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Blog Number 31 [Wednesday, 17th June 2020]

M tells me on our morning walk she thinks we’ll be in lockdown for the rest of the year.

‘Surely not,’ I say, taken aback. I do a quick calculation. ‘That’s another 6 months.’

‘We are old and regarded as ‘vulnerable.’ So we can’t take any risks.’

‘I don’t think I’m really all that vulnerable,’ I say. ‘Or all that old for that matter.’

‘You’re 73, aren’t you?’

It’s not like M to get something wrong but the truth is I’m 74 and have been since 12th February this year. Should I correct her? Usually that doesn’t go down all that well.

‘Sort of,’ I say as a compromise.

M frowns. ‘Sort of? Oh, okay, I get it, you’re 74. But that’s old anyway.’

‘You’ve made my point. Age is just a number…’

‘And you are as old as you feel? Is that what you were going to say?’

It was! ‘No. Of course not.’



‘So what were you going to say?’

This is tricky. I could say I can’t remember but that would just confirm M in her belief that I’m going senile. 

‘I was going to say,’ I begin, thinking desperately, ‘that if you are right and we are in lockdown for another 6 months, it’s lucky that we get on so well.’

At this M abruptly stops. In solidarity I stop too. We face each other.

‘Don’t you think?’ I say.

A big smile spreads over M’s face. ‘I was thinking,’ she says, ‘another 6 months of this and one of us would end up killing the other.’

A big smile comes over my face. ‘Yes. And I know which one would do the killing.’

‘So do I,’ she says.

I wonder if we are thinking of the same person.

Yet another debacle for what passes as Her Majesty’s Government. A certain Marcus Rashford has been leading a campaign for free school meals to continue over the summer. He wrote a reasoned and impassioned open letter to HMG. Now that’s 1.3 million children who would go otherwise go hungry. We are the 6th largest economy [though that will change and not in a good way] and surely the government can find the wherewithal to feed our poorest children over the summer break. Rashford came from a family that survived on free school meals. He knows what he’s talking about. He is a modest, likeable guy. And he also happens to be a megastar, a talented football player, centre forward for Manchester United and England. You would think any politician would recognise how this will pan out. But no, not Bojo. There will be no free school meals over the summer, he firmly declares. Local councils can take care of it [they can’t]. They have lots of dosh [they don’t]. Less than 24 hours later, it turns out there will be free school meals in the summer break after all. Hooray! You could say the government made a meal of this [ha! ha!] and if they did, it was surely a dog’s breakfast. I could go on but there’s no point. Just read the wonderful, incomparable, scathing Marina Hyde,

Do you avidly follow the news? If you do, how do you feel? I asked myself this question and this was the answer: angry, anxious, frustrated, worried, helpless, depressed. Most of my friends feel the same. So why do we persist? Why don’t we shut out the noisy, angry world, switch it off as you might switch off a TV programme that you find too disturbing to watch. I decide to ask a psychologist.

‘M, why do we watch all this crap on the TV?’

[Defensive] ‘I happen to like East Enders. I know it’s not your thing…’

‘Actually, I meant the news.’

‘Oh. Okay, it’s better to be informed.’

‘But is it? I mean what’s to be gained. It’s not as though we can change anything.’

‘I just need to know what that bastard is up to.’

‘Are you talking about East Enders again?’

‘No! I mean Boris.’

‘We know the answer to that and it’s just two words.’

‘Bugger all?’

‘I was thinking ‘no good’ but that will do too. Wouldn’t it be better if we made a pact…’

‘A pact?’

‘Yes, a pact, an agreement…’

‘I know what a pact means…’

‘…not to watch or listen to or read the news for a week. Then see how we feel.’


‘Hello? Anyone in there?’

‘I’m thinking!’


‘The thing is if we don’t talk about the news, what are we going to talk about?’

This is a valid question. The Premier League resumes today. Somehow I don’t think M will want to talk about football and anyway Liverpool is a shoo-in to win the league, which will please my friend Stephen who has been on tenterhooks since the lockdown threatened cancellation of the whole season. 

‘Other stuff,’ I say. Admittedly, this is not all that specific.

‘Other stuff?’ M brightens up. ‘Yes, we could revive our plan to re-do the front room. Look at some furniture catalogues and on-line websites. I could probably get some swatches sent now that the shops are open. First we need to decide whether to re-cover the sofas or buy new ones. Probably not much difference in price. Second…’

This is not going well at all. I need to say something and quickly. ‘I was thinking we might read all of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, maybe one a day, and then discuss it in a sort of tutorial.’ Truthfully, I was not thinking that. It just popped into my head.

‘Oh.’ M pauses. ‘I suppose we could do something like that, or…’



‘Maybe,’ I say, ‘not watching any news at all is a bit too much, a bit like going cold turkey.’

‘Yes and that never works, does it?’

‘It’s Wednesday today, isn’t it? That means PMQs at 12. It would be a shame to miss it.’

‘Yes. It would.’

‘Let’s put the pact on hold and think about it and discuss it later, maybe next week.’

M agrees. Phew.

Antidote 31

Classic Monty Python. The dead parrot sketch and the lumberjack song,

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