This second supposed Covid-19 “lockdown” has somehow managed both to serve up many absurdities and yet also reveal telling reminders about how slim the gap is between “life as the human race knows [or should that be ‘knew’?] it” and complete anarchy.
Let me give some examples:
Yesterday I underwent my fifth (and final) weekly “Covid-19 swab test”, having volunteered to take part in a survey project mounted by the Office of National Statistics and a University research team and now have just eleven more monthly similar to undergo. I also have to answer a series of “how often have you shopped and where have you been?” type questions each time.
I felt quite privileged to have been formally invited to take part by official letter and left it a fortnight before revealing this singular honour to my brother, who immediately reported that he and his spouse had also signed up for the same project!
Separately, I know of one friend who has volunteered to be a guinea pig for a vaccine trial.
I guess in our own various ways we’re all trying do our bit.
In chatting with the operative who had come to administer my test, it soon became clear that – in going about his daily business – he had come to the same conclusion about the current lockdown as I (and everybody I know) have reached: the majority of the great British public are completely ignoring it.
As week by week I go shopping or about my daily business I regularly drive – sometimes admittedly at a snail’s pace due to the weight of traffic, especially during rush-hours – past massive dual carriageway signs reminding motorists “Essential Travel Only” and suffer a momentary personal flush of guilt.
As presumably do all my fellow drivers travelling about the country’s roads in every direction.
Don’t we all know there’s a war on?
My theory is that, rising ten months in, most people have taken on board the risks, the rules, the graphs, the protocols, the Government advice – together with all the views and disagreements between the various scientific/medical/academic experts and media pundits – and essentially each made their own individual personal decisions about which precautions they are personally going to take in terms balancing the imperatives between health & safety and “going about their general business” … and are simply getting on with life.
Next up my smartphone.
A few months ago, in renewing my phone contract, I upgraded to a Huawei model (conscious that subsequently my every move would be monitored by the Chinese government) which was serving me fine until in September, when out on my daily exercise, I got caught in a monsoon and – in trying to operate it, perhaps stupidly imagining that its cover etc. rendered it waterproof – a sufficient amount of water somehow got into it and created a major issue.
The colours on the screen gradually began to “bleed” until I could no longer even make out the numbers which I needed to “tap in” simply in order to unlock the device!
After taking it back to the phone operator’s high street shop and being told it was water-damaged but that, since I hadn’t taken out insurance, I would have to pay to get it replaced, I duly paid over £200 for a new screen.
But that wasn’t the end of the matter.
Gradually my ability to use the phone (even make or receive a phone call on it) slipped away until – for the past four weeks minimum – I have been unable to use it confidently for anything. As regards signal/service, all I have been getting is a strapline ticket-tape message saying “emergency calls only”, not that I have yet grasped what that means: I hate phones and therefore regard all my calls as emergency ones!
After endless calls to the customer helpline and “online chats” with the service provider’s technical experts, I have finally given up and transferred my SIM card to the phone that I used to have before the Huawei – a Sony Xperia model. It’s not quite so “blingy” and up to date, but at least I can make and receive phone calls on it – which is basically all I use a mobile for.
Next up – and finally – a sign of the end of civilisation.
The other afternoon I had cause to return from the south coast to my home in London via a trip first to Wandsworth in order to drop an item off. Having done that, I was obliged to go along the South Circular through Putney.
As I crawled along in the rush hour traffic towards some lights on the way, I found myself in a line of traffic in the right hand lane going up a hill. The traffic inside me (in left hand lane), leading to a left hand “feed” in the direction of Kingston, was moving because the light ahead in that lane was green.
Suddenly a motorbike or large scooter in the left hand lane, weaving in and out of the traffic, went past me on the inside and (presumably having misjudged his speed and/or timing) gave an enormous “clip” to my passenger side external rear view mirror, either breaking it … or at least “turning it sideways” so that I could no longer see anything in it.
As it was raining hard at the time and I was caught in traffic, I took the decision simply to drive on and review the damage when I got home.
Fortunately – for once my luck was “in”(!) – upon examination I discovered that my rear view mirror was apparently not broken and, with some effort, I managed to force it back into its true position.
What bugged me about the episode was that the rider of the motorbike/scooter didn’t bother to stop or see what (if any) damage or hurt he might have caused. He just kept on going.
I very much doubt that, had the incident happened even twenty or thirty years ago, that would have been the outcome.
I could be viewing life through nostalgic rose-tinted spectacles these days, but my gut tells me that (back in my heyday) we’d have both pulled in to the side of the road, checked everything, and if necessary exchanged insurance details.
Roll on 2021!