Bugs, Bobbies and Boredom

I received an email from a friend yesterday asking whether I was alright as I haven’t ranted in nearly a week. His concern is much appreciated and one of the nicer aspects of the current coronacrisis but in truth, the said crisis has caused me so much uncertainty and confusion over the past few days that my brain has been too scrambled for scribbling.

I am still at ‘my’ mansion in leafy Gloucestershire but should have been going home today when the owners were due to return from Australia.

Huh! Earlier in the week, the told me that their flight had been cancelled and they would be coming back four days earlier than intended. That flight was then cancelled as well because they weren’t allowed to stop for refuelling in Hong Kong so when asked, I told them I could probably manage another three weeks here if absolutely necessary.

Then I was told that they wouldn’t need me after all as their son Olly who is a lawyer in London would come out on Sunday (today) to relieve me. I spoke with Olly on the phone and he seemed to be looking forward to it, but the next day that fell through too, due apparently to some problem at his work.

So now I am back to the extra three weeks unless stranded tourists in Australia are to be airlifted home. I am far better off than most people in this lockdown. I am in a comfortable home, surrounded by five acres of privately owned field and nestled in one of the most beautiful valleys imaginable. I can walk to my hearts content and enjoy the peaceful ambience of the Cotswold countryside.

But I was looking forward to going home to bleak Princetown and the Moor today so I face the next three weeks with a heavy heart and a big lump of disappointment at not going home.

But I am unlikely to catch the bug in this idyllic spot so my real sympathies lie with the little people in the cities – particularly London where my daughter and granddaughter are holed up. NHS staff in general are quite rightly, being heaped with the praises of a grateful nation. Imagine, though the feelings of the lowly folk – the hospital cleaners or the lads working on a building site. They have no choice but to commute to work, squeezing themselves onto crowded tube trains where any notion of maintaining social distance is for the birds. 

The idiotic decision to reduce services was the perfect illustration of middle-class bureaucrats failing to consider what life is really like for those less fortunate. And when the little people get to work, there is even more stress and anxiety. 

With so many people off sick, I would imagine that most offices or places of work are not pleasant places to be. Everyone has to work harder, bosses are at the end of their tether and normal courtesies are suspended. 

Eventually, exhausted, the workers have to face the crowded tube again with even more people coughing and sneezing. And the next day these unfortunates find themselves being sneered at on social media and in many newspapers by those more fortunate than themselves. 

And what about the young people? Teenage boys tend to prefer hanging out with friends to helping out with a spot of gardening or assisting around the house but now that option is closed. And there are no real choices for poor kids in tower blocks. Just a screen and endless acres of boredom. Their mothers aren’t the ones stripping supermarket shelves and hoarding food. So they rely on the corner shop – more unpredictable and more expensive. They probably have to buy much less than their usual. 

The Government may have acted swiftly to protect most incomes, but there will be many who slip through the net or are defeated by bureaucracy. There always are. And they’re almost always the poorest. We must hope that the current mood of national solidarity lasts long enough to see us through this crisis and beyond. 

With all the new restrictions, the authorities and police risk being seen as too dictatorial I’m afraid. Should careful dog walkers in isolated places like the Peak District or the Moors be treated as enemies of the state? It really does seem somewhat overboard but that is what is happening.

Let’s take an extreme case from the week just past. The good old Metropolitan Constabulary fined a bakery boss £80 for criminal damage after she put temporary lines outside her shop to keep her customers safe from coronavirus.

The extraordinary incident took place outside the Grodzinski bakery in Edgware, north-west London, this morning, when police spotted the owner using a can of non-permanent spray chalk to help maintain social distancing of two metres. 

The officer (a sergeant so he should have known better) told the flabbergasted woman that she had graffitied the pavement and if police failed to punish crimes like these there would be anarchy adding, “I can’t help the law. We’re also fining people for congregating – is that wrong too?”

The unfortunate woman stood up to the sergeant and told him: “’This is not graffiti, it’s chalk, it washes off. So you would rather all my customers don’t stand two metres apart? I’m doing it for people’s safety – to stop the spread of coronavirus,” to which the pompous twonk replied, “It doesn’t matter. It’s criminal damage. It’s the law.”

A bystander filmed the incident and I do so hope that the lady’s fine is rescinded and the prat concerned is told to use his common sense in future but somehow I doubt if that will happen. I know there are people flouting the rules for self-isolation but if the police are going to act in such a heavy-handed manner, a great number of law abiding people will be tempted to do the same.

Yes, this would appear to be a crisis, but crises are survived through clear thinking and common sense not by over-zealous application of petty rules and regulations however well-intentioned they might be.

For me, it is a question of pushing myself through the next three weeks in my comfortable corner of Paradise and once I have read all the books in the house, not being too bored. It might even mean starting another book.

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