Blog Archive

Monday, June 1, 2020

1st June - My May Daily Blog

Friday May 1st - LD 39

At 8am this morning, our street gathered outside and sang 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' led my one of my neighbours on her violin.

May 1st sing-song 'Somewhere Over The rainbow'

It was the first time since the war that the traditional May Day service at the top of Magdalen College chapel didn't take place with the thousands of celebrants partying in the High Street. Instead, they released a virtual service on their Facebook page, which I have to say is quite beautiful:

I attended the live performance once, back in 2004. In addition to the traditional choir singing in May Day at the top of the tower, we were also celebrating and welcoming eight new countries to the EU: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Balloons were released to celebrate the new EU member states
I was one of several thousand people crowding the High Street and Magdalen Bridge at 6am, 16 years ago today. The EU and Crowds. How things have changed. Happier times.

Thousands of people in The High, who will shortly be off to breakfast in the City's pubs and Cafés

Saturday May 2nd - LD 40

Releasing the lockdown

New word to add to my vocabulary list. Or at least there should be. But I don't know what the English word is for 'Le De-confinement'. I have heard Andrew Marr referring to 'the great unlocking' and people are talking extensively about the 'end of lockdown' but surely we need a single word for something so vital and important?

Un-lockdown, de-lockdown, de-confinement; any other suggestions?

R Value

Another new word for my covid-19 pandemic dictionary is the R value.  R0, or R nought, refers to the average number of people that one infected person can expect to pass the coronavirus on to. For example, if a virus has an R0 of three, it means that every sick person will pass the disease on to three other people if no containment measures are introduced.

Sunday May 3rd - LD 41

At last! The British government is talking about using a contact tracing app, trialling it in the Isle of Wight, and recruiting a team of 18,000 contact tracers. At last some good activity on the horizon!!

Apparently NHSX have rejected the Google/Apple software in favour of their own version which runs on a central server and can be matched to central NHS databases. The Apple/Google version runs locally for improved security.

I really hope they get this right as it is soooo important, underpinned by a great testing regime and sensible precautions in all public places.

Monday May 4th - LD 42

Increasing press speculation on how the un-lockdown is going to work and how it may be phased over the next few months. Everyone agrees that travel and entertainment sectors will be released last.

"Only" about 300 new deaths in the last 24 hours in UK and in France.

Tuesday May 5th - LD 43

Today's headlines in the South China Morning Post

Worldwide covid-19 deaths surpass 250,000. And it is most certainly not over yet. It's probably only half way through.

But inevitably after 40+ days locked away, talk shifts to back to work. How can we use public transport and respect the physical distancing rules (we can't), can we sit in an office together, and so on. Sports coverage is no longer about cancelled events but more about re-starting events such as golf in the USA and horse racing at Longchamp.

Along side this are widespread reports on big breaches of physical distancing rules. On the beaches, in the shops, in more and more places.

And more shocking news: Half the UK adult population is now being paid by the government. Wow, that's going to take us decades to pay back in tax!!

It's depressing me to constantly note how much better Asian countries (including NZ and Australia) have dealt with this pandemic than the traditional Western countries. As a result, their economies will be harmed far less and this will hasten the economic shift from West to East.

Wednesday May 6th - LD 44

Why am I dis-satisfied with the UK's handling of the pandemic?

Bad Job

1. Warnings over the last 5 years of a likely pandemic from the scientific community and Bill Gates were largely ignored. Opportunities to prepare were wasted. Other countries did prepare.

2. Observing the pandemic grow in China and spread to neighbouring countries did not trigger alerts over here or deflect from Brexit planning.

3. Plans were drawn up to protect the NHS and create extra capacity (Nightingale hospitals) along with huge publicity campaigns to protect and promote the NHS. It looks like Care Homes, full of elderly people mostly with underlying health conditions and relatives going in and out all the time were forgotten. That's a bit like designing a new car and forgetting it needed wheels.

4. Planning for PPE was left far too late by which point global supplies were short and at a premium. Recommendations to stock pile PPE (which would have been relatively cheap) in advance of any potential pandemic were ignored. Why didn't we buy loads of PPE in January when the virus started to spread?

5. The UK lockdown was put in place on March 24th which was at least two weeks too late and probably explains the higher number of deaths here. Why on earth did our government think that this country with London, a major international centre, at its heart could start placing restrictions later than its neighbours? Why is the UK different? It isn't. Italy started their lockdown on March the 9th - and it was abundantly clear they left that too late. Remember all the shocking pictures of overflowing hospitals and cemeteries? And what did we do as a result? Nothing. We waited another another two weeks! How shocking is that? Those were the two weeks in which the virus was spreading most prolifically and many of the deaths were triggered then.

