Oh man. Let's go. Like the breast-beating Radio 4, I am now bringing you a terrible story of Covid 19-induced agony and instability. My own.
Who would have thought Lockdown would turn me into a foaming, red-faced, bearded idiot? Don't answer at once.
On March 22, I was on my way back from my vulnerable mother (but don't call her that) when I noticed a truckload of hikers driving around the entrance of the local reservoir.
Like my ducks, caught in front of the electric fence at dusk, they were confused. The gate was locked – and has been since the authorities shut down all public facilities to prevent people from becoming infected while doing their physical idiots.
Griff Rhys Jones bought signs to stop cyclists who "insist on rattling past, although according to the 1968 Countryside Act bicycles should only be ridden on bridle paths, not footpaths like mine".
What did the hikers do? They came and parked with me instead.
I have a footpath through my garden. I'm not going to tell you where it is because if you live in East Anglia you seem to know it already.
Some time ago I was celebrated by a policeman on the A12 in North Suffolk. He wanted to point out that I exceeded one or the other speed limit. He took details and told me he knew exactly where I lived.
"Blimey," I said. "This is a radar that you have there."
Apparently he often used the footpath that leads right past my house.
"And you are very welcome," I said. "As long as you don't exceed my speed limit, copper."
When I first bought my rustic South Suffolk apartment 40 years ago, I was intrigued by the parish boundary that ran straight through the dining room. "Look, darling," I called. "It is painted on these beams. I can wake up in one village and pee in another."
Fortunately, the footpath does not cross the actual premises. But an ancient right of way leads over my carefully tended wildflower meadow, past my holly hedges and over my back door.
And that's good. I'm not a hiker myself (members of my family may not agree), but I love the idea that there is a footpath – unlike my neighbors who divert the nearby National Coastal Path through their properties with powerful binoculars From your skylights you should see a person half a mile away on the coast.
I encourage people to continue strolling.
The Stour and Orwell Walk, as the path is called, was created to give Anglo-Saxons access to the church from remote farms. Technically speaking, part of it is a "permissible route", which means that the landowner has to approve its use. I have allowed it. Back in the eighties.
HANDLE RHYS JONES: I have nothing against cycles. I know that we will soon get free bicycles and lycra and that no one will travel by plane or car because I regularly listen to the BBC. Pictured: A few cyclists walk along the footpath
Last year, the government sent a man with a beard to suggest that given the intransigence of the neighbors, I would like to have the permissive piece turned into a permanent super footpath as part of the National Coastal Path.
I should really be flattered. Britain has offered to take almost 400 square meters of my own country from my hands for free.
The man recommended expensive lawyers to monitor this, and I can pay for it.
Still, I agreed. As I said, I like footpaths. But now I'm worried that my naivety has been exploited by some pretty irritating, fit cyclists who insist on rattling past, although according to the 1968 Countryside Act, bikes should only be ridden on bridle paths, not footpaths like mine.
Of course, most users of the path are harmless.
Many of my neighbors walk on it with their dogs and I only have to clean up after a few of them. I even felled old ashes to prevent this tree from falling to a human.
I also have nothing against the people who seem to get lost and take a walk in the rose garden for a few minutes, or even against the slightly aggressive nature of some stomping people when I point out that a picnic on my spacious lawn is a bit intrusive.
HANDLE RHYS JONES: I'm also a little sad that I have to cover my paradise with signs to protect it from jobs that they ignore anyway
It was my son George who first pointed out that things were getting dangerous.
He had come to Suffolk before the closure, formed a "bubble" with us and brought my grandson, who had just learned to walk. I told him not to worry.
"But they closed the reservoir," he insisted, "and they're coming down here."
"Really?" I half listened, leaned forward to examine a young holly tree, and felt an unfamiliar wind wind up the foundation as a cyclist passed by at a speed of about 60 km / h just a few inches from my butt.
This yellow jersey shot down the slope of the path, through a gap no bigger than a door, across the courtyard, and to the other side, as if I had given him an obstacle course.
"What if young Elwyn had wiggled around there," said my son.
I nodded and felt the back of my shorts. "We have to stop." I started to foam.
So we started with logs. No wooden barriers, only half a log at intervals so that the buggies can get through at walking pace: organic sleeping policemen.
"You moved them," said George on Monday.
& # 39; What? & # 39;
"They just came over and lifted them out of the way."
Not all cyclists zoom dangerously past. Some descend and walk along the footpath (picture)
Now I have nothing against cycles. I know that we will soon get free bicycles and lycra and that no one will travel by plane or car because I regularly listen to the BBC. I drove all over London a long time ago.
But I didn't blow to warn others or dress like one of those aliens in spaceships that crash in Hollywood blockbusters.
I wasn't a gnarled-legged homunculus like the skinny ET who stopped at my front door near the path. "Look at that," he called to his buddy, who came to a screeching halt next to him. "You put it back."
"Yes, yes," I said as I approached. “This is a garden. Here are toddlers. You are driving a machine at high speed. "(We had now put up a large sign:" Cyclists please dismount. ") He looked at me grimly. "And by what authority?" He asked sternly.
"Well, um, this is private land."
"Mm." He climbed up and sped off. Before me.
I was cooking now. That's it. We would install gates. Real kissing gates. I have rights!
Unless it turned out that I don't.
I went online to the Suffolk County Council Highways Department and found that the footpath system has a sophisticated complaint process against landowners, gardeners, and shouts. And … wait. What was that? There was one against me.
To ensure the safety of the area, the sign on the footpath reads: "Cyclists slow down children / buggies ahead".
"Someone put piles of wood on this footpath, with a sign telling cyclists that prams should get down, even though it didn't give them a buggy." I reached for my green ink.
The Highways Department wrote me a wonderfully polite answer. They pointed out that I have no right to install a gate unless I have animals in my garden.
Correct. But (note this, bikes) they added, "As you rightly emphasize, cycling on a public footpath is a violation and therefore the responsibility of the owner of the country on which the highway is located."
Yes. It made me feel good. I really can't do anything now. No goals. And we removed the logs.
We could only lock up the toddler and put up polite signs.
So I bought the signs. Finally, I want to stop gangs of blowhards in silly, very tight, short-sleeved shirts that mow old ladies who stagger to Evensong.
But I'm also a little sad that I have to have littered my paradise with signs to protect it from jobs that they will ignore anyway.
Regarding the reservoir, Ms. Jones predicted that the crazy pedals would return to their favorite hangouts when it reopened. And of course she was right. Most of time.
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