Wednesday, 24th March, 2021

[Day 373]

Today really did feel like the first day of spring. There was quite a lot of pale spring sunshine and many of the trees are starting to bud – and we notice that the flowering cherries and flowering hawthorne are already in full bloom. Having picked up our newspapers, we ambled towards the park where we soon met with several groups of acquaintances. As it happened, I had an old briefcase with me in which I had a couple of books I was loaning to my University of Birmingham friend. One of them was one of the finest statistics books in my collection – American in origin, it was very comprehensive (899 pages long) and explained the theory and practice of practically each statistical test you were ever likely to need and then illustrated each test with the output from the very popular MiniTab program. I found it brilliant when I used it regularly and just as brilliant now, even though I have not had occasion to consult it for years now.

As I do not have any hardware capable of running MsDOS programs (in which all of my statistical software was written), an idle thought occur to me whether there were any ancient DOS-only based laptops lying around in anybody’s bedroom cupboards gathering dust. If so, then I could give them a whirl to see if any of the suites of programs I wrote on them still work (just think of it as an old man’s whimsy) I found I could still buy very early laptops some of them with Windows on them but I suspect that there may be quite a few pre-Windows machines around if only I can locate them (and promise them a good home!) I put the call out to a couple of my former colleagues as I suspected that they had some old kit lying around but I forgot to mention that I only have Apple based technology in the house at the moment as I was happy to abandon Windows based routines for all time several years ago.

This afternoon, I popped out in the car to get some new petrol for the intended lawn mowing tomorrow (if the weather holds) I discovered that I still had the best part of a gallon of petrol hanging around since last autumn so I needed to decant it into a wide-necked jar, then a narrow-necked bottle and thence into the petrol tank of my present car. This took a certain amount of fiddling about as you can imagine before I actually hit the road. Then I measured out my remaining engine oil only to discover I did not quite have enough. So I hit the road again and popped into Halfords only to be faced with a bewildering variety of (expensive) motor oils. I managed to see an assistant to ask from some advice and she informed me who what I wanted was in the (small) gardening section. This allowed me to purchase exactly the right kind of oil that I wanted for the mower, incidentally at about one half of the price of the more expensive varieties destined for cars.

Tonight, it does appear that after a certain amount of jousting, the UK and the EU are taking about sensible means of working with each other to secure supplies of vaccine across the whole of European society. To the outside world, struggling to make do with the limited amount of vaccine made available to them, it must seem to be a terrible prospect that advanced, rich societies are fighting with each and threatening a trade war when the pandemic afflicts us all equally. Meanwhile,Boris Johnson seems to be saying rather odd things at the moment. For example, he told MPs at the 1922 Committee: 'The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed my friends.' Having said that, he has immediately tried to row back on himself by saying that he regretted saying it and asking MP’s to forget what he had just said. But what so seems to odd about this remark is that the most successful vaccine by numbers inoculated, the AstraZeneca virus will be available on a non-profit basis ‘in perpetuity’ to low- and middle-income countries in the developing world. And the cost per dose does not immediate seem to indicate profit-making as the cost per dose seems to be about £3 which seems pretty good value for money.

Boris Johnson was appearing before a group of his own MP’s this evening and several little ‘gems’ emerged. First, it looks as though France might be placed on a ‘red list’ all but ruling out holidays there this summer. Secondly, it may well be that pubs will require proof of vaccination or a recent test before they will serve customers when they finally do re-open. Finally, all care staff in residential homes will be required to have had a vaccination – what this should be considered problematic I do not know as tin the past staff had to show that they had had TB and hepatitis vaccinations before they were allowed anywhere near patients!