Social media is a cauldron of venom right now with messages along the lines of ‘Stay in or else you’ll kill people you f*******’ aimed at all the ‘idiots’ who congregated en masse at the UK’s beauty spots and parks this weekend.
I was one of said idiots. I inadvertently found myself within spitting distance of other people when I decided to take the dog on a riverside walk. It was heaving. The other half and I managed to weave our way in and out of the crowds almost safely, but when we sat to have a coffee in the sunshine, a couple approached and said ‘Mind if we sit here?’
In my head, I was thinking: ‘NO. Stand away from the bench. Now. Or I’ll throw this coffee in your face’, but instead, I came over all British and said ‘of course not.’ I stood up to go, but my husband gave me a ‘I haven’t finished my drink yet’ look, so I sat there, feeling stupid with two strangers a matter of inches from me.
I was angry because I’d refused to see my mum on Mothering Sunday, for fear of passing on the virus, yet here I was, getting up close and personal with total strangers.
Last week, I did something even worse than share a bench – I shook hands with a man I have never met before in Pret. Not because I wanted to. He was big and had mad eyes. ‘You can fucking look at me at least,’ he shouted as he towered over me trembling with fury. He thrust out his hand and I shook it, because I feared that if I didn’t, he’d punch me.
What is the matter with me? This is not a time for manners. Or Britishness. Or panic. Help.
I have concluded that it is not safe out there folks. You can social distance all you like, remain vigilant and be sensible, but it’s like driving – it’s the other idiots you have to watch out for.
The dog and I ventured out cautiously this morning. I have decided to avoid all ‘beautiful’ places for the time being, reckoning that the uglier back streets will remain deserted. It proved to be a good move until somebody thundered past me after approaching from behind, with just a whisker between us.
Right now, I wish I lived in the middle of nowhere, with a patchwork of endless fields stretching into the distance, no shops, a vegetable garden and some chickens. I bet all those country folk are feeling smug right now – or at least they were until the out-of-towners showed up at the weekend.
I’ve learned my lesson and hopefully not too late. I won’t be wearing a Hazmat suit to walk the dog, but I might change my timings. I wondered if under the cover of darkness might be best, but then I can’t see where I’m going or who I am about to bump into.
I realise that compared to gasping for my last breath or being unable to hold the hand of a loved-one in an ICU, my current difficulties are inconsequential.
Still, being outdoors is keeping me sane right now and I don’t want to lose that privilege. Others may ruin it for the rest of us and force the Government to take more draconian measures, but I won’t hate anyone for it. People are just doing what comes naturally. It’s a bit like touching your face, no matter how many times I vow to stop, I keep on doing it!
I am lucky. If I am banned from dog walks, I have a garden to sit in. I am starting to appreciate all that I have. Last night, I sat in front of our bedroom window and watched a couple of pigeons preen themselves in a tree. One was very fat and I feared it might break a branch. I’ve wasted hours of my life watching soap operas without realising that there was plenty of gentle drama happening right outside my bedroom window.
I’m doing cartwheels right now because a local restaurant has just delivered a fruit and vegetable box, some milk and a bottle of wine. Cooking supper has become the highlight of my day. Why didn’t I put this much love and attention into our family meals before? Miraculously, my teenagers look forward to proper meals and are choosing to eat vegetables and fruit.
It’s the small things that matter. I’ve got tomatoes. Yay! The sun is shining. Double yay. And my loved ones are safe and well. Priceless.