Thursday, 17th June, 2021

[Day 458]

The long, sunny spell is gradually coming to an end and it may well be that the day finishes with thunderstorms. When we awoke this morning, it was evident that overnight we had a smattering of rain but no more. The longed for thunderstorms had not made it as far as Bromsgrove but it is quite possible that some will make it by this evening. As the day has worn on, the atmosphere has got more and more oppressive and there is a feeling all round that our gardens, in particular, would welcome a sustained downpour for an hour or so. Meg and I are resuming our daily pilgrimage to the shrine of the coffee bar in our local Waitrose and we went shopping for bits and pieces to complement the main Waitrose order which arrived at about 10.0am this morning. When we got home, we could not stand a full meat-and-two-veg type of meal so I made something in which I put together some left-overs and served them a bed of cauliflower rice – which actually turned out to be a lot tastier than it actually sounds.

Later on this afternoon, we were ‘at home’ to a new found friend who lives just around the corner. She is an Asian lady brought up in South Africa and has lived for a period in California so we were interested in getting to know each other a little better. We had bought some things that I suppose I can label as ‘party food’ but seemed interesting for us to try out including some duckfilled sushi and similar delicacies. Our friend came around on cue and we spent a couple of very happy hours chatting, eating and drinking red wine until the weather really started to threaten and it was time for us to bid farewell to each other. I have recommended the book ‘Watching the English’ by Kate Fox which I have always found to be one of the most interesting and stimulating of books (and I have purchased several copies and given them away to numerous friends in the past). This book is written by a social anthropologist well used to observing the mores and minutiae of a culture but made particularly interesting when her attention if focused not on an exotic country but on our own society. Hopefully, we can have a good chat about the things that our friend finds particularly interesting having been brought up in the Asian community of Cape Town.

Interesting but disturbing news is now emerging about the Delta version of COVID. It looks as though the symptoms are changing somewhat and it is more than possible that this is not fully appreciated in our communities. A headache, sore throat and runny nose are now thought to be symptoms of the virus, according to data collected by ZOE, instead of a cough and loss of smell or taste – though a fever is still common. Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Delta variant now makes up 91% of new cases amid a warning from Public Health England that infections are rising ‘rapidly’. So, what are the most common symptoms of the Delta variant? According to Prof Spector, a headache is now the most reported symptom, followed by sore throat, runny nose and fever. A cough is even rarer, coming in at the fifth most reported symptom and loss of taste or smell doesn’t even make it into the top 10.

The UK has reported 11,007 new COVID cases and a further 19 deaths in the latest 24-hour period – but in four weeks infections could be lower than they are now, according to an expert. The figures compare with 9,055 cases and nine deaths reported yesterday, and 7,393 cases and seven fatalities this time last week. Today’s number of new infections is the highest reported since 19 February when 12,027 cases were recorded. It comes as a leading COVID researcher says he believes the current wave ‘should be peaking around 10 to 14 days’ time and in a month’s time cases could be lower than they are now and more manageable‘. All of this looks to me like the third wave of the pandemic. Prof Ravi Gupta, from the University of Cambridge, said although new cases were ‘relatively low’ the Indian variant had fuelled ‘exponential growth’. But what appears to be interesting is that the fact that we might be at the start of a third wave is not receiving as much media attention as it surely deserves.

We are starting to look forward to our few days away which will start on Wednesday next. The fact that some of our friends have had little trips away is making us feel a little relatively deprived so we having to make sure that we have all the arrangements put in place. For example, I had to remember to cancel next week’s Waitrose order which we will no longer need. At the same time, I have taken pain to purchase a few biological and handy wipes so that on our journey and in our AirBnB abode we will be able to wipe down whatever surfaces we feel need our attention.