Pissed-off Toff continues his lockdown diary, and wonders whether, in the impositions and indignities inflicted on us by our new slavemasters and their servants, there is an element of pure sadism.
SUNDAY 19 APRIL
Yet another perfect spring day with a cloudless blue sky. My elderly next-door neighbour is sitting on his balcony in his favourite pink trousers, enjoying the sun while reading The Spectator. There is rare and complete silence … interrupted only by a soothing sound from another century, as a man with a pony and trap proceeds at a leisurely pace along the street below.
He turns the corner and the clip-clopping of the horse’s hooves fades away; whereupon I lean over the railings of the balcony to say hello to my neighbour.
“Isn’t this silence nice, Jamie?” I say.
“Isn’t this silence lovely?!” I repeat, louder.
“Whaddaya say, old boy?!” comes the reply.
By now almost yelling, I repeat my observation once more. “I SAID: ISN’T THIS SILENCE MARVELLOUS??!!”
Only now do I realise that my plummy voice, amplified by the sound-box effect of this street with its unbroken brick surfaces on either side, can be heard throughout the entire neighbourhood. And also that my noisy ode to silence is directed at the wrong person; because after a lifetime spent with a shotgun in his hands, the excellent Jamie is a little deaf.
* * * * *
If the spring weather, the cloudless sky and the blissful silence cheered me up this morning, the newspapers have the opposite effect. On the front page of today’s Sunday Times, I read of Government ministers warning that the elderly might have to stay in ‘lockdown’ till autumn of next year.
Lockdown till autumn of next year!? Lock up all the old people in the whole country for the next one and a half years!? How can anyone contemplate such madness?
To complete the change of my mood from good to bad, I now receive an email from a friend who has worked out that the £300 billion ‘stimulus’ to the economy being promised by the chancellor works out at the staggering sum of £5,000 for every man, woman and child in the country.
I sit down to do the sums for myself. My friend has assumed a stimulus of £300 billion and a population of 60 million, and when you cross out all the excess zeros in the equation, it boils down to £30,000 ÷ 6 … which is indeed £5,000 per capita. (I believe, in fact, that the promised ‘stimulus’ was £330bn and that the pop. of the UK is more like 68m … but the sum works out the same in any case.)
So yes, in his attempt to “do whatever it takes” to keep afloat a ship that his own colleagues are busily scuppering, the nerdy chancellor is proposing to spend an extra five thousand pounds for every single person in the country. It is an unimaginably huge sum of money, the stuff of fantasy. Where is the cash going to come from? Who will pay?
The same correspondent finishes his email with another cheery reflection. “I’m not at all surprised to hear that all these Nightingale hospitals are basically empty,” he writes. “I have a friend who is a surgeon in the hospital at [X]. He says he is doing nothing because everything was cancelled in expectation of a wave of Coronavirus patients. But very few have arrived. So he and all of his team are twiddling their thumbs.”
MONDAY 20 APRIL
Another perfect spring day.
Some time in the morning a police car hurtles up the empty street below at breakneck speed, its siren screeching hysterically. The noise, bad enough in the first place, is amplified many times over by the acoustics of the street.
In the afternoon I take myself out for a walk. As I stand back outside Buckingham Palace, two police cars zoom along the Mall, flash past me and shoot up an empty Constitution Hill, their sirens at full blast. I doubt that they are doing anything under 80mph. Is there any justification for this? Of course not. They’re just enjoying fuelling the drama, ramping up the panic.
I now find myself at the bottom of St James’s Street, looking north, with Brooks’ on the left and, further up, Boodle’s and White’s on the right. Every time I come here, the heart of London seems even more empty than the time before. See for yourself.
An overweight slob with a beard and a pigtail, dressed in vaguely paramilitary gear and with the word MARSHAL inscribed on a large blue label on his back, is waddling along an abandoned Jermyn Street. It is not clear what purpose these so-called ‘marshals’ serve. I doubt whether this one could run more than five paces without having a heart-attack.
Now returning home, I walk past a carpet of wild flowers outside the walls of Clarence House. In this 2020th year of Our Lord, when the world has taken leave of its senses … in this year, to contemplate the arrival of spring is not just a joy, but a necessity. The cowparsley – so unexpected in London – reminds me of my boyhood, much of which was spent bicycling for long miles along the empty lanes of Gloucestershire.
