VAX 2 THE MAX : Vaccination Rollout Going… Well?!


When I started Between the Lines, I vowed to make it as bipartisan as possible. I have my own political stance (lefty-leaning but not socialist, basically Third Way centrist dad), but I honestly wanted to do my best to be both critical of and complimentary to all parties across the spectrum.

For Labour, this has been relatively straightforward – I have complimented Keir Starmer’s dogged determination to bring the party back from the brink of madness, and I thoroughly criticised Labour’s inability to tackle the fact that it was full of anti-Jewish racists. Yin and yang, potato/potahtoe, easy peasy.

The Tories, on the other hand, have made finding balance rather more difficult.

From endless braying about the EU from absolute nutjobs in the ERG, to Jacob Rees-Mogg calling the victims of Grenfell thick, to Theresa May’s soulless “Brexit means Brexit” gibberish creating a vacuum at the heart of government, to Johnson illegally proroguing parliament, to the trip to Barnard Castle, to Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, to…

I mean, the list goes on. And on. And on.

And I’m not against conservatism. When I was younger, I even voted conservative (admittedly mostly because of background, demographic, family etc). But I am distinctly against uselessness, profoundly against snobbery, and deeply, deeply against corruption. Unfortunately, over the last few years, successive Tory governments have been guilty of at least one of these malaises, and usually all of them.

BUT.

FINALLY.

Something has changed. Whether or not they meant it, I’m not entirely sure. But at long, long, looooooooooong last, I have something to write about that is complimentary of the Tories.

The mass rollout of the coronavirus vaccine is going extremely well. Better than the government itself predicted. And credit should absolutely be given where it’s due.

And so, at long last, an article that is complimentary of the Tories.

Sort of.


NADHIM Z, KNOWING YOU, ZAHAAAA… WI.

Sorry to ruin your dreams for the next fortnight.

Anyway, given the absolute chaos of the last twelve months, when the vaccine was announced I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one to think, “That’s great, but it’ll just be yet another thing for Joris Bohnson and Cock Hattman to screw up.”

I don’t feel guilty about it. The government’s overall handling of the coronavirus crisis has been abysmal – waiting too late to instigate lockdowns, allowing foreigners to enter the country without tests for a year, failing to fully clarify rules that affect everyone in the country… It’s been rough.

I do, of course, have huge sympathy. No government wants to be in charge during a once-in-a-generation event like a global pandemic. We’re not the only ones to have suffered, either. European countries have been ravaged like crazy, and the less said about the United States, the better.

But the brazen politicking of the pandemic has been toe-curlingly infuriating. Watching opposition MPs make salient points about schools returning, PPE provisions and other important issues only to be rebuffed by Johnson spouting out some incomprehensible shite about being unpatriotic makes me want to set myself on fire.

But there is no other way around it – the vaccination rollout has been excellent. It was announced at the weekend that 4x as many people are being vaccinated compared to becoming infected, and around 140 vaccines were taking place every minute.

That is an astonishing piece of logistics. Which is ironic, because if Scottish fishermen and the lorry park formerly known as Kent are anything to go by, this government seems to have the logistical nous of a goat trying to organise its tax return. Brexit was always going to have “teething problems,” as they’ve been referred, but potentially hundreds of independent businesses closing down is probably better-described as a gum disease.

We shall see.

But anyway, credit must go to Nadhim Zahawi, the former Education Minister who was put in charge of the vaccination rollout. He was probably appointed to be a scapegoat “in case” it all went wrong, but also possibly because if Hatt Mancock has anything else to worry about he will literally melt. I have to say that I never thought much of Zahawi, but he is clearly doing a relatively good job.

Because he’s letting NHS Trusts handle most of it. Which they could also have done from the start of the pandemic, had Johnson’s dick-swinging contest not got in the way.

SORRY. Sorry. Positive. We’re being positive in this article.

It feels weird.

Either way, we now have a light at the end of the tunnel. So what next?


HOLD… HOLD…

I know. I am desperate for things to go back to “normal.”

I want to see my girlfriend. I want to go back to the pub. I want to go for a walk and not be constantly worrying about inhaling other peoples’ horrible, disease-ridden breath. I want to go to gigs and festivals. I want to go into the city. I even want to go clubbing, and I hate clubbing.

