A vaccine breakthrough was the biggest news of the week, but I also had another reason to start rejoicing. My M&S Christmas shopping vouchers finally popped through the door.
The only thing vaguely resembling a “vaccine” I have found helpful during the pandemic is an alcoholic beverage or two. It does nothing to stop the virus, but it’s soothing for frayed nerves. Who can begrudge us a quiet tipple at home?
I remember a furloughed woman queueing outside an Aberdeen store saying to someone: “…and every afternoon my husband and I drink lager and wine in the back garden”.
I thought the vouchers might bring some extra festive cheer in a bottle. My spirits were raised because they were worth a whopping £60 in discounts over multiple shopping trips.
My eyes lit up at first, but I read the small print on the back and discovered Scotland was excluded from using them towards Christmas alcohol. This was due, M&S explained soberly, to the Scottish Government’s miserly minimum-pricing law on alcohol (“miserly” inserted by me).
So hard-up pensioners clutching a few vouchers hoping for a much-needed festive drinks treat had it snatched away by Holyrood Scrooges. At a time like this, too, with Covid-19 restrictions driving us mad. I suppose M&S customers in England are allowed to take full advantage of discounted drinks using these vouchers.
It’s a reminder of the SNP’s misdirected targeting, with a scattergun booze law hitting everyone – and not just serial alcohol abusers at whom it was aimed. It’s too late to launch a “give us our booze vouchers back” campaign. But it’s a missed opportunity to let people enjoy buying drink with modest Christmas voucher offers – acquired, by the way, from prudent shopping behaviour over the previous year as opposed to an abusive lifestyle.
As for a real vaccine riding to our rescue, we are not out of the woods yet. With Remembrance Day fresh in my mind I always think of those killed around the day peace was restored. They almost survived hell, only to die at the last minute.
We must not let that happen now by lowering our guard in the war against Covid-19 when we are so close to normal life again. There is a race to get the vaccine out quickly, but it is inevitable people will perish from the plague in the meantime.
And the pandemic will carry on doing strange things to our minds. I found myself checking local supermarket booze stocks the other day in case they were running out of my favourite red. It followed talk of meddling “tinpot dictators” making things worse during the epidemic. And aimed specifically at lockdown ministers in Wales giving orders about what people could buy in the shops.
Meanwhile, others called for booze sales to be banned in shops and sold only in pubs and restaurants to support hospitality. Can you imagine the chaos if that ever happened? Wales fell into a fatal trap of giving orders over what was “essential or non-essential”. There was a kind of tortuous logic to these product lists in Wales in the name of egalitarian economics.
But it was flattened under a rollercoaster of public annoyance. What is “essential” is a matter of opinion, which means no one will ever agree. Surely the fundamental issue is about social-distancing behaviour rather than politically correct shopping habits? There are plenty of people drunk on power who would love to rifle through our shopping trolleys and seize “non-essential” goods. In my view deciding if the trip is essential is what matters as opposed to the products you buy once there.
And if they think it’s unfair supermarkets are driving others out of business, that ship sailed half a century ago when they arrived.
Another business commentator demanded garden centres shut down because they were “out of season”. I regularly visit a nice north-east garden centre where its cafe is always busy with a mixture of old people and young mums – drawn by companionship.
Fish and chips escaped rationing in World War II because they were described as “good companions” to public morale by Churchill. We should enjoy a little tipple here and there or popping to garden centre cafes without interference – they are also good companions in this war. I foresee a new level of public outrage if tinpot dictators make life difficult for Father Christmas, our ultimate good companion.
Festive rules must be decorated with common sense because it’s essential Christmas 2020 is not forever known as a sour and “restive” season of widespread discontent.