Laughter is the key to surviving Christmas

Joy. Family. Love. Lights. Stars. Festivity. And yes, all of those, if you’re lucky, and they are happy words, words that give you that fuzzy glow. Others come fast down the track, of course. War. Disasters. Accidents. Distress. Tears.  I am old now so my most familiar Christmas word is ‘memory’, although I live in the present and ‘fun’ is definitely a Christmas word – but ‘funny’? Yet as I have been sitting by the log fire thinking about Christmases past, funny keeps cropping up.  I said, knife poised, that I hoped it wasn’t the steak pie we were about to eat with our cream or custard One should never laugh

Hostage drama at the village hairdresser

‘Then I got taken hostage in Iran,’ said the lady sitting next to me in the hairdresser’s as she was having her hair crimped. ‘Really?’ said the hairdresser, who had the flat irons on her hair and was making her look like an 1980s pop star. ‘And how was that?’ He was obviously stuck in hairdresser mode, and having not heard what she had said, perhaps, was ploughing on regardless, assuming the chatter was about her holiday. ‘I’m sorry, what do you mean?’ said the lady who had been admiring herself in the mirror as he worked and now turned her head a little to look round at this carefree,

Why I won’t be following the new equine vaccine regime

When the vet had finished giving my horses their annual flu boosters, she reminded me the vaccination regime had changed. For the purpose of competing, horses must be vaccinated for flu every six months, which is something that had passed me by. What with worrying about human vaccines, I had not noticed this change in the rules for equestrian jabs. I thought about it for a split second, then decided. ‘Lucky I don’t compete then,’ I told her. Because being a rabid anti-vaxxer, I don’t want my horses pumped more full of vaccine than is absolutely necessary. And this is precisely the sort of irrational and illogical reaction people have

The heroism of Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic’s readiness to walk away from tennis on a point of principle is an act of sporting heroism on a par with Muhammad Ali’s refusal to fight in the Vietnam war. Like Ali was when he said he had ‘no quarrel with them Viet Cong’, Djokovic is widely accepted to be the greatest master of his sport of all time. Ali, then at the height of his powers, was banned from boxing for three years for his stance. For refusing to take a Covid vaccination — a matter of conscience — we don’t yet know for how long Djokovic will be prevented from playing tennis at the highest level.

When did the anti-vaxx movement begin?

No vax There is nothing new about the anti-vax crowds supporting Novak Djokovic. Organised protest in Britain began with the formation of the Leicester Anti-Vaccination League in 1869. Vaccination of children against smallpox had been compulsory since 1853, but faith in the vaccine plummeted with an epidemic which erupted in the city in spite of vaccination — 314 died from the disease in 1871/72. There was also increasing anger at the jailing of vaccine refuseniks, 61 of whom were imprisoned between 1869 and 1884. Thousands gathered on 23 March 1885 for an anti-vaccination march from the Temperance Hall to the Market Place. In 1898 the law was revised to allow

My Omicron hell

Gstaad   It is hard to imagine that we have reached the year 2022 and are still imposing completely irrelevant restrictions on each other. By we I mean those of us in the supposedly enlightened West, where silliness, jealousy, cruelty and woke rule the roost. I’ll begin with the Chinese virus that has contrived to dominate the headlines even more than Boris and Meghan put together. I got it following my Christmas party, which was a great success if one is to believe some of the thank-you notes I received. All I can say is that it’s not true that chastity is sexually alluring. If it were, women would go

Kate Andrews

Rip it up: the vaccine passport experiment needs to end

Flying anywhere right now is difficult, but for those of us who are jabbed, it is at least possible. So just after Christmas I set off for America to see my family in Connecticut, armed with the NHS app technology which we were once assured would never be used as a vaccine passport. It’s now precisely that. I tapped my phone to summon my travel credentials en route to Heathrow, but to my astonishment my vaccination status wasn’t there: ‘No Covid-19 records found.’ My ‘passport’ had been suspended. My crime, it turned out, was to have caught Omicron in mid-December. I’d had a positive result on a lateral flow test

Matthew Parris

How to wrongfoot an anti-vaxxer

The headline looked promising: ‘How to argue with a Covid anti-vaxxer.’ And, yes, a Times colleague had put together a good, informative feature assessing some of the bogus arguments flying around in this pandemic. But it was not what I was looking for. Since undergraduate days I’ve been fascinated by the category of mental imbalance we call paranoia, believing its milder manifestations to be present to some degree in all of us. Mass paranoia is plainly a strand in the anti-vax movement, and I’ve been listening to a powerful BBC Radio 4 and podcast series researched and presented by Jon Ronson, Things Fell Apart. Ronson looks into the rise of

My pro-vaxxer friends are changing their tune

My pro-vaxxer friends have been a lot nicer to me since they started testing positive for Covid. I’m calling my vaccinated friends ‘pro-vaxxer’, by the way, just so they can see how it feels to have a quirky-sounding label applied to them based on their personal choices about how to withstand a pandemic. Meanwhile, I’m most certainly not going to call myself an anti-vaxxer because I’ve had dozens of vaccines, just not this one. I don’t need a label that’s become a term of abuse and was used by an MP while condemning people who don’t want the vaccine as the sorts of scoundrels who might launch a physical attack

What Britain should learn from Israel about booster shots

It’s hard to remember a time when politicians have so publicly put pressure on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. Even the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said this week that the booster programme is his ‘absolute priority’ as it will ‘help us to transition the virus from pandemic to endemic status’. So why is the JCVI so against booster jabs in all but the rarest of cases? My understanding is that its thinking has three parts. First, that the UK has not experienced Israel’s waning immunity against infection because we have had a longer gap between doses. Second, the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been widely used here but not

Why isn’t the vaccine approved for 12- to 15-year-olds?

