Over the past few weeks I have been gobsmacked by some of the attitudes of people here in Cornwall…
It’s crazy that I’m even here sat writing this post.
I don’t want to have to write this, but after a night of no sleep I’ve decided I’ve been ranting a little too much on Instagram (oops) so thought this might be a better, more in-depth outlet for me.
I’m also a far better writer than I am speaker, so there’s that.
At the moment there’s so much on social media from the point of view of people telling tourists to stay away/stay home and reminding hospitality businesses to close (completely justified, FYI – if done with kindness). Some are sharing these messages positively, trying to be helpful (everyone is concerned about our elderly population and our limited hospital resources here), but many have been taking it to the extreme – which is what this post is about.
So I think it’s really important for the other point of view to be shared and heard. The point of view of what it’s like right now for hospitality accommodation businesses in Cornwall.
My partner Alex runs a holiday village here in Cornwall, with over 40 cottages on site, about 15% of which are residential (ie. people live there permanently). Currently, as per government advice and lockdown regulations, the business is not taking guest bookings throughout April or May. There are a couple of people here who are either key workers or had no where else to go due to house completions being delayed and tenancies ended, but other than that the site is closed to holiday-makers.
It says so clearly on the company website, and if someone were to try and book, they would be met with a COVID-19 Closure message.
March 30th 2020
It’s easy to feel the tension bubbling under the surface now.
Facebook Groups have always been known for their controversial topics and threads with endless troll comments, usually lead by characters of questionable motive and very little common sense. Particularly the Cornwall ones.
If you know, you know.
Just like during the election, extreme opinions are emerging, leading to heated arguments and – predictably – the descent of ‘sheeple’ (The Easily Led) who are happy to take the viewpoints of the loudest in the group as Truth and distribute among their circles with no further research or questioning.
Whether it’s posts telling ’emmets’ (holiday-makers) to f**k off, or the ‘naming and shaming’ of local Cornish businesses who are supposedly still open, these are coming in thick and fast, and the hostility is starting to concern me.
April 4th 2020
It started with just messages and emails, but today it seems we’ve progressed to phone calls.
It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon, but instead of being out in the garden enjoying the sunshine and getting on with the weekend (#StayingHome, don’t worry!), Alex has been stuck indoors responding to calls from people who clearly have far too much time on their hands and no indoor hobbies to amuse themselves with.
First up, there’s those trying to ‘catch him out’; the type who try to book a holiday over the phone, but when told they can’t because the business is closed to holiday-makers, exclaim ‘Well GOOD, because you should be closed’.
Then there are the ones who call up just to inform Alex that he is immoral for keeping his business open to holiday makers. This type of person clearly couldn’t be bothered to check if their facts are correct before launching into these accusations, because if they’d spent 10 seconds on the company website, they’d see a large ‘WE’RE CLOSED’ banner and find themselves unable to book through the system.
I must say I wouldn’t have half the patience that Alex does to deal with all this. He answers their concerns politely and calmly, talking them through where to find the information in question on the website, and trying to understand why they seem to think he’s open in the first place.
As it turns out, the business has been publicly (and falsely) ‘named and shamed’ on a Facebook Group.
But before we can go off in search of this post, Alex receives another call; this time from Cornwall Council, informing him that someone has reported his business for breaking the COVID-19 lockdown regulations.
Alex patiently talks through the website set up on the phone, and the lady agrees he’s done everything he can to be clear, and apologises for wasting his time. Alex then phoned back the people from earlier in the day to inform them that yes, the Council has also confirmed that you are wasting peoples’ time (although in much nicer terms…).
Despite his calm phone presence, and polite responses to the incoming messages, I want you to understand that this isn’t just water off a duck’s back. When someone accuses you of something wrongly, or attacks your business behind your back, it’s not as easy as just forgetting about it and moving on.
It worms its way into your mind and rots there, so even if you’re doing something else, the thought never truly goes away and only gets worse and takes up more space until the problem is solved.
And so we go in hunt of the Facebook Group post in question, and eventually find it, but after attempting to join the group to comment and set people straight, we both get blocked. Some of our friends managed to find their way in and inform people that the post is incorrect – the business is in fact closed – however shortly after, the admin of the group deletes all the comments.
