Tea, biscuits, and sewage: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

How did the  Great British Public cope with lockdown? By spending an extra £24m on tea and coffee in the last three months, and they splurged an extra £19m on biscuits–or to put that in American, on cookies. 

Alcohol? Sales were up by 41% this month. And people are reading more, although based on the alcohol sales they can’t remember a word of it come morning.

A number of readers have written that they look for something upbeat in these posts. I hope that qualifies. I’m vain enough that I want people to remember what I write, but let’s face it, I’ve written–yea, and published–some stuff that if they couldn’t remember it by morning they’d be doing me a favor.


Screamingly irrelevant flowers. Whatsit flowers. In bloom. In our yard. They’re wonderful–the slugs don’t eat them.

By the end of October, the Great British Government will have some Great British Walk-In Testing Centers open in the hope that they’ll persuade more people to get tested. According to Great Government Estimates, the current testing program is picking up only a third of the estimated 1,700 Great New Infections per day.

Why? For starters, they’re testing either primarily or only people with symptoms. That leaves the symptomless carriers walking around shedding their germs. The rumor mill insists that if you go deeply enough into the small print of the government website you’ll find that symptomless people can be tested, but the font must be too small for my aging eyes. I haven’t found it. 

Of course, you can also just lie about having symptoms, and if I thought I’d been exposed I’d do it with no hesitation, but most people aren’t as [fill in your choice of adjective(s) here] as I am, and counting on people lying when it’s necessary isn’t the best way to set up a program.

Meanwhile, the centralized Test and Trace system is missing 45% of infected people’s close contacts. Or according to a different source, 20%. (Those may cover different areas. They may not. Go figure.)Local teams miss 2%, but we can’t rely on them because it’s important to privatize the service so someone can make a profit.

Does my writing look bitter in this?


With twelve hours to go before face masks became compulsory in some places in England but not in others, the government released details on who-what-when-where-how. 

Okay, less than twelve hours, but I like round numbers.

We won’t do all the details. If you need them, go someplace sensible. But to give you a sense of how well thought out the guidelines are, if you’re a shop worker, you don’t have to wear a mask but if you’re a shop customer you do. However, they’re strongly recommended for shop workers. Where appropriate. 

What’s appropriate? The shop has to figure that out.

You do have to wear a mask in a bank. You don’t have to wear one in a movie theater. The virus is highly distractible. Give it a good shoot-em-up and it forgets its goal, which is to spread. Money, on the other hand, bores it shitless, so in a bank it continues to methodically infect your cells and spew forth its colleagues to infect new people.

Assuming, of course, that you’re a carrier. Which I don’t wish on any of us, but we can’t cover all the possible variations here. We’ll sink under the weight of verbiage. It’s bad enough as it is.

You do have to wear a mask when you go into a sandwich shop or cafe, but when you sit down to eat you can take it off. There’s no need to liquidize your sandwich and infuse through the layers or shove the mask into your mouth as you bite into your sandwich. If there’s table service, though, the virus getss lazy, so again, no mask.

Cabinet Minister Brandon Lewis explained that this is all “clear, good common sense.” 

I hope he and I have cleared things up.

Some chains have announced that they won’t be enforcing the rules. The police have said they can’t be bothered. 

Thanks, everyone. Speaking only for myself and a few hundred of my closest friends, we appreciate everything you’re doing to keep us safe. We’ll have to rely on the Great British Institutions of quiet social pressure and tutting. According to Hawley’s Small and Unscientific Survey, they work. My partner stopped at the store today and everyone was wearing a mask except for one man. He looked around uneasily and tied a sweatshirt around his face. So that’s 100% out of a sample of one.


Early studies in several countries make it look like sewage sampling will give an early warning of local coronavirus flare ups, even before people notice any symptoms. That bit of news comes from the most romantic of cities, Paris. From Eau de Paris, in fact, which sounds like something ladies dabbed behind their ears and on their wrists when I was a kid but is, in fact, the water and sewage company.

Who said the virus hasn’t brought us anything to enjoy?


As long as we’re in France, a hospital in Lyon is running trials on a breathalyzer-like Covid detector that gives a result in seconds. They hope to have it up and running by the end of the year so they can test patients as they come in. If it gets through the early tests, the next hurdle will be making it affordable. At the moment, it’s too expensive to distribute widely.


An international team has identified what seem to be the most powerful anti-Covid antibodies. Some of them, they think, hold promise as treatments. You may be able to get more out of the article than I could, so I’ll give  you a link. I didn’t even understand enough to make jokes. What little I’m telling you comes from a dumbed-down summary. What I do understand–or think I understand–is that the antibodies could be reproduced on a large scale and work as a treatment. 



And finally, 84 of the world’s richest people have called for governments to tax the world’s wealthiest people–including them–more heavily to fund the world’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic’s economic impact, they say, could last for decades and “push half a billion more people into poverty” while they–the world’s wealthiest–have money and it’s desperately needed. 

