Above: a flag in the ground playing tricks with the light at the Cotswold Sculpture Park ... more of the exhibition in the picture-story below.
We decided to up our game for the latter bit of 2023 and start getting out a bit ... you know the kind of thing: theatre, eating out and walking: it was "Summer" after all.
Off to London for the theatre
First off, an outing to drool over Mark Rylance in Dr Semmelweis was the main attraction. Serious stuff with a prince of theatre and film. But being in London for leisure also meant we had to walk different routes and eat imaginatively to get the best out of the day.
However, before we could do that, we had to get there despite Chiltern Railways (CR) and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT). Normally we would get the bus to Oxford and jump on the train and be in London before we knew it. We booked and paid for the journey when CR already knew that there would be no trains between Oxford and Oxford Parkway. Only they didn't tell us and we found out by accident. So it would either be two buses (with the attendant risks) or take the car. We gave ourselves a lot of time. Back in the day when I worked in London I'd have left home half an hour later.
Getting to Oxford Parkway was a breeze but working out the arcane rules for parking one's car for the day without incurring large penalty charges was less so.
Above (l-r): Every parking area in the UK seems to have a subtly different system to pay for parking; this wasn't helped by the cryptic message we were confronted with when we came to redeem our tickets
Fortunately we happened to find the most obliging staff member on duty that morning and all was resolved. The others during that day were not quite as obliging, so huge thanks to our lovely friend at Oxford Parkway.
As it turns out, we got to Marylebone Station with oodles of time to spare and we elected to walk the 2.2 miles taking a largely unfamiliar route via Marylebone (which is not really that close to the eponymous station).
Above: We ambled down Upper Regent St and one of us was able to photobomb BBC HQ.
Below: Still way ahead of schedule we were able investigate the comprehensive Japan Centre where one can find all sorts of Japanese delicacies
Above: there was a cafe there and also a Japanese Restaurant with those characteristic half length curtains that I don't really understand ...
Below (left): Instead we opted for a Korean restaurant with groovy Grape juice with whole grapes floating within. It was called Haitai BongBong.
Above (middle and right): As neither of us had had much Korean food we both opted for a delicious tasting tray that was sort of like an oriental version of pintxos. The people at the next table, who were Korean (as were 90% of the diners), cooked their own on the built-in hotplate.
Having travelled from Faringdon to Oxford Parkway, got there early, got the train to Marylebone, walked to Haymarket via the scenic route, sniffed around a Japanese supermarket for a while and eaten a sumptuous Korean Meal, we still had time to kill before our matinée at the Harold Pinter Theatre across the road. So we spent a little time walking off our lunch and happened upon the sumptuous Dover Street Market. There was a friendly, welcoming security chap on the door who encouraged us to go in and have a look, which we did. Shan loved the clothes in there but referred to them as works of art rather than wearable outfits, which was lucky because there weren't many garments in there for less than £1,000, and many were orders of magnitude above that, but we did enjoy the quirky props.
Above: Quirky shop-dressing made one feel as if this was a museum rather than a series of shops (a.k.a. designer stalls).
We spent a fair amount of time in the "market" and then scurried off to our matinée. The security guard recognised us on the way out and was equally pleasant in his exhortations to us to visit again soon.
I shan't go into Dr Semmelweis in detail. It deserves a full on critique beyond my experience, of which there are many. But it was MARK RYLANCE. We has £35 tickets in the stalls. Knowing what I know now, I would go for the £190 tickets for anything to get this man's full impact. Seen him in movies and he is riveting. Would love to see him close up on stage.
Above: this pic makes the the theatre appear smaller than it is - we had a good view and the pillars were't much of a problem but there was a short part of the play in which there was a play-within-a-play and Mr Rylance was sitting in the box at the front on the right and obscured by the circle above the stalls.
So, this guy is undoubtedly right at the forefront of his craft and, if anything, getting better. But he is subtle, so just bite the bullet and get the best seats.
And then we walked back to Marylebone via another scenic route.
Above: A "Fiat" wine cooler amid some favourite haunts en route from Haymarket to Marylebone via another scenic meander.
