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Blog Number 25 [Monday 25 May]

On Saturday I go out for my “essential exercise” cycle ride. On the way back I get a newspaper from Court Candy, a shop that is a social distancing challenge to put it mildly. The shop is one of those small supermarkets, what estate agents like to call bijou. I can barely squeeze down one of the two aisles that run either side of a central set of shelves. If another customer comes in, we will have to go through a ritual forward and back dance so I can get out of the shop uncontaminated. If another customer, well, then we’re all stuffed. I mention this to M when I return triumphant with the Guardian, having been the only customer.

‘Why on earth do you not go to the Coop or Tescos in Summertown?’ she says. ‘They have self-service machines.’

‘You have to pay by card.’

She looks at me in frank amazement. ‘You do know it’s safer to pay by card. Did you actually pay by cash?’

‘I had the right money,’ I say breezily. I lie for that was last week. I had actually handed in a £20 note and crammed the change in my pocket. I am now wondering how to get it out and when I do, if I should wash the new plastic notes in bleach. Will they disintegrate? Maybe I should use a pair of pliers to extract all the dosh and just throw it in the bin. The Saturday paper is always more expensive yet paying £20 for it seems a bit steep.

‘Anyway,’ I go on, trying to bolster my position. ‘I want to support the small local shops.’

‘And how will you do that if you get the virus and die?’

‘I’ll leave them something in my will.’ 

I am pleased with my witty riposte. 

‘Very funny,’ M says as she walks off and I know what that means.

That was Saturday. One or two things have happened since then, you might have noticed. By the time I finish this sentence it’s possible that [a] the Dom is another of Bojo’s exs [unlikely despite Bojo’s record], [b] the Dom has fled to a Durham monastery, transgendered and taken the veil, [more likely than [a] but still unlikely], or [c] nothing has changed [very likely]. And by the time you read this you will know the answer. Tempting as it is for me to join in the chorus of anger at our self-serving and pusillanimous PM, I will cite two usually opposed sources, the Monday Daily Mail [Headline: WHAT PLANET ARE THEY ON? Quote; “…he has given every person a licence to play fast and loose with public health,”] and John Crace in today’s Guardian, “No dignity, no future: Boris forsakes leadership to protect Cummings,”

One more thing. M shows me a picture of a cat born with two-faces. As a metaphor it couldn’t be more apt. Two-faced is what the PM is, unabashed at justifying the Dom’s flight north with the claim he was just following the instincts of a good father. Really? You know about those fatherly instincts, do you, Boris? Certainly, those associated with flight from your own paternal responsibilities. I’d like to write more but the tacks I am spitting are damaging my laptop.

Meanwhile, 1st June is looming and there’s the tricky problem of easing the lockdown. A rational approach is to do so one sector at a time and keep a close eye on the consequences. This means a test, track and trace system. The government claims to have the best in the world and it will be ready. Do you believe them? Neither do I. If the planned partial re-opening of the schools goes ahead, which many parents want, how can this happening to respect social distancing and protect pupils and staff? Should teachers wear PPE? I try to imagine what a 6 year old would feel being taught by someone in PPE. Gloves and apron are okay but masks? A visor? What signals will that send out? How much anxiety might it cause? Constant washing of hands too, will that breed a cohort of obsessionals? Or, will that just simply become the new norm? 

My twin grandchildren are 6 years old. They are fortunate as they have each other though they don’t always see it that way. They crashed in on a zoom call that we were having with their mum and aunt. Lucy is enamoured with Harry Potter and Winnie the Pooh and she chats to us about them. I ask her if she has any questions of us. She says, “When will the virus end and how long will you be in lockdown?” That is a good question. I only wish we knew the answer.

Antidote 25

Víkingur Ólafsson playing Bach: Organ Sonata No. 4, BWV 528: II. Andante [Adagio]

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