My father was born just before Christmas 1936, his first memories were of his life in Chiswick in west London during the Second World War years. My grandfather served as a Section Leader in the National Fire Service. Leaving his home in Cavendish Road to go on duty each day, there was no certainty when, or even if, he would return (ninety firemen died in a single raid during the Blitz). For a small boy, the conflict was an ever-present reality.
Each evening, they would listen to the BBC news. My father would recollect those moments from June 1944 onwards. There was a map of Europe pinned to the kitchen wall, perhaps from a school atlas, and as the BBC reported the progress of the Allied armies and the names of the places captured, pins on the map would be moved to show the progress toward victory.
In retrospect, there seemed an inexorable drive toward Berlin, accomplished in a quick time. Of course it was not so, it took eleven months for the end to be reached. To a boy who reached his eighth birthday midway between D-Day and VE-Day, those eleven months must have seemed a very long time.
Three-quarters of a century later, time must seem to have almost stopped for children in England, government promises of a return to normal in May, or September, or whenever must seem as distant as all of the other promises made by the Prime Minister that life would be returning to normal soon. Had Johnson been Prime Minister during the war, trust would quickly have been eroded by a succession of failed predictions and hollow claims.
Talking to Year 8 students on Friday, they wondered when the might go to the shops again, when they might see their friends again.
It is not hard to see why they are asking questions. The situation is not comparable with a war that affects every person in the country, not comparable with an air raid which was indiscriminate in those it killed. Covid-19 deaths have been overwhelmingly among the old and the very old. It is a threat to those who have now been offered the opportunity of receiving vaccinations.
The logical answer was always to protect the vulnerable and to allow those unaffected to have continued normal life, to have done so would sustained the economy and the mental health of millions of children.
Now the threat is receding, the government should continue to shield anyone who might be in danger, but should let the children go free. They will not remember Mr Johnson kindly if he continues to lock down their lives.