Let’s take a short walk down Memory Lane…

A gentle stroll to 8.30pm on the 23rd March when Boris Johnson officially announced that the country was going into lockdown.  I did say a short walk.  Though for many, this gentle stroll, almost 11 weeks back in time, is a marathon.

Lockdown had been expected; the only surprise, that it had not come sooner. 

Perhaps the announcement had been delayed to allow Boris time to perfect the Churchillian tone in which he delivered the 23rd March lockdown edict.  It was lamely imperfect.

Lockdown in Laytonia had started on the previous Sunday, 15th March.  

There was a reason that for once we were ‘ahead of the curve’ – the buzz phrase constantly being heard in those early weeks of lockdown, later knocked off the sound bite top spot by ‘we’re living in unprecedented times’. 

Our early lockdown was a reaction to what we thought would be a quick visit to Tesco for a leg of lamb and some veg, my request for our Sunday roast.

We didn’t make it into the store that day. 

As we approached the entrance, we witnessed what could only be described as the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah, Armageddon and the Day of Judgement rolled into one, as customers rifled shelves for anything they could lay their hands on.  We saw two men having a pack of kitchen towels tug of war.

I read this week that in a worldwide survey, the country with the most panicked panic buyers of loo-rolls and baked beans (I suppose the two are inextricably linked) was Australia. 

I can only assume that those conducting the survey didn’t visit Tesco, Brent Cross on Sunday, 15th March.

We headed back home to our freezer and the self-imposed lockdown, mutually decided on before we even reached the car.

The retrospective mood of this week’s Life in Laytonia, is prompted by Government policies seemingly turning on a pre-decimal sixpence and I do wonder (and worry) that lockdown is going to turn out to be a waste of time and sacrifice.

Lockdown is easing at a rapid rate by Government design and, call me cynical, possibly a reaction to the notorious London-Durham-London (via Barnard Castle) Cummings family outing.

Track and Trace appears to have been brought in prematurely.  Another Puppet Master distraction?

And what happened to the much-trumpeted Isle of Wight App?  That’s gone very quiet.

Face-masks, previously dismissed as ineffective, are going to be mandatory on public transport. 

Now, the Government is introducing the new 14-day quarantine law for people arriving in the UK from abroad.  We are told that these quarantine laws are being brought in because ‘we owe it to the thousands of people who have died.’

 ‘Arse about face’ comes to mind.  A touch unsavoury perhaps, but it I can’t think of a better way to put it. 

Shouldn’t those quarantine laws have been in force weeks ago?  No, months ago.  Before lockdown.  Before Cheltenham.  Before the Liverpool-Athletico Madrid match.  I’m not saying this with the benefit of smart hindsight; like many I thought this was bonkers at the time.

At that time, people travelling to countries abroad were monitored on arrival.  If we had monitored people arriving here in the same way, especially from countries with a high infection rate, or at least taken temperatures, wouldn’t that have saved thousands from dying?

Any preventative measure would have been preferable to allowing arriving travellers to just saunter through the airports and onto public transport.  Being an island nation, we should have closed our borders?  Wouldn’t that have prevented the virus from spreading and saved thousands of people dying?

Listening to the Today programme earlier in the week, I heard to Nick Robinson interviewing Government Minister, Edward Argar. 

No, I’ve never heard of him either.

Apparently he has been a Minister of State for Health at the Department of Health and Social Care since September 2019.  He was on the Today programme to discuss the new quarantine laws.

Nick Robinson began with a very simple question:

The point of a quarantine policy, is to protect people here from people arriving from higher risk countries.  Can you name a country in Europe, that is higher risk than Britain?

A straight-forward question you would think. Mr. Argar prattled for some time without answering.

Patiently, Nick Robinson allowed the Minister his long-winded non-reply and politely repeated the question:

‘I’ll ask you the question again, can you name a country in Europe that has a higher infection rate than Britain?’

More diversionary Ministerial prattling:

‘…I’m not going to pre-empt what she (Priti Patel) says, or what she puts to parliament, the Home Secretary will set out more details of how this is going to work.  One of the aspects of this, one of the sort of mitigating aspects for the industry and others that’s being discussed, is the concept of air bridges…’

On and on and on Mr. Agar burbled, parroting party-line drivel.  His smug, condescending tone gave the impression that he felt he was acquitting himself rather well.

Finally, Nick Robinson, in a display of patience that Mr. Agar did not deserve, asked the question for third time.

The Minister continued his ramble down non-answer road, with yours truly yelling at the radio, ‘Just answer the f*****g question, you tossing prat!’

Nick Robinson invoked the three strikes and you’re out rule.

‘You can’t answer the question, or you’re choosing not to, so let’s move on…’

I’m not sure what annoyed me more, his refusal to name a country in Europe that has a higher infection rate than Britain, or – after being addressed from the outset as Mr. Argar – the matey, chummy, over familiar, bordering on patronizing ‘Nick’ in nearly every reply.  I lost count after seven ‘Nicks’.

Why do politicians insist on using this ‘we’re on first name terms’ device?  Possibly they think it indicates intellectual equality?  Or is it to imply that whichever way this interview goes, we’re actually good friends.  Perhaps have a catch-up over coffee afterwards?

Whatever it is, Edward, I’m afraid it doesn’t work. 

Or perhaps I could call you Ed?