Virtual School – interpreting ‘The Rules’. 29.3.2020

29 March 2020. The fake news vendors claim Northamptonshire police have received more than 300 calls from neighbours snitching on neighbours. And requested that they do not. Interesting that they use the word ‘snitching’. somehow so 1930s public school. Not at all a word for a police state.

Lots of discussion among online groups about how exactly to interpret The Rules. And a lot of demands to ‘make them clearer.’ I like the public school type response from the government saying ‘use commonsense.’ Reminds me of the final (apocryphal) clause in our own school rules: if it is contrary to common courtesy or commonsense then it is against the school rules. It leaves a lot of wiggle room for the discerning pupil or teacher; especially leaves room for context. Not much room for context when the rules are crystal clear.

So to context. Essential shopping has been the subject of a row about rules and interpretation. Is an Easter egg essential? Or is essential shopping only the absolute basic ingredients needed for a sustaining broth or light gruel? I did this week’s essential shop this morning. I popped in an Easter egg (not without a little guilt), then added chocolate mousse, avocados, hummus and other unmentionables. But I was in Waitrose – are ‘essentials’ different there? And I confess I put the egg at the bottom of my shopping bag, just in case the neighbours felt like snitching. Shouldn’t have put the potatoes on top.

Language has been getting polysyllabic all week. BoJo came out with ‘sedulous’ much to everyone’s consternation as they rushed for a dictionary. I can just imagine the Eton school report which complained that he needed ‘to be a bit more sedulous’. And in a row in a Cambridge supermarket over whether a man could buy two types of milk (green and red top) the shop assistant resorted to ‘ontological.’

© Clare Sargent