SOMETIMES it suddenly hits you. Out of the blue. It is almost as if we forget we are living through the strangest of times and we that have never before seen their like. Until something happens to bring it all home again.

One of those somethings happened to me last Saturday. The community centre looked like something from a low-budget dystopian film. We queued in the games hall for our vaccinations, all of us wearing masks and feeling uncomfortable at being out of our homes and inside another building with other human beings.

It didn’t take long … just over half an hour including the 15 minutes we had to sit and wait until we were safe from the risk of an adverse reaction to the jab. These days social media is full of people celebrating getting the jab or their parents receiving the vaccination.

To me it seemed a little anti-climactic. After all, it’s not as if I can go out for a drink, meet up with friends or, God forbid, even plan a holiday. I’m still under orders to follow the same restrictions that have now been in place for months. Nothing has changed, nor is it likely to in the near future.

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It seems to me that most of us are scunnered by this prolonged lockdown. Friends I talk to report feeling listless, even depressed. The great plans we hatched during the early days of the first lockdown – and yes, it seems so long ago – have mainly been abandoned. Diets have been forgotten, exercise routines a distant memory. I’d planned to read so many books but in fact struggle to get through a magazine. I can hardly remember what it’s like to work in an office or to have a wide range of social interactions every day.

I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I can still work from home. I can watch TV, listen to music and have discovered the joys of jigsaws. I spend my time with people I live with and can contact those I cannot physically be with. Most people are not so lucky, many are suffering profoundly.

I know it’s ridiculous to complain but I can’t shift this longing for the life I miss, the social gatherings I took so much for granted that it did not ever occur to me that they would slip from my grasp. Meals with family and friends. Meeting up with children and grandchildren. Getting dressed up for date nights. What’s it even like to ditch the jogging pants and wear a suit? What’s it like to go dancing, to feel the music fill your soul and move your feet? Did you ever think it possible you would find it so hard to recall the visceral thrill of live music?

There’s an irritability around too and, of course, nowhere more so than on social media. I used to love Twitter. In 2014, during those days the Union’s supporters now like to define as dangerously divisive, I’d be there in the early hours arguing about independence – usually respectfully, sometimes humorously, always passionately. These days my timeline is full of arguments, former friends falling out badly. The bitterness is horrible.

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I wrote a column a few weeks ago in which I asked – probably simplistically – that we concentrate on the support of independence which unites us rather than the other issues which divide us. When it was published it took just minutes before the comments underneath descended into insults. Former friends falling out. Very badly. People I know make points I agree with and I know should show my support with a retweet but the thought of entering yet another hate-filled exchange makes me shudder.

That makes me feel weak, but does one more person screaming into the void achieve anything useful? Or does silence equal complicity? I’ll let you know when I come up with an answer to that one. What I do know is that I miss the Twitter I knew and I miss the Yes movement I knew.

Let’s not be self-indulgent and wallow in what we have lost when we really can look forward to better times ahead. The vaccine’s part of that optimism, of course, with the tantalising prospect of more human contact it offers. Today there is sun in the sky, after weeks of drab grey. Spring is coming. We won’t be reunited with all those we love tomorrow but we can trust now that it will happen some day. I even read a story yesterday that nightclubs may open later this year. We will dance again.

And independence will come. Maybe this year, if the pandemic recedes enough to hold a second referendum. But that vote will be held sometime and the result will be a majority for Yes. But before that vote is held we all have work to do. We need to campaign for an SNP majority in the Scottish elections in May to tell Boris Johnson that we demand a referendum and he has no right to stop us. And make no mistake … an SNP Government with an increased majority is the ONLY way to send that message then convert it into the referendum and then into independence itself.

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We know the SNP is on course to win that majority. We know that Nicola Sturgeon is the only choice to lead the party into the election and into the fight which lies ahead of it. We know that this is the opportunity many thousands of Scots have been waiting for years to take advantage of and that the First Minister is one of them. Tell me what possible purpose is served by making that majority less likely?

There are many issues we disagree on. Debate is healthy and essential, particularly when the matter at hand is the shape of the new country we hope to forge after we win independence. But we have to find a way of having those discussions without hate. We need to remember that we are each ambassadors for the Yes cause. The way we discuss and debate can attract voters or repel them. Tell me what possible purpose is served by the latter?

The history books will describe the Covid pandemic as a significant human ordeal but hopefully they will describe how we emerged from it certain that our society needs to change in the light of the lessons it has taught us. Only independence will give Scotland the opportunity to make those changes. It’s down to us to write the next chapter in those history books. It can be uplifting, inspirational and full of hope or it can describe a historic opportunity thrown away by feuds and anger. Tell me which one you’d prefer?