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Travel, Anyone?




12.05.20 – Darrell Priestley

Another week, and with it the advice from the government that we return to work. But there has been some confusion. What people are waiting for is a set of assurances that it is safe to do so, or any detail as to how their continued well being will be ensured as they use the travel networks. Everyone has their own feelings about lockdown restrictions, of course. Speaking with dozens of people each week through online lessons, broadly they accepted the restrictions as being in everone’s best interests. Many of us have avoided contact with close family members, and have only seen one another through online chats, or through a closed window when dropping off supplies with the isolating or shielding. None of us wish to see the hard won benefits of all this self denial squandered now.

My partner Eileen and I will be back working at the business on Ropergate shortly. We work within two metres of one another much of the time, but then we also eat breakfast together every day and often hold hands, and after 35 years of marriage that would seem about right. Other than the fact that we will be together at work, rather than together at home, not much will change for us. Our social networks will remain the same, and we will continue to see my daughter’s family from a distance, somewhat sad, but safer and for the best. Although our doors will remain closed to the public, many of my online lessons will soon be hosted from one of our regular teaching studios, so while our students will not be leaving home for their lessons at this time, at least I will be demonstrating musical examples on my preferred piano again.

Meanwhile, people continue to puzzle over the meaning of the message to ‘Stay Alert’. Even if you are only moderately alert, you will be aware that it’s other people you need to be alert for. If you have shopped at M&S during lockdown, you will have noted that social distancing is generally well observed while ever people queue outside. Once inside, their alertness seems to slip a level as, impatient for the person ahead of them in the arrow driven one way system to clear the aisle so they can pass, they begin to duck and dive between aisles, dodging hapless staff members as they do so. For their part, the staff seem resigned to the fact that, if they are to do their jobs and keep the shelves brimming with all the stuff we want, they have to accept that customers will frequently come within their notional 2 metre safe zone.

One of the things we will be thinking about as we start to work from our building again is how to make it as safe as possible for our regulars. This will not only include the obvious things, such as observing distancing and hand washing, but also considering traffic patterns, rules for using the stairs, timetable changes to avoid bunching and queues, rules for waiting, and anything else we consider helpful. Of course, we don’t want to diminish any of the things people enjoy about their visits, but simply to make it possible for everyone to feel safe and protected when they next attend. Though students are looking forward to returning, it is understandable that we are none of us in a hurry to change our existing arrangements. In planning any changes that might be necessary to ensure the saftey of all attendees when lessons in-person do finally resume, Eileen and I will also be keeping a weather eye open, including watching the R rate, and observing what happens as different parts of public life start up again. We are also interested in any changes in behaviour, which under lockdown has mostly been very self controlled, to see if people will continue to excercise appropriate care when out and about, especially with regard to mixing. Perhaps the future will see UK citizens adopt new conventions, such as passing to the right when in smaller public spaces like workspaces, supermarket aisles or school corridors, at least when a one way system is not possible, or standing aside to allow free passage to people going downstairs to exit a space before we go up to enter?

Finally, please be assured that, when we do decide to open up our doors to students once more, it will be with due consideration for your continued safety and that of others, which remains paramount.