On Substantiality and Scotch Eggs

Gove, a hearty trencherman he
Would never accept a scotch egg for his tea
“Two’s a starter!” he would exclaim
When Good Morning Britain called him to explain

But Eustice, a man of lesser appetite
When challenged by Ferrari said he might
Be tempted to see the tier two appeal
Of a single scotch egg as a substantial meal

And so it came to be in a later edition
The Chancellor of the Dutchy of Lancaster’s position
U-turned, like the worst of the government’s fools
He did not, but said that the pubs knew the rules

Gentle folk of England, such is the fate
Of your taverns and inns, by glass and by plate
Decided by men who can’t even agree
On a simple scotch egg for lunch, dinner or tea

Christmas Bubble Trouble


Jason and Joanna got Christmas bubble trouble
She wants to see her mum but then her sister’s bubble doubles
And her brother and his girlfriend make another bubble couple
She’s trying to understand the rules

Jason and Joanna got Christmas bubble trouble
He wants to see his dad but it’s gonna be a struggle
‘Cos her side’s already in a Christmas bubble muddle
He’s trying to understand the rules

(Which go like)

You can see her sister if you go round to her mother’s
But that’s already three so now you can’t see her brother
That would need a separate bubble but you can’t have another
What happens if we meet outside?

Jason and Joanna got Christmas bubble trouble
His mum and dad ain’t speaking so that’s something else to juggle
There’s too many pieces in their family Christmas puzzle
They’re trying to understand the rules

Jason and Joanna got Christmas bubble trouble
The tree ain’t even up before negotiations crumble
‘Cos “Are we splitting up for Christmas?” ain’t exactly subtle
When you’re trying to understand the rules

(Which go like)

Three bubbles can behave like they live in the same house
And pass the roast potatoes while passing on the sprouts
But unless they’re only children then there’s someone missing out
What happens if we eat outside?

Three bubbles can behave like they live in the same house
And pass the roast potatoes while passing on the sprouts
But unless they’re only children then there’s someone missing out
What happens if we eat outside?

Jason and Joanna got Christmas bubble trouble
The tree ain’t even up before negotiations crumble
‘Cos “Are we splitting up for Christmas?” ain’t exactly subtle
When you’re trying to understand the rules

They’re just trying to understand the rules

Cummings, Cain and Princess Nut-Nut

Get out, he said, and never come back
Take your box out of the front door
No sneakin’ out the back
You might’ve got Brexit done
But now you’re getting’ the tin tack
There’s the road to Barnard Castle
I suggest you hit it, Jack

Now Spaffer’s back in self-isolation
With Carrie and Baby Wilf
She doesn’t need to text him ten times a day
Now she’s got him all to herself
He’s phoning in the bluff and bluster
From a comfy sofa in number 10
Arms-length prime ministering, no surprise
We’ve been there once, now we’re doing it again

Get out of here and never come back
Is what I hear he said to Lee Cain
But apparently money’s already changin’ hands
That it won’t be long ‘til he’s back again
Too close to Cummings, too close to home
Don’t say “Princess Nut-Nut” when you’re not alone
‘Cos it might not be such a laugh
When the boss de-blokes the backroom staff

Now Spaffer’s back in self-isolation
With Carrie and Baby Wilf
She doesn’t need to text him ten times a day
Now she’s got him all to herself
He’s phoning in the bluff and bluster
From a comfy sofa in number 10
Arms-length prime ministering, no surprise
They’ll just have to wheel Matt Hancock out again

From World-Beating to Scraping the Play-Offs

Last night’s TV: Coach JVT
Discussing the psychology
Of match-deciding penalties

Score your first, said Coach Van Tam
And know that you can beat your man
The match ain’t won but you know you can

Last night’s TV: JVT brings news to cheer you up
Avoiding carefully the thing that’s never added up:
Why play-off final winners get to lift a cup

Tear Down the Fence

Beth’s reading meterology
She’s a first-year undergrad
The first bit of independent living that she’s had
Embarking on a future that includes a cap and gown
Yesterday she found herself locked in the compound
Now the atmosphere in halls is getting pretty tense
And Beth is tearing down the fence

Natasha’s reading history
First time away from home
She never expected to feel quite so alone
Locked down in a flat with students she just met
An education that she’s beginning to regret
The message the past teaches her is self-defence
So, Natasha’s tearing down the fence

Sam’s reading economics
At nine grand a year
Looking forward to a freshers’ week swimming in beer
The virus isn’t news, so he’s not too dismayed
But he never expected to wake up in a stockade
His education’s coming at considerable expense
So, Sam is tearing down the fence

The University of Life
The School of Hard Knocks
Call it what you like, it’s what these kids have got
Locked up and logged in, guards keeping them inside
Learning lessons in life that money just can’t buy
Learning who’s for them and who is against
Learning to tear down the fence

This Ship is Lost at Sea

This ship is lost at sea
And Spaffer’s wearing the captain’s hat
He needed help with the charts
But he was never interested in all of that

He simply expected to point
And somehow the ship would just go that way
He always figured the details
Could wait for another day

Now this ship is lost at sea
And the crew are hungry and tired
Because it turned out to be the hat, not the ship
That Spaffer truly desired

(Whatever Happened To) Jason and Joanna

Whatever happened to Jason and Joanna?
Did they manage to keep it together?
Did Jason become too obsessed in the end?
Did Joanna need someone else to be her friend?

Whatever happened to Jason and Joanna?
Did they manage to isolate successfully?
Did they ever get out to the pub for their tea?
Or did they just end up in tier three?

