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Comment: Stripping shelves and the selfishness of Covid

It's begun. Just as sure as night follows day, and relegation follows Northampton promotion, so stockpiling began in earnest the moment restrictions were introduced, with the possibility of more in the future.
Photo: Pixabay

It's not just in Peterborough of course; across the country we've seen people shuffling awkwardly out of supermarkets with trolleys piled high with toilet rolls, metaphorically telling the world to butt out of their business.  

Unless there is a particularly wicked strain of diarrhoea ripping through their household, which first reared its ugly head in March and now looms again, then there's no excuse for it. 

Thankfully it seems to be in smally numbers, and supermarkets have moved quickly, introducing limits on the numbers of some items in Morrisons and Tescos, among others.

It all comes back to that fairly loosely-defined concept of selfishness. No-one is truly, totally selfless. But just as we've seen the generosity and care of much of our community this year, so the ugliest and most ignorant facets of our nature have also shown themselves.

For a start, deliberately making people uncomfortable and not socially distancing is selfishness, especially in this climate.

I have seen elderly people petrified with fear. On one occasion on Town Bridge a couple of months ago a lady literally walked backwards to a slightly wider point, so that she was not within the boundary of our presence. The signs were clear, the appropriate action obvious. 

That isn't always the case. People and situations are complex. People are absent-minded or too laid-back or lazy, and I find myself in this camp - treading on people's toes metaphorically as I do so.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my run-in with a extremely foul-mouthed, who swore at me in a bakery when my six-year-old ventured within about three metres of him.

Last month I had another skirmish with someone - having taken my place at an apparently empty table in a well-known cafe in the city centre, an elderly gentleman emerged from the toilets and retrieved his cap from the end of the bench nearby.

I chuckled and apologised, saying I had no idea anyone was sitting here - to which he snapped at me that he was hardly invisible was he?

Ignoring the fact that a) actually he was' 'invisible', the silly old sausage, because he wasn't there when I arrived, and b) his wife hurriedly apologised before ushering him away, the most pertinent comment was from a lady nearby, who smiled and said that anyone that concerned simply shouldn't be out and about.

Another example came, of all places, at Ferry Meadows several weekends ago.

I met up with Peterborough French Bulldog Group for the first time, for a really enjoyable walk around the park with our pooches. The dogs needed a water break so we stopped, at a stretch where a path broadens into a more open area. We stood in small pockets, chatting happily - in those happy days when meet-ups above six were still allowed.

Suddenly a woman literally 'windmilled' her arms on her way through our circular group and pushed to the other side, yelling 'social distancing' at us, before marching onwards. 

Really? Are we still at the stage where simple manners are left behind? Where we can snap at strangers who are minding their own business and clearly not deliberately impinging on our lives?

Some will think she was in the right, and that we were the selfish ones congregating in a group. I don't agree and think her attitude was terrible - but her perspective is clearly different from mine.

There are also some businesses that are very lax with restrictions. I have heard now from two different people about some barbers who are not wearing PPE, incredibly. 

We knew where we stood with clearing the shelves of toilet rolls, illegal raves, and stores hiking prices -  but then it became much more cloudy. Talking to someone and standing slightly too close was selfish for some. Going out for any reason was selfish. Touching someone accidentally was selfish. Questioning the stats was definitely selfish, with more than a dash of irresponsibility.

Now, the questioning seems to be a lot more accepted, and as we saw yesterday in London it has accelerated. Far more people are debating the 'rule of six' and wearing masks (a column for another day) and venues closing at 10pm, when many arts groups, sports clubs, restaurants, cafes, businesses and pubs are crying out for more people to visit, not fewer. 

Thankfully groups such as Coronaheroes continue their great work, and there seems little doubt they will be needed this winter. There will be people who are simply unable to leave their house over Christmas and beyond, and they will really be the ones who need the long-term food.

Most people love pasta and bread. Most people also use toilet paper regularly. However most people do not intend to buy several kilos of these items and will buy according to what they need - let's all try to be one of them instead.