Shan HOBnobbing in connected counties
Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and the electric VW beckoned, including a big trip out to reconnect with Jann Tilbury, whom she hadn't seen for 40 years. They had been school buddies and now Jann was living darn sarf near So'ton. So off she went for a wonderfully smiley (by all accounts and photographic evidence as Jann's husband and I stood back for the reunion) solo foray into Hampshire.
Above (l-r): There's nothing like a Parson Jack Russell Terrier - in the absence of Georgie, Shan had to use Arfur as a surrogate for a quick excursion to Woolstone, Oxon; all pictorial evidence suggests that the Janshan reunion was a happy one ... hopefully to be repeated before another 40 elapsed years; on her return from Winchester, Shan had to come back down to earth with a stop off to see Georgie ... in truth this grubby pic was taken earlier in the month but who's to tamper with a babe and her granddog.
A bit of a hike with lunch
Walking has become an essential plank in keeping healthy as the years advance ... we sallied forth with Sian and Roger for a 7-mile yomp, the only rules being that propulsion was restricted to ambling purposefully through rural Oxfordshire with public transport delivering us forth and back. Coffee, lunch and a couple of pubs were options that were enthusiastically embraced.
Above (clockwise from top left): Charney Bassett cottage gardens were a riot of colour; jumbled signs and a defibrillator; purple suede shoes on Charney's own Basil Fawlty; old walls and new topiary; a Hitchcock moment in the middle of nowhere; a stately house in the middle of nowhere.
A meander and a yomp with the DJs
Both of these required lunch although the meander was pretty gentle and less of an excuse for victuals.
Below, meander: (top row) as one does in the Oxfordshire countryside, a landscape and a church from and in Childrey; (second row); a capped wall and a turret; Cantorist Farm for lunch.
Above, yomp: (3rd row) early on in the 10-mile yomp (actually DJ went further) - the path points to Stanford in the Vale - bit of vapour from the Didcot power station making a funny low-lying cloud in the background; (bottom) between Stanford and Buckland straw towers and wonky clouds.
Cotswold Sculpture Park with Tim and Joanna
We do this every couple of years. A few hours roaming around the exhibits near Somerford Keynes, followed by fish and chips for lunch at the Bakers Arms.
Above: all of these items are outdoors in a substantial woodland park and range in price from a couple of hundred pounds to £31,000. Well worth a visit.
Toodle Pip ...
... we're off to an al fresco house warming lunch in the rain ... and great fun it was, too.
Above: Tim, Me and Neil in one of our host's fabled selfies - although why he has a spoon in his mouth is anyone's guess ... perhaps so he can hold his phone while taking the pic.
And then the rain stopped and it was warm again.
Hey Joe, give Li a chance. After all, even Volodymyr is reported to have "cautiously welcomed China's peace plan."
But you, Joe, appear to have dismissed the idea of China negotiating the outcome of the war was “just not rational”.
In the meantime, Ukrainian President, Mr Zelenskiy has been reported to have said at a press conference in Kyiv to mark yesterday's first anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale attack, that he “wanted to believe” Beijing was interested in a “fair peace”. That meant not “supplying weapons to Russia”, he said, adding: “I’m doing my best to prevent that from happening. This is priority number one.”
Surely Volodymyr is wise to explore all possibilities? Perhaps Beijing could introduce a scintilla of even-handedness.?
Of course the US has a great history of brokering peace in war torn areas of the Globe.
Hey Joe, I said where you goin' with that gun in your hand? Let's give peace a chance, why don't we?
27 April 2021
In your latest flyer you have stated that the Conservative County Councillor has “secured the funds and resources to resurface the town centre in 2012”.
This would, of course, be amazing. Please could you provide more details of deliverables such as:
3 May 2021
I contacted you with a question last week via your preferred channel, i.e. your Tory email address. I had been hoping for some clarification of your statement that the Conservatives had secured the wherewithal to resurface the town centre this year. In the absence of a reply, I managed to view the plans provided by Skanska. It appears, from what I saw, that this amounts to little more than routine maintenance? If you believe differently, I would be grateful for your views?
