Saturday, 9th January, 2021

[Day 299]

Today has been an interesting day! It started off in a very conventional way as we walked down to collect our newspapers (saved for us behind the counter at our friendly local newsagents!) We then made our way to the park where we met up with our new found friend that we met the other day (an academic who taught OR [Operations Research] at Birmingham University) We had just about finished our chat for the day, social distancing well maintained, when we saw a group entering the park armed with a powerful portable loudspeaker and with a message to spread. This collection of individuals was declaiming that the whole of COVID-19 was a myth, that the vaccine was an abomination against nature, that the lockdown was fundamentally a fraud to deprive us of our liberties and similar scientifically illiterate utterings. If they had come anywhere near me, I would have had a real go at them for being (a) scientifically illiterate and (b) a positive danger to their fellow citizens if they were dissuading them from accepting the vaccine if offered. As it happened, the group turned off at a tangent with a massively amplified message broadcast across the park. We were on the point of leaving but as we did a couple of police cars turned up and two youngish but seemingly well-prepared police officers emerged (not your average ‘plod’) I approached them to report what I had seen and they quickly reassured me that they knew all about the ‘vaccine deniers’ and were on their way to deal with it.

On my way home, I reflected to myself (and to some of our old friends that we met on the way home) whether what we had seen was just the exercise of free speech or whether a threat to public order was in the making. Of course it is often argued that ‘your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins‘ or, to put it another way, given that all freedoms have to be exercised responsibly that one is not free to shout ‘FIRE’ as a member of a theatre audience. I suspect, but do not know, that the group may well have breaking local authority bye-laws particularly as they had been targeting a park. Would they have been equally free to spout the same rubbish up and down Bromsgrove High Street, I asked myself. I did wonder where the motivation of the group came from i.e. was it religious or political? I did a quick Google search and think that I MAY have some of the explanation. It is apparently the case that many climate-change deniers have now turned their attention to the pandemic, arguing in each case that a massive hoax is being perpetrated upon the great British public. This is what I discovered using on a very rapid search of the internet:

In the UK, one of the most prominent voices questioning the science of COVID-19 has been astrophysicist Piers Corbyn (the elder brother of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn). In 2020, Piers Corbyn attended and organised demonstrations across the UK and argued the pandemic is a “pack of lies.”

Corbyn has long rejected mainstream climate science as “fraud,” and has pushed alternative theories of global warming, based on analysis of the sun’s activity, through his company WeatherAction

Of course, it is possible that I am completely barking up the wrong tree at this point and that a more careful and analytical search might reveal a much more complex story. However, the fact that groups might have switched their attention from ‘climate change’ to something much more current which touches everybody’s life such as the pandemic does have a superficial plausibility to it. If conventional journalism or the Main Street Media pick up on these or similar stories then it would be interesting to know. In particular, is it just a Bromsgrove phenomenon or part of a larger nationally organised protest? I do suspect the latter, by the way.

And now to more prosaic matters. As part of my pre-Christmas rummaging about, I discovered a couple of old Nokia 1100/1101 mobile phones that I have not used for about a year. I always used to take one or both of them away with me on holiday because whilst I was struggling, on occasions, to get my iPhone to recognise the hotel’s Wi-Fi networks and protocols, I used to switch on my little mobile which would show a message ‘Welcome to Spain‘ One of them had about £70 of credit left on it (well worth preserving) whilst in the other the SIM card no longer registered, for whatever reason. So I sent off to Tesco mobile for a free Sim replacement (Tesco tend to have a policy of keeping your sim alive rather than ‘killing it’ after six months of inactivity as some networks do) So I spent the afternoon fitting the SIM card (a few seconds) and then spent some time getting some credit on it of a type that would not expire in a month (which is typically the case) As the technology is so simple (ante-dating smart phones and just monochrome screens with block graphics – but the talk time and charge time lasts for at least a week if not more) My efforts were crowned with success and one of the phones is now destined for the glove compartment of the car as a permanent ‘carry around’.