Shielding ends today. Our son Isaac is classed as an extremely vulnerable person and we have been in lockdown since the middle of March. The last few weeks have been very frustrating as we have watched the rest of the world start to go back to some kind of normality, people going to pubs and restaurants, people going on holiday, the roads filling up again, streets getting busy, while we feel left behind. I drove through the town centre last weekend and it looked like a bank holiday, people all over the streets, outside pubs and milling about. I’ll leave to one side the rights and wrongs of all of this, or my perceptions of right and wrong. One thing I don’t like about the last few weeks has been the way that it’s got so easy to become judgemental about anyone doing things differently to yourself and I’ve tried hard to stop myself from doing it but I know I’ve failed at times. This isn’t any easier when you see people whining about having to wear a face covering for a few minutes in a shop as if it’s some major infringement of their civil liberties. Shopping, unless it’s for food, is a leisure activity, something to pass the time, so to refuse to put other people’s safety first by wearing a mask while shopping for something to cheer you up is just wrong. Of all the hills to take a stand on, refusing to wear a mask to slow down transmission of a potentially fatal disease seems a bizarre one. The libertarian right wing are a poor bunch with a shit value system- they take the view that their ‘freedoms’ are more important than everybody else’s health.

The reality of stepping out of shielding is pretty worrying, going from no contact with anyone outside the household to some contact with other people, at a time when it’s clear the virus has not gone away. On the other hand, he (and we) can’t stay locked down forever, we have to start to step out into the world again. There is some advice from the government about this, opening up to a group of people in outdoor settings, going back to work or day care if they are Covid secure etc but frankly taking advice from the current government seems like the last thing you’d want to do. The ONS reported yesterday that England had the highest levels of excess deaths in Europe in the first half of 2020. The people responsible for that are the current elected government, the same ones giving us advice about coming out of shielding. It was much easier back in April and May when everyone was in the same boat and dealing with the same set of rules (and the government fucked that too with the Cummings episode). Meanwhile talk of a second wave and spikes is rife and rates are rising in various places, some not very far from us. The re- opening of pubs will inevitably lead to a rise in transmission. It looks premature to talk of a second wave when in England we don’t seem to be out of the first wave yet. Further lockdown beckons. Grim.

We will be taking entry out of shielding slowly. We have booked a caravan for three nights in a remote location, South West Scotland, not so far away that we’ll need a service station stop on the way. We can wipe down the caravan on entering it, take walks in some remote places and possibly risk buying fish and chips. I think it’s fair to say the last four months have left us fairly institutionalised and risk averse but if nothing else the view from a caravan on the Solway Firth for three nights will be different from the view from our front room.

I’ve been enjoying the latest release from the prolific and talented Ripley Johnson, a man who just doesn’t stop. After 2018’s Wooden Shjips album and tour and the same last year as Moon Duo he now has an album out as Rose City Band. Psyche country and western, some very laid back late 60s Laurel canyon vibes crossed with that motorik drumbeat, droplets of guitar and those whispered vox. This one, album closer Wildflowers, is a beaut.

Edit: various changes to restrictions were announced last night affecting the north west of England. I find it hard it understand how the new restrictions mean you can’t meet in people’s homes but you can still meet in pubs. Where’s the risk and where’s the priority, public health or the economy?

Rip City

Something undeniably retro but also undeniably lovely today, a brand new slice of cosmic Americana from Rose City Band, residents of Portland, Oregon. This song comes ahead of a seven track album out in May and is produced by Ripley Johnson of Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips (and you can definitely hear him in the guitar tone and the vocals which makes me think he may be more involved in this than just producing). Rip City drifts through country and psychedelia in equal measures, finding comfort in melancholy and ends up feeling better for it for wallowing in it for a while.