Bob Moran’s cartoon says it all. A tall scaffolding structure bears the huge message ‘I told you so’. Below, a passer-by remarks to his companion: ‘it’s not big enough’. Most readers will have friends and family that are fitting targets of Bob’s exclamation. We black sheep are now back in the fold, munching in the same meadow as those who had happily watched us sent to a waste ground. Excuse us if we’re in no mood for forgiveness.
In early 2021 two of my closest friends, of about 30 and 40 years’ camaraderie, decided to completely cut me out of their lives. Suddenly (and I guess by mutual arrangement) they stopped replying to my e-mails. My crime, apparently, was to think differently to them on the purported pandemic. Occasionally I send them articles with evidence of the wrongs of lockdown, facemasks and the so-called vaccine (which they both took gladly). I have no idea if they read or even open these contrary offerings.
I wonder, now that covid revisionism is gaining momentum in a society that largely fell for the propaganda of fear and fake science, whether they have changed their minds in any way. I’m more optimistic for one than the other, due to personality profile. Using pseudonyms, Colin will surely have taken the fourth jab, while Gary may have cancelled his Pfizer subscription.
Back in July 2020, we planned a resumption of our ritual pub crawl, which we had enjoyed on a monthly frequency for decades. The lockdown had ended, and after a period of outdoor drinking only, there was room in the inns again. Having already been to a pub, Gary told us what to expect. His workmates booked a table online, to the maximum of six persons. They had all signed in by QR codes, on the government’s Track and Trace system. Table service with card payment was the rule; ale enthusiasts like Gary could not inspect the array of pump clips at the bar. Masks were required whenever rising from the seat, which would only be for leaving or the toilet. Signs warned drinkers against mixing with adjacent tables.
Gary’s conclusion, to my astonishment, was that ‘it felt quite normal’. On my suggestion, we eventually met at a pub near Victoria Station, of which the landlord I knew to be awake (he was wearing a ‘Covid 1984’ t-shirt on our visit). Colin and Gary used the antiseptic hand lotion, checked in by QR code and paid by card from our table, while I entered an alias on a clipboard and paid cash at the bar.
After another long lockdown was imposed in 2021, Gary sent us a live digital countdown showing the number of days and hours till we could drink in a park with friends, till we could drink outside in a pub, and till we could sit inside again. I found this pitiful. Usually so critical of the authorities, he accepted this deprivation of liberty like a child in primary school when the whole class is punished for some miscreant blocking a keyhole with chewing gum. Authoritarianism worked well on him.
There is hope for Gary because he seemed aware that the covid regime was an over-reaction with often nonsensical interventions. Like Toby Young versus James Delingpole, he perceived a cock-up, deriding my conspiracist thinking. But unlike gracious Toby, he decided to sever contact. Perhaps I was subconsciously confronting his cowardice, because for Gary the only reason to adhere to the regulations and take the jab was compliance.
Colin, by contrast, was a lockdown zealot. In our last pub sessions he informed us of his participation in the Astra Zeneca vaccine trial. Colin had previously admonished me for not taking the flu jab despite working in the health field (my response – ‘no, it’s because I work in health research’). Two months before the launch of mass vaccination, Colin had already set his stance: ‘I don’t want to be in a restaurant next to people who haven’t been vaccinated’.
In his lust for order, Colin enjoyed lockdown and the totalitarian disciplining of the great unwashed. This authoritarian trait was apparent before Covid-19. I remember him arriving at my house in an irritable state, which he attributed to his train being delayed by six minutes. A stickler for schedules and flowcharts (he was a project manager before retirement), his penchant for promptness brings to mind the compensation of Mussolini’s fascism that at least the trains ran on time.
For Colin, the covid regime was not the dangerous overturning of time-honoured liberties decried by Lord Sumption, but a reckless disregard for life by Boris Johnson, who did too little too late. Colin pined for the leadership of Keir Starmer to sensibly manage a crisis. Lockdown should have been harder; instead, tens of thousands were killed by the buffoon in Downing Street.
Although my friends differed in enthusiasm for state tyranny, on reflection there was a common strand in their thinking. Over the years, tongues loosened by pints of bitter, both displayed an underlying misanthropy. They would joke about the uneducated or ‘chavs’, and Gary frequently referred to the Darwin Awards in celebration of culling the stupid. With their social Darwinism, II have no doubt that they would have cheered on the prospect of segregation, incarceration or other punishment of the unvaccinated. Mandatory or forced injections would not have troubled them.
How do we repair such broken relationships? Or more pertinently, should we?