Somerset March 30th 2020

It’s Buddy’s birthday today. He’s 38. It’s day 6 of lockdown. The message is clear from the government: ‘Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.’ I’m holed up at the cottage. With movement limited, I thought it best to get here and stay here. There’s less chance of me contracting the virus (I was worrying less about me being ill and more about giving it to mum) and there’s more to do here: walks, creating mixes and writing.

The latest advice has warned that we can expect to observe social distancing for anything from 3 to 6 months. This is going to be hard. For all of us. For those living with others. For those of us living on our own. We will develop new ways of thinking. People will fall out. People will get lonely. There will be more domestic abuse. Yet hopefully it will stop the spread.

Last week I felt a sense of de-mob happiness. I was off school and the weather suddenly got lovely. I got into a routine of running in the morning and then reading ‘Underland’ by Robert Macfarlane on the landing at the top of the stairs which gets the morning sunlight.

I started to plan a new walk. I’m still doing the South West Coast Path (started 3 years ago). I then started the Suffolk Coast Path when Dad got ill and I couldn’t make it to Cornwall. Now I can’t make it to Suffolk I was going to follow the Liberty Trail and Wessex Ridgeway from Crewkerne to the coast at Bridport or Lyme Regis. Last week the police put a stop to that by stopping people who were driving to go for a walk. In Derbyshire, the local police posted footage of walkers in the Peak District in an attempt to ‘name and shame’. On the World at One today Jonathan Sumption was criticising this act as similar to the actions of a police state.

Now I can’t drive half an hour I’m going to walk from the cottage South along the River Parrett Trail and see how far I get. Looks like there’s going to be plenty of time. I still feel the walking thing is very low risk and as long as I am sensible it should be fine (the only risk I can see is touching stiles and gates and transmitting Covid-19 that way). Whenever I have been walking I have been deliberately practising what is being referred to as ‘social distancing’ anyway. That is the point.

There are other moments where I am tempted to push the restrictions. Lamprini lives in Exeter and we’re both in isolation. I could do with her company, both physically and mentally. The plan is to go and stay with her on Thursday. Let’s hope I make it! I feel it would be cheeky to pull the critical worker letter out as an excuse but who knows how desperate I might get.

I was just listening to Professor Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist again on WatO, explaining the importance of touch in primates. Apparently the way parents play with their children’s hair is just the same as how other primates do the same thing. A gentle stroking releases endorphins and allows bonds to build between two partners.

When asked about how a lack of touch would affect humans he said there would be a certain lack of connection. We rely on touch much more than we admit. However, he said eye contact and making each other laugh were sure fire ways of maintaining good relationships with our loved ones. So I can look, I can laugh and hopefully I might be able to cuddle. Love in the time of Corona.

This brings me to Dad. I am apparently allowed to travel to see him if he is about to die. The worry then is passing on the virus to Mum. The guidelines on funerals are another reminder of the seriousness of what we’re living through. No more than 12 people and still observing the 2 metre distancing from each other. Tears but no hugs. It’ll be tough. When I spoke to Mum last night she told me yesterday that they had changed the guidance so that the service could only be held at the graveside.


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