Monday, 29th June, 2020 [Day 105]

Today was one of those indeterminate types of day when the weather cannot make up its mind whether to rain, be cloudy or what have you. It was very windy, though, which means that hats have to be constantly held onto for fear of losing them to oncoming traffic. As you might expect, our local park was bereft of children propelling themselves along on a variety of scooters which we have come to expect in the fine weather and so we were able to claim our usual park bench without too much difficulty. Some of my more distant friends have wondered why I natter on so much about our local park and to be honest, whilst I used to walk past it every day when I used to make a regular trip to our local Waitrose to buy my daily newspapers and claim my free cup of coffee (in the days before lockdown), I didn’t fully appreciate its qualities, My only wish is that the local authority would engage upon a venture to label each tree (or provide a list of what the trees are given that they are all numbered) so that we can all be educated about what we can see in front of us. Here is a URL for a video which was taken in the park some years back but it provides a good overall impression:

We had decided that we would make a trip out this afternoon to our local municipal tip (which is about 5-6 miles away in the depths of the Worcestershire countryside) to dispose of my daughter-in-law’s old trampoline exerciser. However, we were completely thwarted – I suppose in retrospect, Monday afternoon was not a good time. As we approached the tip, there was a queue of about 20 cars and they all appeared to be stationary so I suppose they were limiting the numbers and there was a great surplus of people wanting to dispose of their junk so we turned the car around and said that we would have to think about it another day (a nuisance when you have the car full of junk) We did, though, go round a local garden centre and bought a Weigela of a decent size (and with blood-red flowers eventually) but it was a wet, cold and windy experience and not the kind of day for browsing so we were glad to complete our purchase as soon as possible and not linger but get home to a good cup of tea!

It has now been announced that Leicester is the first city to be ‘locked down’ i.e. the existing restrictions will stay in place for another two weeks. I am sure this will come as a major psychological shock to the residents of Leicester who may well be asking ‘Why us?’ and it appears that even some of the limited openings of local shops may now have to be put into reverse. The question remains, of course, how many cities and communities there are like Leicester which may also be ‘on the brink’ and I would imagine that, in private, the government are very worried about the situation. Of course, if we had a ‘proper’ test-and-trace service in operation, then this might give us some good, accurate local data to pinpoint local sources of infection. Tonight’s Panorama programme on ‘test-and-trace’ (which some call the Serco ‘test-and-trace’ rather than the NHS  ‘test-and-trace’ has uncovered some really shocking evidence how terrible the privatised, cobbled together Serco ‘test-and-trace’ really is. The government subcontracted the service out and 25,000 call handlers were recruited who had only contacted 15,812 people (an average of about one contact for every two call handlers. In the meanwhile, the much more professional 870 public health officials had handled over 98,000 cases (more than 100 each) This made each public health official about 200 times more effective than their private-sector counterpart. But the ideology of the present government is convinced if that it is provided by the private sector it must be good but if provided by the public sector it must be poor. But the discrepancy is absolutely horrific and just shows that the what happens when you hand essential public sector work over to an army of untrained, call-centre workers many of whom were paid taxpayer’s money to not contact a single case! Shocking, almost beyond words!



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Sunday, 28th June, 2020 [Day 104]

As is often the case, we start off a conversation with a dog owner in the park when the dog comes bounding towards us attempting to be friendly and so it proved today. The conversation progressed beyond dogs to what was happening in the world of work and it is always fascinating to find out what others people’s preoccupations and concerns turn out to be. Such was the case today where we spent a very enjoyable 20 minutes with a lady who was exercising her dog, discussing a wide range of issues. On our way back up the hill, we encountered two of our sets of friends (who are both near neighbours to each other so not surprising, really) We were shocked to discover that one of our friends had had an accident in her car and had had a collision with an 86 old gentleman. We were even more amazed to discover that our friend’s car was practically a write-off whilst the old gentleman was completely unscathed. I expressed my amazement that this could happen – but only then did it emerge that the elderly gentleman was himself in a car and he immediately accepted liability (and so did his insurance company) for all that had happened.

