IT’S very strange, isn’t it? Some things – either naturally or with encouragement from above – seem reasonably normal. Others surely don’t.

This face mask business takes some fathoming. It is hard to imagine that such a tiny virus can be much deterred by two layers of relatively coarse fabric. But who knows? There might be new sunlit uplands for chainsaw users once we get used to wearing them. It’s also hard to imagine the coronavirus is targeting harvesting machine operators or forwarder drivers. And if face masks must be worn in sawmills, timber yards, nurseries and wherever we forestry people come into contact with the public, perhaps this isn’t quite such a burden compared with the risks run by delivery drivers or staff in the local supermarket where I have just purchased a few pies for this week’s lunch. But logic tells us that there are going to be local flare-ups. Knowledgeable pessimists are quietly saying that ignoring the virus and going out to eat and to the beach in droves can only produce a new wave of infection. To quote a long-lost radio character: “It’s being so cheerful as keeps me going.” So we won’t mention ash dieback or, down here, Dutch elm disease.

Some years ago, I had the idea that it might be useful (as well as fun) to get a private pilot’s licence, so I could fly to Ireland, Scotland or wherever else work took me. This was the most enormous fun, but my idea of driving 10 miles to our nearest airport, climbing aboard the Cessna and taking off never reached fruition. If you fly a light aircraft in the UK, apart from the paperwork and the navigational knowledge, flying solo is neither easy nor specially convenient. First, you are weather dependent (which in such a jumbled-up weather zone as this corner of Europe can vary from benign to baleful and downright dangerous). Then you will need wheels when you get to the nearest convenient landing area, which can be frustrating and expensive. So, reluctantly, I changed my plans and learned to put up with congestion. But for one all-too-brief interlude, I had access to a friendly client’s chopper. This came about because he wanted to acquire a Scottish sporting estate and the only way we could get to know the selected patch of heather was from the Robinson R4, complete with pilot, which was deployed for the duration at Inverness airport.

Our first adventure involved meeting up at the King’s House Hotel. I had just finished breakfast when through the dining room windows appeared the helicopter. I, James Bond for the moment, picked up my Barbour coat and walked across the car park to my conveyance while the assorted tourists gawped and took pics. And we flew off to work, getting a really good idea of some 10,000 ha of the Highlands in a day’s flying. We were invited to the lodge for a late lunch, but sadly this was cut short by our pilot, who had just received a message from Inverness to say the weather was closing in from the west and we’d better get out of there as quickly as we could.

Scramble! The pilot sought to reassure me by proposing that we head out to sea to avoid the dangers of flying over the by-now mist-shrouded high ground to the east. And north. Not to mention the south. Suffice to say, we ended up landing in yet another hotel car park, this time by the seaside, as the rain and wind set in. Next morning, I arranged a hire car to get me back to Glencoe and left the pilot to wait there until the weather cleared.

Three days later, he finally got home. Really convenient isn’t it, owning a chopper? But at least we got the survey done relatively easily. Hang the expense!

Funnily enough, with our usual busy skies devoid of almost all air traffic, we see more helicopters than fixed-wing aircraft these virus-laden days. Hard to fathom that, isn’t it? At least watching Chinooks and Eurocopters gives me something to do. Daily existence in lockdown isn’t too different for us country dwellers, but what is becoming a bore is the cancellation of all kinds of events which used to prop up my engagement diary. No more conferences, no more shows, demos or exhibitions. If only I could see an end to it, and a target date for at least some event to take place; but then we must be thankful for small mercies. I’ll take the dogs for a walk in the forest.

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