07-05-2020PETER CZIBORRA

As I have only witnessed the Coronavirus lockdown from the perspective of the United Kingdom thus far, I wonder if those of you who have been based on the island have noticed some of the extraordinary social aspects of Staying At Home? For instance, it has been reported that up until the beginning of May, some 220,000 British citizens have ‘grassed-up’ their neighbours to the police for breaking the British governments lockdown mantra. I understand that most of these curtain twitchers aren’t denouncing large scale, curfew breaking raves parties and pub lock-ins, but merely neighbours who have the temerity to take a short stroll twice a day with their kids rather than the designated once a day. I suppose that some people just can’t help themselves in this regard, but I find the whole business deeply discomforting. I‘ve always liked to think that we Brits are above this sort of thing - and if anybody needs to be reminded of their civic duty a quiet word in their ear should suffice. I also understand from that bastion of middle-class womanhood i.e. Mumsnett - some people are condemning their neighbours for not clapping in support of NHS workers at 8pm on a Thursday evening. It seems that nasty social media criticisms are posted online, pointing out that Mr & Mrs Jones were not seen at their front door last week clapping enthusiastically or banging kitchen utensils in support of doctors and nurses and shouldn’t they be ashamed of themselves or perhaps stoned. I suppose both groups see themselves as Covid-19 vigilantes; what is it with some people? Happily, it was reported the other day that there has been a surge in hospital admissions when over-enthusiastic clappers and saucepan bashers injure themselves trying to outdo each other in their neighbourhood virtue signalling competition. This I like!

Have you ever seen the film Groundhog Day? Well, for many of us we are living that film and if you are a chap, your grumpiness will have even outstripped Bill Murray’s character already, or until all this malarkey is over. At the beginning of this lockdown, we would phone/Skype/WhatsApp most of our extended family in the UK at least twice a week; but, what do you do when you have nothing new to say and the grandkids are less than enthusiastic than ever to grunt “Hello grandad” whilst being pinched by their mothers? Nevertheless, the worst thing by far is the dullness of our conversations during this enforced idleness. For instance, last week we had a 34 minute conversation over who we hated the most - Gordon Ramsay or Piers Morgan. We have also had debates over the desirability or otherwise of French Pugs - what is your favourite sofa cushion and should you pull the loo chain or turn the toilet light on in the middle of the night? This is a vital question because, even if you want to flush away number 2’s - I will certainly wake her up and her mother as well, thus being in trouble for two things - geddit? I might have mentioned to you once or twice in the past that I do our family shopping - I just do…okay! Well, that’s not the half of it. As I buy a good deal of wine for myself and my mother-in-law, I have started to lie about just how many people are living in our household. The last time I was questioned by the second best looking cashier in our local Co-op store, I’m afraid to say that I told her I was shopping for five people, which seemed to pacify her somewhat as I think she’s in the Salvation Army.

I am old enough to remember that British policemen were once men who walked very slowly and deliberately with their arms locked behind their back and would say things such as - “Hello, ‘ello, ‘ello - what’s going on ‘ere then?”. As a lairy teenager, I remember one such plod actually saying to me - “Don’t get lippy with me son - or else.” As you can imagine, I didn’t hang around long enough to find out what “or else” might have involved. Nowadays however, some police-persons seem to want their job to include elements of show business. Now then, I am not at all keen on glowering Spanish policemen, who mostly like to look handsome and ‘hard’ at all times - but, even that’s better than coppers messing about for the benefit of something called Tik Tok which is apparently a something-or-other on the inter-web. Anyway, after a few of these fun-filled japes went viral, various Chief Constables have ‘ticktocked’ them off for being “wholly unprofessional” whilst reminding them that they have more important things to do - such as harassing elderly couples out for a stroll and searching shopping baskets for unessentials. However, I have always had a deeply held theory that says that if a person should want to become a policeman, that in itself should be reason enough for him not to be chosen to become one. Does this make me an anarchist?

frankleavers@hotmail.com

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