But we’re not there yet. The infection and death rates are absolutely catastrophic after Christmas, with yesterday’s tally of over 1,600 the highest since the start of the pandemic.

But we are so close. This week, over 70s will start being asked to receive the vaccine. Roughly one in ten of those aged 75+ who catch coronavirus will die, whereas almost no-one under the age of 50 will. Yes, there are exceptions – long covid is horrific, and those with underlying health conditions are at risk – but once the elderly are vaccinated, the death rates will start to plummet.

That alone is still not quite enough, however. If the virus spreads through younger people at a high rate, then it could mutate again. If this happens, it could mean that the vaccines we have produced so far are rendered less effective, and we go back to not-quite square one, but square two or three.

So even when death rates plummet, even when no-one seems to be dying from COVID-19 anymore, we will still need to be wary. Masks will continue to be a part of our lives, as will social distancing.

But the first doors will start to open. High streets will start to have people in them again.

We might even be able to sit in a pub garden, if we can somehow manage to book a table.

We’re still in it for a good while yet. But this summer is going to be an absolute banger, mark my words. And, better yet, if the aftermath of the Spanish flu of 1918 is anything to go by, we’re going to have one hell of a decade.

No more quarantinis. All of the margaritas.

FREE SCHOOL STEALS : Inadequate Food Packages and Tory Cronyism


I’m just as shocked as you are. Turns out that this government’s generosity does have a limit after all!

But this does, of course, come as something of a major surprise, given how “in touch with the common man” our government is. I mean, just take a look at their London Mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, finding an innovative, practical and compassionate solution to the homelessness problem based on his own experience:

Of course! Why didn’t anyone else think of that?! Now I can rest easy, knowing that I shouldn’t bother donating to charities that provide safe accommodation, medical and psychological care and paid work for the homeless. I’ll just bung ’em 20p, and after 250,000 people have done the same thing they can buy themselves a luxury loft conversion in Hackney Wick.

For Christ’s sake.

Now look, it’s worth noting at this point that the government is not directly responsible for the paltry food packages that have been sent out. This responsibility lies at the feet of the company responsible for sourcing and distributing the food, Chartwells. But we’ll dive into why this government, not so much a cabinet of all the talents so much as an IKEA cabinet with far too many screws missing, still deserves the blame for yet another fiasco.

And yes, it’s our old friend cronyism once again.


FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD PARCELS

It’s a pretty sad indictment of where we are as a country that any of our citizens rely on food banks and food parcels to survive, but that’s where we are.

And by the way, if you’re one of those people who says “Oh, well if we hand them food vouchers, then those deadbeat parents will probably spend it all on the marry-jü-ahnah and crack cocaine,” then you can get in the sea. I’m not even going to deny that yes, this probably has happened in some cases and will continue to happen, and it’s desperately sad for those children who are mistreated this way.

But if you are really one of those people who believes that one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel then I pray that you find some sort of joy in your miserable little life.

Because even this bunch of particularly free-market Tories concede that ensuring children aren’t sodding malnourished is a human right. Which is why the free school meals system existed in the first place – during term time, kids that couldn’t bring in food from home were given access to food provided by the state. And if you’re asking, “What kind of terrible parents can’t even afford to feed their kids?”, I would just like to remind you of something.

The average salary in the UK is £35,000. The average. This means that there is a significant number of people earning far, far less than this, especially as salaries of over £200,000 distort the average to be even higher. When you take into consideration that living in major cities is extremely expensive, none of us are taught about proper nutrition (unless you have the luxury of having the time and money to read about and buy healthy produce), and saving money is almost impossible when you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s no wonder that so many kids have to be fed by the state.

So maybe don’t blame the parents from your ivory towers. The fact that you’re able to choose what you have for dinner is a luxury that millions of people in this country, the 5th richest in the world, don’t have.

Where were we? Sorry, today’s post is quite a rambling one. I get very, very angry about this. Can you tell?

How I spend my days off.

Ah yes, free school meals. You’ll probably remember the furore last year when the government said it wouldn’t extend the programme outside of term time, despite, y’know, the pandemic causing untold economic misery on those worst off.