6. The UK gave up on contact tracing very early in the pandemic. This is the only way of controlling the virus whilst people can still lead relatively normal lives until a vaccine is created. Only now are they starting this up again, which is good but far too late. Had this been done properly, we could have avoided tens of thousands of deaths and much of the economic destruction being wrought. My understanding is that we didn't have the resources to do it.

7. Only now is the government reluctantly starting to recommend that masks should be worn when people go out in public places to reduce the risk of infection. If you look at other countries that have managed their pandemic far more successfully (e.g. Hong Kong 0.5 deaths per million people, South Korea 5, Czech Republic 24), their people wear face masks. UK death rate stands at 433 deaths per million people and rising.

8. Our borders are still wide open. For example, planes landing at Heathrow, some of which are packed with most seats occupied, discharge their passengers who are free to go where they want without checks. Countries like Australia (4 deaths per million people), New Zealand (4 deaths per million people) and Hong Kong (0.5) have shut their borders to all countries other than a small handful where they judge there is little risk. Only now is UK discussing controls.

Deaths per million people from covid-19 at May 5th 2020

I really struggle to find one aspect of the government's handling of the pandemic which I can say is admirable. They could have supported the NHS and our Care Homes in January and February by planning for sufficient protective equipment to be available alongside an effective contact tracing strategy to limit the spread of the virus before it was too late. Instead, they failed to do much, and have been using the NHS and the nations's affection towards it to get everyone to rally together in a kind of community heroism reminiscent of the last war. All to disguise their lack of planning and early action which could have saved tens of thousands of lives giving us results like Germany or Hong Kong.

Thursday May 7th - LD 45

All talk is of 'easing the lockdown' and the announcement expected from the Prime Minister on Sunday, and how the UK is the worse case in Europe.

Friday May 8th - LD 46

Today is the 75 year anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (1945)

It is a public holiday in the UK (and also in Berlin for the first time ever) and a whole raft of spectacular activities had been planned. They have all been cancelled or substantially reduced to ensure physical distancing rules are observed.

I asked my parents what they remembered of that day when they were both around 10 years old. My mother remembers that her father (my Grandpa Sydney) went out with friends and his piano accordion and played and celebrated in the streets. She doesn't know what songs he played. I now have that piano accordion which I have taken apart and oiled and would like to learn to play it.

My father and his mother (my Grandma Rosie) din't celebrate VE Day as my Grandpa Henry was still in India or Burma, where was serving during the war, at that point preparing an invasion to re-capture Singapore. He had travelled back to London in 1944 to learn from the techniques used at D Day.  Fortunately with the Japanese surrender on VJ Day (August 15th) the invasion of Singapore was no longer required and he eventually made it back home about 6 months later.

This evening at 6pm, we had a street VE Day celebration. For the fist time ever, the entire street was out, raising a glass (enthusiastically) and singing 'We'll meet again (less enthusiastically). We drank a glass of Pol Roger, Winston Churchill's favourite champagne. That seemed appropriate. Wow it was good! And it's surprising just how good company our neighbours can be at 2 metres distance!!

The BBC put together a beautiful piece for VE Day. All of the planed celebrations were cancelled and instead, they assembled a full physically-distanced orchestra in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace and had various great singers such as Catherine Jenkins singing 'We'll Meet Again (Vera Lynn) along with a variety of celebrities talking about their personal memories of VE Day. Most were about 10 years old at the time.  It culminated with the Queen's speech at 9pm - the same time her father, George 6th, made his VE Day speech 75 years earlier. It really does justifies the BBC licence fee.

Saturday May 9th - LD 47

I drove my car a couple of miles to a city centre supermarket (the least crowded one I can find). I had forgotten how much I love driving my car. Little pleasures!

My April Timeline from Google

You can see just how exciting my life is under lockdown, with the highlight being the local supermarket!

Sunday May 10th - LD 48

I now use the Crowdless app to check how busy any shop is before I go out. They have a traffic light system and a percentage to indicate how busy the shop is at that moment. I will only go if it is green. Great app. Perfect for the times!

Monday May 11th - LD 49

Let's have a coffee

Today part of Spain moved into the next phase of their de-confinement plan. My sister-in-law lives in Almeria and went into work today for the first time. She was able to take a coffee break at a local café with her colleagues. Cafés in green zones in Spain are allowed to serve on outside tables which are spaced at twice the normal distance in order to respect the 2 metre rule. Having a coffee has never been so exciting!

