Saturday, 1st August, 2020

[Day 138]

It was a cooler and much more pleasant day today after the intense and humid heat of yesterday. I started off by getting my Waitrose order in place for about three weeks time and then Meg and I engaged in our traditional promenade. On our journey, we met up with an old Waitrose friend who we knew was going off to France with a lifelong friend and had just got back a few days ago. She seems to have a wonderful time there, so much so that she may be returning in a couple of weeks time or so. All the flights and airport arrangements seem to have gone exactly according to plan and she certainly looked fit and rested after her first vacation for some time. It makes us wonder when the rest of us might enjoy the same because with the recent upturn in the incidence of infection travelling almost anywhere looks somewhat problematic. Upon reading my emails in the morning, I learned that one of my former colleagues from the Univerity of Winchester had decided to take an early retirement one year early to provide employment for a younger colleague and had communicated her decision to the rest of the group of us who meet regularly (we call ourselves ‘The Old Fogies‘ but this name may change!) My previous colleagues and I all sent emails of congratulation and support along the lines of ‘better go now instead of being declared redundant‘ but evidently Winchester, in common with universities up and down the land, are feeling the immense financial pressure imposed by the pandemic and are having to cut their coat according to their cloth accordingly (this is the politest way of putting it but least said, soonest mended as my old mother used to say).

After lunch and a good pore over the Saturday newspapers, we went for a little toddle around the garden where I did some gentle pruning of the plants I have located on my ‘high’ plant holder outside my study window. The Alstroemeria purchased recently from Waitrose is in full bloom about which I am delighted – I am hopeful that keeping it and its neighbours well-tended, watered and fed will keep it that way for the rest of the summer.

There seems to be one story dominating the media at the moment but presented in various guises. This stage of handling the end to the lockdown has got to be handled with a sure and deft political touch, not to mention intelligence and a high degree of political skill. The issue highlighted by the scientists appears to be we are just about at the limit for what, as a society, we can afford to be ‘unlocked’ with the amount of virus certainly circulating in the community. There seem to be two factors at work here but this is somewhat speculative. The first is that the younger elements of the population out ‘socialising; either in or near pubs do not appear to be exhibiting anything like the required degree of social distancing (some of the scenes of youngsters in Soho, London and in Manchester have to be seen to be believed) A second factor is the fact that many people are now meeting up within each other’s houses and the fact that this weekend is the Muslim ‘Eid‘ (equivalent to Christmas Day) has come at an unfortunate time. The massive political dilemma for the government is this – if the advice of the scientists is to be followed and we are already at the limit of what is sensible given the amount of virus in the community, then does a straight political decision have to be taken along the lines of ‘Either get the children back in their schools or the pubs/restaurants opening for business – but not both‘ This dilemma is particularly acute for the Tory party who desperately want the schools to be open so that young mothers can back to work but have traditionally also represented the interests of the brewers in the UK. So it comes to a straight political choice of ‘children’s education’ versus ‘keep the pubs open‘ You wouldn’t normally associate deft political skills with Boris Johnson (compared, say, to Nicholas Sturgeon) but if he doesn’t get the next week or so of trade-offs absolutely right, then this could put paid to his premiership.