Lockdown Number Two

On the 5th of November, we begin a second national lockdown in England. Once again, bars, pubs, hotels, and restaurants will close. Only essential shops will remain open, and travel will be restricted to work, food shopping, child care, and some emergencies.

So far, it is planned for a period of at least 28 days, but there is no actual time cap if the current high infection rate continues.

To many, this is frustrating. Small business like hairdressers and beauticians have just got going again after the last time. Some entertainment venues were hoping to open in time for Christmas, but now that probably will not happen. Gift shops, toy shops, card shops, and many others reliant on the huge spending boom before Christmas are likely to go bust, with their biggest trading period of the year cancelled.

Some believe it is necessary, to slow the alarming increase in ITU admissions, and subsequent deaths.

But if so, why are schools and colleges remaining open? You tell people that they cannot visit an 80 year old grandmother, or go and have their hair cut on a one to one basis, but it is okay for your child to attend a school with perhaps a thousand other children every day, possibly bringing home the virus to the rest of the family.

To say that Boris Johnson has handled the pandemic badly is an understatement.

A Covid-19 Sunday In Beetley

My usual Saturday report is a day late, and so replaces ‘Thinking Aloud…’ this week.

Since the last time I looked at the lockdown, not much has changed around here. Mask wearing was made compulsory in shops, you may recall. So far, it is being complied with in the main, though a fair percentage of people are still failing to have them covering their nose. I have stopped trying to tell them, or signal to them. They just don’t get it. Or they do get it, and couldn’t care less. On my Monday trip to the supermarket, it felt as if shopping was getting back to normal levels, with a fuller car park, and more shoppers. Other than the masks, it felt the same as before February.

My car had to go in for an annual service and MOT inspection on Tuesday. I went to a different place for a change, and had the bright idea to take Ollie with me, and walk back with him. Julie would take me to collect the car later, when she got in from work.

It is just over five miles from the car place in Dereham to Beetley. That’s not too far by our usual daily standards, but it does involve walking through the town, something Ollie is never happy about. Sure enough, he became agitated by the buses, motorcycles, and other unfamiliar traffic. So I diverted into a quieter road, and let him run around a small park for a while. He was obviously missing his regular haunts, and the chance to get into a river. He let me know his displeasure by lagging on his lead, walking slowly, and constantly stopping.

Nonetheless, we made it back to the river in Beetley in under ninety minutes, and he was happy to plunge straight in.

Despite the crowded beaches during this week’s heatwave, and the fact that so many people under the age of thirty still don’t seem to believe that the virus can kill them, I am very conscious that it hasn’t gone away. People are still becoming infected, and some of them are still dying. The figure is currently around 55 deaths a day. That’s 385 a week, every week.

When the politicians boast on the TV news that they have the virus under control, let’s not forget those 385 people. They had lives, families, jobs, loved ones, colleagues. They anticipated a future, whatever their age.

And next week there will be another 385.

Eating Out After Lockdown

I don’t lead a very exciting life. I rarely venture further than the supermarket in Dereham, and my trips to the city of Norwich can be counted on my fingers after eight years of living in Norfolk. That’s fine with me, and a choice, not a complaint. But one thing I do like to do at least once a month is to eat out in a restaurant.

Until last night, the last time I had been able to do that was on my birthday in March. Now some of the restaurants around here are opening up again. At least those that can arrange their seating to allow for social distancing, and presumably expect to still be able to make a profit with the reduction in customers. A few have remained open throughout, but only for collection and delivery of takeaway food.

Spice Fusion is the best of a few Indian restaurants within an easy drive of Beetley. During lockdown it has remained as busy and popular as ever, by offering a takeaway and delivery service. Last week it opened its doors to diners for the first time in four months. Due to reduced opening hours, we went fairly early, making sure to ring and book a table the day before. Inside, social distancing and safety measures were impressive. Clear plastic screens had been installed between all the tables, most of which were now next the walls and along the large window. Staff were all wearing masks, and using hand sanitizer between serving different diners. The menu cards were plasic, and had all been sanitized before being handed to customers. There was a one-way system for entry and exit too.

The manager and waiters were all pleased to see us, and very welcoming. No doubt they had been concerned whether or not the regulars would return to sit-down dining after such a long break. With the food as fresh and tasty as we remembered, and a convivial atmosphere with four other tables also occupied, it was a most enjoyable evening.

We were home before 8:30 pm though. No point in overdoing it! 🙂

Covid-19 and Beetley: A Saturday Update

So the UK government has officially downgraded the alert level for the Coronavirus, from 4 to 3. All the schools are set to go back in September, hotels are opening in July, and non-essential shops opened earlier this week. The two-metre social distancing is set to be reduced to one metre soon, and all public transport is running, with the requirement to wear a face-covering of some kind inside trains and buses.

