Covid stole our jobs… so we tried something different

Pandemic has turned a comedian into a gas engineer and launched a new balloon business.

STV News

Before the pandemic, Garry Faulds was a stand-up comedian capable of selling out theatres.

Twelve months on he’s experienced homelessness and now works as a gas engineer.

Meanwhile, former events worker Louise Fulton spends her days blowing up balloons in the background of legal meetings.

They are career switches both could never have imagined pre-Covid. But they’re not alone – many people from suffering sectors have been forced to find new ways to put food on the table.

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Some of them spoke to Scotland Tonight, to be broadcast on STV at 7.30pm on Thursday.

Here’s what they had to say, in their own words.

Garry Faulds: ‘I lost my flat’

Was: Comedian

Now: Gas engineer

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My last gig was February 2020, Valentine’s day, I did 1000 seats. And that was my first proper year as a full-time comic. I had visions that I was going to buy a yacht, have dream holidays and treat the kids.

Everybody thought that gigs were going to go back within a couple of months.

I didn’t realise how bad it was going to be. And then, all of a sudden, the money just stopped because I wasn’t gigging. And I lost my flat, I couldn’t keep my flat going.

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Garry Faulds and his family.

People always say you’re a pay cheque away from homelessness and I genuinely never thought I would ever become homeless.

At the very start of Covid I was helping with a charity, going out feeding the homeless, getting involved and just doing my bit to help others as anybody should. I never thought for a minute I’d be living in the same accommodation as those guys.

An academy contacted me to say ‘we would love to bless you with a gas engineer course. It’s a year’s intense course and you’ll be a fully qualified gas engineer which means you can make a living after you qualify’. I accepted that with open hands.

My now boss messaged me saying ‘I’m happy to give you a job so while you’re learning you can get experience’. He’s a great guy, it’s like going to work with your best mate.

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Two years ago, my goal was to buy a yacht and now it’s to buy a van and fill it with tools. When I go back to normality, when that comes, I’m going to continue to work. It’s something that I missed. I’ve never settled since I left the army and always chased the idea of becoming a full-time comedian.

Now, I feel like the comedian Garry Faulds. I’m in a theatre, I’m getting interviewed with a camera. In an hour’s time I’m going to be crawling into somebody’s loft to pull their boiler apart. Probably covered in dirty water as well. You know what, you just take it in your stride, you just dig in, crack on.

Louise Fulton: ‘She’s building another unicorn’

Was: Events management

Now: Balloon company owner

I went off on maternity leave in June 2019 and Flora was born in July. My leave ended and I realised that my contract was not going to be extended.

All of a sudden, I was in a place where it wasn’t just one company that didn’t have jobs, it was the whole in industry. No events were taking place, nothing was happening.

I was staring into the abyss a bit, thinking ‘what am I going to do?’. I remember having a conversation with my brother and he said ‘stop trying to reinvent the wheel, find something that you’re interested in and try it’.

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Louise Fulton

Flora’s birthday was coming up and I couldn’t throw a big party, so everybody starts thinking, ‘what can I do to make it more special?’.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have the time, so I bought bits and bobs to see how I got on and watched a few YouTube videos

I was quite proud of what I did and one of my friends was like, ‘could you do one of them for my daughter’s birthday?’. That was where I thought, ‘maybe there is a market for this, maybe I can explore this’.

We’ve converted our spare bedroom into an office space. My husband is on his work calls and there I am blowing up balloons in the background.

He’s on Zoom, then I stop because a lot of the stuff he’s dealing with is quite important as he’s a solicitor. I think the balloons can be a bit of an ice breaker in the background so they’ll be like, ‘what are you building today, Paddy?’. And he’ll be like, ‘she’s building another unicorn’.

I would never have thought that I would have been building balloons but I love it.

Keith Sivell: ‘The world doesn’t need pilots right now’

Was: Commercial airline pilot

Now: Team lead at Test and Protect

I was a pilot for ten years – the last two as captain. It was fantastic.

