Friday, 1st January, 2021

[Day 291]

Well, it is very pleasant to write 1st January at long last. I am sure that most of the population are only too happy to be getting rid of 2020 in its entirety. Too express our feelings, one of my close friends had sent me a videoclip, German in origin, which shows Santa Claus urinating (simulated by a series of little illuminated lights) on some kind of model which shows ‘2020’ Perhaps these are the feelings of many of us. I was going to watch the New Year in but fell asleep 5 minutes beforehand so was spared some of the celebrations which, of course, were not really taking place this year.

This morning as a beuatiful day to start off with a clear blue sky and some pale sunshine. Much of the ice and snow had melted so walking on the pavements presented no hazard. Today was the day when I was going to try out my new walking boots but first I gave them a treatment of leather preservative and finished off with a coating of dubbin. The boots, Aldi’s finest which I bought at least nine months ago turned out to be supremely comfortable – they fitted like a glove despite my two pairs of socks and had some good ‘D’ ring fastenings which I like on a walking boot. Let us now hope that they manage to last for as much as 1,000 kilometres like their forebears.

After lunch, we thought we would get into contact with some of our relatives. Meg telephoned her uncle in North Wales who is in his 90s now but who seems to be of nature’s great survivors. He seems to have survived Christmas quite well without incident but Meg is going to make another call in a day or so to continue the conversation. I telephoned my sister in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire who had also experienced a Christmas Day bereft of family but other family members had been in touch via a variety of social media which helps somewhat. We caught up on some family news and all expressed the view that having lived through some 9-10 months of coping with the pandemic we could surely hang on for a few more weeks before vaccines head our way. I busied myself with processing the damsons that remain once you have poured off the rest of the liquor as a result of my last bottling exercise.Without bothering to make a formal jam, I merely heated the damsons in their gin-enhanced juice with a modicum of sugar and then allowed the mixture to cool and set. Today I bottled and labelled the compôte and most of the bottles I will give away to friends and neighbours. After a quick Google search, I have ascertained that compôte only lasts about two weeks even when refrigerated but that’s fine. Meg and I had some with a bowl of rice pudding and I have to say it was absolutely delicious – but we will probably consume it quite quickly.

The COVID-19 situation is developing quite rapidly. A quick look at Sky News has just indicated that ALL of the London primary schools are to remain closed and it is not clear when the situation will be judged sufficiently safe for them to reopen. However, the situation appears similar to the first lockdown that we had in the spring because the schools will still remain open for especially vulnerable children and also for the children of key workers. The situation will be reviewed again on 18th January i.e. in two weeks on Monday. The number of new cases has again exceeded 50,000 for the fourth day in a row – numbers this high are especially serious when we know that after a couple of weeks hospitalisation is inevitable for a proportion of cases will die.The figure in the spring was that approximately one third of all patients admitted to hospital will die of the disease but this proportion has been slowly dropping (i.e. patient’s chances of survival increasing) as the medical profession has had a chance to learn from experience and to manage cases. The situation changes so rapidly that it is hard to get definitive and up-to-date stats in this area but it is certainly the case that the older you are and your sex (i.e. male rather than female) count very much against you.

The next situation to keep an eye on is how we are actually going to cope with Brexit, now that it has actually happened. The full situation will only unwind in the next week or so and probably only for exporters. The government has decided only to check for ‘controlled substances’ (alcohol and tobacco)coming in to the country and full checks on impairs will not take place until 1st July, 2021 – an even this might be extended. This sounds to me like a smuggler’s bonanza in the making!