The two people who have confronted me this week have shown remarkable double standards.
I was politely interrogated by a neighbour who lives a few hundred yards outside the sign which denotes entry to my village, for exercising “outside the area” with my dog, yet I met his wife the day before exercising their dog inside the village in which she doesn’t live.
The day after, I was screamed at to “fuck off home” by a passing cyclist for taking my daily exercise on a road about ½ a mile from the village sign, despite the fact I was on my way home from an essential trip. The fact that he was in the same area as me on his bike seemed to pass him by. Pandemic aside, did it even cross his mind that a man screaming at a woman out alone on a deserted road could feel really threatening to her?!
I was in the wrong on neither occasion. We are allowed to make essential trips and we are allowed to exercise once daily. We are also allowed to combine the two. In fact, it would be irresponsible to make an essential trip out, then go home, then go back out for my daily exercise.
There is confusion about what we can and can’t do, for which I blame the government for being unclear and giving mixed messages. To clarify, on the BBC this week Michael Gove said of exercise that there is no time limit, though a walk of up to an hour, or a cycle ride of up to half an hour, would seem sensible. However, if we are really fit and can exercise for longer he said that’s also fine. Walking or cycling for an hour is going to take people some distance from their homes, which is OK so long as we are all observing social distancing measures should we meet other people out exercising, which from what I’ve seen where I live we are all doing admirably. As someone who lives alone, I’ve really enjoyed meeting neighbours I wouldn’t ordinarily see while out on my mobility scooter and most are being super friendly and chatty which is helping with feelings of isolation.
If you see someone parking a car and getting out to exercise don’t assume they have made a special trip into the area. Even in a tiny village I don’t know all my neighbours and they could simply be on their way home from an essential trip for food, or from work in an essential industry. For all the cyclist who screamed at me knew I could have been an NHS worker coming home from a 48 hours shift needing a much needed breath of fresh air! As it was I’m a carer for a very ill person who can’t manage alone.
The people who are judging others, while doing exactly the thing they are criticizing others for, forget that this pandemic will resolve and we will all have to live together again. They are not doing themselves any favours or making themselves particularly popular by being vigilantes with double standards, especially in a teeny, tiny village in the middle of nowhere where people have very long memories.
If someone is flouting the rules and thereby putting themselves or others at risk, community police officers can be reached on the non emergency number 101. We are not vigilantes – we have a police force to enforce our laws.
We are all tetchy, worried, scared and bored but taking our emotions out on other people doesn’t help anyone, however well-intentioned we think we’re being. We will only get through this by following government guidance, helping each other and being kind.