Spring Bank Holiday: the lockdown breaks down

Lockdown Diary (13) – 18-25 May – the lockdown breaks down

in Diary

Emerging from his enforced solitude on the Spring Bank Holiday, Pissed-off Toff observes the entire population of London happily flouting the lockdown.


One of the few consolations of this despotic ‘lockdown’ has been the unaccustomed peace and quiet here in the metropolis. But today I am woken up at eight o’clock on the dot by nearby roadworks, and going outside to ascertain the source of the cacophony, I see that it comes from the top of the street which runs outside my bedroom window. For the next ten days the pneumatic drill will proceed down the street, towards where I live, digging a trench for fibre-optic cables. While this torture continues, the absence of noise from aeroplanes or traffic or helicopters, previously such a blessing, will be an irrelevance.

Out and about, it is – as usual – impossible to ignore the ubiquitous new Soviet-style propaganda posters. I am by now bored to screaming point with the more familiar ones in praise of the accursed NHS, such as “Thank you to our amazing NHS staff” and “Thank you to our care workers. You are incredible.” There’s also a new-ish yellow poster, put there by Transport for London, urging us to “travel off-peak to make more space” … and there’s a brand new one, again put there by TfL, saying “Wear a face covering on public transport.”

Does this mean that we are obliged to wear a face-mask on public transport? Or that we are merely advised to do so? It is not clear. But the thought of wearing one of these dehumanising objects fills me with horror. I will do so only if forced to by law.

Bugger the R!!

There’s another poster urging us to keep the ‘R’ down. If pressed, I would admit that I do have some idea as to what this mystical ‘R’ is. Or rather, what it is meant to be. Because I suspect that it’s just the latest bit of quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo, a new tenet in the Corona-related dogma that now governs our lives, and no more to be trusted than the ‘scientific’ models of the idiot soothsayer Neil Ferguson.

My view of this R, therefore, is that I know where the twerpish health secretary ‘Matt’ Hancock can put it.


As this lockdown continues, with no end in sight, the orbit of my concerns shrinks. 

Thus, a recent excitement was the defrosting of the freezer compartment below the fridge, chock-a-block with half-identified food, most of it bought cut-price. Although still tightly packed, the food is now identified and neatly sorted, and I am eating my way through it.

And I was troubled, this morning, to realise that I was more than usually concerned about where, exactly, to hang the washing-up cloth to dry, having used it to wipe down the surfaces in the kitchen. This problem has exercised me, on and off, for a while now; but this morning it seemed particularly pressing. No doubt a solution will present itself.

Sunflower shoots emerging

Otherwise, the high point of my day is the morning inspection of the pot in which I planted the sunflower seeds which mysteriously arrived in the post. The first of them came up over the weekend, and observing them grow is my new interest.

And since one of the effects of the lockdown is to make me feel curiously apathetic, I find myself going to bed more and more early. This despite the fact that I am usually a night-owl. I note that my flatmate is the same. His light, which used only rarely to go out before 1am, now goes out as early as 10pm.


Yet another cloudless day, hotter than usual, more summer than spring … and with the roadworks outside ruining what would otherwise be blissful peace.

Still unsure whether the wearing of facemasks on public transport is compulsory or merely advised, I stand by a bus stop and observe. About half the people inside the more-or-less empty buses are wearing masks. So presumably it’s a voluntary precaution. For the time being.


I am woken up by what sounds like the Devil and his army. The huge pneumatic drill on the back of the JCB is now operating directly outside my bedroom window, to hellish effect.

Jumping out of bed like a Jack-in-the-box, I go out to inspect this instrument of torture. Something called an ‘echo barrier’ has been erected around it. It is as effective as a handkerchief.

Torture devised by the Devil himself

Now on the other side of the flat from where my bedroom is, I sit down at my computer while the whole building – erected in 1890 – shakes and jolts, as in a minor earthquake.


The roadworks continued all Friday and up till lunchtime yesterday, when they came to a halt, as per local council regulations. Phew, I thought when I went to bed last night, at least tomorrow will bring some respite.

But no! At nine o’clock today – a Sunday – a solitary worker starts cleaning the tarmac with a super-charged water spray noisily powered by yet another demonic machine. In normal circumstances I’d ring the Westminster noise team straight away. But now, what’s the point? They are probably all on furlough, like everyone else.

MONDAY 25 MAY (Spring Bank Holiday)

Queue outside Waitrose Belgravia

Looking at my diary, I see that today is the Spring Bank Holiday. Not that that makes one jot of difference as far as I am concerned, since I’m not allowed to meet up with friends, and since every day is the same for me and has been for months. Nevertheless, spring has turned to summer, and I emerge from my solitude, intending to go for a long walk.

Outside Waitrose in Belgravia there is the usual well-heeled queue. Par for the course, so far.

However, when I get to Hyde Park, I can hardly believe my eyes. The place is heaving with people walking along the Serpentine in couples or groups, and having picnics on the grass, again in couples or groups. Never have I seen it so full.

All this is in open defiance of the lockdown, because even though the rules have been slightly eased, you are still only allowed to meet up with just one person from another household, and that must be in a public place, with two metres separating the two of you.

And yet here, it seems, is the whole of London having a picnic. If the oft-repeated lockdown rules mean anything, the Police should be busily issuing £100 fines to all and sundry, and ordering everyone to go home, as they so much enjoy doing. But there is not a single policeman in sight, anywhere.

Picnic group in Hyde Park
Picnics galore in Hyde Park

Everywhere, there are picnic groups, and more picnic groups, laughing, drinking, having fun. Fathers and sons are playing football on the grass, and the Lido by the Serpentine is packed. No ‘social distancing’ here. Furthermore, although in the streets of London about half the people now wear those silly masks, nobody is wearing them in the park today.

Hyde Park: a picnic on every patch
Little sign of ‘social distancing’ on the Lido

In the adjoining Kensington Gardens, it is the same story: happy groups of people having picnics, everywhere.

Picnic group in Kensington Gardens
Little sign of ‘social distancing’ here, either

There also seem to be a lot of foreigners and tourists; though where they are staying during this lockdown is a mystery.

A fine sight on this fine spring day

From the Albert Memorial I walk down towards South Kensington. Ever since the lockdown was imposed, the streets have been crawling with policemen, with police cars parked at every corner or patrolling the empty metropolis. But once more I note that today there is not a single policeman or a single police vehicle anywhere, either on the streets or in the parks. The Stasi have simply disappeared.

Outside Venchi’s gelateria in South Kensington there is a long queue, formed without even a pretence of this poisonous new ‘social distancing’.

Queue outside Venchi in Sough Kensington

Outside another icecream shop, this time at the bottom of Pavilion Road, there is another queue, again not observing ‘social distancing’. I note that several of the men have sharp new haircuts … not amateur jobs executed by the wife, but evidently the work of a professional, done in defiance of lockdown rules.

Queueing for ice-cream near Sloane Square (as the red trousers suggest)

* * * * *

All of which puts Boris in a bind. Here he is constantly urging us to respect the rules, not to slacken, and threatening to make the lockdown stricter if necessary. And here – at long last – is the populance putting two fingers up at him. It’s a direct challenge to his authority and to the legitimacy of this farce. And the Police know it, too; thus their conspicuous absence today.

Which brings me back to the question that occupies my mind every waking hour of the day: At what stage will this despotic lockdown collapse under the weight of its own absurdity?

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