Sunday, 7th February, 2021

[Day 328]

I set the alarm for half-an-hour earlier this morning so that we could enjoy a cup of tea in bed and then I could leap out and go and collect our Sunday newspapers bright and early in the morning. This I did and the weather was a little on the chilly side but quite bearable – I consoled myself as is I always do on these occasions to listening to a selection of Bach and Mozart on my out-dated iPhone which I now use as an MP3 player. I was back well in time for the Andrew Marr Show which was reasonably informative, evidently concentrating on questions to do with the pandemic, vaccine efficacy, end-of-lockdown and so on. After we had breakfasted and watched the politics programme, we set off for our daily walk to the park but there was a bitterly cold and biting wind coming from the east which made our stay particularly unpleasant. I has just texted our friend that we meet in the park every day to say we were were bitterly cold and were going to strike for home and then he hove into view. Moreover, he introduce us to a couple of good friends of his who happened also to be worshippers at the same church as ourselves in normal times. We exchanged gossip about parish matters and then made for home, almost chilled to the marrow. When we did get home, we treated ourselves to some packet soup in a cup to warm ourselves up and have actually felt a bit chilled and ‘flu-ey’ all day long so perhaps we tarried too long in sub freezing temperatures. If the same weather conditions exist tomorrow, we shall still make the trip for the good of our health but keep walking and not sit on the bench as we normally do.

This afternoon was a real treat for us because it was the Ireland-Wales Six Nations rugby match. The two teams were very evenly matched and the lead changed hands several times but eventually, the Welsh overcame the Irish who were weakened by a red card issued to one of their players (a swinging knee straight to the head but more a product of over-enthusiasm than viciousness) Anyway, we really enjoyed the match but it was one of those where with a fortunate bounce of the ball and passes going to hand the Irish could well have sneaked a victory in the dying seconds of the game.

Tonight is another case of self-indulgence – we have located several copies of the opera ‘La Boheme‘ on YouTube so we are playing a production first performed in Monte Carlo. The singers are evidently not up to the calibre of Pavararotti/Freni which we could have chosen but the Monte Carlo production seemed to have the more imaginative sets and we thought this add to our enjoyment even more. So I can listen to the music whilst I blog but break off for the more dramatic arias as they occur.

The vaccination total has now reached 12 million which is quite a milestone. The infection rates and death rate are also heading in the same, downwards direction (but the figures reported at the weekend are always somewhat lower and under-reported.) Nonetheless, more than ½ million were vaccinated yesterday so the target of 15 million in just over a week seems achievable. Nobody seems to be saying loud and clear that this is a total tribute to the organisational efficiency of the NHS (comparing so well with the ‘Test-and-Trace regime which is having to rely upon dodgy use of statistics to make their performance appear somewhat better than it actually is)

I see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is floating proposals that he raises revenue by putting a sales tax on the likes of Amazon. Given that sales of good and services have practically collapsed and Amazon successfully avoids paying its fair share of tax, this sounds like a thoroughly good idea. Of course, the argument is that things like sales taxes ultimately get passed onto the consumer but the Amazons of this world have been making money hand-over-fist during the pandemic as so many people are ‘forced’ to shop online. It seems that Amazon’s profits have soared by 51% to nearly £20bn in 2020 but it only had a tax turnover ratio of 0.37%.

Tonight, there is rather disturbing news concerning the efficacy of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. South Africa is suspending its rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine after finding it offers limited protection against mild disease caused by the COVID-19 variant discovered there. It follows disappointing results in a trial conducted by the University of the Witwatersrand, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said. The government had been intending to give the AstraZeneca jab to healthcare workers soon after receiving a million doses produced by the Serum Institute of India on Monday. The South Africans are going to use alternative vaccines. It will be interesting to see how news of this will be reported in the UK and indeed whether other vaccines that work in a slightly different way are any more efficacious against the South African variant of the virus (the manufacturers have been silent on this point so far) The makers of the AstraZeneca vaccine are confident that their vaccine can be tweaked ‘by the autumn’ but a lot of people can be infected and can die before then!