The Lockdown Diaries | Week 11: In which the healthy people would like the vulnerable ones to stay locked up forever, apparently
This week Scotland entered Phase 1 of its easing of lockdown, which means we finally got to see my parents again, after almost three months’ worth of Facetime calls: the longest time I’ve ever gone without seeing them in my entire life.
As predicted, it was super-strange seeing them, but not being able to hug them, but we quickly got used to it, and it did us all so much good to be together again that we’ve been making the most of the beautiful weather we’ve been having by going back every afternoon since, to hang out in their garden and let Max reacquaint himself with his beloved sandpit, and all of the other outdoor toys that Terry and I told my parents they were welcome to buy for him, on the condition they stayed at their house. (And which, OK, I’m pretty sure we’re breaking the rules by letting him touch, but, as I said in my last diary post, because my parents have been fully isolating for as long as we have, not even I, with my long history of health anxiety, think there’s any real risk of one of us having the virus and passing it on. Also, it’s not like my parents go out and play in the sandpit of an evening, or try to squeeze themselves into Max’s pedal car, so I think we’re good…)
The break from our usual lockdown routine, combined with the longest stretch of hot weather we’ve had in years now, have combined to make the entire week feel a little bit like a holiday of sorts. These are the first really happy days we’ve had since lockdown started (Actually, they’re the first since 2020 started, if I’m totally honest…), and while they haven’t felt normal, exactly, they’ve felt close enough to it for me to be vaguely worried about how on earth we’re going to cope once the sunshine goes away again – which is scheduled to happen tomorrow, naturally – and we’re back to being stuck at home on our own again.
I’m really aware that our ability to see my parents and enjoy that little taste of normality again is totally dependant on the weather staying dry (The current rules allow two households to meet up, but only outdoors, for now…) – and that’s just not something you can count on here in Scotland, is it?
For now, though, we have, as I said, been trying our best to make the most of the weather, and, this week, that also included going out for a walk.
I mean, I say, “a walk”… the more we thought about this, the more we realised that an actual walk just wasn’t going to be feasible for us right now. We might be willing to go against the shielding advice (More on that later…) by visiting my parents and venturing outdoors, but we’re aware that we still need to be super-cautious about it, and stay as far away from other people as possible. Unfortunately, that rules out almost all of the places we’d normally go to for a walk, or a day out: our village might be surrounded by countryside, but its footpaths are narrow, and the roads fairly busy, so all it would take would be one person walking in the opposite direction, and we’d have absolutely no chance of being able to keep a safe distance from them. Our usual walks, meanwhile, all tend to feature similarly narrow paths, where we’d be almost certain to encounter other walkers, so, in the end we settled on a short drive to a nearby country park, which has a few large, open spaces, along with the usual woodland trails, etc.
I’d expected to find it really nerve-wracking being out of the house (Which is actually one of the reasons I wanted to do it: I know my anxiety has the potential to tip over into agoraphobia, or create a bunch of other issues during this pandemic, and I’m really keen NOT to set myself up for a lifetime of counselling, if I can possibly help it…), but it was actually fine: the area we chose is one which most people tend to just walk through en route to the more scenic areas of the park, so while we did see a few other people, they all kept far enough away for us to be able to just relax and enjoy the sunshine.
I’d been a little bit worried that Max would find it really boring just wandering around what is essentially just an empty field, but he was really excited to be out of the house, which is another reason I was glad we’d done it: I know we haven’t really had a choice in the matter, but I still can’t help but feel guilty about all of the things he’s missing out on right now – and will continue to miss out on until it’s safe for Terry to go out of the house without having to put a huge amount of thought into it, first.
And that’s the thing that made this week so strange, really, despite the sunshine, and the company. It’s the fact that these things that we used to take completely for granted – a walk in the park, or a visit with my parents – now require a lot of planning, followed by the constant, underlying guilt that comes with the knowledge that we’re going against the government’s shielding advice by leaving the house at all. The guilt, I know, is stupid, really: I’ve thought from the very start that the shielding advice was unrealistic, and potentially quite damaging to those being asked to follow it, which is why I welcomed the news this weekend that the advice in England is now being relaxed, to allow people in the shielding group to go outdoors, and start meeting up with people again, as long as they take certain precautions.
It seems sensible to me to start allowing people to assess their own risk, as we’ve been doing, and decide for themselves what they feel comfortable doing (Or not doing as the case may be: I think a lot of people seemed to take this announcement to mean that shielded people HAVE to go out for walks or whatever, but, of course, they’re still free to stay indoors if that’s what they feel is best for them…), but I seem to be in a minority with that, because, when I logged on to Twitter on Sunday morning, I was really quite depressed by the responses I saw to that news article. Most of the people I follow strongly feel the shielded should not be “allowed” out yet (Conveniently forgetting, of course, that the shielded have always been “allowed out” – they were just advised against it…) – and, in fact, should be required to stay locked up indefinitely. Which… yeah.
I posted a rant about this on Twitter itself, but it actually made me really sad. I think it’s very easy for people who have the privilege of health to demand that those who don’t have that privilege be locked away, while claiming it’s for their own good, but I really wish the people calling for shielding to be extended could take a minute to try to understand what that means for those they want to condemn to a future of indefinite house-arrest.
I’m obviously not saying vulnerable people shouldn’t continue to be cautious, and do whatever they feel necessary to protect themselves, but I do, however, think we should stop treating them as if their physical vulnerabilities leave them incapable of rational thought, or risk assessment. Some of the tweets I’ve seen in the past few days, though, come across very much like, “Oh no, now that Boris has said it’s OK, the silly shielded people will all rush out and start taking stupid risks: we must save them from themselves!” I mean, can you even imagine anything more patronising?
For the record, none of the shielded people I know – including my own husband – want to go out and start mingling or taking risks. They’re not stupid. They know the government saying they CAN go out again doesn’t mean they HAVE to go out, even if they don’t want to. In our case, though, we also know that the things we did this week, while technically against the current advice in Scotland, didn’t present any risk at all to Terry: they did, however, make a huge difference to our general levels of happiness, as well as allowing our little boy the freedom to finally stretch his legs and leave the confines of our small garden, for the first time in 11 weeks.
It’s been nothing like “normal”, obviously: it has, however, been as close to it as I think we’re going to get for a long time to come, so I’m very grateful for that. It could always be worse, right?