Last day of spring was more like Lyme in August

Lyme’s main beach yesterday where an attempt was made by many to social distance (photo by Richard Austin)
One of the overflowing bins which greeted Dorset Council beach cleaning staff this morning

Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 74 (Monday, June 1 2020)

WITH this Mediterranean spell of weather continuing, yesterday – the last day of spring – saw the main beach at Lyme Regis reminiscent of a peak period day with one exception – none of the bars and cafés were open. That’s not to say there was no alcohol about.

Judging by the amount of rubbish strewn across this seafront early this morning, there was a great deal of booze about.

Dorset Council’s beach cleaning workforce couldn’t believe it when they arrived shorty after 7am. “Don’t worry. We’ll soon have this cleared up,” they said, as I walked by muttering “I wouldn’t want your job this morning.”

The beach was undoubtedly busy (see photo by Richard Austin above) but not as bad as in some resorts. Despite the numbers, there was some evidence of social distancing being observed, demonstrated from the angle this photo was taken.

They closed the beach at Durdle Door after the tombstoning accidents the previous day which necessitated two helicopters landing on the beach with all the sun-worshippers having to crowd into the middle, breaking all social distancing rules. But yesterday they still turned up yesterday despite the car parks being closed.

Did the beachgoers think “sod it, the sun’s out and we’ve had enough of staying indoors”, or did they think “if it’s good enough for Dominic Cummings, it’s good enough for me”?  Certainly many of the latter, I would imagine.

The most disturbing issue in Lyme yesterday was not the number of families on the beach but the number of groups of youngsters who came into the town overladen with alcohol.

Lyme’s firemen had been out all night and on their way home when they were summoned to the Ware Cliff end of the beach where two groups of youngsters had barbecues on the go. I understand the younger of the two groups dispersed politely but the other gathering, most of who were out of their heads, and not just on booze, were not so co-operative.

Because I’m in the high risk category, I don’t go anywhere near the seafront when it’s crowded but one of the Cobb officials told me this morning it was a pretty stressful day all round and that a foreign group came to town causing a good deal of unrest.

I was also told on good authority that the town council’s enforcement officer dished out a £100 fine to a dog owner allowing her pet to roam the beach early on before the crowds arrived. She refused to give her details and he had to zap the dog’s chip. The women admitted she came from Leicestershire, was staying in Charmouth but brought her dog to Lyme to run around the beach!

The disturbing factor for someone like me seeing so many people out and about is that the ‘R’ factor in the South West is 0.9, the highest in the country despite the fact we have the lowest number of deaths of all the regions. Apparently, this was caused by a spike of 13 deaths in Weston-super-Mare.

If that ‘R’ rating goes over one, more drastic lockdown action could be introduced, including the closure of beaches. That could be a problem in Lyme as no one is really sure who owns the beach. Dorset Council, the town council and the Crown Estate all claim part ownership.

I’m not sure what more the town council can do to encourage people to maintain social distancing. They have banners and notices all along the seafront encouraging them to do so. Many think the car parks nearest to the beach should not have been opened so early but when Dorset Council decided to do so they had no alternative but to follow.

Many think that the Prime Minister was not overly concerned about his chief advisor’s foolish behaviour in flouting the lockdown down rules. But according to one of the best well informed political journalists, the Sunday Times’ Tim Shipman, Boris Johnson was “furious” that Dominic Cummings has acted in such a way but he did not realise the depth of public disquiet about his support of his henchman.

The incident has resulted in Boris’ approval rating plummeting and the polls have the Tories at just 6% ahead of Labour. There is a belief that the PM’s brush with death has robbed him of his combative nature, not functioning on all cylinders.

Looming large on the horizon are the Brexit negotiations which are not going terribly well and which will clearly cause him more anxiety.

It would seem I upset some of you who read this blog by referring to BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis as being “glamorous”. It was foolish and unnecessary to do so, so my apologies. 

I actually admire her journalistic style and believe that her monologue about Cummings and Johnson at the start of one of her recent programmes did not include anything that was not true.

There have been far more examples of impartiality being breached in other BBC programmes, particular a recent Panorama about the PPE debacle.

The second most corny joke doing the rounds after the Cummings rumpus: “Dominic Cummings is a golfing term. It’s a long drive which goes out of bounds and there’s no penalty!” Titter-ye-not.

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