This week, I have covid, so here are some THOUGHTS about station naming conventions. Also, the Tory party treats us to a festival of electoral suicide.
One of the less existential worries which has occupied my brain for much of the past two years is the constant, niggling fear that I am doing lateral flow tests wrong. A friend whose brother-in-law is a doctor – one of the two standard sources for all medical knowledge, the other of course being “Google” – once told me that if it doesn’t feel properly invasive, the sort of thing that requires a sugary drink and 3-6 months of counselling to get over, you’re probably not getting in deep enough with the swab. So I’ve jammed the things so far up my nose that it made my eyes water and the rest of my face sneeze uncontrollably, and I’ve jabbed it so hard into my tonsils I’ve very nearly thrown up.
And yet, despite that, even on occasions, when I felt certain, certain, that this unusually severe cold – I don’t normally get colds! – must surely be the rona at last, the tests have remained consistently negative. Was I really clear of the virus? Or was I just doing the tests wrong?
Well, it turns out that I needn’t have worried because this week we’ve both been a bit under the weather, and a friend I saw on Thursday reported having the plague, and this time all I needed to do was basically waft the swab gently past my nose and, three minutes into the allotted 30 minute countdown, there it was: a line the width of the M25, subtly suggesting that it would be a bad idea if I were to leave the house and breathe on anyone.
Honestly, it just feels passé to get it now, doesn’t it?
So, that’s where we are. We’re all fine (although the dog, who is in an unusually pathetic mood, did wake me up on Monday morning by sneezing, very loudly, directly into my ear). But my brain isn’t working properly, and forming whole sentences and checking there’s a verb in them and stuff suddenly feels like a real challenge, which is a bit of a bugger given what I do for a living.
It’s also – this is a continuation of last week’s theme – making it quite difficult to work out which bit of the Conservative leadership contest are actually happening and which bits I’ve just imagined because come on, surely Jacob Rees-Mogg didn’t really threaten to stand? That’s just the combination of the hottest week of the year and a sick imagination on Covid-19 talking, surely to god. (He considered it, but withdrew to back Liz Truss instead.) And Monday’s Commons session can’t really have been interrupted by a pipe bursting and water streaming in from the roof of the chamber, can it? It’s as though Boris Johnson’s ego is now so massive that its departure has wrecked the fabric of the building itself; like Samson really let himself go.
If the very structures of politics really are breaking down around us, of course, the true culprit is surely the nature of the leadership contest even now under way.1 For the third time in six years, Britain will have a new Prime Minister, chosen not by the electorate, nor by the MPs who will make up their government (although they will whittle the shortlist down to two), but by the members of the Conservative party.
We know remarkably little about this group, considering the important job we’ve allotted to them: we don’t even know how many of them there are. But from what we do know, they are largely male, largely old (more than half are over 60) and largely southern. They are also – despite the admirable diversity of the candidate list –
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