This is why I urge people to be cautious in Facebook Groups.
Admins can be selective of what gets shown, and edit or censor things to fit their own motives, essentially like a dictatorship. So don’t believe everything you read.
April 6th 2020
After a couple of sleepless nights for us both, and more hours spent diffusing one-sided arguments from yet more bored hobby-less people, this whole situation is starting to remind me George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984.
Whilst I know the UK is no way in the grips of a dictatorship right now, the lockdown rules and temporary restrictions are bringing out some interesting traits in members of society.
Typically, in these authoritarian state books, you get three types of people: the rule breakers, the rule followers, and the rule enforcers. The latter usually being the most irritating characters in the book, I might add.
The rule enforcers are the ones who take it upon themselves to inform on others and generally tell tales, even if it means hurting innocent people in the process. They’re the spies and whistleblowers who are incentivised by nothing except their own boredom and miserable lives.
Sure, I’m still talking about the book characters 🙄
April 8th 2020
After sharing this whole saga on Instagram, I am pleased with the supportive messages I’ve received, but also saddened to hear of other people suffering in these Interesting Times.
I’ve had people share that their own businesses have had the same hateful messages, despite following the rules themselves.
I’ve had people tell me they’ve been yelled at in their local shop because people didn’t recognise them and thought they were down here on holiday.
I’ve also been told that one person had a man staying in their holiday cottage who had to stay there to attend his mother’s funeral as one of the only people who could go, and this man had hate letters posted through the door telling him to eff off home.
What bothers me most about all this is that these are local people, picking on local small businesses. Local businesses who have had to furlough their staff and who have already lost huge amounts of money, with no end in sight. These are local businesses run by neighbours and friends, and families who are struggling to make ends meet.
And yet there are people who seem perfectly happy to rub salt in the wound and turn their backs on the same businesses who prop up their local economy the rest of the year.
April 9th 2020
The witch-hunt (as I’ve begun to call it) has reached new heights today, as Alex receives another phone call from the Council, this time claiming that someone has reported him for having people going in and out of cottages on the site.
Exasperated, Alex relays to the lady that people do in fact live here, and offers to send her a full list of everyone who is currently on site. A simple search online can bring up this information, and once again he points out to her how much stress and wasted time this is causing everyone.
During the conversation, it comes out that whoever reported him this time could only have seen the residential cottages mentioned if they had walked through the site themselves, which would in fact be trespassing. Alex points out that these people have clearly broken the law in order to try and report him for breaking the law, and that the Council officer should really be reporting them to the police.
She said she will, although I have my doubts.
So now Alex is not only dealing with the stress of people spreading false rumours online and wrongly reporting him to the Council, he is also now concerned about random people snooping around the site deliberately trying to find things to get his business in trouble.
They won’t find anything, but that is besides the point.
Having people bad-mouth your business is bad enough without knowing that it must be local people doing it, when of course you’d always hope that locals would have your back.
It’s a horrible feeling, and like I said, it lurks in your brain and makes it hard to focus. Hard to sleep. Hard to carry on without feeling dejected and depressed that not only is your business losing money, it’s receiving this hostility.
Who are these ‘rule enforcers’ going around trying to report people? What is there to gain?
You’re worried for your NHS, I get it. And you’re worried for your people.
But dear God, have some empathy. You’re causing hours of stress and sleeplessness to people who haven’t done anything wrong. So please, be kind.
Why am I sharing this?
As I say, I want the other side of this story to be heard. Whilst I don’t personally work in hospitality or run a hospitality business, someone I love does and seeing the toll it takes is upsetting.
I’ve also been messaged by people on Instagram feeling the same way, and feeling really ashamed to be Cornish right now. I can sympathise.
I want hospitality business owners in Cornwall and across the UK to know that local people still have their backs and want to support them, and I want people who come on holiday to Cornwall to think of us as kind and welcoming – not hostile and rude.
We will need you more than ever when this is all over, so why some people are behaving this way is beyond me.
Anyway, if you’ve read this far, thank you for listening to what is essentially a long-winded rant. But I had to let off some steam somewhere, and if I can’t do that here on my little space of the internet, then where can I?
Stay safe ✌🏼