I really, really enjoy flying. I’ve never lost that passion and that buzz for just getting on an aircraft and going.

The thing I miss most about flying is the actual getting up into the air, getting into the aircraft, going down the runway, launching off.

My favourite flight was Glasgow to Belfast because it’s only 21 minutes but you’re really focused for that time.

When I lost my job back in March 2020 there was a lot of concern. First week of lockdown we were meant to be moving to a new house because we were expecting our second child.

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Keith Sivell

After I lost my job, a plea went out on social media by Project Wingman, which was air crew who were either redundant or furloughed, looking how we could help and go into hospital sites, setting up areas where any staff member could have a friendly conversation, a friendly face and free tea and coffee, to relieve the stress and anxiety that was caused by Covid. 

Project Wingman was a real saviour for me because it gave you purpose and, before you know it, it’s five o’clock and you’re back home.

The world doesn’t need pilots just now, but it does need people to support and help the NHS.

I started working with Test and Protect in early September and the first two months was in the role of a contact tracer before I became a team lead.

The thing I like about my job the most is that real sense of responsibility. Really similar to flying as well, you’ve got a clear-cut objective.

Financially, having money coming in has also been a good factor, rather than it just going out. I think the psychological aspect of having purpose is the big factor and something that’s not to be underestimated at all.     

I think I’ll look back at this time with gratitude. To be at home every single night and having family around has been fantastic.

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Coronavirus: Another 18 Omicron cases recorded in Scotland

Scottish Government data shows one coronavirus-linked death and 2067 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours.

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A total of 48 people have contracted the Omicron variant in Scotland.

A total of 18 new cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours, taking the overall number to 48.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the largest rise, with 12 more cases, taking its total to 23.

NHS Lanarkshire recorded four new cases in 24 hours and has 13 overall.

One more case was confirmed in the Forth Valley health board area, taking the total to six.

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A case of the new variant was recorded in NHS Lothian for the first time. Case numbers in NHS Highland and NHS Grampian remain at three and two respectively.

Scotland has also recorded one coronavirus-linked death and 2067 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data.

The Scottish Government said Public Health Scotland is aware of an “ongoing processing issue with UK Government lab tests which may impact on cases and tests” in the daily figures and investigations are under way to resolve the problem.

The death toll under the daily measure, of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days, is 9649, but the Scottish Government said registry office are generally closed at the weekend which can impact figures.

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The daily test positivity rate was 9.6%, up from 7.6% the previous day.

There were 586 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 as of Saturday night and, of these, 45 were in intensive care.

So far, 4,352,104 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, 3,958,162 have had a second, and 1,859,735 have been given a third dose or booster.

Body found in the search for missing 28-year-old man

The family of Joel McDiarmid has been informed of the discovery.

Police Scotland
Joel McDiarmid went missing in the Bathgate area last month.

A body has been found in the search for a 28-year-old man who went missing in West Lothian last month.

The family of Joel McDiarmid from Bathgate has been informed of the discovery, although formal identification is yet to take place.

There are no suspicious circumstances and a report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.


Mountain rescue teams battle blizzard after man injured in avalanche

They assisted a man who injured his leg during an avalanche.

Cairngorm MT via Facebook

A climber who injured his leg during an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands was rescued as mountain teams faced heavy blizzard conditions.

In dramatic footage posted by Cairngorm MRT, rescuers can be seen battling the elements to assist the man.

The climbers were able to self-rescue down to the floor of Coire an t-Sneachda where they were met by rescuers and stretchered back to the ski area.

The footage was captured on Saturday, with multiple reports of avalanches.

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In a Facebook post, Cairngorm MRT wrote: “MRT just back from a call out for an male with a lower leg injury sustained during an avalanche. The climbers were able to self rescue down to the coire floor, where they were met by team members and stretchered back to the Cairngorm ski area.

“There were multiple reports of avalanches in Coire an t-Sneachda this afternoon.

