Thursday, 23rd July, 2020

[Day 129]

Today at long last we managed to venture forth into Bromsgrove High Street in order to make an appointment for both of us to have regular eye-tests at Boots Opticians. There we were greeted by the manager who has grown to know us over the years with the news that it was very difficult, if not impossible, to make an appointment at this time. Any issue that required urgent, quasi-medical attention, could be dealt with in-branch but in the meanwhile, the branch had to wait for the operation of national guidelines, presumably issued by Boots HQ because the number of tests would now be severely time-constrained (only one third to a half of their normal daily throughput) and of course there were disinfection and deep-clean procedures to be organised after each client. So to cut a long story short, we may be on a list but it is a case of ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you‘ The situation with visits to one’s dentist are probably even worse and one wonders whether it will take a year (or even longer) for backlogs to work their way through the system.

Having got home, we organised a fairly prompt lunch for ourselves because this afternoon we had a booked visit to Hanbury Hall, which is a William and Mary house (although actually built in the reign of Queen Anne) near Droitwich and not many miles distant. As with other National Trust properties, the house itself was still out-of-bounds for visitors but one could walk around and admire both the formal gardens and the surrounding parkland. We made for the Stable Block where we joined a socially distanced queue to buy some refreshments to go with the flask of coffee we had brought with us. Unfortunately, there was a very slight drizzle and low cloud hanging over everywhere so we ate our food/drank our coffee in not very pleasant conditions and then made the best of a bad job and after a brief tour of the gardens decided to call it a day and started for home (Naturally by this time the rain had ceased) The proportions of the house looked magnificent and it will be interesting for us to tour the actual house when it is open again to visitors.

Tonight was the second episode of Jane Austen’s Emma (a book I studied for ‘O’-level) I only mention this because I remember once seeing a hilarious book called ‘The Unexpurgated Jane Austen‘ in a Winchester bookshop (Jane Austen has a memorial to her in Winchester Cathedral) The whole book is evidently a spoof, perhaps written by a postgraduate but very much in the Jane Austen style. Browsing through it, I can only remember one particular fragment of it which was Jane Austen in conversation with her publisher. The dialogue went something like this ‘Your writing is very promising, Miss Austen, but we must get rid all of this gratuitous swearing and foul language you throughout your work. One cannot say, for example, that f*****g Mr. Wickham‘ (I have substituted asterisks for the sake of decency but the book contained the unexpurgated adjectives)

One of the political stories this evening is the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee condemning the lack of preparedness by the government for the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, they condemn the fact that there appeared to be no planning for job losses or school closures. The report is also scathing about the failure to obtain PPE equipment to protect front line staff. And it says despite warnings from medical chiefs in January, the Treasury waited until mid-March, days before the lockdown on 23 March, before deciding on economic support schemes. As from midnight, any member of the public entering a shop should be wearing a mask or face covering, by law. As a social experiment, it will be fascinating to see what the level of compliance will be – although surveys indicate that 2 out of 3 people back the new policy, what will be revealed about which shops and which sections of the population exhibit both the highest and the lowest degrees of compliance? There is also a report that the government want 50% of the population to receive a flu vaccination which shows the degree of official concern about what will happen when the ‘normal’ flu epidemic coincides with a second potential wave of COVID-19 in the forthcoming winter.