Last weekend’s pandemic-panic awayday was inevitable – but so was the visceral response

Picture by the Snowdonia National Park Authority

Mike Parker

So, the weekend is upon us again.  You’ve probably not noticed, as for those of us whose work is non-essential (and seeming ever more ephemeral by the hour), the days are starting to melt into one another like a four-cheese fondue.  Do you remember fondues?  Even in the 1980s, the idea of sitting around with a bunch of people and poking bits of meat or veg into a gloopy lava seemed like a health and safety nightmare, and that was before anyone had even heard of health or safety.  Right now, a fondue party would be nothing short of cheesy Russian roulette.

Even if distinct days of the week and fondues are a blank, do you remember last weekend?  You should.  It will go down in Welsh history, I suspect, and become as iconic as Carlo’s investiture or the Belgium game: the utterly surreal weekend when legions of Brummies and Scousers hot-footed it out of town on a mass pandemic-panic awayday to a locked-down Wales.  Parked cars clogged the Llanberis pass.  Snowdon thrummed like Oxford Street in the sales.  St David’s cathedral was so overwhelmed it had to lock its doors (“If you wish us to pray for you specifically, please e-mail us through the website,” squeaked a spokesman).

It was mad, but nigh-on inevitable.  Official messages at the time were hopelessly muddled: you can’t go to the pub, but you must get fresh air and exercise.  Less populated areas the world over were seeing the same thing.  To people who have been so distanced from their own countryside, and who have been told to trust only the places that the brown signs and Trip Advisor point them towards, where did they therefore go?  To our over-sweetened honeypots, of course.  Twenty-five years ago, living in suburban Birmingham with an insatiable itch for Wales, I’d have doubtless done the same.

 

Turn around

If that was understandable, so too was the visceral response it provoked here in rural Wales.  The tourist invasion that we gear ourselves up for at this time every year came turbocharged, all at once, but stressed and scared rather than hopeful or happy, and laced with a terrifying danger.  Out came the paint pots and the bedsheets, daubed with exhortations for the hordes to return home.

When I lecture about cartography, I often overlay different maps of Wales to show how geology and topography, the intrinsic factors, are mirrored so precisely in human geography, things like dialect or voting patterns.  There’s a new map to be made, one of the regional variations in the kind of language that was used to tell the visitors to scram.

In Bala, its lake crusted all weekend by camper vans and smouldering under a carpet of barbeque smoke like some post-apocalyptic Glastonbury, feelings ran predictably fierce.  GO HOME IDIOTS screamed one banner; GO HOME RATS another.  Here in Machynlleth, decades of hippydom and voting Liberal boiled over in the most genteel fury: CORONA TOURISTS, PLEASE GO HOME – DIOLCH! read the banner under the clock tower.  In Porthcawl, there was PLEASE TURN AROUND (put there I reckon by Bonnie Tyler, as a subliminal brainwash to get us all to download – again – Total Eclipse of the Heart).

Inevitably, another agenda cracked through the surface.  GO HOME SAIS shouted fresh graffiti in Rhosneigr, where fisticuffs also broke out as tensions climbed.  This crisis is making everyone act like exaggerated versions of themselves, and that, unfortunately, includes idiots.  I was saddened, but not surprised, to see a Twitter poll at the beginning of the week, asking “should the Welsh government close the border?” 94.7% of 526 people demanded that yes, they should.  So, no more patients to Shrewsbury, nor food deliveries from Bristol then?

The Wales-England border is 260km long, and crossed by 244 roads, nine railways and innumerable rivers and streams.  It runs across parks, bogs, fields and woods; passes through houses, farms, villages, towns, a pub and a National League football stadium.  I don’t think even the brave Twitter 500 will be enough to enforce its closure, not even if they wrap themselves, as they invariably do, in y ddraig goch.  Perhaps it’s the only way to make them realise that a polyester flag doesn’t convey magic powers.  It’s not a Harry Potter invisibility cloak – especially against a killer that is itself invisible.

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jones
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jones

Ed Snowden Warns: Surveillance Measures Will Outlast The Pandemic
https://tinyurl.com/rejbxup

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

True. I said elsewhere that……… “the MSM + Governments world wide will collude to create conditions for even more intrusive draconian laws. These will be introduced as “temporary for the duration of the crisis…” but will be allowed to remain in force after the event as some other crisis will conveniently arise. I’m not yet totally sold on conspiracy theories but there are situations where that kind of diagnosis is quite plausible.”

E.O.
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E.O.

Glib, smarmy response to legitimate concerns.

Read this article out loud, Mr. Parker, to the families of the dead whose loved ones may have been spared if said tourists – monstrously venal, and, like yourself, most certainly spoiled and soul-less – had stayed a home.

Then see how god damn funny it is.

Siôn
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Siôn

So the people who flocked to Barry Island and Porthcawl were all from Bristol, were they? There are fools everywhere.

Hywel Moseley
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Hywel Moseley

What on earth does EO mean. Is he for or against the virus? Difficult to understand. Perhaps this contribution has been translated from another language?

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Thank you for educating us. What would we do without you?

