Monday, 23rd November, 2020

[Day 252]

Well, it’s the start of another week. This morning it was dry and cold with quite a heavy fog when we awoke – as the morning developed and the day warmed up, so the mist intensified somewhat. We collected our newspapers knowing that they could be full of details of the post-lockdown arrangements which are to be announced formally sometime today. Our stay in the park was uneventful but we were fortunate on the way home to bump into both of our sets of friends who live down at the bottom of the hill. We made some tentative plans to have a Christmas ‘get-together’ for the four of us on the Monday after Christmas if the regulations then in force permit this. I sent off a quick email to my Pilates teacher to see if our class is resuming and she is going to get back to me on this – however, it seems that there is a relaxation of gym membership over the whole of the country on December 3rd. Talking of gyms and gym membership, I decided to weigh myself morning and was a bit horrified to have put on a few more pounds than I would like. So this afternoon, I started again on my ‘Stepper’ regime (a ‘stepper’ is like a small bench incredibly useful for exercise purposes) I have a favourite video of a routine demonstrated by a very vivacious but quite sensible young American lady who puts me through a series of routines, each only lasting a minute with a 10-second pause between each exercise. The whole routine takes about 10-15 minutes altogether and, to make sure I am in the correct frame of mind, I always change into my ‘tracksuit bottoms’ much as I would if I were actually doing a Pilates routine. The trick, as always with any weight-reduction routine, is to notch down one’s calorific intake a little (but not too much as the body goes Into ‘starvation mode’ and your metabolic rate lowers, thus increasing your weight in your attempt to reduce it). So a slight reduction in calorific intake coupled with a bit of exercise enough to raise your metabolic rate should be just about enough to lose about 1.0-1.5 lbs a week which out to be ideal. In a week’s time, I will report on my progress (or lack of it).

The really big news which hit the news bulletins this morning is that the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca seems to have an efficacy rate of 70% – or even a rate of 90% if the immune system is (counter-intuitively) primed by a half-doe followed by a full dose some four weeks later. The government is mega-excited about this for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the vaccine seems cheap to produce (about the price of a cup of coffee). Secondly, it can be stored at normal ‘fridge’ temperatures making it readily accessible. But thirdly, and most importantly, the Government has an option to obtain 100 million doses of the vaccine which should be enough for most the UK population. It is hoped that the those who need the vaccine the most (NHS front-line staff, those with especially compromised immune systems) should be vaccinated by Easter of next year. So truly, the end may be in sight. However, I refuse to be swept away in a wave of excitement as (a) there are still quite a lot of safety and regulatory hurdles yet to overcome and (b) we need to use the vaccine alongside more traditional safeguards such as social distancing, facemasks and hand washing. But one has to say that it is a tribute to the hard scientific work that has been done that not one but three vaccines have all appeared at once. The Russians have their own version of a vaccine as do the Chinese but one wonders what degree of rigorous testing has been undertaken compared with the protocols which we have experienced in the West.

Christmas, to which we are all no doubt looking forward, is going to seem very strange this year. On the one hand, there is a feeling of slight anticipation even though the opportunities for social intercourse and for Christmas meals will be limited. Nonetheless, the members of our immediate family will have a Christmas meal and we are making tentative plans for a Christmas tree and other festivities. Yet, on the other hand, I have a feeling that I want to get Christmas over and done with – the days will be getting longer by about a minute or so a day and there is always the spirit of optimism that the New Year will bring. I did float an idea that we should all cancel Christmas and celebrate it on June 21st – the Australians are used to having Christmas in full summer after all!