Just over a month since this pseudo-lockdown started and here in the Wold I can’t see that life has changed very much – on the surface at least – for most people. A community Facebook page was set up with a phone number for ‘vulnerable’ people to call if they were worried about essential food supplies or presumably anything else, set up and manned by older long-term residents well over 70 years of age themselves. Home deliveries from the well-known supermarkets have continued, although there was some consternation when deliveries of milk were slow to arrive, but this was explained by the roundsman who has struggled in the last few years to keep the business viable suddenly being inundated by people wanting to buy milk in real glass bottles, so much so he found himself having to refuse new customers.
The local shops at first had some difficulty due in part to local panic buying, but actually recovered quite quickly, offered pre-ordered and paid deliveries locally too; one local cafe offers the same for food and a local pub even offered home delivery of fish and chips.
Despite being ignored by the congregation of the new ‘clap and bang cult’, the postie has arrived as usual, the bin-men have arrived as usual, three to a cab now dressed in orange Hi-Viz with fetching blue gloves as they start their shift of collections one hour after clocking on at the depot and arrive at 7am to start house collections, usually running from house to house; not much fun in wet weather or during the unseasonable hot weather of the last couple of weeks. Always pleasant, these guys, goodness knows how they cope with the stink from all this. Sooner them than me, I’ve often thought.
Our communal grassy areas have also been mown, a nice job if you don’t suffer from hay fever and again are immune to the sickening smell of dog poo. Both these jobs (or should that be ‘career opportunities’) offer competitive salary rates of around £9 to £10 pound an hour, while our road sweeper, who also arrived on his lonely round this week, can expect to make a little more – presumably because of the need for a class two licence – between £10 and £14 per hour
This is better than Sharon, who is a care worker at one of our care homes. Working with older vulnerable people, particularly those suffering from mobility issues and those suffering from dementia, is a particularly stressful and sometimes heart-breaking occupation and carries a good deal of responsibility. It often requires working unsocial hours, all of which is reflected in pay scales which start at around £9 an hour, about the same as supermarket assistant staff. In fact, Sharon was telling me that some of her colleagues have recently left to work in supermarkets as they are recruiting increasing numbers of people at around £10 an hour, with overtime available and pleasant working conditions. An extra one pound an hour when your salary is just above the minimum wage is well worth considering.
There are many hard-working people doing often unpleasant jobs that are actually quite important and which the residents in leafy shires and Audi Avenue may like to consider as they remain comfortably on furlough, or in the case of public sector staff, on full pay including holiday entitlements, for the foreseeable future at any rate.
Our leafy lanes are alive with the yarping middle classes and their off-spring, having nothing better to do than walk, jog, or run for hours on end. Younger joggers are mostly young women kitted out in skin-tight lycra running kit complete with heart and blood pressure monitor strapped to their arm. Men are usually kitted out with some sports kit with the logo of last years ‘in’ retailer or manufacturer, similar to lycra-clad cyclists, the only difference being the latter shout conversations to each other as they peddle, usually along the lines of how this is the third time this week they have ridden the 50-miler.
Odd how they can ride miles, apparently in complete safety and free from the interference of plod, but a young family sitting in the middle of some open space is told to move on by some officious guardian of the law, or, as reported this week telling three 90-year-old ladies sitting in the confines of their care home garden that they must go inside to be ‘safe’, presumably from police like them.
The older ‘walkers’ are more sedate, usually six feet apart from the next couple. It’s odd though how many are hard of hearing and have to carry on their conversations in loud voices. It’s almost as if school is out for the day and they can’t quite believe their luck and have to tell everyone how good, law-abiding and important they are or, as I overheard the other evening, because that is prime exercise time for these people.
All this pedestrian traffic is quite unusual in St. Mary’s. Not for many years have the lanes and by-ways seen so many people. The pattern is quite interesting. Pre-virus, they walk early in the morning, by far the best part of the day incidentally. I understand you may yet need to be convinced of that, but dog walking before 7am, before the world is awake, allows usually hidden wildlife and bird song to be heard.
This year spring has been better than most can remember. The smells of spring wild flowers along with spring flowers in gardens have been really noticeable and thankfully the smell of rape seed does not yet seem to have caused problems to hay fever sufferers. Either that or people are afraid to admit to eyes running blocked noses and the like in case it’s the start of the virus. Regular suffers will know the difference and just take their usual ‘hay fever’ medication. That apart though, it is good to see people getting out and about as far as possible and getting some fresh air and some exercise. What is fascinating is the amount of overweight middle-aged and older people there are, something we have all heard about or suspected. I have to say though that acres of naked flesh along with a huge stomach half contained by some baggy shorts is not a good look for men any more than tight ‘T’ shirt and running tights are on, shall we say, a lady of a certain age and fuller figure is, but each to the their own.
Part 2 will be published here tomorrow.