Blog Archive

Thursday, April 1, 2021

1st April: Rotting Daffs, Oprah's One-sided Interview, My First Jab, Pandemic One Year On

 Millions of Daffodils left to ROT: thanks Brexit

Following my piece last month on how many of the UK's fishermen are having their businesses destroyed by Brexit, this month it's our flower rowers.

"World's largest daffodil grower in Cornwall is forced to let fields of flowers ROT because there are not enough pickers available after Brexit. Varfell Farms in Penzance, Cornwall, is the largest daffodil grower in the world:
  • They produce 500 million stems a year and need 700 workers to pick them
  • But they are heavily reliant on migrant worker and Brexit ended free movement
  • Fields of flowers are being left to rot as there are not enough pickers for harvest"
Mail Online March 10th 2021

"Since Covid and the end of free movement following Brexit, the business only has around 400 flower pickers as many of its workers have previously come from EU countries.
The business’ owner Alex Newey told Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that it has to let daffodils rot in the fields as a result.
“We can’t harvest them, we don’t have enough pickers to pick them. We’re losing hundreds of thousands of pounds,” he said."

Cornwall Live February 22nd 2021

Similar stories are emerging from UK producers of chocolate, whisky and cheese amongst others.

Economic blow from Brexit: 4% GDP
Economic blow from COVID: 3% GDP
(Figures from The Economist March 12th 2021)

Numerous retailers have confirmed that costs are due to rise to reflect the additional costs and administrative burden of Brexit. I read about these almost every day in the press. Why on earth Brexiteers think that we are better off importing from the rest of the world in the place of our European neighbours, I just can't understand.

Oprah's One-sided Interview

Perhaps the biggest news story in March has not been COVID, it has not been the economy, and even the vaccine roll-out has morphed into a set of mundane daily figures.

The big one has been the interview by Oprah Winfrey of Prince Harry and Meghan near their new home in Los Angeles.

The world appears divided by those who staunchly support the monarchy and those who are shocked by Megan's accusations of racism and indifference towards her mental health issues. It even led to the resignation of Piers Morgan, a top TV presenter, following over 50,000 complaints about his aggression towards Megan. It's very Marmite.

My thoughts as follows:
  • The interview was carefully edited and very one-sided. Winfrey made no attempt to apply balance or context to the comments made
  • Winfrey was paid millions of dollars for this, so it was all about getting as much coverage as possible to earn high fees from advertisers and syndication. How much did ITV pay for the rights?
  • Harry and Meghan are one of the most privileged couples in the world. They spent 2 million renovating their UK house before they left, their wedding in 2018 costs tens of millions, they travel by private jet and they live in a Santa Barbara mansion with 16 bathrooms. For them to wash their dirty family linen in public and talk about what victims they are when people around the world are struggling financially and health-wise more that ever, I find insulting, insensitive and grossly selfish. They are behaving like spoilt rich brats. There is also the huge irony that they left to escape the press....
  • She has fallen out with: her father who she hasn't spoken to her since before her wedding when he was lying in hospital following a heart attack, the Royal Family, her best friend for 31 years Ninaki Priddy, her ex husband Trevor Engelson and her half-sister Samantha Markle, who said of her "Depression is not an excuse for treating people like dishrags and disposing of them."
  • If Meghan really did have mental health problems, surely her husband was in a good position to help her out? He has spoken openly about his own issues following the death of his mother and he used to campaign for the Heads Together mental health charity along side his brother and sister in law.
  • How can Markle accuse the Royal Family of racism for enquiring as to the colour of her child when she herself has spent huge amounts of time and money trying to look less black (on her hair and nose for example)?
  • Their mistruths started to unravel as they accepted that they lied to Oprah when they said they were actually married in private 3 days before their wedding.

"Heav'n has no rage, like love to hatred turn'd, Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorned," spoken by Zara in Act III, Scene VIII, William Congreve's phrases from The Mourning Bride (1697). Often shortened to "Hell has no fury like a woman scorned".

My First Jab

The Kassam Stadium near Oxford is being used for vaccinations

On Tuesday March 16th at 10.25am, I had my first COVID-19 vaccine at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford. The experience was positive, the staff quite charming. It didn't even feel rushed or as if I was just being 'processed'. The nurse and her assistant introduced themselves to me and we had a chat about a few things before the needle was inserted painlessly into my arm. The after-effects of my Oxford Astrazenca jab were noticeable but minor. I slept badly that night and I was feeling a bit achy for 12 hours. By lunchtime the following day, all was back to normal.

I would like to congratulate the government and the NHS on the vaccine roll out programme. Despite the government's failure in so many areas during this pandemic, this is one they have got right!

On March 22nd, the US trials on 32,000 people of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine were finally released and it's good news. They found the vaccine to be 79% effective at eliminating symptomatic cases of the illness and 100% effective against serious illness. They also concluded that there were no links with blood clots - which was why many EU countries had suspended the use of this vaccine. The results were even more positive than expected!

However, the controversy resumed a few days later when the US authorities accused AstraZeneca of using old data!

If governments around the world want to give people confidence in the vaccines, they should focus on the one important statistic that really matters: all of the vaccines approved for use in the UK, US and EU are 100% effective against serious illness, hospitalisation and death. The other stats which are being argued over and compared between vaccines are hard to measure and far less meaningful.

One Year On

On March 23rd 2020, one year ago as I write, Boris Johnson announced the country was going into lockdown and I started to record my daily experiences in my blog. A year later, we are still in lockdown but how things have changed. 

A year ago, we were the European laggard, locking down far too late; today we are much further ahead with our vaccination programme than the EU and can see light at the end of the tunnel just as many EU countries announce new lockdowns.

A year ago, we were frightened, fearing to go out, fearing to go near other people, fearing to touch our food without gloves; today we welcome a chat in the street with neighbours, we know that we are unlikely to catch the virus from our food and we are used to masks and distancing.

A year ago we were admiring President Macron and Chancellor Merkel for their forward thinking and fast action; today they look incompetent with their slow reactions and their lies about the AstraZeneca vaccine compared to Boris Johnson's management of the UK vaccination programme.

A year ago, we were organising food deliveries for our street from local retailers as people were reluctant to go to supermarkets and it was almost impossible to get delivery slots; today we are spoilt for choice in home delivery.

As we reach the end of March, the first official easing of the latest and hopefully the last lockdown starts after almost 3 months. On Monday March the 29th, we ventured into the city centre to collect a book that we had ordered online and buy some food. It was noticeably busier than it had been, despite the fact that 'non-essential' shops won't be opening for another fortnight. Deliveroo riders and back to being a minority and, perhaps due to the warner weather, the streets seemed almost busy. We need to make this work.

Quote for the month

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, 
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, 
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, 
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, 
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, 
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...

Hard Times by Charles Dickens 1854

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