Bonkers on the beaches… but Boris Johnson said he wanted bustle…

ALL those people flocking to the beaches in Bournemouth and elsewhere must be bonkers. The headline writer in Metro captures it well over a photograph of human sardines dipped in a suntan lotion dressing: “Where isn’t Wally?”

Nothing would convince me to go to that beach or any other while we are still in a pandemic; nothing would convince me to go even if we weren’t in a pandemic. Too many people; too much sweaty proximity. A sand dune hollow on a quiet beach with a good book, yes please; a zero social distance scrum in the over-populated heat on a mounting hill of litter, no thanks.

People keep asking how Covid-19 might change us. To judge by all those people crammed on the sand, the answer may be not a lot. Yet while those sunseekers might, in Metro-speak, all be Wally, in a sense it’s easy to see how this happened.

Our weather is inconstant and a sunny day will draw us to the beaches. In relatively peaceful York, the streets are becoming rowdy as people misbehave in the sunshine; late at night from our attic bedroom we have been disturbed by shouting and partying.

Then consider this. All those beach sardines basically have Boris Johnson’s blessing. Only the other day he told the public to come out of “our long national hibernation”, adding: “I want to see bustle and I want to see activity.”

Well, Mr Johnson, you got bustle and you got activity. All those people obeyed your instructions to go out and enjoy normal life again. And then were pilloried in the newspapers and on the TV for doing as you suggested. And told off by your health secretary who said he might have to close the beaches.

This was denied by the talking head of the day – checks notes, oh, George Eustice, whoever he might be; and no it’s not worth checking – who said the government would be ‘reluctant’ to close beaches.

I don’t know if Downing Street employs a weather forecaster. Maybe there is one and the holder of that rainy post is under orders to predict Great British sunshine every day.

Boris Johnson could at least have checked the forecast before announcing a great unbottling of society in a heatwave. Instead he shook the bottle, popped the cork with a cheery hurrah, and told everyone to bustle off. Those people fighting for space on the beaches were fools – but they were doing what the prime minister said.

We’re all being told to call on that good old British common sense by a man who doesn’t have any himself.

The ending of lockdown was never going to be easy. But arranging for everyone to rush to the beaches in a heatwave within virus-spitting distance wasn’t the smartest idea.

I’d like to say I’m surprised, but my sense of surprise stopped worked weeks ago. I do hope that’s not a symptom.

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