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…


Le Lockdown

The entertainment awards season will soon be upon us, with Oscars, BAFTAs and goodness only knows what else being dished out to deserving recipients. This year the shows will be more exciting than usual. Probably. There’s been so little to do that we’ve all watched everything that has been broadcast or streamed. Did you watch that Kurdish cartoon short, Derewîn, te bi tevahî li wê temaşe nekir? Me too! We are all going to have an opinion on an peculiarly wide range of productions.

One film that won’t be nominated is a classic French flick, Le Lockdown. It’s the one we have all, apparently*, participated in. Le Lockdown, a black and white film where everyone smokes and drinks too much. There’s a lot of dodgy background muzak. Once in a while someone snaps angrily at the person nearest them. Nothing actually happens. It’s as disjointed as this blog post. And it goes on and on and on and on. Forever. And ever. And ever. Without end. Like all good French films.

Perhaps that was your experience. Perhaps you’re now smoking a pack of Gauloises a day and eating snails from the garden. But probably not. We’ve all had our own lockdown experiences, some better than other. But few of us have had one quite as dreary as depicted in the media. And quite frankly, Lockdown 2020, from my perspective, was mostly bloody marvellous.

Yes, the initial uncertainty and unknown danger jarred ones nerves at the beginning. And there were a few friends who went down with it, one very seriously. But he made it through. The virus only ever gently grazed the South West of England. This was the least affected part of the country. The sun shone continuously. Mrs P and I had plenty of time off to enjoy long walks across postcard perfect stretches of coastline. We barbecued. We spent the day chillaxing on deserted beaches. We enjoyed life.

Then came Lockdown 2021. The virus rose up in anger once again, and this time the South West took a vicious punch on the nose. And everything turned a little bit to shit, if truth be told. People all around us picked it up. There have been numerous deaths of persons known to us. The most painful being a friend at work and the loss of family in Mexico City. This was less Le Lockdown and closer to an Amityville Lockdown Horror.

Happily, we appear to be edging towards the end of the current set of restrictions. Infections, hospitalisations and deaths are all plummeting. Hopefully, this will be the last lockdown. By the time winter returns, we will all have been offered a double dose of the good stuff from AstraZeneca or Pfizer. We might even be on to a booster jab to cope with new variants.

And until then, I’d be fine with how things were before the latest lockdown. Most things were open. Social distancing, face masks indoors and booked places for everything was perfectly bearable. If theatres can be added to the mix, then hoorah! And truth be told, Mrs P and I rather enjoyed the ‘London Less Crowded’ experience.

So starting next month, we can participate in a new story. A collaborative story which we are all invited to contribute to. One that’s a bit more upbeat and a lot less fatal that the chapter we’re just finishing now. And with a little bit of luck, we can all create a story worthy of an Oscar. That there will be no trophy to show for it is by the by. There’s no award that can match the gift of life.

* people complain about how negative the tabloids are. But let’s not forget how this works. The readers pay the tabloids for the very specific purpose of publishing misery on a daily basis. It’s what they want, it’s what they get. Good and hard.


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?