Seamus and his friends can hear that tractor from coming with the hay from five miles away.

By Bill Heaney

Old people really are second class citizens in this country. That’s why we were stuck at the end of the queue at the outbreak of the Corona-19 pandemic.

Sorry, I got that wrong, we weren’t even in the queue at that time. Ignored is what we were.

It was only when people my age started dying in their droves that the Scottish government decided to take any notice of us at all.

Not that the politicians would have been heartbroken at my demise.

There would probably have been a party in the Burgh Hall had I shaken off my mortal coil.

I have just been checking the on-line death notices in the Lennox Herald for the first time in the past three months.

And I was surprised at the number of people I knew personally who had died.

It made me realise that I’m an old guy now despite the fact that I have been kidding myself on over the past few years.

I kept telling people who asked my age that I am 35 looking out and 95 looking in.

I must look even older than 95 now though since I have a mane of silver white hair which hasn’t seen a barber’s scissors for the past three months. I’ll be standing on it soon.

I used to get my hair cut every three weeks or so.

But I haven’t succumbed to “getting some off round the back” by moonlighting barbers who have decided not to follow the rules of lockdown.

It’ll be all go at the ladies hairdressers and barber shops from July 18.

I’ll wait until Carol gets back behind her Glasgow Road chair before I let my locks down and have them tonsured.

Although I am swithering about keeping more of my hair than I used to. I always wanted to be a rock star. Or to conduct a chamber orchestra.

I think I will go for a gradual shearing rather than a complete all off, which I don’t think suits old guys like me, not those of us with a double chin anyway.

Christina McKelvie, Scotland’s Minister for Older People, was asked the other day what support and guidance the government is providing to older people during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Christina told MSP’s: “We have provided about £1.7 million to organisations that are directly supporting the needs of older people during the pandemic. That includes funding for helplines, for food distribution and to keep people connected.

“We have also set up a national helpline that is linked to local authorities and distributed 2.6 million leaflets that signpost people to sources of relevant advice.”

It is revealing to know they distributed more leaflets than they did pound notes to us because £1.7 million is a pittance in the grand scheme of things.

Millions of pounds have been poured into helping people and and non-people organisations such as donkey sanctuaries, zoos and animal rescue services.

I own a donkey myself. Seamus has been farmed out to a donkey sanctuary in the Borders and the last I heard about him was that he was doing well. I hope he doesn’t catch anything there since there’s a Covid-19 “hot spot” there this week.

Visiting him has been ruled out because St Boswells, where he is busy munching oats, is considerably more than five miles from where we live in Dumbarton.

And the guidelines we have been issued with – so confusing and complex that even Nicola admits they are – do not make it clear whether one can consider him part of the family.

Whether we could hug Seamus or not is a matter much discussed here in the shadow of the Rock.

The Minister says she has had a meeting with Age Scotland’s people’s strategic action forum “to ensure that we hear the voices and concerns of older people and act to ensure that their lived experience and understanding are addressed in the policies and actions that we take”.

But what about Seamus? What about donkeys? What will happen to Seamus when the lockdown is lifted? Donkeys are not known for their great intelligence.

It seems the Minister’s mind is more on children and grandparents at the moment than it is on donkeys, although I am sure the grandchildren would rather that it was the other way round.

Fortunately, the Minister, unlike her SNP colleagues in West Dunbartonshire, chose to communicate with me instead of saying hee haw, which is what the local SNP do all the time. They must think I’m a donkey rustler. Or worse.

Christina added: “Fairness and human rights remain central to our approach to all those aspects. Investment in the food fund now totals £85 million to ensure support for people whose food access has been affected, many of whom are older people.”

“That is in addition to around £1.7 million of funding for older people’s organisations, around £900,000 of which went directly to members of the older people’s strategic action forum for projects around advice, support, inter-generational activity, befriending, friendship and food.”

“In addition, we have delivered the clear your head mental health campaign to raise awareness and signpost people to services to combat social isolation and loneliness, which we know are among the main harms for older people in the pandemic.”

That’s pretty good actually for the old folk, most of whom are well fed with the groceries from in those laden food baskets being brought to their door by voluntary organisations.

But what about the donkeys? I think they should be consulted about when the lockdown is lifted and when we can take the grandchildren to visit them once again. A bag of carrots would not go amiss either.

And a tractor load of hay would be joy unconfined.

Seamus might even write a poem about it.

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