by an Edinburgh University student
I joined a couple of dozen fellow students at Edinburgh for a birthday party on a secluded beach outside the city last week on the same day that Sir Patrick Vallance announced what we were doing was harmless. “It’s difficult to see how things like large beach gatherings lead to spikes”, he told Parliament hours before we all took Ubers to Lothian’s pretty seashore.
That was confirmed by Professor Mark Woolhouse: “There were no outbreaks linked to public beaches – There’s never been a COVID-19 outbreak linked to a beach, ever, anywhere in the world.”
We pay attention to Prof Woolhouse because, in addition to being SAGE’s SPI-M committee on pandemics, he’s a top Edinburgh University epidemiologist.
Unfortunately, Police Scotland was not following the science, as I will shortly reveal.
Since arriving at university last Autumn, I’ve witnessed how parties halls of residence are invariably raided by campus security or police officers. Usually, it’s fellow students objecting to the sounds of revelry and loud music who then dob us in to the authorities. Aside from that, students have endured periods in quarantine when they or someone on their floor tests positive. When that happens, you’re banned from leaving your rooms and fed packed lunches. A Muslim student was sent bacon sandwiches, while a vegetarian was handed a meat dish.
We headed to the beach that day to avoid the authorities and also because we didn’t want to get in the way of the locals, who can be quite wary of students. I arrived to find a small group of young people gathered around a little fire tucked into a hollow below the public road. Before long, music was blaring and the usual student drunkenness had set in. At 9pm, what looked like a white delivery van wound its way down the road towards us with only its orange sidelights on. When the vehicle came to an abrupt halt on the road above us we turned the music off and watched the vehicle intently. A window was rolled down, and a head popped out and barked in a Glaswegian accent: “Run!” The next second, blue lights and spotlight beams were switched on. Officers waving flashlights leapt out of the van and ran towards us.
“Fucking Tories!” we heard one of them shout. “Get one of them! We only need one!”
The party dispersed instantly, most breaking left inland, while I and 10 others foolishly ran towards a pier on the right. Hysterical laughter and drunken waddling ensued as we fled, with some struggling to shoulder boxes of rescued Budweiser. As we reached the pier, a second van screeched up from another direction and several more officers disembarked. The sea was behind us and the police were closing in, executing a pincer movement.
The laughter stopped and all of us began frantically burying booze and speakers in the sand, or concealing belongings under seaweed. We then made a dash inland between what was now a narrowing gap between two van-loads of police. The officers ran after us, waving their torches. Our group split up and I made off with two others. I became acutely aware that the police were chasing after us with great determination. We crossed a road and as we scaled a barbed wire fence, my jeans snagged on the wire and held me back for some seconds, giving the officers enough time to shine their torches towards me. I tore myself off the fence, ripping my clothes, and resumed my flight into the darkness.
The three of us scampered up a hilly field, before concealing ourselves under a willow tree, near a badger den. Torch beams scanned the field. From our position at the top of the hill, we were able to see scattered white dots below us – the glare of phone screens in the brambly undergrowth. The fugitives were briefing each other on the whereabouts of the cops. People also signalled each other with whistles each time the police ran by.
After about 30 minutes, the police gave up, the vans left and we emerged from the field, dug up our booze and resumed the party. The encounter had lasted about an hour. Some of us agreed that we were not, as it happens, fucking Tories.
The author is a first year student at Edinburgh University.
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