Covid, confinement, questioning, conspiracy – and, er, nudity

Bernard Goes to a conference
Back in the day, I was a conference tart...

Covid, confinement, questioning, conspiracy – and, er, nudity.

Back in the day, I was something of a conference tart. I’d accept invitations to speak on almost any topic, anywhere: it provided a day out. A cartoon did the rounds that nailed one of the drawbacks of such events. It pictured a conference host asking, “Would anyone else like to make a tedious personal statement thinly disguised as a question?”

Are you glued to those daily Downing Street briefings? We’re not sure how much longer we can stand them. We like and respect the scientists they rightly wheel out and note, albeit with alarm, the statistics they share. But the politicians generally underwhelm: as do the journalists who invariably ask rambling, scattergun questions which neither put the speakers on the spot nor add enlightenment. 

I complained of this to veteran newshound and Father of Voice of the North David Banks, who growled, “They need a decent subeditor – especially that Peston off of ITV!” 

“Dying breed, Banksy,” I replied. “Whoever sees a sub nowadays?” Sad but true.

So how’s Godzone, our golden patch of North Northumberland, coping with the confinement that is lockdown Britain? More easily, one suspects, than people living in high-rise blocks in cities to the south of us, given the space, gardens and big skies that surround us. Social media illustrates how people are avoiding going stir-crazy: people doing musical things, making comical videos to share – all sorts. 

One of the odder things I spotted on Twitter was the hashtag #nakedtuesday. 

I’m sorry? Are people really getting their kit off on a Tuesday? If they are, please reassure me that they’re not sharing their activities online! What people do in the privacy of their locked-down homes is fine: the rest of us don’t need it inflicted on us.

That reminds me of ribald comments I received when, in less restricted times, I tweeted about a visit to Ross Sands, that extraordinarily isolated, but immense, stretch of coast between (and separated from) Holy Island and Bamburgh.  “Aha!” commented locals. “We didn’t know you were nudists!”

Given that we’d been there on one of those classic Northumbrian days, cold and bright with a wicked wind whipping off the North Sea, stripping off was the last thing on our minds. Besides, the kite-surfers (the only humans within a mile or two) might have been shocked. Nevertheless, friends insist that Ross Sands are or were known as a gathering place for naturists. 

If it’s true, they’re made of sterner stuff than I am.

Some people are passing lockdown time finding or inventing conspiracies, generally in wilful contradiction of all scientific evidence. One of the wackier notions is to blame the coronavirus on the rollout of 5G, the next generation of wireless phone and data networks.  This paranoia somehow encompasses suggestions that 5G is actually frying our brains.

Leading the way on this particularly mad conspiracy theory is self-professed Son of God David Icke. I was surprised to see his name crop up: I thought he’d finally sublimed into a large lizard and was busy running the universe somewhere on a different astral plane. Shows how wrong you can be.

As a result of Icke’s urgings, it seems, nutters have been roaming the countryside setting fire to new 5G masts, complaining of dreadful headaches caused by their emissions. That’s curious in itself, because I’m informed that none of the masts at the centre of these accusations has actually been turned on yet.

We can feel secure in that knowledge, because China’s President Xi isn’t yet reading our emails: at least, he hasn’t got in touch with me so far, though he surely will when Huawei activates the 5G network. As far as I know, the only people currently tracking my phone data are the police, checking that I’m not exercising out in Godzone more than once a day. 

“What? With rural broadband speeds?” I hear you cry. “You’re joking! They’d struggle to know what you were up to last Tuesday!”

Last Tuesday? You mean #nakedtuesday?  I’m saying nothing.


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