Open up golf and fishing to raise morale rather than pin it down


                                                                                                                                               Monday, May 18

CYCLING past a golf course the other day I saw a man at the wheel of a mower as he steered it across the lush green fairways. In the bright sunshine, it looked quite a fun job.

It was also the first signs of life on a course for many weeks.

Why is the sport still banned here by the Scottish Government when the fairways are now reopened in England, and in Wales, where golfers can get back in action from today?

Once again regarding questionable restrictions on outdoor leisure activity, what conceivable risk can there be in going out to play a game of golf?

It’s time for needless restrictions to end and to reopen the wide open fairways.

Obviously the clubhouse will be off limits. There will be no “19th hole” refreshments after a round. But surely some form of ticketing arrangement could be put in place to allow members, at least, to get in the swing again. If players keep a reasonable distance from each other there could be no risk arising from playing a round or a few holes. The continuing ban seems wholly unnecessary.

Nicola Sturgeon has spoken with poignancy about missing contact from her wider family. She empathises with others similarly affected.

But what she doesn’t have any real awareness of is the numbing tedium and boredom many people, particularly older people, are experiencing at this time.

Life couldn’t be more different for her. She’s never been busier. Her day is a constant whirl of activity from dawn to dusk. The same applies to her advisers. It may be tough for them – but at least they aren’t reduced to staring vacantly out the window and wondering how to pass the day, a predicament many folk find themselves in.

Does Nicola Sturgeon begin to understand how debilitating that can be?

I don’t play golf but I’ve no doubt it would give older people who do play a huge boost to get out for a round again. The same applies to fishing. How is anyone a coronavirus-spreading risk standing in a river up to their knees or waist in water?

We’ve had two months of the lockdown during which these kind of sanctions have gone virtually unchallenged. That’s understandable. The government and their advisers needed time to start trying to find the best way through all this.

But they should now be aiming, wherever possible, to make life more pleasurable for people. The time for routinely banning anything and everything without bothering to consider whether it really is necessary should be rapidly coming to an end.

The current covid situation looks like it’ll go on for months. A change in attitude is needed to make life better for those currently deprived of outdoor recreation which presents no risk to anyone. Many folk are suffering enough as it is. Letting them have a game of golf or go fishing would be a start in boosting morale rather than driving it down.

There’s no easy way to eradicate all risk

FOOTBALL returned at the weekend with the German Bundesliga league holding matches behind closed doors. The precautions taken to allow this were exhaustive. Dressing rooms were deep-cleaned, coaching staff and officials were socially-distanced to the inch, every conceivable surface was repeatedly wiped down. They even regularly disinfected the match ball.

This display of Teutonic efficiency, which cost tens of thousands of pounds per match, showed how people would return to normal business and activity in an ideal world.

But for ordinary people, that’s not how it’s going to be. Increasingly, on radio phone-ins in particular, there are callers who express concern about resuming work, travel, leisure – anything and everything – before it’s “safe”. How safe do they mean? Are they expecting 100 per cent, Bundesliga league levels of safety? In many cases, it sounds like it.

bundesliga NEW
Precise safety measures in Bundesliga football stadiums cost tens of thousands of pounds to implement per match.

Life was never 100 per cent safe before the virus struck and it won’t be from now on either. But are some people just going to hunker down, like American survivalists who dig themselves into underground shelters, and stay in their cocoon until they’re guaranteed 100 per cent virus-free “safety”. They’re going to have a very long wait.

Apart from people in the care sector, just look at the resilience of supermarket staff who have got on with their jobs on the basis that they’re working with an acceptable degree of risk.

And it’s also well worth noting – how many store staff have fallen victim to the virus? The national media has been exceptionally eager during this situation to dig up stories which seem deliberately designed to scare people to death. But I’ve seen no reports of a store worker who has died from the coronavirus. These people remain seemingly relaxed, as well as being friendly and helpful. 

Starmer convincingly puts Johnson in the shade

BORIS Johnson had a thoroughly bad week. First of all there was his confusing broadcast last Sunday night. Then there was the announcement of a furlough extension until the end of October, which lodged in many people’s minds the belief that they wouldn’t really be expected to be back at work till close to the end of the year, at the earliest. Whatever the intentions behind it, such a gloomy projection was wholly unnecessary.

And then at Prime Minister’s Questions, with a ridiculous mess of hair falling over his eyes, he looked a bit of a clown, an impression greatly exacerbated by the fact that he was facing the new Labour leader Keir Starmer.

Keir Starmer…a highly impressive start as the new Labour leader.

Starmer was perfectly groomed and immaculate. His appearance is what we have the right to expect from our most senior politicians. An employer will always choose a job interviewee who has taken care over his appearance before one who looks slovenly and unkempt. Why can’t Boris Johnson take on board that simple rule of thumb?

I was never a fan, but I’m no instinctive Boris-hater either. But think of his predecessors – May, Cameron, Blair, Major, Thatcher, all the way back to 1979. He is by some distance the least capable PM of the last 40 years to handle this crisis.

But before the SNP, in particular, start gloating too much over Boris Johnson’s inadequacy, they should take a long, hard look at Keir Starmer. He looks every inch the kind of man who could lead a Labour revival, in Scotland and elsewhere. He’s no “Eton-educated toff” so the nationalists can’t discredit him with that kind of slur. They’ll need something else to hit him with. Of course, for some of the more extreme elements, the very fact that he’s English will probably do.

Hollow claims from ‘caring, sharing’ banks

THE banks have been flooding the airwaves with cheesy ads about how, in these difficult days, they are “here to help”. The caring, sharing tone sounds like they’re trying to be a cross between the Samaritans and the Volunteer Army.

But how much are they helping? Virtually every bank has staff on guard at the door like stiff sentries, with the rule for customers being “You Shall Not Pass” without going through an interrogation. The transactions they’ll agree to let you in to do seem very limited and are getting more so. And they have no compunction about keeping customers out.

The mantra seems to be that if you possess a computer use that instead. And if you’re not very computer-savvy and you’re unable to do what you want online, the only option is to return and presumably plead, demand or beg for entry.

We all know about the need for safety and staff protection in banks and elsewhere. But they could bend at least some way towards the openness of supermarkets where rules are in place but folk are still able to be adequately served. The smarmy “here to help” ads sound even more hollow when customers can’t even get into the banks to do their business in the first place.

No time to throw money at new Market gamble

A LARGE amount of public money is to be spent on a complete “makeover” of Inverness Market, or “the Victorian Market” as it now seems to called. How many makeovers have there been over the years? Those of us who remember it when it was a dank, dismal hole with a leaking roof and pools of water on a grubby stone floor have lost count.

It has been completely transformed now into an elegant and attractive shopping area. But still it doesn’t attract sufficient customers. So is the answer to throw yet more money at it? To do what? And how thin are the chances it’ll work this time?

Three months ago this would have seemed an extravagant gamble. Now it looks like reckless folly.

Yet another costly ‘makeover’ is planned for Inverness Market.

No-one has any idea what the city centre will look like in six months or a year’s time, when the virus fears lift and it fully reopens. It could be decimated. If many more shopfronts are left empty it will be a huge long-term effort to try and bring it back to life. And it will need money, plenty of it. Meanwhile we have the council claiming the virus fallout will leave them with an astronomical budget shortfall of £80million.

Every penny should be closely guarded at the moment to see where, post-virus, it can best be spent. This is no time for throwing piles of it at another Inverness Market gamble. Don’t the councillors and officials behind this realise everything has changed? And that the time when they could freely risk and squander cash on any pet project that took their fancy is well and truly over?

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