Janet and John Do Lockdown

“Gin and tonic?” says John. He points at the clock. “It’s almost six.”

alarm clock

“It’s actually 6am, John,” says Janet. “But make mine a double. We’ll need sustenance to go food shopping.”

When Janet and John get to the supermarket, they find a long queue all round the car park. “Have you seen all these people?” says Janet, fiddling with her mobile.

“I know. This is going to be so boring,” says John.

“You’re telling me. They’re the least Instagrammable people ever.”

“I’m worried about how close some of them are standing,” says John. “That’s much less than two metres apart. More like nine inches, if you ask me.”

“It’s nothing like nine inches, John,” says Janet.

When they get to the entrance, John says, “Where’s the shopping list?”

Janet frowns at him. “You don’t get this lockdown, do you, John? We just buy lots of anything that looks like it’s running low in the shop.”

“Let’s not forget biscuits,” says John.

“I never forget biscuits,” says Janet.

“Or gin,” says John, grabbing two bottles off the shelf.

An hour later, Janet and John are in aisle seven. John is confused about the contents of their trolley. “But you don’t need TENA pads, Janet.”

“I will do by the time we reach the checkout, John.”

They are about to leave the supermarket when Janet shrieks. “Look, John! The food bank donation box has gone!”

“Don’t worry, Janet. I expect we can donate money online.”

“That’s not the point. I was hoping to pick up tinned tomatoes because there aren’t any left on the shelves.”

After they get home, Janet and John wash their hands for 20 seconds and have a nap for two hours.

Janet wakes up with an idea. “Do you fancy a game of Scrabble, John?”

John agrees on one condition. “Only if you promise not to store all the blank tiles and Ss down your bra.”

“But John, stockpiling is what pandemics are all about. If you won’t play properly, then we shall have to sit on our sagging sofa and watch another episode of Poirot instead.”

After three episodes of Poirot, Janet and John are sitting much closer together on their sagging sofa.

“I say, Janet,” says John as he strokes Janet’s rounded belly. “I don’t know how many weeks gone you are, but I’m so looking forward to our baby.”

“Don’t be silly, John. It’s not your baby. It’s McVitie’s.”

***

Don’t be like Janet and John.

With the cancellation of major events such as the London Marathon due to coronavirus, many charities are on the brink of collapse, while at the same time facing increased need for their help. Please give generously where and when you can. If you want to help a hungry family, consider the Trussell Trust which supports a nationwide network of food banks.

A Cambridge Christmas (and this year Carol’s at King’s!)

This year marked the 100th anniversary of The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College Chapel. And, before the grammar Nazis pick me up on the extra apostrophe in the title, this Carol was there too.

While I normally watch Carols from King’s on TV, glass of fizz in hand, this Christmas we made an early start to attend the real thing. 

Mishmish

Why are the hoomins up at 2.30am?

Because, dear Mishmish, this is what the queue for tickets looked like at 3 am.

Yes, it really was that early, and tickets weren’t going to be handed out till 7am.

Not that I’m complaining. Some people had camped outside the college for three days, despite the rain.  The weather was fine when I got there, if a little chilly. No wonder people had their warmest coats, hats, sleeping bags, sheets of tin foil, etc.

The motley crowd had more than a touch of the Canterbury Tales, with people from all over. Originally a gift to the people of Cambridge, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is now a gift to the world.

The queue is finally on the move.

And here’s where the precious tickets are handed out, but only if you remembered to bring ID.

Now it’s time for the hardy types to pack up and go home for a few hours’ rest.

It’ll be a doddle.

Totes got the hang of this.

It must all fit.  Although…  could be worth turning the bike around.

Maybe a couple of minor adjustments.

Nailed it!

And here’s yet another happy camper, complete with dining chair.

No idea who this was, but they were a lot more stylish.

Outside King’s Chapel around 2pm.

Building started on the chapel in 1446 under Henry VI and took over a century to build.

It has the largest fan vault ceiling anywhere, and some of the finest medieval stained glass.

Just before the service began, it looked like this.

As always, the opening carol is ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, starting with a spine-tingling solo voice from the back of the chapel. There’s always a new, specially commissioned carol. The 3pm service is not the Carols from King’s, which is pre-recorded for BBC TV earlier in December, and broadcast a couple of hours later on Christmas Eve.

You can see the 1918 Order of Service here.

The crowd files out into the dusk.

Mist had already descended over the Backs.

By contrast, we slept well into Christmas Day.  Christmas dinner was at Six, a restaurant with 360⁰ views of the city.

This view shows Charlotte and Harriet asking the waiter whether the gravy is vegetarian.

This shot of St John’s Chapel didn’t turn out quite as planned, but it’s jolly all the same.

Here’s hoping you all had a wonderful Christmas. See you in the queue next year?

5 British Things You Can Always Count on

I’m aware that Britain is rather special, if not downright peculiar. Coupled with a weak pound, that’s an asset that may well contribute to its perennial attraction as a holiday destination. In 2016, over 37 million tourists visited Britain, some 4% more than in 2015.

Over the years, I’ve shown visiting friends from abroad some wonderful sights, and I’ve shared some enduring national traditions. These, in my view, are the top five things you can properly count on.

1 There’s always a downpour on a Bank Holiday weekend. If for some strange reason it turns out sunny, as it did last August, you can be sure we’ll talk about it for the next twenty years.

Aldeburgh just before the rains

2 There’s always a queue at a National Trust tea-shop. The National Trust is the custodian of over 350 historic buildings, along with acres of land and miles of coastline. The menu in their tea-rooms is rarely complex, and some delightful people work behind the counter. Why then is the self-service line so long that toddlers wet themselves and the elderly give up altogether long before they reach the till?

To a magnificent 17th C mansion and a working farm

3 English pubs are dying. Every year, about 900 more pubs close, though many find a new lease of life as an Indian or Chinese restaurant.

The Mill, Cambridge. Still a traditional pub, for now.

4 Snow makes everything grind to a halt. British trains and roads aren’t built to cope with anything more than three flakes of snow.

FreeImages.com/Margot H

Thanks to Margot H for the photo

5 The England football team consistently fails to impress. Yes, next year we might very well ‘go all the way’ and carry off the World Cup, but we’ve said that every four years since 1966. It would be lovely to think that Gareth Southgate is a national treasure, and that every England player is proud to step on the turf for his country. As I write, I’m watching England play Lithuania. It is apparently an artificial pitch, and the players are wooden.

FreeImages.com/Christopher Bruno

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bruno

Can you think of anything else that so reliably evokes Britain?