While we're on the subject, I am told there is likely to be some resurfacing work on Park Road, too. If this is not to be another piece of routine maintenance, it would be helpful to understand how this major artery will be brought up to LTN 1/20 standards in the process. The crossing places could certainly be brought into alignment if this is to be a proper capital project, don't you think?
Good luck on Thursday
Just got another piece of paper through the letterbox supposedly from David Leigh-Pemberton(DL-P). It seems "he" has deemed it time to take the gloves off in the contest with Bethia Thomas. Funny, he seemed a sort of decent cove, so I suspect the Tory spin-doctors are baring their Rottweiler fangs.
I wonder how many of the claims being made on this leaflet will be fulfilled? I wonder how many of them will be specific to our beloved Faringdon? Would I be being naïve to expect there is a detailed plan behind the assertions that we can hold their feet to the fire with during the next term. Apparently DL-P is "The Only Candidate Standing up for Faringdon & the Villages (their caps)". How on earth will he substantiate that?
Certainly not by referring to the previous incumbent's performance.
Show us the plans with a few penalty clauses for failure to deliver and you may have a bit more credibility. I Have a few examples of why I am sceptical. I'll roll these out in the next few days ...
We frequently hear exclamations such as "What is the Council doing about this?" It is more complicated than that. There are three councils and a central government that serve Faringdon.
Broadly the councils' services are split between the Town Council, the District Council and the County Council. If you live in one of the villages you can probably substitute a parish council for the town council. In our case we have the Faringdon Town Council and then various services allocated between the Vale of the White Horse District Council (ain't that a mouthful and a bit of local colour at the same time) and the OCC.
We, the burghers of Faringdon, pay Council Tax that is distributed between the three. OCC councillors received remuneration of between £10,719.00 and £41,805.00 in 2019-2020. That is before they are paid for extraneous expenses, which in some cases go into thousands of pounds in a "normal" (non Covid) year.
The difference between the basic and the top rate are accounted for an added "responsibility" allowance allocated to roles such as "cabinet ministers". With one exception, the top 20 allowances in 2019-2020 were paid to Conservatives.
This would be for senior roles in the management of: Roads and transport; Leisure and culture; Social and health care; Fire and public safety; Environment; Community and living; Children, education and families; Residents. A more detailed description of these categories is shown below, together with a breakdown of the OCC councillor remunerations obtained from the OCC website
No they bloody well won't. Only radical reduction in consumption will.
There is a myth being created that, if only we could convert everything to electricity, we'd be off the hook for global warming. Give us a break. Why aren't we paying more attention to reducing consumption? Doesn't serve the capitalist ethic, does it.
"Where will we squeeze out our next billion," you hear the crafty cronies cry.
"We need more margin on vehicles, grandiose construction projects, speedboats, outdoor heaters, long range transport," they whisper.
Take the last of those, moving produce around the world. Who gains from transporting food from Ms Truss' new favourite trading partner, a distance of around 10,000 miles?
Think about it while we contemplate buying local. What a quaint idea?
Before you think I'm getting all Brexit on you. Stop. Let's do a few comparisons. Within the distance it would take a lorry to travel from London to Carlisle, it could also get to Paris, Brussels and even Amsterdam, passing through rich agricultural regions of France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
So, when I say local I'm talking about within a few miles. Preferably somewhere one can walk or pedal to and from. Or at least that the producer can deliver to consumers at low cost to the environment. With a bit of luck town centres will be revitalised. A new economy could be generated around digital homeworkers deploying Active Travel for their foraging and socialising activities. Living Streets in action?
But, before we get all dewy-eyed about a new rural idyll, buffed up by sustainable new technology, how on earth did we get here?
Mostly through ignorance and then burying our heads in the sand once we knew what we were doing was wrong.
I'll turn my focus to the motor industry for the remainder of this blog. By no means because it is the only (or even the worst) culprit but it does provide a perfect platform for grandstanding politicians. Particularly those clambering for the next smokescreen to feed to the British public.