Martin Owen
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Martin Owen

.I am now seeing posts that I shouldn’t get in my car, drive 10 minutes into the middle of open country to start my exercise walk rather than walk through the streets of the town. . Some people (including some Police Forces if we are to believe tweets from the Peak District) are sending out very confusing messages. Walking in a field is safer than walking a street. Protecting your immune system through exercise will make you more resistant and/or give you a better chance of recovery.

CapM
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CapM

It’s possible to exercise to the point of exhaustion without leaving your living room.
Going outside to exercise is more to do with mental rather than physical health.
The streets are empty now so it’s only marginally safer to exercise in a field.
If you’re still concerned just find a nearby spot separate from anyone and run or other on the spot.

Driving to do exercise in the countryside is acceptable if you’re the only one doing it.
So good luck in convincing everyone else to accept your exceptualism.

Royston Jones
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You’re forgetting fresh air and sunlight, both vitally important to physical well-being.

CapM
Guest
CapM

Fresh air – open a window. Due to the lockdown the air quality in urban areas is most probably of a higher quality now than for decades.
Sunlight – the sun shines in urban areas as well as the countryside. Vitamin D can be obtained from eg red meat, dairy products and fish. Vegans are probably already taking vitamin D in fortified foods.

So no need to drive out to the countryside for either fresh air or sunlight..

Royston Jones
Guest

You originally said that there’s no need to leave your living room for exercise. I pointed out that fresh air and sunlight are vital, and both are best obtained outdoors.

In your response you made an unconvincing case that the benefits of fresh air and sunlight can be had without leaving your home. And you concluded with, “no need to drive out into the countryside for either fresh air or sunlight”. But I did not advocate driving anywhere.

My advice remains: get out of your house for exercise, fresh air and sunlight. Something you can do without driving anywhere. Or turning vegan.

CapM
Guest
CapM

If you re-read my initial comment to Martin Owen I think you’ll see that I didn’t advocate staying indoors to exercise just that it was possible and therefore very possible to exercise close to home . If you think that opening a window isn’t an effective way of getting some fresh air then perhaps you should try it and see if you detect a difference. If you think getting vitamin D from red meat, dairy fish etc doesn’t make up for a lack of sunshine perhaps you should consider how people living within the artic circle cope with their need… Read more »

John Ellis
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John Ellis

Perhaps I should offer a word in defence of Derbyshire’s constabulary! For nine years I lived a mere couple of miles from the boundary of the Peak National Park, and, as it’s situated within easy reach of three major conurbations – Nottingham/Derby, south Yorkshire and Greater Manchester – it gets enormous numbers of day trippers of all sorts: bank holiday weekends and the entire month of August especially, but it happens unfailing as well on the first bit of nice weather that the area gets at the beginning of spring. Which this year coincided with the start of the coronavirus… Read more »

Charles L. Gallagher
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Charles L. Gallagher

Yeah, and your bloody prince trips up to Scotland and on stepping-off his ‘PRIVATE JET’ declares himself unwell and asks for a test which was ‘POSITIVE’. Why did this clown not seek this test in England before he left, he knew he was unwell before he left and why did he come despite Mark Drakeford and our Nicola virtually banning people to travel to their ‘HOLIDAY HOMES’ without giving any thought to the fact of how difficult it is to provide medical cover in rural Wales and Scotland at the best of times. Now I reckon that here in Shetland… Read more »

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

I found it uplifting – at last people here began to wake up to the toxic effects of mass tourism. O.K it’s taken a Covid 19 “crisis” to generate this level of awareness but we needed some sharp prompting to realise that most of these travellers don’t do much good to Wales at anytime. As for the wasters who just travelled within, say from the valleys to the coast, these represent part of the real challenge for the future. If they can so flippantly disregard current advice regard public health then getting them to see the value in something really… Read more »

Penderyn
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Penderyn

“So, no more patients to Shrewsbury, nor food deliveries from Bristol then?“

you know this is a nonsense. Slovenia closed its border to Italian travellers and avoided a much worse fate. Slovenia still imports freight from Italy And can still send people to hospitals around the EU.

If Wales had closed the border to general visitors we might be in a better situation

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

A rather pointless article that tells us nothing we didn’t already know. I resent his refusal to show any real sympathy or support for those many locals who were angry at the invasion of thoughtless morons who showed scant regard for the welfare of the people of Gwynedd and Pembrokeshire. The last two paragraphs make me wonder whose side he is on?

Michael McCarthy
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Michael McCarthy

I wonder if it wasn’t encouraged to provoke a visceral response. They then had the excuse to shut down paths in the National Parks of Wales. This includes the Brecon Beacons where I live so I cannot now walk these paths. We’ll done National Parks who just blame the Welsh Government despite the fact they draw up a list of closures. As soon as I saw the Farmers Union of Wales were demanding closures I cod see where this was heading. When they say jump the government says how high.

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

It was almost a perfect storm a) all the indoor attractions and distractions were closed b) a feeling that the rules were only going to get stricter c) two days of glorious sunshine and d) guidelines saying outdoor exercise was permitted. I am surprised it wasnt total gridlock. The signs went up almost instantly too. It will be interesting to see what has changed this weekend. Meanwhile count your lucky stars or your parents that you live near somewhere green with plenty of fresh air and space. Many people do not.