Joanna’s kids don’t need a free school meal
But she’s all on board with Marcus Rashford’s appeal
She knows some other mums don’t have it quite so good
If she could find a way to feed their kids she probably would

But she knows what Jason would say
She knows what Jason would say

He’d say it’s all well and good but it’s just charity
And that’s not what a nation’s kids all need
He’d say compassionate leadership isn’t a sin
We just need the government to do the right thing
He’d say it’s the best interests of all the nation’s health
To have a fundamental redistribution of wealth

That’s what Jason would say
That’s what Jason would say

Whatever happened to Jason and Joanna?
Did Jason get too smug about a second wave?
The one that he said would be here any day
But it’s still no fun living that way

Whatever happened to Jason and Joanna?
Did they manage to keep it together?
Did Jason become too obsessed in the end?
Did Joanna need someone else to be her friend?

The Children of the First XV

A teenage state school rugby player
Could marvel at the examples
Among the fee-paying opposition
Bigger and better in every position
And every respect
From wrist to thigh and arm to head
Glossier, brighter, whiter
Quite obviously better bred
Better fed, on better bread

These giants who roamed the land
From families who owned the land
(And freely used the word ‘alas’
When deigning to see their lads
At half term)
Were clearly of a better stock
From full back to loosehead prop and back
Chock full of born-to-lead-ness
That our team somehow lacked

As we left the playing fields of England behind
To turn our noses to the daily grind
They rose to take their rightful place
In the grand offices of state
To bray, debate, deliberate
And make the regulations and the laws
That daily will affect us all

Marcus plays a very different game
Co-opted early to the Order of the British Empire
An uncomfortable title
But recognition all the same
He seeks to shame
Those with the power to make a change
In this time of national crisis
To extend a free school meal a day
Into the Christmas holiday
Though tempered is the hope that he’ll succeed
For the children of the first fifteen
It’s a meal they’ll never need

Will it End in Tiers?

The move from local lockdowns in parts of the north of the country and the Midlands came fast, the move from tier 1 to tier 2 in London, York and other areas came even faster, as if the Government had miscategorised certain areas in the first place which of course they had. The people, needing clear, simple, effective guidance in the face of rising case numbers and hospital admissions didn’t get it. The rules, no longer guidance and now enforceable by law, were complex and it was difficult to understand how they would work. The balance of protecting the nation’s health against protecting the economy weighed heavily in favour of the latter. Confidence and compliance were low.

As families and communities considered the impact of the new rules on their lives and how they might bend or break them, open rebellion in the Westminster-governed political sphere was seen for the first time, echoing the previous divergence of the devolved administrations. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, declared that he would resist a move from tier 2 to tier 3 unless the Chancellor found some money to support those affected. You can’t instruct people to stay at home, he argued, if to do so deprives them of an income. Correct, of course, but falling on deaf ears, or tin ears as Kier Starmer like to refer to them as during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Sir Kier, leader of the workers’ party and knight of the realm, was not in favour of the tiered approach and argued instead for a short total shutdown, the “circuit breaker” approach, which would at least hurt the economy as much as it would the people. It was an argument that had previously been put forward by the Government’s own scientific advisors, the SAGE group, who were also ignored.

In Liverpool, the first area to enter tier 3, we discovered that there were two mayors, a Conservative mayor for the Liverpool city region with whom the Government maintained a dialogue and a Labour mayor for the city of Liverpool with whom they did not.

Britain was a nation fractured and exhausted. The arts had been written off as unviable, the hospitality industry dealt yet another blow by the tier 2 restrictions which didn’t shut them down but discouraged customers from going out and thus killed their trade without compensation, and football failed to emerge from behind closed doors.

The twin saviours of mass testing and comprehensive contact tracing still seemed a distant dream. Both were in the purview of Tory darling, corporate and political failure and baroness, Dido Harding.

Earlier in the crisis, Prime Minister Johnson and his sidekick, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, were at pains to demonstrate how they’d “ramped up” the testing regime, setting their own targets and celebrating when they achieved them but under Harding’s regime the swabs were all tested at centralised, privatised “lighthouse” laboratories, standing down the previous NHS and university collaborative effort and when laboratory capacity looked close to being exceeded the system started to restrict access to tests, sending symptomatic people hundreds of miles to testing centres and cancelling walk-in appointments. The Government issued a stern message that you should only apply for a test if you really needed one.

Hapless Harding, abetted by an equally hapless Hancock, took a cue from their boss and spaffed £12 billion on a test and trace system that didn’t work, including an app that failed and a centralised contact tracing system that couldn’t find any work for full-time private sector contact tracers. Although comparisons with spending in the Republic of Ireland were misleading, the rumours that some consultants earned in the region of £7000 per day proved true.

Populist Prime Minister Johnson had got it wrong at every turn, from herd immunity to world beating test and trace. Even the appointment of a vaccine tsar and the promise of a jab by September had come to little, but at least the news from China was more encouraging.

Hands, Face, Pasty

Six tier one folks can still meet inside
It’s the tier where the science and the politics collide
Where the rule of six guide stands ready for the slide
Over to the hundred in one hundred thousand side

So, we’re standing on the precipice of tier two
Sadiq says that it’s coming very soon
But I’ve got people to see and things to do
While COVID’s turning the screw

Meanwhile there’s a new slogan in tier three
Where you can’t have a pint except with your tea
It’s like Tim Wetherspoon’s writing policy:
Hands. Face. Pasty (and chips).