Tue 28 Jul 2020: trips to normality

As I wrote about last week, professional sport is tentatively returning. I went to the Surrey/Middlesex warm-up match yesterday. They had opened up part of the Vauxhall end of the ground, blocks 16 to 20. One thousand tickets were available each day to members, with allocated seating. Every second row was in use, with two empty seats between groups of attendees from the same household. I know that on Sunday all the tickets were quickly taken up. They weren’t taken up quite as quickly for the Monday, but even so, it certainly looked from a quick count/estimate that there were about a thousand people.

This of course meant that there were more people than is normal for a multi-day match, crammed into a small area instead of being spread out all around the ground. I suppose that was necessary for the trial, and they’re repeating it next weekend with more people – 2,500 on each day.

There were, notably, comments from the club’s CEO about it not being sustainable. There was about a 10:1 ratio of spectators to staff when you count all the stewards, security, catering, bar, and cleaners. and I’m not sure if that ratio includes the players, physios, coaches etc. The larger trial will presumably have a better ratio. Of course, multi-day county cricket isn’t financially sustainable anyway, it only survives because of income from the national team and cross-subsidy from the lesser forms of the game, which is presumably why Surrey were happy to be a guinea-pig. I’m sure that a rugby league club, on the other hand, wouldn’t want to go anywhere near it once they looked at the staffing costs for putting on a match with spectators in the current climate.

And then today I went to the cinema for the first time in ages. I saw The County, by the same director as the excellent Rams. It was good, but I wasn’t sure about the ambiguous ending and wonder if it could have been cut short two scenes earlier to end on a solid up-beat note. It being an early afternoon showing the experience was not really any different from in normal times: there was hardly anyone there, and the Curzon Mayfair staff were courteous and efficient as always. But the journey there and back was still very different from normal. The mid-day train was about as busy as normal, although I did notice that train passengers seem to do a better job of masking up than bus passengers. Victoria station was perhaps a little quieter than normal, and the bus station was practically deserted. Walking through the streets from Picadilly to the cinema was like a ghost town. Several cafes were trying to put a brave face on things and were open but they had very little custom, and there was hardly another soul walking around even on normally-busy Picadilly itself.

Judging from traffic levels – broadly back to normal, although public transport isn’t busy, so it seems lots of people are driving instead of using it and that consequently means that lots of those who normally use cars aren’t traveling at all – and combining that with the above it seems that business is still well down, and that those people who are going to work in town are only doing that, they’re not going out for lunch or hanging around afterwards.