The C Word: Returning to Reality?

by Maddie

It’s been a few weeks since I did a C Word blog post. I took some time off, and then the world felt even darker after the disgraceful killing of George Floyd (if you want some information on how you can support the BLM movement, there’s a blog post I wrote last week here with advice on petitions to sign, where to access well-being support, shows to watch and books to read) and now we’re entering a strange (eurgh, hate this phrase) ‘new normal’ in the UK.

Yes, these pics are largely irrelevant to this post – other than the fact that I am wearing loungewear with full intention of staying inside for as long as possible x

Shops are opening from today (it’s Monday 15th as I’m writing this) and people can form ‘support bubbles’ with one other household if they fall under certain strict criteria. I feel slightly more comfortable with the easing of restrictions now than I did before, but that’s purely because WE can choose to do only what WE’RE comfortable with. We don’t HAVE to use public transport, we don’t HAVE to go to high street stores if we don’t want to, and I think we’ve all grown comfortable enough now with meeting a pal outside at a 2m distance. Right now at this moment, I’m feeling a little more comfortable. Doesn’t mean I agree with what the Government is doing, though.

I thought it would be interesting to see if you guys all felt the same – so I reached out on Instagram with a few polls and questions for you. Your answers were very, very interesting. But, before we get onto them, let’s have a rant, shall we?

Get comfy, grab a cuppa – it’s time to RANT

The Rant

Hello. Time for me to have a good rant. Okay, so whilst I feel more comfortable now in June than I did in, say, April, it doesn’t mean I agree with the way restrictions are being eased. Let’s break it down into three elements of the easing of lockdown, shall we?

  1. High street stores reopening from Monday 15 June

Okay, so I get it. The economy needs to open up so we don’t all lose our jobs by September. It is important. But I personally cannot get my head around how certain shops are going to be safe enough for us to shop. It baffles me how we can’t socially distance at a pub with an outside beer garden, yet we’re all allowed to enter a clothes shop and spread our germs over every item of clothing we browse through.

Clothes shops, to me, seem the most unsafe of all stores. I know changing rooms are going to be closed, which is a step forward, but you’re not telling me it’s possible to not touch anything except the one item of clothing you’re buying. You have to browse racks of clothing to find the item that’s in your size, you linger over sales sections as you make your choice over what you want to purchase, and staff members handle your goods with the same hands they just handled dirty cash with. It seems a corona minefield – that’s all I’m saying.

Plus, what feels so wrong is that the fashion industry, one of the biggest pollutants for global warming, has probably been having a field day during lockdown. Everyone’s been purchasing more online because they’re bored, loungewear sales have gone through the roof, and people are still buying into their favourite brands. The difference between that and pubs with beer gardens is pubs haven’t been making a roaring trade. Plus, at pubs and restaurants, you could socially distance the entire time, as tables can be wiped down after punters have sat on them, you could order drinks and food via an app, and you don’t need to browse a pub, do ya? I don’t know, I just feel like there’s been an easing of the wrong restrictions.

2. Support bubbles

Okay, so this one will probably devise the nation a little. If you fit under said criteria for forming a support bubble, you’re probably buzzing. A chance to see your loved ones non-socially-distanced? That’s the utopian dream we’re all wishing for right now.

However, the new restrictions are utterly baffling. If you haven’t read up on them, you might be under the illusion that anyone can form a support bubble now. I’ve had friends over the last week exclaim we can all form bubbles, before I corrected them because I am an annoying human to let them know that’s actually not the case.

You can form a support bubble with another household if you are A) a single person living alone; B) a widow/widower; C) a single parent with a child under 18. This does not apply to those who are still being told to shield due to existing health conditions, and if you’re in the categories that can form a support bubble, once you’ve chosen the household you form a bubble with, this cannot change. So, it’s not quite as freeing as the words ‘support bubble’ might first seem.

The difficulty with these new rules are that they’re for one, really bloody confusing to get your head around and two, there’s no way to police them. People can now BS to their heart’s content that they’re visiting their ‘widowed mother’ when in fact that may not be the case. This is all built on ‘trust’ as the Government says, and once you give the public an inch, they take sixty five flippin’ miles. I’d like to hope the majority of us law-abiding citizens wouldn’t do that, but once you take one look in a busy park on a nice day, you realise it seems as if everyone is breaking the rules – which doesn’t hold out much hope for these new ones.

  1. Public transport

If you’re travelling on public transport from 15 June, you MUST wear a face mask. That’s great and all, but the jury’s still out on whether face masks 100% help limit the spread of coronavirus.

Furthermore, the Government still advise against using public transport – you must use it only if for a necessary journey. However, as I’ll explain later in the Positivity Lens (positivity is coming) I’m luckily under the bracket of people that can form a support bubble with my Mum and sister. I want to go home next weekend so I can finally be reunited with them after months. But I don’t have a car – so my only way home is via good old trains. Is this classed as an essential journey? Essential to me sounds like work only. But I really do want to form a support bubble with my family. Where do we stand with this? Boris ain’t told us. Unfortunately, he seems to think everyone is middle class and has enough spare dollar for a car.

Anyway, I’m done moaning. Let’s see what you guys think.

The Other Story

It was rather interesting to hear your thoughts on lockdown easing. I reached out to y’all on Instagram on Monday 15 June – the very day shops were reopening. Here were your thoughts:

Do you feel comfortable with going to high street shops from today?

29% of you answered ‘Yes’

An overwhelming 71% of you said ‘No’

If you answered no, why?

