‘Freedom day’ is coming, but how free will we actually be when it arrives? Boris Johnson is to abolish all coronavirus restrictions on 19 July. But in the small print, we find a strange caveat. The government will be ‘encouraging’ businesses to demand proof of vaccination from customers if there’s a ‘higher risk’ of the virus spreading on their premises. If they do not do so, then the government reserves the power to force them to.
The cricket at Cheltenham last week was reassuringly old--fashioned. In the last session of the fourth day, Gloucestershire’s bowlers took a flurry of wickets to beat Middlesex by 164 runs, watched by spectators who assemble at the college ground each July from all over England to renew a much-loved ritual. ‘Proper cricket,’ said a chap from Slad.
They were joined, as ever, by dozens of retired cricketers, fed and watered in one of the tents which ring this most evocative of grounds.
There is an astonishing patience in the Cuban people, born of endless waiting. When a store has, say, chicken, people queue, often for days. But on Monday, outside the Zanja police station in central Havana, people weren’t waiting for food. They were waiting — patiently — for news of family members who had been arrested during unprecedented protests at the weekend.
The demonstrations flared like a petrol fire. Cubans had settled down for lunch, many preparing to watch the Euro 2020 final, when news spread of a march in the town of San Antonio de los Baños on the outskirts of Havana.
Professional kitchens have always seemed like pressure cookers: hot, sweaty, stressful. The caricature of a head chef is angry, sweary, unable to keep a lid on his temper. He shouts at underlings for the most minor of infractions.
Recent events have shown how pervasive that stereotype still is. A number of ex-employees of the Kitchin Group, the set of restaurants owned by celebrity chef Tom Kitchin, have made allegations of a range of abuse, from being denied food, drink and breaks to deliberate burning and sexual harassment.
Not since September 1642, when a mob of Parliamentary soldiers opened fire on the sculpture of the Virgin Mary carved into the side of the University Church, has Oxford been in such a fury over statues. The ‘Rhodes must fall’ campaign that started among radical students in 2016 has now spread to the senior common rooms, particularly the SCR of Worcester College which, astonishingly, has taken over from Balliol and Wadham as the headquarters of the workers’ revolution.
The world of coronomics continues to surprise us. Last summer forecasters warned of a wave of redundancies after the biggest economic crash in 300 years. Peak unemployment — spurred on by lockdowns — was expected to near 12 per cent, ushering in a new era of chronic financial pain and instability for millions of workers. But the Treasury’s furlough scheme has kept the headline figure down. Unemployment has hovered around 5 per cent, less than half the original prediction.
Dante’s Beach, Ravenna
My fiery Italian wife Carla is not just a passionate patriot but also a devout Catholic, and so with perfidious Albion looking good and leading gli azzurri one-nil she disappeared to wash her hair and pray to the Madonna. The next day, when the dust had settled, I asked her why. ‘I was suffering so much pain that I felt like swearing and blaspheming at the inglesi,’ she said. That left me — a lone inglese — in front of the TV with our six children (aged five to 17) who feel passionately Italian despite being half English.
Lobsters like to live in gullies on the sea floor, or under sand, and I understand how they feel. But you can’t hide from politics. An amendment to the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill will make it illegal to post shrink-wrapped lobsters alive, or boil them alive, which turns them from blue to Father Christmas scarlet. In Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand it is already illegal to boil them. It is considered kinder to freeze them or pierce them or shoot them with an expensive lobster-stunning gun which you can probably buy in Hampstead Village.