10 January 2021

Sorry, but you could not make it up.

And, for once I am not talking about the egregious incompetence of our Prime Minister’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, nor even the shambolic misadventure that is Brexit and the catalogue of unintended consequences which are now becoming evident. Although there was more content than I could possibly make use of this week in both those categories, this week’s ultimate WTF moment was clearly Wednesday’s storming of Congress by Trump’s militia.

Never in my wildest and most dystopian nightmare could I have ever imagined the scenes we witnessed on Wednesday. As many commentators have pointed out, had these events played out just about anywhere else in the world we would have rightly regarded that country as a failed state.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s, of course, and took part in a number of protests. Remember, the Vietnam War was raging and there were considerable numbers of people who took to the streets. Some of those protests turned violent to be sure – I well remember being tear gassed in New Haven – and there were some who used pretty incendiary language.

Some of the loonier radicals – the SDS and the Weathermen – occupied and vandalised university buildings and some did, in fact, resort to more extreme forms of violence. Three members of the Weathermen died when one of the bombs they were making blew up in New York city in March 1970.

But, I don’t recollect the hundreds of thousands who turned up in Washington to protest against the war attempting to storm Congress. Let alone being encouraged to do so by the President.

You simply could not make it up.

So, leaving all that excitement aside, we’ve had a fairly decent week. It’s been cold, cold, cold and we’ve had a couple of smatterings of snow. Nothing, however, to inconvenience us and nothing compared to those of my siblings who live in sub-Arctic climes.

Penelope’s Avian Diner is open for business as I think I wrote last time. I wish I had more time to watch the birds – it’s fascinating to see the way in which they all, more or less, get along with each other and generally wait their turns. The bigger birds sit on the ground and wait for the smaller birds to shake loose some seed although the jackdaws do attempt to get straight to the source from time to time. The wood pigeons, blimps that they are, wander around the dining area like jumbo jets taxiing around the airport; the jackdaws are much more fidgety and frequently all take off at the merest breath of a breeze. The smaller birds generally sit in the tree and wait their turn at the feeding station although in the cold, cold mornings they frequently gather on the ground as well, picking clean the fallen grain.

As it happens, we also had a number of fallen apples which, for some reason, got left outside. These the blackbirds have found much to their liking and they’re regularly to be seen pecking away. We also clearly have had a regular nocturnal visitor (or seven) who came every night to the bucket of apples on the utility room doorstep until we moved them further up the garden. I am guessing it’s the resident squirrel(s) or rats to judge by the pile of poo deposited on the doorstep. Hence the reason for moving the apples further up the garden. In any event, there are a couple of dozen fallen apples in the orchard which no doubt have been popular with the squirrels, rats and moles which occupy that part of the estate.

And so we come to our own You Could Not Make It Up selection this week and most importantly, the Prime Minister’s egregious ditheringly indecisive approach to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Remember, before Christmas he said that folks could happily mingle for five days over Christmas before reducing that to one day at the eleventh hour, after most folks had already made their Christmas plans and bought their food. Then, with the new variant of the virus spreading out of control he initially said that further restrictions “might” be necessary but that schools would definitely reopen after the Christmas break. He even repeated this on the Andrew Marr show last Sunday morning. (For those of you who don’t know the Marr show, it’s one of the go-to political interview programmes, rather like Meet the Press in the States, I guess). Schools would definitely open the following day and we “might” need to bring in more restrictions.

So, on Monday schools opened and all those children who had mingled with their cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles over Christmas came together and mingled enthusiastically with each other.

Then, on Monday evening he announced a national lockdown and the closure of all schools.


Marina Hyde had an excellent article in the Guardian which similarly questioned the wisdom of sending kids back to school for one day. Honestly, if you were trying to ensure that the virus continued to spread at an alarmingly accelerating rate that’s probably exactly what you would do. Give people the reassurance that they could spend Christmas with their loved ones, and then let all the school children come together to mix all their germs and take them home again before announcing a third national lockdown.

Our prime minister’s spirit animal is in fact a headless chicken. Then again, the Guinness World Records show that in 1940s Colorado, one farmer decapitated a chicken, and the headless creature nonetheless survived and walked around for a further 18 months. So a year into his handling of the pandemic, there’s everything for Boris Johnson to play for.

Marina Hyde

One home-schooler hard at work this week:

And John Crace had another marvellous article which outlines Boris’s strategy for dealing with the pandemic.

After all, Boris still needs to believe that saying everything will be OK will somehow make it so. His only goal is to make it through to the end of each day unscathed having maintained the veneer of acting as if he was in charge and appearing to know what he was doing. Because even he must know it will take a miracle to deliver on his latest promises. But that’s a problem for six weeks’ time. And in Boris World tomorrow never comes.

John Crace

This from Private Eye:

So, we are in our third national lockdown, back to square one because Boris cannot bring himself to do the right thing in time. SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, had recommended in mid-December that schools should not go back in January. Two weeks later Boris encourages everyone to send their children back to school – for one day.

At least the lockdown gives us something to do – Penelope is back providing the Medicine Delivery Service from our local GP surgery. Something to look forward to on Tuesdays and Thursdays!

And so to Brexit where, one week in to our new improved relationship with the world, things are increasingly beginning to unravel. The free trade agreement hailed by Boris turns out to be tariff-free trade only. Amazingly, Boris apparently forgot to mention that goods sent to the EU would now be subject to Customs and Import duties. So much so that various well-known British firms (John Lewis, Fortnum & Masons, et. al.) have concluded that it’s not worth exporting to Europe any more. (And remember, the EU was our largest trading partner by far). But never mind, we’ve taken back control.

And, in the ultimate irony, the Leave EU campaign has moved its web site domain from the UK to Ireland – so it can remain in the EU! Now you really could not make that up!

Finally, this link to the best photographs of 2020 came from our favourite diplomat, Jordan Ryan. Whenever he was able to visit in the past we would go up to town and perhaps see a show but also visit an exhibition or two. One of our favourites was always the annual National Wildlife Photography competition at the National History Museum.

Perhaps by the end of this year we’ll be able to do that again.

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,


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