Well, we knew that the weather forecast for today was not good and so it proved. The day started with some swirling rain then turned into sleet which eventually turned into a rather light snow – but given the wind, one that looked as it would not settle anywhere. We decided to cut our losses and go in the car to collect our newspapers which we did. Then it was onwards to the park and we made for the Bandstand which is always our haven when it is raining/sleeting/hailing/snowing. As were enjoying our coffee (if enjoying is the right word) we were joined in our refuge with a young father who was looking after a four-year-old as well as a babe-in-a-pram. It was noble of him to brave the elements under the circumstances. It turned out that he was an environmental officer at Birmingham University whilst his wife was busy doing on-line tuition as an English as a Foreign Language tutor. You meet some interesting people in the park – needless to say, we were the only people in evidence save for a solitary dog walker in the far distance. We were pleased to jump in the car and have more substantive elevenses at home when we eventually got warmed up.
As it was a dull, wet afternoon, we decided to indulge ourselves with any old films being broadcast this afternoon. As it happened, BBC2 was showing the 1948 version of St. Joan with Ingrid Bergman which I assumed would be in black and white but was actually in colour. It was quite a brave film to make as WWII had only ended three years earlier and most of the films made in the era tended to be uber-patriotic and certainly anti-German with one or two exceptions (Rommel coming to mind) Actually the French squabbling between themselves did not come out of it too well and might well have fed into latent English prejudices about the French. I always find it interesting that UNESCO tried to write an ‘objective’ comprehensive history of Europe but couldn’t find enough consensus to bring their project to fruition. For example, the English always tend to trump their victories at Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt (particularly in Shakespeare’s plays) and consign to a small footnote the fact that the English actually lost all of their French possessions at the end of the period. The French, by contrast, will acknowledge some temporary defeats at Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt and stress, that at the end of the day they were victorious in repelling the English. They say that history is written by the victors, which of course is true. Before leaving this subject, how many of the British population realise that the USSR with a population of 170,000 million had quite a lot to do with the defeat of Hitler (and lost 20 million of their population in the process)
There are several distinguished diplomats in the EU who have been pulling their hair over the rushed decision to suspend part of the Brexit deal agreement on Northern Ireland, in its rush to impose restrictions on Covid vaccines, or components of vaccines, exported from the bloc. This decision was so ill thought-out and taken without the knowledge of the governments of the UK, Northern Ireland or Eire that it had to be reversed in a matter of hours. As a German newspaper put it, succinctly, ‘Brexit 1, EU 0’ and it does really look as though, at a stroke, the EU committed an enormous blunder and must fuel the Brexit-like feelings, wherever they exist in the UK or elsewhere in continental Europe.
Our ex-Waitrose friends had texted us halfway through the afternoon to say that they had received their doses of the vaccine (as had our friend in Hampshire, so we learnt last night). I am sure it will be a massive relief to them as they have patiently locked down for the last 10-11 months and have borne this with a great deal of patience and fortitude – but glad that the end may be in sight so that they can re-connect with members of their family. In the meanwhile, the numbers vaccinated has now reached 8.4 million out of the projected 15 million (to be reached by mid-February). The UK is vaccinating at the rate of 12.3 per 100 people (and Germany, by contrast, is only 2.6 per 100) and the UK has vaccinated some 16% of its population which is an impressive achievement given the timescales involved. Meg and I have entered ourselves in the COVID-19 computerised system which recognised that we had been given our first ‘shot’ and allocated us a date and a time for our final shot which will be 11 weeks after our initial jab. So this will be on 12th April so we have to be especially cautious until then (and subsequently). And to conclude, one public health expert is warning the population tonight that we might have to reconcile ourselves to a two-year wait (when vaccination rates in the rest of the world catch up?) before anything approaching a semblance of normality returns.