Lockdown Lamentations: Fun with Dominic Cummings

Welcome to the second edition of Lockdown Lamentations! Dominic Cummings is back in the limelight, so he’s our theme for this week. Read on for poems (one about Dominic Cummings, one more serious), a cute bunny’s reaction, funny songs, an invitation to join a quiz, and even a Dominic Cummings Spotify playlist.

We welcome all contributions – interesting links, articles, photos, artwork, anything you think of. The next two themes are love (of all descriptions – people, pets, music etc) and forgiveness, although these are loose themes so anything goes.

This newsletter was started by Beatrix and Becky to cheer people up in lockdown, and let friends and strangers know that we are thinking of them in these difficult times. If you need support in any form, however small or large, we’re always happy to hear from you.

Artwork by Jamie Li. See more of her amazing creations on her website or Instagram.

Barnard Castle Eye Test

Another poem from Rebecca, this time describing Dominic Cummings’ misadventures during lockdown. It’s factually accurate and was interesting to research – the BBC has a comprehensive timeline for example.

Read the full poem

Europe’s worst nightclub

Lockdown has severely restricted our socialising – including the temporary closure of a nightclub in Durham previously owned by Dominic Cummings called Klute. In fact, Mr Cummings is still listed on Companies House as the sole director of the now dormant company Klute Limited.  Dubbed by The Guardian last year as Europe’s worst nightclub, our very own Becky Nesbit has in the past frequented this institution, and gives her first-hand review:

“As Durham University undergraduates in the early 2000s we had two choices for clubbing: Newcastle and Klute. Most of us preferred to stay within our university bubble, so Klute it was. In many ways it was my perfect club – it played cheesy music, was filled with people I knew, and was an easy walk to my bed. 

“The entrance fee was the grand total of £2.50, but on some nights you could get in for free before 10pm. Being both stingy and keen on early nights, this suited me well. The only trouble was that the club was relatively empty, so you could see it for what it was – a small, windowless room with black walls and loud music. As I remember it, the walls were damp with sweat.”

Lockdown fun

We’ll be constantly adding to our list of lockdown activities, and welcome all suggestions. Featured activities this week (one from Beatrix, then one from Becky):

1. Counteract Dominic Cummings stress with mindfulness

There are times when we all experience anxiety; that feeling of restless, frequent headaches, unable to concentrate, boredom, sadness, even excessive G&Ts. Lockdown has certainly exacerbated our already busy and stressful lives so now might be a good time to try practising some inner calm.

As soon as meditation is mentioned, often there’s a mental image of hippies with long hair and psychedelic clothing engaging in tree hugging and group spiritual sessions. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, just those bits aren’t compulsory. 

Maybe it’s the thought of looking silly or being put off by one thing or another. It’s not about reaching the highest spiritual plane in an instant, but a little ‘me’ time to acknowledge our worries and self sooth a little.

One option for those interested in giving it a go is Inner Space. They run free guided meditations lasting between 15 – 20 mins.

2. Castle visits and countryside walks

Dominic Cummings broke lockdown rules to go to a Castle, but you don’t need to – you can now take virtual tours. I think that the master suite at Ashford Castle would suit me well, though the curtains are a bit dated so I’d want some news ones, and wallpaper too…

And whereas our friend DC shouldn’t have gone for a walk in the woods, you can go for walks with a friend outside your household. I can recommend it, even in the rain or dark. And don’t be inhibited from asking people if they’d like to walk with you. I wish I could invite you all to walk with me, but as geography prevents it then I can only pass on the sentiment: please ask 🙂

If you don’t have anyone locally, we can still go for a walk together – I often go for a walk with Lisi, who puts her headphones in and her phone in her pocket, taking it out occasionally to turn the video on for a bit. As always, you know where I am.

Dominic Cummings Spotify playlist

This Dominic Cummings playlist was put together by Frank Hardee, who met my parents when teaching in Jeju Island, South Korea.

