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To The Bins And Back. Part Six In An Occasional Series About Life In Lockdown In London • Today Would Have Been Wimbledon’s 6th Day

UK’s day of liberation, pubs are open.

By Alix Ramsay

Happy Independence Day, everyone. No, no, not that Independence Day – although for all of you of an American persuasion, Happy July 4th – we mean the UK’s day of liberation. Well, actually, England’s day of freedom because for all that England is part of the United Kingdom, we are not a particularly united bunch. The devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are doing their own thing about lockdown but in England (and the Brockley Bunker is in the south east of same), we are to be released from the strictures of Covid imprisonment as of today. Hurrah. Sort of.

The pubs are open, the bingo halls (not that we have any in Weybridge; Weybridgeonians don’t play bingo) are ready to take our money and the hairdressers have flung open their doors. And heaven knows, I could use a haircut. Even the cat thinks so. He takes one look at Cousin It walking through the front door and runs for his life. No amount of treats, ear tickling or promises of smoked salmon and tuna for tea with convince him that it is me under all that fuzz.

It has been almost four months since we first stockpiled packs of loo rolls and pasta in the misguided belief that they were the miracle cure for Covid-19. We have washed our hands; we have kept our distance and we have dreamed – dreamed of this moment when we would again be free. And yet it has not lived up to expectation.

There should have been a bell and when it rang, it should have been like the last day of school. We should have rushed down the steps and out into the sunshine with the whole of the summer to look forward to. Instead, it was more like the old lag being let out of Wormwood Scrubs: in the thin, grey light of dawn, an unmarked door opens in the imposing Victorian building. A bloke in ill fitting, outmoded clothes steps out carrying a brown paper parcel. He looks around and sees no one so, jangling the change in his pocket, he walks shiftily towards the bus stop and his future. Ah, well; you can’t have everything.

So, what can we do? Well, we can go to non-essential shops (although they have been open for a while already), we can go to funfairs and theme parks and we can go the theatre. We can’t see a live performance once we get there, mind you, because live performances are still not allowed. This defeats the object somewhat. We can go on holiday and we can even come back from holiday without a 14-day quarantine provided we go to one of the “green or amber” countries. That means that the US is still off limits for Brits (it being one of the “red” countries with a high rate of infection) – not that the US would let any of us in in the first place.

As yet, we cannot play cricket but that is coming next weekend. According to Boris Johnson, the cricket ball is a “natural vector of disease” but with another seven days to learn the rules of the game, presumably the disease will have learned the dos and don’ts and how to behave itself during a recreational knock.

It all sounds very jolly but there is a certain lack of spontaneity to our new freedom. For example, I can’t nip out and have a quick haircut (yes, I am obsessed with this topic). I have to book. But those who planned ahead booked weeks ago and some hairdressers are booked solid for the next 12 weeks. By that time, I will look like a floor mop and the cat will have left home.

Barber’s shops are now open in England.

Even barber’s shops are not open to the casual visitor. No chance of a chap popping in on a Saturday morning for a short back and sides and a chat about the football. Oh, no. Bookings have to be made; names and addresses have to be given in case of a localised outbreak and the need for tracking and tracing. Even small talk is a thing of the past (it encourages unnecessary breathing on the clientele). These days, a bloke doesn’t get a trim and “something for the weekend, sir”; he’ll be lucky to get something for three weeks next Thursday and then only while socially distanced and only with a member of his own household.

Still, at least sport is inching its way back into life. Liverpool (another of my obsessions) have won the Premier League and even though we followed our 4-0 league-winning win over Crystal Palace with a grim 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City, we don’t care. We are the champions for the first time in 30 years. Champions behind closed doors, but champions nevertheless.

Today should have been the middle Saturday of Wimbledon but the All England Club’s doors remain locked and the BBC is showing reruns of great matches from the past instead. It’s nice to see Boris and Steffi, Pete and Andre and all the great names from the past but it does not fill the gaping hole in the summer.

It’s the first time Wimbledon has been canceled since World War II. Meanwhile British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has changed the two meter distancing rules from two meters to one. Pubs, galleries and cinemas can reopen their doors from 04 July.

If you are a Brit, tennis is all about Wimbledon: the first six months of the year are officially regarded as the lead up to Wimbledon and the second six months of the year are the wind down from Wimbledon. Yes, there are other grand slams, other events, Davis Cup, Fed Cup – even the occasional Olympics, but they are not the same. It is all about Wimbledon. And it’s not on. A nation doesn’t know what to do with itself.

The Championships have been cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Jamie Murray did a grand job of trying to fill the void by organising (and winning) the Schroders Battle of the Brits. Dan Evans won the singles with Jamie and Neal Skupski taking the doubles title last weekend (all behind closed doors, natch).

But the best news was that Andy Murray appeared to have come through four matches in five days unscathed. He lost to Evans in the semi-finals but only after taking the first set 6-1. There were moments there when he looked the Andy of old and as he headed home, he was pleased with his first competitive outing in seven months.

Andy Murray takes the knee in support of Black Lives Matter at Battle of the Brits tennis tournament.

“My game’s there, I just need more time to practice and prepare and I’ll get there,” he said. “Some of the tennis I’ve played this week I think as very encouraging, I just wasn’t able to do it for a long enough in matches. That’s something that when I was up at the top of the game and competing regularly, my level was the same throughout whereas I’m just struggling to maintain that.”

He will be back in the road next month for the Citi Open in Washington. But August is a long way away. What to do now? Pretty much anything is open to me now that it is Independence Day. I could go for a socially distanced pint at the local pub but I don’t have anyone to go with – all my friends are busy having their hair cut (they have always been better at planning ahead than me). I could go for a walk but it’s raining. I could buy a non-essential product in a non-essential product shop but there is a limit to how many non-essential gadgets, gizmos and widgets a girl can use.

I suppose I could tidy up the kitchen…and you know what that means: rubbish and recycling. So, on this long-awaited Independence Day, to the bins and back it is. Some things never change.