The afternoon was quite blustery with several showers which was quite frustrating for us as there were several things that we wanted to do. I did succeed in eventually repotting my lavatera and weigela (bought) plants recently, although the latter is such a weedy little specimen I am resolved not to buy plants over the internet again as you cannot see what you are getting! I did, though, on my way down to collect my Sunday newspapers take several little cuttings as May-June is the best time to propagate these and June is nearly up. I’m not sure what I have got but I think I have managed to purloin a weigela, perhaps a skimmia, certainly a laurel and have collected the seeds of both a sycamore and a laburnum which I am going to try and raise from seed (without too many hopes of success). In the late afternoon, I finally got round to rescuing two horseshoes which I had got de-rusting using white vinegar (for the acetic acid) It could well be that Coke (phosphoric acid) will give you the same effect but I haven’t got round to trying that yet- if it de-rusts metal, imagine what it might do to one’s guts! I also managed to get my daughter-in-law’s old exercise trampoline into the back of the car which gives me a good excuse to go to the garden centre just around the corner from the municipal tip so I can cast an eye on what shrubs (or even small trees) they may have on offer, as well as buying perhaps a bag of grit (to help to top out some of my plant pots).

There are two political developments tonight which seem disturbing. The first is the situation in Leicester which is incredibly near the point of a total lockdown due to a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus. There now seems to be 80 new cases a day and it is fair to say that the city is on a ‘knife-edge’ – however, if the city does go into lockdown it may be the first of similar cities. The virus seems to be concentrated in the poorest parts of the city where population densities are highest and perhaps the general health of the population is already poor. The Metro (free newspaper) is also reporting tonight that the UK may be on the cusp of a second wave – as many of the unlock down measures will take place in a week’s time, then the next week or so may prove critical in the UK’s experience of COVID-19.

The other political story is the fact that Dominic Cummings appears to have had his way and the head of the civil service has been forced out (to be replaced by a Brexiter?) When the Cabinet is populated only by those people who agree with Boris Johnson, it appears that any source of opposition to the present government is immediately quelled. One only has to look at the scientists who appeared in the daily briefing who were all dropped, one by one, the minute they did not give 100% endorsement to the government position. So it seems that we are living in profoundly authoritarian times which, in the long run, makes neither for a properly functioning democracy or, indeed,  for effective government. It is interesting also to see that the committee which can release the report into Russia’s meddling in the UK’s electoral process has not been constituted (delayed by No. 10 Downing Street) as the report if it ever sees the light of day is bound to be damning!

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Saturday, 27th June, 2020 [Day 103]

Today was meant to be the day when showers swept up the country – we did have three or four transient showers but not the good old-fashioned downpour I had been expecting (and hoping for). Meg and I managed to get our walk to the park without getting rained on either the journey or the way back and we managed a chat without an Italian friend as well. I forgot to mention in last night’s blog that the government has asked me to participate in an antibody trial targeted at a national UK sample. The website was easy to navigate and just took a few confirmatory questions and I expect that I will be sent a full testing kit in a few day’s time. It probably entails a small finger-jab blood sample and then we will have to wait and see what happens. I am (mildly) interested in the results.

This afternoon, I set myself the task of getting a few plants repotted but never quite round to it. The first thing I did was to use a metal tent peg as a type of ‘fastener’ and then applied that to my new plant holder so that tempestuous winds do not send it flying. I then applied a couple of small wood ‘chips’ to the front feet to give it a slight backward tilt and thereby make the whole caboodle somewhat more stable. (Incidentally, since time immemorial I have applied this tip to any freestanding bookcases that I have to enhance their stability – it is not at all funny to realise how unstable an open-ended bookcase can be without some type of offset – I generally deploy small pieces of tile) Finally, to get ready for repotting some of my smaller plants I had to wash and scrub out some old ones that I had lying around but need to be cleaned so that things like slug eggs, ant eggs, plant viruses and the like do not infect the new plants. I really do not like this task at all but my task was made considerably easier by a spare bottle of bleach in a spray carton that I happened to have and which meaks the whole job more tolerable.

