Friday, 26th November, 2021

[Day 620]

Today being a Friday was the day when our domestic help calls around and we always seem to have a lot of news to share with each other. Today was no exception and so our trip down into town was somewhat delayed. I had phoned our University of Birmingham friend to arrange that we meet in the Waitrose café and we fixed a time for 12.00pm. When we got there, though, we were a little dismayed that the whole of the cafe area was given over to a display of extra Christmas food and goodies. To be fair, they had told us about all of this when we visited last Friday but we had actually forgotten. So we made our way to another coffee bar on the High Street where the coffee is good and they had evidently taken pains to prevent any COVID style cross-infections by installing some perspex shields between each table. How effective these are, who can say but at least it shows that the management was taking these matters seriously which offers a degree of reassurance. So we settled down to some coffee and toasted tea-cakes and stayed sufficiently long chattering that we needed to treat ourselves to a second cup of coffee. We did get onto the absorbing matter of our respective family backgrounds and without going into details, we each have a fairly interesting story to tell each other. Evidently, Meg and I know a lot about the back-history of our respective families but this was news to our friend and similarly the reverse is true. So we had a fairly fascinating time in our conversations and it was interesting for all of us, I believe, that there were some similarities and continuities despite our different histories. This sort of takes me back to a very influential book by an American sociologist, C.Wright Mills who wrote in ‘The Sociological Imagination‘ that sociology connects an individual’s circumstances (biography) with the larger institutional context (history). Possessing the capacity to exercise your sociological imagination, to understand how your life is conditioned by social institutions, is empowering. In 1998 the International Sociological Association listed the work as the second most important sociological book of the 20th century (Max Weber’s ‘Economy and Society’ being ranked as No. 1).

Earlier on today, I had taken our domestic help down into ‘Mog’s Den‘ so that she could see for herself how the building work of our next door neighbour is being built directly against our boundary fence post. In particular, I showed her how the newly installed video surveillance system worked and she was duly impressed. I am giving this an inspection every day now so that I can assure myself that the system is working as intended and that no further incursions seem to have taken place. So as it is now six days since I spotted the intruders last Saturday, it is a case of ‘So far, so good’. Later on this afternoon, we had an update from our plumber concerning our permanently dripping tap.This is undoubtedly faulty but the manufacturer had ‘run out of’ the internal cartridges’ which is an intrinsic part of the system. So a whole new tap unit is on its way to our firm of plumbers and should arrive with them by about Monday or Tuesday. Then, once arrived, it has to be fitted into their work schedules so we are talking about next Wednesday or Thursday before we have a properly functioning unit again.

This afternoon, it appears that international concern about the new variant of the COVID virus is increasing rapidly. The new variant of coronavirus has been found in Belgium – the first case detected in Europe – as the UK’s health secretary warned there was 'huge international concern' over the strain. Sajid Javid said it could be more transmissible than the Delta variant and there is a ‘possibility it might have a different impact on individuals’ who get COVID-19. Designated as B.1.1.529, scientists are still unclear whether existing antibodies would react well to the variant – which has 32 spike protein mutations. Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, branded the mutations 'really awful'.

Relationships between the UK and Fance are hitting a new low today. The French are particularly upset not just by the messages coming from the UK as by the method of transmission. The UK is putting forward a plan suggesting that France should take back anybody that the UK returns to them. What has caused particular ire is the fact that the suggestions to the French government has been published as a public ‘tweet’ (echo of Donald Trump here). The French are saying that the approach of the UK is just political grandstanding and not a serious attempt at the way in which governments should communicate with each other to solve a common problem. As a consequence, Priti Patel has been ‘uninvited’ from a meeting with her opposite number over the weekend. I must say I sympathise with the French complaint about UK behaviour – this is not the way to collaborate with one’s neighbours in the EU.