“Many thanks to Cairngorm Mountain for their assistance duringWe rely on public donations to fund the work that we do, if you would like to contribute, you can also go to our website – https://cmrt.org.uk

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 12.50pm on Saturday, December 4, we received a report of two people falling in an avalanche at Coire A S-Sneachda.

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“Officers and the Cairngorms Mountain Rescue Team were dispatched, and the man and woman were later traced at a nearby rescue post.”

“The man was stretchered off the hill and transported to Raigmore Hospital for treatment to a leg injury.”


Teenagers arrested after 21-year-old man stabbed in city centre

The incident took place on Saturday afternoon.

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Police say that the teenagers will appear in court at a later date, whilst the investigation continues.

Two teenagers have been arrested and charged by police after a 21-year-old was stabbed in Glasgow City Centre.

Officers responded to a report of a man being stabbed on Ingram Street at around 3.30pm on Saturday, December 4.

The man was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary and remains there with “serious injuries”.

Police say that the teenagers will appear in court at a later date, whilst the investigation continues.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We were called to a report of a man being stabbed on Ingram Street around 3.30pm on Saturday 4 December 2021.

“A 21-year-old man was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where he remains with serious injuries.

“Two 17-year-old males have been arrested and charged in connection with the incident, and will appear in court at a later date.

“The investigation is continuing.”


Growing concern for missing man after belongings found at loch

Lawrence Penswick was last seen on Babylon Road in Bellshill in the early hours of Friday morning.

Police Scotland
Lawrence Penswick was last seen in the early hours of Friday morning.

Police in North Lanarkshire are appealing for help to find a missing man whose belongings were recovered near Strathclyde Loch.

Officers are looking for 57-year-old Lawrence Penswick, who was last seen around 2.40am on Friday at Babylon Road in Bellshill.

It’s believed he has travelled to Strathclyde Country Park after some of his belongings were recovered near the south side of Strathclyde Loch.

Lawrence is described as a black male, 5ft 10 inches tall, of a medium build and with short black hair.

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He was last seen wearing a grey “bubble” style jacket and a dark-coloured baseball cap.

His family are growing increasingly concerned for his welfare and anyone with information is asked to call 101, citing reference number 2311 of 4 December.

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Former Scotland rugby captain Gary Callander dies aged 62

Callander made six international appearances and captained the side on five of those occasions.

SNS Group
Gary Callander had been living with pancreatic cancer.

Former Scotland captain Gary Callander has died at the age 62.

Callander, who had been living with pancreatic cancer, made six international appearances, skippering the team on five of those occasions.

He also captained Kelso, whose president Scott Forbes, as they announced Callander’s death on Sunday, said his “contribution to the history of the club cannot be overstated”.

With Callander as skipper, Kelso claimed a first Border League title in 50 years in the 1985-86 season.

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He subsequently led the club to the Scottish First Division Championship in 1987-88.

Callander also won secured five Melrose Sevens winners’ medals with the club.

Forbes added in Kelso’s statement on their website: “He was a captain, leader and an outstanding rugby player. He will be sorely missed by his ‘rugby family’.

“Our thoughts are with Gary’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time. May he rest in peace.”


Power firms warned of operations review after Storm Arwen outages

Energy Networks Association says more than 3000 homes across the UK were still waiting to be reconnected on Sunday.

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Storm Arwen brought down thousands of trees across the UK.

Energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has warned power firms that the UK Government will review their operations following continuing outages caused by Storm Arwen.

It comes as the Energy Networks Association (ENA) said that 3190 homes were still waiting to be reconnected as of 2pm on Sunday. This was down from 4025 homes on Sunday morning.

The majority of the impacted homes were in the north-east of England, the ENA added.

Kwarteng visited the north-east of England on Sunday to survey the damage done by the storm.

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During a visit to a Northern Powergrid call centre in Penshaw near Sunderland, Kwarteng told the PA news agency: “I think we can make the system a lot more resilient.

“I had an experience on August 9, 2019, when a million people in the South East were commuting and they had a power outage.

“Immediately after that we had a review and we looked at the system and we held the transport and train companies’ feet to the fire and we have got a more resilient system.

