Thursday, 4th March, 2021

[Day 353]

Today was another cold day in the current spell of cooler weather with the thermometer just above freezing, but only just (about 4°) Tomorrow is going to be cold as usual and we have a few days more before the weather gets a little milder over the weekend. One would think we would be used to pretty cold weather at the start of March but we had got used to a few glorious days of spring-like weather a few days ago and I suppose we have got a little spoiled because of it. We collected our newspapers and sought friends and friends of friends in the park and we had a jolly good chat until the weather got to all of us (as we are standing around socially distancing) and so we made for home. I was telling our friends of an embarrassing incident that we had when we were students in 1968. Below the maisonette that we rented was a series of little stalls in some converted shops and one of them was a haberdashery stall, run by an Asian lady. At that time, we needed, in order to effect a minor repair, some knicker elastic (it is called ribbon elastic today) and it was on sale for 1½d a yard (i.e. the old money) We explained that we only needed a foot and the stall-holder told us ‘That’s all right – I will sell you a foot’ So she carefully measured it out, wound it round into a little ball and popped it into a little brown envelope. So we were asked to pay ½d – we handed over our 1d and got ½d in change. We felt a little embarrassed about this transaction even at the time – ½d is worth approximately a fifth of the modern day 1p coin.

News is emerging this evening about Sir Philip Putnam who was the previous principal civil servant in the Home Office and who was suing the Home Office for constructive dismissal. It has been announced that an out-of-court settlement has been reached and Sir Philip was to be awarded more than £1/3rd million after it was acknowledged that he had been subjected to a campaign of bullying and abusive behaviour. The Standards chief Sir Alex Allan found that Ms Patel had broken the code governing ministers’ behaviour and ruled according only for Boris Johnson to not accept his findings (and thereby exonerated Priti Patel) whereupon he promptly resigned. My own stance on this if she had the intellect to argue her case, she would not have to resort to bullying and obscene language. Every time I see her on the TV I am reminded that she was the communications director of James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party which then transmogrified itself into UKIP. Eventually she found a natural home in the right wing of the Conservative party here she is quite popular with the rank-and-file (although there are rumours that she is destined for the chop in the next government re-shuffle, probably forthcoming in June). I am reminded of the minister in the first Labour Government who was not given a new portfolio in the Labour Administration from 1945-1950. He sought an an interview with the (very headmasterly) Prime Minister, Clement Attlee who, when asked why he had not offered a new ministry to the disappointed politician merely drew on his pipe and uttered the immortal words ‘Not good enough!' And that was that. However, since then we have a legion of ministers who have shown the most astounding incompetence but still retained office (they are all right wingers needless to say) The most outstanding example was Chris Grayling (popularly known amongst MPs as ‘failing Grayling’) whoo is estimated to have cost the taxpayer some £2,778,072 (i.e. nearly 3 billion pounds) in a succession of eleven failed ventures.

There is some dark talk tonight of yet new variants of COVID-19 that have emerged in the last few weeks. These are always worrying in the extreme, not least because they appear to be ‘super-infectious’ and seem to have evolved by evading all of the current vaccines.It is possible (as with the ‘flu vaccine) to reformulate the current range of vaccines to cope with these new variants but in the meanwhile even more variants might appear. The one real answer seems to jump hard on even a single case that appears. For example, Auckland in New Zealand discovered one case of the virus appearing and immediately put the whole of the city in lockdown for several days (it goes without saying that New Zealand is coping with its COVID-19 pandemic much better than we are). But to be slightly more positive, we are now up to 21 million having received their first ‘jab’ which is practically 40% of the adult population. Meg and I are counting off the days until April 12th when we are scheduled to receive our second dose of the vaccine and about three weeks after that, our immune status should be as high as it can be.