More and more deaths

Latest official death tolls from covid-19 are UK 32,065, France 26,643, Spain 26,744, Hong Kong 4. The more significant figures, measured in deaths per million for each of these countries are 472, 408, 572 and 0.5. Experts believe the true numbers could be 50% higher, based on the excess of deaths over the usual number at this time of year. In Western Europe, we have reached a position where one hundred virus deaths a day is considered a good figure. 

Quel désastre.

Tuesday May 12th - LD 50

My weekly food order day. We have three suppliers delivering for the whole street to my garage where everyone collects during the day. Freshly baked bread and cakes, fruit and veg and herbs, meat and eggs. The order values have been declining week on week so I am unsure how much longer this will last. It has been surprising how little meat is being ordered and how many vegetarians we have in the street.

Wednesday May 13th - LD 51

At last a worthy opposition at PMQs

At Prime Minister's Question Time (PMQ) in the House of Commons, Sir Keir Starmer, former barrister, clearly had the upper hand over Boris Johnson, whom he accused of lying to the House in regards to handling of Care Homes. Sir Keir claimed that there were probably 10,000 more deaths in Care Homes in April than the government figures suggest. He also accused the Prime Minster of ditching the daily UK death comparisons with other countries since the UK figures started to look the worst.

Johnson's responses were the usual mixture of waffle and high-level platitudes.

Thursday May 14th - LD 52

I got a call from my estate agent today to say they were as surprised as everyone to have heard that the government is opening up the property market, allowing property viewings and transaction to proceed. I have a viewing booked for tomorrow at my bungalow renovation investment project so let's see if that goes ahead and what happens to valuations in the coming weeks.

Little things

We drove to our favourite city centre park today and went for a one hour walk around it. This is now permitted provided you don't meet more than one person and remain physically distanced at all time (2 metres). It was lovely to walk in that beautiful park again! In fact we can now drive anywhere in England to exercise or to meet with that one person outdoors.

My father has just messaged me to say they have put their house on the market so it's okay to come and visit now!! (A joke).

Friday May 15th - LD 53

I made a WhatsApp video call to my mother who, for the first time, was able to answer it unaided. She was very excited! She said she always pushes the button too hard or the wrong way or whatever.

Today, two of the ten most read stories on BBC News were not about Coronavirus.

Saturday May 16th - LD 54

We went to visit family for the first time in over 54 days. Our youngest son in Southwark and my parents and my niece in North London. It normally takes 2.5 hours to drive to Southwark; today it took 1.5 hours. We respected the 2m physical distancing at all times, wore masks and sanitised our hands far more times than I can remember.

The Thames at The Angel, Bermondsey

It felt really great to see them even if we couldn't hug; still far better than a Zoom or a WhatsApp video call.

Sunday May 17th - LD 55

Should schools open from June 1st?

One of the biggest debates going on at the moment is whether primary schools should open on June 1st. The government says Yes, with class sizes up to 15 and physical distancing in classrooms. The Unions seem to be opposed.

I heard on Andrew Marr this morning that the 62 schools at NHS hospitals have remained open. Of these, 60 have had no cases of covid-19. The other 2 had it introduced in by other visitors. To me this seems further evidence that schools should gradually be re-opened. The damage done to pupils missing out of their education is huge and as always will be harming the poorest most. 

More Vocabulary

Last month in my Blog, I included new vocabulary that has emerged during the current crisis. I said that there is no word in English for 'de-confinement'. The most common expression is 'easing' or 'loosening' the lockdown. Perhaps it's a good thing we don't have a word. We switched the lockdown on one evening in March, but switching it off is a long and painful process. It is definitely a gradual easing. We may for many months or perhaps forever remain in a state of partial lockdown.

Monday May 18th - LD 56

Dilesh, our window cleaner came today as he has just started work again after the lockdown. When he finished, he called me on his mobile from the front of my house to say he had finished and will be back in six weeks to do another contactless clean.

One of my tenants contacted me today to say he has lost his job and can no longer afford the rent. He is moving out in five weeks, one year before the end of the agreement. 

Tuesday May 19th - LD 57

Businesses are dying

Luggage brand Antler collapses into administration. There is going to be a very long list of well known (and not so well known) companies disappearing over the coming weeks and months. Apparently Antler had been trading well prior to the lockdown at which point I imagine sales must have come to an abrupt halt, with no real indication of when or even if travel is going to pick up. 

Will the retail experience ever be good again?

As the lockdown eases, we were able to visit a garden centre and our local B&Q today. Both were very quiet and were clearly taking their recent openings and new heath and safety requirements seriously.  We were greeted by staff in both stores at the entrance, provided with a trolley that they disinfected and advised about the physical distancing requirements the one way systems and how the tills operate. Although it was great to get out and see businesses starting to purr back into life, I must say the shopping experience is not great.

