Fairy dust and pushups: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

Let’s say you’re a prime minister who got this pesky pandemic thing wrong, hesitating to lock the country down, shaking hands with hospital patients, refraining from kissing babies only because parents clutched their kids and turned away when they saw you coming. A prime minister who told the country that washing hands and singing Happy Birthday would keep everyone safe, and who then, embarrassingly, got sick yourself, either because you didn’t wash your hands or went off key on one of those tricky passages in “Happy Birthday.” A prime minister who locked the country down late but made an exception for your special advisor so he could run around the country scattering virii because he’d mistaken them for fairy dust.

So you’re that prime minister, and after you’d been sick you came back to work to hear lots of speculation whether you were really up to running the country.

Irrelevant photo: a thistle

What would you do?

Pushups, that’s what you’d do. Publicly.

Or maybe you wouldn’t, but that’s what Boris Johnson did, except the British seem to call them press-ups. Never mind. Same thing. Floor, hands, arms, body weight. Straight back if you’re doing them right.

There were two problems with the strategy: Your ability to do pushups has no bearing on your ability to run a country, and Johnson isn’t what you’d call a natural athlete. The photos show a kind of lumpy, overage guy in a dress shirt and slacks looking baffled by a floor. Has this thing always been here? he seems to be asking himself. Can I outsource it?


He can’t, but let’s go back to that special advisor, the one with the fairy dust. A law graduate is trying to crowdfund £300,000 for to pay for a private prosecution of Dominic Cummings’ two breaches of lockdown.

“I am trying to encourage the re-establishment of the concept of the rule of law – one law for all,” Mahsa Taliefar said. “What Cummings did demonstrated that at the moment in the UK if you are rich and have powerful friends the law doesn’t apply to you.”

I just checked the website and she’s raised £31,000 so far.


You know the theory that we all have to choose between the economy and our health? The theory that says lockdown destroys the economy and we have to open back up to get things going? Well Sweden–the one Scandinavian country that never did lock down, relying on some vague instructions, hand washing, and good sense–not only has a five times Denmark’s death rate but roughly the same economic performance.

Whether there’s a lockdown or not, it turns out that in a pandemic most people avoid public transportation, stay out of shops, and keep their kids home from school. In other words, they exercise the good sense they were advised to. The problem is that a minority will do none of that. Ten percent of the people create ninety percent of the infections.


A while back I posted the news that Britain’s free school lunch program for the most economically vulnerable kids will be continued into the summer. It’s good news, but it’s looking a little tarnished lately. It turns out that the £234 million program was outsourced to a private company whose helpline charges £21 an hour.

It used to charge £60 an hour, but–you know what people are like–they had complaints and switched over to the cheaper one in April.

Hey, people, you’re saving–um, hang on–£39 an hour. Focus on that.

Parents and schools also complain about the vouchers being hard to use. Not all stores will take them, and at stores that do, they often don’t scan correctly so they’re unusable.

Oh, and the website leaves people waiting long stretches of time to get their coupons.

And that, my friends, is how to fuck up a free lunch.


Scotland has had no coronavirus deaths for four days and has only ten cases in intensive care. The first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is talking about the possibility of eliminating the disease, and at a press conference she dropped hints that they might have to test or quarantine visitors from England. She has no plans at the moment, she said, but she’s not ruling it out.

On the other hand, she didn’t do a single pushup, so what’s she worth?

Meanwhile, a spike in virus cases in Leicester has sent the city going back into lockdown, with non-essential shops shutting their doors, schools closing to most students, and people advised to stay home except for essential trips.

It’s the first of local lockdown since Britain opened back up.


A jazz club in Paris has opened up for private concerts. They let people in either singly or in pairs if they live together. Three musicians take turns giving five-minute concerts to each individual or couple.

The concerts are free but guests are welcome to pay what they can or want.

The club’s director said the concerts “generate a kind of magic. People become very emotional. Some come out in tears.”



84 thoughts on “Fairy dust and pushups: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

    • The idea of free meals for all is a great one. No one gets singled out. On the other hand, the idea of handing the money to the families to feed their kids during lockdown both avoids bringing the kids together, which is good, and also allows parents to feed their kids what they think is right (vegetarian, halal, vegan, kosher, deep fried, all meat, whatever), or what their kids like. All great ideas if only they made the program work for the kids and families instead of for the company profiting from it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is through our school cafeterias. The food is supposed to have kosher and halal approved choices. Others have donated other items to give out. An adult picks it up at a door during this no questions asked and takes what they need with them. Before this a summer program would have involved eating a meal at school. Soup kitchens and food banks are still giving out food. Many are drive up.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m impressed. Would that all that weren’t necessary, but it is and my hat’s off to whoever set it up.

          Over here, the food banks are struggling to keep up with the demand. I noticed (now that I’ve started doing my own grocery shopping again–I feel daring as hell) that the food bank donation spot, which used to be one small metal bin, is now two big multi-shelf units, and they’re not sitting empty. I’m impressed with people for rising to the occasion, and I’m furious that this is the best we can do to keep hunger at bay.


  1. Here on our little Scottish Island, we haven’t seen any cases of the virus in over three months. None. (Not exactly surprising as there hasn’t been ferry passenger service in that long.) I feel safe and don’t worry about going out to run basic errands, etc. On the other hand, our island is in an economic death spiral. A local shop owner said he’d seen less than 1% of usual sales, and that his business will fail. So this week, the shops reopened. Next week there will be (limited) ferry service. We’re all so glad people are coming, and at the same time we picture them as hordes of golf club-carrying, germ-infested, potential serial killers.

