Real life

This pandemic is showing us for who we really are

4 April 2020

9:00 AM

4 April 2020

9:00 AM

The spaniel curled up in her basket with one of my shoes, one of his socks and a packet of biscuits, as if stockpiling.

Every time I give her a treat she rushes outside to dig it into the garden. Tucking some essential treasures into her bed with her, she peeped back at me with soulful eyes. Cydney is sensitive. She knows something is up. The other spaniel, big, bear-like Poppy, is oblivious. She’s happy so long as the routine continues. We don’t see people at the best of times. We go to the field in the morning to feed the horses, come back, mooch about the house and garden. That’s our routine anyway.

It’s the number of walkers that has changed. They were pouring in their hundreds along the footpaths and tracks until the authorities told people to stop it. They come in smaller numbers now, wearing Lycra and stretching their arms ostentatiously over their heads as if to emphasise that they are exercising, as they clamber over stiles and gates.

The people we rent land from farm crops and livestock. The farm workers have to touch these gates when they’re rolling and harrowing. I want to scream at people: ‘This is where they produce food!’

A family came down the track at the builder boyfriend’s smallholding and ordered him out of their way as they passed. ‘Excuse me! We are self-isolating!’ said the man, as he walked his children past the BB who was putting up a fence to make another paddock in case we run out of hay, which has been subject to panic-buying.

‘You’re walking through us!’ the BB pointed out. Aren’t townies meant to hate mud? What happened to kids slouching at home on their consoles? Can’t everyone who has been knocking farmers and rural folks for decades just carry on logging on to Gala Bingo and watching telly like they normally do?

Heroes and anti-heroes keep emerging. We are seeing who people really are. I wasn’t scared until they made us all stand on our doorsteps clapping. Now I’m bricking it.

Some tragic stupidity is in evidence: the woman I witnessed unloading an old lady’s basket of shopping on to the conveyor belt with her bare hands, as if that were an act of kindness.

My hugest admiration goes to the check-out girl at the Little Waitrose Shell garage: ‘Approach the counter, put your items down, then stand back!’ she yelled at me. Thrilled, I placed my packet of mince down, told her the pump number and retreated. As I stepped back, she came forward and scanned, then told me to step up and enter my card, stepping back as I did so. That girl got it. If more people were like her we would get through this faster.

God is being extremely helpful. With everything else He has on, He has kept me going by making the broken ‘T’ on my laptop work. I cannot recommend prayer highly enough. The service is excellent.

To the banks who changed the rules on overdrafts to make new charges come in on 24 March, I say: we will remember. Mine sent me a text saying transfer funds by close of play today or it’s 35 per cent, because I was slightly overdrawn. They sent the same text to the BB, then when he turned up at a branch in a panic to deposit cash, an employee barred his entry and told him his visit was ‘not essential’.

When he told her his car insurance was about to bounce because they had demanded he put more money in, she still would not let him in. So he threatened to call the police. Whereupon she agreed that he had a right to deposit the money they were demanding he deposit.

At the bike shop, he tried to buy a pump for our cycles only to be told that was non-essential. ‘Are you open or not?’ he asked. The boy said: ‘Open but on lockdown.’ After a long debate about what that meant, he allowed him to buy the pump, which was £39.99, but demanded the exact money because he didn’t want to open the till and touch what was inside it.

‘So in order to not touch one penny piece, you’re asking me to give you 99 pence?’ Whereupon the man accepted the BB’s offer to keep the change.

It is as if the cogs are screeching into action as humans start using their brains again.

An equestrian events organiser emailed me informing me they would now be holding online horse trials. What did I think of that? they asked, sending me a form to suggest what riding events could be held virtually. My answer: none. Get a grip. Get into reality, which is what we are all having to do at long last.

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