Sunday, 17th January, 2021

[Day 307]

Another conventional Sunday morning dawns. I popped down into the car to collect our supply of Sunday newspapers after which we watched the Andrew Marr show as usual. The weather was a little more mild than of late so we walked down as usual, meeting a couple of our friends (one out gardening, the other couple preparing to go out on their own ‘constitutional’ walk for the morning) The park was fairly busy with its usual complement of young children on their little bikes and a goodly supply of unleashed little dogs. However, we did not meet any of our usual park friends which was not unusual for a Sunday as you tend to have a different ‘flow’ of people who use the park at the weekends rather than those who are its daily visitors. For some reason, the weather seems to get a bit colder as they morning progresses (perhaps the cold air flows down hill) so we were pleased to get home and cook a very conventional Sunday lunch of roast beef (in the slow cooker) and Yorkshire pudding. After that, we indulged in a good in-depth read of the Sunday Times and the Observer which occupied most of the afternoon.

The forthcoming inauguration of the Joe Biden presidency on Wednesday next continues to occupy our thoughts. It will seem to be a very strange inauguration indeed with the Capitol building turned into an armed fortress (with some 21,000 troops) and the crowds will be kept a long distance away. Because of the pandemic crisis, the crowds are being urged to keep away which will guarantee that the crowd attending the Biden inauguration will be dramatically smaller than the Trump inauguration. Incidentally, as I remember it, Trump insisted that the crowds attending his inauguration four years ago were larger than those of his predecessor, Barak Obama. When photographic evidence was produced to show this was certainly NOT the case, then a series of rancorous exchanges ensued between Trump’s new press spokesman (he had so many!) and the White House Press Corps and these ill-tempered exchanges set the tone for what was to follow through much of the Trump presidency. When Joe Biden does take over, he is letting it be known that he will immediately issue a series of Executive Orders (i.e. with no debate from Congress) to immediately rejoin the Paris climate accords, to reunite families split at the USA-Mexico border amongst other things. When you think about it, President-elect Biden will be at his most powerful in his first 100 days when he can set agendas, institute programs and start to roll back some of the worst excesses of the preceding regime. I have a view (not shared by many of the commentators) that Joe Biden may surprise us all and prove to be quite a decisive and forceful president. Evidently, he is in a unique position because of his long experience as a senator of ‘working across the aisle’ (i.e. working collaboratively with the opposition parties who are the Republicans) as well as being the Vice-President to Barak Obama of course. I think he may realise that at his age (78) he is not going to run for office again so he has four years rather than eight to make a decisive impact. So time is short and he may well realise that he has most room for manoeuvre in the early days of his presidency whilst the Republicans are in some disarray so we might expect quite an exciting first few months. Many people think he will just ‘mark time’ so that his Vice-President, Kamala Harris (the first female and ‘person of colour’ to hold the office) can be primed as the next Presidential candidate for the Democrats. I am quite willing to be proved wrong in all of this but I remember well the case of Archbishop Roncalli who became Pope John 23rd. Most of his fellow cardinals thought that they were electing a real ‘patsy’ but he proved to be one of the most innovative popes in modern times, reconvening the Vatican Council to reform and update the institutions of the Catholic Church. So actually, Pope John 23rd turned out to be quite radical and achieved a tremendous amount in the five years before he died. I think you can probably see the parallels I am drawing here without labouring the point.

The numbers vaccinated here in the UK has now reached 3.8 million and several new vaccination centres are to be opened from tomorrow, Monday. It now looks as though the target of vaccinating 2 million jabs a week might even now be achievable. Incidentally, I am quite pleasantly surprised about the innovative thinking that has been at work in commissioning cathedrals to act as vaccination centres. They should be easily found, there is lots of space for people to sit down before and after the jab at a safe distance, being large and airy buildings will help to disperse any remnants of virus that might be in the atmosphere, cathedrals are part of a mission to ‘provide succour for the sick’ and so on. I think this is a brilliant idea – it has been adopted by Salisbury, Lichfield and Blackburn cathedrals for a start. Some cathedrals have hit on the bright idea of providing soothing organ music as well. All in all, I think this is an imaginative and innovative solution to a national crisis.