From David Maughan Brown in York: ‘What are you doing here?’

May 24th

Rosie, our youngest granddaughter, whose third birthday coincided with the start of lockdown, seems destined to be a head teacher.   Another locked-down family birthday saw us heading over to their house a mile or so away in York to deliver a birthday card, presents and a couple of dozen freshly picked asparagus spears for Rosie’s mother, Kate.   Abiding strictly by formal lock-down delivery protocols, we deposited the presents on the front doorstep, knocked on the door, and stood well back to convey our birthday wishes.  The front door was opened by nine-year old Matthew who barely had time to say hello before Rosie pushed past him, assumed the leadership role squarely in the doorway, fixed us with an exceedingly hard stare – which Paddington Bear would have envied – and, belying her name, sternly demanded: ‘WHAT are you doing here?’

Feeling duly chastened – as though caught bunking out of lockdown by a particularly strict housemaster – I explained that we had come to deliver presents and say ‘Happy Birthday’ to her mother, who duly appeared at the front door at that moment.  Rosie didn’t say anything but remained visibly unimpressed by what she obviously regarded as an extremely feeble excuse.   When the family came by our allotment last weekend, Rosie had been fully briefed about the virus and the need for social distancing and, maintaining social distancing so effectively that it could well have been interpreted as antisocial distancing, eyed us with deep suspicion throughout her time in the vicinity.   She clearly understands about the disease and, because she feels perfectly well herself, I suspect she assumes that if she needs to keep away from us it must be because we have caught it.

Today’s episode of the Downing Street soap opera sees a chorus of opposition voices raised against Svengali Cummings, Boris’s chief political advisor, who is once again stealing the limelight from his boss.   At a time when everyone in the entire population was being ordered to go home and self-isolate if they experienced any Covid-19 symptoms, Cummings experienced the symptoms, presumably caught from Johnson, and, along with his equally symptomatic wife and his son, jumped into this car and drove the 200 plus miles all the way up to Durham to ‘self-isolate’ near his family.  Cummings was potentially doing for the Durham area what the merchant with his flea-ridden and plague-contaminated merchandise did for Eyam, but Boris’s response to the chorus of demands for Svengali’s resignation, predictably enough, was to open the gate of his kennel-yard and send his senior ministerial poodles out to yap mendaciously in Cummings’ defence.  It is now alleged not only that Cummings went up to Durham, but that he was seen at Barnard’s Castle 30 miles away at Easter, that he then drove down to London and then back to his family, all while the country was supposed be in lockdown and he should have been self-isolating at home.   One of Boris’s teachers once commented that Boris didn’t think rules were for him; that has been obvious all along, but it is now equally obvious that he doesn’t think rules are for his advisors either.

What this country clearly needs is more Rosies.  Had Rosie been in the doorway confronting Cummings when he got to his forbidden destination and demanding to know ‘WHAT are you doing here?’ I suspect even he might just possibly have felt abashed enough to turn round and drive straight back to London.

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