Thursday, 18th September, 2020

[Day 185]

You never quite know how each day is going to turn out and today was no exception. Remembering that it was our friends’ wedding anniversary yesterday, we decided to take along a couple of presents in the off-chance that we might bump into them. As it turned out they were in the garden, saying goodbye to one of their grandsons who is due to depart tomorrow to take up his university course. He was justifiably quite excited about the whole prospect and I am sure as he is a natural sportsman, he will make a success of whatever he turns his hand to. Our friends invited us into their garden to share coffee and biscuits with them and we were delighted to hand over our couple of presents. The first was a bottle of Cava (Spanish champagne) but the second was a horseshoe the I just happen to have restored to an almost pristine condition. Horseshoes nowadays are made of a mild steel and can be restored with a little bit of know-how and a lot of hard work to a dull silver looking finish – nonetheless, when restored and untarnished, they still look very attractive. Our friends were delighted with this little present and I am taking one they keep in their greenhouse, which has a lot of sentimental value, to restore as I have all of the gear (starting off with white vinegar). We were with our friends for about an hour and a half and as they have friends and relatives strung across the globe (Australia, Canada, Pakistan to mention a few) and absolutely adore travelling in normal circumstances, then we found plenty of chat about. I forgot to mention that on our way down into town we chatted with our Italian friend for a few minutes and then, after seeing one lot of friends, we encountered several more (they happen to be near neighbours) We have just worked out that all three of us couples have a wedding anniversary within eight days of each other so we are starting to wonder whether we dare plan to have a joint celebration next September for the three of us together. It is just a thought – but what started out as a little walk ended some three and a half hours later. We thought we had better telephone our son in case he was wondering whether any misfortune had befallen us. Then home to a curry which I threw together in no time (we have tended to have curry once a week ever since our student days in Manchester – in fat, Rusholme which is the district of Manchester where we rented a flat is now known as the curry capital of Europe, although it was a predominantly Irish community when we lived there in the 1960’s)

Large parts of the NorthEast (basically, the whole of the Newcastle conurbation) will be subject to a semi-lockdown. Basically, this means that there is a curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants which need to close at 10.0pm and there is a complete ban of social mixing in each other’s houses. There is quite a debate whether on a technical level, this will do much to inhibit a virus which can be just as active after 10.0 as it was before. However, there is an argument that if under the influence of some (not a great deal of) alcohol, social inhibitions are lessened and social distancing becomes less and less evident. So a curfew may make a lot of sense from this perspective. However, it seems that the major effect may be the psychological one i.e. if this semi-lockdown does not work then the only alternative is a full-scale lockdown. I think that a judgement is being made that it is better, on balance, to keep the pubs open for limited opening hours rather than shutting them altogether in a full scale curfew (as many businesses will not survive in that event)

When Baroness Harding, the chief of ‘Test-and-trace’ was questioned today in a committee of MP’s, she opined that she doesn’t believe 'anybody was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand' for coronavirus tests. Well it was interesting that with the end of lockdown and with schools and universities reopening, there was evidently going to be an increase in the COVID-19 ingestion rate. Every epidemiologist in the country worth his salt had indicated that the we would have a second wave of the virus about to hit us so to say that ‘nobody expected to see an increase in the infection rate of this size‘ seems naive beyond belief, given the brief she had been entrusted with by the government.