THIS week's Councillor Column comes from Helensburgh Central Cllr Aileen Morton (Liberal Democrat).

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ON Saturday morning [May 8] I went for my first Covid-19 vaccine, dropped some books off at the library, and bought some plants at the Horticultural Society’s plant sale. Then in the afternoon I met up with some family – outside, in the rain – for tea and cake.

It’s clear that we are heading back towards freedom, but as restrictions ease, there are new challenges to address.

It’s now been 15 months since our lives changed, and some of those changes are difficult to “get back to normal” from.

Some people have lost loved ones, others have seen their health substantially impacted – whether as a direct result of Covid or from the knock-on impact on the NHS – while others have seen their business go under or have lost their job.

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Having lost both of my parents over the winter, I know how difficult it is to adjust to that kind of loss when the normal supports that should have been available weren’t.

We are fundamentally sociable beings and the impact of no hugs or handshakes, and the inability to just share a cup of tea on a dark February morning, has been huge.

We all need to bear in mind that the pandemic’s full impact on the NHS is still to be seen as backlogs need to be cleared and there will be increased demands in areas such as mental health.

While it’s been great to see shops and hospitality re-open there is still the need to ensure safety measures are taken, and we all need to adjust to more frequent interactions with the shadow of Covid still in the background.

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This increases the challenges for business trying to recover from a desperately difficult time, and heightens tensions between those who are more cautious and those who are ready to fully embrace any freedom.

As we look forward, though, hopefully this will be a straightforward path to leaving lockdown behind.

I was listening to the radio early last week when the DJ played clips of the trial events that had been held of a rave, a concert and a full-capacity sports crowd.

I could actually feel tears prick my eyes as I listened, because while fighting your way through a crowd to catch a train or buy a cup of tea is never fun, being part of a crowd is a totally different experience.

It’s an experience that has been missing now for well over a year, and it is one that I look forward very much to getting back.