We have come so far, now is not the time to be reckless - Christa Ackroyd

Well, who would have thought a simple trip to the park with a three-year-old would have brought with it so many emotions this week.

A clean-up operation involving some students, residents and Leeds City Council on Woodhouse Moor, in Headingley, after hundreds of people gathered during the week to enjoy the warm weather. People left behind tons of litter, bottles, food and disposable barbecues. (James Hardisty).

The sound of children’s voices was as uplifting as I knew it would be. I could have cried. One grandma watching her little ones did.

Tears ran down her face. “It’s ridiculous,” she told me, “but I am so happy.” And I totally understood how amazing a day in the sunshine was for us all watching our grandchildren running around in the fresh air. It was just the best feeling in the world.

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Our little one has changed so much over this year from a gauche toddler into an adventurous little girl. “Look how high I go now, Nonna,” she shouted from the top of the climbing frame. “Don’t worry, I won’t fall.” Bless her.

So why was it so overwhelming? Why was I so on edge about the number of people who were there? Everyone was socially distancing and respectful and enjoying their new found freedom to mix outdoors. But after a year of shielding, quite frankly I was as nervous as hell. And I am not going to beat myself up about it.

You may have felt the same this week as we were tentatively allowed out with six others on a beautiful Spring day. This brave new world is going to take some getting used to, particularly if you are not so brave. I always thought I was. It seems I am not. And it is nothing to be ashamed about.

As regular readers will know I had my first jab some eight weeks ago so I know my antibodies are flowing. What I can’t get my head around is why, having received the letter telling me and four million others on the vulnerable list that we can rejoin society, I’m not leaping around with delirious happiness?

The truth is my world has shrunk beyond recognition. My four walls have become my sanctuary. The thought of entering a busy, bustling life again makes me feel physically sick. My husband is entirely different.

The first thing he did was to arrange to go walking with six friends. “For heaven’s sake, Christa,” he said, when I urged caution and reminded him of the importance of social distancing even while outside. “I am not stupid”. No he is not, but there are many others who are. And I think that’s the reason I feel nervous.

Some of the scenes this week in our parks and public spaces were appalling. What don’t these people understand about the fact that this pandemic isn’t over? Up and down the land hordes of people gathered as if everything was back to normal.

It is understandable that they wanted to taste freedom, but what we witnessed was shocking. And I am sorry, but it was mostly young people who were responsible. Just because they are unlikely to die from this virus does not mean they do not have a responsibility to continue to protect those who might.

I know it’s been tough. I know they have been cooped up inside. We all have. But for God’s sake grow up. And act your age, not your shoe size, as my granny would say.

As for the litter you left behind, you selfish, thoughtless, idiotic people. It is not up to cash strapped local authorities, or volunteers, to clear up your mess. You obviously brought your booze, your barbecues and your food in a bag so pick up your leftovers and take them home.

Because I tell you now, if you are not smart enough to take your rubbish with you then how on earth can I trust you to socially distance? I know I will get used to it. But for now, and for the first time in my life, I am taking things slowly. And if that’s how you feel then don’t let anyone rush you into doing things until you feel ready.

For the moment I have no wish to go to the cinema or to the theatre, two of my greatest passions. The thought of a party with dozens of people is, quite frankly, the last thing in my mind. Perhaps the second jab will make me feel easier. Or maybe I have changed for good, because this pandemic has changed so many of us.

There will be some, like my husband, who are raring to go. There will be others, like me, maybe like you, who want to emerge more slowly. So do what is good for you.

France with its laissez-faire attitude towards lockdowns and vaccinations is a lesson to us all.

A third wave, doctors making life and death decisions as to who is most likely to survive limited medical interventions, schools closed again and a 7pm curfew. Is that what we want to see? All I know is that I don’t want to go through all this again. And I am sure you are with me there.

So steady away is my new motto. There are, though, things to tentatively look forward to. The Great Yorkshire Show is back over four days in July and that for now is one of the first events I have put in my diary for this year.

The North York Moors railway is recruiting ahead of reopening next month and I have my tickets booked. My adored holiday destination of Whitby is cautiously reopening in a week or so, and my favourite restaurant is planning a veritable feast in the fresh air from April 12, providing the forecast of snow doesn’t prevail.

And I intend to partake of them all, but in my own time and at my own pace. Every day, particularly on the Continent, I am reminded of just how fragile this world still is. I intend to be there on the other side, fit and well and firing on all cylinders.

And if that means being patient until I see how it feels then so be it. I even quite like this new side of me. As a typical Taurean I have always been accused of being a bit of a bull in a china shop. Now I intend to give this new world a closer look before I rejoin it.

If you feel the same don’t question it. We will meet on the other side, safer and hopefully calmer. Until then do what feels right for you. Don’t rush it. We have waited long enough.

A few more weeks will make no difference whatsoever.