Wednesday, 17th November, 2021

[Day 611]

Today was always going to have a different kind of timetable because our energy company (which we have just decided now to use) are going to have our smart meters updated today. We already have some smart meters installed but not the very latest versions that send readings directly to the energy utility, thus obviating the need for any meter readings. We have been given a time-slot of any time between 8.00am and 5.00pm but we will get a phone call some 30 minutes beforehand so that we can be ‘at home’. I decided to walk down into town early because I needed to collect my newspaper and get some money out of an ATM. All of this worked out well and I got home in plenty of time before the anticipated phone call came through. My installer was a young Asian lad who seemed exceptionally conscientious and meticulous about everything he did. Naturally, as is common these days and no doubt following a protocol, smartphone snaps were taken of all critical things such as existing meter readings and then we were left without power for about 50 minutes. We had to ensure, of course, that all of our computers and other consumer units were switched off and I was a little worried that the alarm system of the house might not function correctly after an interruption to the power supply and that the central heating boiler would similar survive a power down. In the event, both worked perfectly when power was restored and the various computers and other devices within the house power up again so I am now left with a system where I can check what electricity has been used (at 10 second intervals) or my gas consummption (at 30 minute intervals). Now we are just left waiting for our central heating engineer to call around and install our replacement kitchen tap and although promised at 4.00pm, we still have a no-show two hours later. Today, though, has generally been one of those days when everything has gone well as opposed to those days when Sod’s Law prevails (‘if something can go wrong, it will’).

At last, Boris Johnson has tried to draw the sting of the ‘sleaze’ allegations against him and his government. He has finally admitted the Conservative ex-minister at the centre of Westminster’s sleaze row broke lobbying rules – two weeks after the prime minister encouraged a bid to save Owen Paterson from a House of Commons suspension. Under questioning from a Commons committee of senior MPs, Mr Johnson acknowledged that Mr Paterson had ‘fallen foul of the rules’ on lobbying. ‘I think it was a very sad case but I think there’s no question that he had fallen foul of the rules on paid advocacy as far as I can see from the report’ the prime minister told the liaison committee.

Despite the best efforts of our vaccination authorities, it appears that a full ‘4th wave’ of the COVID virus is hitting many European societies. Angela Merkel, the outgoing German Chancellor , is reported as sayting that the 4th wave of the virus is hitting Germany ‘with full force’ as the seven-day infection rate hits a new peak for the 10th consecutive day. Mrs Merkel told a congress of German city mayors that new infections were higher than ever before and the daily death toll was ‘frightening’. The central government and leaders of Germany’s 16 states are due to meet this week to discuss new national restrictions. There are also concerns that Germany’s renowned Christmas markets could be cancelled for a second year running.The question that must remain is whether the UK can ever gets its infection rate below a certain level (of about 39,000 new cases a day) whilst the threat from other European societies remains.

The inflation rate has today hit 4.2% and shows many signs of increasing rather than decreasing. The big economic question is whether this rise in the inflation rate is just a ‘blip’ which like a wave might pass out of the system or whether it will generate further inflationary rises in the future. I have just read in today’s Times that gas prices rose by 17% in one day yesterday. Without wishing to sound smug, I am incredibly glad that about two weeks before the current fuel price increase hit us, I had decided to change my energy supplier and got a rate fixed for the next two years. Having said that, and perhaps inspired by the newly installed consumer unit for the smart meter, I am starting to look quite hard at appliances that are left on (TV on standby) and to turn off unnecessary lights when I see them. I do have an old ‘standard lamp’ where I have just downgraded the bulb from a 100 watt to a 60 watt version without a great diminution in available light. My optician tells me, though, that as you get older, your eyes probably require more light rather than greater magnification so it is a temptation to put in more powerful bulbs in various places.