The roads are empty and the streets are bare. Except people aren’t sitting in opening presents beside the tree. They are staying home and opening packets of Andrex.
At Christmas, the parks are full of joggers, walkers and kids driving toy cars that their fathers have rigged up to a Stormzy smart speaker. Or, at least, they do in the park near to us. Now, you can circle the park for an hour, getting precisely the sort of exercise prescribed by the nation’s new dad, Professor Chris Whitty, and you’re unlikely to see lycra or Ron Hill jogging bottoms at all.
Professor Whitty is, of course, rapidly writing his way into the history books. In years to come, social historians will affix a blue plaque to the house in which he lives and future generations will marvel at the way he tried to safeguard the lives of millions. Man, it’s good to have The Prof guiding us through this. At least there’s one voice of reason who is not propagating fear.
The roads, meanwhile, are desolate, which has led to an outpouring of awful driving. Elderly men in cardigans and unshaven van drivers with cups of takeaway coffee perched on their dashboard hog the middle lane of motorways. It’s as though the inside lane has Covid-19 and they’re all practising social distances – from the wheel of their AstraVan. Rolling convoys of 71mph drivers sit frustrated on the outside lane, wondering whether traffic coppers will start to nick people for demonstrating poor lane discipline, rather than playing the usual cops and robbers game of screeching after the really fast Audi A5.
There has never been a better time to be claustrophobic, or, for that matter, agrophobic. No longer do people have reason to fear crowds – there are none – nor confined spaces – just step outside, you have the place to yourself.
The new certainties in our life are no longer 9-to-5 or collecting the kids from school. Such routines have been replaced by BoJo’s spaffing press conferences; though Rishi ‘King’ Sunak has rapidly propelled himself to the status of nation’s favourite politician. While BoJo offers side-of-a-bus sloganeering – well, it worked for Brexit, let’s roll the dice again and tell everyone it’s all gonna be fine in 12 weeks – Sunak offers facts and calmness, detail and clarity.
It’s on all of us, Sunak says. And, for once, a politician has got it right.