And now – here is a question for the really. really nerdy i.e. do long screwdrivers give you more torque (turning power) than shorter handled ones. My reason for asking the question is that, quite impressionistically, I often have the feeling that a longer screwdriver gives that extra bit of ‘oomph’ when tightening a screw to the ultimate and therefore I treated myself to a 14-incher which seemed to be of good quality and reasonably priced. If you look on the web, you find an amazing variety of answers. On the one hand, you get some experienced joiners who will say ‘Yes‘, as for whatever reason they always get extra turning power out of long-handled screwdrivers. On the other hand, there is a mass of mathematical data that shows that the length of a screwdriver can have no relationship to the torque that it applies. The answer may lie in between the classical mechanics and mathematics of turning forces on the one hand and the actual alignment of wrists, arms and shoulders when using a long-handled driver. I shall go out and experiment tomorrow. I did say that this section is for the really, really nerdy – but what is interesting is that people’s real-world experiences seem to be at odds with what the mathematics says.

The Jenrick affair rumbles on, as the Sunday Times leads with the story that civil servants pleaded with the minister not to allow the development but it was pushed through a day or so before the developer would have been liable (under Tory legislation) to £45 million to one of the poorest local authorities in the country. The ministerial code states clearly that there should not be the appearance of a conflict of interests and the appearance is only too self-evident in this case. But the only person who can police the ministerial code is Johnson himself and the ‘word on the street’ seems to be that if Cummings survives, Jenrick should so as well. However, there is a real stench of corruption in this case – but most people are preoccupied with the pandemic crisis in any case.

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Friday, 26th June, 2020 [Day 102]

Today was the day when I thought that the long-awaited and anticipated thunderstorms would roll across the country – however, it was not to be and we just had a few spatters of rain at about 10.00 followed by another hot, humid and sticky sort of day. We received our Waitrose order early in the morning and I must say that I rather like some aspects of their policy – for example, if vegetables are a bit near the end of their shelf life they supply them at no charge. Also, if they run out of something that is a small size they give you the large size for the same price (in our case, ice cream which is always welcome these days). On our way home from the home, we had a good gardening natter with two of our acquaintances who live down the hill. One is a Welshman who can talk for Wales and who very kindly gave me a supply of the tiles that used to face the front of his house (a very popular design in the mid to late 1960s but has subsequently gone out of fashion) This meant we had to have rather a lightning lunch before our chiropodist came and was able to resume normal services. Although she came with full PPE, we had our feet done outside which is nice and safe for all of us and exchanged news and gossip about our two families. I told her that one of the very few regrets that I had in life was if I had stayed on at the school I attended in Lancashire from 1956-1959, I would have received coaching from a young West Indian cricketer who was coming over to play (as many did) in one of the Lancashire leagues. His name was ..Gary Sobers! However, our chiropodist rather ‘shot my fox’ by saying ‘Oh yes, I know Gary Sobers well – he used to be my father’s next-door neighbour!‘ So who would have thought that?

Last night was very hot and sticky and I woke up just 5 am and sunrise was only ten minutes before. I then espied our adopted cat, Miggles, on her way up from Mog’s Den shortly followed by her enamorado (Spanish: literally ‘loved one‘) who I have christened Black Peter. When I gave the cat her breakfast (well, she was hanging around waiting for it) she seemed ravenously hungry so I supposed that is what a night on the tryst does for you. I questioned her closely on her nocturnal activities but only got a one-word reply (typical teenager) i.e. ‘Meow

This afternoon, I needed to repot some of the plants with which I was going to populate my new plant holder. (Incidentally, when I woke at 5.0am I realised that my new creation needed a drain hole as otherwise, it would flood so I rapidly make a hole in the centre lined with a rawlplug so it should function as a drain in the case of a downpour). I found that I had four plants that needed bigger pots, two of them being homegrown from own cuttings. One was a forsythia which is now about 1ft tall so I am encouraging it to grow tall by encasing it in four little bamboo canes plus encircling string. The other is a viburnum although it often flowers only in the early spring. The other two plants I have bought from outside our local Waitrosean alstroemeria (although not in flower yet) and an absolutely superb hydrangea – but unfortunately I’m not actually sure what variety it is. So now, I have my little display complete so I had better talk to them nicely, water them regularly and feed them occasionally.

The coronavirus news is not at all encouraging. In the UK, the daily death total rose to 186 (up by a fifth from the day before) whilst in the USA, 37,000 new cases have been reported in the last day. In the USA, several states are attempting to end a lockdown whilst the infection rate is increasing – baffling, or a triumph of ideology over common sense.

