Saturday, 25th September, 2021

[Day 558]

Today is the day when we are due to go home – as is often the case, we woke up early at about 6.00am and didn’t bother to try and get any more sleep as we knew there is alway a lot of last minute packing to do,. Having said that, packing to go home is normally quite a satisfying procedure psychologically as out of the ‘ordered chaos’ of the bedroom comes a degree of apparent order when things are packed up and put away occasionally even thrown away! I put some packages in the car (dirty washing bag!) to reduce the final lot and the proprietor’s wife called us into the dining room earlier than our allotted time slot. After our final big breakfast, we got into conversation with some fellow guests who were staying in Brecon to attend a relative’s wedding. We commiserated with each other that at our time of life, it is a sad fact of life that people of our age and generation are attending funerals rather than weddings. We managed to get underway at just after 10 am in the morning and remembered that there was a garage within a short distance of our guest house. We already had half a tank of petrol and filled up with no difficulty at all – in view of what appears to be happening in other parts of the country where people are panicking and queues for petrol are already forming we were exceptionally lucky (or perhaps the Welsh are not as panicky as everybody else) This situation, incidentally, is the perfect example of a self-fulfilling prophecy in that if people think that the lack of delivery drivers will result in petrol shortages then by their buying behaviour consumers will cause that they most fear. At the start of the pandemic it was toilet rolls although it has to be said that a shortage of petrol is way more serious. Without wishing to sound unduly pessimistic, I cannot see an early end to this petrol crisis or a simple resolution. We know that we are 100,000 delivery drivers short of what is required and these shortages were starting to appear bfore both Brexit and the pandemic. The demographic profile of the delivery drivers shows that many are male and in the fifties and year by year many more are leaving the occupation than are entering it. After Brexit, many delivery drivers just went back to their home communities and of course the pandemic neant that he ‘normal’ testing procedures whereby new drivers could get qualified was severely disrupted. In addition, the Priti Patel regime has ensured that lorry drivers (regarded as unskilled workers) find entry to the UK incredibly difficult – an explicit arm of government policy. It now looks as though, although the cabinet is split, Boris Johnson is insisting that temporary visas should be offerered for ‘up to‘ 5,000 drivers to assist in the present crisis. But one has to ask what impact an extra 5,000 drivers are going to make when there is a shortfall of 100,000? Also, the present government does not appear to have factored in that many continental drivers will not fancy coming to the UK at all even for somewhat higher wages. For a start, the state of the pound makes the UK less attractive than it was. In addition, tax changes designed to make drivers not be regarded as self-employed so that they start to pay Income tax and National Insurance at the correct rate will reduce their real wages. In addition, crossing borders in continental europe is now easy whereas in Britain, it is becoming a bureaucratic nightmare. It is a sad fact of life that the UK is providing no proper toilet or washing facilities on our transport networks. One hears horrendous stories that on the way to the ports, drivers are having to relieve themselves in their cabs and both urine and faeces are being thrown out of their cabs to adorn the countryside. So to cut a long story short,I do not think that extending visas to attract lorry drivers will have anything like the impact the politicans might hope.

We got home just after 12 and our daughter-in-law very kindly made us some homemade soup. We did a certain amount of unpacking and got the washing machine going whilst I dashed into town to get a few essential groceries to keep us going for the next day or so. Being a Saturday, we went to church in the early evening and were delighted to see our two lots of friends from just down the road. We feel as though we are getting ‘back to normal’ when we see our friends again but I have the feeling, naturally after an early start and the driving, that I could do with a holiday to get over the holiday. We notice the nights really drawing in but there is another month before the clocks get changed on 31st October which is five weeks away.