Enter Manchester United and England winger-cum-striker, Marcus Rashford.

I will admit that I am now such a cynical, miserable bastard myself that when I heard about the campaign, I immediately thought, “PR stunt.” But no matter how savvy the team around him, it’s clear that this is Rashford’s personal mission. His MBE is well-deserved, although there is more than a hint of irony in the fact that the Queen gave him an award for combatting her own government’s ineptitude/callousness.

I wonder what Queenie makes of Boris Johnson. She’s probably used to dealing with bounding, furry cretins having had the corgis for so long. Feed him a biscuit and he’ll usually stop humping.

So anyway, Marcus Rashford campaigned that the free school meals delivered in term time be extended to the holidays, too, and won. Hurrah, children won’t go hungry.

Now, supposedly 75% of schools use a voucher system, where parents are given £30 to go and spend in a supermarket, choosing things themselves, and catering to their childrens’ specific needs. But 25% are sent food parcels, courtesy of Chartwells, a private company that the government have outsourced to deliver them.

Let’s have a look at a £30 supermarket shop vs what Chartwells have delivered:

Beans, cheese, carrots, potatos, Soreen, bread, apples, one tomato, and three Frubes. That, my friends, is what I call a snack.

And it’s meant to last for DAYS.

As Green Party MP for Brighton Caroline Lucas has stated here, Chartwells has apologised and is now investigating. Boris Johnson has called the parcels a disgrace, and the government’s official recommendation has now switched in favour of food vouchers.


MATES’ RATES

Chartwells have said that the issue was with rapid scalability, and there is obviously truth in that. While they are now the UK’s largest distributor of school meals, they have to hugely increase their output in a short amount of time.

But then that begs the question, why didn’t they say that they might struggle? Why were they only able to put £5.22’s worth of food into the package when their budget was £30? Why weren’t more firms outsourced to, ensuring above all else that children’s nutrition was the top priority?

Well, I have a reason. Ten thousand, actually. Paul Walsh, outgoing chairman of Compass Group, which owns Chartwell, is a Tory party donor, having given £10,000 to them.

Good Lord. Surely I can’t be saying that this government hands out contracts, paid for by taxpayers’ money, to friends and donors without even allowing competitors to get a look in? Surely that would be an egregious way to use the money that we pay the government to, oh, I don’t know, reinvest in the country and look after our most vulnerable citizens?

Sigh.

Look, according to a “local source” that used to work for a government minister in the 1970s, this happens all the time. And I get that you have trusted suppliers, businesses you have a good rapport with, and so on.

But handing out billions of pounds of our money to Tory donors, appointing peerages to allies and sycophants, and bypassing the Civil Service in favour of spending yet more hundreds of millions of pounds on private management consultants is almost criminal. It’s certainly desperately immoral.

The Tories are supposed to be champions of the free market, allowing competition and innovation to drive rapid growth. How is that supposed to happen when they’re the ones doling out lucrative contracts to people purely by virtue of the fact that they’ve shot grouse together?

And the people who suffer are the consumers. Look at those food parcels. £5.22’s worth of food instead of £30 – a considerable amount of the missing £24.78 presumably going straight into Chartwells’ coffers. Look at the frontline NHS staff forced to wear binbags because their PPE, made by companies that previously made plastic cups, isn’t up to code. This cronyism not only undermines trust in the government, but means that the quality of goods suffers, too. And it’s always those who need the most help who end up getting shafted.

It’s against almost any political, economic and moral code that I can think of.

And one final thought, just a reminder that Boris feels poor.

These people won an 80-seat majority.

I’m moving to the Cayman Islands. At least they’re open about stealing taxes.

brass bell

A-Starm Bells Are Ringing


The gloves are off.

Sir Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Labour Party, has come across as measured, competent and dull over the course of the pandemic, according to opinion polls.

For those who despair at the Johnson government’s handling of the crisis, this might not be such a bad thing. Better a boring safe pair of hands than an exciting game of keepy-uppy with a glass ball full of nitroglycerin. But Starmer has played his cards close to his chest, scrutinising government policy without giving any suggestions of his own.