    Of course, we all have a line to balance. I think of it like setting speed limits for cars. When lower limits are imposed, fewer people are killed. Clearly, therefore, the safest thing would be to lower speed limits to 5mph because of the lives that would be saved. But somehow, we manage to live with current speed limits because people and goods and Dominic Cummings need to get where they’re going. Balance. I think.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was about to agree until you included that line about Dominic Cummings needing to get where he’s going. We’re going to have to part company over that.

      Cornwall hasn’t been as protected as your island (although there’ve been plenty of jokes about blocking all the bridges over the Tamar), but we’re also dreading the onslaught of germ-wielding visitors. My fingers are crossed for all of us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry, I didn’t put that one very well. I think about Mr. Cummings like I do about the people who somehow feel that speed limits—whether 100 or 5mph—don’t apply to them. Or when I go to the store and people aren’t wearing masks because science doesn’t apply to them. Or when entitled potentially contagious serial killers drive across the country because they know rules are for the other, non-special snowflakes, and don’t apply to them.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can understand Boris feeling that he had to show that he is physically fit enough to run the government, but I don’t know why he chose that particular way. He used to be a cyclist, so a few miles on an exercise bike would have done it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I recall working (very briefly) with someone who after getting promoted, promptly went to the pub, skulled a shot of vodka (is it sculled, like in rowing?), and did 20 press ups in the courtyard in front. I don’t think this anecdote sheds any light on what BoJo was thinking, but doing press ups publicly does seem to be a go-to thing as far as insecure, arrogant men are concerned.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It does. Back when I was younger and sillier, I got into a pushup contest with a man, and I did a few more pushups than he could. At which point he complained that they were a great equalizer, because if you weighed less you had less to push. Which was true but irrelevant. I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Possibly that I was as silly as him. I’d like to say I’m wiser now, but I’d probably do it again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As you suggest, there is no ‘right way’ to have managed this, necessarily – but out government has performed so many pratfalls, it’s like they wanted to write the textbook for the wrong way to handle such events. Countries with among the highest Covid-19 death rates, UK, Brazil, Russia, US – yes, their leadership does appear to have a certain… Male braggadocio in common.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. When our daughter was in high school, I didn’t think it was possible to make lunch worse. It already lacked nutrients, flavor and visual appeal (she lived on french fries). Well, I was wrong. A year after she graduated, they outsourced the “food service” in the school system. Given the same amount of money (actually, a little less) and the added goal of wanting to make a profit, the only options were to cut quality, quantity and benefits for the staff. The key to success is to wait 12 years so there’s no one left in the system who remembers the “good old days” when the food was merely bad.

    I’ve got to do my five push ups now.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Your guy Johnson sounds like just the right fellow to manage a pandemic.You know, the kind of fellow we used to say could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
    Push ups. The true measure of a man in charge of the destiny of oh, so many people, who may or may not be doing push ups with him.
    As for the free lunches – well, just tell the kids to push through the hunger pains.
    Jesus Christ

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’d be a lot happier about his shake up of the civil service…long overdue….if it didn’t result in more delegation of the role of the state to profit grabbing charlatans. But there…the voters didn’t like Corbyn…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I truly enjoyed, and grinned at, your blog post. Reading the comments was an extra bonus. And as Clive asked, can your Boris fellow negotiate a ramp? Wait, to be fair, Mr. Boris would have to salute 600 times before attempting to walk the plank, errr, ramp.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. A beautiful summary of the dust-ups in Britain. Loved the idea of personalized concerts at the end. Always end on a high note! (Too punny? I take it back. Wouldn’t want to play a sour note in the comments.)

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Anything to be inferred from the fact the The Thistle is one of the symbols of Scotland?

    Never mind BoJo – I would pay money to see Dear Leader do pushups ! He’d be rocking back and forth on that belly like one of those toys that roll back up when you push them over.
    Any chance Mahsa Taliefor can send over some ideas for a fund raiser for the return of the rule of law over here ?
    Ten percent of the people cause ninety percent of the problems not only in Sweden…
    Lord help us all. (Whatever Lord you prefer)

    Liked by 2 people

    • My preferred lord would have to be Screaming Lord Such, who ran for office regularly but unfortunately is dead at the moment. I doubt he’ll help much, but I haven’t noticed much help coming from any other lordly departments. If you or anyone else feels there is, I won’t argue. I’m only making my own choices there.

      I did give some passing thought about the symbolism of the thistle but didn’t stop long enough to connect it to the possibility of Scotland quarantining or testing the incoming English. (I expect some of them wish they’d done that hundreds of years ago.) I regularly miss some of the obvious connections in my posts. Thanks for whacking me on the head with that one.


  11. Pushups to prove your fitness to run the country? 🤣 Can I propose a fitness challenge between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump with the caveat that the loser needs to leave town?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. As bad as Boris is, he is nowhere nearly as bad as The Donald. I would pay a lot of money to see him attempt some push-ups! I guess that’s kind of mean. I regret writing it. Sort of. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Apologies for joining this discussion so late, but pretty well the whole country already knew something, so hardly needed a further reminder, of Johnson’s capabilities at press-ups a.k.a (how can I put this delicately?) “horizontal jogging”

    Liked by 1 person

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