Monday 16th March 2020 was a sad day for me. I had to suspend the services of my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, and temporarily close our base, the Barony St John Centre in Ardrossan, due to the coronavirus.
The day before, Sunday 15th, I had to seriously think about these measures. Many of the people we help through the provision of our Personal Safety courses are vulnerable and all of training we provide has a hands-on element as we teach practical self defence skills.
The virus outbreak had meant that our volunteer trainers had to sanitize their hands before and after every self defence technique was demonstrated and then every participant had to do the same. We could go through a bottle of sanitizer per training session.
Another issue that weighed heavily on me was that I had a duty of care towards my volunteers, many of whom, including myself, have their own health problems.
Taking this all into account, I felt I had no option other than to suspend our training courses.
Now, I could have decided to leave our Centre open for evening classes, even although the cost of providing equipment and hand sanitizer for our gym users combined with heating bills would far outweigh any hall rental we receive, but things took an unexpected turn when I developed a sore throat and a sporadic cough. This was enough for me to be advised to self-isolate probably due to my lung condition and even although I’m pretty sure this has nothing to do with the coronavirus.
For any other charity or organisation, the containment of the founder would not be an issue, however I not only develop and teach the courses we provide; I also clean the Centre every day and without my input, there would be no-one to clean the gym equipment, punchbags, floor mats, sterilize the boxing gloves, clean the toilets and reception, etc. etc.
The cleaner we hire to come in once per week just couldn’t cope with all these added duties never mind the additional expense.
But there was another problem; I had been in the Centre on a daily basis, so if I was infected, the Centre could be too.
It was too high a risk. The Centre had to close.
Initially, some people felt I had “jumped the gun” and closed the charity’s activities prematurely but as Monday 16th wore on, I started to see more of our partner organisations follow suit.
RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) suspended their group activities; Deafblind Scotland cancelled all meetings and social activities; and Scottish War Blinded closed their Centres completely.
I felt vindicated. Closing our Centre was the right thing to do, partially as we have the added responsibility of being a nationally recognised charity.
Since then, I have had time to ponder over this outbreak and its consequences;
We were initially told not to panic buy so those of us who didn’t soon became faced with the reality that now that they needed basic food items and supplies, there just wasn’t any left. The shelves are always bare.
People are going mad, fighting over toilet rolls and pasta – and this was only in the first week or so of the virus – even before the Prime Minister asked people to stay at home.
It reminded me of the TV show “The Walking Dead” where the world has been taken over by a virus which has turned people into zombies.
I remember watching this show about six years ago and seeing the “good” survivors fight the “bad” survivors as well as the zombies. It was an apocalyptic vision.
Unfortunately, this vision is all too easy to visualise now as things begin to spiral out of control with this virus. Even the name, COVID 19, has some kind of zombie connotations for me.
As I watched people fight over groceries and resort to fisticuffs over who was first in the till queue, I realised that there simply wouldn’t be good and bad survivors like in “The Walking Dead”. The good guys just wouldn’t be there. There is no room for compassion when it comes down to the last toilet roll.
No, the vision of the future I was beginning to have was more like the movie “Mad Max” where ALL the survivors are bad with a mean streak and able to kill anyone for whatever they need. I guess you would have to be like that just to survive.
This realisation depressed the hell out of me! Would I want to live in a world like that?
Luckily, there has been some good news as grocery stores enforce a “two items only” policy begin to have “Senior Citizen Opening Times” where the elderly can shop before anyone else without fear of being knocked over.
Hopefully, people will begin to calm down and show a bit of compassion. Stores will be stocked regularly, so if you can’t get certain foods today, they will hopefully be available tomorrow.
I’m hoping we can all be a bit more thoughtful and kinder to each other in the future. Let’s not fall out over a toilet roll.
Meanwhile, I will keep you posted on all the renovation works that are planned for the Barony St John Centre and if you would like to read more about my charity, visit http://www.ScotCPS.org.uk
Goodbye for now.