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I’m not one of those to sing the praises of a pandemic that’s stopped the world and created untold suffering, hardship, and death. Frankly, I couldn’t care less if dolphins swim up the Venice canals and do a water ballet in front of Piazza San Marco.

But I will say that I’ve spent more time connecting (virtually, of course) with family and friends. Last week, for example, five of us chatted on Zoom. We’d been roommates and friends since University days, but for the first time in over forty years we were speaking together. Now we looked at each other from computers based in India, South Africa, Scotland, and the USA.

I’ll spare you all the “Remember the time” and “You look exactly the same” exclamations. But as I watched each of my friends, I wondered how we’d ended up literally scattered around the world—still so connected, but each of us in the place she was supposed to be.

For myself, the answer is plain. I live on the Isle of Arran, off Scotland’s west coast, and I absolutely love having it as my own space.

Was it the view?

The beach?

The climate? (Okay, those of you who have been to the north of Scotland can just stop that sniggering. Do you get regular rainbows?)

Well… Not exactly.

As we dutifully isolated in the name of flattening that pandemic curve, as all the regular interactions we took for granted were cut off,  we realized the truth. We have hit the neighbor jackpot here on Arran.

Since lockdown started, we’ve been the lucky recipients of a nonstop parade of little gifts. The bistro table outside our back door often holds a bouquet of flowers, homemade tablet, baked treats. One neighbor offered a load of top soil when we were working on our bedraggled lawn. My neighbor Deirdre—possibly the best gardener in the village. Or the planet—frequently leaves buckets holding swaths of fantastic plants just inside our shared gates. (She insists they are extras and would probably just go into compost. As if…)

My neighbors Kirsty and Grant are busy parents of preschoolers, but they are constantly leaving stunning little presents. Consider last night’s offerings:


Salad growing in Kirsty’s garden just hours earlier. And gloriously scented sweet peas she’s already harvesting (even though mine are still only about 9-inches high).


Homemade cake which is, as far as I can tell, chocolate marinated in chocolate. With chocolate frosting, of course. But best of all is the plastic tub the cake arrived in, hilariously logo-inscribed with my name!

So there you have it. How do you decide where you belong? Clearly you pick the place with the very best neighbors on the planet. Piece of (Barb’apapa) cake!

Billy Joel was so right.

How did you end up sleeping in your own space?