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Thursday, 25th June, 2020 [Day 101]

Today has been the hottest day of the year so far and may well turn out to be the hottest day of the year. It really is pretty humid and I, for one, cannot wait for a tremendous downpour which I hope will turn up tomorrow. At least, I am hoping that is the case because I have been working on my latest project with the aim of having it completely finished by tonight before the rains come tomorrow. It looks as though the UK as a whole has been hotter than Ibeza in Spain today with the temperature at Heathrow recorded as 33.3ºC which is 92º degrees F. As we walked down to the park this morning, there was quite a strong breeze blowing and this persisted even as far as the journey back. Then we made a salad lunch and prepared for the afternoon’s activities. I was putting the finishing touches to my home-made plantholder which is now completely finished as I needed to put some vinyl squares onto the top surface, even up one of the legs which had somehow finished up being shorter than the rest, applying some wide black vinyl tape to the edges, affixing some guards to the top so that plant pots don’t slip off and finally finishing off with a creosoting of all of the areas of uncut timber that evidently needed waterproofing before it is brought into use. For those whose life would be incomplete without seeing the results of all of this, then you pick a photo or even a video from the last two items in the directory listing which is available at:

Tomorrow is going to be quite a busy day for us. We are expecting a Waitrose delivery in the morning and our domestic help will be arriving to help to turn the house around. Then in the early afternoon, our chiropodist is going to call to have out feet checked over and then we have a FaceTime with our friends at 5.0 in the afternoon which is part of our Friday routine. Earlier in the day, one of our friends in Oxfordshire has invited us over for lunch together with some other friends the week after next, so there is a feeling of life returning ever so slightly to normal. And as it is Thursday, we have also had our weekly fix of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles (full of dramatic tension in this episode!)

There seem to be two big political stories that have broken today. The first is the situation arising in South Brixton (massive illegal street parties with 20 police officers injured) and Bournemouth (people flocking to the beach on the hottest day of the year in clear defiance of the current 2-metre social distancing rules) One does get the feeling that many in the population, and particularly the young, have almost decided that the lockdown has ‘ended’ and do not really care much about the consequences (they won’t die, only the ‘oldies’ and we don’t care about them anyway) One does not have to subscribe to a kneejerk reaction to this news and feel that the moral fibre of the nation is somehow lessening but there must be a legitimate worry that as a nation we are storing up trouble for ourselves. I am sure that in private, the scientists advising the government must have the feeling that current developments are increasing the elements of risk of a second coronavirus spike occurring. The other major development is Keir Starmer’s sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey after her endorsement of what may well have been an anti-semitic tweet. When he woke up this morning he could hardly have dreamt that such a gift-wrapped opportunity would come his way – at one stroke, he could lessen the influence of the Corbynite left, he could help to appease the Jewish community and he could demonstrate that as a political leader he could act really decisively (compared with Boris who has failed to act with any degree of decisiveness over the Dominic Cummings affair as well as the latest Jenrick scandal)


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Wednesday, 24th June, 2020 [Day 100]

We always thought that today was going to be quite a busy day and so it proved. After we had bought our newspapers, we popped into Waitrose knowing that we were going out on a trip this afternoon and so we bought ourselves some Waitrose sandwiches not knowing what the restricted catering facilities would be like at the other end. Whilst there, we were greeted like long lost souls (which I suppose we were) and got some of the tales from some of the familiar staff. One who we know particularly well had caught the virus and so had her husband who was particularly ill but he just managed to pull round before a spell in hospital was called for. Waitrose always had a good display of plants outside and we were tempted to but an Alstroemeria which is a South American tuberiferous plant also known as the Peruvian lily that produces a proliferation of flowers that cut well and display right throughout the summer until the early frosts, so we had to have one. We were also tempted into buying a rhododendron plant which is just on the point of bursting into a proliferation of blooms so the two of them should sit particularly well on the tall plant stand I have just constructed. But to show you cannot win them all, my lavatera arrived by post this morning and although I was not expecting much, I did anticipate getting a plant that was only about 5″ in height. We had an early light lunch consisting of a good soup and set off with our provisions for Coughton Court. We had not realised it was quite so close as it is only about 18 miles down the road and we had allowed ourselves some ‘getting lost’ time so we set off an hour early. On the gate, they did not seem to mind that we had arrived half an hour before our allocated ‘slot’ time but as they due to shut at 5.00 we enjoyed the extra half-an-hour. The gardens proved to be as delightful as we remembered them from the time of our last visit which must have been over a decade ago. We treated ourselves to a super ice-cream and then, like other families, enjoyed an impromptu picnic beside a large mowed area set aside of picnics although most of us were seeking the shade of the trees. We then had a stroll alongside the lakeside area and were impressed by the ways in which those responsible for the upkeep of the grounds had various information points which were painted onto the flat ring of a tree (when a large fallen tree had evidently been cut into rings, like slicing an enormous carrot) Also, they used naturally curved branches to form bedding boundaries – it is always useful to see how good gardeners make use of whatever natural materials they had to hand, Then we made our way home on what has the been the hottest day of the year so far (although tomorrow may be even hotter and then we may have thunderstorms on Friday).

