I don’t like this ‘getting back to normal’ – and it turns out not a lot of you do either

TL:DR. Boris Johnson’s “Back to work, peasants!” call, amplified by the print press has fallen on deaf ears – with the exception of car drivers. Even though air pollution makes things even worse for those experiencing breathing difficulties with the Corona Virus.

A poll above shows more converts to the ‘working at home’ way of working – even though that itself is not without its shortcomings.

And I don’t like motor traffic either. Not good being on a main road.

Hard to see it getting much better in the near future.

It’s the children I feel sorry for the most. The precautions schools now have to put in place takes so much of the fun out of everything, but until the scientists find a cure or vaccine, this is where we are. And this generation deserves so much better than the politicians we currently have. On domestic policy alone, the parallels with the late 1930s are striking – a Cabinet devoid of talent and high calibre ministers sitting in a House of Commons with a very large majority having defeated a Labour Party led by a pacifist leader (George Lansbury – who at least had some ministerial experience during the short-lived Labour minority government that came in just at the wrong time, at the start of the Great Depression).

One brand of disinfectant tried to jump on the ‘back to the office’ bandwagon with a London Underground advert which didn’t go down in more than a few circles – was it written by someone who had never worked in a small town office before? Anyway, it got ad-busted by The Green Party.

Top – After; Above – before.

The looming economic hit

Ministers want to unwind their furloughing scheme, far faster than the rest of the world. Combine that with the continued mess they are making of Brexit – earlier today they had to table emergency regulations to enable them to build new lorry parks without local council planning permission. Then there have been the stories about many towns and cities becoming ghost towns, as too many people choose to stay away. But who can blame them in the face of the absolute hash that ministers have made of everything. Jennifer Williams of the Manchester Evening News has been chronicling the shambles of central government guidance.

As I mentioned to someone today, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, is a former Health Secretary and is more than familiar about contingencies for pandemics. If there is any political figure who could take any current Cabinet Minister to the cleaners, it’s him. But he’s far too sensible to even think something like that because he’s got an entire city to carry with him. His evidence at any future public inquiry will be damning on the conduct of ministers.

In the meantime, on the food front…

In normal times, ministers would resign over this. But these are not normal times and this is not a normal administration.

At a local level…

Can’t film the protests, can’t go to any council meetings (which are now all online anyway) and guidance remains on social distancing and minimising social gatherings.

And again, I’m not in a position to be anything other than extremely cautious and risk averse – both for myself and those around me.

At the moment I’m doing everything in baby steps – it’s a struggle to find the motivation to do anything without anyone to bounce ideas off, or even have a meaningful conversation with beyond the platitudes and niceties. I tried to describe the emotions earlier online as this massive void where my soul should be. A feeling of extreme dispassion – where anything good or bad elicits the same reaction: *Meh!*

Waiting for today to happen

I wrote about this in a recent blogpost, which takes the name of an old Lightning Seeds number. It’s hard not to have a focus on something to work towards – even more so when it’s just you.

Emotionally, my mood is a bit like this.

The first version was released in autumn 1992 shortly after Brian May first played it at Wembley earlier that year. Such is the disconnect I’ve been feeling for years that I sometimes tell myself that someone else lived the first 20 years of my life and got all the major judgement calls in my life wrong! (Which is technically true because as I mentioned in previous posts, I followed the path of what I thought would please whoever was in authority rather than what was right for me at the time).

Will too much love kill you?

Well I’m still alive so can’t tell! (Imelda May played this number for us at the Cambridge Folk Festival shortly after the EURef because everything was shite). In the meantime I’ve been following the escapades of Lucy Goes Dating, via a Twitterfriend who knows her. It’s far better and far more compelling than any fly-on-the-wall TV series with artificially concocted scenarios.

The Brian May track reminds me that in the 1990s I had this huge capacity to love and be loved, but none of the courage to tell the people concerned that I thought they were wonderful and wanted to spend every other breathing minute in their company rather than in dull English literature lessons with a teacher so boring that watching paint dry is a more enjoyable activity.

It’s not the lessons that stand out, but the things outside the lessons – whether freezing at the Abbey Stadium as a season ticket holder that year only to see Cambridge United begin a downward spiral from what was a new Division 1 in the first outing of the Premier League in 1992/93, to an incredible school musical drama production that rehearsal-wise was very demanding after school. (Esp when combined with an afternoon paper-round.) With hindsight what was really sad was schools in those days did not have the organisational set up that enabled new friendships that spanned the different year groups to be maintained. (It’s long since changed, but back then the segregation by year group was as rigid as the gender segregation of schools in Cambridge that existed only a few decades before – something I only recently discovered in LostCambridge).

There were a couple of people who I knew from primary school in the drama production – who I still sometimes bump into every so often a quarter of a century later. Even with what I can only describe as positive flashbacks, I recall the calming presence a number of the older students had on us younger ones – we had only just started year 8. It was a large, diverse group of people I recall simply looking forward to being with – far more than many of the people I was stuck with in my own year group. I developed an innocent crush on one of the main singers who was in year 11 but was too shy to tell her. All I know is that for a couple of months I just wanted to be with her. Several years later in town I bumped into her sister in a pub in town just before I left to go to university in Brighton. I mentioned this crush I had on her sister back in the early 90s & she thought it was really sweet & would tell her. I never found out – shortly after I was off to the south coast to forget about it all for the next two decades.

On [the lack of] sex & relationship education, and the concept of shaming

On the theme of ‘getting back to normal’ and trying to work out what an alternative new normal could be like, the teens of the 1990s – my generation, were the last of the ignorant. In the area of sex & relationship education, the UK didn’t feel much different to now widely lampooned videos Ireland had at the time. After that, the internet arrived and those in authority could no longer censor our access to knowledge as they had done in the past. Ours was also the generation of Section 28. To get a sense of how tough the struggle was to get rid of it, have a look at the declaration in Exeter in the 1997 General Election ft a very young Ben Bradshaw. In the run up to the campaign, Clare Garner wrote this piece on how toxic Mr Bradshaw’s Tory opponent was. The freedom to acquire knowledge without the cloak of shame was a freedom that many people fought long and hard for.

But we have our own problems of online hate that didn’t exist back then. Furthermore, the problem of harassment within institutions remains a stubborn problem especially in politics and academia. Dr Anna Bull’s campaigning in this field as part of the 1752 group has been incredible. The ‘new normal’ that I hope we can collectively move towards, is one that crushes harassment. The problem is that with the current occupants in the Whitehouse & Downing Street, this is going to take a very long time. The trailed appointment of a former Australian PM to the UK Board of Trade has disgusted many of us. Kay Burley took the Health Secretary to task over it.

This was the take of the first woman Prime Minister in Australia’s history, Julia Gillard. Wherever this new normal is, I hope it ends up being better than the one we seem to be heading towards. Because I don’t like where we seem to be heading, whether by accident or design, by those in power.

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