First, I must confess.
Look, I'm just as guilty as the next baby-boomer for making hay while the sun shone but, just because I was a petrol-head arsehole at one stage in my life doesn't give me a perpetual licence to continue a life of ad nauseam consumption. Even though, as a one-time motoring editor who extolled the virtues sub 6-second 0-60 mph acceleration times, I have helped pave the way for the lust accorded to increasingly indulgent supercars and superbikes.
Attempts to recant and atone have, to date, been confused. Maybe they will still continue while I sort myself out as a predominantly active traveller.
In the meantime what prompted this current rant?
The electric car myth
It was a Facebook ad for an electric Lexus.
Have you noticed how many of the Facebook, Twitter, et al ads for electric cars are for luxury brands: Lexus, Mercedes, Jaguar, Volvo and, of course, Tesla to name a clutch. Even Ford has taken to touting the Mustang as its electric offering. The Mustang was a '60s muscle car. Over the years it has become bloated but a major selling point for the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT remains its ability to accelerate from 0-60 mph in an extraordinary 3.5 seconds. Imagine that silently sneaking up from behind while you're on your e-bike, pedalling along and governed to < 16 mph by (UK) law.
The entry level price for the Mustang in the UK is (currently) in the region of £40,000, BTW.
Granted, it may improve the air quality a little for the affluent neighbours of its owner.
However, it will achieve this at the expense of anyone living near a current or proposed power-generating facility. I include proposed facilities because an awful amount of energy will be expended on building even the cleanest sources of power.
The current UK government seems to include nuclear power in this. Really? Fukushima Daiichi is all too recent in global memory. Why, oh why, do we need it?
Back to Bloated
Electric vehicles do have obvious advantages but surely these should be focussed on reducing energy consumption and other environmental concerns rather than on propelling even bigger and faster bloated beasts. It's no coincidence that a big drive for this excess comes from global financiers' manipulation of capital to preserve profits that were previously earned by gas guzzlers.
"Who says they are bloated?" you may ask.
To answer that we need a Mars bar comparison. A car that has been around for a long time (in this case more than 60 years) while fulfilling much the same function.
The Fiat 500 (a.k.a. Cinquecento) first appeared on European roads in 1957. It was cute, economical and took up so little space it could squeeze through tiny Piemontese mountain villages for the daily shopping run. If it looked like running out of fuel, there'd always be a bowser on a street corner near you.
Back in the 70s Diana used hers to show Carmela and me around the Apennines before, exiting stage right, it made way for a new "replica".
Now we have the 2020 500e. Granted, it remains cute and the cheapest model in the range will accomplish a few shopping trips in style. But why does it have to be 22% longer, 30% wider, 18% taller and a whopping 180% heavier?
Another point to note: the entry level 2020 500e comes with a substantial government grant to sneak the price the obligatory £5 under the magical £20K mark.
Or you could have a Porsche Taycan for £83K-£138K depending upon whether you want 616 bhp and 0-60 in 4 sec or 751 bhp and 0-60 in 2.8 sec. Don't worry, the British taxpayer will subsidise you to buy one of these, too.
While we're on the Taycan, I read an article by a couple who recently bought one and decided to take it on a run from London to the South Coast. They were running short of charge to make the round trip and had the Devil's own job finding a charging station. They used the Porsche app, stopped at fuel stations and cruised through supermarket car parks as the nightmare expanded. But don't worry, the UK taxpayer will cough up to subsidise upgrading the network while households across the land will absorb the cost of cheap leccy for your car.
Why does bloated matter?
Physics 101: the greater the mass, the more energy required to shift it. What is more, even a Cinquecento needs 30% more road space.
And that extra weight wears tyres out more quickly, generating more rubber particles to kill more salmon in our rivers (and that's just the thin end of a wedge).
We haven't even discussed battery disposal. They do not last forever. We used to dump them in Chinese rivers but they've got a bit wise to that recently.
What do we do about it?
For this blog let's focus on travel. We can return to other forms of consumption in a later episode.
