Friday 20 – Sunday 22 March 2020
On Friday this week, schools and colleges shut in the UK. This was a great relief to our pregnant teacher daughter-in-law, who had been agonising about going to work in her secondary school ever since the Chief Medical Officer indicated that pregnant women are at increased risk.
Also on Friday, abruptly, all cafes, pubs, restaurants, leisure centres, and gyms were told to close with immediate effect. This didn’t affect us much, as we’d reluctantly stopped going out mixing with other people the previous week. A neighbour told us sadly how she had seen the publicans from our beloved local, the Wyche Inn, standing outside their pub on Friday night after sending everyone home. She said they looked utterly bereft. It could be a long time before we gather round their convivial bar again on a Friday evening.
But these measures may have started to bring home to many people how serious the pandemic really is. So many of us are now greeting each other from a distance, and without contact. Or we’re using video or social media instead of gathering in person. Nevertheless, some people, younger ones in particular who maybe feel less vulnerable, were still congregating in public this weekend. We were very relieved our own children had stayed in, but perhaps their ages – well into their thirties now – had modified their crowd instincts.
On the other hand, Government pleas to stop panic buying and stripping supermarkets are still falling on deaf ears. Peter was disgusted by the older man who turned round to him in the village store, telling him in a whisper he was buying up everything in sight that looked in danger of running out, apparently whether he needed it or not. He then picked one of the several unwrapped loaves he had stashed under his arm, squeezed it with his bare hand, and offered it Peter. Peter had no problem declining, though he reported it was harder resisting the temptation to do so in a very robust and physical fashion.
But here’s a brighter related story: having been away for a month travelling, we hadn’t bought any toilet rolls until we actually needed them. Of course that meant we were then greeted by empty shelves in every store we tried.
We were laughing about this with our lovely neighbours, Mark and Julie, over the fence at a safe distance – actually we were pretty much shouting at each other. Julie disappeared and came back with a toilet roll, held out on a long cane so our hands did not touch. Now that’s what I call neighbourly!
A final story about social distancing, and I’ll leave you in peace for now. We live in a part of the Malvern Hills always popular with weekend visitors. As we had expected, the Hills were extremely busy this weekend, the weather being both dry and sunny. And with so many of the usual weekend haunts out of bounds now, people round the region who would normally be at the footie, or shopping, or meeting friends in cafes and pubs, came to walk the Malverns instead. And that was fine (apart from those we saw crowded round an ice-cream van, where money and ice-creams were changing hands in a way that made us shudder.)
We did, though, decide that discretion was definitely the better part of valour, having witnessed the constant streams of groups of people heading along the well-known tracks and ridge paths behind our house. There was even (shudder time again) a coach disgorging a crowd of older people at the foot of Beacon Hill. As we walked past the car park, one lady with a tiny son, eager to meet our friendly dog Peggy, got quite upset and dragged her toddler away, saying she didn’t want him touching any animals because of the Virus. This was of course completely unnecessary, and made me very sad for the little crestfallen boy, although I understand the panic and confusion the pandemic has engendered in so many parents right now.
So we packed a picnic, hitched up the dog, and headed off for a much quieter route we knew of, being locals here. A secret route, of course – oh well, seeing as it’s you, as long as you don’t tell anyone, we went down the Purlieu. That’s an old unmade road which leads downhill to the Victorian limestone workings, below the west side of the Beacon towards Colwall village.
Whoops, I seem to have let the cat out of the bag. We’ll see you there next weekend, then. Just keep your distance, please – we converse by shouting.