What really worries me about getting overwhelmed


During the first lockdown of my life, last year, everywhere seemed empty. When I took the car to the chemist’s to pick up a prescription, there was almost nothing on the road, and hardly anyone walking either. It was weird, and quite exhilarating. For a while.

This time round we know all about lockdowns. When I go out for my daily exercise (you know, the sort of thing we always did every day and need to keep doing, ho, ho), I can hardly move for other people doing the same thing. On the roads there is loads of traffic – all of it no doubt on essential business.

I read about people travelling vast distances to do trivial and ridiculous things and wonder why I don’t take my wife over to North Walsham – a distance of about 15 miles – to put flowers on her parents’ grave. Such an action would not precipitate any increase in coronavirus infection, but it might attract a fine from some over-zealous marshal or police officer “only doing their job”.

So my parents, buried only ten minutes’ walk from my home, get all the attention. Dead lucky.

Yes, our almost daily wanders to the cemetery, by the river and round the cathedral close are never lonely as a cloud, but packed with bursting bubbles of eager walkers, or runners, or cyclists. Fair enough. I can hardly complain about people doing the same things as I am, even if far too many of them have dogs.

Covid is worrying, of course. What really worries me, though, is the number of people who will flock to our coast and other beautiful spots when the virus eases its grip, and the law is relaxed. I have a feeling my usual favourite haunts will be overflowing with strangers who still can’t get on a plane to Tenerife and have to go somewhere.

There is a whole bloc of people who have to go somewhere. I call them the Restless Ones. They can’t stay home for more than a few days without feeling the urge to go on “holiday” – if only in a tent, or only for a day or two. They bundle all their children into a car and take them somewhere that used to be lovely.

Someone once said (I think it was Jerry Seinfeld) that there was no such thing as fun for all the family. They refuse to believe this.

The problem, I’m afraid, is not people going to beauty spots. The problem is the number of people going to beauty spots – people who would in the normal run of things be out of the country. This is a serious problem. What if air travel doesn’t resume for years? What if these people suddenly realise that the country they live in is full of undiscovered, stunning countryside and excellent restaurants?

I may be vaccinated and optimistic about our ability to cope with the virus, but I can’t help fearing that I am nevertheless going to be overwhelmed – not by illness but by other people.