Before you take your next steps, sit down and think about what you really require from your modes of travel.
Do they have to be bigger and faster? Can you get away with downsizing? How many journeys actually even require a vehicle that relies solely on manufactured energy? Can it be motor-assisted for those moments when you really need it? Consider your health and how much exercise you should be getting and whether your chosen mode of travel could double as your daily exercise? Are you really saving time by using motorised transport? Does the exhilaration of speed equate to the wind-in-the-hair experience?
Write your own use case.
Maybe you can even paddle your own canoe, literally and/or metaphorically. After all, the UK is criss-crossed with canals that were designed to move people and goods about. Whatever. How many of your journeys' requirements could be satisfied by self-propelled or self-assisted travel? How much money would you save by doing this? How much fitter would you be. Weigh it up.
Active travel is a viable alternative to a huge number of journeys made by the 21st century global population. Do you really need bigger and faster? Did you know more than 70% of days in the UK are completely dry.
For a while some of us have started to eat our own dog food. I am not a super fit cycling fanatic. I often walk if it is more appropriate than cycling. I do like the freedom to roam, though. The first picture is of my long distance tourer at the top of an Alpine climb. The remaining three are alternatives for those who wish for a bit of panache and Italian style a la the Cinquecento, the last of them affording a bit of the wind in the hair performance lust, too.
Guess what? That taxpayer subsidy for a leccy car would buy any two of the four (but not including Shan).
Returning to the original message: Reducing consumption is so much more efficient and enjoyable in so many ways than finding vastly expensive ways to manufacture more fuel.
Coming soon: Other means of reducing energy consumption and flagrant wastage.
Came across some random slides that were used in the Daily News and then returned to me ... I have some idea of where ... a little bit of when ... no idea of who
So here's a bit of fun for those who like to guess ... only I don't know the answers. Hoping between a few ageing mates there will be some consensus.
Go on ... have a go. Answers either on comments here or, maybe easier on the Facebook post
While the incumbent government continues its attempt to fly deprivation and misery under the radar of the Covid pandemic, comparisons with WW1 and WW2 have been bandied about. What a load of lazy flannel.
Let me tell you what happened during the dying embers of the dystopian end of WW2. Bretton Woods happened, that's what. All 44 of the "Allied" nations got together to plan to avoid the devastating financial collapses that had occurred during the 1918-39 interregnum.
They signed an agreement on the 22nd of July 1944, i.e. almost a year before the end of the war. The participants did not want the misery to continue and were prepared to do something about it. The guiding light was macroeconomist John Maynard Keynes, a particularly influential human being who sadly died less than 8 months after the war ended. He was thereby denied the pleasure of witnessing his vision in action.
And for those rich kids running the UK today who would label anyone to the left of Enoch Powell and Nigel Farage as Marxists or communists I'll remind you of this:
"His (JM Keynes's) radical idea that governments should spend money they don't have may have saved capitalism," according to Time magazine, which, in 1999, included Keynes among its "Most Important People of the Century". Time could hardly be accused of being an organ of socialism.
As far as the recovery plan is concerned, the 44 nations got together in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire before the end of the war. They co-signed an agreement to ensure that its aftermath could be ameliorated as soon as possible. Like all systems, Bretton Woods ran its course after 28 years but its legacy should not be ignored.
Especially when the alternative is that our economy is steered into penury for the less privileged by a gang of people so protected by enormous wealth that will cushion them from any of the draconian measures being proposed and implemented.
Reducing foreign aid in 2021 will only mean that resultant misery in recipient nations will increase the desperation to emigrate from the worst hit areas. Ironically, many of these people will perceive that the UK and USA have streets paved with gold, thereby increasing the "First World" desperation to repel boarders with abominations like the US/Mexico wall.
With tens of millions in one's back pocket, it is easy to weather a storm like the one our chancellor is forecasting. However, the majority of the British population will not be so lucky in a corrupt environment that is robbing the poor to pay the rich.
There is another way ...
