The last week has been hard. At best it would have been a lot of reminders about this time last year when we started to retreat indoors, and that Harry and Meghan interview. Sarah Everard's murder changed the story and bought to the surface a lot of anger and upset for many of us - me included.
The reason's for this will be different for everybody, I can only speak for my own, but I know part of my anger is tied up with the restrictions of the last year and how I've felt them as a woman living alone in a city centre - my occasional experiences as a woman walking on her own in the countryside with a large dog have been slightly different.
The first lockdown wasn't to bad for me, the weather was good this time last year, my small local park was relatively empty and so were the city streets. The people I saw were shopping or exercising like me, there was plenty of space, and it didn't feel threatening. That changed as the weeks stretched on and the weather stayed good, Leicester remained in lockdown and a dedicated band of drinkers discovered my small local park. The police keep moving them on, they keep coming back, for months anything up to 30, mostly men have taken up the narrowest point of the park so you have to walk a gauntlet of no social distancing to get through them.
They are intimidating. Part of the park, once a castle motte, has been closed off to public access now, ostensibly for maintenance, but it was also clear there was a lot of drug taking and drinking happening up there, and it's out of sight so difficult to easily police with the stretched resources we currently have. The other park near me forms the boundaries of a couple of local drug dealers and gang territories. A lot of people get stabbed on it. The map of where I felt reasonably safe walking diminished week by week with warnings of muggings and gang activities, increased numbers of people heading for the same few family friendly areas when crowds are the last thing we want to be part of, increasingly persistent and aggressive beggars. Then there are the men who think nothing of urinating all over previously attractive green spaces with apparently no interest in privacy, and yet more dedicated drinkers and their attendant rubbish.
I don't feel safe in these situations because far to many times I've been made to feel exactly how unsafe they are for me. 20 years living in a city working in customer facing roles will do that to you just getting through the day and using public transport. But the thing that makes me most angry is the disconnect in perception - that so many people, mostly men, refuse to see a problem were there so clearly is one.
I have a torn tendon in my right foot, when I had an MRI scan to see how bad it was it also showed arthritis, and I got referred to a consultant for this. He wasn't helpful, maybe rightly considering that there was nothing much that he could do at this stage (maybe wrongly, how would I even know?). What he did suggest was losing weight, which would help, but as many of us have found lockdown isn't great for that. He on the other hand had found it really helpful, he went running after work and there were less people around to get in his way. Aside from running on a torn tendon being both painful and really bad advice, he couldn't understand why I wouldn't consider it. And yet I doubt very much he would have been happy for his wife or daughter to do the same thing in whatever leafy suburb or village he undoubtedly lived in.
This is something that really needs to change. I know acknowledging that the world isn't a safe place for women means being open to admitting why it isn't, and that that will be hard for a lot of people to face, but it has to happen. We have to stop tolerating the casual abuse of public spaces so that they become and remain male spaces, and we really have to stop deliberately turning a blind eye on situations we don't much want to get involved in because until we do that we're giving tacit approval for them. Bad things will always happen because there will always be bad people, but a lot less of them would happen if ordinarily decent people didn't let them.
And now I've written this down I really hope I can actually concentrate on reading a book again because I'm also furious at how much energy, and time, being angry, and frustrated, and scared has robbed me of, and not just this for week.