Today dawned as the last day of the year of 2021 and I an sure that quite a few of the population will be saying ‘Good riddance’ and will be looking forwrd to the New Year. Meg and I were a little delayed in our walk this morning because we got to bed a little late last night and allowed ourselves a little lie-in this morning. But upon reading my emails, the bank that looks after our community affairs told me that my new password had been approved. But I still needed to make a voice contact with the Bank so that they could send me a special onetime password with which to activate the little ID device that the Bank supplies for us. This had to be set up with its own pin and was then operated to provide a special code which then had to be fed into the Bank’s website. Eventually, though, I was successful but the palaver in getting access to one’s own account has to be seen to be believed. The weather was continuing its mild spell but we took the car down to the newsagents where we shared thoughts about the forthcoming New Year. I am reminded what was said to one of our neighbours as we were walking down for our Pilates session. She met some old friends who she had not seen for several months and when the ritual enquiries were made of each other’s health, they replied ‘We’re still above the ground‘ – and I think this is quite a good motto to adopt. So the newsagent and I congratulated each other with the sentiment that we were at least ‘still above the ground’ as we looked forward to 2022. Once we had picked up our newspaper, we made our way to the park where our University of Birmingham friend happened to be waiting for us. Then the sun broke through and we had several moments of glorious sunshine as the clouds had rolled away. In time, nearly all of the regulars turned up including our veteran octogenerian trekker, a lady in a wheelchair who often joins us and several other of the faithful regulars. There is a particular feeling about both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve when most of the people one meets seem to be full of bonhomie and there is a general feeling that everyone wishes to be friendly. So we had several entertaining chats and wished each well for the New Year with the indication that we might just meet each other in the park tomorrow anyway. After we had returned home, we made ourselves a quick meal of risotto. We then started to watch some Christmas Eve daytime films but the promised comedy did not live up to expectations so we settled down to a quiet read. Then I did a flick up the TV channels to see if I could discover anything and ineed, on the Drama channel, we discovered that they were broadcasting the whole ‘box set’ (series of episodes strung together) of Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”. This was half way through by the time we discovered it but nonetheless, although we had seen this particular film version before, the whole film was well worth watching through to its conclusion. In the novel itself which I just happened to re-read only a few years ago, the principal male character and husband of Tess walks up ‘West Hill’ outside Winchester and has a view overlooking the prison where his wife has just been hanged. The final scene of the novel is set in a location in which King Alfred’s College, Winchester is only a stone throw’s away so upon reading the novel, one is left with a real sense of a link with the novel as Hardy incorporated many geographical elements of the Wessex countryside into his novels.
A little bit of COVID news has been released to puncture any updue optimisnm that we may feel. A study by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed the reduced effect of vaccines as Omicron spreads – with even a double-dose of AstraZeneca providing no effect against symptomatic infection from the variant from 20 weeks after the second jab. This means that without the booster jab, people may feel that have been protected but they may be living in a fool’s paradise. Even after a booster jab, natural immunity may decline over the weeks so although the population might thnk of itself as well protected by vaccines, this is only true if they are fairly recent. Perhaps we might start to get some news of a 4th jab (second booster?) some time in the next few weeks but in the meantime a certain complacency night have crept in. On a slightly more positive note, boosters did all still offer good protection against hospitalisation, according to the UKHSA analysis, rising to an 81% reduction in risk after a third jab. The study also showed that the risk of hospitalisation from the now-dominant Omicron variant was about one-third of that of Delta.