Fun with the pandemic: It’s the update from Britain

What could possibly go wrong when they reopen England’s schools? Well, they may be short of 6,000 buses. If so, the problem will hit kids who get to school on public transportation. Some bus companies reduced the number of buses on their routes when the pandemic hit, and social distancing will reduce capacity even further.  

Just to make this more fun, no one knows where the shortages will be. Some councils (that translates to local governments) are putting on kids-only public buses. Others are installing dart boards and using the tried-and-true method of having a blindfolded, socially distanced elected official throw a single dart. If she or he misses the board, no extra buses will be needed.

Bus companies got extra funding to ride out the pandemic (if you’re American, fasten your seat belt, because the language is going to get bumpy), but coach companies didn’t. 

Irrelevant photo: Morris dancers. Because what could be more fun that putting on a costume and whacking at one stick with another stick? This is from way before the pandemic, when people–yes, really–did stuff like this. 

What’s the difference? A bus runs a local route in a metropolitan area. A coach runs between cities. Or internationally. Possibly interplanetarily. But it’s still, physically speaking, a bus. Or so says Lord Google, although he doesn’t mention the interplanetary routes. Only a few of us know about them. We scoop up hints from the far corners of the internet and piece together the patterns.

Coaches are largely for privately chartered trips. 

Let’s review that: A bus is not a coach. A coach is a bus only different. And a couch is neither.

You’re welcome.

Why do we need two separate words? So that we’ll know who not to fund, silly. Also to confuse Americans who pretend to know something about Britain but understand less than they think they do. I don’t promise that I got the definitions right. What I can tell you with authority is that there is a difference and that it’s a mystery tightly held by people who descended from the Druids and who still know some of their secrets.

What do coaches have to do with the problem of kids getting to school? Some school districts may have to hire coaches to pretend they’re buses. But by November, the best data-driven dartboards predict, 18,000 of the 42,000 people working in the coach industry will be out of jobs and nearly 16,000 coaches will be off the roads. That’s something like half the UK’s fleet.

See lack of funding, above.

The Department of Education has issued guidance to local authorities saying that “at least 50% of journeys to school of two miles or less” need to be done on foot or by bike to leave space on the buses for longer trips.

And they’re going to convince the kids to do that how, exactly?


Another unexpected result of the pandemic has been that cooks are turning back to canned food. Or as they put it here, tinned food. When the pandemic and panic buying rode into Britain like two lonely horsemen of the apocalypse, canned tomatoes disappeared off the shelves as quickly as toilet paper. 

No, sorry, I don’t have the recipe.

Sales of canned food went up 72.6% in March. That’s compared to March of 2019. 

So what are the canned-food companies doing? Kicking off a canned food festival on Instagram, dragging in TV chefs with Michelin stars to convince us that a curry involving canned spinach, potatoes, and chickpeas is a good idea.

I’ll go as far as the chickpeas. After that, I’m outta here. 

To be fair, they’re urging people to donate to food banks, so I can’t make fun of them too much.


The pandemic hasn’t sent Britain back to the age of Victorian prudery, but the country does have a new set of guidelines on how to shoot sex scenes. It comes from Directors UK and it’s about how to handle “nudity and simulated sex.” I recommend paying attention, because you can never predict when you’ll be called on to deal with simulated sex. If I’d known when I was twenty–

Nah, we’ll skip the details. I could’ve spared myself no end of awkward situations.

What are the directors going to do? Well, for one thing–and I know this will shock you–they recommend looking at scripts to see if sex scenes couldn’t be replaced with emotional intimacy. 

See? I told you you’d be shocked.

They recommend looking at some of the classics (Casablanca’s mentioned) to see how sexual tension can be built without the flapping breasts that are generally thrown in as a quick and easy substitute.

They also raise the possibility of actors quarantining for two weeks before shooting a sex scene or using real-life partners. In case emotional intimacy’s too much work and the flapping breasts are absolutely necessary.

In Australia, a long-runnnig soap, Neighbours, has started shooting again. Actors keep a meter and a half apart and (you’d guess this, since it’s not practical at that distance) there’s no kissing. 


Facial recognition technology is having a hard time telling the difference between a person wearing a mask and a spoof of a face. That made the news because shoppers who use it to pay for things with their phones are either having to take their masks off or enter a code instead, but the CCTV cameras of the world are having a quiet breakdown in a back room somewhere. Their failure rate ranges from 5% to 50%.


Since the organization that will replace Public Health England is being handed to the person who set up England’s world-beating test and trace program, I can’t let you go without an example of test and trace success:  An anonymous tracer writing in the Guardian says, “I was hired as a contact tracer in the north-west of England at the end of May. . . . 

“In 12 weeks I have not made a single call, despite working 42 hours a week. . . . We have a WhatsApp group comparing notes with other call handlers and quite a few haven’t had even one job. . . . 

“Given that the north-west has seen some of the biggest spikes in infections, you would think we would be busy. . . . 

“Despite not being allocated any cases in three months, I was offered an extension on my contract this morning.”

Outsourced tracing companies have missed 46% of contacts in the hardest hit parts of England.

It’s all good though. 

26 thoughts on “Fun with the pandemic: It’s the update from Britain

  1. The words “bus” and “coach” have the same meaning here, though most people aren’t aware, like the difference between “sub” and “hoagie” has been lost.

    Sinatra would be aghast at flapping breasts in Casablanca…or maybe he wouldn’t…I don’t think that’s what a flapper was back in his day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Our local council has the answer to this. It is turning one of the two extremely busy lanes on the main road which runs past my estate, linking the M60 to Manchester city centre, into a cycle lane, so that everyone can cycle to school/work. So the very heavy traffic which crawls for miles at the best of times will be forced into one lane, leaving the other lane free for the two or three people who want to cycle in autumn and winter, when it’s usually pouring with rain and will be dark at rush hour. A genius idea, no?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What do the intergalactic coach stops look like. I am going to get a ride before the Donald has the Space Force build a wall and trap us all here ! Gotta go pack. One towel and Coach Riders Guide to the Galaxy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Re ‘how to to shoot sex scenes’, it might be instructive to re-visit the Hays Code This terribly helpful code introduced single beds for married couples and the necessity, when a double bed was involved, for at least one foot of the male to be firmly attached to the floor. As for ‘Neighbours’, you pays your money and you takes your chances and thank you very much for the revenue.;-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think, although I can’t swear, that they’re talking about kids old enough to take public transportation, but it doesn’t take into account that not everyone who lives two miles from school lives someplace that’s safe to walk. Is that pavement (a.k.a. a sidewalk) or a footpath? Are we talking about busy roads, either to walk on or two cross? Are there stoplights. And so on.

      I wonder how many of these clowns walk two miles to work.


  5. This week is the TrumpNational Party convention. Most of the speakers are named Trump. There maybe some flapping breasts but we will be watching baseball…or reading a long book on history…(we did find a biography of General Sherman that we hadn’t read yet !) We send thoughts and prayers to all of you, but will be lying low

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure the will. The question is, 4% faster than what?

      In the last few years, any time the government’s challenged on a failure–to support the NHS or the schools, to set up a decent testing system or supply pretective gear–they spew out statistics on the amount of money they’ve spent, or the amount of [fill in the blank] they have provided. None of which addresses the question. So 4% of we don’t know what? Of course they have!

      Liked by 1 person

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