It’s going to be like the last days of Rome but with fewer togas and more lager.
With London being moved into higher lockdown levels from midnight, and Manchester currently at the centre of a row over its status, this evening will be many people’s last opportunity to socialise with their friends for Lord-knows-how-long. As the nation enjoys a hedonistic last hurrah, it could be carnage.
There's already a certain shrugging nihilism in the air, thanks to ever-changing regulations, fierce debates about the effect of such restrictions and the looming threat of a long, wet and boring winter.
The controversial 10pm curfew will also bring about a bottleneck moment as thousands of refreshed revellers are simultaneously disgorged onto the streets.
Yes, tonight they’re going to party like it's Covid-1999. So here are the sights to tick off as you see them…
1. Argument about mask etiquette made even more “passionate” by the fact that both parties are so slurringly drunk, they’re pronouncing it “faysh-marshk”.
2. Every dark corner of a high street seems to have a man urinating in it, while passers-by heckle him and try to dodge the trickling stream, wondering if coronavirus can be transmitted by wee.
3. Panic-buying of vodka in Sainsbury’s at 10.30pm, like the loo roll or flour crisis of spring 2020 but not as wholesome.
4. Use of the phrases “Each to their own”, “It’s a free country” and “Live and let live”.
5. Large gang of identikit women spend far too long taking a group selfie, getting in everyone’s way as they compose the shot and fix rictus grins to their faces.
6. They post the group selfie on social media with far too many hashtags #lastnightoutwiththegirls #gonnamissthesefaces #bestgalpals #didsomeoneonesaybeveragino #livelaughlove #wineoclock #keepcalmandcarryondrinking #lol.
7. Exuberant games of street cricket or football spontaneously break out at 10.15pm. Spectators gather to cheer and film it on their phones, before realising it’s quite dull to watch and wandering off.
8. You step deftly around a pool of vomit under a streetlamp, aka a “pavement pizza”. While congratulating yourself for avoiding that pool of vomit, you manage to step in another one.
9. Huge crowd forms outside a kebab shop, dancing and singing along to whatever random song is playing on its counter radio, eg the Vengaboys, David Guetta, Calvin Harris or “that one they chant at the darts”
10. Barman shouts at customer for the cardinal sin of standing up without a face mask, even though their own is below their chin line, keeping their beard warm.
11. News item about north-west city describes “revellers” as “defiant”, under the headline “Northern uproar” or “Northern revolt”.
12. Large gang of identikit men (all sporting quiffs, sleeve tattoos, fastidiously trimmed beards and spray-on skinny-fit jeans with ripped knees) spend far too long taking a group selfie, getting in everyone’s way as they compose the shot and try to look mean ’n’ moody.
13. Someone wears face mask in a comedic way, eg. as earmuffs, a jaunty beret, Borat-style mankini or novelty bra.
14. “Curfew chaos” as swaying pedestrians surround a passing Skoda Octavia with its stereo on, since it’s the closest they’ll get to the sound system at an illegal rave.
15. Teenager lets off firework at 10pm and gets berated by a passing dog-walker.
16. Row of drunk 20somethings sit at bus stop, heads bowed in silence as they get down to the serious business of eating chips while their masks hang off one ear.
17. Publican or restaurateur stands outside their premises to film an emotional news interview about the catastrophic effect on their business, while photobombing customers pull faces and do bunny ears in the background.
18. Someone makes their way painstakingly across a busy pub with a tray of shots, intoning “Excuse me, sorry, thanks, excuse me, sorry, thanks…”
19. The phrase “circuit breaker” hasn’t been used this much since the Association Of Electrical Engineers annual dinner-dance.
20. Two long-suffering police officers fight a losing battle trying to usher crowds home and reminding them to practise social distancing, while they link arms or give each other piggybacks.
21. Shop shelves are mysteriously cleared of Echo Falls Summer Berries rosé and Kopparberg Mixed Fruit cider.
22. Two men have a fight after one calls the other a “covidiot”. As punches go windmilling in, a spectator remarks on how they’re not social distancing.
23. Someone makes a pun about “it’ll all end in tiers”, even though they stopped being funny a week ago.
24. Happy hour Prosecco deal causes pub to run out of flute glasses. Punters happily swig it out of wine glasses/pint pots/teacups/a washing liquid dosing ball instead.
25. City streets littered with abandoned disposable facemasks, like the set of Holby City after a busy day’s shooting.
26. Pub where you’ve never seen punters eat anything but crisps and nuts suddenly insists it’s a restaurant by serving frozen lasagne and “cod bites” hurriedly bought from Iceland around the corner.
27. Bullish young man appears in media vox pop, saying “it’s my choice, I won't stop living my life, it’s mainly old people dying anyway, it's just flu” etc. He boasts about being “fit and healthy”, despite frankly looking neither.
28. Contact information system completely breaks down when everyone signs into venues with hilarious joke names, eg. Michael Mouse, Mrs Dominic West, Professor Wiss Chritty.
29. “Table service only” rule completely breaks down at 9.40pm when everyone stampedes towards the bar to panic-buy for last orders .
30. Man on crowded street pulls out a hip-flask and suddenly becomes extremely popular, despite neck of flask potentially being Covid-addled.
31. Rule-breaker justifies actions by disingenuously claiming confusion when it’s actually quite easy to look up local restrictions: “What the hell is a Tier 2 anyway? Nobody knows. I blame Brexit.”