and as uncertainty raged, these became places of refuge and great calm.
Just over a week ago, this ended. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced she was easing lockdown restrictions, sometime after Westminster already had. Among the relaxation elements was a reopening of the golf courses.
While it was great that a weight was being lifted and there was a sense of being able to look ahead and up, there was also a curious, lingering sensation. Lockdown has been cripplingly hard for a huge number of people. Things remain hard for those whose health is most in danger. Some folk are still reluctant to go too far and take many risks. This is understandable.
As I stood on a hill on a golf course for a final time, I realised the end of lockdown would bring an end to this gilded period
Also loneliness, for others, bit like a clump of nettles. There was no soothing balm.
For some, there were benefits. This was an unexpected time of togetherness, particularly for families with slightly older children. In normal times, they’d be with friends, out of the house or cocooned in a room. The crisis made people try to come up with coping mechanisms and it also meant that as there was nowhere to go, time was spent working on how to spend time together.
And if you were lucky, you’d start to get along a little better.
As I stood on a hill on a golf course for a final time, I realised the end of lockdown would bring an end to this gilded period. This is not to minimise what others have gone through, but anecdotally, at least, judging by the volumes of families out walking with teenage children, the luck I’ve felt in getting to know mine better is not unique.
Perhaps a reason for the likely end of this cherished ‘holiday feeling’ is that the pending new normality could be brutal for so many. We have been shielded somewhat.
Last week, Michael Saunders, a key Bank Of England policymaker, sounded a stark warning. He spoke of high unemployment and an increase in companies going bust. He warned of a vicious cycle in which banks would become wary of lending to businesses leading to those businesses having no future, leading to more reluctance to lend. Those to pay the heaviest price will be those in the most precarious jobs. Yet again.
We must challenge this every way we can. It’s why The Big Issue is pledging to help organisations fight to rebuild and to find a brighter picture. Also, extreme poverty and homelessness will be much more expensive to pay for than the opposite.
Perhaps putting all golf courses into public ownership will help.
I’m joking, of course. At the moment…
Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue