Last night marked two weeks since we Brits finished up our pints and left our local pubs. Boris Johnson told us to go home to protect the NHS and save lives so we did. I marked this fortnight anniversary by sitting in my lounge drinking bitter shandy and watching the 5pm press conference from Downing Street. Matt Hancock was in charge of proceedings. I find it hard to take him seriously after Guardian columnist Marina Hyde referred to him as Hatt Mancock. Last night he looked like a frightened schooboy attempting to stand up to his bullies in the locker room. Matt ended his speech by pledging to “stretch every sinew” in his fight against COVID-19. I believe this is the second time he’s used this phrase during Downing Street press conferences. I hope he doesn’t give himself a hernia stretching his sinews for Britain or he’ll end up in perpetual Sick Bay with Boris.
I have a huge appetite for rolling news. I’d rather iron my clothes in front of BBC News 24 than binge on Scandinavian drama. I don’t read as many newspapers as I used to. Back in the mid-noughties I’d buy The Guardian every day to read as I commuted between Cambridge and London. Things are different now. I scroll through news updates on my phone during work lunch breaks but I also subscribe to The Guardian. I take a coupon to my local newsagents every Saturday and the Weekend Guardian sees me through Saturday, Sunday and the early part of the following week.
Around this time last year another Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland suggested rationing news intake. He offered this advice to Brexit-weary readers. I took his advice and rationed myself to the 8am news bulletin on Radio 4’s Today programme, a bit of lunchtime scrolling on my phone and either BBC News at 6pm or 10pm or the Channel 4 News at 7pm.
I’m doing the same with Coronavirus. At first I was glued to TV, radio and both tablet and phone, ingesting every update. Now I’m rationing myself once more. There’s only so much news you can take. I am limiting news intake for the sake of my tiny, whirring brain.
I’ve always adored radio. It’s my favourite media. I have happy memories of dancing round to Ed “Stewpot” Stewart’s weekend radio show with my beloved Tom and Jerry-shaped radio glued to my left ear. Inevitably I find radio in general and the BBC in particular comforting right now. I start the day with Today for the 7am and 8am news bulletins and I’m back home from work to join Evan Davis at the start of the extended PM programme at 4.30pm. I’ll catch up on the day’s events, including the daily Downing Street press conference as I cook an early tea. We’ll have finished eating just in time for the 6pm news on BBC1.
You can’t have a soundtrack without music and in between news bulletins I’ve been listening to BBC Radio 6 Music, Radio 2 and my local station Radio Newcastle. The songs I’ve heard are forming a playlist in my head with Christine and the Queens’ People, I’ve Been Sad my earworm of choice. It seems to fit my mood and whenever I’ve seen men (always men!) behaving like idiots about their beloved piles of money, I find myself singing Christine’s song at my TV screen. The song reminds me how stupid these so-called Titans of Industry are.
And who are the COVIDIOTS, you ask? Well there’s Donald “I feel no empathy” Trump then here in Britain we have Mike Ashley, Sir Richard Branson, Gordon Ramsay, Rick Stein and Brexit poster boy Tim “Wetherspoon” Martin for starters. I can’t be bothered to type their misdemeanours. You can find out if you’re interested.
So thank you Christine and the Queens for helping me at this time. I’ve also enjoyed adding the following to my virtual playlist: OutKast’s Hey Ya!, Get Back by The Beatles, Los Angeles band Flat Worms, KD Lang’s version of The Air That I Breathe, Loose by The Stooges, Shalamar’s Night to Remember, The Crystal Lake by Grandaddy, Lovefool by The Cardigans and Drinking in L.A. by one hit wonders Bran Van 3000. Can it really be 23 years since that song was released? I LOVE IT. Click here to hear it
Thank you to Lisa Shaw, Simon Logan, Lauren Laverne, Tom Ravenscroft, Jo Whiley, Marc Riley and other BBC DJs on local and national stations. I long to sing these songs in a pub beer garden over a pint of bitter shandy and a packet of pickled onion crisps. I’m not sure when that will be but I know it won’t be in a Wetherspoons beer garden.