With home now being where we work, rest and play we’ve found it important to create a break between the working week and the weekend so that all the days don’t just merge into each other and create some kind of alternate Groundhog Day. So on Friday, work was shut down, the doors to the ‘offices’ were closed and we settled into our weekend routine.
On Saturday I would normally go for a long bike ride and at this point in my training, most likely would have been riding for most of the weekend, and through the night. But, this is not a normal Saturday, and so I rode for just 15 miles, keeping local to home so that I could stretch my legs in the fresh air, but always be in walking distance of home should anything come a cropper.
I left it a little late if I’m to be honest, but around 11:30 am I went out, and once past my local High Street, found the streets largely empty. There were few cars about, and the ones that were out were patient and gave me a really wide berth. Social distancing by car drivers is something that I hope continues once this is over. I had never felt so safe on the roads.
Everything was markedly different from my ride last weekend, when traffic was heavy, and thousands were ignoring the stay at home advice and gathering in popular outdoor places. Runners ran alone, there were no groups of cyclists. With the few shops that were open, people queued outside individually with large gaps between them. Queues that looked long were an illusion as they may have only contained 10 or so people, but they were being let in stores in very small groups to ensure that people could maintain the 6ft apart distance. It seems it took us around a week to comply with the Government and understand what the new rules mean, and why.
I rode out to Portchester, then up to the top of Portsdown Hill to admire the views over the city. This is such an amazing place to survey the local area, but normally being busy with cars it’s difficult to stop and take in the best vistas. But today I was alone up there, and could just stop, and breathe, and watch. It was like life was standing still. The normally packed motorway that heads into the city centre had just a handful of vehicles on it. The air was clear and quiet. The sound of birds seemed amplified today despite a strong wind.
Eventually it was time to come home, and I headed off the hill. The road down off the hill is usually busy. It’s not uncommon to be shouted at by impatient car passengers that think a cyclist is a good target for a bit of verbal abuse. But not today. No cars passed me as I made my descent. In fact as I took the large roundabout that goes under the motorway, still it was quiet. No need today to take the subway for safety.
I started to remember Sundays when I was a child. I lived on the edge of a small town in Kent, and rode bikes even back then. But on Sundays, families stayed at home. Sunday was family day. There were no shops open, and as kids we played in the park with our friends, while our mums always cooked up Sunday roasts. Then if we didn’t head back out again it was board games, and in the evening we would settle down as a family and watch TV – a Carry On film or repeats of Dad’s Army or Some Mother’s do have ’em. They were simpler times, not 24 hr living. I began to miss these times.
The empty roads reminded me of this. When did we decide as a nation that shops needed to be open every day, that everything needed to be accessible all of the time? I think it’s helped to fracture our family way of life.
I believe that this pandemic may cause us all to re-evaluate how we spend our time, money and energy. When the freedom of being able to go to the shops all the time is taken away from us, we find other things to do. When the bars, restaurants and other leisure centres are closed, and we are told to stay home, we crave being outside. This is why the Government have allowed us exercise as part of the lock down. For our mental health we cannot be caged birds, and so we are allowed limited exercise. But I still see people abusing this luxury that they have given us. The guidance was to take exercise, but to be outside for as short a time as possible. So when I see people still going out for their 100 mile bike rides, I can understand that they might be going stir crazy, but its frankly ignoring the spirit of lockdown in my view. We all have to adapt in the time of global crisis, and those that take things to extreme risk losing everyone else the luxury of being able to get out. Many countries have restricted exercise to within 2 km of their home, and I can see this coming to us before long if people continue to flout the stay local and keep it short guidance.
After my ride I noted that I had developed a bit of a cough, and so on Sunday I stayed indoors. I’m certain that it’s not the Coronavirus, and is more of a riding induced bit of phlegm (I sniff a lot when riding), but I don’t want to compromise my immune system right now, so I’m planning on taking it easy. With that in mind I decided to finally continue with the decoration of one of my bedrooms, that was started over 3 years ago, and never quite got finished. We will be using this room as our home gym, so that’s given me the motivation to get the job done. Hopefully by next weekend it will be finished, and our gym equipment can be properly house in there, instead of scattered about the house like it is currently.
It’s become very apparent that there is a national outpouring of respect for our NHS. Just looking through facebook the appreciation is amazing. People are buying food, gifts and lots of tokens of thanks and having them delivered to our main hospital QA (Queen Alexandra) in Portsmouth. But I thought you’d like to see this post which is when the police turned up the A&E at the weekend, to show their thanks in the most perfect way.