Politically, it looks as though the Environment and Community minister, Robert Jenrick,  is heading for a fall. It is a typical Tory corruption scandal in which the advice of the planning inspector was overridden and the planning application was rushed through in such a way that the developer (who had made hefty donations to the Conservative party) made millions of pounds. The whole thing looks like a classic ‘cash for favours’ row. It also looks as though the medical profession is united in suspecting that there is a very real risk that with the amount of virus still around in the community there may be a second wave (worst than the first) which will hit the country in the middle of next winter coinciding with the normal ‘flue’ epidemics. We have been warned!

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Tuesday, 23rd June, 2020 [Day 99]

I think that today marks the three-month point since the nation went into lockdown. In any case, the expected major liberalisation was announced today and will probably get analysed to death – of course, these new arrangements are meant to start on 4th July ( a Saturday) but my hunch would be that many people will start to use the 1-metre rule from tomorrow onwards instead of 12 days time. One wonders about all of the signage in shops – will there will be a lot of felt-tip pens and Tippex in evidence as 2-metres of reduced to 1=metre plus (whatever the plus is meant to be). And, I suppose, you can keep the 2-metre markers and just add intermediate markers as from 4th July. We have now arranged a visit from our chiropodist who will be arriving o m Friday in full PPE (but if the weather is fine we will probably go outside). We have also made contact with our hairdresser who is considering how she is going to cope with a tsunami of her regular clients – still, it’s nice to be back into the system.

The major event for me today has been the construction of my 4ft high plant shelf to grace the outside of my study window. This involved various stages – first, the upper legs had to be braced and then affixed using some angle bracket. Then the lower legs had to be attached using steel plates of each side. To make the whole structure more stable, various cross-bracings had to be deployed so a certain amount of sawing was involved. The screwing process was quite involved – I have. a little Bosch hand=hand electric screwdriver which is excellent for its size. Nonetheless, for every screw hole that I made I first used a small bradawl, then a larger one, finally a hand-drill unto my drill bit broke at the last moment, then a fine guide screw and then the final screw adjudged appropriate for that particular fixing point. I always tighten up by hand, as well, using a rubberised glove that is nice and grippy – I reckon to have done this for above 80+ screws in total. This took me all afternoon but I had a break to FaceTime our friends which is part of our Tuesday pattern, then a quick spot of tea and then a final screwing together and tidying up that took me until about 8.30 in the evening. My hands are pretty sore but I am quite pleased with the overall result. I just need to put a bit of Creocote on some of the sawn timbers and do a bit of refinement and tidying before I move it into position probably on Thursday (as we are going out tomorrow). I am not a natural ‘do-it-yourselfer’ and therefore I am pleased when the whole job doesn’t look incredibly bodged up (whether the rest of my critical family agree is another matter) and I know I haven’t had to make too many compromises en route (there are always some problems that one has to work around). Looking in the garage, I find I have some Poundland adhesive vinyl squares in a subtle woodland effect (Poundland doesn’t often have the word ‘subtle‘ applied to it) so this will help to put the finishing touches to it. I just have to wait for my (Amazon-ordered) Lavatera to arrive and hope it is not too small and weedy – the problem with buying plants over the internet.

Finally, I read in tonight’s news that Americans are likely to be banned as and when the Europeans open their borders as the rates of coronavirus are disturbingly high in the USA. I wonder how ( or whether) this will actually get reported in the USA. Will Donald Trump tweet about it (I doubt it!)

