Lockdown Flags

Grant Shapps with red box and civil air ensign military flag.

I haven’t felt much like writing of late, which ordinarily wouldn’t be a problem unless you are the kind of person who defines themselves as (checks notes) a writer. For me at least, the lockdown malaise has set in. I haven’t been able to make progress with programming, guitar playing, nor karate. From what I have learned, lockdown malaise is a common condition. It is as if our collective psyche is in shock; we are fearful of the future and the past has been terrible. There is a pattern of going to bed late and waking late in the morning, then spending all day feeling sad.

Hopefully, this isn’t the case for you dear reader but I am seeing it widely on social media. Certainly, there cannot be many who have not been touched by knowing someone who has been seriously ill or passed away. Pandemics are rare events and yet the World Health Organisation is telling us that this may be something we all need to learn to live with. Perhaps it’s time we paid better attention to what we eat and looked after our planet and its fellow inhabitants. 

I am hearing that the Brazilian strain of COVID is putting up a fierce competition to our own home-grown ‘Kent’ variety or ‘the English disease’ as Spaniards call it. I suspect it is payback for years of referring to the last pandemic as ‘the Spanish flu’.  

Despite the latest shenanigans of my arch-foe Prime Minister Johnson, I continue to lack the motivation to fire poisoned darts from the Twitter account. However, you would think that with 116,909+ dead and British exports down 68% post-Brexit transition (a figure provided by the Road Haulage Association) this would merit a question or two from the BBC’s incurious Andrew Marr. Neither was there any mention of the near annihilation of the fishing industry (well they all knew what they were voting for). On the plus side, free school dinners for poor children will mostly be made up of shellfish and Welsh lamb. That’s better; you can’t beat a bit of BBC-bashing; although I did read in a men’s health magazine that ‘Johnson- bashing’ can lead to blindness.

Boris Johnson - We did everything we could.

In other news, the US succeeded in getting rid of their orange-haired buffoon and can look forward to a modicum of stability after his alleged incitement to insurrection. Sadly, the UK is still stuck with its own Trumpian prime minister, who combs his hair with a balloon before broadcasting to the nation, “We did everything we could.” You will marvel at how I walked away from that one. Still, a delightfully waspish columnist, Marina Hyde, did proffer some explanation as to how it was that people voted for Johnson, who at the time of writing is still ahead in the YouGov Westminster voting intentions poll. Apparently, it is because we Brits are addicted to ‘nutters’. We could have had Captain Sensible in the form of Theresa May (a bit racist although a hard worker) but no, not when there’s hardcore, economy-crushing Brexit misery to be swept under the rug of a pandemic. This calls for the talents of a super-nutter, the sort that would visit a hospital and boast about shaking hands with COVID patients or was too busy writing a book to attend the first five COBRA meetings. He would tweet about the Scots winning the Six Nations Rugby whilst having previously, as editor of the Spectator, published a poem that ran something along the lines of: “The Scotch – what a verminous race!”; “It’s time Hadrian’s Wall was refortified, to pen them in a ghetto on the other side”; “The nation deserves not merely isolation, but comprehensive extermination”. Oh yes, our nutters are ‘world-beating’.

 Of course, all genuine nutters need to surround themselves with the intellectually hobbled, which can be a challenge when the bar has already been set so low. By way of an example, I give you Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the IQ Elimination Department. She gave a car-crash radio interview in which she uttered the words, “Britain is at the forefront of global Britain.”  It’s almost enough to turn one into a flat-earther.

Lately, I have been worrying about The Festival of Brexit being cancelled. I do hope not, although it was a total bummer that Glastonbury bit the dust. I always remember that great philanthropist Michael Eavis, telling me that he would award my company the sound contract for the festival, provided it was the same price as it had been for the last five years; otherwise, he was putting it out to tender. We didn’t supply the main stage, obviously. Even in those days, the ‘gig economy’ was a thing. It would seem that the only trickle-down effect at work in Glastonbury were the festival toilets, a huge open-pit of effluent into which stoned hippies would fall from time to time and need to be hauled out.

This brings me neatly on to the subject of all those flags. Each time a government minister appears on TV, there is a ruddy great flagpole with a Union Jack wrapped around it in the background. Anyone viewing from abroad would think that every British room has one. Sky News (as if to reinforce the narrative) had Grant Shapps appear in front of a bookshelf  displaying a book about himself, an open red box, and the mandatory Union Flag. It is all starting to feel a little weird. I am left thinking that our great national flag is being used as a prop for performance. It is a worrying trend and if European history teaches us anything, it is not one that ends well.

There is some good news. For example: the ‘highly successful’ vaccination effort, which by any measure is impressive, especially when compared to Europe – which I think is the point – but it is disappointing how the government has hijacked this for its own ends. We hear a lot about the disastrous NHS Test Track and Trace, which is NHS in name only, as most of the work has been outsourced to the private sector to companies such as Serco. However, Johnson never mentions the NHS when basking in the reflected glory of the vaccine rollout.

Last weekend’s example of faux patriotism came with Andrew Marr’s interview with the Minister for the Deployment of Vaccines and coincidentally, flag enthusiast, Nadhim Zahawi. Obsequious praise was heaped upon him by someone who appears to have tossed his journalistic credentials into a dumpster then set fire to them. We can only wonder as to why the press is reluctant to point out that putting some thicko in charge of education may have been a bad idea, or stand back in amazement at Dido Harding, head of Test, Track and Stash-the-Cash, telling the House of Commons Select Committee that “nobody could have predicted Covid virus would mutate”. This kind of slander is severely unpatriotic. Don’t you dare point out that it is probably not best practice to send children back to school for one day so that they can act as vectors of infection during the pandemic, or to introduce measures against the South African variant by enforcing quarantine – in a couple of weeks’ time – after 20,000 have already arrived. Well, that would be damned right treasonous. 

I will close with the observation that calls for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic have been somewhat muted. With the highest death rate in Europe and the world, if we exclude Argentina, and the worst economic impact, lessons need to be learned. However, it has become clear that this is not a government for the national good. Johnson’s only interest is self-interest and he does not take criticism well but as long as the voting public are kept in quiet complacency and refer to him affably as ‘Boris’, nothing will change. His friends call him Alex, but there is another word for him: Уголовное.  

Thank you for staying the course; it means a lot to me. There is a series of podcasts linked here: The Al Morton Podcast If you are up to date with your medication and don’t have any pressing engagements, why not give them a go? Podcasts are a great way to discover something new whilst getting on with other tasks, or if you are like my wife, the Al Morton Podcast can help you fall asleep in minutes. Stay safe…

2 thoughts on “Lockdown Flags”

  1. You’ve made me laugh, thank you … combing hair with a balloon! I must tell my grandson this, he’ll love trying it out 🙂
    An interesting read, Alastair, although depressing too. I don’t understand why the British voters settled on BJ in the first place.
    There’s no easy answer and I think the problems are going to rumble on for years unfortunately.

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