Face masks, tutting, and electric fences: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

England’s pubs have opened, and the rule is that you can sit at the tables but not hang around at the bar. A pub in St. Just, Cornwall, is taking that seriously. They installed an electric fence at the bar. According to one version of the tale, it’s mostly off but if you get in the bartender’s face and it goes on, and–zap– you will respect social distancing. 

According to the other version, it’s never on but just having it there makes the point.

Take your pick. 


After a false start, or two, England finally has a policy on face masks

The false starts? While the prime minister hinted that we would probably, maybe, almost certainly, and quite possibly need to wear masks in shops, a government minister was saying categorically that we wouldn’t. Then they went into the back room to arm wrestle, came out friends, and agreed that we do need to. 

But not right away. Starting on the 24th. 

Why not right away? 1) We need to allow time for people to locate their mouths. 2) The government needs time to craft a message explaining that masks, properly worn, cover the entire human breathing apparatus, which includes both the mouth and the nose. C) We need to allow time for people to absorb that message and then locate their noses. 4) What’s your hurry anyway?

Irrelevant photo: Orange berries. What would you do without me to explain these thing to you?

What will happen if someone doesn’t wear a mask in a shop?

Good question. Theoretically, they’re risking a £100 fine, only the police have said they’re not in the business of policing shops and should be called only as a last resort. Many shops and shop workers are, understandably, hesitant about enforcing it. 

The country may have to rely on the power of tutting to enforce the rule. 

Tutting? I’m going to refer to that more unreliable of experts, me, for an explanation. It’s point number 2.


With its usual laserlike precision, the government is trying to boost the economy by offering people half off when they eat out in August. From Mondays to Wednesdays. Excluding alcohol. Up to a value of £10. If the place you eat is eligible. But you yourself? You’re eligible time after time after time until the end of August. 

The slogan is, “Eat out to help out.” 

Not that I’m trying to draw a parallel or anything, but the number of kids showing up in hospitals with malnutrition has doubled this year, to 2,500, although the number’s probably higher, since not all hospitals responded to the request for information. Food bank use has surged, and government figures show that as many as 7.7 million adults cut their portion sizes or missed meals because they couldn’t afford food.

So half off for people who can afford the other half? Yup, we’ve got our priorities right.


Speaking of laserlike targeting of economic stimulus, let’s indulge in a semi-good news story. Primark–a clothing chain–announced that it wouldn’t take up a government offer of £1,000 for every employee that they brought back from furlough. The company doesn’t need it. 

That’s £30 million it’s passing up.


Most Augusts, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival turns everything larger than a trash can into a theater, packs as many people in as is physically possible, and fire regulations be damned. Edinburgh fills up with as many people as it can hold plus many thousand more. The shows range from the professional, unexpected, and inspired to the amateur and embarrassing.

This year, with the pandemic still on the prowl, it’s not going to happen, so the festival’s gone virtual. You can sit on your couch and watch a selected number of shows. You can fund the artists. I’m not sure what else you can do, if anything, because I’m too busy telling you about it to actually learn anything. But it looks like it’s worth some exploration. 


88 thoughts on “Face masks, tutting, and electric fences: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

  1. As the old saying goes, “Clear as mud!” Worse than that, constantly evolving, and different policies and regulations coming from every level of government. At least, that’s true in the US.

    Thanks, Ellen, for the update. Stay safe and happy. Cheryl

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Masks are actually unfun to wear, but then I’ve never been good at doing what’s good for me. If given a choice, I will typically choose the wrong option. Except on scholastic aptitude tests – I was always great enough to be in the 72% category if I lived in Britain.
    I will happily wear a mask now if Pretty ever lets me out of the house again, however.
    I feel for everyone who gets shocked at the bars unless they are too full of adult beverages which is why they would get shocked anyway probably. Bless their hearts.
    I am still confused about tutting. I hope no one does it in front of anyone.
    Cheers to you from across the pond!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Electric fence at the bar – to ensure people maintain social distancing. This made me laugh. Who will dare? How do u know it’s off?

    I’m glad about the mask obligation. It was about time. I just don’t know how people will listen when some politicians in power think the policy doesn’t apply to them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Enough politicians (in Johnson’s own party) are stirring up anti-mask outrage that I expect it’ll be a battle. They should be charged with criminally irresponsible governing.

      The only way I can think of to find out if the fence is on or off is to touch it. Which probably isn’t a good idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Those orange berries look like bittersweet, but since I don’t know what bittersweet leaves look like it might be something else.

    As for the delay in mandating masks having to do with finding facial parts to cover : Dear Leader has stated that he “loves” wearing a mask, “Makes me look like the Lone Ranger.” (I hope that doesn’t require an explanation. Zorro ? The Scarlet Pimpernel ? The Man in the Iron Mask ?) While the citizenry would prefer he cover his mouth. With duct tape.

