27 December 2020

What a great week – what are the chances of that? We had Garden Club organised and sanctioned socially-distanced Christmas frivolities, we celebrated a magnificent birthday with a local old geezer, enjoyed an outing to some Christmas lights and had as merry a Christmas as possible under the present circumstances. Hope yours was similarly as enjoyable as it might be in the current nightmare.

And, we have a Brexit Deal with our evil enemies in the European Union – hooray!

On Saturday of last week the Moreton Pinkney Garden Club organised some Christmas festivities up by the parish church. In each of the years we’ve lived in the village there has always been a Christmas Eve gathering on the Upper Green. Christmas carols, mulled wine and mince pies and a visit from Father Christmas. This year’s gathering was cancelled so the Garden Club decided to organise a little something as an alternative. The path to the church was festooned with bright red Chinese lanterns (I wonder where those came from?) and the trees along the path were “decorated” with small bags of chocolate coins which the kids could grab as they came up the path. There was mulled wine for the adults (I did have to carry out numerous & extensive “quality control” samplings), some socially distanced carol singers amongst the gravestones and an appearance by Father Christmas himself. Fortunately, the weather stayed dry and I guess everyone enjoyed themselves.

As it happened, the Garden Club festivities also provided Penelope and me with the opportunity to witness the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. The weather forecast for 21 December, when the conjunction was due to be at its closest, was for cloudy, overcast skies and buckets of rain. Thankfully, the weather on Saturday evening was not too bad – at least the skies were clear and I was able to locate the conjunction with little difficulty. It was very low in the sky but very bright – thankfully, the Sky View app on my iPhone confirmed my identification. Sadly, the photos I was able to take were, not to put too fine a point on it, pants. So, you’ll have to make do with these instead.

Tuesday, of course, brought my “lock-down” birthday which was, in spite of the restrictions, a great success. I had a video of Max singing “Happy Birthday”, two drive-bys and two more renditions of Happy Birthday, the delivery of some birthday and Christmas presents and a magnificent birthday meal prepared by our resident chef.

A great day in spite of all the craziness.

Still, next year I’d quite like to go back to “normal” please.

On Christmas Eve we went across to join Nick, Lucy and Annabelle for a socially-distanced wander around the magnificent lights and decorations at Warwick Castle. It was bitterly cold but at least it was dry and the lights were sparkling.

Our Christmas Day was very sedate and one might almost say quiet and uneventful. Of course, that’s how it was for me. Ms Playchute had a few other things on her plate making sure that there was plenty on my plate later in the day. And what a plate-ful it was! King prawn cakes with a lime chili sauce, roast beast, roast potatoes, broccoli and a drift of pigs-in-blankets as far as the eye could see. Delicious! I am assured that Ms Playchute’s salmon en croûte was similarly delicious.

And so to the You Could Not Make It Up department.

Quite literally at the eleventh hour Boris finally did what his scientists had been begging him to do for about ten days – cancel Christmas. Well, not quite but wringing another U-turn out of him was an extraordinary challenge. Of course, he lies constantly so his assertion that he had no intention of altering his Christmas relaxation was taken by everyone to indicate that he would soon be performing a U-turn. Which duly came last Friday.

Andrew Rawnsley had a good article in the Guardian:

The pandemic has tested the mettle of leaders around the planet, but among the mature democracies few were as singularly ill-equipped to handle a crisis of this nature and magnitude as Britain’s prime minister. He has looked good only when benchmarked against Donald Trump.

Boris was apparently persuaded to “cancel” Christmas at the 11th hour because he was confronted by his scientists with discouraging news about the new variant Coronavirus which is raging across the UK at the moment. It seems this new variant has been known about since October and spreads up to 70% more rapidly. So, in this context Boris ignored what the scientists have been telling him for up to two months.

Once news of the new variant came out and the PM announced his revised restrictions for Christmas, France, Belgium and a couple of other European states immediately imposed a blockade – no Brits (nor any of the European truckers stuck on the “wrong” side of the channel) were allowed to cross the channel due to the surge in the new variant Coronavirus.

As someone on Twitter said:

We’ve just spent 5 years at war with each other, devalued the £ by 20%, savaged our economy, quit the world’s largest free trade zone, created a mountain of red tape and flushed £200 billion down the drain to ‘control our borders.’ 6 EU states just did it in 24 hours with a press release.

And the UK is now openly being referred to as “Plague Island.”

The Netherlands’ NRC Handelsblad said that no one in the UK would have a normal Christmas:

not even a tiny bit of one. The ports are closed; London’s stations witnessed a veritable exodus; tens of kilometres of trucks are stranded on the country’s motorways; ministers are publicly saying the virus is out of control.

And in the meantime, it said, there is “still no deal on future trade with the EU … If governing is about forward thinking, Johnson has failed. From ‘saving Christmas’ to a hard lockdown and looming shortages of fruit and vegetables – how can it all have gone so wrong for Britain?”

The Sydney Morning Herald had a brutal answer. Britain’s response to the pandemic had been “mired in inaction, plagued by failures of the state to mobilise and Johnson’s own destructive habit of promising false dawns simply because he cannot stand to be the bearer of bad news,” it said.

Yep, that sounds about right.

I know he’s a muppet, a bellend and an inveterate liar but do you think it was deliberate for the Daily Mirror to illustrate their “Mutant virus” article with a photo of Boris?And, to add to our Christmas cheer, we finally have a Brexit agreement!

Surprisingly, it’s not quite as good as the arrangement we used to have – free trade, free travel – but I guess most folks reckon a “deal” is better than no deal and all the chaos that would have brought about.

It was interesting watching the contrast between the way in which the EU announced the deal and the way in which it was heralded by the Prime Minister. The EU referred to it as a “fair deal” for both sides. The first announcement made by the UK government was to claim that we had “won” 43% of the negotiating points and the EU won only 17%, the rest involving compromises on both sides.

Given that the deal is reckoned to cost the UK about 3% of its GDP one can understand why Boris was keen to claim “victory.” He even had the audacity to announce that the deal delivered everything he had promised it would. The collective guffaws of sardonic laughter were heard all over the country. He even lies about his lies.

In reality, this deal delivers nothing that was promised. The BBC had a good digest which summed up the agreement in five main points:

  • More barriers, more red tape
  • An end to frictionless trade between the UK and its largest trading partner, creating extra costs for businesses and consumers
  • Government promises that the UK would have ‘exactly the same benefits’ as it had inside the EU have not been delivered
  • The creation of an internal border between the UK and Northern Ireland, (in spite of Boris promising there would be no such thing)
  • The UK will lose full access to a series of EU databases which police forces use on a constant basis – to check on things such as criminal records, fingerprints and lists of wanted or missing people.

Yep, sounds like a great deal.

And, now that the deal has been agreed, are the chickens finally coming home to roost? Brexiteers have been banging on for years about how immigrants have “flooded” the country stealing our jobs, our homes and ripping off the NHS.

Sadly, with or without Brexit those immigrants are still needed both in the NHS and to pick seasonal crops. So, the government very quietly announced an extension to the migrant workers’ scheme – next year 30,000 immigrants will be allowed into the UK to pick crops, more than three times the previous number.

Yes, we now have “control” of our own borders – I think most of the looney Brexiteers imagined that would mean fewer immigrants, not more!

And finally, a friend shared this on Facebook.

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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