Saturday, 8th August, 2020

[Day 145]

Today turned out to be a different sort of Saturday for all sorts of reasons. Temperatures were again on the very warm side as we are in the middle of a ‘mini-heatwave’ and it is predicted to last for a couple of days more before breaking down into thunderstorms and rain (we hope!) This morning, Meg and I attended a service at St. Mary’s, Harvington which is completely adjacent to Harvington Hall. There is also a Georgian chapel built within the grounds and even an attic ‘church’ where mass was held in mediaeval times cleverly disguised so that it looked as though it was an extension to a children’s nursery – and priestly vestments could be quickly hidden away in the event of a raid searching out Catholic ‘heretics’. The service itself was delightful – there were a dozen of us and we were well socially distanced from each other, sanitised, masked and/or visored up. There was a very intimate feel to the whole experience and I suppose it must have been like this in the early days of the Christian church where congregations would assemble in each other’s houses and the priest would come to them rather than the reverse. We suspect we will repeat the experience next weekend as we rather enjoyed the aesthetics of it all. Harvington Hall is only 7 miles distant from Bromsgrove so we drove down to the park and hunted for an elusive car-parking space which we eventually found. We were delighted, though, to meet up again with an old acquaintance of ours who has two twin baby girls (growing up fast) and as we had not met up for a week or so, we had to catch up with each other’s news. She had started work again when the children went to a nursery but as a speech therapist, she found to be enormously kitted out with a lot of PPE since she was last at work and this coupled with a new boss made the whole experience of work seem very different to the pre-COVID-19 days. Then we met another mother complete with a dog (sort of a mixture between a poodle and something else) and her children who were helping to walk and train the dog which still a puppy. We exchanged some stories, as we typically do, and then made for home on what was becoming quite a humid morning.

The big political dilemma facing the government whether to press ahead with a forced reopening of the schools in three weeks time still rumbles on. Tonight, the position seems to be as polarised as ever. One the one hand, Boris Johnson and the rest of the government machine are arguing that it is only ‘morally right’ that children should receive the education that they deserve. At one level, it is hard to disagree with these sentiments and is evidently the case that the absence of any formalised education for so many months is causing real damage to the life chances (and the mental health) of a whole generation of children of school age. But the difficulty is this – we know that the incidence of the virus amongst school children is remarkably low. But what we do not know is whether the school population could act as a vector for the transmission of the virus to older people whilst they themselves seem unaffected. As well as school children, we also have to be aware of the Further Education colleges and other institutions catering for adolescents there is much more uncertainty. The crux of the argument is that the reopening of schools is actually the reconnection of several diverse networks and, once reconnected, the virus may well become much more rampant. A former chief scientific adviser to the government is of the opinion that the epidemic will almost certainly worsen once schools are made to reopen, despite the measures that they are undertaking unless compensatory mechanisms can be sought to offset these. The argument most often heard is ‘pubs’ or ‘schools’ – will any government dare to shut down all of the pubs and restaurants if it is the case that the reopening of the schools is generating more opportunities for the virus to replicate?