Thursday, 9th July, 2010

[Day 115]

Today was the day in which we had scheduled to meet some of our oldest Waitrose friends in order to celebrate a birthday. We had made a long-standing arrangement to meet in the park at 11.00 am, an event to which we were all looking forward, not least our friends who have been ‘shielding’ for weeks but were now (legally) taking the opportunity for some social contact. However, the best-laid plans of mice and men! Our friends were expecting a delivery from Waitrose and today, of all days, it was delayed by about an hour after the designated time. So the opportunity for our meeting was lost – and we would have massively rained upon in any case. But to make the best of a bad job, we are resolved to meet at the same time tomorrow so hopefully, it just a case of pleasure delayed rather than pleasure denied. As Meg and I were sheltering under a tree to escape a particularly sharp little shower, I was reminded of an expression that members of the acting fraternity used to use. In the days of touring companies, there was often a system whereby members of the cast would stay in what was termed ‘theatrical digs’ which were really just bed and breakfast boarding houses. There was typically a visitors’ book in which guests could write comments, appreciative or otherwise, and the actors who were staying there would add to the visitors’ book a line adapted either from a well-known play or even the Bible. As we were sheltering cold and hungry under the tree and wondering if we might see any of our friends who might give us shelter, I was reminded of the entry ‘We were cold and hungry – and you took us in!‘ Another one of these which sticks in my memory must have happened on a Friday evening when the guests were evidently served up with some fish that was probably well past its sell-by date. So the entry in the book became ‘This was the piece of Cod (rather the peace of God) that passeth all understanding‘ If the company felt they had been treated particularly badly in any set of digs and they knew they were not likely to return, then they would acquire a fillet of fish and nail it to the underside of the (typically wooden) breakfast table – there to rot for weeks afterwards.

This afternoon passed uneventfully, the rain putting a bit of a dampener upon things but we were looking forward to the concluding episode of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I only mention this because I have a sort of direct link with the very last scene of the book (and the film). Tess had just been executed for the murder of the man who had raped her as a young girl and severely abused her since her husband, Angel, had gone to seek his fortunes in Brazil. Tess knows that she would be caught and executed and made Angel promise to marry her younger sister. In the final scene of the play, Angel and the younger sister are walking up ‘West Hill‘ which overlooks the prison in Winchester as Tess is executed. This became ‘West Hill Cemetery‘ through which I used to walk every day on my way from the railway station to King Alfred’s College (later to become the University of Winchester) So, as you can imagine, I feel as though I have a very direct connection with the closing scenes of the novel (which, I must add, is poignant in the extreme for those unfamiliar with it)

Sky News is reporting the results of an investigation they have made into the ‘chaotic’ testing regime which the government have bungled through. I quote just the main themes of their report below:

In their effort to release rapid data to show the increase in testing capacity, officials from Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) “hand-cranked” the numbers to ensure a constant stream of rising test numbers were available for each day’s press conference, Sky News has been told. An internal audit later confirmed that some of those figures simply didn’t add up.

It looks as though Keir Starmer has got his teeth into this emerging scandal and will subject the government to a necessary degree of scrutiny. In the 5.00 pm press briefing, the Sky News reporter referred to this ‘hand-cranking’ of the figures but the criticism was just brushed aside with the assurance that the capacity for testing was being ‘ramped up’ (whatever that means, but in an odd kind of way quite true!)