Friday, 10th December, 2021

[Day 634]

Today is the day when our domestic help comes round and we immediately told her the news of the week, namely the death of Mike’s brother-in-law. As we will be away when she calls around next week, then she needed to know of our plans and indeed our whereabouts. Late last night, after I made the booking with the hotel, I realised that car parking might always be a critical issue and it appeared that our chosen hotel had a limited amount of parking but was only 2 minutes from a public carpark (which we did know about and, in fact, often used when we were in Harrogate) I decided that I would email the hotel to see if they could reserve a space for us when we go up in somewhat less than a week’s time. We were pleasantly surprised to get a reply quite early on this morning where it was indicated that a space would be reserved for us, so needless to say we were delighted with this news. The Christmas tree that I had orered as a replacement for the one that got ‘lost’ at the carriers arrived yesterday and I had done a rough job in assembling this. The assembly took only a matter of minutes but what did take the time was working round the tree branch by branch to ‘spread out’ the wire branches and twigs around the tree. Our domestic help and I spent several minutes making the tree look a presentable shape and we agreed that it was quite OK for now but would be considerably improved once dressed i.e. had its lights draped on it and decorated with a few baubles – but more of this later.

Meg and I walked down to the park and met up with our University of Birmingham friend whilst I shot off to collect the newspaper and to post the ‘In Sympathy’ cards to my relatives. Although the weather seemed quite fine when we walked down, an icy wind had sprung up from somewhere and we were very glad to get home. When we did open our front door, we had a real surprise. Our domestic help knew where the Christmas tree lights were (which we had recently purchased) and took it upon herself to decorate our Christmas tree for us. When the hall curtain was drawn (to minimise the light), the effect was absolutely stunning and to say we were delighted is a massive understatement. Then our chiropodist rang to say could she come an hour or so early as she had a cancelled appointment which was fine by us and we had been expecting her later on in the day anyway. Then the doorbell rang – it was our domestoc help who had left us some time before but gone down to Age Concern where she knew they had masses of spare decorations and bought a collection of very tasteful baubles for us with which she proceeded to finish off the decoration of the tree. I suspect that she hates to see a job only half completed but the net result is that at the end of the day we have a superbly decorated tree which is one of the best we have ever had.

The COVID news today is all very worrying and the mathematics of Omicron are terrifying. Infections are currently doubling every two to three days (apparently slightly faster in Scotland) and today the UK Health Security Agency estimated that by the end of the month that doubling would mean at least one million people being infected with Omicron. There are two potential silver linings to the cloud of uncertainty. One of them is that the severity of the illness that the Omicron variant causes may well turn out to be mild – and therefore less likely to result in hospitalisations or even death. While it looks like boosters will act as a powerful shield against Omicron, just a tiny reduction in vaccine protection against hospitalisation could make a massive difference to the NHS. Earlier this week, SAGE estimated that a drop in the vaccine’s ability to keep people out of hospital from 96% to 92% would mean a doubling in the number of people going to hospital. This is a very, very sobering thought for a variant that spreads much faster than any one we’ve known so far.

The other political sport so far is to see whether a rebellion against Boris Johnson will intensify or not. As the Labour Party are going to support the new government measures in the House of Commons next week, it could well be that Tory MP’s will feel inclined to rebel knowing that the life of the government is not threatened. But of course, the critical thing will be the bye-election next Thursday in Shropshire North which ought to be a really safe Tory seat wit a majority of nearly 23,000. In all probability, the Tories will still win this (as the Liberal and Labour campaigns do not intend to step aside in favour of the other) but were the Tories to lose, then the Tory party may well run into panic mode and ditch Boris Johnson.