March 27th, 2020

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A Welcome Dose of Clap

I'm a cynical old soul who find orchestrated displays of emotion rather cloying, so I don't suppose I'd have participated in yesterday evening's unfortunately named "Clap for Carers" had not all the neighbours I happen to know best been medical professionals. As it was, I was roused from my computer at 8pm by the sound of saucepans being rattled and a few whoops, but mostly a politely enthusiastic round of applause, of the type that one normally hears when a batsman strokes a ball through silly leg over to the boundary. That polite ripple was not very loud, but it was happening all round the country at the same time (even inside Brixton Prison!), something even I must admit to finding quite moving:



Also, credit where it's due: the Chancellor's measures to help those laid off by the crisis, whether employees or self-employed, have been (while far from watertight) pretty decent, especially when compared to some other countries' efforts. I think he "gets" that paying an eye-watering amount now may avoid paying an even more eye-watering amount when all this is over - much as Gordon Brown did in 2008. I'm less impressed with the banks, who were bailed out with taxpayers' cash on that occasion but are now charging businesses over 20%, at a time when the base rate is 0.1%. Could it be that bankers are greedy shits?

Meanwhile Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock (who is contractually obliged to run mad in white linen whenever Johnson runs mad in white satin) have both caught the virus. I'd have more sympathy with Johnson had he not boasted not long ago about shaking the hands of Covid 19 patients. (I wonder how his pregnant girlfriend felt about that?) Even from his sick-desk today he was joshingly referring to the "wizardry" of the technology that enables him to speak to people he's not in the same room as. He's two years younger than me, ffs.

The story that sums Johnson up best, for my money, is from a week or two back. In a meeting about how to increase the supply of respirators, he reportedly dubbed the initiative "Operation Last Gasp." The worst thing about this joke is that it's actually quite witty; I really resent being made to smile at something like that. But also - it's all very well for private bloggers like myself to make off-colour jokes (see the title of this post) as way of relieving the stress of these unusual times; it's another for the Prime Minister to do it - and it's even worse when you realise that, even as this was going on, Britain was (whether from incompetence, jingoism or a mixture of both) failing to participate in a Europe-wide initiative to source... respirators.

For a long time Japan was an outlier in those comparative charts of Covid-19 infection across countries: the country's infections started early but confirmed cases stayed low (the odd Yokohama cruise ship nothwithstanding), despite no stringent measures having been introduced beyond the (advisory) closing of schools. Restaurants, shops, etc. have been open as usual. Even school graduation ceremonies took place, despite the lack of lessons.

Now, finally, Abe has asked the IOC to postpone the Olympics, and almost immediately the number of cases in Tokyo has shot up and the governor has ordered people to stay inside. It's almost as if Abe had been endangering public health for the sake of a sporting competition.

Just as the fish are now teeming through the canals of Venice, so the toilet rolls and eggs are gradually returning to the shelves of Tesco. Yesterday there was no Marmite Crunchy Peanut Butter, though! We must all stay strong...