Tuesday, 18th August, 2020

[Day 155]

Today, as we walked down into town, Meg and I were reminiscing about how life used to be like some 25 years ago when we were part of the admissions rota, manning the phones in order to recruit the requisite number of students to make our course (and out livelihoods) viable. I think in those days we aimed for a cohort of about 45-50 students but my memory may be playing tricks upon me. However, life in contemporary universities must be an absolute hell at the moment. After the ‘A’-level results were announced last week, you imagine that your course might be up to quota but suddenly, as a result of the government ‘volte-face,’ you are besieged by would-be students who thought that they had not achieved the required grades and had then been advised to go off and appeal. Now the applicants are enquiring whether they still have a place which would mean expanding the course capacity considerably – but do you have the staff to teach them? Have you the requisite accommodation (because of social distancing, all universities will be having to sort out how students distribute themselves in the available space, even though much tuition will be done on-line) Will you try and persuade some students to take a year off and come back to you in one year’s time, or do you persuade them to accept their second offer or do you try and hang onto them having morally (and legally?) offered them a place? No doubt, all of these critical decisions are having to be taken without having all of the normal planning parameters to hand and with students increasingly anxious (not to mention parents who occasionally slip through the net, although admissions staff should not really be delaying with them as they are technically a ‘third party’) I suppose, one must say ‘It’s a nightmare!

We had a lunch today which was quite typical of a Tuesday (fishcakes) I have learnt how to make a wicked sauce with this, which will enliven any fish dish, including fishcakes, It really is ridiculously simple and involves mixing (in a small receptacle) a desert full of mayonnaise, a desertful spoon of 1,000 island dressing, a good glug of tomato sauce, a shake of Worcester sauce – and then whisk all together with a fork and do one minute in the microwave. What name you would call this, I do now know so I will call a ‘Mog special’. After we had dined royally, we hit the road in the car to get some things into be drycleaned and to replenish our supplies of actual cash (which we use less and less these days as more and more retailers prefer to have things paid for by debit card rather than old fashioned cash). When we returned home, we sent a few emails, tidied up some odds-and-ends and then FaceTimed some of our old Waitrose friends who we have not actually seen for a week or so (unusually). Tomorrow we must ready ourselves for a visit by our chiropodist who ensures that we have thousands of miles left in our feet.)

The news tonight is dominated by the fact that Public Health England (PHE) is being folded into a new organisation and effectively merged in the newly developing test-and-trace regime (which has not had conspicuous success so far) It is to be headed up by Tory peer Baroness Dido Harding, currently in charge of Whitehall’s contact-tracing operation who, as TalkTalk chief executive, refused to apologise for financial losses caused to her customers following a cyber attack which saw 157,000 customer’s details stolen by online criminals.It really does look as though the politicians (Matt Hancock in this case) know that a public inquiry is coming and they are boiund to be heavily criticised by it. So they are trying the shift the blame sideways onto an agency (have we heard this before? As Sarah Wollaston, MP and ex-GP has written

a reminder that PHE is the only bit of the health service directly under govt control as an executive agency. Seeking to scapegoat them is extraordinary after cutting public health funding for years & excluding local directors of public health from decision making on COVID.’