    In breaking news, before a judge could rule on a suit brought by a number of colleges and universities, the Administration has stepped back from saying that any foreign students not physically in a classroom (but in remote learning situations) would be deported. “For now.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to know the administration backed down on the students. What a pointless, spiteful position to have taken.

      I wonder if Trump remembers that it was the opposite end of the face that Zorro covered.

      I don’t think it’s bittersweet. Someone did tell me what they were once, but I’ve managed to forget. It was probably in Latin. British gardening leans heavy on Latin, and I’m tend to fall over when too much weight goes in that direction.


  5. I’m back, Ellen, catching up on UK pandemic readable news. I needed to laugh—electric fences in bars, the mask policy, and eat out to help out. CA is back in lockdown. High numbers of new coronavirus cases after reopening. So now, you can only eat outdoors, at sidewalk or parking lot tables,
    wherever the restaurant owner can find space. No more nail or hair salons, gyms or shopping malls. All shut down. So, the new normal will be here indefinitely, and we had better get used to it. I dare not mention what else is going on in US cities & streets. It’s all over worldwide news to read. Keep your mostly fun posts coming, with serious underlying messages. 📚🎶 Christine

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The last time we were in Edinburgh — which coincided with the festival — it was pandemonium combined with massive construction. Thanks for posting the Fringe link; what a great idea even without a pandemic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I ever catch up with myself, I’m looking forward to exploring it. We used to go to the Fringe pretty regularly and loved it, but it was mayhem. That part we weren’t crazy about. But we did see some fantastic, unexpected theater.


  7. passing up on $30 million wow….We are back in lockdown here in Melbourne Australia. for 6 weeks or now 5. stage 3. talk of even going to stage 4. closing down of cafes and restaurants and only supermarkets and chemists to be open. All due to stupid people and stupid government.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was just reading an article on how Iceland handled the pandemic. They did a massive test-and-trace campaign, starting with the first case they had, let public health people drive the campaign instead of politicians, and controlled it without having to lock down.

      Sigh. Stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m pretty sure the bar patrons have a bit left heft to absorb all that electricity. I wonder if they couldn’t rig it to a dimmer switch so the don’t end up throwing anyone across the room with it.


    • Except for the ones who bail out for a month and count on an infusion of cash from renting out their apartments.

      Actually, I’m not sure how many of those there are. It could well be that the combination of tourism and the Fringe have taken a lot of apartments off the long-term rental market completely.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Masks. Why is it so hard? But on to the Fringe–it’s even nutty in E-burgh the week before the Fringe. I was there once at that time and it was full of performers and street acts. Fun. I bet online will be fun, too, but the comedians will find it hard.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ve been in that pub, not recently obviously. It’s near the village where we used to spend our summer holiday when I was a child.In those days I sat outside it, while my parents were inside. I went in about 20 years ago when I went back to the village for a holiday.

    I didn’t realise that Americans don’t understand tutting. Never mind.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As someone with a faster mind than mine tweeted, “The barn door will be locked in exactly ten days.” But that’s the way they’ve handled pretty much everything. By the time they finally latch onto the right idea, they find a way to do it incompetently anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I guess they gave a few days notice because some people have health issues with lungs, heart and blood pressure and need to check with their doctors if it is OK to wear a mask, and if advised they shouldn’t get an exemption card so they won’t be fined.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Interesting point. I haven’t read anything about exemption cards, and when I googled it I found some for sale and others that were downloadable, none needing a doctor’s okay. It looks like something that could be handled quickly.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. That electric fence idea could have been dreamed up by the government, as it clearly is only half baked. Without arming the bar staff with cattle prods to complete the deterrent it’s only part way there.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I find that tuttin, combined with an eye roll, head shake and then telling someone what the problem is and why they are lucky I don’t poke them with a stick, generally works…

    actually it generally doesn’t, it generally gets me looked at like I am the rude one… and then people carry on doing the thing that they shouldn’t have been doing. Or at least that is what seems to happen now in supermarkets…
    They then get looked at with increasingly wild eyes.
    which is because I feel like I can’t breathe when I am wearing my mask…I can breathe, I know that logically so I do wear one. I just open my eyes wider to compensate for some reason.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I say we put the electric fences at the doors to shops. If you’re wearing a mask, it’s off. No mask, they turn it on. Keeps the poor workers from getting beat up. (They’re probably too civilized there for the attacking thing, but it’s definitely a problem here)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It could happen here, although my best unsubstantiated guess is that it’s less likely. I don’t think there’s the same level of officially encouraged anger floating loose, and opposition to masks is, I think, less. But yes, it would work. It would also be a little hard to work your way past the fence to get in, but I’m sure there’s a way to work that out.

      Liked by 1 person

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