Spring has arrived.
At least in the South of England, where I am currently waiting out lockdown before my return to Manchester. Saturday 27th February 2021 was a beautiful day; the kind of day that inspires me to write mediocre poetry about sunshine and birdsong. I went on a ten mile walk to a beautiful woodland, heard the birds singing in the trees, saw a goldcrest and a nuthatch and a treecreeper, saw emerging leaves, blossom buds, and daffodils in flower.
I also saw a lot of people out enjoying the weather, and the countryside. Whilst everything else made me happy, this made me nervous.
Everyone has a right to enjoy the countryside and the outdoors, and I would encourage everyone who doesn’t already walk regularly to do so – but everyone also still has a responsibility to maintain social distancing, which, as the weather improves and vaccines are distributed, worries me more and more.
Throughout the winter, I have regularly been walking at my local lake. It is a great place to walk, and I have seen many cool looking, and even quite rare, ducks and water birds. (We appear to have become middle aged, and taken up birdwatching through lockdown). One of the main benefits, however, is that, throughout, the paths are pretty much two metres wide. A great place for everyone to enjoy nature, and maintain social distancing, really quite easily.
People seem quite good at the first half, but downright terrible at the second.
When my boyfriend and I walk together, and someone is coming the other way, we make an effort to pass single file, or at the very least, move off the path and squish closer together. It is rare, however, that people walking the other way offer us the same courtesy.
It’s not even a difficult thing to do. Your partner isn’t going to run away if you stop holding their hand for 30 seconds, and a conversation can be paused for a moment while you pass someone, and resumed once at a safer distance again. The lunchtime walks that I take to ease stress become sources of anxiety themselves when others walk two, three, even four abreast across the path, with seemingly no thoughts for the people around them.
I would like to reiterate, that I am not saying that I wish people would stay indoors. I am happy that people are able to take advantage of the outside world, and aware of the luxury of countryside I currently have around me. If I were in the middle of Manchester right now, I would definitely be more stressed, more unhappy, more anxious.
I am also aware that outdoor spaces are relatively low-risk – but they are not ‘no-risk’, and when there is no requirement to wear a mask outdoors, it is more important to maintain social distancing, especially when warmer weather will increase the numbers of people enjoying the outside, leading to more frequent potential of ‘high density’ situations.
The roadmap out of lockdown is encouraging, and combined with the warmer weather brings a sense of hope that we haven’t had in a long time. But as Spring, and eventually Summer, roll through, we must continue to follow the guidelines that have been set out for the safety of ourselves and others, and it worries me that this will not continue to be the case.