Cheese, spiders, and, um, let’s not put that in the headline: it’s the pandemic update from Britain

With the number of daily Covid-19 deaths falling, English schools are set to open on June 1, but not for all age groups, just for a couple. And not Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish schools, which make their own decisions. And not necessarily all English schools, because local governments–some of them–are digging their heels in and saying, forget it, we’re not opening. And not all kids, because parents have a get-out-of-school-free card and can look grim and keep their kids home if they want to.

But the government still says the schools will open, and if this is starting to sound like a round of The Cheese Stand Alone, that’s because it sounds like a round of The Cheese Stands Alone. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s a kids’ game that peels people away one by one until the cheese is left in the center of (if I remember right–it’s been a long time) the circle, feeling very lonely indeed. 

I thought I might have made that up but I checked with Lord Google, who assured me that I haven’t hallucinated my entire childhood. It’s a children’s game and song. One of the related questions that’s asked so commonly that it comes up all on its own is, “What does the cheese stands alone mean?”

Irrelevant photo stolen (twice now) from an old post: California poppies. Californians or not, they grow well in Cornwall and once you get a few going they’ll self-seed. Generally in places where you didn’t want them but they don’t object to being moved.

What indeed.

The question’s too deep for us here at Notes. We’re going to pretend we already know and skim right over the top.

At the beginning of the week, it looked like schools that didn’t open would have a fight on their hands. Now it looks like they won’t. The government isn’t in a position to fight this one.


What’s happening with the contact tracing app that’s going to make it safe to ease Britain’s lockdown, even if it limps in some weeks after the lockdown’s already been eased?

The tale gotten more interesting in the day or two. 

The government hired a couple of companies to hire a bunch of people to trace a whole bunch of contacts to control the virus. We’re not playing The Cheese Stands Alone now, we’re singing, “She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.” The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said that the spiders (those are the contact tracers) are going to have rigorous training,. With detailed procedures. Designed by experts.

Better yet, they’ve “stepped up to serve their country.”

They also–and I say this with no disrespect to the people involved–stepped up to get a badly needed paycheck.

One man who was hired broke cover to talk (anonymously) about the rigorous training. His day of online training started with an hour and a half of people typing, rigorously, to the trainer, “I can’t hear anything.” 

The trainer assured them that the problems were normal.  

Eventually either everyone could hear or enough people could hear that they began asking questions. The trainer told them he couldn’t answer them all–there were too many trainees. 

“After the full day of training,” the now-trained trainee said, “people were still asking the most basic things.”

Someone asked what to do if they talked to someone whose relative had died. They were told to look on YouTube for videos about sympathy and empathy. 

After that, the trainee was a fully qualified contact tracer, scheduled to work the next day. He logged in and got a message telling him he’d get instructions on what to do.

He waited all day. Nothing happened. 

He got an email telling him not to worry, he’d be paid anyway. And he’d get more training soon.

Another trainee said she hadn’t been able to log in for three days. 

At last call, they’d recruited 1,500 out of the 18,000 they set as a target.

Oops, sorry. We’ll have 25,000 in place by June 1 and they’ll be able to deal with 10,000 new cases a day. We already have 24,000. And we’ll have a “fully functioning perfect system.” And it’ll be beautiful.

It’s all under control, folks.


In South Korea, they’re playing professional football again, but to avoid spreading the virus there aren’t any fans in the stadium, so before a recent game a company offered to place thirty mannequins to the stands. It would make them look lived in. It would be great. 

Offer accepted. What could possibly go wrong?

The game was shown and people noticed that some of the mannequins were holding up signs for X-rated websites. And a few noticed that they all looked like sex dolls.

What does a sex doll look like? Sorry, we’re well outside my sphere of expertise here. But not outside of everyone’s. If you gather enough people, someone will be in possession of whatever obscure piece of information you really don’t want people to know. So it went public: Those were sex dolls in the stadium. 

The company that supplied the mannequins turns out to make sex toys. 

FC Seoul–the team whose stadium it was–has apologized and promised never to think about sex again. 

