Monday, 10th January, 2022

[Day 665]

Today we decided to try out an alternative way of accessing our local park. After a delayed start, we went down by car to call in at Waitrose to pick up a copy of our newspaper and to buy a few much-needed supplies. Then we drove to the park and occupy a position in the lower car park whilst we undertook our constitutional walk to our favoured spot on the top benches. We had not been sitting too long, enjoying our coffee, before Intrepid Octogenerian Hiker strode into view. He was on the first of several circuits that he makes within the park and we saw him a day or so anyway. We chatted for a few minutes about this and that before he went on his way and we started to make for home. Whenever we go to the park, we take with us an incredibly useful folding stool. This used to be (and perhaps still is) sold within National Trust shops. It is made of aluminium which makes it incredibly light and also has a very robust construction. The seat folds down from a vertical to a horizontal position and we utilise it not as a seat but as a minitaure table upon which we put our coffee cups and flask as we pour out the coffee. Naturally, we have with us a variety of cloths that we use to dry the park bench before we actually sit down but the folding stool has attracted many an admiring glance and comment. We have the feeling that if ever we left it behind outside a shop (which has happened once or twice) then we might never see it again. Today, we ‘experimented’ by seeing how much of a use it is to Meg to use particularly when traversing downhill sections of our walk which has proved a little problematic. We shall continue with these pragmatic experiments to see if is useful as a quasi-walking stick although it is intended as a temporary stool for weary travellers.

After lunch, I took my Community Bank file along to my neighbour who acts as Treasurer to our Reidents Association and secured his signature on a document designed to reset the security on our account. The staff in the local branch informed me that when the document had been received, those in charge of security at the bank would consider this and then and then email me to arrange for us to have a chat so that I can answer future security questions. If I get through these series of hurdles, I might then be able to talk with (or at let communicate with) the safeguarding procedures of the bank who I still have to satisfy. At this rate, the saga will rival ‘War and Peace‘ and I have an uneasy feeling that it might all end in tears – but all we can do at this stage is to wait and see.

The latest Downing Street ‘sleaze’ event was first leaked by Dominic Cummings – and it concerns a ‘socially distanced’ drinks event held on 29th May in the Downing Street garden. Dominic Cummings has blogged that he and one other SPAD (special adviser) had advised against but they were ignored. When Boris Johnson was asked whether or not it was true that he had attended together with Carrie, his then fiancee, he did not deny that he had attended but referred to the ongoing investigation into multiple Downing Street parties being conducted by senior civil servant Sue Gray. The Sunday Times yesterday cited three sources stating Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds emailed officials with an invite to the event on 20 May suggesting attendees ‘BYOB’ (bring your own bottle, or booze). All of the indications are this evening that Martin Reynolds, a civil servant, is being lined up to carry the can for all of this and indeed may only survive for a day. This may be a way, of course, that the politicians hope to deflect criticisms from themselves. The fascinating question tonight is whether this transgression by the PM just by attending is sufficient to bring about his resignation. In the past, motions have been passed by the Commons to reduce a ministerial salary by £1 as a symbolic gesture but, of course, the Gray report is still to be published. If it does see the light of day, I suspect that it might be released the day after there is a Parliamentary recess for Easter (or another natural disaster occurs so it is a good day to publish ‘bad news’ as it may be overshadowed)

I was interested to see an analysis of which countrties had fared best and worst in the pandemic crisis. According to The Economist, Denmark, Norway and Sweden are all near the top, and America has also performed reasonably well. Many big European countries, however, such as Britain, Germany and Italy, have fared worse. Spain has done worst of all. What needs further analysis, though, is to ascertain precisely which features of a society enable it to fare well (or badly) in international comparisons.