Today, that changed – Starmer gave a press conference distancing himself from the government’s new “three-tier” system and instead called for a two-week national lockdown as a “circuit breaker.”

So, one on side we have what sounds temptingly like a wedding cake and on the other we have what sounds like something you put in your car after the windscreen wipers get stuck on full blast.

What is happening? What does it all mean? Why is it important?

Let’s try to break it down.

NB: I would like to serve immediate (and legally-binding, hopefully) notice that I am not an expert on coronavirus. I’m not even an expert in the Inglesh language. This article is meant to be informative, but will not give the whole story. For full details on regulations, what you should do if you test positive, and other information, I urge you to visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ or https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.


TIERS FOR FEARS

Yesterday, the government announced its three-tier system of restrictions in England to try and hamper the spread of the coronavirus. These are:

Medium alert: It’s quiet…

High alert: Too quiet…

Very high alert: OH GOD IT’S HERE OPEN FIRE *comms go dark*

As per every monster film from the 90s. They are, in reality, relatively simple.

Tier One, or medium-risk, is where most of us are now. This means current restrictions of 10pm curfew, rule of six, hands-face-space-race-brace, etc. etc. Tier Two means no indoor social meetings outside of your support bubble at all (in pubs, homes or anywhere else), and Tier Three means even stricter rules on where you can meet, if at all (specific measures are decided by local authorities).

Sounds rough, doesn’t it? Well, not rough enough, according to Jean Claude Van Tam, a leading member of the SAGE committee and epidemiologist. He explicitly said that the measures introduced by Johnson, himself looking depleted and sombre yesterday, would have little effect in stopping the coronavirus’ spread. Indeed, track and trace was only making a marginal difference, too, according to research papers released by SAGE.

So why is the government only dipping its toes into the murky lockdown waters? Fundamentally, the answer is: the economy. Another full lockdown could be catastrophic for small businesses and many others in the UK who are barely clinging on to solvency, or could be extremely expensive for a government that has spent unimagineable sums of money this year to prop up our ravaged economy.

…Despite just three years ago, the former leader famously saying, “There is no magic money tree.” That aged well, Theresa.

Look, it’s an almost impossible position for any government, let alone a Tory one. Do we cripple the economy, potentially putting tens of thousands of people out of work and decreasing their quality of life, potentially leading to long-term detrimental health effects? Or do we let the virus tear through our society, potentially causing our NHS to be overwhelmed and unable to focus on other, life-saving treatments for cancer and other illnesses?

Well, the government is trying to balance itself on this gossamer tightrope like a drunk panda.

But Starmer took a deep breath, picked a side, and plunged off the rope.


BREAKER BREAKER 1-9

Starmer held a press conference comprising solely of himself, Vicky Young (BBC), Robert Peston (ITV) and Kate McCann (Sky News), making it look like a particularly depressing am-dram production in a friend’s garage. But the soliloquy was more than just a ramble on midlife crises.

Starmer called out Boris Johnson for tacking away from the recommendations of his health advisors and recalled the government’s failure to manage the second wave of coronavirus. Not only that, he gave a clear and unequivocal policy at odds with the government’s, his first since taking charge of the Labour Party: a two or three-week national lockdown.

Starmer, and the wider Labour Party, have now positioned themselves as the party that “follows the science,” the buzzwords that flew out of Johnson and Matt Hancock’s mouths at every turn during the first national lockdown.

Incidentally, I realised the other day that ‘Matt Hancock’ can easily be turned into Cock-Hatt Man. It goes without saying that he shall be referred to as such henceforth.

So, while the government restrictions take shape, Starmer is now, officially, calling for more stringent measures. Starmer even addressed Johnson directly, saying that should he be worried about Tory rebellions blocking stricter measures, the Labour Party will give him the votes instead.

That one must have particularly stung. I imagine some muffled Latin expletives were heard by the Bobby outside the door to No. 10.


STARM-ALARM-ER DING DONG TIME

So what does this all mean? Why is it important?

Well, first and foremost, it’s probably going to play out as a very shrewd move by the Labour leader. Unfortunately, and desperately sadly, the statistics are headed invariably towards a large second spike. How large, we don’t know, but still – times are going to get tough again.

