In this last bumper edition of his ‘lockdown’ diary, Pissed-off Toff witnesses the Police in action on two occasions, and is puzzled by their tactics.
TUESDAY 26 MAY
A new and faintly sinister development at Victoria Station. A considerable number of gilets jaunes with ‘SES Group’ on the back of their jackets are standing at all the entrances to the station and all over the place on the main concourse. I count 22 of them … this in addition to half-a-dozen policemen, two men with ‘Victoria Security’ on their back, and two others with ‘Enforcement Officer’ on their back. And those are just the ones I can see. I must have missed plenty of others like them.
These new SES people are all low-grade operatives and all male. Presumably they are ‘security’ of some sort. But what purpose do they serve in this empty station? They aren’t expecting a horde of drunken football fans, all of whom are now on furlough, slumped in front of their plasma screens at home. So why the apparent state of alert?
Furthermore, this pointless ‘security’ must be costing a fortune. Thus during ‘lockdown’ we see not only a ruinous contraction of all productive activity, but an unprecedented expansion of non-productive activity, most especially every sort of surveillance operation … so that almost the only people left working are the bureaucrats and the jaolers, like in some communist dystopia.
* * * * *
Despite the fact that this country is now a totalitarian police state with all personal liberty in suspension, spring offers its consolations on this hot sunny day.
During an extended circular ramble, I walk past Zia Teresa, the Italian restaurant on the western side of Harrods. Two men are sitting at a table outside it, drinking brandy from glass balloons discreetly placed inside large paper coffee cups, and we get to talking. One of them, it turns out, is Stefano Fraquelli, whose father founded this establishment back in 1956. Stefano did try to open up, he tells me, with tables two metres apart on the pavement outside, but the Police soon put a stop to that. Plus, his landlord is still insisting on the sky-high rent being paid in full … this despite the fact that it is illegal for Sig. Fraquelli to open his restaurant.
As we deplore the greed of rapacious landlords, a young goddess walks past, and for a moment or two we forget about the iniquities of life in this world.
WEDNESDAY 27 MAY
While ‘lockdown’ kills off family businesses in their thousands, the food-delivery boys on their scooters have never had it so good. It must also be fun zooming round the now-empty streets of London while the sun shines. Here is a row of scooters belonging to this carefree band.
In Victoria Station there is a huge new banner, put there by the station managers.
“Thank you NHS,” it reads.
I, for one, am more than a little enaitchessed-out …
THURSDAY 28 MAY
“No, officer, my charming hairdresser did not come to this flat today. She did not give me a smart new haircut – the first in over four months, in fact (because when lockdown started all that time ago, I hadn’t had a haircut for two months; so even back then I was looking pretty shaggy). No, she did not tell me how no-one in her home-town in Portugal has this virus. And no, I did not pay her a little extra for breaking lockdown rules. None of this happened, officer. I cut it myself. Or perhaps my flatmate cut it. Or perhaps Dominic Cummings did. I can’t remember. But my Portugese hairdresser did not come here. Absolutely not.”
FRIDAY 29 MAY
On the pavement outside Victoria Station there’s a new notice on a large transportable digital screen, urging the proles to wear ‘face coverings’. Beside it are two weedy ‘security’ operatives in hi-viz yellow jackets with ‘SES Group’ emblazoned on their narrow shoulders. Like the delivery drivers on their scooters, this SES Group would appear to be minting money while the rest of us go bankrupt. But unlike the delivery drivers, SES provides a service which is entirely useless; though no doubt ruinously expensive.
During my long circular walk, I pass through Lennox Gardens Mews … home, if the cars are anything to go by, to the very rich.
Spring is smiling today.
Outside a house in this peaceful cobblestoned backwater a couple of men are boxing, while their South African coach looks on. They are evidently having fun. I am sure that it is against the law to have fun during lockdown. If it isn’t, then it certainly should be.
SATURDAY 30 MAY
I ring friends in Gloucestershire. They are just about to go for a picnic by the river with another family. I am jealous.
In Pimlico Green groups of friends are gathered together in clear contravention of the admirable ‘social distancing’ regulations. They would appear to be smiling, too. This is outrageous, and must be stopped.
SUNDAY 31 MAY
A perfect spring day, ruined by a Police helicopter hovering above for hours on end. Around six o’clock I decide to see what’s up. It turns out that there’s a demonstration in Parliament Square, consisting almost entirely of black people, some of whom are holding up banners saying ‘Black lives matter’.
Which seems to me a pretty silly slogan, a) since no-one says they don’t; and b) since Britain is one of the least racist countries in the world. Anyhow, despite the fact that this demonstration is a small and entirely unthreatening, there is a massive Police presence. On every street nearby – Broad Sanctuary, Whitehall and Victoria Embankment – large contingents of Police vans are parked, as though prepared for a terrorist attack.
And of course there’s that accursed helicopter, killing the Sunday peace for countless thousands of Londoners, and all for no purpose, since anyone on the ground can see perfectly well what’s going on. As I never tire of pointing out, there’s one reason and one reason only for these helicopters being up there … namely, that the fuzz enjoy taking their choppers out for a spin, at huge cost to the taxpayer.
Back down on the ground, no-one is observing ‘social distancing’, so the Police should be issuing £100 fines galore. But they aren’t. Why not? Perhaps, I speculate, because these demonstrators are black, and in this least racist of countries the blacks are now a super-privileged group whom the Police do not have the balls to challenge. Whereas if this were a group of Old Etonians demonstrating, you can bet your bottom dollar that the fuzz would be at us with their truncheons in a flash.
It also occurs to me that if the Police hadn’t turned up at all, this frankly rather half-hearted demonstration would have fizzled out in no time. But with their absurd over-reaction, the cops create a drama which fuels itself.