“That’s exactly what I want to happen this time.

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“We will have a review, we will see if the distributor companies have enough infrastructure, we may even have enforcement action if necessary.”

Speaking at the call centre, Kwarteng said: “I don’t accept that (the power cuts would have been resolved quicker in the South).

“The physical infrastructure, lay out and landscape is very different.

“One of the particular reasons why we haven’t got people back on the power supply is the weather conditions and they are very challenging (with) people in sparsely populated, very rural areas, and that represents a challenge.”

It comes as Storm Barra is set to hit the UK on Tuesday, bringing strong winds and rain.

As a result, yellow wind weather warnings are in place across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, with yellow snow warnings in place in Southern and Western Scotland.

On Saturday, gusts of between 35 to 50 miles per hour battered the country overnight, with temperatures plummeting to below zero in parts of Scotland.

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As well as weather warnings, the Met Office predicts further wet and windy weather heading into next week, with poor weather conditions continuing in areas already impacted by Storm Arwen.

Met Office meteorologist Rachel Ayers said: “It will be a relatively nice day today, but overnight tonight it will be windy.

“Temperatures, with the wind and cloud cover, should stay up tonight.

“That should help things a little bit, but we are expecting some more changeable and unsettled weather.

“This unsettled weather isn’t going to help areas that have been impacted by Storm Arwen too much.”

The Ministry of Defence told PA that 297 personnel from the British Army and Royal Marines were still providing support to civil authorities and conducting door-to-door checks on vulnerable people on Sunday morning.

On Saturday, Boris Johnson said he had held calls with those leading the response to Storm Arwen and the Government was ready to further support the recovery work “in any way we can”.

The long delays have prompted energy regulator Ofgem to warn it will take enforcement action against network companies who failed to restore power to customers quickly enough.

It has also agreed with firms to lift the £700 cap on compensation which could be offered to those stuck without power.

The change will allow those affected to claim £70 for each 12-hour period they have no electricity, after an initial £70 for the first 48 hours of any cut.

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Man arrested over ‘driving offences’ following pensioner’s death

Police say a man was arrested and then released pending further enquiries after the death of Douglas Forbes.

Police Scotland
Police are investigating the death of Douglas Forbes.

A man has been arrested in relation to driving offences following the death of a pensioner in Edinburgh.

Police Scotland said a 69-year-old man was arrested ater Douglas Forbes, 78, was found fatally injured at Academy Park in the Leith area of the city at around 8.50pm on Thursday night.

The man under arrest has since been released and enquiries are ongoing.

Forbes was pronounced dead at the scene on Thursday.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Following the death of 78-year-old Douglas Forbes, at Academy Park in Edinburgh, on Thursday 2 December, we can confirm a 69-year old man has been arrested in relation to driving offences.

“He’s been released pending further enquiries and the investigation continues.”

Anyone with information can contact 101, quoting incident number 3329 of 2 December 2021.


Three people in hospital after multi-vehicle smash on the A9

The two men and a woman were taken to Raigmore Hospital.

© Google Maps 2020
Police have appealed for information who may have information about the incident to contact them.

Two men and a woman were taken to hospital following a three-vehicle crash in the Highlands.

The collision took place on Friday, December 3, at around 6.36pm on the A9 at Cuach, north of Dalwhinnie.

A Black Vauxhall Zafira, a red Audi A3 and a silver Volkswagon Touran were the vehicles involved.

The two men and the woman were taken to Raigmore Hospital where they were treated for their injuries.

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None are believed to be life threatening. 

Police are now appealing for anyone who may have information about the incident to contact them.

Sergeant Neil MacDonald of Roads Policing Unit said: “Our enquiries into the cause of this crash are ongoing and we are appealing to anyone who was in the area at the time to please get in touch.

“In particular, we are keen to speak to anyone who saw the cars or who may have dash-cam footage that can help with our investigation.

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“If you can help, please contact us on 101, quoting reference 2819 of December 3.”


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