I have heard it said many times recently that people have forgotten how to behave. One theory is that the relative lack of social interaction during the pandemic has caused some to forget their social skills. Personally, I think there’s more to it than that. Sure, that may be a contributory factor, but I’m more inclined to believe that the pandemic simply exacerbated an already existing decline in social etiquette.
Of course, I’m completely aware that I’m growing older and tend to have less tolerance for poor behaviour. Possibly I’m simply experiencing an age-old generational trend of older people believing that younger people don’t know how to behave. Except that it’s not just young people, it’s people in general whose behaviour seems to have degenerated.
This year we felt it necessary to explain to our postgraduate students what was expected of them – I’m not talking about how they should perform academically, but how they should behave socially. Simple things like punctuality, common curtesy etc. All the basic skills that students need and that will allow learning to take place easily in a supportive and inclusive setting. I’ve been teaching in higher education for almost 30 years and this is the first time that our teaching team felt it was necessary to teach our students how to behave.
This is a roundabout way of saying that I really shouldn’t be surprised when people I meet on the fells don’t conform to expectations. However, it is exceptional when that does occur because by-and-large, the people I meet out on the fells are lovely. They have a mutual understanding of fell etiquette and enjoy sharing pleasantries. There aren’t many unwritten rules other than “be nice”, but one rule in particular seems to be going out of fashion, that of spending only the required amount of time at a fell summit cairn or trig column as is necessary to touch the highest point and maybe take a photo. Most folk who understand this principle will bag their fell and then walk off a few metres in search of a place to rest and have lunch. Sadly, this is not always the case and recently I have arrived at the highest point of a fell to find a group of walkers sitting on the summit cairn, munching sandwiches, making it difficult to bag and impossible to photograph.
Worse things happen at sea (obviously) but it doesn’t make this any less frustrating.