Solo living in a pandemic is not fun – and now the cinemas are going

Hannah Miller of ITN gave a textbook example of how to interview an under-pressure minister. She had clearly done her homework. The Prime Minister had not.

See the link here if above does not play.

I’m not going to pretend to be a regular cinema goer. I never have been, though I have in adulthood tried to make a habit of seeing whatever the feelgood epic blockbuster of the year happens to be in the gap between Xmas and the New Year. Yet as I’ve got older I’ve become more aware of bad acting, poor scripting, and over-done special effects. That plus my eyes/brain do not like strobe lighting or ultra-loud sound. The news for regular cinema goers however, is grim. But it’s not something that ministers did not see coming.

Broken supply chains

As with TV, the problem the film industry is dealing with is maintaining the production of content. We saw this with the TV soaps – the Coronation Streets & East Enders of this world. With tight rehearsal, filming and broadcast turnaround times, they had no choice but to stop broadcasting while they were unable to film new content. With extended family members having watched these shows for decades, I don’t underestimate the impact that a sudden shock break in routines of a lifetime can have.

In the case of the film industry, it’s one thing trying to get people into the cinemas, but quite another trying to do so without big releases – and even more so when there is the rise of Netflix and fellow competitors now having the resources to finance their own high quality productions and release them straight to their own subscription channels. That said, in the current climate I think there’s only so much that the paying public will be willing to stump up for separate subscriptions. Britbox, Sky, Netflix, Amazon Prime…at what point does it all add up to too much? Especially when so many people are losing their jobs?

The Junction is currently closed

Above – the sign that the landing page greets you with.

Earlier this week I walked past the Corn Exchange – closed, and the Arts Theatre – also still closed. Libraries and archives are appointment only, and mainly to take out stock on loan, not to actually be in them. It’s as if the only activity there is left to do in the town centre is shopping. And other than essentials such as food and medication, there’s nothing else in life that I particularly need or want that involves buying something. And that is a really strange experience to go through as a human being – one strangely enough I went through before about six months before I left Cambridge in 1999 to go to university.

I keep reminding myself that what we are collectively going through is not normal. In fact it’s utterly soul-destroying if I’m honest. As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, the closure of all of our arts venues has robbed our city of its beating hearts. That’s not to say ministers were not right to bring in the lockdown in the first place – quite clearly they were. But their handling of everything since has been catastrophic – and that’s before we’ve even found out what updates they had made to preparations that were in place for such a civil contingency. I know preparations were in place from the mid-2000s because during my civil service days (2004-2011) I was one of the civil servants trained to respond to such a civil contingency.

Cambridge University’s first cases since the return of the students

Queen’s College recorded them. In the grand scheme of things I’m gutted for the students and young people. Even more so because of the extortionate amounts of debt they will be going into for accommodation. And for what? Looking at the re-imposed lockdowns in Newcastle and Manchester, it’s astonishing that they encouraged the students to come back in the first place. Alternative arrangements could and should have been made for as many to stay home as possible and access lectures online – in particular for lecture and seminar-based courses, while enabling smaller groups to attend on a rota system for shorter, more intense workshops and terms. That would also have made social distancing easier for the students on workshop and lab-based degrees.

What is the Government’s plan for all those being made unemployed as furloughing unwinds?

…because the Arts industries are in the process of imploding despite successive pleas to stop this from happening. The Prime Minister tries to sound churchillian (and is failing) by using terms such as saying things will be bumpy till Xmas and beyond’. Which betrays an inability to communicate just how serious the situation actually is for so many people, let alone demonstrating to the rest of us that he has the aptitude and is of sufficient calibre as a politician to be able to handle an ongoing crisis such as this. Because at the moment I don’t see much evidence that the Cabinet he has assembled around him as anything of the talent, wisdom, courage, intellect, or compassion to respond to the demands both placed upon it, and those it has placed upon itself. As demonstrated by the Home Secretary’s speech on the ‘broken asylum system’ that her party has run for the past decade.

So where does that leave the rest of us?

For me I’m caught between a rock and a hard place, as I described back in August… though perhaps unexpectedly I’m back playing football on a regular basis with some sessions put on by Cambridge United FC.

…but it takes my body at least two days to recover (or rather my legs take that long) from the morning training session and the cycle ride to and from Coldham’s Common. Baby steps I keep reminding myself.

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