At the end of last week, the Prime Minister invited Tory MPs to a massive conference call, a kind of digital fireside chat to lift their spirits. It was a disaster. First the MPs were astonished to learn that he wasn’t taking questions; then his connection failed halfway through — at which point the callers, who had been ‘muted’, became ‘unmuted’ and started talking loudly and all at once. One of them, Michael Fabricant, started singing ‘Rule Britannia’.
I have given up handbags. Men may think this a trifling thing. Women will understand it was not a painless decision. In my adult life I had rarely left home without a bag. Sometimes just a small clutch bag, but more likely a bucket bag which hung, with the weight of a Yorkshire terrier, from my shoulder. I have a dent in my collarbone to prove it. Then came Covid.
You may remember that obsessive hand-washing was the first thing asked of us.
‘We have an obvious problem,’ admitted the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven recently. He was referring not to the Covid pandemic, but to a summer of crime that has left even jaded Swedes reeling in disbelief. There are regular bombings, hand grenade attacks and shootings. Young men are killing each other at a horrific rate — ten times that of Germany. The feeling is growing that the government has completely lost control.
I measure out my summer in invitations to judge classes of flowers, fruit and vegetables at local village shows. The flower-show calendar is as changeless and as adamantine in its continuity as the high days and holy days of the Christian liturgical year. Or rather it was.
In the past, as I have prepared to set out to one of these shows, armed with my RHS Horticultural Show Handbook, schedule of entry classes, tape measure (to assess the longest runner bean) and gardener’s knife (to cut into a beetroot’s bloody heart), I have sometimes thought how pleasant it would be to stay at home in my own garden, for judging is very precise and tiring work.
Cases of coronavirus are on the rise again inside care homes. Last week, Public Health England reported that 35 care homes had ‘infection incidents’ linked to Covid. And an internal Department of Health memo suggested that ‘satellite tests’ — which mainly take place in care homes — were picking up an estimated 1,100 new cases every day.
This is extremely worrying for the most vulnerable people in our society — almost half of Covid deaths in the UK, more than 19,000, have been in care homes — but especially worrying when you look at the care regulatory system presided over by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
On any given street in Tokyo today, almost everyone will be wearing a mask. The Covid-19 death toll in Japan is around 1,500 in a country of 126 million people. This is dramatically less than the UK’s, yet everyone still covers up, and there are hardly any anti-mask movements of the sort that have become popular in Europe and America.
Why are the Japanese so happy to wear masks, when it makes some people from other nationalities so cross? The first reason is the most obvious: to avoid spreading germs.
Various luminaries from the Republican party have begun turning up on social media, on television and in newspapers urging Americans to vote for the Democratic nominee Joe Biden. One group of foreign policy mandarins recently signed a letter declaring that President Trump has ‘gravely damaged America’s role as a world leader’ by aligning himself with dictators, dishonouring the rule of law, imperilling national security and more.
Irrespective of whether Donald Trump ends up being a two-term president, surely no modern political figure has done more to raise the profile of the capital letter. Joe Biden, in contrast, does not seem as enamoured with his caps lock button as the current Tweeter-in-Chief. No more FAKE NEWS, WITCH HUNT or MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN if Biden is in the White House. At one point, Trump’s love of upper case was even mooted as the possible final straw which would lead to a third world war, after the President’s famously cautious tweet in July 2018:
‘To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.