A letter from the UK

By Howard Blackett

Greetings from the UK.

In England we are, at last, making the first tentative steps to free ourselves from the anti-coronavirus lockdown; that is not the case, however, in Scotland, Wales and NI where the restrictions remain as tight as ever – an unforeseen and absurd consequence of the steady devolution of political power over the years from Westminster to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, which has led to variations in the response to the crisis across the UK. As was predictable, escape from the lockdown is proving to be a greater challenge than implementing it in the first place; many pundits thought that the Prime Minister’s statement to the nation on Sunday evening posed as many questions as it provided answers and, even though 48 hours later much of the detail is now clear, there remains an air of uncertainty across the country.

This image was provided by Pexels

One of the key issues relating to the return to normality is when schools should be back in business. The government has suggested that primary schools should re-open for pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, on 1 June with the hope that all pupils of primary school age will return to school for at least some of this term; they have also suggested that secondary school pupils in Years 10 and Lower 6, who will be sitting GCSE and A levels respectively in 2021, should return to school (or at least have some face to face contact time with their teachers) prior to the end of this term. I have my doubts that any of this will happen – Headteachers and their union representatives have expressed serious concerns relating, in particular, to the impracticability of social distancing of young pupils and parents, too, fearing the worst, have indicated a reluctance to return their children to school. I suspect that this term will be written off and that pupils of all ages will go back to school at the start of the new academic year in September. 

In the midst of all these difficulties, it is good to be able to report that the recent 75th anniversary of VE Day was celebrated with gusto in all corners of the UK. Comparisons have been drawn between those who survived WW2 (Britain’s “greatest” generation) and those of us now dealing with Covid 19 and even the Queen said that the spirit so evident in the 1940s is still present today – she was probably being a touch generous in her assessment!   

By the way the Covid 19 crisis now has its own “lockdown lingo”:

  1. Coronacoaster – the ups and downs of one’s mood during the pandemic.
  2. Quarantinis – cocktails mixed from random ingredients left in the pantry and elsewhere.
  3. Coronials (as opposed to millennials) – the future generation of babies conceived or born during coronavirus quarantine.
  4. Furlough Merlot – lockdown wine also known as Boredeaux or Cabernet Tedium
  5. Coronadose – an overdose of bad news during the crisis.
  6. Quentin Quarantino – a lockdown attention-seeker making amateur films.
  7. Covidiot – one who ignores public health advice.
  8. Covid 10 – the 10lbs in weight that we’re all gaining from comfort-eating and comfort-drinking; also known as fattening the curve.

I hope that lockdown isn’t too tough for all of you.

Howard Blackett (Rector, Peterhouse 2013 – 2019)

PS I notice that there has been a lively debate going on in Bambazonke on the subject of school fees during the Covid 19 crisis (an issue which has also aroused some debate in the UK). It would be undiplomatic of me to get involved in the discussion but I would like to say that independent schools in Zimbabwe are remarkably good (a jewel in the country’s crown) and whatever the pros and cons of the fees issue those schools need to emerge from the crisis strong enough to continue their excellent work; that will require cooperation/understanding between the schools which set the fees and the parents who pay them.  

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