Wednesday, 24th February, 2021

[Day 345]

Today was a different kind of day and we knew that we were going to break our normal routine today. When we buy our Christmas tree, which we do from Webbs (famous garden store down the road), they give us a voucher which covers most of the cost of the tree. This voucher has to be used by the end of February and as it is worth £35.00 it is not to be sneezed at. The days of February are rapidly running out so it was a case of ‘use it or lose it’ So today Meg and I went down in the car to collect our newspapers and then headed straight for Webbs – once in the store, we replenished our supply of wild bird food (fat balls, peanuts and the like)and that was that. The catering facilities within Webbs were not open and there were warnings at the entrance to the store not to bring in your own food and drink. So we tracked backwards and went to our familiar haunts in Sanders Park where we drank our pre-prepred coffee and our snacks.

This afternoon, we made for lunch a huge curry (I always prepare too much but the remainder is always gratefully received by our domestic help when we see her on Friday) After this and a snooze, I thought I would tackle the on-line renewal of my driving licence. This proved to be remarkably straightforward so far as I can tell but it calls for the interrogation of three national data bases (DVLC, the National Insurance computer and the the Passport office) and, so far, the process seems to have gone as smoothly as I would have hoped. There is always a slightly ominous warning that ‘we have received your application and are checking that the supplied information is valid‘ or words to that effect and, all being well, I hope to have the new licence supplied within the week. Past the age of 70, your licence still needs to be renewed every three years and it does rely upon the integrity of the applicant e.g. to tick the box to say that you meet the eye-sight requirements. When I was last having my annual eye checkup, I asked our friendly optician (who we have known for years) what kind of checks were made once you had ‘ticked the box’ He thought that there none to speak of and we surmised between us that probably people lied about their eye-sight all over the country – which is slightly frightening when you think about it.

I have been been exploring some modern SSD external disk drives (Solid State Drives) wondering whether or not they might have a life of more than the five years associated with a typical HDD (Hard Disk Drive) – it is interesting that Apple seems to install SSDs by default in the computers it build these days. I have my eye on a particular Seagate drive which is offering a three year warranty (and a half-promise that if it fails Seagate will rescue information from it and return it to you!) and also some included software that means that every time you change or update a file on your main system the Seagate software will ‘mirror’ it (i.e. incrementally back it up) on the SSD which, given the speed at which they operate, I should imagine one scarcely notices. I am tempted but will do a little more research before I commit myself finally.

We got an email from our Spanish friend last night and she told us, that in common with both France and Germany, the Oxford/AstraZeneca i.e. UK developed vaccine was not being offered to anyone over the age of 55. This ‘excess of caution’ or is it just xenophobia may be due to the fact that the initial trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine did not include many people over the age of 55 in its initial trials and therefore might be said to be ‘unproven’ . However, in the last day or so, a study has been reported on the effects of the vaccines on ‘real’ populations and it shows the four weeks after vaccination, the Pfizer-BioNTech cut the chances of going to hospital by up to 85% but in the case of the AstraZeneca vaccine, this was 94%. In other words, both vaccines have shown that when used in actual (i.e. not trial) populations, they have a fantastically beneficial effect at preventing serious illness. Even in Germany, the best selling newspaper of ‘Bild‘ is saying ‘Dear Britain – we envy you‘. It used figures from 21 February showing the UK had given 17.7 million people at least one vaccination, with Germany lagging behind on 3.4 million. 'While the British are already planning their summer vacation, Germany is stuck in lockdown' the newspaper added. It seems to me that there a certain amount of ‘not-invented here’ syndrome evident when it comes to evaluating the various vaccines against each other!