During an earlier lockdown, health secretary Matt Hancock was asked by The Sun’s Kate Ferguson if you were allowed to go for a walk and have a cup of coffee with a friend. Hancock was furious: “Don’t say you’re exercising when you’re just socialising.” That’ll be a ‘no’ then. “You can exercise with one other person, but you must stay two metres apart.” Okay, okay. I heard you, Matt. Just like you did, then?
Maybe it’s just me. I can’t get my head round this metric nonsense. Thank goodness Boris Johnson is taking us back to good old yards and feet, eh?
I don’t know why I’m being so frivolous about this stuff because frivolous is not how I feel. Hancock, as we all remember, lectured us, hectored even, for the best part of 18 months, telling us what we could and couldn’t do. Then he had his ‘steamy clinch’ with Gina Coladangelo, a millionaire lobbyist who Hancock then put on the government payroll as an aide. Well, we’ve all done it, haven’t we? Had a bit on the side, as they say, and gave her – or him – a job paid for by the taxpayer.
It turns out Hancock’s ‘steamy clinch’ wasn’t the only thing that was going on behind the scenes, while the rest of us were saying goodbye to loved ones via Zoom or attending sparsely attended funerals. No. Hancock was merely following in the footsteps of his boss, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. That’s Boris to you and me, Alex to anyone who knows him.
Johnson partied like it was 2020, which it was, and not just once. A wine and cheese party, for example, with no social distancing going on. Now, we hear, a bring your own bottle party to which 100 people were invited on 20th May 2020. While the rest of us – well, you know the rest.
Over 175,000 people have died in the UK with Covid on their death certificates since March 2020. I lost my much loved mother in law to Covid and saw two old friends die the same way. We stuck to the rules at a time when Johnson’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings had a road trip to Durham during lockdown and the colleagues of Johnson, perhaps even Johnson himself, were on the lash. It doesn’t so much make me angry, although it does, it makes me feel utterly disillusioned.
Like many people, both my mental and physical health declined during the various lockdowns and neither have recovered, not even partially. One day during the 2020 lockdown I went for a walk as part of my permitted exercise routine. I walked to nearby Bristol Parkway station and stopped to watch some trains passing by, as befits a train anorak. As I stood on the top level of outdoor car park watching a locomotive take a goods train through the station – can you imagine my excitement? Probably not – a police car emerged and stopped next to me. The officers got out.
“Can I ask what you’re doing here, Sir?” said the copper, unmasked because the powers-that-be had decided masks weren’t needed at the time.
“I’m watching trains, officer,” I replied.
“I must advise you to return home, Sir. People are only permitted to leave their homes for specific reasons, like exercise or essential shopping.”
Great. “But I am out for an exercise walk. I’ve just stopped to watch some trains go by. I’m on my own, the only people to come near me are coppers.”
“I appreciate that, Sir, but I must ask to return home.”
I nodded and walked home, feeling ridiculously tearful and heavy-legged. Next time, I should walk on the spot when I’m trainspotting or just do it on the move?
Now, as we know, it turns out that Hancock was engaged in steamy clinches and that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was attending mass parties. And I wasn’t even allowed to watch trains on my own. I realise how trivial my trainspotting analogy is when compared with people who attended funerals via their iPads or stood outside care homes waving at their relatives, but still, it irked then and it still irks today.
As I said, one rule for them, one for everyone else. Two metres apart, please. Obviously, you and not me.