Saturday, 27th February, 2021

[Day 348]

Today was another fine and bright day with a brilliant blue sky and very much the ambience of an early spring day. In fact, I was reminded of the time that I spent a term at the Complutense University of Madrid in which the mornings were frosty and cold but the skies were blue and clear. The dining room in the Residencia (= Hall of Residence) in which I lodged opened at about 7.30 in the morning but I had to leave at about 7.33 to walk to a metro station, catch a metro and then eventually a bus to the University campus of Somosaguas. When the dining room opened, I used to dive in, gulp a quick cup of coffee and a small boccadillo by way of breakfast whilst also grabbing one or two to go in my pockets for a mid-morning break. Some other fellow diners who were also there when the restaurant opened use to say to me ‘This is terribly bad for your health, grabbing a little bit of food like that‘ to which I used to reply ‘I know- I know – but I haven’t got any more time!‘ However, it did make he breakfast on a Saturday and a Sunday morning a particular pleasure when you could have a leisurely breakfast and a civilised conversations with the many and varied visiting professors who were accommodated in the Residencia.

So we collected our ration of Saturday newspapers and made for the park where we met with our University of Birmingham friend and another mutual acquaintance of ours. Here we discussed the various statistics on the efficacy of the competing vaccines and racked our brains to see if we could remember the exact sequence of what is allowed when on the timetable of ‘end of lockdown’. We do remember that on Monday, 8th March i.e. a week on Monday, we will be allowed by the powers-that-be to have a coffee whilst sitting on a park bench and chatting to a friend (whether with or without a mask I am not sure – and do you have to be at opposite ends of the park bench or not? Decisions..decisions). We made our way home knowing that in the afternoon we would be able to watch a couple of rugby matches i.e. Italy versus Ireland and then Wales v. England which is billed as the ‘big one’ of the current 6-Nations. This last match seemed to be extraordinary insofar as the (French) referee made a serious of bizarre and controversial decisions which awarded Wales two tries they were not expecting in the first half. England fought their way back to a 24-24 draw with about 20 minutes to go and then threw it all away with a series of tactical errors and unnecessary penalties although the referee was behaving like a normal human being by this time (One view, shared by one of the commentators at half time was that if the very well known Welsh referee, Nigel Owens, had refereed the match, then the whole dynamics of the match would have altered and it is not inconceivable that England could have won the entire game).

By this evening, the total number of vaccinations has reached 19.7 million which must be about a third of the adult population. As we are approaching the month of March (from next Monday) it looks as though the 60-69 year olds and then the 50-59 year olds will be called forward to receive their ‘jab’. Tho 40-49 year olds will be started on 4th April. Then the 30-39 year olds will be started on 24th June and finally the 20-29 year olds will be started on 13th July. There are about 7 million persons in each category and the official government target is to have all adults vaccinated by the end of July, 2021. Of course, this does depend upon uninterrupted supplies of vaccine, a small overall refusal rate and no great sudden panic with the discovery of a new variant.

They talk about the power of words but I had not fully appreciated how the staunch (not to say rabid) Republicans were weaponising the word ‘Democratic’ as in ‘Democratic Party’. Here are some examples that Republicans of a certain hue are using. For example, rallygoers in Washington were urged to ‘put the fear of God in the cowards, the traitors, the RINOs, the communists of the Democrat Party.’ Yet others have argued that the claims of election fraud meant that Republicans were in a ‘death match with the Democrat Party‘. It does appear that the conservatives on the American right are seeking to identify themselves as members of the same tribe by seeking to define the opposition through demeaning language. Another example with which to conclude follows. After Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was removed from her House committees for espousing sometimes dangerous conspiracy theories, she tweeted: ‘In this Democrat tyrannical government, Conservative Republicans have no say on committees anyway.‘ In other words, the word ‘Democrat‘ or ‘Democratic‘ are always used in such a way that it evokes a negative sentiment in anything to do with the Democratic Party in the United States.