Sounds positive, doesn’t it? Well, I don’t think so.

Too many people are still dying, and too many people are still carrying the virus without any idea that they have it.

The track and trace app has been abandoned in favour of something else provided by Google and Apple. No doubt a company somewhere made a mint out of the failed experiment, and some officials pocketed a nice payoff too. The fall in the numbers of deaths is hailed as a great success. Try telling that to the people who died this week, and their bereaved relatives and friends.

Speaking from his luxury home in Florida, where he travelled to by private jet, the odious Lord Sugar, he of ‘The Apprentice’ fame, denied the very existence of the virus, for the simple reason that he doesn’t personally know anyone who has died of it. That man has a vote in The House of Lords, let’s not forget that.

I had to drive into the nearby town of Dereham yesterday, to go to the bank. It was a Friday as normal, as far as I could tell. Car parks almost full, crowds of eager shoppers everywhere, and few bothering about social distancing. You could have assumed it was still 2019, and nothing had happened. There were measures in place at the bank, and around half the shops and all the cafes and pubs were still closed until July.

But it was otherwise very ‘normal’. OId normal, that is.

Far too normal for me, I assure you.

Beetley Update: Yet Another Covid-19 Saturday

As this situation drags on, it even seems to be geting to the local dogs. I was awakened early by dogs barking in nearby gardens, and that set off some ‘yappy dogs’ on the street outside. Very soon, there was some kind of ‘Canine Concerto’ happening, and getting back to sleep was impossible.

During the current lockdown, even allowing for the recent ‘easing of restrictions’, waking up early is not advised. With nowhere much to go, it makes a long day feel a whole lot longer. We can of course drive to the coast if we wish, but there are still no cafes or public toilets open, so maybe not a good idea. Not much point going into town to look around the shops, as only the food shops and chemists are open at the moment.

Uncertain weather doesn’t help either. Depending which forecast you look at, we are due to have either a dry humid day up to 24 C, or a 60% chance of thundery showers in the same temperatures. The obvious conclusion is that it is going to feel uncomfortably humid, whatever happens.

Next week, ‘non-essential’ shops are allowed to open. I predict there will be a rush on for hairdressers and barbers, as well as people browsing in gift shops, charity shops, and card shops, just because they can. Not because they actually want to buy anything. The local supermarkets are retaining the same distancing measures and queueing system, and I think that’s a good idea. When Macdonalds reopened last week, the queue for the drive-through brought local traffic to a standstill. Imagine if the restaurant had opened too.

People are craving what they were used to, and will not hesitate to have it once they can. All this talk of the world ‘changing’ becuase of the Coronavirus is just fantasy, I’m afraid. They will jump in their cars, head to the shoppping malls, book holidays abroad on jet planes, pack out any public venues that actually open, and get back to ‘normal’ in a heartbeat, as if nothing had happened.

Don’t believe me? Wait and see.

A Relaxed Rules Saturday In Beetley

Here is another pandemic lockdown report from Beetley. This time, under the newly relaxed rules.

Things haven’t changed that much, though the hot weather brought out families with small children sunbathing around the river bend at The Meadows. Traffic was noticeable on the Holt Road leading north to the coast, despite most facilities there still being closed. I dread to think about all those people going to the toilet in the countryside and on beaches, and the disposable nappies being dumped carelessly.

But they don’t live there, so what do they care?

Locally, there has been an increase in walkers and bird watchers on Hoe Rough, with the small car park busy at all times. People are still carrying on with social distancing, I am happy to see, and nobody stands close, or walks by on a narrow path. It has the feeling of something that may well become the ‘new behaviour’.

Ollie had a much-needed bath this week, as the groomer had reopened. The closest I got to her was a long stretch to pass Ollie’s lead, and handing over the money into her gloved hand when I collected him. His fur feels much better, but the hot weather didn’t improve his ‘hot-dog’ smell, that’s for sure.

And it has been hot. 27C is very unusual for May, and it didn’t drop much below 25 C until yesterday. That means fans in the evening, watching TV, and fans in the bedroom to get a decent sleep. It also means mosquitoes, and I have three bites on my left arm, and two on my left leg. I should have guessed, and taken precautions. I will be from now on.

Strange gusty winds have appeared. They don’t cool things down that much, but give the sense of standing on the deck of a small boat, being buffeted.

They are quite nice, I have concluded.

A Saturday Pandemic Report From Beetley

This is the first Saturday under the newly-relaxed rules. ‘Stay at home’ has been replaced by the confusing ‘Stay alert’.

We can now drive any distance for exercise.
Sit in a park, or on a beach, without moving.
Socialise with one person not from the same household.
Visit one family member we do not live with.
Go back to work if conditions are safe.
Golf clubs and tennis clubs are open again.
Some more shops, like garden centres, are open again.

