Jane Wenham-Jones: Lockdown lowdown – Churchill’s not here to fight them on the beaches

Jane puts her feet up after a week of WhatsApp, trippers and hotel slippers

Week 9 of Jane Wenham-Jones’ Lockdown


It is Bank Holiday, hereafter to be known as What-virus? Day. My son returns from a cycle ride to report crowds of various sizes heading for the beaches, many of whom do not appear to be local and who are practising no social distancing whatsoever. There were so many people on the path to the Captain Digby, he tells me, he couldn’t get through without being surrounded. “I have probably caught it now,” he finishes darkly.

Later we shall hear the charming stories of visitors using the sands as a giant latrine. Rather begging the question as to who travels some distance for a day out when they know the facilities are closed? Does staying alert not include reading the papers?


My son, always suggestible, wakes up coughing.

“Don’t start that,” I say.

“I’ve got a sore throat too,” he offers.

I narrow my eyes. “Well don’t breathe on me.”

His miraculous recovery arrives just in time to help deal with the recycling, which has become something of an art form. We drag the heavily-clanking blue bin down the drive and attempt to fit 27 assorted cartons Russian-doll style, into the biggest box, to save leaving the refuse collectors a cardboard Matterhorn. The days when my credit card statement was a medley of payments to restaurants, bars and train stations is but a distant memory. Now there is just the one entry repeated over and over. Amazon, Amazon, Amazon…


It is Tom’s birthday and we have arranged a suitably-timed family WhatsApp video call (the sun will be over the yardarm) which will be his grandmother’s first time in an online group.  All the tutorials have paid off and after some minor instruction via the landline, five of us – including my two sisters – are filling my phone screen. “I can’t get a word in edgeways,” my mother says, after several minutes of us waving our glasses about and shouting. “You just have to jump in,” I say helpfully. “Shut up everyone else,” I instruct, announcing grandly to my parent that she now has the floor. Unfortunately, she takes this opportunity to enquire after my knowledge of Morning Glory.  While my offspring and siblings turn puce with suppressed guffaws, she confides that hers is fading fast.  What are they laughing at? my mother wants to know, as I attempt to head her off from further descriptions of her wilting horticulture before my sister chokes. I explain there is a dual definition at play. Knowing my mater, she will have googled this the moment we rang off. And next time, will be raising the issue of her fuchsias instead.


I am so incredibly bored with Dominic Cummings. I keep reading about Britain’s “fury” but frankly I don’t give a toss. I don’t care that a top Government advisor drove two hundred miles to secure a babysitter or that he needed to travel a further thirty to find out if he could still see. What makes me mad is that he hasn’t done his job better and given some decent advice.

Two weeks ago, we knew where we were. At home mainly. Now even the most intelligent are bewildered by the rules. “My grandchildren can go back to the childminder,” complains one friend, “but can’t be looked after by me.”

“I’m allowed three cleaners in my house,” writes another, “but not my daughter.”

And the blurring of lines continues. From Monday we may now meet in each other’s gardens – something that’s been going on all week if the sights seen on my daily walks are anything to go by – and even, according to the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, nip in to use the loo if we flourish the anti-bac wipes. This is rather at odds with the rule that we are forbidden to go inside another’s person’s house, although clearly the sensible compromise for children, the elderly, beer-drinkers and anyone with a weak bladder. While a crashing disappointment, no doubt, to the hopeful makers of She-wees and shovels.

When Boris goes down in history, it will not be for the clarity of the message. Forget comparisons with Churchill fighting a war on all fronts. Never, in the history of pandemics, have so many, been confused so much, by so little….

First World problem of the week

We have finally run out of “hotel slippers”. I stay away frequently and bring home a constant supply of disposable footwear for use by the whole family. After an undignified tussle over the final pair, when I’ve planted geraniums in mine, I order a job lot on Amazon (of course). They promised to be soft, luxurious and comfortable, but are flimsy, thin-soled and on the small side.  Reader, life is  just not the same…



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