Wednesday, 22nd July, 2020

[Day 128]

We thought today was going to be quite a busy day and so it proved. We knew that we were going to meet our long-established Waitrose friends in the park at 10.30 am so we started off our walk 5 minutes earlier to ensure we had time to pick up our newspapers and to rendezvous at the correct time. Then after we met we chatted and chatted – it was incredible that we spent nearly an hour in each other’s company before we both realised that the day was slipping away and we both had other commitments to which we needed to attend. Our friends have been in the ‘strong’ form of shielding and so are particularly looking forward to 1st August, a week on Saturday when they can be legally ‘released’ and spend some time on trips out in the car. The week after that we may well form a four-some to visit a National Trust property together. We knew that we had to get home and have a prompt lunch because we had two commitments this afternoon, the first being a visit from our chiropodist at 2.00 pm and the second a long-awaited visit from our hairdresser at 4.00 pm. In the event, our chiropodist failed to arrive and after a quick text, we discovered that our due date was Friday, not Wednesday, so your’s truly must have made a mistake when it was entered up onto the planning board which is a family feature. My son and daughter-in-law left at 7.00 am to get to the South Coast where they were going to enjoy a few day’s respite in a hotel they had chosen. We got a text from them to indicate they had arrived safely which is always reassuring. The haircut was quite a long experience. Meg was having a perm done which always takes about two hours and I get fitted in during some of the breaks that occur when the setting solution is doing its work. Our hairdresser arrived all visored up and, naturally, she had been incredibly busy since the lockdown restrictions were being eased. She told me that if you go onto the Government website, then most of the popular trades have specialist pages indicating exactly what precautions had to be taken and how interactions with clients were to be handled in this transitional phase. We also received some useful tips about the best/cheapest kind of visors to buy which was useful information. Our hairdresser was wearing a type of model which attaches to a type of pseudo-glasses frame which I would never have thought of for looking for – it is always useful to get advice from those who have tried out and tested these kinds of things, particularly as they are not bought every day. They may be less trouble to put on when entering shops than manipulating a face mask over the ears (particularly if you have ear-rings and glasses to circumnavigate at the same time). In the late afternoon, we saw our adopted cat, Miggles, sauntering across our garden grass with something in her mouth (a mouse? bird?) I was mildly disappointed that the cat did not bring it for me to peruse for me delectation (the family cat we had as a child used to love bringing a half-dead mouse into the house for us to witness – and she would then proceed to ‘play’ with it until it was absolutely dead after which time she lost interest in it).

I tend to turn to Huffington Post for interesting angles on the political news that is not covered in the UK Main Street Media. This sequel to yesterday’s news on the potential impact of Russian cyber activity is particularly interesting…They report that ‘the aggressive use of Twitter bots, coupled with the fragmentation of social media and the role of sentiment, could contribute to the vote outcomes’ Tho Pham, one of the paper’s authors, told the Times that 'the main conclusion is that bots were used on purpose and had influence'. The Times had revealed that Russian Twitter accounts – many of which are believed to be bots – had posted more than 45,000 messages in 48 hours during the EU referendum.

This whole area has remained unexplored since the result of the 2016 referendum was announced. There is an argument, not much heard nowadays, that the overspend by the Leave campaign plus the influence of the social media as reported above were grounds enough for the whole referendum result to be declared ‘unsound’ Other countries. more used to referenda as a way of answering constitutional questions appreciated that a narrow majority was not good grounds for making profound constitutional changes (which Brexit undoubtedly was) and required a majority of 60% for a result to be valid. Our own House of Lords even passed an amendment requiring that a result of a referendum is only valid when a 40% of those entitled to vote threshold is reached. In the 2016 referendum 52% of 72% who voted is 37.4%. The House of Lords amendment was overturned, though, in the Commons and the rest is history!