Sunday 11 October 2020

A Trip South In Testing Times

Due to travel and visiting restrictions placed on us all during the current and ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and also to work commitments here, I have not been able to visit family and friends in England since January. Nine months seems an awful long time not to see people you love.

So, at last, I have just managed to make the trip. I admit to having some level of anxiety about leaving the peace and safety of our very rural island and travelling into the overcrowded south. There seems little doubt that the virus is spread most readily when groups of people gather closely together for a period of time - so by avoiding such situations, I judged my trip to be an acceptable risk.

I drove down as usual, taking three days for the southwards journey so I could visit my cousin near Oxford on my way to Hampshire. I stayed in Premier Inn hotels, which I have always found to be clean and comfortable. I have to say, the level of cleanliness was even higher this time, and the room-rates were a bargain as the hotels struggle to find customers. Full marks to Premier Inn.

Full marks also to the motorway service areas, where clear markings and signage encouraged observance of social distancing rules. Other than a couple of take-aways, I did not visit any cafes or restaurants during my trip. I appreciate that such businesses will be having a dreadful struggle to make enough income to survive. I can only hope that Government support will be enough to see them through.

I felt most at risk in some shops. The biggest supermarkets, when not busy and with wide aisles, were not too daunting, but one particular smaller supermarket in Torquay was busy, and the aisles nowhere near wide enough for shoppers to keep a safe distance apart. I couldn't get out fast enough.

There were other occasions where I was aware that social distancing was not being observed. I passed a secondary school just as the end-of-day bell had rung. Hoards of children of all ages were pouring out of the gates, all massed together, shouting and talking, and none wore face-coverings. During the school day, I suspect they are kept apart in year-group 'bubbles', but when the bell goes... Then I was dismayed to see a group of mums who had just dropped-off their youngsters at a primary school, all gathered in a close bunch on the pavement, chatting together. Eating places looked crowded, too - though as I said above, I did not venture inside any of them.

Now I am back home, and a new raft of measures are about to be rolled out to try to stem the rising tide of infections. I have no fears for myself now - it is not difficult to pass several weeks here and see no more than a handful of people. But until the residents of the more crowded parts of our world see some sense and obey the distancing rules, keeping infection rates at the lowest possible level is never going to happen.

Heading south - Ballachulish

Heading north - Above Loch Loyne