This started in earnest last Tuesday, and I had already noticed a 100% increase in traffic from the previous week. It still wasn’t ‘normal’ traffic, but noticeably heavier. Yesterday, far more people were exercising on Hoe Rough, having driven there to do so. One person who stopped and spoke to me had driven four miles to get there, and had never been there previously. The regional news reported a huge number of people had driven to the beaches and beauty spots on the north Norfolk coast. By ‘huge number’, they meant a lot more than last week, but nowhere near a ‘normal’ amount of visitors.

Wales and Scotland have their own separate governments, and have been quick to disassociate themselves with the relaxed rules handed out by Boris Johnson. They don’t want anyone crossing borders for tourism, and intend to keep the previous lockdown rules in place for now. As both of those countries are a six-hour drive from Beetley, there was no danger of me flouting their regulations.

As I sit here, there is not much difference to notice. A few cars are driving past, probably off to the supermarkets. Otherwise, it is ‘Beetley-peaceful’, with not even a dog barking.

But the weather is warming up. By next week, we should be seeing summer-value temperatures.

I’m guessing that wil provoke more radical changes around here.

A Lonely Walk

Since the lockdown began, we have been blessed with some excellent weather in Beetley. It has felt like high Summer on many days, and despite the government advice, that weather has brought out a lot of people enoying the local riverside park, and the nature reserve too. Many of those have driven here from elsewhere, evidenced by the unusual number of cars parked locally, and the fact that us regulars have never met them, or the dogs of those who brought dogs along.

I don’t blame them. Most have observed social distancing, and appeared to be family groups. It was good to see the children getting out in nature, instead of binge-watching Netflix, or playing video games in their bedrooms. I was also happy to see people allowing their dogs to run around exploring somewhere new, and Ollie was happy to encounter some new canine companions.

Today, it is a full 10 C degrees colder than yesterday. And it has been raining steadily since 9 am. I have seen worse of course, and the rain cannot be described as heavy, and certainly not torrential. But it is steady rain. Spring rain, and Spring temperatures, much as we might expect had it not been for three weeks of what felt like July.

So I had to change from shorts back into trousers, and the casual shoes were exchanged for the rubber boots once again. I grabbed my umbrella, and wore a reasonably warm coat, and off we went. I chose to depart slightly earlier than usual, hoping to avoid the heavier rain forecast for later today.

What I walked into felt like a scene from a post-apocalyptic science fiction film. Nobody to be seen at Beetley Meadows, no ‘exercising walkers’ who had driven here to enjoy their allowed freedom. No dogs enjoying that change of scene they had become used to during the last twenty-one days. Nothing.

There was just silence, broken only by the sound of the rain hitting the river water.

Twice around Beetley Meadows was followed by crossing the bridge onto Hoe Rough. The car park was empty. The parking spaces in the road opposite the gate were empty, and as far as I could see, there was nobody on the nature reserve. Ollie took off on his usual routine, checking out fresh smells, and marking what he firmly believes is his own territory. I followed his rigid pattern as he traversed the paths in the same order that he does every day. Try to break his routine, and he will stand crying until I go the way he prefers.

After almost ninety minutes of circling the familiar areas, Ollie was soaked, and I was bored to tears under my umbrella. Nobody to chat to, nor even wave to. No dogs for Ollie to investigate or possibly spar with, and no trace of any wildlife risking the absence of people to explore unfamiliar areas.

It was a very lonely walk today, two hours traipsing in the rain as if we were the last man and dog on Earth.

Days

The lockdown has gone on a long time, and is fast becoming ‘normal life’ here. We have at least another two weeks, if not more, and I think that’s a good thing. If not for the economic fallout once we return to the way we lived previously, it might be a good idea to keep this going until at least October, to reduce new infections. That is unlikely to happen, as no industrialised country can tolerate such a loss to production and trade.

On the bright side, I have not received a single unsolicited telesales call since this happened.

Many people have not been in lockdown of course, and their routine has not changed. Medical staff, delivery drivers, shop workers, bus and train drivers, and the behind the scenes people like those who work in sewage and garbage, water plants, and power generation companies.

For all of those, today is another Monday morning.

But for everyone else, it is just a ‘Day’.

A huge number of people are discovering what I found out when I retired in 2012. Days are a construction of working life. I suspect that ancient people thought nothing of days, and didn’t name them until modern civilisations emerged. The only relevance a named day has is to know whether or not you have to go to school, to work, to a hospital appointment, or expect to receive a delivery. Whether a shop is open or closed, or a specific TV programme is being shown.

For my dog Ollie, there is no such thing as a Day. Nor for the animals on the African plains, the birds in the air, or the flies hovering above the river in Beetley.

Days don’t actually exist. They are a human invention.

The same applies to months and years of course. There are only seasons.
A product of nature, not mankind.

And human interference has changed those too.