I have followed the science, but must admit, I miss the coronavirus press briefings. Despite the repetitious format, child-friendly charts and banal question and answer sessions, they provided a welcome watershed in my lockdown routine. Pre-conference I sustained a productive, packed timetable, excluding all leisure activities, but at five minutes to five it was 'tools down', kettle on. After the broadcast, I allowed myself 'free' time, organising dinner and winding down for the day.
An excuse to settle on the sofa with strong Yorkshire Tea and biscuits, the politicians and scientists tried to convince me they were one step ahead of the virus, beating it into submission. Eventually. Maybe. I admired their often futile efforts to focus on the positive rather than the negative, and felt their irritation and panic when journalists picked away at the same old scabs. PPE, care homes, Dominic Cummings. Questions were more often than not tired and recycled, 'gotcha' journalism, but kept me on my toes from time to time. Whether a journalist would 'come back on that' was the height of excitement.
New catchphrases and terminology entered my vocabulary. Who knew we could flatten the curve and 'save the NHS'? This was a programme that kept on giving. Tragedy, drama, even a little black comedy if you dug deep enough. If I tuned in before the witching hour, the preceding news round-up gave me a stupifying sense of déjà vu. Items were on a near-continuous loop Monday to Friday, testing my powers of recall.
Would Matt Hancock still be wearing the same pale pink tie; how many of the journalists would be conveniently muted and hoisted with their own petard; what 'new' unprecented measure would be unveiled to take our minds off the test and trace debacle; and how many times would Priti Patel patronise us all by claiming everything had been 'very clear'? Would it be Grant Shapps today? Boris himself? Or, God help us, Alok Sharma?
I realise that the conferences had passed their sell-by date, even their best-before, by the time of their cancellation, but they afforded some structure in an otherwise boring and repetitious day; a reset and recharge. I feel guilty, but I would secretly still quite like to see 'the next slide please'.