Friday, 16th April, 2021

[Day 396]

Today was another fine and bright day, albeit a little cooler than yesterday. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our walk down into the town, chatting with one of our church friends en-route. When we eventually got to the park, we had a good old chat with our University of Birmingham friend who we had quite missed over the last few days as he was off playing tennis which is his grand passion during the summer months and when lockdown conditions apply. Then we were joined by another of our regular acquaintances and our conversations turned to the subject of the statistics pertaining to the various vaccines. As always, we didn’t arrive at any really firm conclusions but I suspect that we like to test out our understanding of the issues through discussions with each other.

This afternoon turned out to be quite busy with one thing or another. I had spent some time yesterday evening preparing the 27 labels that I needed for the newly bottled damson gin and now needed to label up the bottles with them. I had intended to do all of these in one fell swoop but I only did half a dozen as I got diverted into taking some of the labels off the mini-wine bottles with which my neighbour keeps me supplied. As a couple of new empty bottles turned up in my porch today, I went round with a full bottle of damson gin by way of recompense and was shown round some of the various improvements that my neighbour is gradually making to his back garden as the weather permits. After I had done some damson gin bottle housekeeping, I decided that our dining room in which we have an iPad (and miscellaneous computer-y type things) badly needed a tidy up and I was half way through this exercise when I was interrupted by a telephone call. The call came through from the son of our ex-Leicester Polytechnic colleague who had died recently (in his mid 90’s) wondering whether we could attend the funeral in a couple of weeks time. We have other commitments that are unmovable on that particular day so we have accepted, gratefully, the offer of a videolink into the funeral service proceedings. In return, I scanned a photo that I had managed to find and send it off to Leicestershire with the observation that we are not sure exactly when the photo was taken. We now know that it could not have been later than 1982 as that was the date upon which our ex-colleague retired but I suspect that it was a year or so before that which would make it 1980. The clothes and hair of the 10 of us look very 1970’s but the trouble is that academics (like us) were never fully up-to-date with the latest fashion trends so what we are wearing when the photo was taken was probably newly fashionable 5-10 years before that. Through the good offices of my daughter-in-law, we tried get a copy of the .jpg file printed on glossy (photo) paper but their printer refused to play ball. Anyway, the photo has now been transmitted and can be added to the family’s own collections (and recollections) of their late father.

Tomorrow afternoon is going to be the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. To be honest, Meg and I have never been particularly interested in royal celebrations – in fact, the day that Charles and Diana got married, we were shopping for furniture in an almost deserted Leicester city centre. But I think tomorrow might be quite a special occasion and probably worth a watch. Having received my MSc at the hands of the Duke of Edinburgh just some three days after his mother had died, I do feel now that I was the fortunate recipient of the Duke’s sense of duty in that he turned to turn to perform his duties as Chancellor of Salford University. I saw the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, being asked today what he thought the Duke’s reaction would be to his own funeral. He opined that the thought the Duke would probably have said ‘Oh, just get on it with it‘ which does sound exactly the sort of thing that the Duke would say. Apparently, the Duke had planned his funeral down to the minutest detail, including the specially designed LandRover which is to bear his coffin through the Windsor castle grounds as far as the chapel.

Just to end on a really gloomy note, the latest COVID-19 news, despite a reduction in the ‘R’ number, has some worrying features.The new Indian variant of the COVID virus that’s been detected in the UK has all the hallmarks of a very dangerous virus. It has two new significant mutations in the spike protein that help it infect cells and evade the immune system. Some 77 cases have been discovered in both England and Scotland and it is probably the spread of this variant which is leading to spiralling rates of infection across India.