Tuesday, 2nd February, 2021

[Day 323]

Today, if my memory serves me correct, is what Catholics/some Christians call ‘Candlemas‘ day. According to our friend, Google, this is because it is the day when all of the candles used throughout the church year are traditionally brought into the church to be blessed. It is also the day, 40 years after the birth of Christ, when Mary the mother of Christ would be brought into the synagogue for a ritual purification (part of the Judaic tradition) I also speculated whether today was also the feast day of St. Blaise when a pair of sacred candles are held across the throat to act as a holy remedy against sore throats. I was not completely wrong but out by one day as the feast of St. Blaise is celebrated on February 3rd, which is tomorrow. But enough of this superstition. It was quite a mild day today but with quite a heavy hanging mist blotting out the son but nonetheless the warmth is surely appreciated. As we passed our park on the way for our newspapers, I espied our Birmingham University friend, so Meg was left with him whilst I sped off to collect the newspapers on my own. When we reconvened as a threesome, we espied some personnel with bright yellow HV vests on and thinking that they might be the COVID-19 rule enforcers (we call them the ‘thought police’) we made sure we were properly socially distanced from them until they had gone on their merry way. They might just have been local authority parks department workers but we didn’t want to risk being caught ‘in flagrante delicto‘ so we made sure we were on the straight and narrow. I remembered to bring with me some copies of ‘Bullshit Bingo’ handouts which I gave to our friend and we reminisced about the meetings we had attended where many of these phrases were bandied about. I must say that being employed at one time in a school of Business and Management, with the two halves sharply delineated from each other (Business tended to be CNAA undergraduate courses whereas as the School of Management concentrated on professional and post-experience courses). I have to say, from years of experience, that one has to listen to members of a School of Management to fully appreciate how relevant a game such as Bullshit Bingo can prove to be! Then we met some other mutual friends and had a fairly snatched conversation because it looked as though we were turning into a kind of social gathering (but, I hasten to add, we are certainly not alone in stopping to have little chats with people all over the place because ‘there was a lot of it about’) Perhaps the milder weather was encouraging people both to walk and to chat.

After a traditional Tuesday lunch of fishcakes, I knew that I needed to pay a flying visit down into town so I took the car down to break the back of the journey before I journeyed along an almost deserted High Street. I managed to replenish our supplies of money from an ATM which had to be done from the street – I had not realised that the building societies that have in-store ATM’s seem to have a policy of shutting at 2.0pm. Not having ventured along the High Street since the start of the latest lockdown, I was unsure of the local norms. But I managed to get a watch battery for Meg’s watch (surely indispensable) and one or two cosmetic-type items. Tomorrow is the day when I have to update my Waitrose order before 12 midday and to book my slot for a couple of weeks time.

The airwaves this afternoon have been dominated by news of the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore, the ‘centurion’ who captured the hearts of the nation and who raised £32 million fo the NHS by walking laps in his garden – he initially intended to raise some £1,000 but as news of his exploits was broadcast abroad, the donations flowed in. It is remarkable that the flags in Downing Street and even Buckingham Palace were immediately flown at half-mast – this is the kind of tribute that might only be paid to an ex-Prime Minister for example. When the media announced that Sir Tom was in hospital but his family were at his bedside, one did get the feeling that the virus might claim another victim. But what an inspiration to his family and to the rest of the nation! Having actually reached 100 years of age, there were not many peaks left to conquer but I am sure that the inevitable feelings of sadness at his demise must be mingled with admiration at Sir Tom’s exploits at his age. Amongst other things he performed in a cover version of the song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ sung by Michael Ball, with proceeds going to charity. The single topped the UK music charts, making him the oldest person to achieve a UK number one.

Some fascinating tests results by the University of Oxford, published in a pre-print report with The Lancet, showed a 67% reduction in positive COVID-19 swabs among those vaccinated, which may have a ‘substantial effect’ on the transmission of coronavirus. In the report, the university also said that a single standard dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is 76% effective from day 22 to day 90 after the jab. This means protection is not reduced in the three months between the first and second dose (which rather vindicates UK government policy of delaying the second ‘jab’)