Lockdowns cannot kill off a virus — they just delay the spread. There was always going to be a new wave of infections as Boris Johnson phased out restrictions. The question was how big it would be and how much protection the vaccines would provide. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, summed up the case for optimism a few months ago, saying that any ‘new surges will meet a wall of vaccinated people’. His theory is now being tested: the fast-spreading Indian (Delta) variant is making its way through the most vaccinated country in Europe.
‘And now we sing our final hymn, number 466.’ Remember that? The euphoria of congregational hymn-singing? The well-organised types always had the book open at the correct page, balanced precariously on the pew. The rest of us hurriedly flicked to 466 while singing the first verse, knowing it by heart from a thousand school assemblies. ‘Our shield and defender, the ancient of days…’
I can’t believe I’m writing this in the past tense, but it has been so long — almost 15 months — since anyone not in a choir sang a congregational hymn.
Donald who? As Boris Johnson meets Joe Biden in Cornwall this week, the Prime Minister will hope that the President doesn’t dwell on his efforts to woo the last occupant of the Oval Office. Boris’s dalliance with Donald Trump is a bit like his affair with Jennifer Arcuri — an embarrassing fling with a rotund, brash American conspiracy theorist, something he’d rather the world forgot. He’s moved on and so should we.
Boris wouldn’t, for instance, want Biden to be reminded of the time in November 2017 when, as foreign secretary, he went on Fox News to say of Trump: ‘What you’ve got to realise is that the American President is just one of the huge, great global brands… He is penetrating corners of the global consciousness that I think few other presidents have ever done.
Last week there was a public toilet for sale on the coast of Cornwall. The Kent-based auctioneer called it ‘an exciting and rare opportunity’, although its video tour of the property did not even undo the padlock on the security door. It was on the market for £20,000, which was a bargain — the last exciting and rare toilet block to be auctioned in Cornwall went for five times its asking price, even though it didn’t have as nice a view.
Where have all the GPs gone? Doctors were among the first to be double-jabbed, ahead of teachers in the queue precisely so they could resume seeing patients in the flesh. But while schools have long been back, GPs have retreated behind their laptops never to be seen again (at least not in the flesh). The stethoscope has been replaced by a headset — to the despair of patients with ailments that are hard to diagnose over the phone or via a laptop.
When the late-night talk-show host James Corden asked Barack Obama about UFOs last month, there was as usual an air of nervous joviality surrounding the subject. Bandleader Reggie Watts pressed him as well and Obama, as if relenting, admitted two things. Firstly, that he could not divulge all that he knew on air; and secondly, that the slew of footage released by the Pentagon in the past two years showing UAP — ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’ — is in fact real.
In April, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a six-nation Middle Eastern tour to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman. ‘Belt and Road’ cooperation, economic development and the Covid pandemic were the topics of discussion. The treatment of China’s Muslim Uighur population in detention camps, which some in the West have described as genocidal, didn’t come up.
Both China and Saudi Arabia cleave to the belief that internal affairs are nobody else’s business — or at least as long as there are overriding economic interests at stake.
This week, world leaders are doing what countless Brits do every summer: unpacking their bags in a charming corner of Cornwall. The G7 summit — Joe Biden’s first, and Angela Merkel’s last — is taking place in the resort town of Carbis Bay, a stone’s throw from St Ives.
Between the speeches and the roundtables, will the world leaders find time to tuck into Cornwall’s proudest and most popular export, the Cornish pasty? Boris Johnson talked about the region’s industrial history in the run-up to the event: ‘Two hundred years ago Cornwall’s tin and copper mines were at the heart of the UK’s industrial revolution and this summer Cornwall will again be the nucleus of great global change and advancement.