A select group of friends and I have planned at length for a zombie apocalypse. Only those with certain attributes do I invite to this discussion; you have to be cool in a crisis, ideally with special skills such as prior knowledge of weapons or heavy machinery. Not predisposed to clumsiness; not at risk of unsolicited coughing or sneezing at inconvenient times and not suffering from nasal polyps. Ideally versed in the donning and doffing of personal protective equipment. While we don’t always agree on the battle plan fundamentals (do we take the car or ditch it? Take the highway or the back roads? Befriend the neighbours or lock them out?), I never tire of fleshing out the details.

With the impending explosion of coronavirus in Dumfries & Galloway the topic of everyone’s conversation this week I find myself slipping into that paranoid mindset of a potential victim in a zombie horror. Trust nobody. Fear everyone. Keep your distance and for Pete’s sake, don’t forget to pack the alco-gel. At the end of an exhausting working week of relentless Covid briefings, Covid rumours, Covid panic and Covid memes it’s fair to say I was feeling a little #Coverwhelmed. What better way, then, to blow away the cobwebs than to run, run, run for the hills on a long bike ride in the middle of nowhere. (One thing that we all agreed on, is that we’d be much safer in a rural area).

And so I set off on my bike in the direction of the Galloway Forest. The air was pure; not a sneezer in sight. I was almost alone with the sheep, cows and juvenile pheasants for the whole journey. When the landscape opened up between thickets of trees I appreciated that, were I to escape to an abandoned farmhouse at the top of a hill, I could literally see my potential infector a mile off. And with all the massive farm equipment around I could scoop up all the Covid and drop it into the slurry tank (where it would inevitably combine with the organophosphates inside and mutate into something far more deadly and menacing, but that’s another story for the sequel).

This kind of countryside contraption is bound to collect the bodies of defeated zombies floating on the current, causing havoc for downstream drinking water safety as they decompose…

I pass a general store in a small village and stop in. They still have a good selection of foodstuffs on their shelves and I’m greeted with smiles and small talk instead of a Carex pump-dispenser.

The wind in my face on my way out west was punishing. I felt it was training my lungs, preparing them for an onslaught of germs. In the Galloway Forest, flanked on all sides by towering pines, I wondered whether the cover would be more advantageous for me or for my contagious pursuant. I considered whether I could learn enough about the flora to forage my way through a pandemic which may last two months or more. Spring is the season for wild garlic and I could identify that, but could I subsist on it – and then what next? What edible plant could fill those hungry months until strawberries in June, then autumn berries, nuts and mushrooms much later on?

I pondered this as I ate my peanut butter sandwich by the Otter Pool, then filled up my water bottle from the stream. They’re in the middle of building a toilet block here: might this be the last place we’ll be able to find loo roll in a few months’ time, when all the stockpilers have cleared the shelves and the rest of us are stuck rationing our bowel motions?

The breeze rustles the trees overhead, displacing a few forest birds. I find my worries blowing away a little with them.

Miles cycled: 68

15 March, 2020


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