Which means that it is almost an inevitability that we will need a full national lockdown again sooner or later. And, when we come to it, many scientific voices will say that it should have come sooner, as they already are:

And Starmer will be the one who called it, way back on October the 13th. And, compared to the chaos in the heart of the Tory party, he will start to look like the UK’s salvation.

Johnson’s nightmare is only just beginning. This evening, he’s seen 42 Tory MPs vote against the controversial 10pm curfew, many of whom are new MPs from the former “Red Wall” seats in the North and Midlands. This is a shot across the bow – 42 rebels tonight could give confidence to others moving forward.

And, in the last few minutes, he has seen a member of the government resign over the effect of local lockdowns in Bolton:

Starmer has drawn a line in the sand, decisively moving away from the “scrutinise but support” strategy he previously followed. He now has a united party, on the key issue of the day, facing down a government that is horrifically divided.

Whatever happens politically, we can only hope that whatever decisions are made next are made quickly and correctly.

It won’t just be Johnson’s political life on the line if they aren’t. It’ll be the real lives of thousands of people, too.

SINKING LEADERSHIP – Systematic Failings at the Heart of Government

I promised that I wouldn’t write about the government’s approach to the coronavirus until it was all over.

But that promise was made under the assumption that this particular group of politicians, fresh from their total electoral victory, would get some kind of handle on the situation. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, because no-one could reasonably expect a government to get it completely right, straight from the beginning.

Unless you’re South Korea or Vietnam. But then again, they also know what their citizens eat for breakfast, so swings and roundabouts.

We have been in lockdown for four weeks. We, the people, are doing our part, and are losing jobs, our sense of normality and even our own sanity to do so. And what have we received in return?

A shortage of Personal Protective Equipment for our frontline staff. An absolutely decimated care system (but they got a badge, pip-pip and hurray!). The fifth-highest death rate per capita in the world. 85,000 fewer daily tests than promised by Matt Hancock, our Health Secretary, with increasingly less chance of hitting that target by the end of April.

And no exit strategy.

I appreciate that losing the Prime Minister to the coronavirus must have been dire. To lose the leader of the country in the middle of the worst pandemic of a generation would throw any government off. But why is Johnson the only world leader so far to get it?

Hubris.

While unlucky, Johnson clearly didn’t take this virus seriously and recklessly exposed himself to it. It goes without saying that I am extremely glad to see him making a speedy recovery, as should we all be. But when he was boasting about shaking hands with hospital workers as late as March, the writing was already on the wall.

I am also not the only one to note that he and his government failed to take the coronavirus seriously until it was far too late. An absolutely eviscerating Sunday Times investigation found that the Tories systematically missed opportunities to prepare for this virus. It reports that Johnson delegated the chairing of COBRA meetings to Hancock or Gove, spent weeks away from the limelight to shield himself from criticism over flooding, and was more interested in achieving his Brexit goals and announcing his engagement than focussing on this new, dangerous virus.

To compound matters, the government has released a long, poorly-written and sanctimonious response to the investigation, which makes it sound more like a stroppy teenager than a functioning government.

To be clear, they have devoted the time and resources of their communications department to say, “Oh shut up, leave me alone, you’re not my Dad,” to investigative journalists, in the middle of the peak of a global pandemic.

But that, of course, is just one example of a far wider malaise at the heart of the government’s communications strategy. The rules about the closure of restaurants and bars were infuriatingly vague. The rules around lockdown were so poorly communicated that some local police forces have gone full George Orwell. Our daily press briefings flicker between self-aggrandising statements of supposed victories and deflecting all criticism and tricky questions.

Because that’s what this government was elected on – a mandate of obfuscatory and misleading information, never acknowledging mistakes, and never, ever saying sorry.

And don’t get me wrong, not all of this situation is this government’s direct fault. They weren’t the ones in charge when pandemic planning resources were diverted to No-Deal Brexit preparations. Boris Johnson didn’t write out the policy of capping nurses’ salaries. This Cabinet weren’t the ones who crippled the care system by creating the policy of austerity.

But I tell you what: they all voted for it.

