Drinking while drunk, driving while black, advertising while fake: It’s the news from Britain

England’s pubs reopened, and either there was chaos or the predictions of mass disorder turned out to be exaggerated. It depends on what papers you read. But where’s the fun in people behaving sensibly? Let’s talk about what disorder there was.

The predictions were that drunks not only wouldn’t social distance but couldn’t if they wanted to, and to at least some extent that was true. A policeman from Southampton, said he’d dealt with “naked men,  happy drunks, angry drunks, fights, and more angry drunks.”   

In London, Soho was packed. “Barely anyone was wearing masks and nobody respected social distancing,” a store manager said. “To be honest, with that many people on one street it was physically impossible.”

A few days later, three pubs announced that someone who’d been there had come down with the virus and they  were closing temporarily. Three out of however many pubs there are in England isn’t bad, but it doesn’t make me want to go out. 

People had to leave contact information, so they’re able, at least, to get in touch with everyone who’d been in.

*

Screamingly irrelevant photo: The white cliffs of–nope, not Dover. They’re in Dorset, near Swannage.

Here in Cornwall, we’re meeting the onslaught of visitors with mixed feelings. The economy depends on them. So jobs, businesses, all that stuff: We need them. Our health, though? It does better without them. Compared to many parts of the country, we haven’t had that many cases.

Our neighbor, who cuts lawns for second homes and holiday cottages, was calling the first day outsiders could legally stay overnight in the county (we won’t discuss the illegal ones) Spiky Saturday. Someone else tweeted a photo of three people holding up a sign on a Cornish highway bridge. It said, “Turn around and fuck off.”

The country government estimated the influx at 70,000 to 80,000 people. Who all ignored the sign. 

*

In case you’re wondering what Britain’s Black Lives Matter is fussing about, two black former Olympic athletes were stopped by the police in their own neighborhood, and handcuffed, while their three-month-old son was in the car. The police claim they were stopped because the car had blacked-out windows and they were driving on the wrong side of the street. 

The couple, Bianca Williams and Ricardo dos Santos, say they were stopped because they’re black and were driving a Mercedes. Dos Santos said the police have stopped him  as many as 15 times since 2017, when they bought the car. They weren’t charged with driving on the wrong side of the road, which makes me (cynic that I am) think they probably weren’t, and tinted car windows aren’t illegal, although there’s a limit on how dark they can be. 

After a forty-five minute search, they were let go. 

The police Directorate of Professional Standards said they’ve reviewed footage of the incident and don’t see any problem with the officers’ conduct. So that solves that.

*

From the Ministry of Embarrassing Decisions comes this story:

The government launched an ad campaign urging people to “enjoy summer safely,” which disappoints those of us who’d planned to spend it bungee jumping off London Bridge at the end of rubber bands and ending up in a plague-infested hospital–

Sorry, where was I? A government campaign urging us toward unobjectionable behavior used a photo of a baker from Haxby, near York. It ran in newspapers with the headline “Welcome back to freshly baked bread.”

Why freshly baked bread? Bread–stale, fresh, and every state in between–was available throughout Britain’s lockdown. Probably more of it than before the virus hit, since with cafes and restaurants closed bakeries had more bread than usual and the number of newly converted home bakers exceeded the number of men, women, children, and dogs living in Britain. On top of which, the government didn’t invent the fresh baked bread and not many people will be convinced that they did, so why are they acting as if they did? But never mind. That wasn’t the fault of the Ministry of Embarrassing Decisions. The ad’s text came from the Undersecretary of World-Beating Pandemic Screwups. All the Ministry of Embarrassing Decisions contributed was the photo, which was of a baker, Phil Clayton, who not only has no use for the way the government’s handled the pandemic, he’s a long-time Labour and Corbyn supporter, a Brexit opponent, and known for stenciling political slogans onto his bread. He’s demanding that they pull the ads and pay him a modeling fee.

I don’t know if they pulled the ad or not, but I know I couldn’t find it. On the other hand, I had no trouble finding multiple articles about it. 

