Not Crossing the Flood – Laws, Guidelines and Principles

It has been raining for two days, prior to that we had snow and ice, it’s quite wet out there.

Not only is it wet it is very muddy and the number of routes that I can use for my morning walk has become restricted. Thankfully there are still routes open along bridle paths and paved areas so the walking continues.

This morning, in the dark, I set out on one of the routes that I was expecting to be not too muddy and not too wet.

Part way into my walk I headed down a short hill where the two days of rain had turned the tarmacked path into a very shallow stream flowing in from springs on either side. A couple of days ago this was an sheet of ice. At the bottom of the hill is a stream over which a wooden bridge sits before the path ascends again. Just before the bridge is a path off to the left which is always muddy, even in the summer, but in the spring that path is the route to the best bluebells in the area. Straight ahead, though, the tarmac continues.

As a peered through the pre-sunrise gloom I could see that there was something different about the path this morning. A little further along the path seemed to be moving. As I progressed it became clear that the stream which normally travels under the bridge was no longer constrained by its banks and was now covering the path.

It wasn’t clear in the dark how deep the water was, nor how fast it was flowing, a cautious approach was required. I am aware of the perils of fast flowing water and recognised that being swept of my feet was a possibility that needed to be considered.

A couple of steps into the expanse the water was already half way up my boots and I decided that at was time to explore a different route. This required some rethinking and some retracing but no great loss.

I write this at a time when the rate of COVID-19 infection in the UK is rapidly accelerating and we are in a national lockdown.

Every day our news is filled with two types of COVID-19 story; there are stories about the numbers and the lives impacted by this terrible virus, then there are stories about the lockdown regulations.

We like to talk about the lockdown regulations. In England the rules change almost as often as the weather and the only way of keeping up is to talk about it. It’s almost replaced talking about the weather as a pastime. Our current regulations are defined as things that we should not do (guidelines) and things that we must not do (laws). The news outlets are constantly running stories about people breaking the laws and being fined, and stories of celebrities and politicians breaking the guidelines. The radio debate shows must run at least one phone-in a week for people wanting to discuss what is, and isn’t, against the regulations. Much of the reporting and the discussion hinges on how close to breaking the law can people get without being prosecuted. As an example – the guidelines tell us that we can exercise outside which we should do locally and that we can be joined on our exercise by one other person from a different household. So we endlessly debate the definition of locally. Then the police fine someone for traveling a few miles and the papers are full of it for days, the fine is the retracted. The Prime Minister cycles in a location that is several miles away from his home and the papers are again ignited.

Meanwhile the scientists are telling us that all contact with other people is dangerous and that we should stay at home.

As I was out on my wet daily exercise this morning I was thinking about these discussions when I was struck by the parallel with my flood situation.

The flood was a dangerous situation.

Specifically how dangerous, for me, I don’t know, I didn’t push it that far. I decided that there was a greater principle at play which was one of risk and reward. The risk, though likely moderate, wasn’t worth the risk. There are many things that I could do at the edges of the law and against the COVID guidelines that I choose not to do because the same applies, the risk is not worth the reward and I follow the principle of staying at home.

The law gave me the right to cross the flood, likewise the law gives me the legal right to travel 70 miles to one of my favourite places for a walk. I chose not to cross the flood because my knowledge guides me that it is the low risk thing to do. I am allowed to travel for exercise, staying local is a guideline, and so I choose to stay at home because that’s the low risk answer for me and for everyone else who I might come in to contact with.

We shouldn’t be pushing to the edge of the law, we should be walking in the middle of the principle, using the guidelines as guides.

Header Image: This is a fuzzy nightmode picture of the flood.

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