There’s nothing trivial about allowing some ‘fun’ activities in lockdown

Tranmer House from the mounds at Sutton Hoo. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Tranmer House from the mounds at Sutton Hoo. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

I should be preparing to go on holiday today – we were supposed to be heading off for a week in Devon tomorrow but the coronavirus got in the way and instead we’re having a forced staycation, writes Paul Geater.

But things could be worse – and at least the slight easing of the last few weeks has given us a few more options of things to do from our Ipswich home.

We have visited Sutton Hoo and one or two other National Trust properties – and I’m really looking forward to getting back to Minsmere for the first time in months.

We should be able to visit some relations in their gardens and I’m looking forward to going for a walk along the beach once or twice. We might even make our first visit to Colchester Zoo for several years.

But however much we want to spread our wings, we can’t ignore the fact that coronavirus is still out there. People are still vulnerable to this nasty disease. It’s great news that a relatively cheap, and easily-accessible, treatment has been found – but it’s not a vaccine and won’t save every sufferer.

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I don’t have too many worries about the reduction of the two-metre rule, but personally I’m not going to be rushing to the pub or restaurants with all their new rules. I’m a keen cinema-goer, but I suspect I’ll wait until there’s something I really, really want to see before I sit in an air-conditioned screen. One thing I have found tiresome over recent weeks is the suggestion that easing of things to do and allowing us to see more people is in some way trivial or pointless.

On the day it was announced zoos could reopen there was a string of commentators asking: “How come you can open zoos, but not ensure children can go to school?”

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While it reasonable to ask whether the government has done enough to get schools open again, linking the two is a fairly pointless exercise.

From a purely practical point of view it is obviously a great deal easier to ensure social distancing in a large, outdoor, park than it is in a school that may have been built in Victorian times and extended with a maze of corridors and new classrooms.

Just because schools can’t open, there is no reason to say zoos and country parks should keep their gates closed.

And the fact is recreation facilities are important to everyone and if possible we should be looking at finding ways of bringing them back.

I’m not saying they should be THE top priority – but they are very important for our minds and our souls.

Surely everyone wants to see the day when theatres and cinemas can open again safely – even if it is very difficult to see how that can be achieved at present.

At the start of the lockdown there was a great deal of talk about how could sport be resumed. Now the Premier League is back and cricket and Formula One isn’t far away – that’s great news so far as I am concerned. It’s not life and death . . . but it’s great for our collective mental health.

The mental health issue is very important. At one stage earlier in lockdown I tweeted about an MP who had asked a question in PMQs about the plight of his local heritage railway.

One person, whom I know is very sensible and reasonable, said on Twitter that it wasn’t the time or place to be talking about steam trains when people were dying in care homes.

I know his issue wasn’t a matter of life and death, but the issue he raised is important for many people. There are tens of thousands of volunteers working on heritage railways which have hundreds of thousands of visitors and millions of visitors/passengers every year.

This is a subject I’m passionate about – and it’s a sector of the leisure industry that is in dire straits. And if lines are forced to close for a second time (after the butchery of the 60s) I would personally find this very distressing.

Different things are important to different people. I know people who are desperate to return to Portman Road. There are millions desperate to stand at a bar with their mates and chat over a pint.

Hobbies, leisure pursuits, the things that make life worth living differ from person to person – but they are all important to our mental health.

Sadly things are still far from normal. We’ll be able to go to Minsmere – but they’ll be no cheese scone or fruit crumble. We’re be able to walk around Sutton Hoo, but we won’t be able to see the fantastic Staffordshire Hoard exhibition there that we’ve been looking forward to.

Things are better than they were three months ago, but they’re not yet normal. But at least during my staycation I’ll be able to watch a decent amount of football – even if we all knew exactly where the Premier League was heading long before the season was suspended!

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