Thursday, May 14, 2020

High Alert in Ruislip

The Covid-19 crisis has gripped us for two months. During this time almost all shops have closed, as have many businesses. There is virtually no air travel, the roads are eerily quiet, schools are shut and even hospitals have far less activity in all departments other than those treating victims of the virus. We have been following the slogan "Stay Home", which has always been followed by "Protect the NHS. Save Lives" in every government briefing and policy statement, repeated time and again by our leaders and medical experts.

Fear of the virus has meant that the Ramblings household has followed the rule. Other than the weekly shop, we have had no physical proximity to others. We go out for exercise or to obtain the odd items from the local shops that the supermarket could not supply, but we have spent day after day behind our doors, as have millions of others.

As of this week, with a slackening of the infection rate and a drop in the daily deaths attributable to the virus, there has been some relaxation of the lockdown regulations. There is no longer a limit on time one can spend outdoors and all who can work safely (and travel there safely) are encouraged to do so. And the slogan to "Stay Home" has been changed. It is now "Stay Alert".

I liked "Stay Home". It was easy to grasp and sensible. Staying home is pretty well guaranteed to keep one free from infection. Knowing that others were doing likewise meant that the infection rate was bound to start coming down.

"Stay Alert" is quite different. I want to be a good citizen. I feel I should, therefore, be on the alert. I stand by the window in my front bedroom from time to time and twitch the net curtains, keeping my eyes trained on the roads outside. I scan the skies whilst sitting in the conservatory which overlooks the back garden. My mobile phone is kept to hand at all times in case that vital call comes in. And yet - is this really enough? Is this, indeed, what we are meant to do?

I am not totally sure what we keeping alert for. People with the disease, perhaps, sneaking up on us when we are unguarded. But many have the disease and display no symptoms. Others may have coughs and temperatures but how on earth can I spot them if they are outside and I am inside? Should I hide out in the front garden, perhaps cutting a couple of eye-holes in the dustbin and crouch inside with notebook to hand? Should I obtain a tin hat, write "Alert Warden" on it and patrol the street? Maybe I could bang on the odd front door "Here, put that light out, don't you know there's an Alert on?"

I enjoy the odd light doze in the afternoon, maybe once or twice a week. I had a highly fascinating YouTube video on developments in physics going the other day but must confess to having missed quite a lot of it as my eyes glazed. I came to, though, with a start. Sleeping on duty? When there is an Alert on? That's a court martial offence. I think I got away with it but if Mrs. C turns me over to the authorities then it could be a bleak outlook. They'd take away my tin hat for a start.

In any case, who do we report to? I mean, if we do actually spot something that ought to be reported, the whatever-it-is that we are on the alert for. I've had no instructions. If they had a sort of Alert Home Guard scheme where you sign up on an official website and receive a badge and maybe a nice pen, plus money-off vouchers at local cafes for being part of the War Effort, then I'd be there like a shot. There is no such website. We are on our own, loyal to the directions of the authorities, but essentially making it up as we go along. I assume we do get tea-breaks whilst being On Alert and have taken them regularly but is this a breach of regulations? Should I be keeping a log of my daily sightings of the postman and the Tesco lorry making its regular deliveries? Is it permitted to have a lie-in on weekends?

So many questions. So few answers. Actually, no answers at all. Nonetheless, I shall soldier on. I shall remain on a state of High Alert until that glorious day when London advises that the war is over and I can stand down, hang up the tin hat and begin work on my memoirs. Or until they change the slogan.

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