Wednesday, 10th March, 2021

[Day 359]

Today was the blustery day in which a large storm moved across the Atlantic and hit the UK with high winds and attendant rain. As it turned out, the weather was somewhat blowy when we walked down into town and it did turn out to be one of those days when you had to hang onto your hat because it was in constant danger of blowing away. We needed to pop into Waitrose to get one or two things that we had run out of before the order arrives between 9.0-10.0 tomorrow morning. Whilst there, I exchanged some information with one of the friendly staff who mentioned that she had now seen another person we used to see regularly who is a history teacher in a local school. She had a beautiful baby boy who is now old enough to be at nursery so our friend (of our supermarket friend) was returning to work. I gave our friendly supermarket assistant one of the cards that I keep in my wallet to pass onto our mutual acquaintance because I would like to reestablish contact after a year. At the very least, she can read our blog to see what kinds of things we have been doing in the last year. And so we made our way to the park but by this time the wind was blowing quite hard. We did not really anticipate seeing our University of Birmingham friend in the park today because he had only had the vaccination at the day before and may have been feeling under the weather. As it turned out, we did not see our friend but we did receive a telephone call informing us that he was having a big computer problem back home and he was trying to get it fixed remotely – the best of luck in this venture. Eventually a gust of wind blew my cup of coffee off our little portable stool so we thought we had better make for home – there was hardly anybody in the park to speak of anyway. But just before we left, we bumped into another local who frequently walks in the park and she had often noticed us (and even stopped for us in her car on one occasion) So, again, I passed over my blog details because she and her husband were quite regular bloggers so it might be quite interesting to have a look at what each other is saying.

When we got home, we had a quiet afternoon reading and then a little parcel arrived from Amazon. This was a superior quality memory card I had ordered from Amazon which was very frequently recommended as one of the best quality one could buy and was the first choice for many professional photographers (including our own son, so I discovered in a subsequent conversation with him at memory cards) This particular one (a SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB cost me a shade under £16.00) and I immediately used it to make a complete backup of my main computer system. I was pleased to see that the entire 32GB of my system was backed up in 18 minutes which means it was writing at almost 2GB a minute or about 32Mb a second which is fast enough for me, as it happens. This particular memory card claims to have a ‘limited’ lifetime warranty but SanDisk do offer a service that if the data on the disk cannot be read or recovered, then they will recover if for you using their own specialised facilities within a two-year window from the date of purchase. I think this sounds quite a good deal really, considering the not exorbitant amount of money that the memory card cost in the first place.

Tonight it has been reported that the test-and-trace regime is now costing us £37 billion (£22 billion + another tranche of £15 billion handed over the the Chancellor). This has been branded by the Public Accounts Committee as ‘staggering‘ and ‘no clear evidence‘ that it had cut coronavirus infections. Just to put into context, this extraordinary amount of money is approaching one half of the projected cost of the HS2 hi-speed link between London, the Midlands and the North. So here we have one system, the test-and-trace regime largely handed to the private sector and recognised as ineffective and an extraordinary waste of money. Meanwhile the vaccination programme performed by the NHS, i.e. in the public sector, is an astounding success. To my mind, there could not be a clearer illustration of the fact that really big and universal systems are best left to the state to organise and not left to the vagaries of the private sector. One interesting quote is provided by Lord Macpherson, who until 2015 was the most senior official at the Treasury, and called it ‘the most wasteful and inept public spending programme of all time‘. But do the public really care about this enormous waste of money – after all, the Tories are still ahead in the opinion polls so it doesn’t appear that wasting money on a colossal scale has any adverse consequences.