We have been very much enjoying Frank’s weekly quizzes, which brighten lockdown. There’s always a music round, and this was a highlight (though not in terms of our score). The quiz happens every Thursday at 20:00 GMT and **you are all invited**. Please let me or Beatrix know if you would like to join, on your own or in teams of up to 6. Alternatively, you are welcome to just show up via the Zoom link in time for a prompt start. It’s a good one!

Beautiful pets

Last week we challenged you to find an animal that is cuter than Spotless, and it turns out you have some very cute pets – meet Bart the Bunny and Steve the Cat! Watch the video to see what Bart thinks of Dominic Cummings…

Remembrance poem

The drama of current world events risk eclipsing important memories of times past – the better and the worse. However, this week has also seen our traditional Remembrance Day here in the UK. In commemoration, Karen Morral has written a beautiful poem: Eleventh of November. You can read more of Karen’s writing on her website.

It gave me particular pause for thought to work out whether the year Karen and I met was closer to now or to the end of World War 2. It’s closer to today, but not by much at all. That gave me perspective on time and the speed at which society changes. It also made me wonder how the way that we remember the World Wars will change as time goes on. And in a world where everything is documented, how will that affect the way that we look back on defining times, whether this is wars, elections or the current pandemic?

Property highlights

With all that’s going on in the world sometimes, it seems so appealing to find a private island or a castle and lock oneself away with just friends and family and get away from it all. However, it seems Dominic Cummings can’t decide which of his mansions and castles to spend lockdown in! His wife, Mary Wakefield, daughter of a baronet, owns Chillingham Castle, but maybe the rare breed sheep and ghosts didn’t make him feel at home. 

Then there’s his million-pound mansion in Islington, with its own tapestry room. He spent vast sums of money renovating it and one would think have enough rooms to spend a few months. This was his planning application at the time to Islington Council where you can see all the submitted plans of the renovation back in 2013. On the off chance that his plans have inspired you, there’s currently a house on sale on the same road where you can rub shoulders with his aristocratic wife – this 3 bed Victorian house on Ockendon Road, Islington.

The wonderful thing about the internet is that one can browse for literally hours and dream about all the options available if being Dominic Cummings’ neighbour doesn’t appeal, what about a private island for a bargain in Pembrokshire, Wales! Or for a little luxury, what about this Pyrenees castle which comes with a Oubliette where you can store your prisoners…

Latin riddles in the time of coronavirus

Musical compositions by Ed Nesbit.

Events to join online

Q&A with Nobel Laureate Stefan Hell – an event organised by Becky and her colleagues. She’ll be handling the questions, so please ask some good ones.

Interesting links

Over the week we’ve collected links that have touched us or amused us, with the help of our friends.

Carl Wieman: “Education is about learning to make better decisions”

COVID-19 policies in the UK and consequences for mental health


What I Believe – interviews with prominent humanists. First up Nigerian human rights advocate and humanist activist Leo Igwe.

Climate change: can Biden made a difference? – link courtesy of Dom.

How come patriarchy persists? – link courtesy of Lieselot

Songs about Dominic Cummings

Beatrix has found a Durham Clown song, along with these two…

If things are too much…

Most people have had low moments during 2020, and when we don’t see people it can be much harder to tell when someone is in need of support. We therefore hope you will feel able to reach out to friends (whether or not they are us) to help you through. Sometimes, however, the solution may be different, so we have put together some links that might help.

Mind – offers mental health information & support, and a helpline.

CALM – offers accredited, confidential and free support to men anywhere in the UK through a helpline or webchat service.

agenda – a charity supporting women’s mental health, with a particular focus on vulnerable women.

Young Minds – run a free confidential helpline for parents / carers if they are worried about a child or young person.

time to change – a charity working to end mental health discrimination. It has some valuable tips for checking in on people, which is so important while we are apart.

Artwork by Jamie Li. See more of her amazing creations on her website or Instagram.