Published 17th June 2020, 18:47

    IT'S 89 days since I last climbed a hill. That's 89 days of staying local. Not that I'm counting, you understand.

    That also means it's Day 89 in the Big Bother house, where the risk of one of us doing the other serious injury now seems far higher than the threat level from the virus.

    I can only imagine how difficult it is to be stuck in a city high-rise: at least we have the beach and a modicum of freedom on our doorstep. It doesn't stop the feelings of envy, however, towards those fortunate enough to live at the foot of the mountains. 

    I've always been happy to live beside the sea, but in the current situation the thought of having the likes of the Cairngorms, Glencoe or Torridon as a personal playground makes me wish I had considered a move years ago. Coupled with the inevitable changes in working practices that will follow when some sort of normality resumes, it does make me wonder how many will seriously look at a lifestyle change from city to rural in future.

    This time last year, I was on the island of Jura under blue skies, playing hide and seek with the Paps in banks of fast-moving, diaphanous cloud. It was one of those days where each consecutive view was a revelation. But it was also a day in which we were four tiny figures in a vast landscape of hundreds of square kilometres, shared only fleetingly with distant glimpses of another party of six.

    There's no doubt that being in such an environment is low-risk as far as social distancing is concerned. Getting there and back, however, is a whole different story, and that's the dilemma. The rules for the initial lockdown were strict and clear, and the majority were prepared to go along with it. Getting the timetable right for the easing of restrictions is a far more difficult task, some might say impossible. 

    There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The problem with relying on common sense is that it can differ so widely from person to person. Rules and advice will always be interpreted in varying ways, the sport of loopholing being enacted in full force. It doesn't help when those setting the conditions flout them, and there have been too many examples of an us-and-them attitude and a litany of unjustifiable excuses for this behaviour.

    Like so many, I was apoplectic with rage over the Dominic Cummings affair but I didn't for one minute think: Well, if he can do it, I will. That's loopholing raised to its highest notch. In fact, I would almost feel obliged o do the opposite of anything this man did. He is arrogant and abhorrent, the ringmaster of a particularly cruel circus cracking the whip to ensure that BoJo and the rest of his clown cartel stay tightly packed into their tiny car while it continues to fall apart.

    There's no doubt that getting the balance right on easing access to the outdoors is crucial. The current advice on travel and staying off the hills is still largely being adhered to, although there are cracks starting to appear in the dam and the fear is that those cracks will widen and become a flood if current conditions continue.

    The five-mile travel advice, while applied with the right intentions, has been a particular bone of contention, and the mayhem of the previous heatwave weekend highlighted the problem. The honeypot areas like Loch Lomond, the Trossachs and Arrochar were overwhelmed, people who had been cooped up for weeks desperate for a taste of freedom, ignoring the plea to stay local. 

    Unfortunately, too many were also happy to leave their litter and human waste behind, and the decision to keep car parks shut may, in hindsight, have been a mistake.

    Not surprising then that there are those concerned at the consequences of a large-scale opening up, but this is counter-balanced by pressing economic factors and the mental health benefits of having the freedom to roam once again. There is no consensus: those whose livelihoods rely on tourism are keen to push on, while those who don't would prefer to go slower.

    The government are walking a tightrope. Move too fast and risk a second wave and back to square one, move too slow and risk losing the goodwill and co-operation of increasing numbers. I don't envy their task one little bit.