Wed 23 Sep 2020: still carrying on

This time the government’s changes to the plague restrictions have changed, a teensy tiny bit, but the changes are minimal.

Encouraging office workers to work at home? Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose. The government guidance here has changed, but the effect on peoples’ lives will be minimal as very few people have gone back into offices anyway.

Table service only in restaurants and pubs? Hardly any change for restaurants, a minor change for pubs (some were already doing it). That pubs have to close at 10 is a bit of an imposition.

Mandatory face coverings in taxis is certainly a new restriction, but not a new practice. They’ve been compulsory in taxis in London for ages, and people not masking up in taxis elsewhere are the loony fringe. Compulsory masks for staff in customer facing jobs is a new restriction, but again not an onerous one, and plenty of those people have already been masking up for ages.

Weddings are being limited to only 15 guests instead of 30, but that will affect very few people. Weddings aren’t exactly something people do frequently.

Adult indoor sports being limited to groups of six … errm, what sports would those be? A volleyball team is six people, there’s five a side football, and I can’t think of any other widely played indoor team sports, most indoor sports are played by individuals or pairs.

So really, for most people, the only change is that the pub will close one pint earlier. For the oiks who were already flouting the rules and guidelines the fines they are liable to have gone up. It’s all really a big ball of nothing.

Fri 18 Sep 2020: second theatre

Almost exactly a month after my first theatre trip of the Plague Times last month, which was an outdoor performance, I went to my first indoor performance!

before the show

Theatres have actually been allowed to open for a while, but most have remained closed because after being shut for so long they need time to rehearse – both the actors and the technical crew – and time to adapt their spaces to be plague-safe. For big shows in yer typical Victorian or Edwardian theatre that can take months. One man shows, however, are much cheaper (important with smaller audiences!), much less complex to put on, and the modern Bridge Theatre is a very flexible space. It was designed right from the start to be supremely adaptable. It can be a “normal” modern proscenium theatre, or configured with a thrust stage like for this performance, or for “in the round” performances with seated members of the audience in the galleries and groundlings mixing with the performers. And in that last configuration, segments of the floor can be raised and lowered on demand to form small stages, stairs, all kinds of settings. All of this means that they could easily take out ¾ of the seats to force customers to keep their distance from each other. Corridors and other circulating areas are also built on a modern scale to get people in and out as quickly as possible so there were none of the bottlenecks and crowding that you get in the vomitoria of older buildings.

The show was An Evening With An Immigrant, part of their season of twelve one-man shows, and I’ve got tickets for two more in the season next month. Inua Ellams is a playwright and poet who writes a lot about his childhood in Nigeria and his loooong journey to being finally allowed to live in the UK, beset by bureaucratic incompetence and petty cruelties, some of which is still ongoing. At one point I thought that he would lose at least some of the audience with a political rant, but I should have known better, London’s theatre goers are thoroughly liberal. He may get a rather different reception if he tours the show unchanged to some of the more backward countries of the Union, such as England.

Thu 17 Sep 2020: Carrying on as normal

There’s been much talk recently of reimposed restrictions, but that is not really the case. Expected lifting of restrictions has been postponed, and existing restrictions have remained in place with somewhat beefed-up enforcement powers.

The usual suspects have been whining about “whyyyyyyy” can people go to work in an office but not have all their colleagues come and visit them at home. All across the land – well, across the internet at any rate – went up the cry “but I don’t understaaaaaaand”. The cynical response is that “if there’s a till involved you can do it”, which isn’t quite true (you can do voluntary work in groups, and amateur organised sport, and so on, with no money changing hands) but it does get to the heart of the matter. Those groups are allowed to meet because the harm done by not allowing them to meet has been deemed to outweigh the benefits from prevention. I feel a bit like a stuck record here saying that working, and being a customer for other peoples’ work such as in a pub, is the best way to prevent poverty, and poverty is a far bigger killer than the plague. Likewise, volunteering for any number of good causes, even those unrelated to mitigating the effects of the lurgi, does far more good than harm. Likewise sport, which provides both physical and mental health benefits. All those things are allowed to go ahead with pestilence-mitigations: face masks, fewer customers than normal, being restricted to only 6 drinking buddies (hardly a restriction for the vast majority of drinkers anyway), washing your hands and your cricket ball several times during a game, and so on. All things that those too bloody thick to “understaaaaaaand” will not have in place in their homes.

There’s also an understanding from government that clamping down hard won’t work anyway because the people are fed up and wouldn’t put up with it. The beefed-up enforcement powers are acceptable to most because they don’t affect them, they only affect those who were previously not paying attention to reasonable restrictions anyway.