Once more, I missed updating the blog last Sunday as I was out and about, travelling on public transport and risking contagion.
Back in late March, at the start of the lockdown, the government’s message was clear: we were told to “stay home; save lives.” Then, in mid May, the message changed and we were told to “stay alert”. Although both “stay home” and “stay alert” are simple phrases, the former is a straightforward instruction that was easy to follow, while the latter is vague and unclear.
As lockdown has eased and life is returning to normal – or, at least, there is a plan for a “significant return to normality” by Christmas – there is still much confusion about what the official rules and recommendations are. Today’s blog post is illustrated with some of the advice and guidance prominently displayed at various points along my journey last Sunday.
I feel sorry for those towns and shops who rushed to prepare for the lifting of lockdown and marked everything up with two-metre signs, only to have the guidelines change before they actually re-opened to “one metre plus” – albeit with lack of clarity on what exactly that “plus” means. Those who chose a simple “thanks for keeping your distance” sign that didn’t specify exactly how far the distance needed to be will have lower re-print costs.
It’s worth noting that although the slogan may be the same, different organisations chose quite different imagery, in keeping with their brand.
Here, there was more guidance and advice in the same colours as part of a public awareness campaign.
In Birmingham city centre it seems that someone in authority realised that “stay apart” is a clearer message and more easily adhered to than “stay alert. (Incidentally, they also seem to realise that most people won’t be going barefoot.)
The “stay apart” slogan was used at New Street station, too, and there were other signs reminding the public about social distancing.
Again, there were other elements of the same branded campaign.
The message was carried on, down on the platform, where new lines had been marked out to keep waiting travellers away from passengers alighting from trains.
Much as this seemed to fit in reasonably well with the standard advice to stand behind the yellow line, I do think that someone missed a trick by not adapting the traditional “mind the gap” slogan.
A different pair of shoes was used to make the silhouettes for the signs at Moor Street, where they were perhaps slightly more interested in protecting their staff than the travellers.
And yet another pair was used for the coffee queue, where the advice combined almost all the slogans used elsewhere as well as using a decidedly eye-catching colour palette.
In Wales, the colours were also bright. Interestingly, while in the Midlands the organisations all said “Thank you”, as if they assumed we’d be doing the right thing, the English version of the Welsh poster makes it a request – “Please keep your distance.” (In Welsh, there is neither “please” nor “thank you” – it’s a simple imperative.)
I travelled a long way on Sunday, but didn’t go very far beyond the rail network – station concourses and platforms. Even so, I could probably have taken at least a dozen other photos of signs, each with their own particular take on the official rules and regulations.
The signs and designs are all subtly different, but there is a fairly clear message about keeping your distance and observing basic hygiene standards, If you’d like to reminisce a little about how much less clear the guidance was during the early stages of lockdown, you may enjoy this video: