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We can’t afford a divorce


Good morning lovely people

27 years ago tomorrow, 5.30am, Victor and I were sitting, starry eyed in Edinburgh Airport. (As I type, Victor is sitting at the far end of the sitting room cuddling Rocco, clearly the secret to a happy marriage, buy a dog.)  Between flight tannoy announcements, a slightly stern voice bellowed “Final call for Mr & Mrs Contini”.  Startled but delighted Victor says “Oh Carina that’s us”. Young love! The beautiful beaming British Airways attendant said, “Enjoy your flight to St Lucia”.

Victor, having offered to take me anywhere in the world (except the Far East, Mauritius or Australia) was asked to organise anywhere but Barbados!  If you were in the departure lounge on the morning of 3rd May 2004, can I please apologise. Our wedding exhaustion awakened, the adrenaline evaporated and disappointment overflowed. I had a tantrum. My expectations were killed by two words.  From my perspective; “He doesn’t know me at all! I’ve married the wrong man!”  His expectation ”Carina will love watching me go scuba diving!”  Us newlyweds were almost divorced before the first 24 hours had expired.  I can hear you say, “Give the boy a break! St Lucia is beautiful and it isn’t Barbados!” Correct, it might not be but it’s not far off!   At the end of the day we could have gone to Portobello (that beautiful beach resort some way off the bay of Naples).  It was our honeymoon, what was important was being together.  There are other stories there but I’ll spare you for another day.

I now know that going to Barbados was the very least of our life challenges.  I set my expectations too high and we were both lacking perspective.  Older and wiser it’s easy to analyse.  Do these qualities come with age or with experience?  Covid has refined my awareness of both.

Over the last months and days I’ve observed that both our expectations and our perspective coming out of Lockdown 1 are very different to Lockdown 3.

Expectation – a strong belief that something will happen

Perspective – the way we see something

We had an expectation that Lockdown 1 would be a one off.  Our perspective coming out of it reinforced this.  We’d never done it before, it was a once in a lifetime necessity, why would we need to face it again?

The 15th July 2020 was different to 26th April 2021.  Last time there was an anticipation that a magic wand had reset life and we were on our road back to normal.  Nobody expected we would be in the same dilemma a year later. There was no thought of social distancing being stricter.  We couldn’t contemplate not seeing family for several more months. No concerts, theatres, holidays for a year?  Restaurants, not allowed to serve wine. Still no warm hand shakes or cosy cuddles with those we love.

Coming out of Lockdown 3 the scars of the last year are now visible.  We’ve all missed too much, we’ve missed being together. We’re sad, tired and weary.  But we’re determined and resilient too, focused on living better.

Edinburgh city centre is scared. Retail has been battered and empty shops surround us.  Large parts of hospitality haven’t reopened.  Despite rumoured record high street sales the footfall on the pavements feels quiet. The Bank Holiday weekend has been busy. Better weather and further relaxations on 17th May will hopefully give that needed boost.

Sadly, I think some of our community are scared too.  It’s been a long hard journey.  It’s also early May as opposed to mid July in Scotland.

This year we’ve reopened with more team than last year.  With even less covers this time around, we feel we need more soldiers.  Our team is in recovery, this can not be underestimated. They are sensitive, perhaps even frail and need that extra cushion to re-adjust.  Expectations have changed. There seems to be a considered choice to work less hours to achieve more life balance.  The furlough effect? Time will tell if this lasts the post Covid Lockdown 3 honeymoon.

The economy is clearly in recovery.  Reports that business insolvencies are expected to rise, now that government loans are due to be repaid, should have the powers at be, both the government and the banks, reconsidering their perspective.  I thought we were all in this together?  There can not be an expectation to repay loans for businesses that were told they would need 3 months support when most have been faced with and survived over a year of distress.  Equally, landlords have to reconsider their expectations with the knowledge they now have.  Stories of well loved restaurants and shops being forced to close up and down the country because landlords are demanding full rent has to be called out.  The government must step in to set a precedent on fairness for commercial property.    The content of the pre nuptial is no longer the same so the alimony must change accordingly.   Until we know how long these changes will be forced upon us, expectations must be balanced.  Divorce serves very few well and usually comes with far too much collateral damage.

I feel there are many actions that are trying to solve the wrong problems.  Banning the consumption of alcohol in restaurants isn’t solving the problem of unsocialised drinking outside or in homes.  Forcing business to go bust will not repay the debts.  Perspective and expectations are misaligned.  Why? Perhaps because the people driving the decisions do not have a long term vested interest.  They are looking for the next honeymoon, not the golden wedding anniversary.

Human beings are in recovery too.  There is an element of triage surrounding everyone.  I feel privileged to be able to observe others in our hospitality setting.  We’ve always welcomed all walks of life. A great cross section of our community.  Mature, young, working, retired, academics to engineers, doctors to drivers, many faiths and all political affiliations too!  What everyone has in common is the need to get back to living.  The need to share time with others.  Whether it’s family, friends, colleagues or new acquaintances.  We crave interaction.  Reopening after Lockdown 1 it felt very much about us, ie about hospitality, having a meal felt like the big driver (maybe no alcohol indoors is altering the perspective this time).   Yes people were important last time but this time it feels even more tangible.  This time it feels as joyous but it feels far more about the need to be reunited and be together.  Future policies or hints of any future restrictions must be based on this perspective.

Covid for us, has given and taken in equal measure. Life doesn’t always bring what you want, or more importantly what you think you want.  What you need sometimes can be a very different thing completely.  In my past, my expectation, at times, has made me angry for what hasn’t happened rather than celebrating what did. I have a list of disappointments, but as this Covid journey continues the list is fading and most feel far less relevant.

Life isn’t perfect but trying to make every moment better for others can change our own world in a surprisingly positive way.

Today, on our wedding anniversary I’m celebrating that my darling husband didn’t cancel our first flight. I’m celebrating that we’re still in it together for better for worse, for richer for poorer (maybe we should have written our vows the other way around….) and know that being together is a great gift.  Marriage for us hasn’t been easy, Victor agrees, but the love around us has kept us strong.  This Covid journey will end better for all of us, if we can stay together.

Keep well and keep safe

Thank you most sincerely for all your support. We love seeing you all at your doorstep or at our restaurants.

We are getting through this together.

Carina


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