Sunday, 30th May, 2021

[Day 440]

Today started off (and continued) as the most glorious of days. The sky was completely cloudless and an azure blue from almost first light. In fact the weather forecasters were predicting that today temperatures in Britain may well exceed those in Ibiza (Spain). I walked down early as is customary on a Sunday morning in order to collect our Sunday newspapers. Then after indulging in our weekly Andrew Marr Show, I walked down to the park (on my own) where I hoped to meet up with our University of Birmingham friend, but when I got there I had received a text from him telling us that he was going out for the day with a friend and we would meet up again some time during the week. After I got home, I had a quick change of shirts (having walked to town twice on a very hot day) in preparation for our neighbour’s garden party which was due to start at 12.00 noon. We arrived fairly promptly and handed over our present (a large picture of an owl) which was much appreciated and then started to mingle and drink with the guests (mainly family). We discovered that one of the guests was a friend of our neighbours who knew southern Spain quite well and so we exchanged reminiscences of some of the towns we knew in Andalucia such as Antequera and Ronda. Just as soon as some delicious food was being served, Meg started to feel quite unwell – we had to get her back home (only next door) and then she lay down and had a good sleep after which she felt a lot better. We are not quite sure what happened but we are surmising that a couple of glasses of red wine on an empty stomach in a very hot midday sun was probably a bit too much for her constitution to bear, particularly as she was feeling a bit wobbly in any case. Our neighbours were absolutely wonderful and, given that we missed out on some of the party, promised us that we can have a nice little party as a foursome when the weather and time permits. Meanwhile, our neighbour is actually starting a new job on Tuesday morning which is quite enviable for someone who has had their 73rd birthday. In some ways it appears to be a continuation of the job he had before retirement but this one calls for someone who has a lot of experience within the industry so our neighbour is well suited.

After the Dominic Cummings outpourings last week, the news media are still feeling some of the consequences. In particular, a spotlight has been well and truly focused on the UK’s preparedness (or lack of it) to face the COVID-19 pandemic. Lord Kerslake, a former head of the civil service, is of the option that nothing short of a revolution is required in the way that our civil service and other British institutions are run. Probably Dominic Cummings would agree. Although we thought of ourselves as being well prepared by for a conventional influenza epidemic, this was certainly not the case when combatting the coronovirus. By contrast, some of the South East Asian economies had had experience in the past of SARS, MERS and other similar pandemics and they fully appreciated the necessity to lock down hard and early. If we were to look at Vietnam, for example, we discover that in total they experienced 1347 cases and 33 deaths (compared UK with 4.4 million cases and 128,000 deaths). Lord Kerslake also attacks what he calls ‘British exceptionalism’ by which I think he means ‘it could never happen here’ Although UK TV screens were filled with the most horrendous images of hospitals in Bergamo, Northern Italy there seemed to a feeling that it alll might stop at the Channel Tunnel. The UK’s lack of preparedness for the epidemic will no doubt be chewed over at length in any future investigation. It is also becoming crystal clear that in an absolute panic to clear hospital beds, there was a huge decanting of patients (untested for the virus) back into residential homes. Instead of ‘throwing a ring of steel’ around the care home sector, it is now fairly clear to most journalists and informed members of the public that the influx of hospital patients would only serve to ‘seed’ the virus inside residential establishments but the figures for those who died of COVID (as opposed to other things from which they might have died sooner or later) will be difficult to ascertain. One would have thought that there would be a huge popular revulsion over the fact that this happened but the great British public seems not to care (as the Tories are so far ahead in the opinion polls, even putting another 3% last week) It seems that a combination of the vaccines being successful rolled out and the fact that Brexit is sort of delivered is persuading people that Boris has done quite a good under the circumstances!