Tuesday, March 23, 2021

It was one year today...

 Today is a grim milestone,

One year since the country locked down because of the COVID 19 pandemic.

Since then we've had around 120,000+ additional deaths, compared to normal, and a wrecked economy. Thankfully the vaccination program has been one of the best organised and most efficient in the world, with almost half the population having received one dose. 

Hopefully this time next year, the pandemic will be nothing more than a series of surreal memories. 

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Eight years and... no bonus

Today was a memorable day at work for two reasons.

Firstly, it marked eight years at my current employer, the longest I've ever worked anywhere. 

Secondly, for the first time I've been with the company, there will be no end of year bonus for the employees this year. The reason of course is the COVID crisis that affected the entire world from about this time in 2020 and is still ongoing. 

None the less, it's very disappointing news, especially as the company still found the money to pay a dividend to the shareholders at the end of December last year. The senior managers own a lot of shares. The ordinary employees, not so many...

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

1st COVID Vaccination

Today I walked just over a mile from my house to a medical centre, which isn't the one where I'm registered.

No matter, it was easy to find, and a well spaced out queue of people outside the rear entrance made it pretty obvious where to go. After 10 minutes or so the queue advanced enough for me to do the self registry on the terminal in the porch. 

Another few minutes wait and a friendly young lady with a clipboard invited me to step inside and see the receptionist. The receptionist took my name and date of birth and looked me up on some kind of screen. After a 'oh yes' she directed me to stand at the corner of the red lines. There were red lines taped to the floor, and the lady behind me in the queue was directed to follow the yellow lines. Clever.

I followed the red lines down a short corridor and then stood on the threshold with a couple of little curtained off areas to the right and an office to the left. A man and a woman occupied the curtained areas, while a young lady flitted between the office and the booths. The lady (a nurse or a doctor) asked her for some more doses - she disappeared but I didn't see her come back with any.

That's because a man stood up and walked out rolling his sleeve down, and a nice looking man with grey hair invited me to come over. He introduced himself as Nick, one of the doctors in the practice. He asked me a few routine questions about my state of health and tapped in the answers on device on his desk. Then he asked me which arm I wanted it in (left), I took off my sweater and rolled up my sleeve. There was a moment of discomfort (pain is too strong a word) and that was that. 

He handed me a card that proved I'd had the jab, and an information leaflet. Then I walked home in the blustery wind and sunshine feeling a mixture of relief and happiness. There is talk of having more or less the whole country vaccinated by June. Judging from the informal efficiency of the procedure I've described above, that might well be achieved. Things may be back to normal in the country by August/September. What a wonderful prospect!

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Friday, February 05, 2021

Lockdown in winter

We're still in a national lockdown and the terms are harsh.

Unless you must travel for work, you're not allowed to go more than 7 miles from where you live, and are allowed outside for exercise only. No meeting people except in a few cases, no going out and only essential shops and services are open. 

January and February are always the toughest months of the year for me. Christmas is long gone, the days are short, the weather cold and/or rainy. Outside the countryside is dead and the paths muddy and slippery.

At least the vaccination program seems to be succeeding - Britain has managed to inoculate about 10 million people, including my father (84) and mother (82) who were among the very first people to get vaccinated before and after Christmas. There's talk of myself and M, the over 50s, getting vaccinated between now and May. 

The one big worry is the so-called South African variant of the disease. This one seems resistant to the current vaccines, although the scientists are confident that they can tweak existing vaccines and make them effective against that one as well. 

Let's hope they're right. This pandemic thing is getting very tiresome.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Joe Biden is inaugurated

It is hard to describe the feeling of relief seeing Joe Biden sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

He looked pretty good for his age, but I hope very much that four years from now he's handing over to Vice President Kamala Harris. Poor Joe, he's wanted to be president for decades but what a hell of time to start! 

The COVID pandemic is out of control, the economy is in deep trouble and there's horrible political division. About 2/3rd of the Republicans believe the election was rigged. Then there's longer term stuff like coping with climate change and the rise of China.

I believe he's too old for the job. None the less, no matter what he does, he'll be better than Donald Trump. As for the ceremony itself - Biden's speech went on too long and the country singer was rubbish (surprise surprise). But Lady Gaga (I'm not a fan) sang really well and the poet wasn't too cringy either. 

Let's hope President Joseph Biden is as good as his word and restores some sanity to the White House. 