Every last one of them, while not Prime Minister, bears some responsibility for this perfect storm of an NHS on its knees during an unprecedented global health crisis. As do Labour, of course. The years under the ideological supremacy of Corbyn are barely forgivable. At least a grown-up is opposite the dispatch box now, at long last.

And yet they hide away from responsibility, still. For all of their withering claims that they’re “Following the science,” it is not the scientists who make the decisions. Science of this nature, predictive modelling and educated guess-work, cannot be definitive by nature. Every model to try and find a strategy is intensely variable, hence the “herd immunity” U-turn.

And how do we improve the science? By increasing testing. Report after report after report has emerged of independent labs contacting the government to help create coronavirus tests (and, indeed, PPE), only for them to not be responded to, or told that they’ll be contacted when needed. European initiatives have been avoided. International collaboration has been shunned as far as possible. Only now are we asking for help.

Why?

We all know why. Because this government is a one-trick pony, slavishly devoted to the ideological pursuit of British exceptionalism and individualism in a globalised world. Globalisation has undoubtedly caused a myriad of problems as unbridled corporations monopolise technology and innovation markets, and the working classes are increasingly feeling left behind. But, in an emergency such as this, we are shown firsthand how important it is that we all work together.

This government would rather we be isolated, and all because of a rose-tinted, feckless adoration of the notion of “Rule Britannia.”

We are led by the most feeble bunch of politicians in a generation. You could say that it’s unfortunate that we’ve got them now, rather than in a more stable time. But if you elect someone based on their attitude to immigration rather than their competency at running a country during a crisis, then this is the result.

This coronavirus was always going to kill thousands of people around the world. It was always going to kill thousands of people in the United Kingdom.

But the inability, the inaction and the ineptitude of our government’s response to it has almost certainly led to deaths that could have been avoided, not least those of our frontline NHS staff.

They might be trying their best. But I don’t care: it simply isn’t good enough.

The inevitable inquiry will be savage. But it might, just might, show this bunch of charlatans for what they really are.

Introducing CABIN FEVER – The Coronavirus Diaries

There is a time and a place for political blogs. There will also, one day, be a reckoning for this Johnson government.

An independent review into their decision-making process is inevitable. The utter shambles of their communications, along with the real possibility that wasting time on a “herd immunity”plan might cost thousands of lives, will be fully scrutinised.

And make no mistake, Between the Lines will be there at that moment.

But, right now, we need to pull together. We live in unprecedented times – scoring political points is, frankly, irrelevant. We’re all going to be stuck at home, going a bit crazy, and in need of some distractions.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Cabin Fever, a diary on the coronavirus pandemic. You can find it, and the first post, below.

https://cabinfeverdiaries.wordpress.com/

With Cabin Fever, I’m going to write regular blogs that will not only act as a journal of developments during the pandemic, but hopefully alleviate some of the relentless boredom that comes from being stuck at home. It will contain a lot of my day-to-day thoughts, which will hopefully be funny, alarming, or a combination of both.

You can sign up to follow the blog much like Between the Lines – just follow this link at the top right-hand corner of the page.

I really hope you enjoy it. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me with any suggestions on topics, discussions or ways to improve it.

As ever, stay safe, stay sanitised, and all of my best wishes go to you and your loved ones.

Matt x

DON’T PAN(DEM)IC : Working From Home Tips From An Isolating Veteran

These are unprecedented times. Let’s not beat around the bush – it’s pretty scary.

Not because this is something immediate, tangible and horrifying like a terrorist attack, of course. It’s because we know what’s coming, we know that it can’t be stopped, and we don’t know what the overall damage will be.

And it looks as though a lot of us are going to be stuck inside for a very, very long time.

I am no medical expert, nor I am not an epidemiologist. I am, in fact, a massive hypochondriac, currently self-isolating because of a cough and lethargy that are probably lingering symptoms from a pretty heavy weekend. In short, I can give you no tangible advice on the coronavirus other than what you can find here (and you should read this): https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

What I am, however, is a nigh-on black belt at working from home. For most people, the idea of being cooped up sounds utterly horrendous. If you are one of those people, then you have much to learn, grasshopper.

Allow me to be your sensei.

