Saturday, 1st May, 2021

[Day 411]

The 1st May has dawned with a bout of distinctly cloudy, or at leat variable, weather. Meg and I did not start our walk into town until nearly 12.00 and when we started off, the weather was set quite fair but it was soon to change. By the time we were sitting on our bench, it had started to rain and neither of us had coats on. So we packed up our camp and headed down the hill where we decided to head for the bandstand – together with several others sheltering from the rain. There we bumped into University of Birmingham friend and another of our park regulars and we engaged in one of our long and rambling conversations. In the course of this, and à propos nothing in particular, I regaled them with a story from the days in which I used to work in a big, 4-star hotel in Harrogate. This hotel was huge and about 375 bedrooms with a very high occupancy rate, so it was no surprise that occasionally a guest died from natural causes.The problem is – how to you safely transport a body through the hotel without attracting the attention of the police, ambulance crews, other guests etc (I am talking about the period from 1959-1964 here) The answer is, of course, that we rolled the body inside a carpet and brought it down in the service lift. After all, nobody gives a second glance to a group of hotel workers bringing a roll of carpet down in a lift and I think this happened on one or two occasions whilst I was working there. I started washing dishes – 12½p an hour, graduated to washing silver (15p an hour), then washing glass for the bar (20p an hour) and finally worked in the main bar itself only to be rewarded, eventually, with my own little cocktail bar (25p an hour). As you can tell, there was a minute stratification structure to the hotel which had managed in its entirety by about 3-5 managers. When we went back to the hotel for a 70th birthday treat, I espied an organisation chart where there were now about 5 times as many managers (including occupations that didn’t exist in the 1950’s such as ‘website manager‘) but the number of rooms had been reduced by a half (as they knocked rooms together to provide en-suite facilities, I imagine) This, if course, happens in the ‘private’ sector where the bureaucracy had grown over the decades as it has in the public sector of course.

We got home incredibly late after all of this chattering (we had also stopped to have a natter with some of our church friends going up the hill) so it was getting on for 2.30 when we eventually got home. So to save time preparing and cooking a meal, we just had a thick soup which is a Waitrose specialty to which we treat ourselves. The rest of the afternoon was a deliberately lazy affair as we knew we had to get ready to go to church at at about 5.30 in the afternoon.We only just booked in time to get into the service on this occasion and I think that the church was full to its new ‘semi-lockdown’ capacity which is about 45 people. We do see and wave to other people at a distance but perhaps it will not be too long before we can have the normal types of social discourse that occurs between members of the congregation once we start to experience what will be the ‘new normal’ times.

The Sky News website hosts an interesting graphic of ‘Covid-19 around the world‘ and by putting your mouse over a country of interest, you will be informed of the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases expressed as a rate per 100,000. Some of the comparisons are amazing – for example the rate in France is 824 (15 times the English rate of 55), in Argentina it is 772 (14 times the English rate), in Mongolia 541 (10 times the English rate) and in Vietnam 0.2 (0.04 of the English rate) It makes you think, does it not?

Next week is going to be a busy week, what with one thing or another. On Tuesday, we are looking forward very much to getting our locks shorn by the hairdresser for whom we have both been waiting for weeks. Then on Friday, we are scheduled to go to Marks and Spencer in Longbridge (site of the old Austin production line) for a specialised (free) underwear fitting session which they offer but for which you have to book way in advance. We will probably need to hand deliver our voting papers for the forthcoming election because the Bank Holiday has rather crept up on us and if we were put our postal votes in the postbox, they would sit there until Tuesday and not get delivered until Wednesday which would be cutting it a little fine – so we will have a run out in the car and hand deliver the votes through the door of the council offices themselves.