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Bishop's Stortford Independent columnist Chas Gill on why he's not prepared to end his shielding spell just yet despite the Government's lockdown easing

One of the finer things in life must surely be the full English, our traditional cooked breakfast with all the trimmings.

Those of you that know me will now be muttering "that explains a lot", but you must believe me when I tell you that the full English is a rarity in my house unless we have guests for the weekend, when Rosemary concedes to a less-than-full version. That's usually about once every two or three months, but it's been a lot longer than that since I became a 'shieldie' and we stopped entertaining. No entertaining means no fry-ups.

Now, as it happens, a few 'luvvies' that I know from my am-dram life decided about two years ago to form a breakfast club, to keep in touch between shows. We called it the BSMTC Old Gits Breakfast Club and we met once a week in a little café by the river for breakfast and a catch-up. Of course, the full English, prepared by the lovely Sharon, was the headline act. It would set me up for the day and obviate the need for lunch and, together with the company, it was a highlight of the week – until Covid came along.

I was also partial to a bit of conviviality with another set of old gits, who met weekly at a pub for a few beers and to put the world to rights. In fact, it was the Three Tuns Debating Society that got me into writing this column, stimulated by our discussions during those sessions. Did I mention Covid came along?

As part of the lockdown relaxations, the gradual reopening of cafés and pubs has crept up on us and there is an understandable desire to resume the old ways (although having to book your seat at a pub or café is a rum do) and both of my groups of old gits have felt the draw, like moths to a flame. So have I, but I was supposed to wait until shielding was lifted, implying that then it will be safe for me to venture out.

Since Saturday, shielding has been 'paused'. In other words, if I want to chance it, I can now start to go out, to mingle a bit and perhaps join my friends in their weekly old gittery. They have already resumed the old routines without me and I'm beginning to feel a bit left out and sad. I could take the risk, of course, but coronavirus is no respecter of dates on a calendar and, as I've said before, for millions of people like me, to catch it is to die, so many of us are very wary.

Chas is hoping he can enjoy a full English with fellow members of the BSMTC Old Gits Breakfast Club again one day
Chas is hoping he can enjoy a full English with fellow members of the BSMTC Old Gits Breakfast Club again one day

Last weekend I was watching fellow shieldies on TV, sharing their doubts and fears about the imminent pause. It seems that a significant number of them feel nervous, if not worse, about going out and mixing with people – especially those that now have to consider going back to work. Most of those interviewed made it clear that they feel safer at home, that it won't be OK to risk going out until there is a vaccine, or a cure that will prevent them dying on a ventilator. For me, that translates to a prospect of being voluntarily locked away until around this time next year.

What does the Government expect to happen following the pause? I suppose we might all live happily ever after or, more likely, lots of us will become casualties, because of our 'underlying conditions' that earned us our shield in the first place. The Government, of course, will get some statistics that will say "that wasn't a good idea" and proceed to lock the survivors away again. I don't want to play that game, thanks.

I happen to think that it is seriously insensitive to expect those who have been persuaded that they are extremely vulnerable, and had it confirmed by being proactively protected, to suddenly go out and expose themselves. Many of these people are now conditioned to believe that every other human on the planet is potentially the carrier of their demise – their grim reaper. Even I, a rational sort of chap, find myself irrationally holding my breath and stepping back when anyone other than Rosemary gets any closer than two metres.

Given the psychological effects of a four-month brainwashing that has convinced us that one foot out of the front door means the end, imagine how we will all be by July 2021. A cohort that can no longer venture out, socialise, relax and have a good time with friends or family, and who are no longer capable of accepting that the risk is eliminated, that it's safe to do any of the old stuff, ever again. We are damaged and the damage is likely to get worse.

I'm hoping that I haven't had my last full English from Sharon and that she will remember that I like my bacon soft when I eventually pluck up the courage to eat one of her best. I fear, however, that the prospect is a long way off and will remain so until someone convinces me that the risk is acceptable. Right now, I can't think of a single person that could. Sharon, do you deliver takeaways?

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