An Indictment of England, Take Two

I’ve noticed that the response to the government’s introduction of the various social distancing guidelines has been quite different in the Netherlands than it has been in England. The Dutch response has been lacklustre among a lot of the people that I know, with many people not taking it as seriously as I think they should. In contrast, the English response has been much more diligent. Now, I realise this is completely anecdotal and that it could very well be due to knowing different people in England than I do in the Netherlands. However, I think there is also something culturally different, where the English are also somewhat more obedient when it comes to these things. Culturally, the English are much more aware of decorum and have a stronger sense of politeness, and I think this fits neatly with what I have observed. As a result, I am completely mystified by the following:

Why is There Litter Everywhere?

I don’t know whether it’s a cultural different, a socio-economic difference, a waste-management difference, or some other societal element at work here, but it’s remarkable just how much litter there is on the streets and in the parks of Exeter. Most of the time it’s plastic soda bottles or crisp packages, leading me to think that it’s younger people who drop the garbage on the street.

I’ve never quite understood why people would litter. I’m always amazed when the lights in the cinema go on, and people shuffle to the exit, just the amount of garbage they leave behind. Often I mutter “people are animals” as I carry my empty bucket of popcorn with me to drop it in the bin, as I wade through and weave around everything that people leave behind. I’m not just virtue signalling here, I honestly don’t understand what motivates (or doesn’t motivate) people.

Once, I was walking down the street in Amsterdam and saw a girl rummage around in her pocket while walking with a friend, and then dropping the contents (some pieces of paper) on the ground. I stopped her to say that she had dropped something. She casually told me it was garbage, and I pointed out the garbage can that was perhaps fifteen steps away. She responded by saying that she pays taxes for people to clean it up. I was floored by that. By how rude, lazy, entitled and completely bent that way of thinking is.

And here, in England, where people tend to be quite obedient, I just don’t understand what moves people to chuck their garbage on the ground.

Joasia has suggested that due to the large number of seagulls that fly up the estuary, who pick the garbage from the bins and spread it around, there is a lot of litter on the streets. But that means that garbage is overflowing and requires more regular pick ups. It means tidiness isn’t valued very highly.

Rural areas don’t seem to have the same problem, from what I’ve noticed. Fewer people, sure. But I think there is also a better understanding and appreciation of the natural beauty of their surrounding. Garbage collects garbage, they say, and I think that if your surroundings are dreary you tend to care less for it.

Why are There So Many Cold Calling and Scammers?

I’ve had a mobile phone since 1995 and since then I have never once been cold called by someone wanting to offer me something, either products or assistance. For as long as I can remember the Netherlands has had the “Do Not Call Me” registry, which made it illegal for companies to call you if you were on that registry and wanted to be left alone.

Since moving to England, I’ve received text messages and robo-calls about twice a week. The messages tend to try to get me to visit a dodgy URL, while the robo-calls are always the same; a woman tells me that they’ve been told that I or one of my family members has been in a traffic accident that wasn’t my fault. When you say that this isn’t true, they say goodbye and hang up.

How is this legal? And how in all that is holy is this profitable!? How many people are foolish enough to fall for this? What does it say about a society where this persists?

When I spoke to Joasia about it she said that she has also had it since getting an English mobile number. When I mentioned it to my colleagues they said that it was normal. It’s not normal, it’s bizarre, and it betrays something is fundamentally wrong with this society.

Lost Respect

It’s crazy just how much I’ve lost respect for many people in my extended social circle. I have watched in amazement as they took they flaunted the guidelines. Things are getting better in spite of them, not because of them. They seem to be heading towards a second lockdown trying to race each other there.

At the same time, I have gained a ton of respect for people who keep enduring their quarantine with discipline.

Back to Normal

Having worked from home for over two months and having been very limited in my movement, life has become very simple. While it’s been boring, the change of pace has also been nice. We’ve quickly adapted to the need to shelter in place, and that has either forced us to put some chores on the back burner, or forced us to become very pragmatic about having items and groceries delivered. Social events are non-existent right now, work is done from home and exercise is done without the need to travel. It makes the world very small, easy to manage and less anxiety-inducing.

I miss my brother and sister. I miss going over to Amsterdam. I miss going to restaurants, and having well-crafted cocktails. And I miss the prospect of travelling, as we had to cancel our June trip to Finland. I miss BJJ and I miss a well-cropped head of hair. These things I would like to have return back to normal.

But I don’t want all of it to go back to the way things were before the lockdown. And I wonder if I am the only one. I wonder just how many people have been forced to take it down a notch and realised that they were red lining themselves and how much better they feel under the current circumstances. I hope people will take the time to reevaluate what’s important to them. Perhaps there are people who will have reinforced just how good their lives were before the lockdown. And perhaps there will be people who have gotten a taste of a different life that they’ve quietly been craving and weren’t aware of it.

Five Weeks of Sensibility

Apparently, people can only stay sensible for about five weeks before thinking that they can start flouting the rules. We all agreed to keep our distance from one another, to not travel or leave our homes unless necessary. For a little while it seemed that people only went out if they really had to; for essential jobs, for medical reasons, to get essential supplies, to walk your dog or to keep fit. And whenever you did so, you would do what was necessary and no more.

With great annoyance I saw some people I knew post photos on Instagram of them having regular picnics in the park. I attributed it to a few idiots that I knew and moved on. But now, however, more and more people are acting as if the crisis is behind us. At the very first sign of improvement you see people start to go back to the beach, head out for shopping several times a week, go on completely pointless hikes, etc.

It makes me upset that people can be so careless. “Oh, but there’s nobody at the beach right now” is not a reason to go to the beach. It’s the result of people staying home! The reason that things have improved and are relatively under control (if you can call thousands of deaths “under control”) is because everyone has been following the guidelines. Thinking that this is the moment to flaunt those guidelines is the same moronic thinking that anti-vaxxers use.

And don’t get me started about those people who protest against the lockdowns, as if it’s some sort of punishment from the government. It’s like complaining about the annoying beeping sounds a smoke detector makes when it’s running low on battery. The thing you’re complaining about is the smoke detector’s desire to continue to keep you safe from harm.


I’ve been watching the first season of Fleabag, which has been hilarious and, surprisingly, somewhat triggering for me. Most of the time I find myself laughing my arse off, but in those scenes where it becomes clear that everyone is just horrible and all of their relationships are toxic, I just end up getting super triggered. It reminds me of all the relationships in my mother’s side of the family. It makes me cringe and scream inside.