NB: The magnitude of the coronavirus is not lost on me, and I appreciate that, for some, it’s far too early to be making jokes and finding humour in it. But I do believe that, especially in these bleak times, a bit of levity goes a long wayI hope this article provides that.


TIP ONE: Remember The Bullshit

If you consider this situation to be “being cooped up at home,” just take a minute to remember a few things.

Like your commute, for instance. If you’re a London-dweller like me, that probably means being stuck right up close in a stranger’s business on the tube. Like, I-can-smell-what-you-had-for-breakfast close.

Who-has-a-burrito-for-breakfast close.

And I swear to God if you do a Burrito fart I’m pulling the emergency brake.

Or you’re on a bus, with at least one screaming child. Or, if you’re coming in from the burbs, a train, which was probably cancelled.

If you have the luxury of driving to work, does the idea of sitting in the same traffic, on the same road, day after day, not start to mash your garlic?

Wasn’t that just bullshit?

Remember your workplace, too. Sure, there were some folks there it’s nice to see, and maybe they put on drinks every now and then. But I swear to GOD, if Karen from accounting puts one more pass-agg note up on that fridge then she’s getting locked in the bloody thing and it’s going in the sea.

Or as damn close enough as to make any difference.

And it’s always either just too warm or just too cold to be comfortable. And you simply cannot get the same joy from a shared, cubicled loo as you can your own.

And there is Never. A. Single. Goddamn. Meeting. Room. Free.

Wasn’t that also bullshit?

And the hours, WOOF. You might have a nightmare commute that makes you anxious about arriving late. Or you might finish all your work and sit there, thumb firmly up your sphincter, waiting for someone else to up sticks so that you’re not the first to leave.

…Lest you have a one-to-one with your line manager who, “Has had it brought to their attention that you have issues with timekeeping.”

Thanks a lot, Karen. You snitch.

It’s all bullshit.

Yes, commuting to a job, whether it be office-based, customer-facing or any other, gives you structure. But we now have technology that means that we don’t have to be in the office for 8-9 hours a day, 5 days a week. It’s mental that we are still working like it’s the 80s, despite the computing power of our iPhones have 100,000 times that of Apollo 11’s mission computer.

“Hey Siri, blast me to the f*cking moon”

So. Bear that in mind when you’re worried about being “cooped up.”

Now, then. Embrace the joy of your new “office” – home.


TIP TWO: Your Workspace

Make your own workstation. Make it welcoming, comfortable, and as far removed from any distractions as possible. Plus, this workstation is yours, not space bestowed on you by some overlord company. No-one is looking over your shoulder.

Revel in this. Vape at your desk if you’re so inclined. Eat smelly fish at it. Check the Daily Mail gossip page to your heart’s desire. Keep Football Manager open (someone’s got to do football, even if it’s virtual).

Just… do remember to actually do your work.

Missed thirteen calls for this, worth it

Now, having a workstation might seem tricky. Shared flats or houses (usually in cities but family homes elsewhere, too) might not have enough room for multiple desks, let alone a dedicated office room.

But, whether it’s at a desk, at the kitchen table, or even on your bed (avoid if possible), create a space that you’re going to work at and stick to that space. Having the idea in your head that “oh, that’s where I do work,” helps to compartmentalise it from the place where you sleep, eat, or relax.

If you’re in a shared flat with other WFHers, why not create your own “office” in a shared living space? Still get to socialise – check; help each other stay focussed – check; no Karen – double check.

But, whether it’s on your bed or at a desk, always make sure that once the computer goes off, it stays off.

Which brings me nicely onto…


TIP THREE: Routine

Rule one. And this is going to be hard.

DO NOT WEAR PYJAMAS ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.

I know. It’s the first thing we all think of when we think about working from home. Sod getting into suits, heels or company-mandated outfits. I’ll just wear loungewear and sip brandy like Hugh Hefner, but without with the surrounding ladies in bunny suits.

Or these fine fellows.

Well folks, for the first day or two, allow yourself to enjoy it. But, from my experience, staying in pyjamas almost exclusively makes you feel lethargic and, by the end of the day, grimy.