This afternoon, the JCVI has essentially passed the buck on vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds. It has declared that the health benefits of a vaccine for this age group are ‘marginally greater’ than the risks of Covid. But it has left the decision on whether to actually vaccinate them to the chief medical officers. It would surely have been better for the committee to have made a decision one way or the other In the past few weeks, tensions between ministers and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have been rising. Ministers are keen to get on with an autumn booster shots campaign for the elderly and to vaccinate more school children.

On child vaccination, parents should have the choice

On Saturday, the Health Secretary made his most bullish comments on child vaccination so far. Writing in the Times, Sajid Javid argued that offering all teenagers the jab will ‘solidify our wall of protection,’ offering a stronger defence against Covid and new strains. In doing so, Javid has intensified the debate on whether over-12s ought to be vaccinated. Earlier this month, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that jabs should be offered to 16 and 17-year olds, bringing the UK into line with countries such as Sweden. The JCVI is now investigating whether the jab could be offered to all 12-15 year olds, as in the US and several other

Why I’m thanking God, my immune system and garlic

‘Contact a GP if you’re worried about symptoms four weeks after having Covid.’ That was the NHS quote on the end of a story about Piers Morgan, who was still feeling ill three weeks after getting the lurgy. Me too, Piers. It took the builder boyfriend almost as long to get over it, and his father. We make an interesting control group, don’t we? Piers Morgan and the builder boyfriend’s father are both double-jabbed. The builder boyfriend and I are not vaccinated. And yet here we all are, going through exactly the same thing as we try to get over Covid. Of course, the government wants to argue that the

The vaccination campaign is making the same mistakes as Remain

One of the great cautionary tales of the last five years is how political campaigns can start off with what looks like a strong case and end up losing with 48 per cent of the vote. What happened to the Remain campaign is now happening to the campaign to deploy vaccines – and in several countries. Governments are telling anti-vaxxers that they are stupid; they are exaggerating their case like the French education minister, who suggested that vaccination means that you can no longer infect others. Or they are lecturing people, saying that they should listen to the experts. And when things get really bad, they are talking about compulsion.

Should Britain be vaccinating teenagers?

Last week there was acute concern in government about the country’s re-opening. Would restrictions need to be reimposed when schools return in September? Ministers fretted. But those nerves have now been replaced by cautious optimism. Case numbers have been falling for a week straight and it increasingly looks as if this wave has peaked. No one in Downing Street wants to declare mission accomplished. What will happen to the numbers when people’s fear of being ‘pinged’ by Test and Trace eases and they start to socialise more? Cases need to be falling consistently between now and schools returning. Privately, scientists are stressing risks remain. They warn that there is still

Letters: In defence of organic food

A note about manure Sir: I am afraid Matt Ridley shows a lack of understanding about agriculture in general and organic production in particular in his argument against organic food (‘Dishing the dirt’, 24 July). Livestock production has involved the use of animal faeces — or farmyard manure as it is called when mixed with straw — ever since livestock was first housed in the 1800s. Bacterial infections are due to poor hygiene in the slaughter and processing chain, not how animals are fed, grass is produced, or the use of manure, which is an important by-product. Bean sprouts being infected with E.coli is probably down to poor hygiene of

Macron’s Covid crackdown is a risky bet

Will the French accept compulsory vaccination against Covid? Health passports to get on a plane or train? Children of 12 jabbed, whether their parents wish it or not? As fears are stoked of yet another wave of infection, we may be about to find out. In recent days, France has seemed rather normal with restaurants open, summer holidays in full swing, tourists returning, shops open. But we’re told that none of this will last. ‘We must vaccinate all of France,’ president Macron announced last night in his fifth Covid television address so far. It was a striking elocution. Macron ditched his habitual black undertaker outfit for a smart blue suit, and

How many Lilibets are there in the world?

Rare Lili Other than the new royal baby, is there anyone in the world formally called Lilibet? — There are 141 Lilibets in the US. None have been born since 1999 — when 8 were born, according to the US Social Security Administration. — Lilibet Foster, born in the US Virgin Islands in 1965, is a documentary-maker whose film Speaking in Strings, about the violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, was nominated in the 72nd Academy Awards. — In answer to a freedom of information request in 2017, the Office for National Statistics refused to provide a full breakdown of the first names of people living in Britain. But it does publish a

The third wave: it’s here – but it shouldn’t delay our reopening

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. What to do? And how worried should we be? Since the pandemic began, I have

Big Tech is turning into Big Brother

The Big Tech social media giants are having to rethink their policy of censoring anybody who suggests that Covid originated from a lab near Wuhan, rather than through some local chowing down on sweet and sour pangolin testicles. This is because it now seems quite possible, if not probable, that the virus was kindly bestowed upon us by Chinese scientists. I don’t know either way, but I would suggest that a suspicion that the virus was man-made, given the proximity of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, scarcely qualifies as a lunatic conspiracy theory to be banned from public utterance. But that’s what the Big Tech companies decided — almost certainly