The Roadmap

Ladies and gentleman, we have a roadmap out of this unholy mess. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The promised land is within reach. Boris has spoken, and his words are righteous and bring joy throughout the land. Meh. Who am I kidding. I’ve watched his speech and it looks more like a bloody atlas than a simple roadmap. And this being the UK, there’ll be hundreds of potholes, numerous cul-de-sacs and a ton of roundabouts to be navigated. Anyone who has ever driven here will know just how easy it is to suddenly find yourself driving back in the direction you’ve just come from. With punctured tyres and collapsed suspension.

By at least one measure, we in the UK have the strictest lockdown rules in the developed world. We also have amongst the worst death rates. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last year, it is that national comparisons are a tricky, complicated business. Nonetheless, it will be nice to get back on the road to normal. And we have a route of sorts. A very British roadmap, drawn up by the uk government, providing England, and England alone, with a simple four step plan detailed in five easy to follow steps.

But let’s focus on the good news. Our late April domestic road trip looks doable. Bergerac in June? There’s still a bit of a question mark over that, but we’ll know more by the middle of April. The Hyde Park concert in July? That is looking good. And providing all goes according to plan, holidays in September and October look very promising.

This release from lockdown isn’t going to be considered fast enough by some. I suspect most people will accept lockdown for a little longer. It’s not that much of a hardship. I mean, most people are very clearly not obeying any of the social contact rules anyway, and haven’t been for sometime. Perhaps that’s why the number of infections today edged up slightly, week on week.

But one thing is for certain. I’ve not had a haircut for so long that I now need the services of a shearer, not a barber. But they’re all shut so I’ll do it myself. I bought the clippers in the photo for about £43.99 from Amazon last April. They’re really rather good. I would normally pay about £15 for a cut at a hairdressers, so I needed three uses out of these clippers to make my money back. Tomorrow I will put them to work for the third time.

I’m thinking of really cutting back to the scalp. A Grade 2. The last time I had that cut, it was administered at RAF Halton on the first full day of basic training, back in May 1999. Mrs P isn’t quite so keen on this idea. I will need to be discreet. Stay tuned…


The Jean Genie

At the beginning of the year I set out to get some new jeans. I buy Levi 501s. That’s all I’ve bought for decades. They are good fitting, hard wearing and look the part. I’ve always been happy with my 501s. There’s never been reason to change. Except last December I went shopping, and they were more expensive than normal. A lot more expensive. It’s been a while since I went shopping for jeans – like I said, they wear well. But I’d sure as heck remember if I’d paid £75 to £95 for a pair.

So I looked to see what alternatives there are. I bought a couple of pairs of jeans from Next, at £17 and £12 each. They were in the January sales, and cost half the price they normally do. And you know what? I love them just as much as I’ve ever loved a pair of Levis. You know what this means, don’t you? That’s right. I’ve likely bought my last ever pair of Levis.

It’s not just me. I’m not the only one who noticed that Levis suddenly got outrageously expensive. Can you guess what happened? As far as I can see (and I could be totally wrong, I guess…) Levis bore the brunt EU tariff increases in retaliation for Trump’s tariffs on EU products. I know this much about international trade – if you make something difficult or pricey, another way will be found that’s easier or cheaper.

Those tariffs could all fall off now. It doesn’t matter. The damage is done. The genie is out of the bottle. Once you lose something or someone, you’ll not often get them back. I’m not sure how any of this helped American jobs. I’m not sure how it put America first.

The photo at the top? That’s from a second floor window of Debenhams, looking out over Bournemouth town centre. Like most other stores, Debenhams shut at the end of December with the new lockdown. But it had already bitten the dust as a bricks and mortar enterprise. An online firm has bought the name but the stores will shut. It may reopen for a brief period to seek off stock. It may not.


How It Ends

A virus is an unpredictable beast. Combine the innate nature of this beast with the equally uncertain nature of personality politics and you have a riddle wrapped in an enigma packed in a cult and tied up with conspiratorial bows and ribbons. Where will it all end? Even Churchill would be suffering a degree of befuddlement by now. Are we at the beginning of the middle of the beginning, or are we entering the middle of the end of the beginning part of the final stretch?

Shall I get to my point? I know how this ends. Because it does end, eventually. Probably. Unless there is an unexpected corona-Ebola fusion twist to the story coming up. And there probably – hopefully – isn’t. So let me crack on with letting you know how it ends.

This applies only to the UK, I’m afraid. Some countries are pretending that it’s ended for them already. There’s a few that are still insisting it hasn’t started. Others accept reality but just aren’t dealing with it very well. But here in the UK, this is how it ends.

Infection rates will go back down to what they were last summer. Which is to say that there won’t be much virus about at all. The vaccination program will get through most of the population. Everything will have slowly started opening in early spring, with pretty much everything open for the start of summer. Everyone will relax. People will be happier.

And then, in the autumn, the Coronavirus Act 2020 will come up for its six monthly review.. There will be mixed messages from different ministers. The scientists will insist some restrictions should remain. A growing number of backbenchers will insist they shouldn’t. The casting vote will belong to the chancellor, who will insist that further restrictions will see insolvency practitioners setting up office in No 11 Downing Street.

And so the Coronavirus Act will lapse. There will be stern government warnings that they will take action if the virus goes nuts again. There will be recommendations about wearing face masks if you feel ill. Some museums might still operate a booked-place entry system. Restaurants will go back to how things were before, which is to say that most of them will continue to teeter on the edge of bankruptcy. But we’ll all more or less resume normal life.

We’ll keep an eye on infection rates. There’ll be some doom-laden tabloid headlines. Some nervous moments. The hysterical lady across the road will still come out to clap for something on a Thursday evening from time to time. But we’ll be living a normal life. And this will happen this year. Or next. The year after next at the latest. Probably. Look, I said I’d tell you how this ends, not when.

The Lockdown Sceptics and Conspiracy Theorists will declare victory. Don’t doubt that for one second. On the basis of bugger all evidence, they’ll insist that they alone ended it all and saved humanity. Before moving on to resume their normal lives, which will most involve sinking immigrant boats in the English Channel and blaming the Rothschilds for the chemtrail displays in the sky.

The old normal will be the new normal. I can’t wait. I’ll have to, of course. And I understand the need to. But I just can’t wait. Can you?