The UK Government has tinkered around the edges of spending a teensy bit of extra money to keep the economy staggering along. It is clearly not enough if we are to mitigate the nightmare of the worst recession in 300 years. The money supply needs to be radically adjusted upwards and delivered appropriately to those who most need to spend it to jump start the economy. If you give a billionaire another billion, it will only end up boosting that person's personal wealth portfolio (with one or two philanthropic exceptions).
In the words of Mr Keynes, "Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking."
If we are to follow this logic, Mr Chancellor, please just stop trying to pin your incompetence on Covid-19. You need to follow Mr Keynes's advice that "the social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelope our future."
It is time to take the helm to ensure the transfer of today's hoardings to the building of tomorrow's sustainable future. If you are unable to assume this responsibility you must stand aside for someone who will accept the baton and do something with it.
And, if you think Bretton Woods died more than 40 years ago and JM Keynes more than 70, I'll leave you with some advice from Kristalina Geogieva, current MD of the International Monetary Fund:
"[we need to embrace] the values of cooperation and solidarity on which a sisterhood and brotherhood of humanity is built.
"Today we face a new Bretton Woods moment ... untold human desperation in the face of huge disruption and rising poverty for the first time in decades.
"Once again, we face two massive tasks: to fight the crisis today— and build a better tomorrow."
Her conclusion: "The best memorial we can build to those who have lost their lives in this crisis is, in the words of Keynes, “that bigger thing”— building a more sustainable and equitable world,"
Perhaps more to the point, who wants your personal data and what are they going to do with it? Are you sick of having to deal with the ACCEPT ALL COOKIES button every time you enter a web page?
You may ask what has precipitated this question? A few things, actually:
Brexit and GDPR
All Brexiteers love to blame the EU for everything they can pin on the Union. True, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy in the European Union and the European Economic Area. True, it can lead to irritation from time to time. Question, would you entrust your medical records to a data system run from Texas? If Trump wins this week? Will a trusted GDPR equivalent be put in place in time? Does the NHS Test and Trace system fill you with confidence that that will happen?
To be honest, if the UK National Health Service (NHS) retains its autonomy post-Brexit, I would be perfectly happy for my medical records to be available to trusted medical practitioners and accredited systems that have my health and wellbeing foremost. When seconds count and it's a matter of life and death why not have my records instantly to hand. If there be skeletons so be it. My life is more important. Anyway, surely legal protection is afforded against medics using my skeleton with gay abandon?
A few days ago, I received this text message from the NHS:
"Dear Mark Harrison,
"UK Blood Services are collecting plasma from people who have had a positive test for COVID-19. 28 days after recovery from COVID-19, you could save lives by donating plasma. For further information and to see if you can help others with COVID-19, please visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus and click the take part in research section."
OK, I was up for this. What's not to like about saving lives? They clearly "knew" I had tested positive.
I took the plunge. It was a deeper plunge than I expected.
Ten, YES 10, poorly worded screens later I received this message. This was information that was in my medical records. Why did they invite me to "save lives" if they already knew this?
The subject of a central record spine was up for debate about a decade ago and, at the time, split the medical profession.
Please suspend your disbelief, but data security is way more sophisticated than the proffered alternative, i.e. a filing cabinet in an office. If that, indeed even still exists? Just about every GP in the land is connected to the internet these days so the electronic way in is already installed but not uniformly controlled ... one might argue especially from #CronyVirus.
Why is ACCEPT ALL COOKIES the default? It needn't be
It is a particularly aggressive message and immediately arouses suspicion that cookies will be following your every move, mostly so that your personal data can be sold to the highest bidder.
At best this highest bidder will want to use the data to sell you stuff, which can be positive or negative, depending on one's own view. But let those individuals who wish to be told what to buy make that decision for themselves and leave the rest of us in peace.
At worst, there are way more sinister reasons people would want to pay good money for your data ranging from the dark web to subliminal political messages (Brexit raises its ugly head again, here.)
When I encounter this ACCEPT ALL COOKIES button I do one of two things. If I'm not that interested in the site content, I veer away, which is self defeating for the site. If I am interested, I then have to trawl through a whole process that is time wasting and makes me irritated.