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Monday, 22nd June, 2020 [Day 98]

We always suspected that today was going to be quite a busy day and so it proved. We knew that there were several things we needed to do on the High Street today so after collecting our newspapers, we started out on our various ventures. We succeeded in our first foray into a Health and Beauty type shop where we bought some lipstick for Meg. Then our next trip was to the opticians to get Meg’s glasses adjusted but they turned out to be closed (until tomorrow) My venture to buy printer paper was similarly abortive as Staples seem to be shut indefinitely so I have had to resort to ordering some online – at a rather premium price. We also made a trip to the bank to pay in a cheque and this was rather like entering a spaceship but at least the personnel were welcoming and the transaction proved quick and easy. Finally, I couldn’t resist a quick dash into my local Poundland and bought a few garden requisites for a fiver so all I had to do was to feed my money into a machine. So it was a mixed day. On the way home, we met some of our regular friends who we have not met for several days – we started off by chatting about some red campion which I think I have identified growing just inside a side gate into the park. We chatted for about half an hour as we seem to have a lot of mutual news to catch up on (and were passed by our near neighbour as well) so we were well and truly delayed, not getting our lunch until way past 2.0pm instead of our usual 1.30 Nonetheless, we were delighted to catch up with old friends and we hope we can visit each other’s gardens as soon as we both have the time and the weather is set fair. In the afternoon, I had set myself a creosoting job of several staves which involved getting my gardening trousers, a painting shirt and a mask so it was a little fiddly but I got everything  I wanted to do. I finished off the afternoon by giving two of my horseshoes a final scrub in white vinegar but it is only when I get the brillo pads and the Duraglit on them tomorrow that I will know whether I can achieve the glowing results that I did last week.

Tomorrow is the big day when it has been widely trailed that the lockdown will start to end. It looks fairly likely that the 2-metre rule will be reduced to 1-metre by 4th July which is still twelve days away. I have rather a foreboding that after tomorrow, people will not wait and will act as though the lockdown has already completely ended. Also, whilst people make an effort (excellent in some cases, minimal in others0 to avoid each other when the distance is two metres), I fear that a one-metre rule will make people behave as though everything is normal and will make no efforts to avoid each other. When Meg and I entered the various shops today, we ensured that we were wearing our masks and will continue to do so every time we enter a shop or a confined space from now on. But on a more positive note, our chiropodist has now texted us to say that she has received government advice that she can visit us as she will be equipped with full PPE. We will accept but ask to be treated outside if the weather is fine which I think it will be for the day or so. What is perhaps not fully appreciated is the issue of time – if you pass someone in the street even at a distance of 1 metre then the chances of exposure to the virus are pretty small but increase rapidly if you were to stand still and have a conversation for 10 minutes or so…

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Sunday, 21st June, 2020 [Day 97]

It is amazing to think that today (or perhaps yesterday!) was the year’s longest day and that we now start the long slow countdown to winter as the days shorten little by little. This year seems to have absolutely flown by for us but I am sure that for others the enforced lockdown must have seemed indeterminable. I decided that I would repeat the pattern that I set myself last week not to have a lie-in as one might be tempted to do on a Sunday but to get up and go and collect my copy of the Sunday newspapers before breakfast and the Andrew Marr show. It was the most delightful morning to do this as the sky was blue, the temperature was pleasantly cool at that hour of the morning and the world seemed to be populated only by joggers. Also, as I was on my own, I re-established the pattern that I used to employ when I made these walks as a solo trip each morning. I have an exceedingly old iPhone (iPhone 4, introduced in 2010) which I now use only as a music player. The quality of the reproduction is superb still (for my ears) and somehow in the past, I managed to download over 200 tracks onto it (mainly of Bach and Mozart). I have it on ‘airplane‘ mode to conserve the battery life and I find it an incredibly useful bit of kit which is compact and more useful to me like this than the few pounds I could get for it if I ever tried to sell it (a quick Google search shows it might be worth £30.00 but I did find one website that would offer me 50p for it!) Meg and I were intrigued when we got into a conversation in the park today with a young couple with a dog and we wondered what was their breed of dog (sort of pointer looking but very smooth haired). Apparently, it was a German breed called a Weimaraner and another quick Google search shows that they cost around £1500! I must say we had never seen a dog quite like it but we do see quite an assortment of dogs of every shape and size (but the Jack Russell seems to be one of the most popular dogs here in Bromsgrove)

