There is a strange new hush all across Skye.
In an attempt to stop, or at least slow down, the spread of the highly contagious Covid-19 virus, government advice is not to travel un-necessarily, to work from home where possible, and although it is OK to be outside, people should not crowd together. There's very little traffic on the roads. Pubs, cafes and restaurants are all closed, as are camp sites and paid-for visitor attractions like the Talisker distillery and Dunvegan Castle. All of our cottage holiday bookings are cancelled - at least for the early part of the year.
On a calm day, the only sound is birdsong. Possibly the most surprisingly noticeable difference though, is that the very distant and almost constant roar of high-flying aircraft is gone. I had never even noticed that the sound existed until it was gone.
There's a few other things we won't have noticed we have until they are gone... well-stocked supermarkets spring to mind... and the freedom to go out... meet friends... hug an elderly relative.
I don't feel optimistic for the future. Until our wonderful scientists produce an effective vaccine against the virus - which is forecast to take many more months yet - all we can do is hide behind our closed doors, keep washing our hands, and hope we don't fall ill. Can the world's population cope with holding its breath for half a year or more? From pictures and reports I have seen today, people in many parts of the globe are already ignoring the advice to keep isolated. Total lock-downs enforced by police patrols are in place in a number of countries, though even in those places, the infection-rate, and death-rate, from the virus continues to climb almost unchecked. And then - if lock-down measures DO eventually begin to work - what will happen when the lock-down is removed??
As for how the world's finances will cope with it all - I simply cannot imagine. I am no financial wizard, and personally, we are thankfully able to cope without any cottage visitors for a season. But so many people will be frightened of how they will manage without work or income. Various governments seem to be finding spare cash from somewhere to make grants and hand-outs. Is that going to mean future tax-rises?
It's a scary time.
I fear 2020 is going to go down in history as the year the world changed for ever.