Friday, 28th May, 2021

[Day 438]

Today was the day when our domestic help calls round to do her weekly stuff for us and we always have a lot of family news and gossip to catch up on. As it happens, her part-time job in the retail sector went ‘belly up’ but she has acquired a new one in the care sector where her many skills and talents will no doubt be put to excellent use – so we exchanged a lot of news about this as she has just had her induction day and it looks as though she and her new employers are going to get along very well together. Meg and I engaged in our normal routine and installed ourself on one of our regular benches in the park (fortunately there are three adjacent to each other so it is a rare day indeed when all of them are occupied by the time we got there) We were soon joined by one of our regular park friends who has taken a very keen interest in what you might call the ‘politics’ of the pandemic. So we spent some time this morning, speculating in the light of Dominic Cummings revelations, what it must have been like in the febrile and chaotic atmosphere in 10 Downing Street at the height of the epidemic (going back to March, 2020) when the virus was out of control, the hospital beds were filling upon rapidly, a vaccine might well months away and so on. We were trying hard to think what decisions we ourselves might have made at that time – although it is not an enviable thought. The one metaphor that Dominic Cummings has helped imprint upon the popular consciousness is Boris Johnson as a shopping trolley i.e. uncontrollable, liable to lurch from one side to the other, capable of banging into one wall and then another in an uncontrolled and random way… need I say more? It is certainly a powerful image – I wonder if the cartoonists will manage to pick upon that?

In the late afternoon, I espied my next door neighbour in his garden and wandered over to have a chat. This is because on Sunday, he is organising a special birthday ‘bash’ for his wife’s birthday and as the weather forecast is set fair, then hopefully all of the proceedings can take place outdoors in the fine weather. I popped round to see if there was anything that he might run out of at the last moment (outdoor chairs, paper plates and so on) but everything seemed well in control. We admired our neighbour’s garden which he has radically turned around and improved since the days when I used to roughly maintain it for the previous occupants for whom it was all a bit too much. After that, we turned to politics (fortunately, we tend to share the same political outlook on the world) so the antics of Dominic Cummings and his revelations about the chaotic days in the early days of the pandemic were quite a source of fascination for both of us. On Sunday then, as it is a happy birthday occasion, all discussion of politics will be strictly out of the question but we are looking forward for a chance to mingle and converse with our fellow men.

In the early evening, I FaceTimed one of my ex-colleagues from the University of Winchester – we normally have a chat each Friday evening. As my colleague used to work for IBM, he is a mine of information about all computing matters in which IBM is, of course, a major player. We then turned our attention to gardening implements and the kinds of implements we used when keeping deep holes for fences and so on.

The virus news this evening is not particularly reassuring – in fact, quite the reverse. It seems as though the Indian variant of the virus now accounts for 60%-75% of the total new cases. Also, the number of cases is now rising and the number of new infections has now exceeded 4,000 – this figure represents a doubling in the last week. As the Indian variant is making an impact across various parts of the county (i.e. not just in the North West) and nowhere seems to be going down, it does appear, as some of the politicians have been saying, that we are in for a real race between the virus on the one hand and the vaccinated population on the other.

Glancing sideways at American politics for a change, it looks as though the Senate Republicans have organised a filibuster to ensure that there will be no Congressional investigation into the invasion of the Congress building after the last presidential elections. This means that one of the greatest attacks on American democracy will never be fully investigated by the Congress itself. It is said that most Republican voters still overwhelmingly support Trump and his policies despite what happened on Jan. 6 2021 and most believe he did nothing wrong. One has the feeling that if the attack had come from the far left rather than the far right, the result would have been a vote for an instant Congressional investigation.