When police resort to rap to keep us indoors you know things are desperate

Derbyshire police fail to repair their reputation with some truly awful doggerel

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Criminally bad verse

One of the more surprising failures of the government response to the crisis has been the absence of imagination in getting across its “stay at home” message. If Dominic Cummings was gifted at anything, wasn’t it supposed to be the dark arts of social media persuasion? Where are all the ceiling-thumping, micro-targeted Facebook ad campaigns, playing with the deeper fears of hard-to-reach audiences when you need them?

Instead, the current strategy, with its clunky men-at-work graphics, seems to have been drafted before the invention of the internet: ministers offering stern words from lecterns at teatime on the BBC and portentous letters from Downing Street. In the absence of creative official messaging, there is the danger of freestyling. Last week, officers in the Derbyshire police, perhaps wanting to eclipse that regrettable episode with the drone, toured streets with a loudhailer, improvising a ropey rap:

Stay at home whenever you can
Don’t go out on the streets with your fam
Only go to the shop for essential things
Like bread and milk and fruit and cheese strings…

The lines were reminiscent of the work of General Sir Charles Warren who, as commissioner of the Metropolitan police in the 1880s, was infamous for two reasons: failing to catch Jack the Ripper and issuing orders in rhyming couplets. Typical of his efforts was this:

The Commissioner has observed there are signs of wear
On the Landseer lions in Trafalgar Square
Unauthorised Persons are not to climb
On the Landseer lions at any time…

Getting intimate with sourdough

Sourdough starter in a jar
Sourdough starter: best between the thighs? Photograph: Joy Skipper/Getty Images

Having finally sourced some ancient black-market starter culture from a PO box in Cumbria, I’ve discovered the lockdown truth that there is no simple recipe for making sourdough bread. With floury fingers, you instead scroll through pages of competing PhD theories about proving and kneading, convoluted anecdotes about perfect bakes and disastrous biscuity failures, to find the elusive bit where they tell you how much water to use. My ever more exacting attempts have, as a result, produced way more misses than hits: that loaf too salty, this one too sour, all of them too flat.

I now feed my starter culture with the kind of care I once reserved for making up formula baby milk in the middle of sleepless nights. On the doorstep at #clapfortheNHS, a neighbour helpfully shouted over that she’d heard the secret lay in keeping the starter warm in a jug between your thighs while watching telly. I laughed at the very idea, of course. But later, eyeing my last half bag of flour, there was a voice in my head whispering: “Well, what have you got to lose?”

Our debt to nurses

nurse conducts coronavirus test on motorist
Nurses don’t need more burdens during the coronavirus crisis. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

In the past weeks, 5,500 student nurses from 35 universities have stepped forward to work full time in NHS hospitals. A letter signed by 81 MPs last week called for their student loans to be cancelled as a signal of gratitude. One of the travesties of the one-size-fits-all loan system has been the way it has been applied to the nursing profession, discouraging thousands of potential candidates. From September, with the government reinstating the maintenance grant scheme it should never have scrapped in 2016, student nurses will be able to claim £5,000 toward living costs, but will still have to use £27,000 of student financing for three years’ tuition fees. The letter argues that the government should guarantee that no nurse should be charged for the training that will benefit us all. Surely an idea we could all applaud.


Tim Adams

The GuardianTramp

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