‘Lockdown’ and the great divide

*Photo: A divide between the morning bike riders and those seeking solace in cake

First published in the Isle of Thanet News of Friday 26th June 2020

AS WE KNOW, this virus was never going to be “a great leveller” on any front. Three months of Lockdown have merely served to show up the divides.  Between the wealthy – deprived of their theatre dates, restaurant meals and foreign travel – who’ve been able to add to their savings, and the poor who, having lost their zero-hours contract work, have been forced to borrow.

Divides between those who immediately signed up for online body-pump, and have been out cycling at dawn, and those who’ve largely relied on Lemon Drizzle cake for their five-a-day and have ordered a bigger sofa.

And crucially now, divides between those who feel the lifting of restrictions is all a tad too soon, who have masks for each day of the week and still shop nervously for essentials only, and those who think it’s-all-over-innit? and see nothing wrong in embracing a sweaty huddle on the beach, before strewing their empty beer cans ­– and bodily fluids – across the sands for the unrivalled delight of someone else.

Which probably explains why a lot fewer people seem to be staying at home to do their yoga breathing, and a lot more are getting irate in the High Street.

In Broadstairs mid-week, there are small crowds outside all the outlets offering take-aways, with no particular distancing in evidence, and a lot of bad temper (some of it mine) at the endless blockages at the bottom of town where Tesco is going to relocate (a marvellous bit of planning in an existing bottleneck!), and there are builders’ trucks permanently filling the road.

Road rage, it has been documented, is on the rise, as the frustrations of the last 14 weeks spill over, a statistic I reflect on as I screech at the rider of an electric scooter who whizzes up on the inside of me, narrowly misses being pulverised and thinks an appropriate response is to tell me to ‘F*** off’.

“You are a complete tw*t!” I yell decorously, as he continues to weave among the traffic. One of the builders, removing poles from a lorry inches from my open window, meets my eyes and nods sagely. “A fair appraisal of the situation,” he says.

And it’s all over now… 

SO THE PM’S daily briefings are over. Marking another milestone in how Things Have Changed. Long gone are the days when we would gather en famille at 5pm to hang on every word. When my husband inadvertently tunes in to the final announcements, he takes one look at the podiums and mutters “Stupid isn’t it?”  While I, catching some background rumblings from the radio, simply think: “Oh him again.”   Before spending an hour on news sites various, trying to decipher what the hell we’re doing now.

As far as I can gather, from 4th July we can get a haircut, eat out, and go to the cinema. But we can’t go to the gym, take the kids bowling or watch a play.

Only two households can meet at any one time, but they can do that wherever they like. You can use a public loo and stay away from home, but can’t hug anyone unless you’ve been bubbled. (Is someone going to police this through the hotel windows?)

I’ve studied it all quite carefully and can only conclude that if there’s not a second wave it will be a small miracle, and that only one upside remains. Current advice is still a get-out-of-jail card for extended family gatherings.

A small thorn

I HAVE WRITTEN for local newspapers, on and off, for nearly twenty years. Occasionally priding myself on being a small thorn in the side of unacceptable development. (Who remembers the campaign to save the tennis courts at Montefiore Avenue? Or the move to remove trees from Pierremont Park?)  In that time, even in our small backwater, there have been plenty of shenanigans, rumours of backhanders and general skulduggery, not forgetting the imprisonment of a Thanet District Council leader for misconduct in public office.

So my only surprise at the tale of Planning Minister Robert Jenrick and property developer Richard Desmond engaging in a spot of simple Tory dinner back-scratching, is that anyone should be surprised. Four words cover it, as far as I can see.  It was ever thus.


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