We wear masks (there is no doubt in my mind that if most people wore masks, the R rate would fall below 1 within days), we follow a one way system, we focus on a 2 metre separation, and so on. I think I would rather browse online, take my time and checkout safely when I am ready.

Wednesday May 20th - LD 58

I am very impressed with Google. They wrote to me to day to ask if I wanted to 'upgrade' my annual Nest security camera subscription. I have been paying £80 per annum for the service which includes 10 days of video history storage. The 'upgrade' increases this to 30 days and gives a whole host of new features including face recognition. And the cost of the enhanced service? £50 per annum! I also have Nest heating and water control and Nest smoke detector. The services are superb and they integrate and they keep upgrading them for free. Software and design are superb.

My Nest Dashboard

Job Losses

Rolls Royce announces 9,000 job cuts worldwide, one fifth of its workforce.

Thursday May 21st - LD 59

"For the first time ever, the UK sold debt with a negative yield yesterday. The Debt Management Office (DMO) sold just under £4bn worth of 3-year gilts at a yield of -0.003%; i.e investors who hold the bond to maturity will have to pay 0.003% for the privilege." Michael Brown, CaxtonFX.

Does this mean we will be seeing negative interest rates on our savings accounts soon? Probably not, but near zero for sure.

Another clap for carers. That's all good, but I feel we ought to be contributing more than just a 2 minute clap every week.

Friday May 22nd - LD 60

"Coronavirus: UK property sales hit record low in April" BBC News

Talk about stating the bleeding obvious. With all estate agents shut, property transactions mostly on hold, no removals allowed, how on earth could there have been many property sales??

We hear today that clothes sales were down in April by 50%. My reaction? That's far better than I expected. With all clothes shops closed for the whole of April, the only way you can buy clothes is online. And with few people going out, the need for new clothes is very low. So 50% seems a very high figure to me.

Clothes sales down 50%, with a far larger fall in suits and ties.

Saturday May 23rd - LD 61

Online Shopping Soars - some stats

At the end of 2006, just under 3 per cent of all retail sales in the UK were done online. In April of this year, it was 30 per cent - though it stood at only 21 per cent before the pandemic began. On a global basis, the numbers are even more striking: online retail sales continue to grow every single year and global e-commerce revenue is expected to hit $6.5 trillion by 2022, compared to $3.5 trillion last year. Wow, that's a doubling in about 4 years, driven in part by the pandemic.

Article in Oxford Mail about a police raid on two houses in Saunders Road, off the Cowley Road. There are 17 comments on this article, which I was expecting to shed some light on the events. I expected too much:

Ben Weston 20th May 2:30 pm
Saunders road isn't in Cowley.

Oxfordlife 20th May 6:42 pm

Yes it is

Rhyno 20th May 7:18 pm

Would you like to bet me £50 on that

Jokerman50 20th May 4:42 pm

If it is not in Cowley where is it ?

Peter Cellars 20th May 7:54 pm


Do you want my bank account number and sort code?

Andrew:Oxford 20th May 9:46 pm

Don't believe everything that Google tells you.

Take a walk along Barracks Lane, the 19th century boundary post between Oxford and Cowley is still there. From there it swings round then roughly follows the Boundary Brook through to Iffley.

Oddly enough on the B480 it's where Cowley Road, Oxford becomes Oxford Road Cowley.

Saunders Road isn't in Cowley.

Rhyno20th May 9:49 pm

So it's off COWLEY road but it's not in COWLEY? Absolutel mongs

missy_8220th May 7:57 pm

Saunders Road is off of Cowley Road fgs.

The algorithm 20th May 8:04 pm

It's in east oxford

len 71 20th May 8:11 pm

So is Cowley.

LRK622 0th May 9:48 pm

Oh grow up you sad people

Peter Cellars20th May 10:40 pm
LRK62wrote:Oh grow up you sad people
Oh fcuk me, who put 50p in you??

art carter 20th May 11:11 pm

It's in cowley as far as i know

Mike Singleton 21st May 10:29 am

Wat ridiculous trivial comments about a serious and worrying occurrence! Think about what needs to be done to protect the public against criminals.

profgeof2000 21st May 3:56 pm

Interesting complaints- as to where the road is - and none on the event!!! Well - I thin k the road ends in Headington...maybe!!
! Does it really matter!!!!

FatherJack21st May 11:00 pm

My shoes want to know where this was taking place before they transport me there.

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