“Haven’t been out in so long it makes me cringe for some reason” ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

“It just doesn’t feel right yet!!” ๐Ÿ˜ž

“Feels so soon! Doubtful of Boris ๐Ÿ˜‚ I mean… It’s Boris. I have many opinions on him and I definitely lack trust! So I’m questioning if it’s too soon!” ๐Ÿ˜‚

“Seen how people disregard supermarket COVID advice – will be worse in shops.” ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

“No one seems to be wearing PPE or abiding by the 2m distance rules.” ๐Ÿ˜ž

“I don’t trust other people! It won’t feel like normal so there’s no point rushing it.” ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

“Because the death count is still too high.” ๐Ÿ˜ญ

“It’s too crowded.” ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

“So unfair on workers who have no other option but to risk exposure because they need the income.” ๐Ÿ˜ž

“The virus is still very much around with the R rate raising in the South West.” ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

“Other people! I haven’t been to a shop since March so I also have huuuge anxiety about it.” ๐Ÿ˜ญ

One thing that was really positive to see is that most of you have been able to socially distance catch-up with family. Only 30% of you are still waiting to see your loved ones (we’ll get there soon, I promise).

When trying to understand the new restrictions (who can form a support bubble; who can’t yet) it was clear the Governmental advice has been a little (read: a lot) confusing. 64% of you understand the rules – but still a big 36% of you still don’t. It’s confusing – Boris, we need more clarity!

Most of you weren’t in a position to be able to form a support bubble with your loved ones – 61% of you won’t be. It’s good to see we’re being sensible and only merging with another household if our personal circumstances mean we can.

Crucially, this statistic is one that makes me realise we still have a long journey ahead of us – and we’ve got to look for positive solutions in the ‘now’ to make us feel comfortable with what has become our new reality:

Are you comfortable now with the easing of restrictions or are you still anxious?

Whilst 40% of you felt more comfortable, an overwhelming 60% of you were still anxious – 3 months in.

So, we need to do something. Coronavirus is going to be a reality in our lives for many more months ahead, and we need to do more to ensure the ‘comfortable’ statistic is the overwhelming majority. So, let’s have a more positive chat, shall we?

*smiles because we LIKE positivity*

The Positivity Lens

Firstly, let’s discuss a more positive response I received from you guys on Instagram. When asked if you felt hopeful about the coming months and how the country may return to a ‘new normal’ over summer, this was your response:

Hopeful: 57%

Not really: 43%

This is the most positive response I’ve received since we started collaborating on these C Word blog posts! We’re starting to see the tiniest glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel! We’ve got to cling onto those hopes as we reach the height of summer – because things WILL get better and we ARE moving forwards.

One thing that *can* make a difference in our confidence as we transition into a ‘new normal’ can be by purchasing or making a face mask. I know the jury’s out on how effective they are, but surely if everyone’s wearing one it’s got to make some difference? 31% of you still need to get a face mask, so I thought I’d reach out and ask if you had any good independent companies to nab a face mask from – and here are your recs:

Good independent biz’s to support by purchasing a face mask?

“Lots of people in my town are making them so I’d say look on town Facebook pages etc.!” ๐Ÿ™๏ธ

“Twist & Scrunch” ~ also a rec of mine and where I got my lovely star print face mask – my pal, Roshin, makes masks and scrunchies at @twist_scrunch on Instagram! ๐Ÿ’—

“I’ve ordered mine from Esty! Loads of shops selling lots of different patterns” ๐Ÿงต

“The Fun Impossible” ๐Ÿงก

“Dry Rain in Liverpool made thousands of face masks for free at the start of lockdown” ๐ŸŒป

As I’ve explained with my own feelings, it’s not feeling all doom and gloom around here anymore. Let’s revisit those rants I made earlier, and see what we can pull from the wreckage.

  1. High street stores reopening

The good thing about these new rules is that you don’t need to participate in the shopping spree if you don’t want to. I for one will not be rushing to Cabot Circus with the hundreds of excitable shoppers ready for a bargain this morning, that’s for sure. You can still steer clear of the areas you believe will be corona danger zones if you’re able to. And remember, some individuals shopping will be doing so for essential goods – for those without cards, buying clothing in shops is the only option. So be kind to those who have chosen to shop – you don’t know their reasons behind doing so.

2. Support bubbles

Personally, I am very fortunate here. The only time losing my dear Dad has ever put me at an advantage is that my Mum is now classed as a single parent and my sister is under 18. Therefore, they are able to form a support bubble with myself and Sam. If I go home soon, I’ll be able to support my Mum whilst she’s carrying out her key worker role in a supermarket and can look after my younger sister and give her some company whilst Mum’s at work. I’m such a homebird, and the longest I’ve been away from family had been about 3 weeks before coronavirus, so it will mean the world for me to be able to see them after all these months. However, I do understand the restrictions are still preventing a lot of people from seeing their loved ones, and I’m hoping over the next few weeks more support bubbles will be allowed. The more we all stick to the rules, the quicker we’ll see a return to whatever normal will be.

3. Public transport

I’ve got to say, we live just off a busy main road in Bristol and the buses pass by at an alarming rate, but there still aren’t many people on them at all. This is really positive to see, as everyone is allowed the space they need to be safe on transport, and everyone was respecting the new face masks rule when I went on my walk this morning. I feel, on the whole, people are being sensible. People are realising the importance of actually listening to the rules. And whilst it may feel like everyone’s breaking them sometimes when you wander past a park or hear of illegal lockdown raves in big cities, these people are in the minority. We just gotta hope that, soon, there are even more freedoms permitted, stopping those fed up and breaking rules from feeling like they have to break them.

So, let’s look forward. Let’s not get too carried away and break any restrictions – they’re there to keep the virus under control. But let’s also look ahead to the coming months where – hopefully – lockdown will cease to exist.

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