The lady standing next to me in the checkout queue yesterday (regulation two meters apart and well within the red and white safety zone chevron markers) probably echoed the feelings of many: ‘I’m sick to death,’ she said (hopefully not literally as we so often say these days) ‘about all this mention of ‘panic this and panic that”’.

She continued, ‘I’ve turned the TV news off now,’ but what about those ridiculous breakfast shows when it’s all what Piers, Holly, Sophie or somebody wants, two of them sitting a meter apart going on and on about the virus deaths, and how we should be doing this, Boris should be doing that. The show host sitting on a settee (or should that be sofa this week, I forget) was apparently castigated by viewers with nothing better to do, because she was not sitting the regulation two meters away from the guest, who was presumably ‘essential’ in some way. While on another channel, another sitting on what looked like plastic chairs at a trestle table said she was wanting to hug the co-host because he was six foot away, God spare us that there has been more than enough emotion on TV recently without that.

How about deciding guys whether it’s going to be meters or feet and inches, as apparently half the nation who viewed the speech made by Boris is confused and needs more clarity, which I would welcome as I am confused that people found his statement confusing. ‘Essential work’ or ‘stay at home’ I thought was fairly clear to be honest, but then I left school when school was, well, just that, and we understood the word ‘NO’ which apparently means something else these days, as does ’essential’. Obviously, many didn’t realise that when Boris said ‘essential’ he meant essential to the country to keep community and services running, not as some thought, ‘essential to them.’

Apparently, Piers scored points off Gove who, when asked what divorced couples with children should do, he gave the ‘wrong’ answer or not the one that they wanted to hear. Is it me? If some parents divorced or otherwise need advice from a cabinet minister to decide or agree on what to do for the safety of their children, then that says it all. They and the nation have real problems.

Later, another talking head asked what people should do if they want to go off to their second home. They also seemed to have some difficulty in comprehending that ‘No, stay at home and do not travel’ actually meant ‘No, stay at home and do not travel’.

The fact that many so-called adults are unable to follow simple instructions is, heaven knows why, probably coming as quite a surprise to many, and the political elite in particular. Perhaps the next talking head asking questions like that should be asked which bit of ‘stay at home and don’t risk spreading the virus as the NHS won’t be able to cope’ they find hard to understand or what makes them think they are not personally vulnerable or are, indeed, essential.

Mind you, like the lady at the supermarket and, I have to say, most of my friends and acquaintances, I don’t understand why people still tune in to this garbage; no wonder one of the channels is now running a ‘what to do to look after your mental health‘ programme. How about suggesting the nervous or anxiety prone turn off the TV and cancel your newspaper – that would likely be a good starting point with the added benefit you will begin to feel happier, richer, and who knows, the media may get the point that much of the public has had enough.

What’s going on? Well you may ask, mass hysteria probably driven by the media. But that doesn’t explain why people sat in queues to get a ‘take-away’ from McDonalds (or Maccies as the younger generations call it) before they closed for the duration, although they are probably the same sort who reportedly queued for up to three hours to get a takeaway when a new KFC opened a few years back not far from St. Mary on the Wold.

One of my friends is having none of this, he’s off to the ‘chip shop’ this week (it’ll probably be closed anyway), saying that if stopped by one of HM’s ‘plods’ he’ll assert that he’s a vulnerable person (he is) who lives alone and is on an ‘essential journey to gain fresh food supplies’. Either way it will at least help him from going stir crazy. As for all that bread, pasta and potatoes that has disappeared from the supermarkets, in a few months a lot of people will need advice on how to get rid of the unwanted pounds they’ve piled on from eating all those carbs and sitting goggle eyed watching the TV for most of the day. We could probably call it the CV diet plan.

Some people are calling for better control of food supplies and want rationing as used in World War two. That would certainly halt obesity, setting in together with its knock-on effect on the NHS.

I hope that the NHS is ready to deal with an increase in nervous shock or other anxiety problems too, as many people may be totally shocked or even stunned when they are confronted, for the first time in their lives, by a police officer, particularly if they are not one of the sainted ‘key workers’ and are just out for a trip down to the supermarket for more ‘essential’ supplies. I wonder if beer and ciggies are on the essential list? Or, as great grandma would have said, ‘off ration’.

Now we are all on lockdown I wonder how that valuable part of the economy, drugs and prostitution, is going to fare. Won’t the police have more than a little difficulty dealing with people who are distressed that they can’t get their choice of drug on demand? Life could indeed get interesting on the streets.

Things are certainly going to change in the short and medium term, if not longer, as many people find that what is ‘nice to have’ is not the same as ‘essential to have,’ the latter being a job. All sorts of government guarantees and assistance are being doled out, mostly to public sector workers (who will be largely unaffected for the moment at least), and others working for both small and large companies who it seems will have 80% guaranteed by government. Although many small employers may find themselves in difficulties, this will not be nearly as difficult as it is for the five million self-employed, who, through no fault of their own, have lost their business overnight and have been offered, as far as I can tell, no practical or financial help. However, we are now assured that although ‘analogue’ assistance is ‘tricky’ to work out, (even for somebody probably on a great deal more salary than most self-employed make) they are working hard to perfect a scheme which has to take note of the very wealthy self-employed and also the black market.

Boris is going to get a rather nasty black swan event if or when the these five million workers get tired of watching MPs spending their £10,000 expenses bonus to help them through the crisis, employees of the public services swanning around for three months on full pay, while others get what? Unemployment job seeker’s allowance or the equivalent of sick pay. I’m sure that will work very well, like voluntary lockdowns. That’s not going to happen without enforcement. Witness the scenes in London and other cities, so standby for fireworks… now that’s a thought. It’s not long since fireworks and lights were being put on show in cities all over the world to show solidarity and support for victims; presumably that support does not spread to the victims of coronavirus, are they the wrong sort of victims then, I wonder?

Now ‘lockdown’ is one of the new words that we all have to learn these days – like social distancing, which to some means getting in your car or campervan and driving off to some distant idyll. But why lockdown? My dad had a lockup which used to house the family Morris when not parked outside in the street (the land owner derived a healthy extra income from the hundred or so wooden garages on some otherwise unused land he owned). The term lockup was also used when some people were accompanied, by two large coppers, to the local lock up. So where does ‘lockdown’ come from? The first recorded use seems to be in the early seventies and was used in the USA when inmates of prisons were confined to their cells for all or most of the day as a temporary security measure (sounds familiar?).

Previously on the (then) few occasions here that streets or buildings needed to be closed, the less exciting words ‘secured’ ‘contained’ ‘isolated’ or’ cordoned off’ were used when actual police would cordon off streets or buildings, often with little more than a uniformed bobby and an A-frame sign saying ‘closed’ or ‘do not enter’. So much more reassuring and low key than ‘security lock down.’ Still, it could be worse, we could be talking about a ‘cordon sanitaire’ as used in France for all sorts of reasons and quite often it seems!

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