I’m a bit like Monica in Friends.
Not because I have a love of cleaning – hell no – my mother will attest to that. No, the part of her I identify most with is her love of rules. As she says in one episode, ‘rules help control the fun,’ and I fully agree.
If a countryside pathway doesn’t have a little yellow arrow saying it’s a permissive pathway, I won’t walk down it. I don’t park on double yellow lines. I don’t eat out of date food. And it’s not because I am some boring judgy-goody-two-shoes; it’s more likely to simply be in my nature.
Part of me does wonder if the television shows I watched as a youngster had a lot to do with it. In those shows if someone broke the rules, if they went down a path that said no entry or swam either side of the lifeguard’s flags, then death or paralysis usually ensued. There were consequences. They broke the rules and bad things happened. Every. Single. Time.
It won’t surprise you to learn that since the start of the disruption caused by Covid-19 I have followed the rules issued by the government to the letter. I stayed home. I socially distanced. I saw no one. I washed my hands for precisely twenty seconds multiple times a day. God forbid I passed it on to someone vulnerable, or someone passed it on to my clinically extremely vulnerable children. Yes, it was hard. Yes, it is still hard. But if I am told to do something for the collective good then, funnily enough, I’ll do it.
Why I care about rules
Before we go any further, for those of you who don’t know – as I have a suspicion not everyone will agree with my opinions in this piece and this may help you to understand why I feel so strongly about it all – two of my three children have a rare progressive respiratory disease called Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia.
At the start of lockdown we were told they would be severely ill, if not die, were they to contract the virus. We shielded and didn’t leave our house for twelve weeks. We were told we may not be able to leave until a vaccine was found, which might take years.
I washed every single item of food that got delivered (after struggling to even get a slot) even Fairy-Liquiding apples at one point. I quarantined every single piece of post for three days. My daughter had to self-isolate by herself for two weeks before she was even allowed home from university. It was an extremely testing, emotional and challenging time and whilst we were safe in our bubble I knew we had to rely on those who weren’t vulnerable to help control the virus. We needed everyone to pull together, everyone to work as a team, everyone to take this seriously.
And so, when I heard or saw people not following the rules, in fact blatantly disregarding them, it upset me and made me anxious. I couldn’t understand why people weren’t as scared as I was. But also I was frustrated because the consequences of their rule breaking actions wouldn’t necessarily impact them, but could have harmed countless others, including those people who had no choice but to stick to the rules religiously for fear of serious illness. Aka, my children. Fair? I think not.
Please think of your Granny
When the government announced the new ‘rule of six’ and Matt Hancock told youngsters not to kill their Gran (very harsh), lots of people on social media were quick to defend the young, amongst whom the new cases are surging. There were cries of how unfair it was to blame them, how this was hard on them, how the rules were so complex they couldn’t possibly understand and follow them anyway.
But we all know it’s not just the young. There are many people who think the worst is over, or that the virus didn’t even exist in the first place. And although the government have a lot to answer for (I’ll get to that in a bit) if you’ve not socially distanced, or have attended an illegal rave (these are STILL happening) or mixed in large groups etc etc and you’ve caught the virus and passed it on, then whatever your age, you are partly to blame for any uptick in cases.
When I heard, before the second lockdown began, of cases rising in young people I think back to the middle of our time shielding. We live in a village where there is a beautiful river running through it, a natural beauty spot that has always attracted visitors from far and wide in the warm summer months. People paddleboard or sail along the water. They come and picnic with their families. It’s always made a sunny bank holiday weekend a bit of a nightmare with regards to parking, but it’s never made me feel vulnerable.
But during this pandemic, where the rules have never been to gather in large groups, and to always socially distance in any group (less than six) that you did mix in, the river banks became overwhelmed, mostly with young people in their late teens and twenties. They wore bikinis and swimsuits, they sunbathed and had BBQs, they treated the river as though it was the warm Mediterranean sea on the Costa Del Sol. And they were vile.
They took drugs, left all of their litter, defecated in my neighbours’ gardens, beat up a resident and trashed his bike, swore at locals, sped down our roads, parked across our driveways and so, so much more. We felt trapped and unsafe in our own homes.
