Tuesday, 29th December, 2020

[Day 288]

Today was the ‘day after’ the snow storm of yesterday so when we woke up we anxiously looked out of the window to see if we had a fresh fall of snow overnight. We didn’t have any more snow but it did look as though some was threatened for later on. So Meg and I set off for our daily walk knowhing that snow was in the air and initially, we walked through some light sleet. On the way down, we bumped into one of our friends who kindly gave us back the empty bottle of damson gin which they had consumed over the Christmas period. We then popped the Times magazine political cartoons of the year through the door of other friends who we knew would particularly enjoy them. Having picked up our newspapers, the snow started again in earnest and the flakes fell furiously around us. We popped into Waitrose trying to buy essential supplies (dishcloths! our existing stock having been pressed into service and used in a quadruple thickness as straining agents for the damson gin I had just bottled). We didn’t find any dish clothes but we did buy some essential supplies (carrot and parsnip mash, chocolate) before we braved the journey back home again. The weather had eased by this point but nonetheless we were pleased to have made the journey despite the snowy conditions. We then pressed on preparing a lunch of chicken thighs (which we really enjoyed, searing them in oil and cooking them in a in peppers, onions and the remains of a white lasagne-style sauce. Even though so I say it myself, this turned out to be delicious complemented with broccoli and a baked potato.

When lunch was over, I was idly looking through the TV schedules to see what might be our evening viewing when I say that Jane Austen’s Emma was to start in 2 minutes time. This was the novel I studied intensively for ‘O’-level so it it always particularly interesting to see if the portrayal of the characters match up with the mental images formed when you first read the novel (fifteen years old in my case) When I was that age, the family had fallen on some hard times and I remember my emotions upon reading the very first sentence in the book which reads as follows: ‘Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich with a comfortable home and a happy disposition seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence and had lived nearly twenty one years in the world with very little to vex or distress her‘ I can remember now how my lip curled with disgust as I thought to myself that I certainly did not want to read any further than this as I could see no points of congruence whatsoever between the world that Austen was about to describe and my own existence. As it turned out, I quite enjoyed the novel as it unfolded but my feelings of distate having read that first sentence have remained with me over the years. The minute was Emma was over, we repaired to our iPad where we were due to FaceTime some of our oldest ex-Waitrose friends. We were on the iPad for the best part of an hour and a half whilst we recounted to each the kinds of experiences that we had both had over the Christmas period – an experience largely revolving around the food we had enjoyed.

The COVID-19 news this evening is particularly bad, not to say shocking. The number of new infections has risen from 41, 385 yesterday to 53,135 today. That is a 28% increase in a single day! The latest daily figures come after it was revealed that England’s hospitals are now treating more patients than during the peak of the first wave in April. So it now appears that the NHS is facing the most ‘perfect storm’ and the real impact of the worst of the winter crisis has yet to bite (some time in late January or February) There are stories already of several hospitals at absolute maximum capacity with queues of ambulances outside hospital A&E departments as there is no space inside to receive the new patients, staff absolutely stretched to the limit and no space in the wards inside the hospitals. The fact that we have built several Nightingale hospitals all over the country is to no avail because where are we going to get the staff to staff them? Many of our European nurses appear to have ‘gone home’ For example there is a report (dated by now, from the Nursing and Midwifery Council) has shown has shown that the number of new nurses coming from the EU to work in the UK has dropped by 87% from 6,382 in 2016/17 to 805 in 2017/18. It is rather difficult to get accurate figures in this area as sometimes new entrants to the nursing workforce do not have their origins correctly stated but it is undoubtedly the case that the whole Brexit factor has deterred new entrants from entering the UK and several others (perhaps in their thousands) have returned home. Even a large majority of those who voted ‘Leave’ still want European nurses to come and work here but there are so many factors such as the ‘hostile environment’ promised to illegal migrants to dissuade many would be nurses wanting to come to live and work in post-Brexit Britain.