May 20th, 2020

So Which Reality Is The Real Reality

We drove all the way from our home to St Leonards, paused there long enough to register  that the waves were still breaking on the shore, then drove back again. I was a little nervous in advance- as if we'd been planning to do something of interest to the police- as only a week ago it would have been. Oooh, get us- aren't we the ones! (The last time I had that feeling was when we lunched at the Snowdrop Inn in Lewes on the very eve of the lockdown.) On our return journey we stopped once to fill the tank (because petrol is sooo cheap right now) and again at the farm shop in Hurst Green. The cashier at the petrol station (in the suburbs of Hastings) was wearing a mask and heavy duty gloves- the kind you'd put on to clean the toilet- but apart from him we saw just one person- in all that time, in all those places- who was wearing a mask. We went, "Oooh look, a man in a mask!" because it was so unusual.

I think the TV news wallahs must stalk the streets looking for people in masks- or else hand masks out to the people they film- because the picture of lockdown Britain we're seeing on TV is so very different from what we're seeing in our reality. Or is it that they do all their vox pops in city centres- where people are more on their guard at the best of times? Could it be that they're intent on crafting a narrative about a nation that's shaking in its shoes- and to that end ignoring all the people who don't have a quaver in their voice?

I was reading an article yesterday about Pepys's diary for the plague year of 1665. Pepys was at the heart of things- living in London- in the hottest of hot spots: he notices houses with crosses on the door, he passes bodies being carried through the streets, he is uneasy about dining in a house where one of the occupants is sick, but mostly he writes about chasing girls and buying clothes and how he's having difficulty peeing. In short, life goes on as usual- and the plague doesn't occupy his every waking thought- as the CV19 seems to occupy those of the TV people.

TV folk of the future- when you're making your documentaries and drama series about this time- please remember that now as in all periods of change and heightened emotion most people just carry on carrying on to the best of their abilities, picking their way around the obstacles. If they're stricken they're stricken, otherwise there are meals to be prepared and eaten, kids to be amused, love affairs to be conducted, blogs to be written...     

Leadership (Lack Of)

Boris Johnson, it transpires, isn't Winston Churchill after all. We waited for his "we'll fight them on the beaches" moment and it never came- and now is too late. He's kept a low profile through the lockdown and hasn't particularly impressed us on the few occasions he's faced the cameras. None of the ministers he's put up to front for him has turned out to be Winston Churchill either. And perhaps that kind of leadership- where one person speaks to and for the nation is no longer viable. Trump attempts it (give him marks for trying) and only succeeds in widening the canyon between his lovers and his haters.

The Queen and Prince Charles- like Vladimir Putin- have retired to their dachas. Charles popped up the other day to suggest we should all volunteer to pick sprouts. Not him, of course, but everybody else who doesn't have a proper job...

Prince Harry- who has occasionally been mistaken for his namesake, Henry V- is on lockdown in California.

The Archbishop of Canterbury? Well, he shut up shop. The Pope? He seems to have done the same.  

It's a curious fact that this worldwide crisis has seen a great failure in leadership. All the people elected or born to the role have stepped back (as perhaps it's right they should do.) I'm not saying I'm hungry for leadership (because I'm not) just that the absence of leadership is one of the most peculiar things about this most peculiar time. The reins are hanging loose on the horses neck- and no-one has grabbed them.

When we emerge from lockdown we may remember that we managed passably well without being inspired and chivvied...