The bread looks delicious. Especially the loaf that says “F*ck Boris.”

*

The British government has announced a large support package for arts organizations, but film and theater director Sam Mendes, together with Netflix, has set up an emergency fund for theater freelancers who haven’t received any government support and are at the “breaking point.” The idea is to get £1,000 grants to them as quickly as possible. 

There’s been some government support for people whose jobs disappeared, but it hasn’t covered everybody and there doesn’t seem to be any governmental interest in identifying the gaps and filling them. 

The fund was set up after Mendes called on Netflix to use some of its pandemic windfall to support the performing arts. It donated £500,000. The money’s expected to run out quickly but the fund’s hoping for additional donations. 

Sorry, I haven’t found anything funny about that, but good news stories are hard to find, so I figured it was worth including.

*

Which?, a group that offers consumer advice and advocacy and claims the question mark as part of its name, decided to test how hard they’d have to work to pay Lord Google and Facebook to run fake ads. The answer is, not hard at all. They set up a website claiming that a nonexistent brand of water could help you “lose weight, improve your mood and feel better.” 

Yes, it both improved your mood and made you feel better. The ordinary stuff–you inow, the stuff that comes out of your tap–might do one or the other, but never both.

A second site offered health and hydration “pseudo-advice.” I’d love to quote the pseudo-advice, but I can’t find any of it. Still, the internet’s awash with pseudo-advice. Ask Lord Google about weight loss and you’ll find more advice than one human being could follow in a lifetime. If you want to, you can lose so much weight that when you step on the scales you’ll register in the negative numbers. 

We didn’t need to provide any proof that our business actually existed,” Which? said. “In fact, it took barely an hour for our fake advert applications to be approved by Google, with no further input required from our fake company. . . .

“Our first Facebook ad targeted accounts that Facebook had deemed to be UK females aged 18-65 with interests including ‘health and wellbeing’ and ‘water’. That may seem fairly reasonable. However, we were also able to target those with the associated terms ‘extreme weight loss’ and ‘defeat depression’. Our second ad targeted US women, with interests including ‘insomnia’, ‘suicide prevention’ and ‘panic’. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see how having these sorts of ‘interests’ attached to individual accounts could lead to people whose search history shows them to be in a vulnerable position being hand-picked by scammers wishing to prey on those vulnerabilities.”

*

A Colombian tree frog turned up in Wales, having ridden there in a bunch of bananas. A staff member took it home and got it to an animal center. 

It’s doing just fine, thanks. Amphibians can slow down their metabolism, and that let it survive the trip without food or water. The animal center has put in a special order for crickets.

*

This is a followup to the story about the Starbucks barista, Lenin Gutierrez, who asked a customer to wear a mask only to be cursed at and blasted on social media for it. A stranger set up a GoFundMe page for the barista.

According to ComicSands, “It’s gotten over $100k for Lenin, who used to teach dance to children before the pandemic. Lenin has said he will use the money to further his education, continue dancing and give back to the community by launching a community dance program to teach children who could not afford lessons.”

The woman who started this mess is now demanding at least half of the money and threatening to sue him if she doesn’t get it. And while she’s at it, she wants to sue GoFundMe. But before any of that, someone set up a GoFundMe page for her–to redress the defamation and slander against her. I found a link to it , but the page seemed to have been taken down. 

Since ComicSands isn’t what you’d call a news site, so I thought I’d better look around for confirmation. Most newspapers have lost interest in the story by now, but I did find something in the Mail, a trashy newspaper that I also don’t trust, but it is at least a newspaper. Same story. It seems to be true.

*

The president of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan, has said that wearing masks protects both other people and the wearer. He says everyone should be wearing them in crowded public spaces. 

According to Paul Edelstein of the University of Pennsylvania (which, just to be clear, is not in the U.K.) the evidence that they protect other people is clearer all the time but there’s also some evidence that they protect the wearer.

