Week 11 of Lockdown. Or is it? Are we locked down any more? Some people want to be more locked down than others. Teachers dig in their heels. Publicans would rather throw caution to the winds than beer down the drain, and Boris Johnson would like us all to trust in a new, Covid 19 definition of the word ‘bubble’. Some people wear masks, others have torn down the masking tape and plastic wrap on park benches so as to sit on them, defiantly, while indulging in a picnic (allowed, so long as it’s not a barbecue and everyone’s food is kept separate from that of their picnicking companions).
It seems pretty churlish to sound aggrieved, since I am fortunate not to have been affected by the virus, nor has anyone I love or care for, but the more I read about the rules and regulations as they trickle down from on high, the more distressing I find them. Current restrictions seem designed wholly to offend people like me who have long taken issue with tissues, and all other forms of single-use hygiene products. Having waged war for the past 10 years on such horrors as wet-wipes, plastic wrapped fruit and veg and liquid soap in plastic bottles, I find we’re being actively encouraged to find safety and comfort in these things. And that’s from my own privileged little bubble of wellness: out in the big dangerous hospital environment, NHS employees are donning and binning vast swathes of plastic PPE thousands of times a day.
When the weather was at its sunniest, and rules were relaxed a bit to allow people to gather in parks with picnics, my outrage also reached its zenith. Other people, in their hellishness, were trooping to the parks with carrier bags full of individually wrapped sandwiches and polystyrene boxed fried chicken, to be carefully cleaned off fingers with wet wipes and conveniently portable bottles of hand gel, and washed down with cartons, bottles, cans of drinks. All wrapping and containers to be thrown in bins, and if bins were full, placed around bins. Bringing all these plastic wrapped goodies to the picnic was clearly effort enough for these al fresco eaters – why on earth should they worry about carrying all the wrappings and containers home with them?
Early morning runs for me in warm weather are marred by the evidence of picnics of the night before. And a pre-breakfast wave of loathing for my species and its insatiable appetite for small tubs of hummus and sachets of tomato ketchup.
Picking my way through Friday-night rubbish piles almost put me off my stride on my Saturday morning 5k challenge. Throughout lockdown I have been trying to replicate parkrun in my own, physically distanced way. I have noticed that having no-one to chase has resulted in my 5k times being an average one minute (at least!) slower than mass participation events, but I am going to keep trying. My latest source of encouragement has been the great little race company, Nice Work, who back in the glory days of real racing, organised some wonderful competitions. In one I won a bottle of wine for being an old biddy who could run a reasonably chipper 10k, so I’ve always been a bit of a fan. It was the Nice Work online 5k challenge I was running when I suffered the environmental dark night of the soul that I am venting here.
The wider environmental concerns hit me with every feature I read, briefing I watch and every new set of rules I try to absorb. With the fear of contracting Covid 19 on public transport comes the covert suggestion that all travel should be undertaken by car: so one million more cars are on the road as whole furloughed and off-school families go off for a change of scene. And the trains run empty. And the supposedly heartwarming news that pubs and cafes are doing lots of takeaways so people can queue in a physically distant fashion for plastic boxes of food and plastic pints of beer and coffee in throwaway cups. Because the rules state you cannot bring your own containers from home in case they cause a peak in the viral load. Never mind the unhealthy quantities of fat and sugar being consumed while everyone seeks comfort in these distressing times in the only way they know how: filling their faces on the pavements.
Good news comes from the bike shops, who report a mounting interest from the public in their wares, and government, local and national, talking the talk about getting more people out on two wheels and their own two feet. Persuading them they can do this without industrial quantities of snacks may be another matter.