11 October 2020

It’s been a week of mixed (weather) fortunes – lots of rain and high winds with the occasional glimpse of some sunshine. The weather folk tend to describe it as “scattered clouds.” I think it might more accurately be described as scattered sunshine, but what do I know?

I realised that I neglected to inflict upon you the details of two walks on which Penelope dragged me along, kicking and screaming, last week. One was a new (to us) walk up and across the fields by Canons Ashby, the second was a walk along Brook Street and out along the track beyond. On both occasions the sky was dark and grey and it was, intermittently, sheeting it down with rain. The fields were sodden, the mud was claggy and (thankfully as it turns out) part of the way was blocked by floods. My idea of a great bit of exercise!

To make matters worse, on the “new” walk we took a wrong turn, leaving the public footpath, and had to clamber over a locked field gate to get back on our route. Unfortunately, this occurred just as the farmer was approaching from the other direction with two very excitable dogs. “Oops! Looks like we went wrong,” we shouted at him before he could draw a bead with his shotgun. We scampered off down the road to Canons Ashby as fast as our tired little legs could carry us.

One thing I noticed on the walk which I had not seen before – built into the wall along Canons Ashby house there is a “dovecote” of sorts. Generally, these are at the top of buildings or, indeed, they are their own building. Funny how neither Pen nor I had ever noticed this before – we cycle past here all the time but don’t often walk along this side of the house. Did you know that the expression “pigeon hole” comes from the use of dovecotes? I didn’t but it’s obvious when you think about it.

I ran across a lovely article in the Guardian about a number of “alternative” world champions. These include Mike Cresswell, 17-times lawn-mower racing world champion, Sally Redman-Davies, pea shooting world champion, 2018 and 2019 and Danielle Sidebottom, coal-carrying world champion, 2018 and 2019. I am surprised our friend Dave Walton hasn’t entered the Crazy Golf World Championships.

From this week’s You Couldn’t Make It Up department.

And honestly, you really could not make this up. On Monday the government announced that there had been a small technical glitch in their “world-beating™” (© UK Government) Track and Trace system. A number of positive cases had gone unrecorded because the IT system recording the data had a slight flaw. (Notice that it was the system that had a flaw, not the humans programming and running the system).

These unreported cases mean that the number of positive cases went through the roof over the weekend. It had been slowly climbing and was hovering about 7,000 new cases each day. On Sunday there were 23,000 new cases reported! All due to a “computer error.” This means that those 23,000 may or may not have been told they needed to self-isolate and it certainly means that their contacts were not traced. The estimates are that up to 50,000 people were exposed to Covid and were happily walking around the country spreading it further.

No, you could not make it up but it gets better.

Later on Monday morning we had the explanation – the “world-beating” track and trace system is being run on Excel rather than a proper database program. Not only that, but it’s being run on an outdated version of Excel and the size of the file had exceeded its limit. No, I am not making this up.

My goodness. Any half competent GCSE Computer Studies student would know that you don’t build a complex database with Excel but apparently the folks being paid millions to run the Track and Trace system don’t.

Next they’ll tell us it’s run on Windows 95 and they manually back it up on floppy disks each night.

The London Economic, 5 October 2020

There’s more on the splendid preparations the government is making to ensure a seamless exit to the EU at the end of the year. We’ve had the announcements that the UK will “take back control” of its borders by erecting new, internal, ones between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and between the county of Kent and the rest of the UK.

That clearly is not enough. So, we had the announcement this week that the government is putting up to ten lorry parks and customs and excise posts all over the UK to take back even further control and avoid chaos at the ports.

Finally, one area where the government is taking proactive action is in developing systems to assist those who have lost their jobs due to Covid to find new ones. The government announced a new online system where folks can answer a series of questions and receive suggestions for some exciting new job opportunities. Unfortunately, the system seems to suggest a limited number of jobs including some of which are increasingly disappearing. One person reported that the system suggested she might consider applying to become a lock keeper or an airline pilot. Yep, lots of airlines looking for pilots just at the moment. It seems that there must be a shortage of boxers as well and, were I looking for new employment opportunities at the moment, that’s one of the occupations the system suggested for me.

We’re off tomorrow for a few days in Dorset. The weather looks to be tolerable and we are really looking forward to getting away for a few days. We’ll see if we get to spend the whole four days there – there seems to be a good chance that the government will need to announce enhanced Covid lockdowns in which case we might need to depart early in order to get home before the lockdown commences. Clearly, we would not want to be in the position of having to drive to Barnard’s Castle to test our eyesight.

And finally, finally – Happy Birthday to our lovely daughter-in-law and mother of Max, Brex-Anna last Friday.

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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