Instead, enjoy the fact that you don’t have to wear office attire, but get up, shower, and put some jeans and a t-shirt on at the very least. It helps you focus for the day, gets you mentally prepared, and makes you feel fresh.

If you like a morning workout, we don’t quite know what the situation is going to end up being with gyms yet (mine is still open, for instance). However, it’s a reasonable assumption that they’re soon going to be closed for a while. So, instead, why not take up something you can do in your own home – yoga or circuits are more than doable.

It’s also really worth noting that current government guidelines are not in any way saying that you have to remain locked away like a Rapunzel / 28 Days Later crossover. Get outside, but keep 2m away from those around you. Going for a run is a great way to get some exercise (and you can pretend you’re dodging zombies while you’re avoiding people).

Do not let yourself go more than 48 hours without having at least a couple of hours outside the house – you will go mad. Take it from me – I’ve done a five-day stint before and it took me two weeks to remember my own name afterwards because my brain had turned into a potato.

Pictured.

Remember your contracted work hours. You’re not in an office where timekeeping is a competition anymore – as above, when the laptop shuts, keep it shut. Take time for your lunch (you’ve got no excuse not to cook), take little breaks, and don’t feel embarrassed to be responsible for your own time.

I promise you, everyone else will be doing exactly the same thing.

Finally, also remember that you will have, on average, around two extra hours to your day where you won’t be commuting. This is the perfect time to do that thing you always wanted to do: pick up an instrument, learn a new language, or start an ant-farm, for example.

Personally, I’m growing a beard. And so far, it looks utterly horrific. I love it though.

All the stuff that we normally do with other people – go to the pub, see a movie – that’s gone for a little while. Why not take this opportunity to incorporate a bit of time for yourself?


TIP FOUR: Sleep

This one can be a bit of a dickhead.

Being out and about all day helps with the separation of home = eat, sleep, relax and work = work. Working from home can have pretty major effects on your sleep pattern.

I think most people aren’t quite as thoroughly useless with self-discipline as I am, but the single most important thing is: go to sleep at a normal hour.

It’s so tempting, having started a Netflix boxset under the duvet, to think, “Ooh, I can get up at 8.45 tomorrow, so if I go to sleep at 1.45 then I still get seven hours.”

Yes, true. But believe me, rolling out of bed, stumbling to your laptop and making sure you’re logged into the intranet on time for your boss to see it is about as pleasant as a dog plop-scented candle.

So calming. So foul.

Keep your sleep patterns healthy and well-regulated, and going out and getting fresh air is a big part of that.


AND FINALLY: Don’t Panic

For many of you, the next few weeks or months will be a massive culture shock.

Not being able to socialise in the same way as we normally do is going to take something of a toll on your wellbeing.

This is fine.

Not being able to visit elderly or frail relatives is going to be hard.

This is fine.

Completely altering the way that you spend your time may well uproot you and make you feel uneasy.

This is all fine.

As someone who’s also suffered from both anxiety and depression, the first step to take when a massive change happens in your life is to understand that it is absolutely, 100% ok to not feel ok.

At the start of this year, we felt quiet unease about this absolute spunk trumpet of a virus, but at least it was mostly on the other side of the world. In just two weeks, we have seen our whole society entirely upended.

None of this is even remotely normal.

What is completely normal is to feel sad, worried, or angry. Do not, ever, judge yourself for not being ok with what’s happening to the world around you. Reach out to others (especially so if you’re living alone), and make sure you talk about how you’re feeling. It sounds like nothing, but it is utterly vital to your own wellbeing.

Whether its spirituality, meditation, or any other means of making yourself feel grounded, make sure you do it, and make sure you take care of yourself.


COVID-19 can absolutely f*ck offid-19. But, at the risk of sounding cheesier than a Wotsit dropped in a vat of camembert, one way or another, we will get through it. I’m going to try to keep writing here and there, but not critical, satirical articles so much. In these times, we need to band together. Whatever you make of Joris Bohnson, I do honestly think he’s handling it relatively well so far.

Which is a bit like a cow doing calculus – you’re not sure how it’s doing it, but you’re pleased for it anyway.

Cow-lculus. Sorry.

Look after yourselves, look after those around you, and I wish you and your loved ones all the best in these strange times.