Wednesday, 10th February, 2021

[Day 331]

Today was another fine but very cold day. The wind had abated somewhat and whilst the temperature was probably sub-zero, it was actually quite a pleasant day and, on occasions, you can feel the rays of a weak sunshine on your face which is always good to feel. We had a brief chat with some of our church friends on the way down the hill and then, having collected our newspapers as normal, made for the park where we met up, as usual, with our Birmingham University friend. We were having a chat today about some common pedagogic problems that we had faced e.g. I contended that ‘every teacher was a teacher of English‘ whilst our friend bemoaned the fact that standards of numeracy seem to have dropped over the years. We also discussed the fact that English is the most comprehensive of languages in that if it is an animal, cold and wet and standing in a muddy field, we call it by the Anglo Saxon name (cow, sheep, pig) whereas once it is cooked and served on a plate we tend to use the Norman-French derivative (bouef = beef, mouton=mutton, porque= pork) Another non-culinary example is that we use the French word for a room (chamber) but invest it with a new layer of meaning which in this was is a large, ceremonial room. All of this is well explained in Melvyn Bragg’s book which I think is called ‘The Adventure of English‘ which I would recommend to anyone who is interested in how our language has developed over the centuries.

Again, we chatted in the park until we got particularly cold again and then made for home just in time to cook our lunch at the normal time. This afternoon, after a good read of the newspapers, I ventured out to our local hardware store to pick up some bags of quick drying cement that are used to cement posts into position. Our gardner who calls by about once a month and I had decided that we needed to do something about a type of pergola, be-topped by a heavy growth of honeysuckle which forms a kind of archway down one side of the house. This has become rotten at the base (typical – this is water, air and microbial activity do their worst and why posts always rot at ground level and not, as you imagine two feet under) So on Friday, I am going to act as the ‘gofer’ and a second pair of hands whilst our gardner does the bulk of the work. I had previously let my neighbour have some spare cement and I wondered if he had any left over – as he had used it all up, I needed to go out any but some more. Actually, in the post I have acquired a wonderful tool designed to dig holes for fence posts. It is known as an ‘auger’ and in reality if just a giant corkscrew but in the past I have found that a good clean ‘corkscrew’ type hole only needs the post inserting into it followed by a few hefty blows of a sledge hammer which I have also in my stock of ‘heavy’ gardening implements. I hope the weather is not too cold on Friday next when we are scheduled to do the job as I do not fancy standing around much in this cold weather. However, I think the worst of the weather should be blown over by Friday.

As I write this blog, there. is a programme being broadcast on Sky News on ‘Learning the lessons of the pandemic‘ This may well prove to be very interesting because with the benefit of hindsight, it might be useful to reflect on where as a society, we went badly wrong and finished up with one of the highest (if not the highest) death-rates in the world. Of course, we all have our personal ‘takes’ on what has gone right/wrong and no doubt there will be an official enquiry eventually. But in the meanwhile, there might be a useful kind of stocktake so that we can learn the lessons. But do politicians learn the lessons from history – even a recent history?

From my own perspective, there are certainly highlights and lowlights. The outstanding success must be the brilliant way we have researched and brought a vaccine into use in a remarkably short turn around time. A ‘lowlight’ had got to be the abysmal performance of the ‘test-and-trace’ regime on which we have spent £22 billion – the money should have been spent on the local authority teams who have been doing infection tracing for a century and know how to do it. And, it is almost certain, that we started the first lockdown a week too late (where the infection rate is doubling every 3-4 days a week is a long time) and lifted our first lock down far too early. (Jeremy Hunt, previous Health secretary. has just said the very same thing on the Sky news programme)