87 thoughts on “Tea, biscuits, and sewage: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

  1. Such is my feeling about what the Great British Government (or any other Government headed by a person who thinks themself great) might do with an increased amount of pounds, dollars or just plain cash from the worlds richest people, that said 84 richest people might be well advised to
    a/. stop taking it off the disadvantaged people in the first place and
    b/. spend the money themselves on what they feel needs to be done
    Otherwise, it going wandering off into a Cayman Islands shell company accidentally after being dissolved/laundered/diverted/hidden in–ahem–official accounting, is pretty likely.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, the alternative is going to be taxing the people who are least able to afford it, which is what they usually do. Not that I disagree with you about how they’re spending it–cronies, privatization, HS2, anything else you can think of. But the idea of taxing the rich, you’ll have to admit, is radical.


      • Just a thought in reply to both comments: I hate paying taxes as much as anyone else, and I hate what the government’s doing with public money particularly. But the right wing in general has done an inspired job of making us all hate taxes and government in general (not just theirs–they’ve convinced most of us that government never does anything good) and so starving public services. Which is one reason we’re in the mess we’re in.

        And they never tax the rich proportionately.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Relying on social pressure and tutting seem to be working wonders on your Covid-19 numbers, so I’m going to contact Joe Biden to ask him to add tutting to his platform this fall.
    If and only if he can properly define tutting, that is. Tutting reminds me of clucking, but I guess that would be totally irrelevant much like the gorgeous photo today.
    Where the mind goes.
    Lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Observing from the outside, I have been appalled by Boris Johnson’s and the government’s response to Covid. Was it naive of me as an American to think England would do better?

    P.S. I love the irrelevant flower pics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. The irrelevant photos form, I like to think, an entirely separate ongoing essay.

      Was it naive? Hard to say. Since we moved here, though, I’ve watched the Conservative governments and been shocked at the sheer amateurishness. Of course, compared to Trump they’re amateurs and being amateurs.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d have thought our government would be ok with people lying to get tested. After all, their whole government is based on lies, as is the ‘success’ of their testing programme.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Masks are compulsory here in some regions. I went shopping yesterday and everyone was wearing one–you couldn’t go into a store without it. I guess we’ll know in about three weeks if opening things up will have a negative impact on the covid numbers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I absolutely love movies and going to the cinema is a treat we very much enjoy as a family. However, going to the cinema is one of the last things I will be doing as we (hopefully … maybe …) emerge from this pandemic so the idea of being able to go to the cinema in the midst of a public health crisis and not having to wear a mask to do so strikes me as totally cuckoo bananas.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for this. There are several people making me feel like the Grinch for not letting them sing, or for limiting their singing; not taking the risk seriously at all. I echo your consternation (my interpretation of your words) over the inconsistency of mask rules and protocol. I do appreciate your sense of humor, what is life without laughter? Blessings, Michele Somerville (The Beach Girl…)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Someone’s doing some serious research on singing and wind instruments. It involves having people sing “Happy Birthday” into a tube while they measure droplets and aerosols. (They needed a song everyone knew. That cuts out one variable.) The article I saw last week said they hoped to have some preliminary results in a few weeks. In the meantime, Grinch away. It may save a life or two.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I can’t even begin to comment on the coronavirus, as my country mucks it up even worse than yours. But I will comment on biscuits. Whenever my Brit friend says she’s eating biscuits, it somehow sounds wholesome and healthy to me. Vs. cookies. I think I will adopt a bit of Brit English for awhile to make myself feel better:).

    Liked by 2 people

  8. It is mind boggling how badly the UK and the US have botched this (to use a printable word) but somehow it seems so much more mean-spirited over here. An old white male congressman screaming obscenities at a young female congressperson younger than his youngest daughter (of Latina heritage but BORN IN BROOKLYN) on the steps of the US Capitol in front of reporters…you can’t beat that for classlessness. Nor would you want to.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s hard to get a real sense of what’s happening when I’m in another country, but it does seem like all the roaches have crawled out of the woodwork: all the racism, all the sexism, all the barely suppressed nastiness.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oops – born in THE BRONX she was. And she has more than once been told to “go back where she came from.” Granted, The Yankees play there, but come on –

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well, I went to that Nature article. I had heard something about that on the radio. The authors think it might be possible to give a vaccine that stimulates the antibodies that would fight Covid off, which would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? Of course, in the meantime, we have to keep our heads down and hope our incompetent governments don’t muck things up any further…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A new report has found that men who support Trump have a smaller than average penis. The study appears authentic. Empathy support, I guess. Maybe this explains the naked man wearing a mask over his weenie?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, gee, I was going to say it didn’t look legit, but actually it kind of does. Do I really want to type “Trump supporter average penis size” into Google to find out, though? I’m overcome with an uncharacteristic attack of prudishness. Let’s just say it might be and leave it there.


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