‘Twas the Night before lockdown.

The Mutual Self Help WhatsApp group set up on our road is now mostly used for neighbours to post up some spectacular photos, advertise lost cats and check with each other if the Virgin Broadband internet connection has gone down AGAIN.

On the walk past the park down to the shops J remarks that she keeps being sent ads for for something she has only talked about on the phone and not clicked on. Alexa is watching you.

An electric sign above the entrance to Aldi asks people to stop and wait if it is showing red and come in if it is showing green. It is showing red. Everyone is going in. Some jobs have to be done by people. A sign on a door is advice from a technological slave. A person on a door sets up a relationship with a peer. Even if they’d put the stop/go lights in a cardboard cut out of a person – like those replica Policemen they use to nudge people not to shoplift at Morrisons – it would have worked better. Even a picture of eyes looking at you clicks on your conscience.

Coffee with COVID?

In the vast Lebanese eatery by the tube station, where we risk a coffee, a brisk trade is given a slightly edgy feel by impending closure – and the way that the black clad, elegant staff, who sashay between tables carrying trays above their shoulders in one hand with an almost French flourish, are all wearing masks that don’t cover their noses. S showed us a poster that compared wearing a mask without covering the nose to wearing a condom that just covers the testicles. With picture. This is now impossible to un-see every time someone comes past wearing their mask in an “off the nose” style.

Out of the windows of the Bus, people scurry past the shops in the twilight wearing masks, stocking up. Posters spell out the current level of warning and measures to be taken. A recorded announcement proclaims the need for all passengers to wear masks. Several people without them show no sign of having heard it. The style is dystopian and isolating – feels like being on a different planet – rather than humane and mobilising. Probably the best the Tories can do. They can only mobilise in national terms. Humanity is a bit beyond them.

On the way back up the hill, our local UKIP supporter’s cinema screen TV lights up the street with the interminable US presidential results programme’s hypnotic red and blue dyptich glowing in a darkened living room. Biting their nails for the wrong result.

Listening to Radio 4 while washing up – as you do – I realise that Michael Buerk’s voice is two parts sigh to three parts sneer.