We had an invitation from friends this week to meet up in their garden for coffee, something that, in pre-war times, we would have done at a rather nice cafe in town. The weather being nice and sunny we readily agreed. On a previous occasion we had met in town, found a cafe serving take-away coffee and croissants and walked to the local park, sat on a couple of benches not festooned with red and white crime-scene tape and passed an enjoyable hour there until the weather changed and it started to rain, which brought an early end to our socialising and put a damper on the occasion.
Over the past few months, we have had over 90 regulations, using Public Health Legislation, all passed with little or no scrutiny by our elected representatives (who you may remember were given a nice little tax-free Covid bounty of £10,000 to enable them to work remotely from one of their homes). Not that all these laws and proclamations have deterred various groups from doing what they want and when, ably and abetted by the political establishment or what passes for the main-stream media. While – or should that be ‘whilst? (Have you noticed how ‘whilst’ has, like ‘minded’, ‘safety’ and ‘controversial’ suddenly made a comeback into the lexicon of media speak?) the police ‘service’ seems to have joined many other public services in the race to be the most ‘woke’, ‘green’ and politically motivated, perhaps the events seen in various parts of the country over the last few days may concentrate a few senior officers’ minds, who knows? At any rate don’t hold your breath.
Talking of ‘in’ words perhaps ‘shewn’ will make a comeback sometime soon. Possibly Boris, showing evidence of his apparently fantastic memory, will start using it; he’s certainly pointing the way and has now re-invented ‘cafe culture’ so beloved by Blair, another media resurrected historical and mystical figure now forgotten by most.
‘Cafe culture’ and the amendment of planning and licensing laws led, as we all know, not to a ‘Paris boulevard’ culture, but a haven of 24-hour hour drinking culture fuelled by the cheap booze on sale just about anywhere that turned many a small town or city – particularly the ones enhanced by the location of one of the 150 ‘world class centres of educational excellence’ to virtual no-go areas for anyone over the intellectual age of 25.
It was with surprise that many people greeted the latest decree that from some date or other your local hostelry will be able to serve food and drink, as long as social distances are observed, you pre-register your attendance, pay by card and order by phone app. In some favoured premises lucky ‘locals’, presumably if they have the new Covid tested certificate and the written authority of both birth grandparents, will be able to sit and enjoy the tranquillity of near silence in their hopefully heated ‘pod’.
Mind you with all the pub closures in the UK over the last few years, I’m surprised that drinkers can find one. Even here around St. Mary on the Wold, long standing pubs have gone under, having given up on the struggle to provide a decent return on the investment made by a succession of new tenants who have usually lasted no more than a few months.
Pubs that have adapted and survived now mostly serve food of the two meals for £10 variety or carveries, often extremely popular with older people, but now even those seem under threat. Obviously, the financial burdens of the pandemic have impacted on these small businesses and several have said, even here, that they will not reopen. One wonders if the clamour for the pubs to reopen is just from the younger city and town generation used to hot noisy bars; obviously popular but not really the same as the ‘Red Lion’ where generations of locals enjoyed their leisure time.
Leisure time is a hot topic at the moment, as many of the ‘furloughed army’ have travelled, in their thousands, to enjoy the attractions of coastal areas. The same has been seen, although to a lesser degree, in many inland tourist spots as people – apparently terrified of going out or sending their children to school or returning to the workplace – have overcome their fears and descended on these areas. This is, of course, much to the dismay of local authorities who, having only just adjusted to having all sorts of new powers thrust upon them by central government, have spent the pandemic monies given to them with what passes as gusto in local government land, creating a sort of maze of one way street systems for pedestrian and vehicular traffic, coned or barriered off into various sections so that the hordes of apparently not now frightened visitors can be made welcome and take advantage of the shops that have survived.
Not that any of this is a new phenomenon to Brits, long accustomed to being treated as a resource by their employer, as a taxable entity by local and central government, a nuisance in many areas of public so-called services or a source of company profit as they cram as many people as possible into areas they see as reliable funding streams, particularly leisure and tourism as anyone who has had the misfortune to travel at peak times on, say, a holiday flight from a major airport will attest.
It’s all rather reminiscent of when grandparents and great grandparents were graciously given by caring employers one or two weeks holiday when whole towns and industries shut down all at the same time, which meant grateful holidaymakers queueing for hours to be allowed to climb aboard an excursion or special train, packed like sardines in hot stuffy carriages, spent hours getting to Blackpool, Bournemouth or some other popular destination, to enjoy the delights of the infamous – in those days – B&B, often poor food, shared facilities and crowded beaches.
There is something in the character of the British that somehow forces them to descend on seaside destinations at the first sign of good weather. Perhaps it’s the same instinct that remains on the surface and nominally under control during what we may have called normal times, but which disappears at the first sign of any difficulty or holiday period, driving people to behave oddly and panic-buy loo paper and enough ‘essentials’ to supply an army or fighting to secure the last two tickets to see some popular overpaid celebrity and often repeating ad infinitum their every word or deed – as we have seen during the last few years as the masses were herded into fear or wokeness by these so-called celebrities and the media, who often treat them with thinly-masked disdain making comments or giving opinions that are designed to incite division and controversy or by demonising this person or that organisation.
Part 2 of The last furlough will be published here tomorrow.