10 May 2020

I should probably confess that I’ve been cheating. Nothing horribly criminal, but the time has come to change my ways.

The scary NHS letter two million or so of us received back in March told me that I should not pass over my own threshold till mid-June at least, on pain of likely death. Don’t pull your punches there, NHS, I thought. However, I will now admit to you I have been sneaking regularly up the ladder and over the back garden wall, where we have our own access directly onto one of the Malvern Hills. For the past seven or eight weeks I’ve been easily able to dodge oncoming walkers and have kept a good social distance by dint of avoiding narrow paths and those used by cyclists. On weekends, we’ve been taking to hidden paths that very few people know of, on the wooded western side of the Hills. We’ve never seen a soul on those quiet weekend walks, and I really valued the relief from being locked away.

All that ended last Friday. Someone – I’ve heard it was our esteemed Prime Minister, but surely not? – somebody told the press on Thursday that social distancing was all jolly-well going to end on Monday. The right wing newspapers immediately bigged this up as if it was the Great Escape, and surprise, surprise, the cooped-up British nation burst its bounds onto the sunlit uplands of freedom. And onto the having of a wonderful long Bank Holiday-VE Day weekend. By the time I’d climbed up too many trees to get away from at least twenty other walkers (and a horse) on my supposedly secret paths, I realised the game was up. I’ll have to toe the line properly – no more woodland walks. Or run the risk of more than a “little flu”, to quote the helpful Mr Bolsonaro. A few tears got shed on the way home.

So I was well sorry for myself by Friday evening. I then received an odd email from an elderly acquaintance, which smacked of phishing. I rang her to establish that yes, she knew, and yes, she had a helpful neighbour who had talked her through how to sort out her email account. We chatted on for a bit, and I realised that I had no right to feel under-privileged. Due to her age, my friend is also in purdah till end June. Worse, she lost her husband late last year, and lives alone in a flat with no garden. She was cheery and accepting, quite remarkable. I was left feeling thoroughly ashamed of myself. Determined to do better, Anne of Green Gables style.

However – there’s always a but with me, isn’t there? – I would still like to know what, if any, planning and provision is being made by our Government of All the Talentless for me and the rest of the Two Million. I don’t actually expect to hear that any thought has been given to us, but it should. If we, and the people who are shielding us, are to be locked away till there’s a vaccine, I want to know that at least our existence is being recognised. I want us to be properly represented in discussions with Government, to have our case made in Parliamentary debates and at PMQs, to be acknowledged and properly provided for.

My great fear is that with all the competing pressures, social and economic, and given the government’s propensity to lack any foresight and to be tightwad with the truth, our country faces recurrent waves of infection and fatalities. The only way to stop the virus killing more of us is to get right on top of test-track-trace, right now. If we don’t, there will be more deadly mayhem and very little chance of good evidence-based advice for any minority, including the Two Million.

So I won’t be holding my breath at 7.00 pm tonight. But I will be thinking of my cheerful friend, so much more vulnerable even than I am. I’ll be sending her all the good wishes I can muster.

[picture credit: good free photos.com]

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