2021 starts with a... bang?

Lockdowns galore, education shambles, and "What the hell is on my TV?" (WedsWeekly)

#Lockdown3 (London edition)

Depending on where you are, you may be in a different sort of Covid lockdown, and this may not be your third go round. And, that’s sort of the point.

It feels like we’ve gone back in time 9 months, with the Westminster government even resurrecting the spring 2020 slogan they’d since discard. But this time Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are confidently going their own way, and they were getting out in front of whatever the Prime Minister might or might not announce.

So the Prime Minister made his announcement about new measures in England, and as the First Minister of Wales predicted, he wasn’t wildly specific. (Frankly, he may not even have understood the detail.) But BBC Presenter Huw Edwards was at pains to clarify when the PM had been only able to speak about England and when he’d probably been talking about the whole of the UK. That resulted in a delightful bit of live television in which poor Huw had to try to make sense of the address and give viewers the information they actually needed. As a fellow Welsh person, I know that any time the word “Look” is pronounced forcefully at the start of a sentence it’s in a context of general irritation.

As the FMW’s tweet indicated, leadership in the devolved nations was clearer and more robust. By the time the Prime Minister appeared at 8pm on TV, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, had already announced their lockdown in a recalled Scottish Parliament. But, having extended the Commons recess, the Prime Minister had to make law first and answer questions later.

Education shambles (all the tiers!)

The most absurd part of the Prime Minister’s announcement was his declaration that schools were “vectors of transmission”, a day after telling everyone to send their kids to school because they were “perfectly safe”.

But the uncertainty and dismay didn’t stop with primary school children, their teachers and school staff, and their families being unnecessarily exposed for the sake of a single day of face-to-face education.

Higher (tertiary) education—one of the biggest concerns because it involves lots of adults moving about the country every term!—didn’t even get a mention in the PM’s speech, leaving lots of students, academics, and HE professionals scrabbling around on the Gov.uk website. Keeping HE running online wherever possible is obviously the right decision, and some universities had already made that call themselves, but that the sector didn’t even get a mention was pretty astonishing.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the shambles of nursery provision. Unlike #lockdown1, nurseries haven’t (yet) been closed. There’s a three-body problem here. One the one hand (and presumably a cause of much Treasury pressure on No. 10), there’s keeping childcare available to enable working parents to, well, work. There’s also the question about how best to support early years development, in particular social development, for young children who may otherwise see no one but their immediate family. And there’s the issue, apparently swept under the rug, of keeping those children, their families, nursery workers, and their families safe from Covid transmission. And, joining the dots, there’s the additional challenges posed for nursery workers who themselves have children who now suddenly need to be at home all day.

And, in the middle, we’ve had the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, ducking the issues to instead tell parents how to complain if their primary/secondary school child isn’t getting enough screen-time from their teachers. Just dandy.

Traces of… a script editor?

I watch a lot of rubbish TV or, more charitably, “digital comfort food”. Some of it is for noble research purposes (my chapter in Palgrave’s forthcoming Study in Sidekicks collection covers a lot of ridiculous crime-solving series). The rest is for the noble purpose of retaining my sanity.

Inevitably, I tuned in for Traces, although early reports were that it was mediocre at best. The cold open had my husband and I laughing and trying to enumerate all the things that were going wrong, and it was downhill from there, really. It was largely a team failure, we concluded, with acting, editing, directing and script all going a bit awry. But I generally love Amelia Bullmore, so I’m feeling particularly sad about the writing.

I wanted to hope that this was a victim of a rushed schedule due to Covid, pressure to film while the Covid restrictions were looser riding roughshod over the need to polish and refine that script. But, no, most of it seems to have been filmed in 2019 (at least based on Martin Compston’s Instagram feed).

I’ll probably watch the rest at some point, while knitting or avoiding doing something else, but 2021’s TV offerings are not off to a great start.