Postcard from Dumfries

2 September 2020. Updated 5 September 2020.

Last Friday, I put my car in for service at Locharbriggs near Dumfries. To pass the time away, together with my little cocker spaniel, we walked along the very pleasant former railway trackbed to Dumfries town centre, a five-mile hike.

Having arrived at the main square I sat down to enjoy a Classic Magnum, watched avidly by my dog Dusty, eagerly waiting to lick off his entitlement from the stick. The town centre was fairly busy but nothing like as busy as it was before the UK governments began their destruction of the small businesses and the panic measures enforced by draconian regulations and powers.

As a former police officer of middle rank and happily retired, I began people watching, a habit I have been unable to change since retirement. As a law graduate, my interest was in criminology and I found that Lombroso’s Theory of Criminology, although discredited, was useful to spot and keep an eye on potential miscreants. This theory would I suppose be identified by the woke brigade as racial or unwarranted profiling and no doubt present day senior officers of the spineless and promotion ladder plotter type would not approve of such profiling. Basically the theory involved stature and appearance. The shape of the head was quite important and although not necessarily infallible, it formed a guide to me when in a crowd of people and has sometime served me well in the capture of a pickpocket or handbag snatcher or two.

Anyway, back to business. People of all ages and states of mobility passed by my bench and I was surprised at the variation in facial appearance due to the wearing or not wearing of face nappies. Many shoppers were wearing their masks under the chin, sliding them over their mouth as they entered various shops and trade outlets. Many others were wearing their masks in the open air, but interestingly only covering their mouths. I guessed that this was to get some oxygen into their starving lungs. As it was obviously lunch break there were several groups of schoolchildren making their way towards the fast food outlets, some still wearing the masks that had no doubt been worn in school. The ones that did have masks had them slung in carefree style under their chins. This tempting target drew the attention of other kids, who delighted in stretching the elastic ear fastenings and then letting go, causing one lad to rip off the mask and surprisingly deposit it in a nearby bin instead of tossing it in the gutter alongside other discarded masks. No social distancing by these kids, bless ’em. However, my biggest surprise was to see a middle aged man wearing a cheap mask on top of his head, resting neatly on his abundant hair. As I watched him approach WH Smiths, he pulled down his mask and carefully adjusted it over his mouth and nose.

A few minutes later he left the shop and lifted the mask back on top of his head and wrapped his lips around an ice cream. Well it was a hot day. He was not the only one, but I reasoned that the second male who was wearing his mask on top of his bald head maybe was getting double benefit from his mask, it acting as a sun shield as well as protecting him from the dreaded lurgy. My attention was briefly distracted by two young ladies who had most likely been to the nearby gymnasium, as they had the obligatory designer tote bags slung over the shoulder. The hems of their tops were doing their best to meet the plunging necklines and led me to suspect that the gym chest expanders had been utilised with enthusiasm. I reluctantly diverted attention back to seeing two elderly ladies having quite a good conversation. One was wearing a mask, the other not so. It was with some amusement that I saw one lady pushing a small child in a folding pushchair. The mother was wearing a mask, which was pushed aside each time she took a draw on her fag. No doubt an enthusiastic supporter of cigarette smoke warding off the nasty viruses lurking in the atmosphere. Obviously, the mandatory mobile phone was clutched tightly in the other hand, while the bored child looked around for stimulation and attention.

Interestingly, I noticed quite a few, maybe around five per cent of men were wearing lanyards. I assumed that these lanyards held exemption notices as they walked into shops without stopping to put on masks. I was not challenged for not wearing a mask, even though I had inadvertently left the lanyard in my car and I visited a couple of shops, including the Salvation Army charity shop, the only charity shop still open in the town centre, the others showing mounds of delivered post on the entrance floor and a tired handwritten notice, informing the would-be customer that the shop was closed until further notice. Good on yer, Sally Ann.

A phone call from the garage informed me that the car was ready and I began the long walk back. My dog Dusty was pleased to get away from the smelly pavements and back into the green undergrowth of the old railway track and smells that were more interesting than the human smells that pervaded the town. A pleasant walk and people were mainly friendly as I met them along the metalled track. Even the Lycra clad cyclists hurtling past at breakneck speeds shouted a cheery “hello” as they passed by. I smiled as one lady emerging from a joining footpath immediately bolted back into the path she had left to avoid us passing close to each other. I gave her a reassuring smile and remarked on the lovely weather we were enjoying that day. I gained no reply. Not the first time this has happened and a lot of people are scared stiff of having any social contact whatsoever, which I put down to the scaremongering tactics of Boris, Nic Sturge-un and Mutt Halfcock.

Bad news on my arrival at the garage – the rear brake discs were badly corroded and not in good condition. Have to make an appointment to take it in again for repair when the new discs and pads were delivered. Oh well, another time to visit Dumfries in the near future and resume my habit of people watching. I must think of a different location in the town. Maybe outside the Bingo Hall or somewhere the locals congregate, or the excellent Wetherspoons, the Robert the Bruce, where it may be warmer than outside and an ice cream will not be a good idea.

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