Pal fresco: Friends who met for Covid cuppa at border go viral

Tim Porteus and Sheila McWhirter came up with an innovative way of seeing each other amid Covid restrictions.

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Two friends forced apart by the coronavirus pandemic went viral after meeting for a cuppa on either side of a council border.

Tim Porteus, 58, and Sheila McWhirter, 57, came up with an innovative way of seeing each other.

Restrictions on moving between council areas meant the old friends could not meet for a brew.

They both lived in council areas which were in level three of the Scottish Government’s restrictions – banning movement into other areas.

But to make sure they could still have a catch-up and a tea they met either side of the council border – with a flask and folding chair each.

Tim, who works as a storyteller, lives in Prestonpans, East Lothian, while Sheila, who is a singer, lives in Portobello, Edinburgh.

The pals, who have known each other for 30 years, were desperate for a catch up and a chat, and decided to walk to the council boundary signs so they could see each other without breaking the rules.

Tim brought a flask of tea and some folding wooden chairs, and they sat four metres apart beneath the council boundary signs.

Dad-of-five Tim said: “I came up with the idea on the spur of the moment.

“It was freezing, we were looking at the restrictions and saying we weren’t supposed to cross council boundaries.

‘I said ‘why don’t we just meet at the border’, and my wife dropped me off – I don’t think Sheila expected me to bring chairs, she burst out laughing and I set up the cafe.’

Tim Porteus

“We have both been struggling a bit with the lockdown, and we’ve known each other since the late 80s.

“We always have a laugh and we understand where each other is coming from.

“Sometimes being behind a screen reinforces the feeling of separation.

“I said ‘why don’t we just meet at the border’, and my wife dropped me off – I don’t think Sheila expected me to bring chairs, she burst out laughing and I set up the cafe.

“It was cold but we had the tea.

“People were honking their horns and waving.

“It was really good fun, it seemed a bit of a mental thing to do.

“We have always had a creative connection.

“Because we set it up on the border, we knew we weren’t breaking any rules.

“It was like we were in our own bubble, a friendship bubble.

“We had a really big laugh about it.

“It was a bit like we were in a cafe.”