The saddest sight in my village last week was an immaculately dressed gift shop window, all brightly lit and glowing with Christmas cheer despite a closed sign slapped over the plate glass door. From a glittering tree hung colourful baubles and around it were items specially curated for people who live in this area to the north of Bradford, things like an Eau de Yorkshire candle (scented with tea and cake, according to the tin) and a card that reads “Av thesen a reet good Christmas, Mam”.
The shop was finally due to start ministering to the Christmas needs of myself and other villagers on Wednesday of this week, and I wish it well.
Sadly, though, West Yorkshire continues to be treated as a single entity, as though the infection rate in this low-Covid area is as bad as the highest incidences in central Bradford and Leeds, and parts of Kirklees. Frankly, it’s beginning to look a lot like lockdown by another name.
I have come round to the view that the tiers should be micro-managed rather than applied to blanket geographical or council areas. It’s absurd that the map of northern England is largely coloured tier three red when much of it has observed the rules, kept contacts down and had expected to be rewarded with a relaxation of many restrictions.
All those hospitality businesses that reopened in July spent a fortune to create space between customers but now they will remain closed. We now know a whole lot more about the virus’s transmission than we did last March, but it seems that the government’s approach is still to reach for the sledgehammer. If restaurants with up to half their tables removed were considered safe enough for the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out promotion in August, surely they are still safe now. Or was it all a costly PR exercise for your own political ambitions, Rishi?
The pubs I’ve visited in the last few months have been so meticulous in their management of customers that I was reminded of the strict regime at school dinners, yet pubs and bars continue to be among the main targets for government action.
In my area I have seen many shops close for good, so if there is one thing we can do this December it is to help them survive by doing our Christmas shopping locally rather than online, even if it means having to listen to Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody as we move from shop to shop.
Think of your high street or neighbourhood parade of shops, and imagine their windows boarded up. I know a lot of us have lost a considerable amount of income because of the pandemic, and many have found themselves redundant, but those who can still afford it, I would like to think, will prefer to save their independent traders rather than boost the coffers of low-taxpaying Amazon.
At least there is the prospect of a vaccine for most of us in the new year. But am I the only person who’s worried that I might get the wrong one? At the time of writing there were four different vaccines in the pipeline, one devised in the UK by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. Perhaps we should wait for Which? magazine to tell which is the best.
Roger Ratcliffe has worked as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Times Insight team and is the author of guidebooks to Leeds and Bradford. Follow him on Twitter @Ratcliffe
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