Prevented by a Police cordon from taking the quickest route home, I make a long but entirely agreeable detour.
MONDAY 1 JUNE
In Victoria station the legions of low-calibre ‘security’ operatives in hi-viz jackets have disappeared, and in their place is an equal number of even lower calibre males wearing blue T-shirts with the legend “Help me help you. Please keep a safe distance” printed on the back. There is nothing for them to do and they are all bored to distraction.
Whoever recruited these individuals is perhaps having a laugh, because they are either very fat or very thin, like in some comic strip. Two of them – one black and one white – are so fat that they don’t walk. They waddle. Here they are, taking a well-earned rest from their labours:
Inside the station, not one single ticket booth is open, and the few passengers are far outnumbered by surveillance and security operatives in their various liveries.
TUESDAY 2 JUNE
Unconcerned by the Coronavirus panic, my sunflowers (from seeds which arrived in a mysterious envelope from Poland) are coming on nicely.
I go to Fortnum’s, which has recently re-opened. Here, the staff outnumber the customers by about four to one. They are all wearing face-masks, even the chap in his red tail-coat.
WEDNESDAY 3 JUNE
Since mid-afternoon, a Police helicopter has been hovering above Westminster. Yet again. There is another ‘Black lives matter’ demonstration in Parliament Square, and in need of distraction, I go along to observe, armed as usual with digital camera, notebook and solid 18ct gold Parker pencil (barley pattern, hallmarked ‘h’ for 1963, since you ask).
Once again, the Police are out in force, as though for a major military operation. Here are just a few of their vans, parked in King Charles Street:
And here they are in front of the Houses of Parliament, serving no obvious purpose:
Emboldened by the faintheartedness of the Police during the gathering last Sunday, and encouraged by the sense of drama which today’s excessive Police presence once more creates, the almost entirely black crowd is today tempted to have a bit of fun. Forget about ‘social distancing’, for starters, because as the fuzz have already demonstrated, they are not going to enforce it, and still less are they going to attempt to issue fines, most especially to black people.
There is a strong smell of hash in the air. From a ghetto-blaster comes loud rap music, the lyrics making much use of ‘nigger’ as a form of address. (God forbid that we whites should use this same word: that is a privilege reserved for blacks only.)
Oh, and attracted by the chance to protest about anything, the Socialist Party are here as well. “Jobs and homes for all,” demands their banner.
It’s now six o’clock, and a bossy organiser is walking around with a megaphone. “Go home now!” she says. “Go home safely!” “Look at the road! Mind the cars!!”
Keen to have a last bit of fun before the party ends, a number of people bearing protest banners now stand in front of a Police car, preventing it from moving forward. The coppers sit inside, doing nothing, while a forest of smartphones held up high records the spectacle.
“Everyone please go home!” says the bossy organiser, this time more plaintively. “Look after yourselves!!”
A chant now starts up. “No justice, no peace! No racist Police!!” And again: “No justice, no peace! No racist Police!!”
“Go home now!” pleads the bossy girl, again. “Don’t give the Police an excuse to arrest you!! Please, guys!!!”
Not far away, towards the Cenotaph, some black youths are tempted to try their luck still further. “Fuck the Police!” they shout. “Fuck the Police!!”
As I leave the scene, two young female protesters pose for me. They hardly look the stuff of which revolutions are made.
* * * * *
Taking a circuitous route home, I pass Buckingham Palace, where a scene of a quite different sort is being played out. In front of the high railings of the palace a small crowd of black people is gathered, rather aimlessly. Nevertheless, the Police are here in huge force, their vehicles lined up in two long rows on the pink tarmac nearby.
Surrounded by the Police and observed by a large number of curious spectators on the ground nearby and from the vantage point of the Victoria Memorial, the group of demonstrators – if that is what they are – poses no threat. The railings are far too high to be climbed, nor does anyone seem faintly inclined to try. Plus, with the Queen at Windsor Castle, the palace is empty.
There is no chanting or shouting, and there are no banners, and it seems that no-one knows why they are there. It’s all a bit of a damp squib. Nevertheless, if there is any trouble in the offing, the many dozens of policemen can easily deal with it.
Now, however, a sizeable contingent of riot police dressed in black combat gear appears from the left hand side of the palace, moving forward at a menacing jog. They come to a halt and wait, lined up in two groups as though ready for action.
It’s the sort of scene with which we are familiar from disaster movies, when a hijacked Boeing 747 is sitting on the tarmac and a dramatic climax is in the offing. Except that this is not a disaster movie. It’s just a smallish group of young black people who probably rather wish they weren’t there.
Here is a short video clip of the scene just before I left.
As I walk home, I wonder, for the second time in a few days, whether there’s something I am missing. Because surely the two most recent demonstrations I have witnessed – one on Sunday and the other this evening – posed no real threat? But rather than turning a blind eye or adopting a light-handed approach, the Police send helicopters up into the air, creating a warzone atmosphere; while down on the ground dozens of vehicles transport large contingents of armed personnel to the scene of what, to begin with at any rate, is little more than a piece of theatre. And with this injection of drama and adrenalin, a harmless show turns nasty.
It is, indeed, not unlike the Coronavirus scare itself, in which fear and hysteria out of all proportion to the threat have combined to create a disaster infinitely worse than whatever it was we wished to avoid in the first place.
Entertaining these happy thoughts, I sit down at the piano for my evening practice. Contrary to well-established form, today I do not have a strong G&T to hand … because although I can do nothing to stave off the national disaster I foresee, I can still take action closer to home. So rather to my surprise, I haven’t had a drop of booze for the last ten days. Not a single drop. And you know what? It’s not nearly as difficult as I feared.
* * * * *
And this, I think, is the final episode of my lockdown diary.