Thursday, 25th February, 2021

[Day 346]

It was a beautiful day today and felt extremely ‘spring’ like – in fact, I think, the temperature at the moment is above the seasonal norm. This wonderful weather did not last for too long, though, as a huge black cloud soon intervened. Nonetheless, we were glad to get to the park and we resumed conversations with our friend from Birmingham University and another friend/acquaintance of his who is a dog walker but also very interested in all things to do with local history. We chatted until we all started to feel a little cold and, as we had been some time out of the sun, we all thought we had better strike for home. As this afternoon was quite bright and fair, I thought I had better give the car a wash as, with one thing or another, it had got missed for a week or so. As I washed the car, I thought there was a very fine film of something resembling dust but according to the weather forecast this evening, what we have actually experienced is a very fine layer of Saharan sand. Every so often when the weather conditions are right, we do get a thin layer of Saharan sand/dust which has whipped up high into the atmosphere by strong winds. The raindrops in the clouds acquire particles of dust and then they get deposited, the water evaporates and we are left with a very fine covering of sand which shows up on our cars (but it must be everywhere)

We have some interesting bits of family news. First of all, Meg’s cousins in Derbyshire have emailed us to indicate that as we all enjoyed the Zoom session last week, shall we have another one soon? We will probably settle for a fortnightly pattern from now on – our cousin had very kindly given us a link so that we can now view Amadeus (the famous film about Mozart) in English rather than in Spanish. So we might try that over the weekend. The other fantastic good bit of news we only got a few minutes ago. We have heard from Spain that our Spanish god-daughter has just won an Erasmus scholarship to come and study for a semester in the University of Gloucertshire (this is about 40 miles down the road) This means that we can see quite a lot of her (if she would like this) and, of course, there is a comfortable home to retreat to at the weekends. We are short on details at the moment but no doubt I will get a lot more once I have emailed our oldest Spanish friend to get all of the ‘inside’ information. I just hope the UK government is not going to do all kinds of daft things to make the lives of Erasmus students difficult (e.g. visas, enormous charges in case you ever need to use our NHS for any reason and so on) Of course, we should be able to do lots at this end just in case anything does go wrong and it needs a little sorting out.

After the complete mess-up last year over the ‘A’-level gradings, the education secretary has done a volte-fee and allowed the teachers to undertake their own assessments of their students – a massive degree of ‘grade inflation’ is being predicted. Even some of the pupils who are affected seem a little unsure as I think the more ‘streetwise’ among them realise that passing a public examination has a certain degree of credibility but a grade based upon teacher assessments might not be regarded so highly by future employers and the universities themselves. But when we were at school, we often used to pass our books to our next door neighbour in the classroom to be marked and then handed back again – would it be beyond the wit of schools to pair with a partner and to ‘mark’ each other’s work? I am sure this could be made to work fairly easily if a little bit of thought was applied to it.

An interesting question is emerging this evening. We know that the rate of vaccination is quite high across the whole of the UK and is now up to some 18.7 million. However, it does appear that in London and large cities such as Birmingham and Manchester the rates of vaccination are well behind the rest of the country. This is associated both with ethnicity and also with deprivation (as well as the interaction between the two). Why this is a source of concern for policy makers is that whilst the rates of vaccination increase for the rest of the country, we are, in effect, leaving behind ‘reservoirs’ of virus that could continue to infect the rest of the population. One solution to this problem is to create much more active ‘intervention’ strategies that would go and seek out those who need vaccination (using mobile clinics with a bus, more active use of community facilities such as pharmacies) and in this way help to avoid problems building up for the future.