Friday, 12th February, 2021

[Day 333]

The icy cold weather still continues but, fortunately, we only have about two more days to endure before some milder air appears on Monday. After a chat with our domestic help, I went down to collect the newspapers on my own this morning. Fortunately, I had already agreed with our gardener to postpone the outside task we had got detailed for us this morning – Meg had decided to give today a miss as she has got pretty frozen in the last couple of days so I ventured forth alone. I did bump into a couple of my oldest ‘church’ friends who were busy giving their new granddaughter a push out in her buggy and we paused to chat but not for too long as it is best to keep moving in this kind of weather. Having picked up our newspapers, I made for my usual park bench and had taken the precaution of taking a flask of coffee along with me. Although I was on my own, no sooner had I got up to go but my Birmingham University friend spotted my Australian bush-stye hat from afar and made over to join me, sporting a similar one of his own. No doubt, we will soon have the reputation of the couple of old geezers who wear practically identical hats, although it does help to spot people at a distance. I have noticed during this pandemic and subsequent lockdown that I have learnt to recognise the shape and stance of people from hundreds of metres away, even though I could not actually discern their faces. I imagine that during World War 2, various members of the population (Dad’s Army?) were trained in aircraft recognition from the shape of the aircraft and perhaps also the sound – one had to learn to distinguish whether they were friends (i.e. one of ours) or one of ‘theirs’ in which case you might have to take rapid evasive action. (I am reminded of the not very amusing story that during the Falklands/Malvinas conflict, when an Exocet missile was seen winging its way across the surface of the sea towards one of our ships, a radar system was turned on called ‘IFF’ (interrogate French or Foe) only for the system to respond that as it was an Exocet owned by the French, it must be a ‘friendly’ missile, despite the fact that it was heading towards and actually hit one of our ships). A certain amount of re-programming of military computers then had to take place to indicate that even though it was manufactured or utilised by the French, they had taken the opportunity to sell it on to the Argentinians and therefore we could not infer that it must be ‘friendly’

We had a spare piece of cod leftover in our freezer and I baked this in the oven for lunch. However, under the expert tuition of son and domestic help, I managed to make a roux sauce, filled it with a packet of parsley sauce and then ‘spiced it up’ with some mustard and black pepper. The whole effect was delicious – so much so, that I am resolved to perhaps make an order to Iceland for another supply of Atlantic cod for the freezer. After a good newspaper read, I then devoted the afternoon to finally get all of my bank accounts up-to-date and ensure that all of my savings plans are as they should be (I tend to have separate savings pots for such things as vacation, car renewal, computing needs etc.)

Sky News is running a series of TV programmes and web-based presentations under the heading ‘Learning the Lessons‘. I am finding this quite interesting as it is a fairly contemporary account of how, as a society, we have done some things well and other things abysmally. No doubt, we will have official enquiries in the fullness of time but it is quite obstructive, as we are not far off from a complete year living with the crisis, of doing an ‘interim’ assessment of how were are doing. There is quite an interesting argument between medical scientists and epidemiologists going on within the Channel 4 news this evening. One side of the argument is that we have no real evidence that a delay in the administration of a second dose of the vaccine will be efficacious – this is probably true as most of the evidence from the initial trials were based upon very small samples. The counter-argument is ‘the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (of an effect)‘ This argument derives from everything that we know about how vaccines in general work and how our immune systems respond. According to this side of the argument, we can infer that a delay in the second dose does not reduce, and may even increase. its effectiveness. This argument will probably resolve itself as we collect more and more data on different age-bands within the population but, of course, we had to wait until this evidence accumulates over time. It will be interesting for us to learn which side of the argument has more force i.e. is either confirmed or disconfirmed as the evidence does become available over the weeks ahead.