BANKSY’S WEEK: First isolationist, Fred’s farewell, panic buying gin, when NOT to keep mum

Once upon a time I wrote a Friday column in The Newcastle Journal Based on my rural retirement from Big City journalism. My characters are real people; drinking friends, mostly, from the Red Lion in an area I call Godzone. Now it’s back. . .

The First Man in Britain
to Self-Isolate

I know why the ‘Absentee County Councillor’ Roderick Lawrie is almost silently  representIng his north Northumberland constituency from a new home 350 miles and a sea voyage away on the Isle of Man. 


And he has been doing it for more than a year now. The man who represents a dozen English border parishes from his Manx tax haven obviously saw the coronavirus pandemic coming long before anyone else. Plainly, he kept the news to himself in order not to panic the population.

He didn’t tell his Northumberland county council colleagues the real reason for his pre-Christmas 2018 moonlit flit. He presumably didn’t tell his (Conservative ) council leader either, nor even the Prime Minister who, as a result, couldn’t tip off the rest of us until the UK’s former European friends began to die in disturbing numbers.

Unselfish to the last, Roderick Lawrie abandoned his Europe-wide snuff packing business to the attentions of Her Majesty’s Revenue officials and took up residence on the Manx offshore tax haven in order to remain fit enough to carry out his well-paid county duties, apparently by phone and email.

Looking back over The Clarion’s recent coverage of his mysterious absence from many civic meetings I realise an awful truth: I have seriously misjudged County Councillor Lawrie.

I was too easily taken in by his “I will have to resign” assurances

I was wrong to doubt the replies to my questions put to the Conservative council leader Peter Jackson at a full county council meeting.

Little did I realise that the man I took for a mere absentee was actually a martyr, suffering self-isolation from the home he loved to keep himself fit for our sakes!

Now I understand. And I am comforted to know that County Councillor Lawrie is doing as much good for the people he represents now that he lives on the Isle of Man as he ever did when lived here!

VIPs for a day
A touching tribute to my old friend Fred Scott of Wooler when his racegoing pals sponsored a day of point to point racing at Ratcheugh, Alnwick. 

Sponsoring two of the races in Fred’s name and awarding a prize to Best Turned Out Horse would have tickled the old guy, as would the Lawnmower Salesman’s latest jape: leaving two sponsors’ tickets at the entrance addressed to latecomers ‘Sir’ Jimmy Walker and ‘the Rt. Hon.’ James Hall.

The two Borders farmers were as baffled as the flustered gateman who presented the ‘VIP guests’ with their race cards and tickets. 

If you’re reading this, Your Majesty, and don’t ever remembering laying the sword on Jimmy’s shoulder please don’t give the game away!

I’m panic buying gin
I arrived at the supermarket too late in the day to take part in the panic-buying spree: the shelves holding toilet rolls had been long since been wiped clean and I spotted the last sixty bottles of anti-bacterial gel piled high in a black marketeer’s trolley heading for the checkout.

So I contented myself with filling my basket with industrial quantities of Greenall’s (from Warrington!) gin and left, vowing to awake early the following day to take advantage of the pensioners’ pre-dawn shopping hour.

Yes, panic buying has replaced Premiership football as Britain’s most popular sport. Twitter is full of it. . .

It’s ok, folks. I’m in Waitrose and they still have a few wood-fired ‘Nduja & Burrata Sourdough Pizzas left. But you’ll need to be quick.

Back from the little Waitrose down the road. No pasta, toilet rolls or tahini at all. But they’ve still got three different types of humus and plenty of prosciutto, Parma  and Serrano ham. So we should be ok.

Good to know Lidl isn’t rationing diesel generators just yet.

Worth stockpiling diesel generators now, just in case. My real concern is that Aldi are going to run out of inflatable canoes. That would be typical, wouldn’t it?

And the oars to go with them – schoolboy error to forget the oars!

Damn! I can only get 6 quails’ eggs…

Sod the food. I’ve heard there’s a run on faux stone pizza ovens at Lidl. Dashing down there right now to buy three. Fight me!

They shouldn’t let people buy so many of one item. Then we wouldn’t have this problem from idiots.

I know. I saw some twat waddling out of Aldi with four bandsaws. So much for the Blitz spirit!

A sneeze: the only virus 
you should keep to yourself!

I had the most bizarre conversation with a local headteacher yesterday: rumour was rife that a pupil at her school – only a mile or two from our village with its high percentage of over-70s – had tested positive for the virus.

Despite the fact that dozens of families had been contacted by email with the news, she would “neither confirm nor deny” the situation.

What WAS she playing at? Her email, which was passed to me for info, clearly stated, “I am writing to inform you that a child from our school has developed a confirmed case of Coronavirus. The child developed a very high temperature, has been seen by a doctor and is being cared for at home.“

Any information, she told me, was for “my families”. Presumably the wider community was to be kept in the dark, despite the fact that in the case of this virus it is the aged and enfeebled who are at greatest risk rather than school-age children.

Despite having incomplete information but armed with the copy of her email, I immediately Tweeted the information. Within minutes a local parent replied: “What’s the truth on this? I have seen the email but a lot of confusion whether it is real or not. A lot of mixed messages about this.”

I assured him I had spoken to the Head and was convinced (from her evasive response) that the story was correct. Two more local parents then re-tweeted our exchange, indicating the concern in the wider community.

Panic is fed by keeping information private; secrecy is the breeding ground for panic. The Prime Minister has learned his lesson. Can we hope that his example spreads, and spreads quickly?


  1. Hi Banksy, My info (gleaned from my all-knowing wife, but I still cannot state that it is gospel) is that the nipper with Coronavirus has recently been on a trip to Dubai (poor little soul!). He/she (don’t know which it is) returned under the weather and has not been to school since the trip, so I cannot see how the other kids are at any more risk than the rest of us.
    It’s all looking pretty academic anyway as the government appears to be about to shut all the schools until the end of the summer hols.
    One other point (not that this would ever have affected me): Do folks sending their kids to private schools get their money back if the schools are forcibly closed by official edict?


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