Sunday, 14th February, 2021

[Day 335]

Hopefully, today will be the last of our current cold ‘snap’ as a front of warm air is moving across Britain from the West, bringing with it a lot of rain and higher temperatures. I got up at 6.0am this morning and after a St. Valentine’s cup of tea (ever the romantic!) I got myself muffled up and stole off through the cold for our Sunday newspapers. After that I watched/dozed through most of the Andrew Marr Show, then Meg set off for our visit to the park where we met with our Birmingham University friend. We exchanged little bits of news and gossip, mainly talking about the rugby that we had so enjoyed on Saturday afternoon. But as it was still bitterly cold, we did not linger for long but had our coffee and comestibles and headed for home. The park, as you might expect, was well populated with dogs and their owners and although it just an impression, I am convinced that the number of dogs has increased since the lockdown last March. At least on the way home. the wind is behind us rather than in our faces and this makes the journey home seem a little less severe.

This afternoon was another Six Nations rugby match, this time between Ireland and France, played in Dublin (without any teams of supporters in the stadium) Wales was a little weakened owing to injury and a suspension and had a clutch of injured players in the course of the game. In the event, the French proved to be the superior team but only just and it was a hard-fought match with only a couple of points separating the two teams at the finish.

Today, as we suspected, the vaccination total surpassed the 15 million that the government had promised before mid-February and the total is now standing at 15,062,000. This means that all the 70 years and older should have been vaccinated (or at least been offered) vaccination and now the target moves onto the 60+ band of the population. Some research has just been released by a leading epidemiologist who has analysed data from 50,000 users who have been vaccinated with either the Pfizer or the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The very interesting results show that irrespective of which vaccine was used, then one dose gave 46% protection after two weeks but this rises to 67% after three to six weeks. This result had been anticipated from the initial trials of the vaccine but this data is collected from the first cohorts to be vaccinated from about a month ago and is especially interesting. As it happens, it will be three weeks tomorrow since Meg and I received our initial dose of the vaccine and we already have the second ‘booked’ in the system for 12 April with is about eight weeks away.

As we have to expect, ex-President Donald Trump was not convicted in the US Senate yesterday. A vote for conviction would have required a two-thirds majority which, given that the Senate is divided absolutely equally between Republicans and Democrats, would have meant the 17 of the Republican senators would have to have voted for Trump’s conviction. In the event, only 7 of the 50 for a conviction, thus leaving 43 out of 50 Republican senators who were unmoved by the mob ransacking the Capitol building and then seeking out the Speaker (Nancy Pelosi) and the Republican Vice President (Mike pence) presumably to try to execute them. If you do not convict for that, then what behaviour is liable to conviction? Our very own Boris Johnson has issued a statement to say that US democracy remains ‘strong’, despite the ‘kerfuffle’ over former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. If the result of the Senate failure to convict is regarded as a sign of the strength of American democracy then words fail one – it shows rather than approx 80% of American voters and Senators are not unhappy about mobs rampaging throughout the Capitol building so long as they, presumably are ‘on our side’ American society must now be so polarised that one wonders of any centre-ground still exists in the gulf between the two parties.

This week is going to be another ‘bottling’ week. After waiting to get a supply of miniature (200 cl) wine bottles, I am now faced with the task of removing all of the labels (some of which is easy, some of which requires a variety of implements and techniques) so that I can to bottle some more of the 16 litres of damson gin with which I started. Any tradesperson who comes to the house (e.g. service of the central heating boiler) gets a bottle of damson gin to help to keep them onside. All in all, I hope to bottle another 15 litres or so this week which is about twenty bottles or so and then they just have to be carefully labelled and they are ready to be dispensed again.