Don’t you know there’s a pandemic on?
TIMES change, manners and customs do as well. But some things remain surprisingly constant. It is, for example, curious to see how some of the war-time slogans and reactions on the home front to the last war, have had fresh life breathed into them, with minimum adaption, in this new national emergency.
PUT THAT LIGHT OUT! – Undeniably good instruction at a time of blackout and blitz. But… many readers will remember the TV comedy series, Dad’s Army, and the obnoxious greengrocer, played by Bill Pertwee, who acted the part of an Air Raid Protection Warden for whom a uniform and a little power went to his head as he found a niche in which he could boss people about legitimately – a characterisation that many people who went through the war found quite true to life.
It seems that this autumn and winter the UK is going to have Covid Marshals. At best they will do a good job and help keep infection from spreading; it is not hard to surmise, however, that the role will give at least some Marshals a taste of unaccustomed authority and an opportunity to use that authority to bully and intimidate.
IS YOUR JOURNEY REALLY NECESSARY? That slogan of the last war quickly became a joke, a question to ask facetiously of anyone wanting to go to the loo. In modern lockdown times, the same question can now be asked of anyone driving from A to B.
DON’T YOU KNOW THERE’S A WAR ON? My late mother was, as a young WAF officer, billeted for a while at the home of a grim old bat, apparently, who was such a stickler for the rules that the depth of bath water in the tub was strictly measured. When my mother expressed a preference for a depth of water to at least cover her midriff, she was asked this question, in the most severe and abrupt manner. Nowadays, the question ‘Don’t you know there’s a pandemic on?’ can be at least inferred in relation to anyone who, by mischance, walks the wrong way through a doorway in a shop or inadvertently does not comply with some home-made interpretation of social distancing.
As for informers – there is at least a change, in that during the War, cameras were not ubiquitous and taking pictures on mobile phones was an undreamt-of activity on an invention that would not trouble us for many decades to come. Informers had to rely on the anonymous note: ‘Mrs Smith is getting a larger meat ration from her butcher than she should have.’ These days, the mobile phone is a godsend to the Covid Vigilante.
I am thinking of the man who, on a popular Jersey beach, wandered round during hot weather taking pictures of young people mixing together – especially, it seems, of young teenage girls wearing bikinis – and then putting the pictures on Facebook. He was deterred, it seems, by some of the girls taking pictures of him taking pictures of their friends… good for them.
Then there are the people who see a work party employed by a farmer standing close together in a field, perhaps having just disembarked from their transport vehicle. Unaware that the farmer employing them has taken great care to ensure that anyone working together stays in the same ‘bubble’, morning noon and night, they feel it their public duty to take a picture of the group and then publicise that.
My advice to these wretched vigilantes, who are so zealous of their public duty, is to send the pictures to the German Military authorities at College House. The ghosts of these officials might be pleased to see that the same sort of behaviour that disgraced some members of Jersey’s Occupation generation is still alive and well, albeit in a more modern form.