It was hyperbolically billed as Super Saturday. The day when lockdown would relax and England would have so many of its precious freedoms restored. The pubs would reopen and cinema projectors roll, the Prime Minister declared.
Hairdressers would restore the nation’s crowning glories, bored zoo animals would again find an admiring audience. But could we be trusted with such liberty? Apparently not.
Accident and Emergencies braced themselves for a New Year-scale influx of the drunk, the damaged and incapable.
Police were on high alert for that point when hot weather high jinx would invariably tip over into violence. Our politicians warned us to behave.
Even as gung-ho Chancellor Rishi Sunak begged us to eat out to help out, show up and drink up, spending time and money reviving the economy, Health Secretary Matt Hancock preemptively scolded us like children for going loco when the pubs shutters went up – because they could all come down again, you know.
But after record-breaking sunshine in May and a mixed meteorological bag in June, Independence Day dawned to a backdrop of leaden skies, intermittent downpours and exasperating humidity. And with that, Super Saturday turned into the dreariest of damp squibs.
Maybe it was down to West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson? He had publicly announced his hopes the day would go off with a whimper rather than a bang. “It is the case that when the weather is inclement, the problems we have are somewhat reduced,” he told the BBC. “So we are praying for rain this Saturday.”
His plea was answered. And then some. Which was a shame as the day had begun so promisingly. Just moments after midnight a wedding took place in Runcorn. By half past, hair salons from Harrogate to Portsmouth were busy trimming and strimming and colouring.
Would any pubs actually open on the dot of 6am? It seemed to be the stuff of urban myth but by 8am Wetherspoons’ punters were tucking into a cooked breakfast and a restorative snifter. “It’s like winning the league!” declared one parched drinker on tasting his first since forever. Or what felt like it.
Mid-morning saw masked adrenaline-junkies riding The Smiler rollercoaster at Alton Towers. Restaurants cleaned tables for lunchtime bookings, hotel receptions, lay hushed and expectant as the empty stages in our still-deserted theatres.