Sunday, 17th May, 2020

[Day 62]

As it is Sunday, Meg and I get our day organised so that we can watch The Andrew Marr politics show at 9.00 on BBC1. However, as the weeks roll by I really wonder why we bother because the politicians never get subjected to detailed scrutiny or (successfully) evade every question. Today, it was Michael Gove who succeeded in his glib way of saying absolutely nothing so that at the end of the interview you think ‘What did he actually say?’ The walk down to the park was uneventful but we did have quite an interesting chat with a lady who indicated that she had been an Ofsted inspector but her comments about teachers seemed to bely this. However, once we got off the vexed subject of whether teachers were right in being pressurised by the government to resume a limited return to school on 1st June and onto the subject of the best local garden centres in which to buy trees, the conversation took on a more fruitful turn. My own (not very educated) guess is that only 50% of parents may allow their children to go to school – in a conflict like this, the Government will claim success whilst teachers will be able to point to the low attendance rates across the country as a vindication of their stance. In the North East, around Gateshead, where the R factor is said locally to be above the trigger figure of 1.0 it seems that the local authorities may follow the Scots rather than London in keeping people away from school and themselves ‘safe’ in their own houses. The next week or so will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The afternoon was relatively uneventful as it was largely occupied by housework. The phrase keeps running through my head, uttered by the American comedienne Joan Rivers ‘The trouble is with housework is that you have all that dusting, polishing and hoovering – and then 9 months later you have to do it all over again!‘ However, there is a slight bonus in that the choice of music on ClassicFM is normally pretty good on a Sunday afternoon and that helps to alleviate the tedium. When this had been completed, I managed to get half-an-hour tidying up the contents of my mini plastic greenhouse, which were in a state of some disarray as the plastic cover had perished and needed to be ripped away. I have an initial search on the web to try and find a replacement cover without success so far so I must make more a more concerted effort in the morning.

I think the country is in an interesting state, politically. Initially, the government had a fairly strong approval rating for its actions on lock-down and this trend can be observed amongst all governments dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, whatever their political hue and degree of competence – the American political scientists have called this the ‘rally round the flag‘ syndrome, However, there seem to have been an abrupt change in political mood in the last week since the lockdown is starting to be released. The government’s approval rating has gone negative i.e. more people think it is doing a bad job than think it is doing a good job, according to a poll published in the Observer today. In particular, the vagueness and lack of precision behind the phrase ‘Stay alert‘ is a huge problem and the population is now confused by the ambiguity of the message compared with the simplicity of the ‘Stay at home‘ message it was replacing. Also, a certain psychological angst is being created by some evident anomalies e.g. (i) you can now accept a cleaner into your house (because of the ‘cash nexus’) but not see your own parents (ii) everybody should stay 2 metres apart from each other but it is quite OK for this rule to be transgressed when getting on a Tube train or catching a bus (iii) as a teacher and a grandparent you will not be allowed to see your own grandchildren but you are being ‘encouraged’ by the government to see other parents’ children 'en masse' if and when the schools resume. No wonder patience with the government is wearing exceedingly thin (and this is putting it mildly!)