Wednesday, 8th July, 2020

[Day 114]

Today was a very different kind of day, as we followed none of our normal routines. Just after midnight, I exchanged a series of messages with my sister as we were evidently both poised over a keyboard in the wee small hours of the morning so we exchanged several messages until we both decided it was time to go to bed. Today was the day that was scheduled for us to visit some of our oldest friends in Oxfordshire who we evidently haven’t seen for months because of the lockdown. I went by a slightly different route which turned out to be an excellent one and we even arrived half-an-hour early as we had allowed for a certain amount of getting lost/fishing around/diversion time. We sat down for the most magnificent Spanish meal that had been prepared for us. These included some of our favourite dishes including ‘pimientos de padron’ (small green tasty peppers fried in oil and served with sea salt)- as it happens it was a favourite of our friends also. They acquired some plants from somewhere and grown their own so they were picked and cooked especially for us. We had that with serrano ham, a freshly prepared tortilla and salad many of the ingredients for which were grown in the nearby kitchen garden. We had contributed a bottle of Cava and a bottle of Rioja so we had the kind of meal which would not have been out of place if prepared by Spanish chefs in a Spanish kitchen. Naturally, each of the ingredients was delicious. We were then taken on a tour of the garden where all kinds of projects had been undertaken with the establishment of specialised new ‘gravel’ flower beds, a tour of the beehives and a look over the magnificent vegetable garden which could easily have graced a TV cookery programme. So we had a really enjoyable day and set off for home which should have been a straightforward journey. Instead, on the M40, we had to cope with a breakdown, three lanes of traffic being channelled into one whilst a central barrier was being renovated and a torrential downpour. All of this meant that we had one of those ‘creeping along, stop/start at 5mph experiences’ for half-an-hour which I am afraid is not particularly uncommon on the M40. Nonetheless, we arrived home enervated by the wonderful experiences of the day We had made our friends a special gift the identity of which I shall not reveal until tomorrow for reasons that I will explain tomorrow night.

If I read all of the various announcements correctly, then the government has spent or is committed to spending £190 billion to cope with the effects of the coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown and rescue efforts for the economy. These sums are eye-wateringly large and completely unprecedented – they amount to the largest state support perhaps for centuries and are the equivalent of 10% of the UK’s GNP. However strange though it might appear, these sums may still not be large enough to perform the necessary rescue. For example, when the furlough scheme ends and employers will have to pay the wages of their former employees for three months from the end of October, will the promise of £1,000 per worker be enough incentive to keep an employee on the books for three months if there is no demand for the services they are providing? One does have the feeling that when the furlough schemes actually do end (and the government is not paying the wages of the workers to stay at home and do nothing), will employers not simply declare many of them redundant and the levels of unemployment will soar?

Boris Johnson’s latest attempt to excuse the attack he made on the care homes recently when he accused them of ‘not following procedures’ seems to be backfiring again. The Prime Minister was arguing in the House of Commons today that nobody knew that many people might not exhibit symptoms of the virus but still be infected and help to transmit the virus. However, as many in the media have pointed out the warnings were clearly there but not heeded so it seems. Finally, in the view of many Tory backbenchers it appears that doling out huge sums of money is making the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Richi Sunak, line himself up to be the next Prime Minister and they are quite prepared to ditch Boris to get him instead. Interesting times indeed!