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Corona Diaries: the conclave of the rule-makers

June 24, 2020

As Boris makes his latest and final daily COVID pronouncement, I’m left wondering about who makes up all the rules that stem from his wisdom.

Is there a ballroom somewhere in London populated by diligent clerks who agonise over the minutiae? I imagine little screened-off sections – perspex dividers of course, where civil servants labour over the implications of every aspect of our lives. The thought of having so much control over what we can do and what we can’t do must send some into raptures. The kind of control we’ve dreamed about. Others are probably appalled.

So I imagine there’s a One Metre Section, a Granny Hugging Department, an Orgies and Bacchanalia Team (behind opaque Perspex, of course), a Prohibited Sports Group and, occupying at least half of the ballroom, A Quarantine and Travel Directorate.

Such a gathering of rule-makers has probably not been seen since the Jewish sages of Babylon laboured over years to produce the Talmud – 2,700 pages of regulations that dictate every aspect of the lives of the faithful.

Or possibly since the scholars of Baghdad and other centres of Islamic learning dedicated themselves over centuries to sift, interpret and validate the Hadith.

Not that our modern rule-makers are divinely inspired, though they do take their cue from SAGEs, as interpreted and fashioned for political consumption by Boris Johnson’s ineffably wise political advisors.

But I do marvel at the output of these dedicated bureaucrats. No doubt diligent research would reveal why it’s OK to hug one grandparent, not two. And why it will soon be fine to import American chickens soaked in chlorine, but not fine to swim in a pool whose chlorine content is almost as high. And who has decreed that when the pools are open we will be able to do the breast-stroke, but the butterfly will be a no-no?

No doubt the nation’s hairdressers will be relieved to know that according to the Times, they must avoid small talk with their customers. No more discussions about Mrs Hebblethorpe’ bunions, then. But there appears to be no ban on big talk, so they will presumably be free to get into conversations about the big issues of the day, such as the government’s rank incompetence, Brexit, Donald Trump and the perils of quantitative easing.

Guests at holiday B&Bs will now be greeted by harridans in full PPE brandishing cattle prods, which will be a welcome return to the traditional underlying relationship between hosts and guests.

Cinemas will be equipped with “anti-viral fogging machines that eliminate airborne viruses on contact”. Which bureaucrat came up with that little beauty? Or is it just the same as a bog-standard disinfectant spray? I should have thought that it would be cheaper to issue each cinema-goer with their own taser, which could be used to silence coughing neighbours.

Weddings and funerals will be allowed a maximum of 30 participants, and strictly no singing. That will also be a relief both to those who dread being asked to such events, yet find it hard to refuse. And the absence of adolescent singers squeaking away at Panis Angelicum will also be welcome.

As Boris points out, opportunities for social intercourse are still circumscribed. “We have great writhing scenes in beer gardens” he tells us. No doubt the Orgies and Bacchanalia Team are at this moment working on ever-more detailed rules to prevent such disgraceful occurrences.

In the newly-opened libraries, books that are returned will need to be in quarantine for between one and three days so that any lingering viruses will have plenty of time to die. Speaking personally, if I was borrowing Fifty Shades of Grey, I would need to know that it had been left in a safe place for at least a week since the last person handed it back, and then microwaved before it was issued to me.

People visiting pubs will need to provide their names and addresses when being served booze. I suppose that’s just about feasible, but try asking someone to do that at the end of a six-hour pub crawl, and don’t be surprised if they give their address as Buckingham Palace.

So many facets of our lives, so many rules to create! Thank goodness we have all these people writing them for us. What would we do without them? Heaven forbid that we should be trusted to exercise common sense, because most of us don’t have any.

There’s one curious aspect lurking within all this worthy rule-making.

Aren’t we supposed to be leaving the European Union in six months’ time? If so, why are we still using metres as our unit of measurement when calculating social distancing. Surely we should be using yards, which are a wee bit shorter than metres. If we did, it would probably add £500 billion to the national economy. The Brexiteers would rejoice about that too.

Missed a trick there, didn’t you Boris?

  1. Andrew Robinson permalink

    We’ve just had an e-mail opinion poll on whether to open our Port Venus naturist pool, with added personnel and limited admission; my Scottish pockets reeled rather than jigged.

    At our piscine, usually open May to September, PDA are not allowed so the breast-stroke is frowned upon, but it might be possible to get all present (in fewer numbers) to sign an NDA, more of a back-scratch than a back-stroke.

    If all are “down with it”, there may be some butterflying, but perhaps with the necessity to crawl back to one’s partner and resume lockdown.

    A diluted message….all the rage apparently.

    • You’re not alone Andrew. There’s talk of horrendous costs to re-open the pools here, and we punters will have to pay for it. Is doggy paddle OK a la piscine? If I get the urge to swim, I might go for a river, if I can find one without Weil’s Disease.

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