IS THIS the future of meeting up with friends and family during the coronavirus crisis?

Courier columnist Tim Porteus and his friend Sheila McWhirter made a plan to meet up on Saturday afternoon but made sure they stayed in their own counties so they adhered to the current travel restrictions and regulations.

Sheila, 57, a singer, lives on her own in Portobello in Edinburgh, which is currently under Level 3 restrictions, and residents are asked to not travel out of the city to other areas that are in lower tiers.

Tim, 58, lives in Prestonpans, which was also in Level 3 restrictions at the time but moves down to Level 2 tomorrow (Tuesday).

He described Sheila as a “very old friend”, having met her in the 1980s. The pair also occasionally work together.

Tim admitted that they had both been struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

They had arranged to meet up until the new restrictions and tiered system made that difficult.

He then came up with the idea to set up a 'cafe' at the border between Edinburgh and Musselburgh, allowing the pair to meet for a catch-up without breaking Covid guidelines.

Tim said: “The guidelines can be quite confusing but we realised that we were not able to cross county borders due to the travel restrictions.

“On the spur of the moment, I suggested meeting at the border, so we would keep to the rules, but still be able to see each other face to face.

“We always lift each other’s spirits and the fact we could meet up was wonderful. A screen is never the same and can sometimes focus on the separation.

“It was a cold day, but we both had a bit of a walk to reach the county border, and I had a flask of tea for our brew.

“I brought chairs and a wee table. We had our own cups, stayed four metres apart, me on the East Lothian side and my friend on the Edinburgh side.

“We didn’t share anything except laughs and chat, so we kept safe.

“The walk and meeting was a mental tonic for us both, we felt the meeting at what we called the 'border cafe' really helped us in our depression.

“When we finished, I cleaned the chairs with anti-viral spray and we walked back to our homes, much happier than we had been earlier in the day.”

The story has attracted significant attention on social media, with a video of the pair by Stuart Goldie, who was driving past with wife Tina, attracting nearly 3,000 shares. It has also seen national media attention.

The pair have also seen their meet up gather references to the hit Scottish television show Still Game.

Tim said: “I can’t believe it. I didn’t intend it to be a publicity stunt or anything, or a comment on the new restrictions. It was just two friends finding a way to get together, we’ve really missed each other.

“I didn’t intend it to attract so much attention, but in retrospect perhaps I should have realised.

“I wasn’t expecting anyone to really pay attention to us but some people were honking their horns at us and taking pictures as they passed, I’m glad it brought some cheer to folk.

“We had a lovely time and felt brilliant afterwards. It was quite late in the afternoon when we met and quite cold so we were only out for 45 minutes to an hour.

“We will definitely meet up again but maybe we’ll find a place more discreet so we don’t cause any traffic accidents.”

Stuart said: "At first I thought surely not... Is this what's we've come to? But then second thoughts I thought maybe they were making a point, as I and many people feel the district bans are absurd.

"It's good to see two folk won't be stopped having a cuppa and a blether with each other.

"Looking at it more now, it's actually really nice to see the lengths folk would go to keep their friendship on track. I'm sure they, along with many others, just need that social time too.

"It's crazy that a wee video can share so much hilarity and gain so much momentum, but it's good to take the light away from all the negative news about Covid and lockdowns."