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Scott Begbie: Even escapist TV show delivering reality check

This year's Strictly Come Dancing pairs
This year's Strictly Come Dancing pairs

I don’t need any convincing we live in extraordinary times but, if I did, the harsh reality was brought home by, of all things, Strictly Come Dancing.

It was one of the strangest things to watch one of my guilty pleasures morph into this odd new beast.

Saturday’s show wasn’t so much about launching the new celebs and their partners, as telling everyone how they were going to do it while being socially distanced.

Social bubbles were spelt out in great detail, including the fact husband and wife Aljaz and Janette are having to live apart.

And there was last year’s winners, Oti and Kelvin, reunited for one last dance while keeping two metres apart.

The studio audience, so integral to the atmosphere of the show, is still there, but spaced apart in household groups, all wearing masks and hardly visible.

It was a rather remarkable and stark reminder of just how much coronavirus has changed the way we live what was once our ordinary lives.

I think I was blindsided by the Strictly restrictions because it has become part of the rhythm of my year that on Saturday nights in winter, Mrs B and I settle in on the couch with a takeaway, some wine or beer and lose ourselves in joyful, glittery, feelgood, comfort telly.

We can still do all that, of course, but the long shadow of coronavirus hangs over it.

Another of my winter joys is heading off for a whisky tasting at the Marine with a bunch of other folk.

I was able to do that on Saturday but, again, in a very different format.

This was a Zoom chat about rare Islay malts, with wee samples bottled up and dropped off to everyone’s houses a few days before.

It was great fun and as informative as it was enjoyable (thanks Colin). But it’s not quite the same as having the hubbub of chat and clinking of glasses around you.

And it’s not like you can head to the bar afterwards for a cleansing ale or three. Which may not be a bad thing.

All these markers in our lives are very different, and there are a few coming up which will show how things have changed.

There will be no guisers roaming the streets at Halloween, bonfire night displays are all swept away, Remembrance Day parades no more… And then there’s that huge question mark over Christmas and Hogmanay.

The coming weeks will, in many ways, be tougher than what has gone before as these annual set pieces, many of which break the grind of winter, arrive in such hobbled forms. We will just have to mark them in different ways.

One thing did occur to me as I watched Strictly. In years to come we will see clips of this year’s show and say “oh yeah, do you remember when we had all that coronavirus stuff?”

It will come, eventually, but with no doubt a few missteps on the way. Until then, like Strictly says, just keep dancing.

Rogue cycling crackdown welcome

The police crackdown on rogue cyclists in Aberdeen is well overdue and should be extended right across the north-east.

Let me say, the vast majority of cyclists are sensible and safe. It is the hardcore of muppets we need to get tough with. Those are the ones who barrel along pavements or footpaths, forcing folk to jump out of the way. That’s when they are not cycling in the dark dressed as ninjas with nary a light to be seen. Or the ones who think red lights don’t apply to them.

The powers-that-be want more of us to cycle, which is great. But let’s stop the idiots first.

Harbouring a grievance over traffic zone policy

You would think one of the lessons of Covid-19 is the need to be innovative and nimble when it comes to the changes upon us.

Unless you’re Aberdeenshire Council, in which case concrete thinking is still de rigueur. The case for the prosecution offers Stonehaven Harbour, where two of the town’s finest establishments have been bolstered by the ability to let customers sit outside. For the past two weeks, there’s been no choice if you want a pint.

For context, many streets in Stonehaven have had severe parking restrictions in place for social distancing. Local businesses think that’s a disaster. Yet the one place that would really benefit from losing its traffic is still like Silverstone race track.

People try to socially distance but are squeezing around parked cars to do so. In some cases groups of folk have to shift so a motor can park. That’s without heart-in-mouth-moments involving kids, dogs and moving cars.

But without traffic, the harbour could become a pedestrian zone and the seeds of an al fresco cafe culture that has always been there could flourish. Plenty of room for tables, chairs… and people.

Lots of folk in Stonehaven, including visitors, ask why traffic is not restricted to allow the harbour to be what it should be, even if just at the weekends. It does not, however, seem to be a question that has occurred to the council. If it had, the cars would be gone by now.

This article originally appeared on the Evening Express website. For more information, read about our new combined website.