Bunnies, scotch eggs, and religions: England greets the pandemic

No set of guidelines is so perfect that someone, somewhere won’t see a loophole and someone else won’t see a joke. A bar in Nottingham sees both. 

As usual, we need some background before we go on. Remember how Julius Caesar divided all of Gaul into three parts? No? Well, I was kind of young back then, but I swear no one talked about anything else for months. And here we are a couple of thousand years later with all Britain divided three tiers.

It’s so exciting. We’re following the example of the Roman Empire. We haven’t elected a horse to Parliament yet, so we may not follow every detail, but we haven’t ruled it out yet.

But back to the bar: Britain’s just come out of a lockdown and the tiers are about how many Covid cases each area has. If you have more cases, you have more restrictions, and if you have more restrictions, you have a higher tier number.

Nottingham is in tier three. That means that bars, pubs, cafes, restaurants, and social clubs are closed “except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services.”

Bowling alleys, casinos, and movies (not being able to do click and collect) are also closed, along with everything else you can think of that’s fun (or that someone you know thinks is fun even if  you don’t) and indoors and a handy place to trade viruses. So are some things that are outdoors, and I have no idea what the logic there is.

Irrelevant photo: A something plant. We got it last year and whatever is it, it survived the last winter. I’m hoping it’ll make it through another.

Places of worship are open, along with hairdressers, massage parlors, tattoo parlors, gyms, and a few other things that don’t like to be seen rubbing shoulders in a single category.

So what’s an enterprising bar to do? A tequila and mezcal bar called 400 Rabbits has applied to be recognized as the Church of the 400 Rabbits. Its website says:

“Join us as we begin our journey to answer absolutely none of life’s big questions. Such questions as why are we here, what’s the meaning of life, why didn’t they just fly the eagles to mordor and why did dominos stop making the double decadence pizza base?!

“Our aim is simple, to offer a place of worship to our deity the mezcal bunny. A place where you can drink mezcal without having to order a carvery dinner alongside it, a place where you aren’t kicked out into the cold heartless night at 10pm, a place where you can get away from the busy gyms, supermarkets, shops, beauty salons, massage parlours, cinemas, theatres, sports venues, xmas markets, schools, universities, betting shops and literally everywhere else that will be allowed to remain open while pubs and bars will remain shut.”

[I think their list’s of what’s allowed to stay open is off a bit, but let’s not quibble.]

“Our application to be recognised as an official place of worship and open our doors has been submitted to the registrar general. You can support our application by joining our congregation. Choose to be a ‘Bunny Believer’ or become ordained as a ‘Reverend of the Righteous Rabbits’ by signing up below.”

Membership costs £10 and gets you a T-shirt and an invitation to attend worship “if our application is granted (it definitely won’t be).”

The money will go to the Emmanuel House Support Centre, which works with the homeless.

How do you become recognized as a religion in Britain? It’s not easy, because England doesn’t have a central register of religions or any way to formally recognize one. (I think that’s true of the rest of the country but I’m not sure–sorry.)

What it does have, though, is a handy Form for Certifying a Place of Meeting for Religious Worship under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, and that’s what the bar owner is working with. The form asks about the building you’ll be using, the faith and denomination of the congregation, and whether it meets regularly for worship (“daily until late,” the 400 Rabbits wrote). That seems to be about it.

Given that the government hasn’t put itself in the business of deciding on any religion’s legitimacy, I don’t know if they’ll have any grounds to turn down the Church of the 400 Rabbits. 

The church is also on Facebook, and its page says, “We’ve had an absoloutely [nobody ever claimed rabbits could spell] overwhelming response to the church with hundreds of sign ups to the congregation from all over the world, from Kazakhstan to New Zealand, Russia and the USA and of course right here at home. And that’s before we’ve even officially launched the site!

“. . . Thanks to everyone for showing your support and helping us highlight the plight of hospitality businesses under the government’s batshit new tier restrictions!

“Now i’m off to have a hearty scotch egg for dinner!

“Praise be the bunnies.

I’m pretty sure I’d disagree with the owner–James Aspell–about opening bars in the middle of a pandemic, but he’s damn funny. Even if he and his rabbits can’t spell. 


What’s this about scotch eggs?

I wrote about this before, but hey, this is important, so let’s come back to it. The government’s tying itself in knots over scotch eggs (which, it turns out, don’t take a capital S) and the definition of a substantial meal. The definition matters because a pub can sell alcohol to anyone buying a substantial meal. But all a government has to do is tell that to the press (or the pubs) and they’ll start asking what a substantial meal is. Is it a scotch egg? A ham sandwich? A sausage roll?

The environment secretary said a scotch egg would qualify if the pub had table service. 

Then the prime minister’s spokesperson said the government wasn’t going to get into the definition of every possible meal.

