Saturday, 2nd January, 2021

[Day 292]

Today was one of those kinds of days when you were not sure whether it was going to stay fairly quiet on the weather front or indeed even rain or sleet or snow. Nonetheless, we decided to venture forth and although there was a slight flurry of snowflakes, we felt it was nothing to bother us much. After we had collected our supply of Saturday newspapers, the weather worsened a little but we thought we would make for the bandstand where we were, at least, sheltered from the rain. Our intention was to drink our coffee and immediately make our way home. Also sheltering in the bandstand was a man we had recognised from some months in the park when we were occupying adjacent park benches. Our fellow park visitor had lived for a lot of his life in South Africa but we spent some time discussing how COVID-19 had implications for people of our age and generation. We shared a similar outlook wondering what the views of the medics might be if they had to make ‘life-and-death’ decisions in the dire event that we were struck by the virus and hospitalised. Would the medics apply a ‘Triage‘ system i.e. only bother to give intervention to those who they had a chance of saving given scarce resources (critical care beds, specialised nursing staff, ventilators) and how would we both fare if a medic was poised over us with a ‘tick-list’ and whether we would be offered any life-saving treatment or not. After these macabre thoughts, we started to discuss racism (particularly in the context of Southern Africa) as our park friend revealed that he was one eighth Sri Lankan and we laughed over the notions of there being such a thing as a ‘pure’ race, white or otherwise. This proved to be an entertaining twenty minutes or so, after which the weather was starting to close in on us and we made for home. However, there was no biting cold wind and the pavements seemed quite sound underfoot.

After a lunch of curry, we decided as a household to remove our Christmas decorations, the principal job being to ‘undress’ the Christmas tree and then carefully disentangle the electrics and store carefully the fragile ornaments. Now we came to disposing of the tree because on the way in, the tree was protected by a type of netting which was evidently removed once we got it inside the house. When we do things in reverse, we snip off some of the smaller branches to make the whole tree slimmer and capable of being taken outside without damage to anywhere. Then I set to work with my trusty bowsaw, inherited from Meg’s parents which is particularly well suited to tree pruning activities. The tree got divided into three largish chunks which will then fit into some garden rubble sacks and thence into the boot of the car without much more ado. We then gave the car a spin (to get rid of the snow lying on its roof) as far as our local garden centre which accepts back the trees you have bought from them and recycles them. After that, it was a relatively simple job to remove the decorations, take down the Christmas cards (which we will give one last read) and pack up our little fibre-optic Christmas tree and crib. I must say it is good to get rid of all the Christmas clutter once you are well and truly into the New Year but there is always a feeling that the livings rooms look a little denuded after them – and of course, the Christmas tree which used to illuminate a corner of our communal hall is now no more.

An interesting situation has now arisen since the Government’s latest U-turn which has resulted in all of London’s primary schools being closed (although still ‘open’ for looked-after children, children at risk and the children of key workers). A leading union has said that staff at schools have a legal right not to return to classrooms due to the spread of COVID, while another has started legal proceedings against the Department for Education. This raises the interesting question of whether schools can be regarded as safe places in which to work. although the government is desperate to keep schools as ‘open’ as possible. But in the face of infection rates that are soaring, is it sensible for school children of any age to return to school and whilst not becoming ill themselves may play a part in transmitting the virus to older generations? The interesting question about a legal challenge is that the government may be forced in any legal action to display the reasoning that has led to some primary schools being ‘closed’ whilst others remain open despite the fact that the local risk factors appear to be similar. it will be interesting to see how this plays out – a fortnight’s delay in returning to school for all school children may buy us a little bit of time and, perhaps, allow more time to have adequate testing facilities to be installed within the schools.