If my spirits are raised by the sight of cowparsley outside the London residence of the Prince of Wales, they are lowered almost immediately afterwards by yet another Coronavirus poster urging us to “stay at home, save lives and protect the NHS.” Here it is:
I am bored to screaming point with these Big Brother posters that harangue us wherever we go. This one informs us that we can only leave our homes for a limited number of reasons. The first ‘permissable’ reason listed is (quote) “to shop for basic necessities or to pick up medicine.” The clear and unavoidable implication is that we can go to the shops for basic necessities and nothing else … in other words, that we are allowed to buy dried pasta, baked beans and loo paper, but not smoked salmon, Kettle crisps or gin.
Can it really be the case that I am allowed to go to Waitrose to buy baked beans, but not gin … this despite the fact that I’m in the shop in any case, and the gin is there, on sale? What earthly difference can it make if I walk out of the shop with baked beans only; or with baked beans plus a half-bottle of gin?
Back home, I look through a document produced by the Crown Prosecution Service for the benefit of the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing. And it specifically states: “There is no need for all a person’s shopping to be basic food supplies; the purchase of snacks and luxuries is still permitted [… etc etc etc …] … it would not be proportionate to prevent the person from buying non-essential items.”
In other words, this poster, sponsored by HMGovernment and the NHS, is broadcasting an injunction which is both unwarranted and gratuitously oppressive. So just in case the coppers stop me and look through my shopping, which I do not doubt many of them are itching to do … just in case, I think that from now on I might take that handy little CPS document with me when I go out.
* * * * *
This evening, more than ever, I need a strong G&T or two, and a soothing hour at the grand piano.
TUESDAY 21 APRIL
No wonder I read the papers and watch the news ever less frequently … but opening a paper today, I read that Government advisers are to meet next week to discuss whether we are now to be ‘advised’ (i.e. told) to wear masks on the rare occasions when we are allowed to emerge from our prisons. Not for the first time I ask myself just how far this oppression can go.
Out for my daily walk, I see a tramp slumped comatose against a bollard in Victoria Street, with a policeman and a policewoman beside him. Summoned by these guardians of the law, a police car arrives, its siren screeching needlessly in the wilderness of the abandoned street … and further strengthening my conviction that police sirens have nothing to do with any sort of emergency; but that they are, on the other hand, an arrogant proclamation of power and a daily reminder, for the proles, that the Stasi is in control.
From a sun-lit Embankment, I ring a friend who, confined to his estate in the country, seems cheerful enough. He tells me that the Duke of Edinburgh was asked, during a radio interview, whether there were any people he wished to thank. The interviewer was of course attempting to elicit from His Royal Highness further praise for the NHS. The exchange went roughly thus:
Interviewer (thrust of the Q, if not exact words): “Are there any people in particular that you’d like to thank, Sir, during this unprecedented and awe-inspiring time, when the marvellous NHS are so selflessly and heroically doing everything imaginable to save us all from certain death?”
Duke of Edinburgh: “Yes, there are. The dustbinmen.”
* * * * *
So that’s my laugh for the day. Not that the effects of it last for long, because I now come across yet another of these ubiquitous NHS posters. Here it is.
I pause to read it. Perhaps inevitably, the girl in the image is black, prompting me to reflect once more that even though only about 5% of the population of the UK is of afro-carribean origin, they account for perhaps half the people we now see in adverts. So compared to white people like myself, black people are over-represented, in the universally PC adverts to which we are exposed, by a factor of roughly ten.
But let us consider the message on the poster. If you have Coronavirus symptoms which persist for a week, it says, then (quote): “DO NOT leave the house until they go … EVERYONE else in your household must not leave the house for 14 days … Do not go out even to buy food or essentials.”
So imagine you live in a small flat in a tower block, crammed in with your bored and tetchy children, and allowed out just once a day, briefly; plus, you and the wife aren’t getting on too well, what with all the worries and money fears resulting from this ‘lockdown’ imposed by a panicked government that has not a clue what to do.
But there’s worse to come. Oh yes! Much worse!! Because you’ve been feeling poorly for the last week, a little itch in your throat and a tinsy-winsy bit of a cough … and here’s the NHS telling you that you and your entire family must now lock yourselves up 24 hours a day for a whole fortnight, and must not emerge for any reason whatsoever.
* * * * *
Just how far can these demands go? Is there no limit?
And in the impositions and indignities inflicted on us by our new slavemasters and their servants, do we begin to discern an element of pure sadism?