Obviously this would’ve been horrific at any time, but because this happened whilst we were in the middle of a global pandemic, where thousands of people were dying every single day and I was terrified for my children and doing everything I could to keep them safe, it was unbearable. They didn’t care as to who they were hurting. They didn’t care about the rules. The police could do nothing and so did nothing, even when there was an al-fresco shagging incident happening at the end of my garden (although technically I think that was actually legal at the time, the mind boggles).
Rules went out the window, and the virus was blown in and I’m terrified that this Christmas it will happen all over again. That rules will be bent to fit the wants of those who bend them. That January will be dark and gloomy and along will come lockdown number three because once again too many people will be dying and the NHS will be (as it is every winter) overwhelmed. But it doesn’t need to be this way, which I think it what frustrates me the most!
I am not condemning all youngsters
And just for the record, I know it is not just the young who have behaved like this. I am not condemning all youngsters, (I really feel for those who these particular ones are giving a bad name) nor do I hate all the youths of today – I have one, she is nineteen and wonderful – but these people made me feel violated in my own home. And it hurt that so many of them didn’t appear to care about the rules, or felt that they were above them.
It wasn’t just the youngsters either; their parents were dropping some of them off and so knew what they were up to. They were brazen and because their values were so far away from my own if affected me negatively. I sat and cried in my garden listening to the roars when someone jumped off the bridge into the river, or cries when they didn’t resurface immediately. Now I sit in front of the fire in my lounge and unfollow anyone who posts photos in which they are flouting the rules on my social media.
Common decency went out of the window
Obviously I’m old enough to know that not everyone has the same expectations or values as me, and it would be naïve and unrealistic of me to think they should, but all common decency went out the window during those weeks when the sun was high in the sky and the youths were rampant.
And now, even though the sun is low and its heat has gone, I still despair as I hear of people proclaiming they have a right to celebrate Christmas by getting bollocksed down the pub, hugging whoever the hell they want (and I am not just talking Laurence Fox here.) What happened in the first lockdown has happened in the second, and it brings me little hope that Christmas will be any different. People who followed the rules both times will continue to follow them this Christmas, and people who pleased themselves will carry on doing so, no matter what the advice is. And surely, the numbers will rise all over again.
2020 has divided people more than we ever thought
The nightmare that is 2020 has divided people more than I ever thought a trauma we were all going through together would. The adage of same storm different ship is one that has resonated with me throughout this pandemic, and so when people don’t appear to want to work collectively to rid our country of a virus that has killed so many mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, health care workers and so many more, I am hurt and angry.
Ignoring the rules is not an option in my opinion, because now ignoring the rules has got us here, riding the crest of a second wave and on the cusp of an inevitable third. And I know lockdowns are hard, trust me I really do know the impact on mental health (that’s a whole other blogpost) but they’re going to keep coming unless we follow the damn rules.
But wait, weren’t we told to go out?
Okay, so the second wave isn’t entirely the fault of the public, I hear you.
The government’s handling of the situation has consistently been shambolic to say the least, so don’t think I am sticking up for them here, I am not. We all know they don’t all follow the rules and that’s definitely a huge part of the problem – BUT – even though they told you to eat out to help out, they did not tell you to have massive house parties and illegal raves or go abroad and refuse to quarantine on your return and forget there even is a deadly virus circulating around the world.
They didn’t tell you to ignore the rule of six, go out when you have been told to isolate or behave as if nothing has changed. These actions are what has fuelled every rise in cases, and the evidence is there for all to see. Everyone is responsible for stopping this. And in my opinion blaming the government doesn’t help it just divides us further. Instead, maybe, just do the right thing. Christmas might look a little different this year, but it can still be magic if YOU make it so. It’s one Christmas and one where stubbornly refusing to follow the rules could potentially make it someone’s last Christmas.
I am fearful of the upcoming festive season
Either way, I am fearful of the upcoming holiday season and what will happen in the early part of next year, and I’m anxious that the confusing rules surrounding it all are dividing us even further. And I don’t just mean dividing those who are following the rules verses those who aren’t.
Sadly, the virus can’t discriminate between those two groups and attacks regardless. This is one instance where breaking the rules doesn’t always have consequences for the people doing the rule breaking. If we all come together and do everything we can to stop people dying or suffering from the long-term effects of this virus, then this whole thing will be over a heck of a lot quicker.
Then everyone can get back to their illegal raves and house parties, and I can get back to getting my knickers in a twist about something a bit less deadly.