Monday, 8th February, 2021

[Day 329]

The ‘Beast from the East’ more properly known as Storm Darcy was still very much in evidence this morning. Actually, it felt a tad less severe than yesterday and when the gusts of icy wind abated, there were hints of spring sunshine but we are having to get accustomed to sub-zero temperatures. The BBC weather app says ‘heavy snow showers and a gentle breeze’ for my postcode area but in practice there was only the slightest hint of a few flurries of snow in the wind which you would not have described as ‘gentle’. Nonetheless, we collected our newspapers and trudged up to see our friend in the park who had thoughtfully already dried the park bench for us with a towel he keeps for the purpose (and we ourselves have an tea towel reserved for park bench drying duties in our rucksack) We chatted for a little while mainly about the rugby (about which our friend is much more knowledgeable than are we – but then he used to play rugby in his younger days) Eventually, the cold got the better of both of us so we bid each other adieu and headed homewards for a cup of warming soup. Lunch consisted of chicken breasts which were seared and then add to the remains of the tomatoes/peppers/onions/sauce mixture left over from yesterday. This was delicious, particularly when complemented by baked potato and some freshly prepared greens.

This afternoon, after a good newspaper read, I promised myself that I would go through a pile of newspapers and other mailed items that I had promised myself I would read and then sort out. I notice that at this time of year, the newspapers seem to be full of supplements along the themes of keep fit/coping with the pandemic/ensuring your mental health (which are really inter-connected themes when you think about it) So eventually stuff either got thrown away or filed or put into the ‘books I got for Christmas which I haven’t had time to read yet’ pile.

There is quite a degree of concern that the South African variant of COVID-19 has popped up in various places throughout the UK including an area in North Worcester which is just about 15 miles south of here in Bromsgrove. The variant of the virus has differently shipped ‘spikes’ enabling it to lock onto human cells more easily and this makes it more infectious (although the severity of the disease does not appear to differ) The AstraZeneca vaccine seems to have limited power to vaccinate against this variant- the figures quote as ‘22% effective’ but I am not sure what this actually means. Does it mean that only 22% of viral particles are treated by the vaccine and the 78% escape the bodies immune system? The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is slightly less effective against the South African variant but certainly more than the AstraZeneca version. This situation is a little confused not to say worrying. The Government’s has been has been keen to stress all day that the AstraZeneca vaccine – the most popular one – is effective but it is in the public domain that it doesn’t to appear to stop mild or moderate versions of the disease in younger population. This leaves open the question of how effective it is against more severe infections of the virus? There seems to be quite a degree of ‘radio silence’ on this point but there is talk, not particular reassuring, that the vaccine is being ‘tweaked’ and that a third dose might be offered to people ‘in the autumn’ None of this, I must say, do I find particularly reassuring but I keep saying to myself that as it is two weeks since the initial jab and about another nine weeks to go before the final one, that I must take pains to be especially careful in the few weeks ahead of us.

We bumped into some of our church friends as well as our Italian friend on the way down into town – she was muffled up to the eyeballs both against the cold and also with her face mask so we only recognised her at the last moment. I am promised to a bottle of wine as soon as conditions permit by way of thanks for taking her to be vaccinated. This bout of bad weather is due to last for several days and Meg and I have acquired some sniffles and cold-like symptoms after braving the weather. We will have to make a careful judgement whether it is with while venturing out tomorrow but the weather is so changeable that when you set forth it does not seem too bad and then can take a turn for the worse. Whilst our daily walks probably do us more good than harm, it will be frustrating for us if our little sniffles turn into a full scale cold. We are taking some cold-and-flu preparations when we go to bed as a precaution in any case.