WHEN it came, the envelope was not blue. It was one of your ordinary, prosaic white ones.

An ordinary, prosaic envelope carrying some incredible, life altering news - an appointment for the coronavirus vaccine.

When the first lockdown hit last year, life altered for us all in unforeseen ways. Inequalities were widened, vulnerabilities became heightened.

Those of us who were privileged to were able to keep ourselves safe by staying largely at home, to carry on working and continue a social life online.

For others, there developed a much greater reliance on social networks for support whether due to age or additional health needs.

I recognise my good fortune throughout the pandemic, I haven't had a huge deal to worry about. I miss travel, I miss my friends, I've watched far too much Netflix.

But the main concern has been the shifting and reshaping of my relationship with my mum. From being independent and capable, suddenly I was taking on a caring role.

Her age meant she had to stay at home so I took on all shopping duties, collecting medicines, a chauffeur to medical appointments, making phone calls for things she would normally do in person.

Worse, I became a nag. "No, you can't just pop out for milk." "No, a trip to the Post Office is not essential." "No, I can't come inside." "No, you can't visit your sister." "No, you can't have a hug." No, no, no.

For age, and no other reason, the world shrank to a house and garden. All physical human contact ended. And so the worst of the pandemic was the unnatural acceleration of the shift in mother/daughter roles. I'm in charge now, the boss. Nothing happens without my say so. I hate it.

So the news of the vaccination, when it appeared on the wires, was extraordinary but still abstract. Exciting, but still far off. And then the envelope came with a date and a time. No longer abstract but a real event, life changing. I wrote the time under February 6 in my diary and had a little cry.

So, on Saturday, off we went to the inauspicious surroundings of a Coatbridge leisure centre. When the Time Capsule first opened in 1991 I won a competition to be the first child to avail themself of its water and ice glories. Here we are, exactly 30 years later, during a pandemic and in the gym hall for a life altering vaccine.

It is organised and efficient and everyone is friendly. I don't cope well with needles. Blood, needles, anything piercing or fluid. They're talking about kidney donation on Radio 4 on my drive out to Coatbridge and I have to switch it off because it's making me feel a bit limp.

The nurse plunged her needle into the ampoule discreetly, under the table away from Ma Stewart's eyes. My mum has told me to look away when the deed's being done but I don't.

I keep my eyes firmly trained on that silver dart of promised future. I want to see it for myself. The other day on Radio 4 (I'm a creature of habit) there was an interview with The Only Way Is Essex reality TV star, Bobby Norris. He was talking about training to be a volunteer vaccinator.

I love pitching in. I started to think I might find out how to become a volunteer vaccinator and sign myself up. Now I've seen what's involved, I'll probably leave it.

Ma Stewart does not flinch. Just before the injection, she asks the nurse what will change now she's had her first shot. Nothing yet, it's still some time til freedom.

Ma Stewart leans forward almost imperceptibly and lowers her voice. "I'm trying to shake off my minder," she says, with a slight nod towards me.

"Thank you so much," I'm gushing at the nurse. "This was brilliant. So easy, so well organised. It's amazing. A miracle really, imagine a vaccine in less than a year."

The poor woman has had enough of the Stewarts, I can tell, so we head off. That's it, all done.

Existing in the pandemic is like grieving. You move forward, repeating familiar rituals, accustomed to your altered reality. But every so often, often for no reason at all, you pull up short.

For me, sitting in court one day, intently notating the depute fiscal's narrative and becoming transfixed by how prosaic masks have become. Watching the Superbowl half time show and noticing the dancers' careful spacing. Realising the queue for Marks and Spencer is normal.

God, I was envious of those Superbowl half time dancers, flinging out energy on that vast pitch. To dance again with people. Won't that be heaven.

When the big things are cancelled, one must look for joy in the little things. I've been finding mine in walks in the park and new flavours of ice cream. I realise now that none of it was joy. This is joy. There is joy in this sheer, sweeping relief.

There is a vaccine and its magic science is working in my mum, schooling her immune system, making her safer. And before long, a hug. What a smoosh that will be, after this petrified wait.