Thursday, December 31, 2020

Year End

 I am writing this in the last few hours of the most extraordinary year of my life - 2020.

From March onwards it's been dominated by the dreadful COVID virus that has killed tens of thousands of people in Britain and several million more worldwide. Which is all horrifying and dramatic.

The actual reality of the year has been sitting quietly indoors, in my case working long hours, and avoiding people and places as much as possible. I have heard of one person in my street dying of COVID, she was an elderly lady with some pre-existing conditions and I didn't know her. 

I know one person who's actually had COVID, a genial member of the tennis club who probably caught it at a crowded amateur music event in early March. He and he wife both got it - I don't know her. For him, the only scary part of the disease was the way it sapped his strength - for one or two days he had to literally crawl from his bed to the toilet and back. in a week or two he'd largely recovered, and by the time I spoke to him three or four months later he was fit enough to beat me 6-0, 6-0.

My only other independent source of information on COVID is a doctor at Ipswich hospital. Back in April or May, when things were pretty bad, he told me that the patients who died from COVID were old fat men and if they had existing ailments and/or came from Black or minority ethnic backgrounds their chances were even worse. 

And that's it. Everything else I know has come from the same sources as everyone else - predominately in my case the BBC and The Guardian. 

What will I remember of this year? Here's what comes to mind in random order:

  • Not seeing a good friend. We last met face to face in December 2019 in a garden centre near Cambridge. Normally I'd have seen her at least six, perhaps as many as a dozen times since then. This year it's been zero
  • Wearing a mask in all the shops - once I've had to go home, collect my face mask and then go back because I didn't want to enter a shop without wearing a mask
  • The sound of birdsong during the first lock-down in the late Spring. That lockdown was pretty severe and obeyed, at least in this area, and it was lovely to hear the birds not being drowned out by traffic (we live on a very busy road)
  • Worrying about the economy and what the future will be like. I've lived through five recessions, including the very tough early 1980s one and the so called 'great recession' of 2008. I don't want to go through any more
  • Working from home. I dislike working from home, but being forced to for nearly nine months has forced me to adapt. And my work can be done from home - I knew that already, but the meeting technology such as WebEx and Zoom and the others is just about good enough to work. I still miss my colleagues though, some of whom I count as friends
  • Saving money. Normally I spend somewhere between £250 and £350 on petrol commuting to and from work, and taking trips to various places for leisure and enjoyment. From mid March to now my total commuting bill has been about £30 at most, or about £3.33 per month. Then me and M go out for lunch and or dinner a few times each month - for the past nine months we've been out precisely three times. This all saves a lot of money, which I have been saving
  • Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time ever in peace time. Me and M generally manage to get some tickets and its always a highlight of our year. We both missed it and it brought home to us just how unusual this year was
  • The huge sense of relief when Donald Trump lost the election, and a few days later the first of three effective vaccines was announced. I've already dealt with my feelings about these events, but it's worth repeating the huge sense of joy and relief that the virus could be defeated, and a rational man could re-occupy the White House
  • The relief that 2020 is finally over, and the hope and expectation that 2021 is going to be a much better year


Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Deal is Done

 About an hour ago, it was announced that Britain and EU have done the Brexit deal.

This ends a disconcerting four and half year period when Brexit (how I've grown to hate that word) completely dominated the British media. It was hell for editors - the most important news story for a generation was also the most complex and boring one. 

I'm no fan of Boris Johnson, but at least he, or at least his former special advisor Dominic Cummings knew something about negotiation. That something is that in order to negotiate from a position of weakness you have to appear slightly crazy. Downright insane at times and willing to do the unthinkable like walk away and go for a non-deal Brixit. 

That was Teresa May's problem - she was far too sane and rational to make that threat look real, so the EU negotiators didn't take her seriously enough. Boris Johnson is a bit of flake and isn't ashamed to show it - a much more volatile and impulsive character and in the Brexit negotiations that counted for a lot.

Sadly those traits are rubbish when it comes to the applied science of COVID repression. Here Boris is weak and plodding cautious methodical Teresa May would have been outstanding. Ipswich is joining the rest of the South East in Tier 4 from the first minute of Boxing Day. Thankfully there are no fewer than three effective vaccines available soon so I'm hoping at some point in the late Spring of 2021 Britain will return to something like normal. 

The task of rebuilding the economy and coming to terms with what the Brexit deal really means will consume the country for the next few years.