20 September 2020

It’s been a good week – the weather has been very kind. The sun has shone and the temperature has been very acceptable. This may or may not be the Indian Summer I was hoping for – we’ll have to wait and see.

We’ve been out for some great bike rides and walks in the sunshine which is always a pleasure, especially when the weather is so agreeable.

And, speaking of bike rides, I had an e-mail from Nick in the week to say that he had finally clocked up enough mileage to complete the virtual Lands’ End to John o’ Groats journey we embarked upon at the beginning of lockdown.

Nick finishes the Lands’ End to John o’ Groats virtual bike ride

Although the sign says the distance is 874 miles, that’s “as the crow flies.” The actual distance on our virtual expedition is 979. Well done Nick!

I am some little ways behind, still on Stage 6 about half way between Carlisle and Edinburgh with about 300 miles to go.

I was admonished by the deputy editor – I misspoke in identifying the bird in last week’s edition as a sparrow hawk. I have to confess, at the time I felt it probably wasn’t right. Ms Playchute advises me that it was/is one of our resident Red Kites. I was confused because the easiest way to identify the Red Kites (who generally glide hypnotically at a higher altitude than the one in the photo) have a V-shaped tail. The photo does not. Penelope informs me that this is merely because of the angle at the time I took the photo.

I have indeed seen a Sparrow Hawk chasing smaller birds in our garden on a couple of occasions. On both occasions the Sparrow Hawk was flying at about 3,000 miles per hour. So I did think this languidly gliding bird was probably not a Sparrow Hawk but, as we all know, I am easily confused.

Back in the day, whenever I mowed the lawn, I had to spend five or ten minutes scouring the grass, bucket and plastic bag in hand, trying to spot and remove all the “presents” our various dogs had left for me. Naturally, I would miss some and could only hope that I would spot them before I ran over them with the mower spraying the remants all over the garden and my lower legs and shoes. When Molly died soon after we moved to Moreton Pinkney I imagined those days were behind me, at least until/if we acquired a new canine companion.

Ha! Instead of dog poo, our back garden is now littered with an abundance of fox poo every night. I don’t know how or why the local fox population has decided that our lawn should be the neighbourhood public convenience but every night they gather, gorge themselves on the fallen fruit, and shit all over the lawns.

Last week’s “You Couldn’t Make It Up” section referred to the announcement by the PM that he was proposing to break international law by overriding a section of the EU Withdrawal Agreement which deals with the tricky issue of Northern Ireland. As it happens, I ran across a great article in The Atlantic which explains the difficulties in trying to resolve this issue, if you are interested.

Since the Brexit referendum, the country has somehow contrived to negotiate an economic border within its own territory and the possible loss of all preferential trading rights with its largest market. For a long time, most observers had taken for granted that Britain would end up paying one of these prices for Brexit—but not both. The cherry on top of this diplomatic-failure sundae is that the U.K. will also have to pay billions of euros for the privilege of divorcing the EU.


Tom McTague, The Atlantic – September 15, 2020

This week the “You Couldn’t Make It Up” department has been extremely busy. Actually, not. As I’ve said before, this stuff writes itself but there were so many WTF moments this week that it was hard to narrow the selection down to only one or two.

We are now in what seems to be a second surge of Covid-19. Several large metropolitan areas have been locked down again and the numbers of those testing positive is approaching the levels we saw back in April and May. Of course, a large part of that is due to there being considerably more testing – too bad the turn-around time for results and the contact tracing are still so woefully inadequate.

As of last Friday, 90% of tests were failing to hit the 24-hour turnaround target. Some tests are taking more than two weeks which is the period of time folks are advised to self-isolate if they test positive. It also means that contact tracers are taking up to two weeks to contact friends, relatives and workmates of people diagnosed with Covid-19 – the entire length of the self-isolation period. Yet the person in charge of the system “refutes” that the system is failing:

“I don’t think anybody was expecting, to see the real sizable increase in demand [for tests] that we’ve seen over the last few weeks.”

Dido Harding, Head of Test and Trace

Yep, you could not make that up. Children go back to school, students go back to university, the number of cases is surging all across Europe but somehow the UK is going to be immune? I don’t think so. Perhaps I should apply for her job.

And, following on from the abysmal failure of the Test & Trace system, this time the headline says it all:

Coronavirus Test Centre In Kent Closed Because Government Needs Land For Brexit

Yep. As the pandemic surges and the “world-beating” test and trace system flounders, the government is going to close a Covid testing centre in Kent to make way for a massive lorry park in anticipation of the customs chaos which will ensue once the UK crashes out of the EU at the end of the year. Nope, you could not make it up.

And finally this week, the latest Government guidance can be summed up by the “Rule of 6.” We are now limited to meeting up, indoors or outdoors, with no more than six people. Very simple, very straight-forward. But, if one had any questions about where this government’s priorities lie, there is an exception – one can go shooting with groups up to 30. So, if you are a rich landowner with acres of land you can organise a “shooting” party with 29 of your mates and do what the f**k you like.

“Looks like my youngest is going grouse shooting with his friends for his third birthday. Thanks Tories!”

Finally, finally – this from Gary Larson tickled my fancy:

And finally, finally, finally – how about those sunflowers?

And finally, finally, finally, finally, Ava sent this lovely photo of Jessie arriving home from school one day this week. So, why not?

So far she’s loving it!

Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, keep isolating as much as you can, wear a facemask when you go out and keep your distance. And keep safe.

Lots of love to you all,

Greg

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