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If R≥1, P Is The Problem

I may be misremembering, but I am nearly sure that it was the great Russian novelist Dostoyevsky who famously wrote in The Brothers Karamazov "Если вы не хотите идти в тюрьму, не спрашивайте полицейского" [for non-Russian readers "Yesli vy ne khotite idti v tyur'mu, ne sprashivayte politseyskogo"] which roughly translates as "If you do not wish to do time, do not ask a policeman".*

* Possibly a typically witty Russian inversion of the sentiment expressed in Edward William Rogers 1881 music hall hit "If you want to know the time ask a policeman". [Sub Ed]. Though, since the novel was written 20 years previously, possibly not. [Ed]

"Shooting Up" 1950s style: a very different world.

Not too long ago we would have scoffed at the very idea that any sense of personal danger could have attached to an encounter with our own boys in blue. It was a wholly foreign conception that applied to the state apparatus of Czarist Russia, Communist China, or even Socialist Hertfordshire. For us in Dorset, the typical RDC officer was no different from the rubicund and good-natured old Bobby of our childhood, a source of helpful advice, cheerful good humour and, by way of - doubtless well-deserved - correction the odd clip round the ear. Alas in the new locked-down police state of Dorsetgrad, we can no longer be so sanguine.

If then, as mounting evidence suggests, a friendly law-abiding, public-welfare-oriented protective police force is the first casualty of the present crisis, I am left pondering the second: the wholesale and rigorously enforced reduction in mobility [even after the end of strict lock-down] of those citizens whose liquid retention capabilities are no longer what they were. I speak of course of the impact of the deliberate closure of all those public facilities instituted and intended for the proper discard of human waste products [especially of the urinary kind] by those "on the move"- a calculated and heinous assault on the needy, authorised on the mieskeit basis that anyone who needs them "that often" should not be out and about.

MORE INNOCENT TIMES: The 1950s when a member of the RDC would give you a helpful leg up [LEFT] and every boy's dream was to have a truncheon and a helmet as big as his father's [RIGHT]

I was reminded of some of the - literally - pressing consequences of this wholesale foreclosure by a letter from a Mr Small-Bladda of Piddletrenthide who wrote to say that, like many of his ilk - but unlike the one-club-golfers that pass for the authorities these days - he was less fixated on the "r" and more concerned about the "P"*. I echo his sentiments and reproduce his correspondence in full below.

* "r" refers to the reproduction rate of a disease and indicates the number of people who can be infected by a single agent. R0, or R nought, refers to the average number of people that one infected person can expect to pass the CONTRIK-69 virus on to. The "P" factor is more or less self-explanatory. One of the most virulent and dispiriting aspects of any epidemic is its tendency to encourage the use of acronyms eg SARS [Spasmodic Annular Rictus Syndrome] and MERS [Mildly Embarrassing Rigidity Syndrome]. In reality, the acronym is often far more pernicious than the disease.[Ed]

CONTRASTING TIMES: [LEFT] 1958 A man suspected of approaching another man in a public toilet would simply be fingered, though repeat offenders [as here] might be fitted with a radio-transmitting penis tag; [RIGHT] 2020 Failure properly to socially distance in a public toilet is now likely to lead to arrest, prosecution and a £30,000 fine.


That letter in full:


Today as I foraged for non-essentials at a formerly well-provided shopping multiplex, I was astonished to find that, as nature ever more pressingly called, facility after facility was barred to me. Former places of refuge were firmly locked and usually bore signs informing me that they were "Temporarily closed due to CONTRIK-69". Typically, there was also a further paragraph appended which "Apologised for any inconvenience caused" - a sentiment which may have been intended to forestall criticism of the closure's heartless perpetrators but one which does not [believe me] offer any kind of solace to those who have held matters in check for quite long enough and who, before reaching said facility, had firmly anticipated with almost unimaginable relish the blessed relief to come. Frustrated? I should say so. Busting? Certainly. Dribbling? Just a fraction.

As though such madness was not enough, I was even further outraged on finally finding an open facility [a big thanks to Threadboneextra, Cerne Abbas] to be informed by a notice on the entrance door that "Social distancing measures are in now place" and that I should observe "a two-metre gap" between myself and others. I do not know under what regime of toilet etiquette the creators of such instructions were raised, but I wish to state very plainly that I have always practised social distancing in public toilets, have done so for more than 70 years and have looked to others to do the same. As a youth, it was made very clear to me that anyone who did not put a comfortable distance between themselves and their co-urinators was to be avoided at all costs whatever "assistance" they offered and however many sweets they promised. It is an injunction which has remained with me to this day. If we have now reached a point in our civilization's evolution where well-brought-up and tolerably well-educated citizens need to be told not to wave their tackle at strangers at a distance less than 6 feet, then I for one will not be entering public urinals again - even when permitted to do so. Locked-down and becalmed I may become, but I shall live happily in the knowledge that I have rather more than just my dignity intact. In the meantime, might I suggest that rather than harassing us at gun-point from the moment we leave the curtilage of our own homes, the RDC instead refocuses the attention of its mobile hit-squads on those individuals whose instincts to invade a fellow urinator's personal space have yet to be psychotherapeutically addressed?"


A Small-Bladda

[address supplied]


Our American Correspondent adds:

If you think the police in your neck-of-the-woods take a close personal interest in your doings, you should see what they get up to here buddy.

INTERNATIONAL COMPARISONS: In the US it is not uncommon for State Troopers to round up whole families once they have established the identity of a woman leaving her "business" card in a telephone booth.

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