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Blog Number 23 [Tuesday 19 May] 

Do you find you lose track of the days? I have to think hard to work out which day of the week it is, or in absence of thought, quite common these days, look at my laptop. It’s Sunday 17 May, I’m informed. What on earth are we going to do today? I say this to M after we have listened to the morning’s music, a jolly allegro from Prokofiev’s First Symphony and the spirited finale of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto that were supposed to buck our spirits but seem not to, or not much. 

‘I’m going to do my Pilates,’ she says. ‘And then make some more masks.’

‘What more masks? How many do we need? Are you going to go down Beech Croft Road and hawk them to the neighbours?’

This last remark was a mistake in the sense I had said my thoughts out loud when it was better not to have done. Also it might have been taken as a touch aggressive. Had I still been seeing my psychoanalyst, it would have filled a session or two of interesting discussion.

At first M does not reply but just looks straight at me, which frankly is worse than a reply. ‘Sorry,’ I say. ‘Bit of stir fever.’

Instead of berating me, she says, ‘Go and do your exercises. That might help.’

I’m not used to M being nice to me. I look at her fondly.

‘And then if you’re still bored, there’s the washing up, the shower to clean, a load of shirts to iron and maybe you’d like to make dinner tonight.’

That’s better. That’s the M I know and love. 

‘I’ll start with the exercises and see how I go.’ I say, feeling better already.

Several days have passed since I tuned in to PM’s road map for exiting the lockdown. I peep out from behind the curtains to assess the lie of the land. Not a pretty picture. The road map was sketchy at best, like one of those old maps of the world with blanks spaces and pictures of dragons and other mythical creatures. The government is zigzagging all over the place, holding the map on its lap and peering out of the grimy window for any landmarks. Where exactly are we going? And how will we get there? What will we find when we do? No one knows. Take schools returning. Mikey Gove was sent out at the weekend to provide clarity. Optimistic at best. Mikey has a fuzzy relationship with the truth. He tells Andrew Marr that it is absolutely safe for children and teachers to return to the classroom. Except, Mikey, obviously it’s not. Nowhere is absolutely safe, certainly not in a school where social distancing is next to impossible and no one knows how much the kids transmit the virus to adults. Saying something doesn’t make it true. Didn’t they teach you that at school? We have worked closely with the teachers, he goes on, again lying through his teeth. It might have been helpful to have consulted the teachers’ unions first before announcing the strategy, the militant teachers’ unions as the Daily Mail has it, who for some reason want to protect their members and their families from dying. Now the militant BMA has come out in support of the teachers. Just too many groups protecting their own, aren’t there? That’s the government’s prerogative surely. What’s happening on the testing front? Are we testing and tracing? And what about that much heralded COVID Symptoms App that is being trialled in the Isle of Wight? Are there testers in place? Mikey, had he been asked, would have said there were thousands trained and raring to go. Those organisations earmarked to do the testing and tracing have heard nothing. The rumour is that the App doesn’t work and will be jettisoned in favour of a new one, which probably won’t work either. Oh dear. I pull my head back and close the curtains around me. 

What do these have in common? Garden centres, golf courses, tennis courts, croquet lawns? You’ve got it. They are all places where the middle-classes have their fun. And now HMG says it’s safe to resume going to them. Hooray! Not absolutely safe as we have to exercise sensible precautions. I ring around my tennis buddies. We decide to give tennis a go. It has to be singles. We must keep our distance and we must not touch our opponents’ balls. Yes, yes, I know. Anyway, my opponent is Rachel and apart from a couple of reflexive opponent ball touching, we manage. The trouble for me is Rachel’s devastating forehand and her canny tactics. She rushes me all over the court and I am beaten. I mutter something about outlawing forehands when we shake hands at the end. Metaphorically that is. Of course, I am just delighted to play again; winning is not everything. Losing is though.

Brexit? Really? That’s so last year. Yet the government is ploughing ahead. Full steam ahead, eyes closed, minds even more so. Forty-three percent of our trade is with the EU, 15% with the US. So, which matters most? Difficult question, is it? Yet on we go. Do you want chlorinated chicken? How about letting US Health Providers cherry-pick the best of the NHS? How is that going to be a benefit to us? Brexit has always been a delusion, fuelled by a nostalgia for a past that never was and a mirage of a future that makes no sense. As the pandemic has shown, we are interdependent. No one country can ‘go it alone.’ And in the background our planet is over-heating. No one country can change that. We have to work together. So, what do we do? We cut ties with the countries we are closest to, geographically, culturally and politically, and at a stroke we lose the benefit of almost 50 years of cooperation. At this moment the 27 EU countries are meeting to look to provide a stimulus package to help each and every one out of this crisis. It saddens me beyond words that we are not there with them.

Antidote 23

Delightful Flash Mob performance of the ‘Ode to Joy’ in Sabadell, Spain.


  1. Well, John, you may have lost all sense of time but you haven’t lost your touch! I believe this is the best blog since I started on this commentary business many moons ago (incidentally, despite all Bahram’s Boris-style bluster to the contrary, it is so far a commentariat of one, moi!).

    Your ‘hawking masks’ exchange with M is a hoot and then you cleverly weave in your barbs against Mikey and the Far Right Gang with scenes from the tennis court and your ignominious defeat at the hands of Rachel Hamdi (well, not actually hands….). And your anti-Brexit diatribe at the end is all the more effective for being a) concise and b) relatively restrained (by your standards).

    You know, I reckon this confinement you keep railing against is helping you to hone your blogging skills. I think you should not be allowed out!

    1. Thanks, Paddy. There’s no shortage of material for blogging, is there? This the only blog I have ever written. Delighted that you are enjoying it.

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