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A user’s guide to the Two-Metre rule


A RATHER disturbing message from the government pinged on to my iPhone on Monday.

It basically sentenced me to solitary confinement. Laura had warned me about my impending liberty loss but I wouldn’t listen.

‘We have identified that you’re someone at risk,’ begins the mystery voice. This stentorian tone from a mysterious omnipotent observer was all too familiar. It was predicted by Gerry Anderson in his dystopian documentary series, Captain Scarlet.

With an intro like that, I can only hear the rest of the text message in the voice of the hero’s nemesis, the Mysterons.

‘Please remain at home for a minimum of 12 weeks. Home is the safest place for you,’ says the passive-aggressive Sonority. ‘You can open a window but do not leave your home and stay three steps away from others indoors.’

As far as possible, I am going to follow this advice as my immune system has been under attack from both sides. If there’s a white blood cell circulating in my body, it’s going to be very lonely.

An unwanted consequence of chemotherapy is that it kills the fast-growing cells that my body needs to fight infection. If that wasn’t bad enough, I’ve got a disease called pyoderma gangrenosum which has produced some horrifying flesh-eating ulcers.

It affects only one in 100,000 people but as luck would have it I’m that one. It’s so rare that doctors misdiagnose it and students can go all the way through medical school without seeing a case.

Here’s a case if you’re interested. (Warning: Only for strong stomachs

So, I intend to follow government orders as far as possible, with the odd exception for outings to my guerilla garden at Purley Station. But how do I enforce the Two-Metre rule?

There are apps for this. Two metres is approximately the length of footballing beanpole Peter Crouch.

The unit of safe social distance is known in app development slang as a Crouch, or a Two-Metre Peter. As we cower at home, app developers are writing the code that turns your phone into a security guard. It detects people getting too close and tells them in no uncertain terms to keep their distance.

I tested some of the automated social distance warnings already available for the iPhone.

I tried ‘Shoo! Shoo!’ but the voice is way too friendly. It actually entices people to come closer. A typical response is for the safety violator to lean in and ask, ‘What’s that on your phone?’

It’s not cool, kids, I’m an old man and you’re supposed to stay away from me.

Another application has a much sterner voice. ‘Dosvidanya!’ is a great way of sarcastically saying Goodbye but nobody understands Russian. Sounds typically harsh though.

The same word is used by Poles but most are not deterred by the tone – they are too impressed that you’ve actually learned a phrase in their language. I love the Poles but they are way too friendly.

I liked ‘Oy! Far Cough’, but you should use it only when someone is hacking up phlegm without putting their hand over their mouth. Otherwise it’s a bit too rude.

There is an upgrade, which I haven’t downloaded, which starts as ‘Fair Cough!’ and builds up. If it senses that your space invader has not moved, it ups the ante with a stronger warning: ‘Go on! Fair Cough over there!’ 

The final message is the nuclear option: ‘Fair cough out of it!’

There’s another message for those line in the more upmarket shops.

It goes ‘Fur Queue!’ I like the repeat option it offers for multiple space violators: ‘And Fur Queue too!’

Again, there is an elevation if the motion sensors in your phone are disappointed with events. ‘Fur Queue, Fur Queue to Your Chauffeur, take your counterfeit Rolex and Fake Off!’

I think I’m better off in solitary confinement.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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