OPINION: Kindness and understanding can help to fix any UK crisis
- Credit: Ruth Davies
As we drove past petrol stations on Friday my son asked a simple question referring to the queues.
“Apparently there’s enough fuel, but not enough drivers to bring it. Everyone’s scared they won’t be able to get any and panic buying,” I answered him, and quick as a flash, he asked: “Like the toilet rolls and pasta?”
“Yes”, I told him, “like the toilet rolls and pasta”.
He looked some more, while we queued to get past the other queue going into the garage, and then he asked another question: “Why aren’t there enough drivers? Is it Brexit?” Accustomed to most annoying things, pandemic aside, being associated with the decision to leave the EU, he mooted this as a possibility and I confirmed his suspicions.
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“Well”, Jimmy continued, “the prime minister should allow workers into the country again. If people who were born here can’t or won’t drive the lorries, but we need the lorries, then surely he’ll have to?” I explained that yes, Boris Johnson had indeed issued some emergency visas, not a lot but some, to allow foreign workers into the country again, so that they could help us out, again, and hopefully this would bridge some of the issue if only for a while.
He shook his nine-year-old head at the comprehension of a problem he knew could have been easily avoided.
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Jimmy has an outside-the-box brain which belies his age. Most recently he was giving me his theory on why phages could potentially cure Covid. “They’re not like antibiotics mummy”, he informed me, “antibiotics kill everything but phages are like guided missiles and get only the bad stuff”.
He’s interested in lots of things that go over my head and has political views already, especially when it comes to Brexit, having attended an anti-Brexit march with me and his baby brother back when we thought that might have done some good.
Thinking out loud again he said: "That’s good then, about the temporary visas, but it won’t be a permanent fix and it won’t all fall into place overnight will it?”
He’s perceptive my boy.
“And in the meantime what do we do about going to the beach, I don’t want to miss our trip? Or football on Monday because that’s quite a drive and will use up petrol, will we have enough? Oh and mummy, I’ve just thought, if we won’t be able to get any petrol, people bringing food to the supermarkets won’t be able to get any petrol either, or do they not even have enough drivers for that meaning it doesn’t matter as there won’t be any food deliveries anyway?”
I was just in the process of answering when an ambulance steamed up, blue lighted and siren blaring. As all the cars shuffled to try and move for it to get through, Jimmy’s hand went to his mouth.
"Oh but mummy! What about petrol for the ambulances and the fire engines? More to the point mummy, what about them?”
He gets it, fully understands, and I watched and heard him go from the most basic and primal self-preservation to worrying about more important problems resulting from the issue, then finally landing on the most catastrophic of all.
I’m proud of him for realising the enormity of the sorry saga and understanding of him that his first thought wasn’t perhaps the one for others but for himself, his football and whether we’d get any food to eat.
It’s human nature to gather your troops and look after those most dear to you first of all.
We are animals at the end of the day and our primal instinct is to survive and to assist the survival of our young.
When we first went into lockdown I went to every supermarket going trying to buy up pasta.
My children rarely eat anything else and looking at bare shelves told me that sure, I may add to this problem but if I don’t then I may miss out and looking after my own children was paramount to me in that moment. In the long run, with time to calm down, of course I’d have shared the pasta if I’d needed to. I’m an animal but not feral and I’d not want anyone else to suffer.
This is also why, politically, I’m a fundamental leftie. I don’t want any man left behind no matter his financial circumstances, but in that moment I was frightened and when you’re scared, for yourself and for your family, you can often make selfish decisions.
So, it was rather interesting to me reading the pious opinions of those taking the moral high ground this weekend, declaring loudly on social media that: “Everyone and anyone who got petrol is a selfish this and an idiotic that”.
What if the selfish and idiotic so and sos were just rather frightened?
I think we could all afford to offer a little human kindness and understanding there you see.
Just as we should also offer it to those who voted to leave the EU in the first place. Those who still don’t understand that it’s because of their fear and need to try and protect themselves, faced only with knowledge they had at their fingertips in the there and then making that voting decision, that we are in this position today.
We were promised lots and this side effect was merely skimmed upon. We can’t do anything about it now, but we can be kind, we can understand fear and we can try our best to move on and muddle through. And if we need petrol, we should be able to get it, when we can, without fear of judgement or barbs.
It’s amazing the opinions people can dish out secretly online behind computer screens, but I wonder what their decisions in life are when faced with something to make them fearful.
Be kind. Always. That’s the message. That’s all.
Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk