Self-appointed Covid wardens make me grateful for small mercies like these – Stephen Jardine

As he fails to learn Spanish and finds himself all quizzed out, Stephen Jardine counts the blessings of life in lockdown.

The air is clean, the roads are quiet and we're alive (Picture: John Devlin)

We are going nowhere fast. Tomorrow the Prime Minister will address the nation and reveal his roadmap for unlocking the UK. Whatever Boris says, here in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has emphasised she is not prepared to risk undoing everything that has been achieved over the last, long seven weeks.

While politicians assess progress and remaining obstacles, it seems like a good time for us to review our own progress. If most restrictions are likely to remain in place, what have we learned so far? How do we navigate our way through continuing lockdown?

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Let’s start with the positives. If you have got good health and haven’t yet instructed divorce solicitors, congratulations, you are doing well. The past seven weeks have tested families and relationships like nothing before. Incidentally, if you are thinking of splitting from your partner make sure you pack their bags for 8pm on a Thursday. That way they will leave thinking the whole street wanted to see the back of them.

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Relationships aside, you may have turned your life around over the course of the past seven weeks, quitting smoking and drinking and finding a new passion for running 5K every day.

In that case, good luck to you but you are the exception rather than the rule.

Most of us are just getting on with it, worrying about why the bottle recycling bin is always full and why that T-shirt we bought back in February doesn’t even fit over our neck anymore. Every day is a battle with cupboards filled with banana bread and toilet rolls and a conscience that nags with reminders to do our daily exercise.

That comes with difficult choices. You can get out and get it done early with the insomniacs or wait until after dark with the muggers. The only other option is during the actual day when every path is filled with wheezing joggers and aggressive middle-aged men on bikes, pushing lycra to the very limits of its elasticity.

Over the past seven weeks, the usual mutual antipathy between walkers, joggers and cyclists has been given a new lease of life by the demands of social distancing. Although that is nothing compared to the hostility we must all surely feel towards the self-appointed Covid wardens who wander the streets chalking two-metre measurements wherever they go.

At a time of shortages, the fact they have chalk makes me suspect they are probably maths teachers, eager to educate us all to the fact that two metres equals six feet seven inches. Also they need to fill their time somehow as no one will go for a walk with them because they are maths teachers.

Back home, a check of the phone reveals a reminder from Duolingo that I’ve missed learning Spanish for the 15th day in a row and lots of social media posts from people who are perfecting sourdough bread or making a scale model of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon out of old egg boxes.

In the moments before yet another Zoom quiz with people we’d hoped never to see after leaving school, there is a moment of quiet contemplation. The air tastes clean, the roads are quiet, the sun is shining and we are alive. It’s a time to be grateful for small mercies.


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