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To the Bins And Back! Part Two Of An Occasional Series About Life In Lockdown In London

By Alix Ramsay

Captain’s log. Lockdown date: week five and counting. The Brockley Bunker is idling at sub-warp speed, stuck in a holding pattern marginally above limbo and well below normal. The housework is up to date, the laundry is finished, the ironing has been done. There is nothing left to do.

This is no way for a grown-up to live. We are wild, we are crazy and we are reckless. Sadly, we also now have a well-ordered knicker drawer (arranged according to colour, age and viability of elastic) and perfectly pressed table napkins. And we don’t even have a dining table. How the carefree are fallen.

We have done our weekly shop – woo-hoo! We went to Waitrose. Oh, the glamour – and now we are at a loose end. We could partake of our government allotted hour of exercise outside but given that the rain is coming down like stair rods, we are not really tempted.

Funny thing that – when it was sunny, the whole of Weybridge took to the streets in defiance of Covid-19: “If BoJo [that would the Prime Minister to anyone not from these shores] says I can have an hour in the sunshine, I am damned well going to take it!” and off they went in inappropriate Lycra, wobbling their way to fitness.

But as soon as the temperature dropped and the clouds started to leak, there was not a soul to be seen outside. The pathways were clear, the roads uncluttered by cyclists. Instead, the howls and the wails from homes across the town could be heard for miles: the kids were being home schooled and it wasn’t going well.

Young Wayne and Chernobyl next door may not have mastered their two-times table but they have perfected the art of screaming while eating their cornflakes at 6am. They are not popular children.

It has been mentioned on this website before that we Brits are not what you might call impulsive, volatile or exuberant. We don’t do emotion much, particularly when compared to some of our European neighbours. But any argumentative non-Brit making his case with much arm waving and histrionics can be cut dead by our national expression of extreme displeasure: the well timed tut, the rolling of the eyes and the sigh. When accompanied by the swift about turn and flounce, it is as good as a declaration of war. Now, though, Covid-19 has given us a new expression of annoyance: passive-aggressive walking.

Where once we would scurry along the road, dodging other pedestrians, their pets and the occasional pillar box, now we must maintain the regulation 2m distance between ourselves and others. And on narrow pavements, that means everyone must walk at the slowest pedestrian’s pace. This is a recipe for disaster.

Picture the scene: Weybridge on any lockdown day. The exhausted woman is returning from the shops. She is pushing a baby buggy; she is laden with huge bags of groceries and she has a toddler in tow. Behind her, she hears the clipped stride of the middle aged, male exerciser. He is dressed to ward off the dreaded virus and sports a hat, dark glasses, face mask and, bizarrely, bicycle clips. Presumably he thinks that by wearing a hat, mask and shades, Covid-19 won’t recognise him. And if it does, the bicycle clips will ensure that it can’t run up his trouser leg (we actually have a local loon who dresses in such a way).

This masked man is on his daily route march but as he approaches the slow-moving family, he breaks stride. He must remain 2m away. He tuts. He advances at breakneck speed and, exactly 2m behind his tormentor, stops. She moves on. He catches up and then stops again. This goes on for several minutes until a car approaches them.

This is the moment that he veers out into the road, causing the driver to slam on the brakes and miss him by inches. He turns in fury to the woman and gives her a look that screams – silently – “not only have you put my life at risk of Covid-19 by your very presence but now you have forced me to fling myself in front of the wheels of an oncoming car!” But not a word is spoken because we Brits don’t do overblown expressions of emotion. But we do silent loathing. We do that very well.

Still, given that it is raining, we won’t be doing any of that. Now what?

The venerable creator of this website (she goes by the name of Big Boss) showed me a flier for a new way to pass the time: a tennis betting simulator. In the absence of any real tennis to bet on, a bunch of brainboxes have decided to offer their archive of matches to betting websites. The names of the tournaments and the players, and the dates and the locations of the matches, are all removed from the point-by-point match data so that tennis fans – or, more likely, hardened gamblers – can lose their money all over again on a match that happened years ago. Blimey, life in lockdown may be tedious but, surely, it can’t be that bad.

As one genetically modified not to waste money (my pockets have been lengthened and my arms shortened), the betting simulator is not for me. I suppose there is always the sock drawer. That could use a tidy up. Wait! There is hope. It is bin night. There is rubbish to be taken out and recycling to be done. Outside. Not in the flat. It is time to leave the home and venture forth. To the bins and back!

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