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200725 | Trying to keep my distance in a Cornish town left me weighing up the lives of strangers: Opinion Is it really possible

Trying to keep my distance in a Cornish town left me weighing up the lives of strangers: Opinion

Is it really possible to social distance in busy Cornwall town this summer?

Padstow on a busy summers day in July 2020
Padstow on a busy summers day in July 2020
(Image: Simon Heester / Cornwall Live)


After exactly four months at home in isolation I ventured out on my first 'proper job' since lockdown this week - but it left me weighing up the lives of strangers.

As a reporter, it's always nice to be out on the job, meeting new faces and discovering new horizons, but at a time like this it's been hard to know just when to get back out there.

But this week a man needed our help and it felt right to return to the great outdoors and so I ventured to Padstow - where we could meet on the harbour and keep a distance.

I wasn't expecting the experience to be anything dystopian - with signage everywhere and officials shouting and telling you to get in line - but I wasn't expecting it to feel quite as 'normal' as it did either.

From the friendly smiles right down to not being able to park anywhere - it literally felt like a completely ordinary summer day in Cornwall, whether that's a good thing or not.

But soon after completing the job, when the high of being out and seeing actual people faded, it suddenly dawned on me just how difficult this whole socially distancing malarkey is - especially in a Cornish town like Padstow in the summer.



All of the shops have done a seemingly fantastic job of putting measures in place, but from the second I stepped foot on the streets surrounding the harbour mid-afternoon there was honestly nowhere to go, there were people everywhere.

And the worst part is - it was nobody's fault.

Not one person was rude, ignorant, or screaming at another to give them some space and it's because it's really not about people 'breaking the rules' - they are desperately trying to follow them - they just can't.



I can't even tell you how many people said 'oops sorry' or 'don't mind me' as they scurried around giving as much leeway as they possibly could.

At one point I was dodging in and out of families, traders and dog walkers just trying to make my way back to the car when I had no choice but to squeeze between an elderly gentleman wearing a mask and a family of at least five.

For a split second I actually found myself weighing up the lives of these strangers, deciding who it would be safer to brush up against - both for their safety and mine - but instead stood frozen, held my breathe, and both parties had to squeeze past me anyway.

Everyone was doing their best to keep a distance but it was not always possible
Everyone was doing their best to keep a distance but it was not always possible (Image: Simon Heester / Cornwall Live)

Then there was the heartbreaking conversation between two separate families on holiday trying to tell their toddlers to keep a distance and explaining why they can't play with each other at the moment because of 'the germs'.

But one thing is for sure, every single person I came across was doing the utmost to stick to social distancing - aside from not being there at all - and my visit made it clear to me that this just might not be enough this summer.



All the people apologising and darting out of the way were well within their rights to be there, just as I was. After all an open space as we know is one of the safest places to be from the virus.

But the question is, will that be enough this summer when you're walking down the tiny cobbled streets of Cornwall's popular tourist towns and have to choose whether you bump into the elderly couple out for a breathe of fresh air or the young family enjoying chips by the harbour, because you literally have nowhere else to go?

Padstow on a busy summers day in July 2020
Everyone was doing their best to keep a distance but it was not always possible

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