Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 53 (Monday, May 11 2020)
PRIME Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the nation last evening was met with the usual mixture of admiration and incredulity.
Bo Jo fans thought it was inspirational; the great welter of those whose opinion verges on hatred found it confusing. “Exactly what does staying alert mean?” chorused almost to a man.
And within minutes the twittersphere and Facebook aficionados let rip with their usual vitriol.
Boris’ speech, as usual, was faultless in delivery but perhaps not so in content. His critics pounced on the fact that it would leave many confused about what we can and can’t do, and locally fears were expressed that it would lead to an immediate influx of visitors to Lyme.
The fact is that whatever course the government takes, there will be critics. I’ve said so many times in this diary that they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
I’m a little bit confused myself over the claims on social media that Lyme was “crawling with visitors” yesterday, one posting calling for police to be called in because the town “was full of day-trippers”. A huge exaggeration.
Exactly what time did these visitors arrive? I took my daily walk around mid-morning especially so I could see how busy it was. My colleague Richard Austin did the same mid-afternoon and so did my daughter. None of us saw that many people in the town.
I wouldn’t know whether the few that were about were locals or visitors, and nor does anyone else.
On Facebook recently there has been a lot of “we know who you are” threats. Rubbish. No one knows everyone who lives in Lyme.
I have believed for sometime that Facebook is more a force for evil than for good and last evening there was certainly some credence in that statement with second-home owners, some of whom were not in Lyme and have no intention of coming here whilst this contagion continues, giving examples of how badly they were being treated.
One of them, a regular visitor to Lyme for many years, referred to the “hatred and venom” being thrown at them and claimed threats of throwing a Molotov cocktail through their windows had been made. Really?
Another complained of the ongoing “how long have you lived here c**p” and expressed a hope that, for the sake of Lyme’s economy, the comments were not p***ing other visitors off as much as they were him.
Listen. Let’s be under no misapprehension. From an economic point of view, Lyme is facing a huge challenge as a result of this pandemic.
One frequent contributor to Lyme’s Facebook platforms is Adam Austin, the youngest son of the late Barbara Austin MBE, six times mayor of Lyme Regis. Adam has worked in the hospitality industry all his life and was once the manager of the internationally-famous American Bar in London’s Savoy Hotel.
Adam’s post are usually highly entertaining and very amusing. But yesterday he got serious, dismissing some of the more brutal comments as “an irreverence” and warning that a global recession was “coming down the road”.
This is what he said and I quote verbatim: “The conversation will soon move on to ‘where are the holiday makers?’ Many businesses that we know WILL go bust. There’s going to be some real hardships, the like of which many of the younger people on here (Facebook) have never experienced.
“This is a time for left, right, leaver, remainer, second-home owner, visitor and just about anybody else to come together. The spirit of Thursday nights at 8pm brings out the best in us, we’re going to need that in abundance in the coming months. Can we move the conversation along to a more positive one of support for each other?”
I could not have said it better, Adam.
I appreciate that few of Lyme’s Facebook community will read this diary, but if they do I hope they take note of what Adam has said. He’s right on the button and as I’ve written many times during my 53 days of self isolation, the only way we will get through this is by coming together, and that includes an appreciation of how difficult this is for the government no matter which party you support.
I have also noticed increasing frustration on social media with the current crisis being described as “a war”. It’s not. It’s a pandemic.
Any death is a tragedy whether it’s caused by a virus or sheltering in an outside lavatory as your house in bombed, as happened to my great grandmother in Exeter in the last war.
The comparison between coronavirus and a war inevitably came because Churchill is Boris’ great hero and he has written two brilliant books about the great man. I can’t remember Boris actually saying it was a war but he has referred to the virus as being a “silent enemy”.
Being diagnosed with coronavirus is obviously frightening and not being able to say goodbye to your loved ones as your life ebbs away is a most awful and tragic situation. But for the rest of us who are thankfully COVID-19 free, staying indoors is not akin to a war-like situation. We need to ditch “we are at war” analogy.
Boris will be outlining more details of his lockdown road map later today and publishing a 50-page document so hopefully we know exactly where we stand then.
The news that some hospitality outlets may be able to re-open in July came as a bit of a surprise, as the view among those in that sector in Lyme is that we will go a summer without any pubs, restaurants and cafés being open. Can you imagine that?
I know some of those who run restaurants and pubs are trying to work out how they can operate social distancing within their confined spaces. In recent times some of the outlets in Lyme have been regularly packed to the gunnels. Those days are over for the foreseeable future.
We will never be free from this virus and return to life as we knew it until a vaccine has been found. So on that note, perhaps it’s appropriate to finish with this quote from the Prime Minister: “We are shining the light of science on this invisible killer.”