With spasmodically jerking clenched fists and a steadfast, and studiedly serious, gaze down the camera lens, our Prime Minister, trying on a statesman costume that doesn’t fit, chose the autumn equinox as the cosmically appropriate day to tell us that his Rule of 6 (no groups of more than six are permitted to meet indoors) was likely to last through until the spring. It is just over six months since I posted my first entry to this diary on our delightful youngest granddaughter’s birthday on 18th March. This means that because Anthony and Kate have three children, not two, we are effectively going to miss out on the entirety of Rosie’s fourth year of growth and development, in spite of the fact that she lives little more than a mile away. At least we are all still alive. And at least we can see Sarah and Andreas’ family from Sheffield, because they took the precaution of only having two children.
I’m sure Browning would understand if I alter his first line slightly in present circumstances: ‘Oh to be in Scotland now that winter’s here!’ In spite of opting for much tighter restrictions in the face of the exponential increase in coronavirus infection numbers, Nicola Sturgeon appears to understand that adding a three year-old onto the Rule of 6 mix is unlikely to increase the risk significantly, provided one is observing social distancing rigorously. It is entirely unsurprising that Sturgeon’s approval rating among the people of Scotland is vastly higher than Boris’s is among the electorate here. Meanwhile, apart from gloomy prognostications and dire warnings about what might happen if the virus got out of control, and threatening us all with the army and the possibility of £10,000 fines, the only practical outcome of Boris’s speech was to introduce a regulation requiring bars and restaurants to shut at 10.00pm. It would appear that he has belatedly discovered that the virus only gets out of bed at 10.01 pm.
I have just had to draft an email to the 1600 or so of our U3A members who have email addresses to alert them to the fact that, unannounced by either Boris or the media, the Rule of 6 exemption whereby we could continue to run our interest groups with more than six members – not ‘educational’, not ‘business’, not (fairly obviously) ‘religious’, but (somewhat oddly) ‘charitable activities’ – has now been rescinded. So all the work that has gone into preparing for groups of more than six to resume their activities in the rooms we lease in the Friends Meeting House has been in vain – at least where the next six months are concerned. I thought it appropriate in the circumstances to quote two African proverbs in my email. One from Ethiopia: ‘Don’t blame God for creating the tiger, instead thank him for not giving it wings’ (not to mention for encouraging tigers not to live in Ethiopia). The other from the Congo: ‘No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come.’