Covid-19 and the Quiet Revolution

I’ve been having some extraordinarily naughty fantasies about Speakeasy-style parties I could hold with my clutch of friends, in my home, while staying within the rules, says Jo Knowsley.

Britain is poised on the brink of revolution. Not since Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas in 1644 have so many been so discontented with so few – furious at the privileged elite who are pulling the strings of power…

So infuriated did the mayor of Manchester become recently that he threatened to defy the Government when it imposed tighter social restrictions. Boris even threatened to send in the troops. There have been demonstrations protesting over the compulsory wearing of masks.

Now England faces a second full lockdown – for at least a month – as the nation faces being overwhelmed by Covid in a virulent second wave of the invisible virus.

Britons are not natural rule breakers but they rebel when those rules break the laws of common-sense as they did when lockdown was eased: pubs closing at 10pm (if they’re open at all); 30 allowed at a funeral but only 15 at a wedding (the same numbers will be allowed now); tradesmen allowed in your home but no-one else from another household; not to mention the squabble over what constitutes ‘a substantial meal’ (some pubs are allowed to open only if they serve these – but a slice of pizza doesn’t count apparently). And what, precisely, makes up a ‘support bubble.’

The Government, sensing it’s losing its grip on the populace, as the second wave of Covid threatens to engulf the country, is now hinting it will reduce the 14-day self-isolation period to a week in a desperate bid to get people to do what they’re told. But they’re not winning.

In my little London flat, I’ve been having some extraordinarily naughty fantasies – not yet plans it must be stressed to any vigilante-minded readers – about Speakeasy-style parties I could hold with my clutch of friends, in my home, while staying within the rules.

Speakeasys, you might recall, were underground bars in the U.S. which mushroomed between 1920 and 1933 when America imposed Prohibition, banning the sale and consumption of alcohol in an attempt to reduce crime, corruption, solve social problems and improve health and hygiene. Fat chance.

Those who could afford to clamoured to the tiny, hidden bars (the name Speakeasy is thought to have come from customers having to whisper) to continue consuming the forbidden fruit. Bars such as The Cotton Club in Harlem and the Stork Club later became magnets for movie stars and celebrities when Prohibition finally ended. Those who lived in the country brewed moonshine. Corruption and the mafia thrived.

My little musings revolve around similar indoor parties for no more than 5-6 people, so in theory my pals could socially distance. We would still, however, be breaking the lockdown rules about mixing households indoors.

But if I were holding a funeral this number would be not be unlawful at all.

I had a slight hiccup when I considered that if the Covid Police did storm my compact ground floor flat (unless we all ran out into the garden) I’d have to produce a body. But nowhere in this hastily-produced new legislation does it say that body has to be human.

I blanched at the idea of killing off the family cat – besides I’d have to slaughter pets on a regular basis (ugh) if I wanted weekly parties.

But a lot of things die in my place on a regular basis. Perhaps, I considered, at the centre of the kitchen table, perched primly amongst the Hors d’oeuvres, could be the tiny body of a mouse, a snail or even a moth, laid out in a tiny matchbox casket lined with white satin.

Technically speaking I’d be on the right side of the law and my friends and I could wine, dine and party with impunity.

Considering the fact that the house across the road has had several illegal house-parties in the past few weeks and that when I called the police (sorry but it was 4am) they told me they were ‘very busy at the moment’ I think I’d be unlikely to be caught out – least of all ending up with the maximum £10,000 fine.

So there you have it. Feel free to steal my idea. It could be particularly handy at Christmas even if it’s hard to explain to the kids why everyone has to wear black as they sit around the table to consume the turkey.

And hey! That’s a funeral of sorts. Isn’t it? (Maybe more of a cremation according to your cooking skills). The turkey will have brought more than the usual degree of festive cheer. And it certainly won’t have died in vain.

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Jo Knowsley

Jo has held senior staff writing roles on some of Britain’s leading newspapers including the Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday, and is now a freelance writer. She has reported on major breaking stories around the world and has written for magazines and newspapers in Britain, Australia and New Zealand in publications as diverse as Marie Claire, the Daily Mail, Metro, Saga and Grazia. In the past she focused primarily on news-lead reports and interviews. Today she writes across a number of platforms on subjects ranging from property and travel to theatre and features. She grew up in New Zealand and has made her home and career in London since 1990.

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