68 thoughts on “Drinking while drunk, driving while black, advertising while fake: It’s the news from Britain

  1. More and more I have a problem with funding the arts, especially the performing arts. Locally the ticket prices have risen far faster than inflation to the point where low- and low-middle income people cannot afford even one visit per year. Price of Hamilton is outrageous, and with no good reason other than wealthy people are willing to pay for it. The purpose of funding the arts, at least here, was to make them available to everyone. The symphony is the same way, very high prices making it near impossible for anyone not in the upper-middle class to afford them.

    Some of the reason is the expensive, low-capacity venues. Move them into stadiums and arenas that other musical groups perform, where they can draw tens of thousands instead of a few thousand, then prices can drop to where normal people can actually afford them, then government funding can be used where it will actually do people good. I’m betting The Rolling Stones still doesn’t get government funding, even at their age (well, maybe Medicare).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never worked in theater, but I do know that in the UK–until austerity–arts funding kept many small and innovative theater companies working, and a few of them had touring companies that appeared in towns and villages, bringing theater to people instead of sitting in the biggest cities and waiting for people to come to them. As austerity cut into funding, some of them have folded.

      I did work for a writers organization in the US, and without public funding it wouldn’t have survived. There’s plenty about it that I’d criticize, but some of its programs did make the arts available to communities that wouldn’t have access otherwise. So yes, I’m with you on the prices, but the solution isn’t to stop funding the arts. Without funding, all we’re left with is the most commercial stuff. The innovative groups wither.

      Like

      • If things were like they were in the past I would have no problem with it. We have small theater groups here, but we also have large production venues. It’s the latter that I have a problem funding. Hamilton was here last year, will be again next year, a minimum $284 (up to $554) in the upper section, back rows, is not providing arts to the people. Symphony tickets at near $100 for similar seating is not something the general public can afford.

        My son lives in a city where there is an improv theater. You drop $25 for a ticket, first-come-first-serve seating, no idea what play you’re going to be seeing, but they are well-known plays, not something they made up the week before, with local actors. That I have no problem supporting. Our local county park has (had) summer concerts with decent named bands (Kenny Rogers last time I went), free grass seating, $15 to sit under cover on folding seats.

        Liked by 1 person

        • So the question in, are you sure the production of Hamilton got any public funds? If the theater itself gets some, that doesn’t necessarily mean that production did. What I’ve seen of arts admin makes me think they’d think of it as a way to bring some money in, which would keep the organization as a whole lurching forward.

          Liked by 1 person

          • From what I understand/read, the “creation:” (i.e., writing prior to sale) was at least partially funded, the actual production was privately funded.

            Yes, the venues are funded, and the money does help keep these venues running, but the shows I see being performed are still out of reach of the general public. I would feel better about it if there were performances/seating priced affordable to most. Otherwise I see it as government funding for those who don’t really need the help.

            I just think that if something is taxpayer funded then taxpayers should have affordable access to it, otherwise it should have to find a way to survive on its own. Museums, parks, are taxpayer funded and are open/affordable to everyone. Arts should be the same, or should be self-sustaining. IMO. Shania Twain (?) is not publicly funded, but survived, the symphony should be the same. Ditto with their venues.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I agree with you completely on accessibility, but if the writing of Hamilton was publicly funded, I’m all for it. No one knows what will be a hit. (In publishing, no one can predict what’ll be a best seller either. That’s just how it goes.) Funding artists is important, and for every one that has a hit, hundreds–probably thousands–don’t. But without them, art withers. You need the full range: the ones who become popular, the ones who piss people off, the ones should’ve become popular but for some reason no one will ever untangle don’t. And many of those who don’t become hits teach–often partially on the back of public funds–which helps ordinary people discover and hone their own skills. The picture’s more complicated than it looks at first.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I understand that, and don’t have a problem, but if they receive public funding then the public should be able to afford to attend. At the very least, if it does become a big hit (like Hamilton), and they’re going to charge prices far too high for the people who funded their writing to attend, then they should pay back the public funding so it is available for others to use. If they keep prices reasonable (even if just for the first few years) then they can keep the money and then raise prices. But it’s not right for the public to fund their programs then not be able to attend.

