Sunday was a depressing day for me at St Andrews. I made the mistake of switching between the Andrew Marr Show
on BBC 1, and Sophy Ridge on Sky News
. Both these programmes have as their strategy the interrogation of politicians in order to create the week's political agenda, the revelations often posted on the websites of their channels even before the programmes have ended.
On Sunday, we heard interviews about the apparent lack of protective equipment for front-line staff. Marr's programme is called a Show
– perhaps a Show Trial
would be more appropriate, with his combative style, arm chopping in emphasis as if he is lecturing a school child. Sophy Ridge interviewed Jeremy Corbyn, who told her that the NHS is not ready to face coronavirus. It was on Twitter within minutes.
These two programmes hosted by Marr and Ridge seem to me unnecessary, and even damaging at this time of pandemic. The responses they elicit from their guests can engender confusion and anxiety in medical staff and viewers. Their relentless questioning to have the future disclosed before it has arrived, when neither of them has any medical or scientific qualifications, is counterproductive. A strategy of interrogation – applied during the Brexit debacle – to expose failings and untruths in government policy is out of place in the present fraught times.
Whatever one has felt about Boris Johnson (and I have not been an admirer), it is evident that, though he and his ministers may have erred in not implementing a safest strategy earlier, that topic should be for future investigation when coronavirus is conquered, or at least, contained. The Prime Minister at his daily briefings to the nation (and at which he was candid about the probable loss of loved ones) is flanked by expert dedicated advisers in medicine and science, with integrity and genuine concern for people.
It seems to me that, given the relentless advance of the virus, the Government is doing its best to source and provide protective gear and ventilators. I suggest that Andrew Marr and Sophy Ridge be taken off the Sunday airwaves meantime, since they serve no positive purpose; and that these slots are filled with soothing optimistic topics and entertaining shows to lift our spirits. The daily briefing from the Prime Minister with medical and scientific representatives, with questions put to them by assembled journalists, is sufficient for us, since we get a Sunday briefing as well.
Sunday afternoon was no less depressing in St Andrews. 'Beaches should not be busy,' Nicola Sturgeon warned in her lucid coronavirus address to the nation in the evening. Earlier, I had been down to the West Sands in St Andrews because I suspected what I would see; a crowded beach and scores of parked cars. It was clear that these were not locals because some of them were sitting on chairs outside their vehicles, eating what were obviously picnics they had brought.
St Andrews is a premier visitor attraction, with some of the finest beaches in Scotland. Every weekend in good weather, a considerable number of people travel here from Edinburgh and other places. This is what obviously happened this Sunday, because families want to get outdoors for exercise and recreation. This invasion – and with the invasion of campervans in the Highlands – shows a deplorable lack of concern for the residents of St Andrews, who require their own beaches to walk on at safe distance at a time of severe restrictions.
I suggest that if people – as in the Highlands – continue to pour into St Andrews at the weekends, then the Army based at Leuchars could be detailed to form checkpoints on the roads leading into St Andrews to turn back visitors. Such a restriction is what is happening now with Scotland's ferries, in case the islands are overwhelmed.
The barbarians with their combative trolleys, like chariots in a pitched battle, have been invading the supermarkets, piling up the pasta and toilet rolls as if there is an acute outbreak of dysentery. Fortunately, staff are policing the supermarkets, and on Monday morning I was heartened, outside Marks & Spencer in St Andrews, to see that customers were observing the hour dedicated to the elderly, and that the frail old woman with the wire basket could do her modest shopping in peace and security.
Both my wife Mary and I are in our 70s, and I have underlying health problems that would make coronavirus dangerous for me. In the course of life a person has different attitudes to death. My dear brother Kenny's passing at the early age of 54 was a tragedy; mine at 77 would not be, especially since my wife and I are of strong faith. However, my placid attitude to death from coronavirus has been undermined by video footage on some television channels and websites of virus patients in the throes of horrifying deaths. To spare sufferers of all ages this end of life trauma, I believe that it is essential the Do Not Resuscitate option for withholding CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or any method of life support in respect of the patient's wishes is extended to the coronavirus virus.
Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's adviser, denies vehemently that he suggested that pensioners should be sacrificed to the coronavirus in order to protect the economy. My reading at this time of isolation and reflection includes the poems of Yeats. 'This is no country for old men,' he wrote; and for old women too, perhaps.