Monday, 4th January, 2021

[Day 294]

Today was somewhat overcast and chilly but no snow was immediately in prospect. The cold spell is going to last a few more days yet but we are relieved not to wake up to a further dump of snow. So we conducted our normal walk, picking up our newspapers and making our way to the park which was not particularly busy. We had our elevenses and walked home without bumping into anyone although I am carrying a spare bottle of damson gin plus a jar of compôte in case we happened to meet with anyone who might be the recipients of further gifts. After lunch, we read our newspapers and listened to some of the rolling news programmes – the Scots are going for something approaching a full lockdown to cope with the COVID-19 crisis so it is a matter of speculation how far behind we will happen to be.

Earlier in the day we had a message from some of our near neighbours in Hampshire when all of the family were going to be at home and therefore accessible to a FaceTime webinar. We arranged a time in the late afternoon when we could all coincide – and we are looking forward to that as we have not seen the younger members of the family for about ten years now and with the passage of time they have got their GCSE’s and ‘A’-levels and graduated from their respective universities. But before then, we Skyped some of our Oxfordshire friends and had a good chat about events that had happened to us both over the Christmas period (which we were both glad to have behind us) as well as matters much more philosophical. We parted saying that we should Skype again in a fortnight or so, which we certainly shall. No sooner had this call ended before we repaired to our iPad which is a better technology for us to make and receive FaceTime calls. It was wonderful to chat whilst we were brought up-to-date on what each individual members of the family was doing – principally, their work life after graduation. The son of the family was shortly to leave to go and work in London – the last time we saw him he was actually the first questioner in an edition of Question Time which happened to come from Cardiff University. The daughter of the family was living locally but under a bubble arrangement could come home to work remotely (as though going to the office!). The family had lost their family dog over the years but acquired another, bear-like looking dog which, if my memory serves me correctly was a cockapoodle (or a mixture of a cocker spaniel and a poodle) or a similar mixture.There are not many occasions in which all of the family would be together ‘en famille‘ so we were pleased to seize the opportunity for a FaceTime chat whilst we could.

Tonight there is going to be a broadcast from Boris Johnson to the nation so it is fairly evident that something approaching a new lockdown is imminent. The important question about which there is speculation before the broadcast is whether schools are to be involved in the lockdown (like last spring) or not. I am continuing the blog few minutes after the broadcast so now some of the details have been filled in. It now seems that the lockdown will be total i.e. like last spring, but essential and key workers will still travel to work and continue to work, Really significant change, for all of us, is that the lockdown will stay in place until mid-February at the very earliest. The political commentators are suggesting that Boris Johnson did not sound at all confident that even some of the most stringent measures could be lifted after mid-February. In other words, the lockdown will last at six weeks and probably for a fair amount of time after that. The provisions will come into effect from midnight tonight but will become law on Wednesday (presumably after Parliament has approved the emergence legislation). People will be allowed to leave the house for essential shopping and exercise (once per day) but all social contact has to be minimised. In the case of the schools, children in general will be asked not to attend school but to engage in distant leaning whilst they can. But, as we have discovered this evening, the list of ‘essential’ and ‘key’ workers is long and complex and schools are meant to operationalise this sounds like a logistical nightmare. For example, is a parent living on a one room flat turns up with a child and claim a ‘carer’ status, what element of proof will have to be supplied to the school to work out whether a child is eligible to return to school or not? As I write, the senior staff in schools are frantically trying to work out how all of this going to work but it sounds as though the next few days are going to be particularly fraught at the school gates (or when the school is telephoned, if nobody can get through, of course, on over-whelmed phone lines)