After lunch, I needed to help my daughter-in-law to plant out some sunflowers. Actually. my part in all of this was only to bore some drain holes in the bottom of two rectangular plant pots we had bought in readiness and haul some bags of compost and topsoil over. Then I proceeded to do my ‘weekly’ grass cutting although this had been a bit delayed because of the recent rains. A few days earlier, I had lovingly restored an old horseshoe to a beautiful old silver colour which, on the spur of the moment, I gave away to a good friend on the occasion of her 50th birthday and which is now occupying pride of place in the log cabin she uses as a sort of studio/escape den. I thought I would go onto eBay again and I have just purchased five more used horseshoes (all the way from Yorkshire!) for little more than the cost of the postage. I am going to restore these using my well-established techniques (immersion in white vinegar for a day, scrubbing with a wire brush and then a final finishing off with a Brillo pad and some Duraglit. I have two horseshoes in soak at the moment and  I gave them a preliminary look to see if the vinegar had worked its magic ( it had!) If the weather is fine tomorrow, I will complete the restoration task and then proceed with the following three (which I am minded to restore and then give away to friends)

The coronavirus news from Germany tonight is very disturbing. They calculate their ‘R’ rate as 2.88 (i.e. each infected person infects nearly three more). In an abattoir, they tested 1000 workers and two-thirds of them tested positive. This must be a warning as to what might happen if you relax a lockdown too soon!

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Saturday, 20th June, 2020 [Day 96]

Well, there was certainly a pronounced ‘end-of-lockdown’ feeling in the air this morning as we made our normal trip to the park. It seemed to be teeming with children on their scooters (and why not?) but much busier than even a normal Saturday of late. We chatted with two lots of friends on the way down this morning and we were speculating how long it would be before the churches were open again. Apparently, our local parish priest is making the best of a bad job and is getting the church decorated whilst there is no congregation (but apparently, this has its difficulties in a listed building) This puts me in mind of a postcard which an artist friend of mine once showed me (or even described to me – I cannot now remember which) It showed Michaelangelo putting the finishing touches to his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel whilst the then Pope was remarking to him ‘You really shouldn’t have bothered – all I wanted was a blue sky and a few stars!’ However, this story is quite interesting because when I did a quick Google search I discovered that ‘when Michelangelo began to work on the frescoes for Pope Julius II in 1508, he was replacing a blue ceiling dotted with stars.’ I suppose that the cartoonist who had drawn the joke postcard realised that – but who knows!  The morning actually turned out to be quite showery and we did get caught in a light shower on the way home – fortunately, it was of the ‘April’ variety which was quite light and transient rather than the ‘June downburst’ variety. After lunch, I made to my way to my favourite hardware store to buy some pieces of timber so that I can start to construct my little framework to raise up my flower pots to a level where I can appreciate their effect when I look out of my study window. I can see that quite a lot of creosoting needs to take place but I will wait a few days until the weather warms up again which I believe it will in the next day or so.

It is now almost a foregone conclusion that the government will shortly reduce the 2-metres social distancing rule down to 1 metre. I must feel, I have a degree of ambivalence about this. One the one hand, having come this far, why put everything at risk for the sake of, let us say, another month? Of course, there is the argument that backbench MP’s have been pressing pon the government that for many businesses particularly in the hospitality area, the difference between 2 metres and 1 metre is absolutely critical as businesses will never be profitable if a 2-metre rule is maintained but they might just about be viable if the distance is reduced to one metre. This argument I understand but it appears to be made for absolutely economic reasons with no real concern about the health of the population or the possibility of a second wave of the virus (actually the ‘R’ rate in Germany has just risen to 1.7 which is truly frightening and shows what too early a lockdown may lead to) On the other hand, the Office of National Statistics has published some projections that argues that if we have a recession followed by no recovery for a year or so (the so-called ‘L’ shaped recession) there may well be en excess of 12,000 deaths a year which are recession-induced. This figure is about 20% of the present 60,000 odd deaths attributable to the virus and five years of this would mean that as many die in the recession-induced by the lockdown as are killed by the actual virus itself. So what to do for the best – I suppose, no one really knows!


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