Friday, 31st July, 2020

[Day 137]

And so for the hottest day of the year – it was certainly very warm as we strolled down to the park this morning but gradually got more glowering, overcast and humid as the day progressed (a thunderstorm would have been excellent but one was forecast only in the East). We always like to engage people in conversation in the park. not least the local authority workers who have to maintain it. Today, one of these workers had the unenviable job of emptying all of the ‘parcels’ of dog excrement that are put in special bins throughout the park. Notwithstanding all of this, we mutually sympathised with each about the trio of noisy teenagers who occupied a park bench and played execrable music at maximum volume before becoming bored and wandering off. We eventually got into a conversation about ‘Henry’ our resident heron with a club foot who still manages to sustain himself with presumably some kind of small fish who populate the pond and then we roamed over the kinds of animals we had all kept in our youth (this ranged from hamsters to rabbits to pigeons to ferrets) Without romanticising these categories of workers, I have often wondered how many people pass them by without a word of appreciation of how hard they work to keep the park pristine for us to enjoy.

As it was a Friday, it was ‘lawn mowing’ day and although I have a break in between the public communal areas (twice as large as our own formal garden) and our own formal garden, the humidity made the task not particularly pleasant. However, I did ensure that critical trees, plants and tubs received a good ration of water both first thing in the morning and also later on in the evening. I also had a chance to inspect some of the cuttings I had been trying to root and about 50% of them seem to have put down roots but I cannot necessarily identify what these cuttings are from (as I collected them from a walk down to Bromsgrove one Sunday morning some weeks ago) I was also pleasantly surprised to see that although my plum trees seem to have failed to produce any plums this year (unlike last year), the very aged damson trees at the end of the garden seem to be laden and producing fruit about a month earlier than they should. I am resisting the temptation to pick all of the fruit now but need to keep a careful eye on it so that it doesn’t get shed in any violent thunderstorms that might occur later in the year. The damsons get immediately processed and made into damson gin and then distributed to friends, families and anyone else I can think of!

The latest news on the ‘pause’ of the easing of the lockdown is disturbing, to put it mildly. As England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, speaking at the prime minister’s briefing on Friday, warned the data showed ‘we have probably reached near the limit or the limits of what we can do in terms of opening up society‘.He said it could mean ‘if we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things…The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong‘. Well, it could hardly be clearer than that. It is also interesting to note that other councils are considering following the lead of Sandwell and are considering introducing their own ‘trace-and-test’ regime because the service provided by Serco (the national scheme) clearly does not fit their needs and they have the best local knowledge (and the languages) to know what is going on in their own local areas.

Finally, a document released by Sage tonight is interesting (or frightening, depending upon your point of view). A document reveals that serious public disorder could “overwhelm all attempts” to control the coronavirus and “catastrophically” undermine the government’s recovery plans, scientists advising ministers have warned.

A paper written by a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) sub-committee, and considered by SAGE itself on 2 July, said the current “volatile and highly complex situation” means Britain will face “grave challenges” in keeping public order during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any disorder could be “comparable or bigger in scale” than the 2011 London riots, the scientists warned, with military support likely to be required. And extreme right-wing groups are mobilising as never before. You read it here first!