Last weekend I joined an informal and thoroughly enjoyable Zoom meeting of half a dozen erstwhile contributors to the Rust – two of whom I have never met in the flesh – at which we just socialised, caught up with each other’s personal news and discussed the extent to which the Covid-19 crisis had altered the course of our lives.
It may say more about our senior citizen, and therefore ‘high risk’, status than anything else but the consensus seemed to be “not much!”
I was also interested to learn that I was not alone in having felt generally less inclined to post pieces to this organ in recent times because – frankly – the UK’s “current affairs” [step forward, please, in no particular order of precedence Brexit, the 2019 General Election and the global pandemic] had caused such a maelstrom of extraordinary events, developments, crises … and then political, medical and social responses to the same … that the time-honoured “You couldn’t make it up” vein of comment and humour (at which many of us who earn a living tapping away at the computer screen mine away) began to seem both emulated and rendered superfluous by real life.
Over his time on the Rust Derek Williams documented the descent of his devotion to the Harlequins FC rugby team from long-suffering but stalwart “through thick and thin” fanatical fan – via gradual disillusionment at the club’s performance on and off the field – to his resignation as a season ticket holder and finally disengagement from the club altogether.
One might have thought that his personal ‘journey’ – which he has cheerfully lately admitted has led him to the conviction that rugby union as played in the English Premiership has “lost its soul” as a sport altogether – might have affected his mental health, but not a bit of it.
Instead during our chat Derek had commented that he felt a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders and he had experienced a welcome sense of freedom and “release”. He had joined his local bowls club and was currently playing indoors no less than three times a week.
In the context of the national Covid lockdown, in his case his disentanglement from the sport of rugby had seemed to him akin to be let out after twenty years in prison.
I was still contemplating my weekend Zoom meeting when yesterday I decided to build my schedule around the Government’s much-trailed launch of its new three-tier lockdown measures – beginning with Boris’s statement to the House of Commons at 3.30pm and concluding with his 7.00pm press conference at Number Ten.
Having originally built a minor niche for myself as a nailed-on cynic about everything to do with British politics – and most particularly those who stand for Parliament, their entourages, bag-carriers and the vast ‘rump’ of special advisers, consultants, pollsters and ‘behind the scenes’ operators – these days (courtesy of Covid-19) I have been superseded by the “sketch-writer and punditry” division of Fleet Street’s finest, a familiar regiment of whom were deployed from approximately 7.00am on all channels yesterday in the cause of filling the passing hours of airtime with hot air and speculation.
Thus, after completing my domestic chores and expeditions into Covid-land for food and other supplies before lunchtime, I was able to make myself a sandwich for lunch and have my standard post-prandial nap before setting in front of the television for the first helping of Boris’s pitch to the nation.
It was hardly a tour de force and the Commons session that followed it as a whole seemed lacklustre, a case of our Parliamentarians just “going through the motions” for the sake of the watching audience.
Combined with the 7.00pm press conference, of which I watched only the first fifteen minutes (having by then become bored), all this made for a disappointingly unremarkable day.
Except for one thing.
There was something I had noticed during Boris’s episode at the dispatch box. Some might have thought it par for the course, given that the public persona he chooses to present is grounded firmly in a “dishevelled” look.
One has heard that, however well-groomed his handlers have prepared him, our PM is known for deliberately playing hay-wire with his hair and clothes before he ever steps out in front of the on-stage spotlight.
It certainly looked like it yesterday in the Commons. Yet nobody in the BBC studio covering and analysing the Government’s launch of its new measures mentioned what I had noticed “with bells on”.
I wondered why. Perhaps it was just that I – not known for my own sartorial elegance, to be fair – had suddenly become a man for this sort detail at this late point in my life.
It was therefore with a distinct air of satisfaction that overnight I spotted this piece by Jemma Carr on the website of the – DAILY MAIL