Peter Rhodes on a flawed legend, online groceries and the daftness of dithering over lockdown
Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.
Now that John Wayne has been demonised as a racist and a white supremacist for something he said 49 years ago, John Wayne Airport in California may revert to its original name of Orange County Airport. (In honour of the President?)
Incidentally, has any human being in history gone 49 years without saying something objectionable?
Will they, won't they? Can they, can't they? While the Government, the Civil Service and the local council were debating at length whether to lock down the city of Leicester to deal with a sudden spike in coronavirus, anyone with the symptoms who didn't fancy being confined had plenty of time to pack their bags and leg it. And the longer the authorities dithered, the more time these latter-day Typhoid Marys had to get out of Leicester and spread the contagion elsewhere. So-called “local lockdowns” are claimed to be a pandemic-beater. But only if they are imposed instantly. To warn is to weaken.
As is so often the case, Shakespeare had a line for dilemmas like Leicester's. Stressing the advantages of assassinating monarchs as quickly as possible, Macbeth declares: “If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well. It were done quickly.” Great line, almost impossible to memorise.
Have you ever wondered what goes through the heads of people who cram on to beaches or national parks in defiance of lockdown and spend a riotous weekend boozing, fighting and defecating in people's gardens? I came across this justification online. It is a tirade against locals who object to such visitors: “They just live here. They don't own it. And if any hillbilly thinks he's going to stop me, he can think again.” The Disunited Kingdom.
Anyone else worried about Boris Johnson's “building blitz” to kick-start the economy? Nothing has kept England green and pleasant quite like our planning laws which, for all their nit-picking faults, at least give concerned residents a fighting chance against rapacious developers. If the developers are given their head by the Tories, we can kiss goodbye to the Green Belt, and our grandchildren will think we were mad.
Let me put some flesh on the bones of my claim a few days ago that lots of Brits actually enjoyed lockdown. Sure enough, the boffins have been at work. According to research as University College London, one-third of respondents in a survey said that “on balance, they had enjoyed the period of restrictions.”
Mind you, it's not all bliss. Consider the hazards of lockdown shopping. How is it that the supermarket can deliver a vanload of victuals to Chateau Rhodes and the only item from my order they cannot provide, or deliver an alternative, is 10 tins of Strongbow cider? Is there any substance on earth more substitutable than booze? It doesn't have to be Strongbow. It doesn't even have to be cider. It just takes a little imagination. Small bottle of Toilet Duck with a Ribena chaser? Perfect.
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