55 thoughts on “Cheese, spiders, and, um, let’s not put that in the headline: it’s the pandemic update from Britain

  1. I had to ask Lord Google about the cheese stands alone. Now I know that it’s more or less the same as the farmer’s in the dell, which I vaguely remember. It obviously wasn’t that popular in our school playground.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I might have gone off on a tangent, but perhaps I could offer the two giant Mordor spiders who live in my shed gym to the government as contact tracers…
    They are pretty big and might like a change of scenery.
    I let them live in the shed on the understanding that they don’t run at me or drop on my head…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Football’s super important here in Italy, and most people who haven’t been following Covid news do know what’s happening with football. They’re meant to re-start mid-June but are worried it’ll be bland without spectators. I agree. Maybe this sex-dolls-as-spectators idea isn’t all that bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I deduce two things from reading this – you and I both read the guardian. Also, this contact tracing thing is going to be an awesome fiasco. And finally, I look forward to reading your take on it. Wait,.. that’s three things. Never mind, you know what I mean.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you hadn’t mentioned that it was three, I wouldn’t have noticed. Higher mathematics were never my strength. Neither were lower ones. And you’re right about the Guardian. I’m not without criticisms, but it’s a good paper, and its coverage in this crisis has been fantastic. For the sake of balance, I use links to other news outlets when they match, but it’s usually the Guardian that sends me chasing after them.

      As for contact tracing, they have the beginnings of a system in the contact tracers who work with sexually transmitted diseases. But god forbid we should learn from people who’ve done this before.


  5. My comment on one of your previous posts about brewery arrangements just keeps getting ever more relevant. I wouldn’t trust this lot to run a bath, let alone the country. I think the word for it is ‘tragicomic,’ if I haven’t just made that up (in the way of government policy, promises, statistics etc).

    If the Austrian team Admira Wacker hasn’t yet made a bid for those dolls, I think they should…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So did you grow up calling the game “the cheese stands alone”? If so, I find it interesting that you know the game by the last line of the rhyme whereas I know it by the first.

    The sex dolls in the football stands is rather hysterical. That industry is so often ahead of the curve when it comes to promotion opportunities – or maybe it is just because we remember the stories of them doing so.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Never heard of the cheese stands alone. Sounds interesting . We played games that involved a lit of running and chasing each other. And something called Red Rover that I would have to look up to remember how to play. Din’t think my kids ir grandkids ever played that one. We played dodge ball a lot, using an soft rubber ball a little larger, and softer, than a softball, about half the size if a basketball. Now kids are mot allowed to play that because it involves someone getting hit eith a ball.

    I always let the spiders alone. Some dpin large picturesque webs under our dogwood trees. Amazing yo look at but not so fun if you walk through one after dark. If my wife sees s spider in the house I try to catch it and take it outside and let it go. But sometimes it does not survive the catch and carry. Spiders eat smaller things that are worse for us than they are. My theory.

    We ate trying to use resources to contact and trace. Dob’t think we have apps to use.

    Friends if mine worded as a VD tracer. Some men would deny they had had contact and get pretty upset, especially if they were church leaders or otherwise prominent.

    I hereby dent any knowledge of sex dolls.
    Although with us having to social distance from other humans that could be an option.

    Everyone stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well, well, well…what a tangled web we weave when we attempt to deceive, but I confess I couldn’t have come up with sex dolls sitting in stadiums in a million years.
    I will now angst over whether Agent Orange will hear of that and buy gazillions of them for his political rallies. Not that I care, mind you. I’m way beyond caring what he does next.
    Sigh. Stay safe, my friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pro baseball, basketball, hockey and football players have all mentioned how much the fan noise means to them, but the latest complaint comes from GOLF, where they want people on the course. Why ? Aren’t golf spectators supposed to be quiet ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • They miss all that shushing maybe. Not that I’ve ever watched enough golf to know if they shush the audience. Or even if they call it an audience. I knew someone, a hundred or so years back, who watched golf on TV. I was amazed. I’d never known it was something anyone could watch.


  10. At least with the football ‘crowd’ they didn’t hire a virtual reality company, with the potential for the stands to be filled with GOT extras, ‘celebrities’ and the like. (Beyond hilarious find by the way).
    On the tracing matter, I wish governments would stop using contractors; it’s making it all but impossible for bloggers and writers generally to find a novel farcical scenario.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And that says nothing about the challenge satirists face. How much more absurd than reality can you get these days? Although my mind did wander down a side path involving TV and movie characters gone out of control in the stands during a game.


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