Of course it is very easy for the #CronyVirus pedlars to pass the monkey to the EU for the button and its messaging but that is so disingenuous. It is up to the individual site as to the content of the message accompanying the button.
Here is an alternative (a few sites actually do this!): "We value your privacy and use only essential cookies, which we delete when you exit our site. If you would prefer a richer experience, please click on CHOOSE EXTRA COOKIES to make your choice."
Believe it or not, I would choose this option for preferred sites. The NHS for one.
In our case, "Post" Covid means that Shan and I both had it and were released from quarantine yesterday. Does this signal a huge sigh of relief?
Well, maybe, but, before I go into a short catalog of what "maybe" means, I'd like to make my first observation:
There are some fabulously lovely people out there. They range from long standing friends and family to quite recently acquired neighbours. In other words, we have had support, both moral and practical from points around the globe and from people living right there, just next-door. When it is sane and responsible to properly thank the neighbours it will be easy. We will have a monster bash, a post-Covid-19 party to remember.
We sincerely wish we could do the same for our remote benefactors, too. Indeed, when we travel again, we will do so with renewing hugs and acquaintances as a primary objective.
Why do I think that a huge sigh of relief may not yet be due?
From our perspective, we have not seen one shred of incontrovertible proof that anyone knows where all this will be heading. Even those who think they know where it is going are unable to furnish solid evidence that leads to that conclusion.
Here are a few headlines to ponder:
1. Antibodies - It does not appear that there is any clear evidence yet to indicate that, having tested positive for Covid-19, everyone is left with residual antibodies. Also, there is some speculation that, if there are antibodies in one's system, they may not last more than a few months.
2. Can you get it again? - Well, can you?
3. Vaccine - There have been some optimistic headlines but nothing yet as to whether it is sufficiently reliable and when it will be available for worldwide use
4. Herd immunity - That old chestnut. Can someone please explain to me how it will be successful without positive answers to 1, 2 and 3 above.
5. Foundation statistics - In the UK, NHS Test and Trace has been singularly unsuccessful in gathering these. How widespread is the pandemic, actually? We hear stories of minuscule probabilities of contracting it. Well, in anecdotis extremis, here's a personal example. In our spouse and sibling group spread over three continents, there are 8 adults and 7 direct progeny, i.e. 15 people in all. Of those, 5 tested positive for Covid-19, there was one highly probable false negative and one who almost definitely had it but was quarantined by association so didn't need a test. Just short of 50%. Accepting a huge "bad luck" factor, that is hardly a minuscule probability!
6. Failure to follow success to the end - When we seem to be getting somewhere, governments relax, potentially too early. Exponents of the "R" number reckon it being good news when it drops below one. Forgive me if I'm being naïve but doesn't that just mean the pandemic will continue at the same rate. Above that we see a growing number of people contracting the virus. Below that, the number should gradually drop off. How long would that take before everyone is safe? It's been below one before and now it's racing along above the magic threshold.
7. Circuit breaker (a.k.a. fire break) - Could have legs but would require incredible discipline across the populace who fear that the damage to businesses would be catastrophic and irreversible.
But what if we put a circuit breaker on cash flow at the same time. A forced vacation on EVERYTHING. Businesses shut their doors for a given period and all rent, mortgages, council tax etc. stops until they open again. There have been mortgage or insurance premium "holidays" but these come with a day of reckoning.
The only exception would need to be where actual goods change hands but, in the days of electronic payments, these are stats that can be paused, too.
8. Duration of a bout - Everything from an ephemeral day or so to several months if the anecdotal evidence (what else have we got) is to be believed.
9. A positive side-effect - I am told that in South Africa where they had one of the strictest lockdowns it was accompanied by not only qualified Covid-19 success but also a dramatic drop on the annual seasonal flu cases.
Conclusion: We're in this together, guys. It needs universal discipline to reverse the worldwide growth of the pandemic. If we can't do this ourselves, some body is going to have to do it for us by diktat.
Let's hope the virus won't be that body.