                The intent on public funding of arts was to make it available to the general public, and not something only the wealthy can enjoy. “President Lyndon Johnson promoted the arts in terms of the Great Society—he sought social betterment, not artistic creativity. He emphasized qualitative and quantitative goals, especially the power of the arts to improve the quality of life of ordinary Americans and to reduce the inequalities between the haves and the have-nots.”

                Liked by 1 person

              • Again, I agree with you on accessibility, but in your first paragraph using “they” is getting in the way of finding a way to make it work. The person, I’m guessing (I haven’t researched this, I’m just going on what you wrote) who received public money is the writer. But it’s not generally the writer who stages the show, funds the show, sets the prices. It’s not the writer who could afford to cough up the money it would take to lower the prices. Who’s “they,” then. To make it work, this needs to be broken down according to who funds what, who gets what, who has what.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. The mask issue remains fraught with contradictory evidence as to their efficacy but probably worth wearing where there are high rates of community transmission, even if only for the sake of virtue signalling. However the Devil in me is wondering how anti-maskers in the US and elsewhere would react to a public service announcement thanking them for their rebellion because it makes it that much easier, using facial recognition technology, to identify whack-jobs for future ‘re-education’ camps. Just sayin’. ;-)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a hunch they’d happily run those camps if they were assured that mask-wearers were the inmates. I wouldn’t say I trust their overarching principles.

      The latest I’ve read on masks is that a group of medical people wrote to the WHO pushing them to support mask wearing more strongly because the evidence, they say, supports its effectiveness. Apparently, their hesitation isn’t about whether they’re effective but about who’s going to supply them to low-income countries if they endorse them.

      And there’s some evidence–not conclusive yet, but existent–that they give some protection to the wearer. So yeah. We should be wearing the damn things. If for no better reason than that they piss off all the right people.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. One of the helpful statements going around on our version of Facebook is that wearing masks is unsafe because you continue to breathe in your own carbon monoxide. Somehow, it isn’t surprising that these people are so poisonous that they are producing CO instead of CO2.

    And in the not so dead irony dept : Bolsinaro of Brazil has tested positive for Coronavirus. With BoJo, and Putin’s quarantine, that leaves only one of the Big 4 of “It’s nothing but the sniffles” undiagnosed. We are rooting for Karma to go for the Grand Slam.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was a thing going around Twitter about breathing your own air being the reasons that so many surgeons pass out during surgery. I thought it was a scream, then saw someone thinking it was serious and going postal about the stupidity of some people. I forget how double edged jokes can be.

      Anyway, go karma!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think the police were trying to imply that, but they didn’t arrest anyone for anything–blacked out windows or driving on the wrong side of the street. After I posted this, I saw a statement from the woman, who said the street wasn’t wide enough to drive on the wrong side–it’s one car wide.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. ‘The government launched an ad campaign urging people to “enjoy summer safely,” which disappoints those of us who’d planned to spend it bungee jumping off London Bridge at the end of rubber bands and ending up in a plague-infested hospital–’

    I know your post had so much more, and some of it quite somber, but the above – thank you for the cheeky humor. Florida’s numbers are going up and this nurse is getting a little worn out with mask wearing for ten hour days then putting on my stupid CPAP at night.
    One day at a time, I keep saying it, but as I drive home I’m often wondering if it’s time to find out how to make a martini and stop for ingredients.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve wondered where people on the front lines find the strength. I think it was the playwright Bertolt Brecht who wrote, “Unhappy the land that needs heroes.” Thank you for being one of them, and I wish we didn’t need you to be.

      I try not to let my posts fill up quite so much with the somber, but sometimes I just can’t find the humor in as much of it as I mean to. Stay well.

      One day at a time.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think the people of Cornwall need to get T-shirts from the site Effinbirds.com, which sells a lot of merchandise, but some salty T-shirts might make the visitors go way in numbers that would keep it from being crowded there while still providing enough business…I’m thinking of buying some myself, just to be offensive.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You probably don’t need it, but I’d like to reassure you that I was neither a naked nor an angry drunk at the weekend, nor any other weekend, come to think of it.

