Thursday, 22nd October, 2020

[Day 220]

Today was predicted to be a beautiful autumn day so we decided to make the best of it whilst we possibly could. So we decided to repeat the pattern of the last week or so and visit Droitwich, the small town to the south of us and home to a wonderful Waitrose, as it happens! We collected our newspapers and then headed off for Droitwich where we made our way hastily to our little teashop in which we were going to lunch later. Having had our elevenses and a chat and a joke with the locals (it is that sort of teashop) we headed towards the local Wilko store that we frequent almost every time we are in Droitwich. I bought a range of stationery items including things you do not see every day (such as a packet of address labels on sheets that can be fed into my laser printer thus making short work of my Christmas card list). Two years ago, I put in the investment of ‘computerising’ my Christmas card list thus alleviating the tedious chore of hunting through old diaries and address books to find the names of distant relatives to whom you only send a Christmas once a year to prove to them (and yourself) that they are still alive. After this, we did return to our tea shop to have one of their huge roast dinners that they put on once a week (on a Thursday) and partook of a huge lamb meal on this occasion. When we got home, we asked our son if he would like to join us next week and as he is ‘on leave’ he will do so which be a revelation for him. The only thing to mar our enjoyment of the day was to return to the car, only to discover it had been dive-bombed by a local, incontinent seagull who had made a right mess of the roof and both sides of the car. (Incidentally, why should it happen that only my car receives this treatment and not the two on either side which appeared to be absolutely pristine and unscathed) One of life’s great mysteries! So on my return home, I immediately got to work with a bucket of soapy water and a long-handled car brush to remove the offending deposits, As the car has not had a proper clean for a long time, after a cup of tea, I decided to treat it, and myself, to a good carwash in an establishment at the back of a pub run by a group of Kurds. As my contact appeared a little shorthanded today I had to wait about an hour and a quarter until it was ready. I entertained myself by spending a really long, leisurely wander around my local Poundland store – normally, it is a quick in-and-out job as I know what I want and where to find it. As we are approaching Halloween, the store was full of cheap crap which will end up in landfill in a few days time in the second week of November, no doubt. Nonetheless, I did manage to buy one or two stationery items which will add to my store.

It looks as though the Chancellor of the Exchequer has now appreciated the depth of the crisis of the individuals facing severe economic hardship in Tiers 2 and 3. So the scheme he devised in order to replace furlough has already been revised and made a little less mean than it was. Employees now only to work for 20% of the time (down from a third) to receive 75% of their wages (up from two thirds) whilst the employer’ contribution is reduced to a token 5% (down from 33%) and a system of cash grants will operate. The irony of all of this is that only two or three days ago, the government were quibbling about stumping up an extra £5 million to support businesses in Manchester when suddenly up pops a scheme which costs multi-millions of pounds. As Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester who led the revolt against the government plans for the Manchester region said tonight he was ‘open-mouthed’ because suddenly the government suddenly gave him everything he had been asking for a couple of days ago but were denying him. The truth of the matter, as several economists have observed, is the government is way ‘behind the curve’ and reacting to events in a panic/crisis mode rather than trying to plan rationally for what is evidently going to be a huge second wave of the virus.

Tonight we received a long and detailed email from one our closest and dearest Winchester colleagues detailing how very ill his wife had become and the various medical interventions being undertaken on her behalf. One feels so helpless in these situations and the only thing we can do is to reassure our friend of our continuing love and support in the days and weeks ahead.