Then the minister for the cabinet office, Michael Gove, said scotch eggs would make a starter but not a meal, and after that he backtracked and said they were a substantial meal. He also said the government was relying on people’s common sense.

That’s safe enough. They’re not using much, so there’s plenty left for the rest of the country.

This came up before, in October, when the housing secretary said a pasty was a substantial meal if it came with side dishes, and also when the Manchester police stopped a pizzeria called Common from selling single slices, although Common argued that the slices were “f*****ng massive.”

Full disclosure: That may have been the Manchester Evening News, not the restaurant, being coy about spelling out fucking. Or it could have been the rabbits, although I wouldn’t expect them to be coy about that.

The police, someone from Common said, told them the slices “don’t fit the substantial food brief,” but ”couldn’t tell [them] what substantial food was.”

All this matters because businesses face a £10,000 fine if they sell someone alcohol without a substantial meal. That’s enough money to focus your attention on exactly what a substantial meal is. Common is now serving only whole pizzas. To the best of my knowledge, they haven’t started a religion, although I just might join one that prayed for pizza.


51 thoughts on “Bunnies, scotch eggs, and religions: England greets the pandemic

  1. Mothers and housewives – correction, politically incorrect, I mean chief home chefs everywhere will be cheering, no slaving over a hot stove every night, just go down the takeaway deli and buy the requisite number of scotch eggs and bung them in the microwave.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Re substantial meals, I’m nobody’s patsy (or Eddy for that matter) but I didn’t know until today that pasty and pastie are interchangeable in the UK, depending on their origin (I won’t even venture into the debate about what a true pasty/pastie contains). Here it is universally pastie, which got me into trouble on an American blog because they thought I was referring to what strippers wear to cover their nipples. Somehow I doubt they would be considered a substantial meal but in your Covid in Wonderland world I wouldn’t bet on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We may not have elected a horse to Parliament, but the current ruling party seems to have more than the usual complement of donkeys. Sadly, most of them are in the Cabinet, who don’t appear to have realised that the term ‘substantial meal’ has been enshrined in law for ages, in relation to the age (14, I think) at which a young person is allowed to be in a pub with their parents if they are having a repast of substance. I’d have thought case law would have come up with a definition by now, but they don’t appear to have researched it. A fitting symbol of the whole charade.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And the Common pizza restaurant, because I saw a photo of what they call a slice of pizza. It really is humongous. Mind you, I don’t know if it tastes any good, but there’s plenty of it.

      I think we’ll have to allow for a range of beliefs of toppings. See CatLadyMac’s comment. This is going to be touchy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We haven’t elected a horse to our gummint either – but we sure have plenty of horses’ arses.

    I would sign on to a pizza religion too. But there would have to be anchovies. Not forced on everyone. (Pro-Choice supporters don’t insist everyone have an abortion -just that they be available) Just available. When the subject of pineapple on pizzas arises we will abstain. One would think The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster should be able to serve substantial meals.

    Over here attention is being drawn to the Pardon Palooza. One little hitch is that you have to admit to having committed a crime before you can be pardoned for it. Stay tuned.

    Hopes for your vaccine !

    Liked by 2 people

    • As long as the religion is nondenominational on toppings, I think we can go ahead with this. I struggle to be nonjudgmental about them, but then that’s my personal battle. I’ll try not to draw other people into it. But anchovies??? Honestly!

      I’m sure you’re right about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But if they don’t serve, or even want to serve, alcohol it doesn’t matter.

      Britain’s approved the vaccine. I hope they don’t bungle the practicalities the way they’ve bungled so many other things.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t want to be the bureaucrat charged with explaining why this application was turned down. True, alcohol’s involved, but then it’s involved in the mass as well, and as far as I know no legislation says one amount’s okay and another amount isn’t. It’s going to be awkward.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Their points are very good. Pubs and restaurants are closed here, but you can get takeaways. As these places aren’t designed to be takeaways, there’s nowhere much to queue without standing in the road in front of the traffic. So people are squashed up on the pavements. And the government thinks this is safer than sitting in a socially distanced restaurant where you’re 2 foot away from the next table!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I won’t pretend to know what’s safe, but I’d be inclined to risk an outdoor queue, even if people are too close together, over an indoor situation where people are separated but the ventilation’s bad and people are there for longer. But the idea that a religious venue is safer than a restaurant? That’s magical thinking.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Doesn’t the concept of a substantial meal depend on the person eating it?

    What is substantial for some might just be a snack for others…

    This is confusing legislation.

    I think if our government had a tagline it would be “Perpetrators of Confusing Legislation”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Some of the restaurants around here habe put up “igloos” so people can be distanced while they eat. I haven’t been to one, but I wonder why they chose that shape. Hopefully not for the temperature inside them

    Liked by 1 person

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