    I wore a mask for the first time yesterday. I probably didn’t need to, as I was the only customer in the shop and I was by an open door for the two minutes I was there, but I thought it was a good habit to start now that I’m going back to shops again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do the same thing. I still feel silly, but I do it anyway.

      And since we’re on the subject, I wasn’t a naked or angry drunk either this weekend. Now that I’ve reached the age of 1003, my feeling about public nakedness is that I should avoid scaring the neighbors.

      Liked by 1 person

        • It’s not a beautiful sight for the most part, is it? Today’s so foggy that unless I was standing less than 2 meters from someone I wouldn’t know if they were wearing clothes or not. So I can be grateful for that as well.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. The Cornwall “Turn around and…” made our local news! I think it’s because someone thought is was Cornwall Connecticut. As I’ve said before, people left for the new world because they hated being in England and then they named everything after some place in England. The more creative in the lot prepended the word “New” to the town name. Of course, when I hear “Cornwall” I immediately think of the center of world news.

    Good luck with your tourists, naked men and drunks. I’d like to see the Venn diagram on that combo. I’m guessing it’s one of those “All As are B but not all Bs are A” kind of things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is funny. I wonder if anyone looked at the photo long enough that the details looked a little odd for Connecticut.

      It’s been too chilly for naked men. Or women. Kids and drunks are unpredictable, though, and likely to tear off their clothes in the oddest of situations. Britain can recalibrate an American’s idea of what you do on a beach. There’s nothing odd about seeing people on the beach fully dressed. Or wearing fuzzy jackets. It may be 55 F. but it’s summer, they decide, and by god we’re going to the beach. Put your woollies on, kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I could be wrong but I suspect most Brits would prefer police who respond to reports of shop lifters, burglars, car thefts, assaults – in that out-moded word – crime, rather than social engineering in harassing people they think have “got above themselves”.

    Liked by 1 person

      • You are now in the murky taboo area of Brit classism.
        The rich man in his castle
        The poor man at his gate
        God made them high and lowly
        And ordered their estate
        The British class system, ordained by God, in a nutshell. It doesn’t mention black or other ethnic. You’ll just have to guess where they would fit in.
        It is a verse from a very popular hymn written by Mrs Cecil Alexander in 1848. (Isn’t Wikipedia wonderful), generally known as “All things bright and beautiful” . The third verse was commonly omitted otherwise how would you get the majority of the population into
        church.
        Getting above yourself, sometimes referred to affectionately as upstarts, is anyone who fails to grasp their social position in the eyes of their betters.
        A further connection, when the police were first founded the working class were not pleased. They had no illusion that the police would protect them from crime rather that the higher social classes had given themselves a licence to suppress, harass, meddle and spy.
        In recent times a Dublin lass was asked her views on the police. She answered “They’re never there when you want them. And who wants them”.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’re right. I see the same thing here. I live in a rural area, so people seem to have this sense that It’s safe–we have lots of space. But in a store? We need masks, and not many people are wearing them.

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  9. Thanks so much for the story on the Colombian tree frog making her escape to Wales on the bananas. Are you sure there was just one?
    I imagine the conversation went something like this: Hey, I’m thinking of hopping on a banana and catching a boat to Wales. Wanna go with me? Let’s blow this popsicle stand for a little adventure.
    Nah, don’t think so. Boats make me nauseous, plus I’ve heard Wales has too much cold weather.
    Okay, I’ll just go by myself then.
    I also can imagine the conversation when the Mercedes vehicle was stopped, but I don’t want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As far as I know, it was by itself. Some frogs, I guess, are just loners, and now it’s found an inexhaustible source of crickets that it doesn’t even have to go looking for. Let’s write it a happy ending, since we can’t consult it to ask how it feels.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. My newest observations on masks: now that stores are requiring them, people wear them in, then pull them down to their chins once they are inside. The workers wear them the entire shift to protect the customers (and some customers treat them like they’re illiterate idiots). Amazing

    Liked by 1 person

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