Mr Johnson has agreed to snap off our metaphorical handcuffs and gags, but gives zero
guidance on dealing with compliance-driven individuals. That’s fine in principle I guess,
but not when shops, museums, councils and schools may insist on declaring their premises
as ‘mandatory mask zones.’ I was travelling on a bus recently and almost everyone was
already masked and seated, on one seat of every two. One stop further on, the driver
announced that those then standing should be seated and remain socially distanced, which
was impossible as it might cause a stranger to sit close to someone unrelated. Johnson also
asked pupils to be patient regarding ending the lockdowns. But just a jolly minute! These
pupils, and us parents, have been more Practically Perfectly Patient than Mary Poppins,
MD, was with her protégés. As primary schools are the sector of society least likely to go
down with the corona-lurgy, it should be considered beyond ridiculous to impose any
further restrictions or encourage reticence for children to return.
Returning to roadmaps for a minute, Sajid Javid speculates we are heading into ‘uncharted
territory’ once restrictions are lifted, believing we could see cases rise from 25,000 to
100,000 by the end of the summer. Ministers will decide next week whether we will be
finally open for business on the 19th, and Prof. Neil Ferguson, epidemiologist at Imperial
College, told the BBC Today programme that lifting of restrictions was a ‘slight gamble,’
but justified. Many would agree that Ferguson is well qualified in risk taking. On a related
note – with more than £65 billion already spent on furlough subsidy, it’s perhaps a suitable
junction in the lockdown roadmap to bring it all to an end. Monetary incentives gifted to
the nation during covid have actually made it difficult for some people to let go of the
safety net: many still want to WFH (work from home), and accept financial support via
furlough. However the youth of today and tomorrow and the day after that, will be the
ones having to pay for this extremely generous intervention, so the money train can’t run
indefinitely. The Treasury has already hinted that a pensions tax raid is being considered to
help recoup some of this monumental expenditure.

SAGE scientists caution further stronger restrictions may be needed later in the year, to
deal with an expected rise in cases. They want baseline measures of masks, distancing and

working from home to remain. If we continue to do that once the key turns in the lock,
how exactly will this differ from our current position? Citing data or comparisons with
countries with near-zero figures can be further misleading, as countries such as New
Zealand are a) geographically very remote, b) minimally populated and c) closed to tourists.
How easy would it be at home if we could tick all three boxes? Scotland has more chance of
being crowned covid negative, given its comparatively small population, and abundance of
open spaces. Anyway, I digress. Scotland is unfortunately displaying some of the worst case
numbers across the UK, whilst the First Minister has ruffled feathers by banning folks from
northern England from crossing the border. It’s plainly taking the bikkie, when Scotland
has its own cities and towns of equal – and greater – concern. On a positive note though, I
read that a new covid secure version of Falstaff was staged in the production studio of
Scottish Opera, Glasgow. The orchestra played inside with the roller doors open, the
conductor was visible, the chorus were upstairs and the audience were happily viewing it
from the car park. The internationally renowned David McVicar was in charge, and the set
featured a stage upon a stage, which was visually very impressive. The line up was equally
impressive, with Elizabeth Llewelyn, Alastair Miles and Jamie MacDougall. Car parks as
venues are of course nothing new in times such as these, we also use them for a myriad of
activities, as well as multitasking our driveways, gardens and parks.
The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the National Health Service for ‘seven
decades of public service,’ presumably including the recent battling of Covid. Not sure 1.3
million NHS workers would be happy to 'share' the medal, rather than have something
tangible – like their previously petitioned pay rise. The George Cross is granted in
recognition of “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of
extreme danger.” I’m not sure how such a shared award works. Thoughts, anyone?
Understandably, many medics slammed the 'poorly judged' decision to award it, instead
demanding the government tackle the elephant in the room – salaries. The last time a
communal award like this was made, was back in 1999, when the RUC was replaced after
nearly 80 years of police service in Northern Ireland. The NHS is not a remotely similar
organisation nor likely to be disbanded, even if many might argue the cost of sustaining it is
now impossible to justify. In any case there is no explicit mention of covid in the Queen’s
handwritten letter, so it's not just been about public service over the past year.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is planning to block visas from countries which she
believes are not taking back rejected asylum seekers or offenders. The clause in the

Nationality and Borders Bill also allows for imposition of additional financial requirements
for visa applications, which in plain English means an increase in fees. This is something the
US have introduced into legislation, to withdraw visa routes for undocumented migrants.
The proposed changes have wide reaching implications for the asylum system, but critically
will include life sentences for people-traffickers, a tariff of up to five years – instead of six
months – for those who breach deportation orders and ‘rigorous age assessments’ to stop
adults pretending to be children. A director at Amnesty International branded the bill
‘legislative vandalism’ and many agencies including Refugee Council, Freedom from
Torture and Together with Refugees, have joined to call for a fairer approach to asylum in
the UK.

For years I’ve been encouraged to watch a series called Breaking Bad, but have always
resisted because I thought (incorrectly) it was about life in prison. It isn’t, but the principal
character is a fascinating individual, a chemistry teacher cum cancer patient who resorts to
unorthodox means to provide for his family. He refuses to succumb to his lung cancer, and
in the most gritty and determined way, carves out financial security for his pregnant wife
and disabled teenage son. Now, much of this resonated with me, because we all know D-
Day will come and one wants to feel prepared, like you have got your business
arrangements in hand. Actually, I was more tickled with the humour, which was both very
funny and offbeat. I laughed and laughed.
Hands up those who like Diana’s memorial statue? What, you didn’t like it either? To me,
it had all the class of a drab prop from a soviet era horror movie, hijacked from a lowly
garden centre, rather than being a statue crafted in remembrance of a beautiful lady who
was loved by all. At least Diana’s two sons seemed to unite over the installation, and of
course their relationship is much more important.
A university student has designed a device for first responders which can be used to rapidly
stop massive blood loss. Joseph Bentley (21), a final year design and technology student at
Loughborough University, has developed a prototype [React]which uses pressure at the
wound area to prevent bleeding. He said police and paramedics normally use a bleed
control kit that is pressed into the wound with lots of force. The gauze fills up the space
inside the wound providing pressure to control the bleeding, but this is not viable in cavity

wounds such as the abdomen as they often run out of gauze trying to fill up the space. He
says that REACT does this quicker and simpler than a wound pack. Well done Joseph.
Now if anything is guaranteed to get French wine producers in a tizz or a fizz, it is the
suggestion that champagne can be made anywhere outside the Champagne region in
France. The Champagne committee’s website clearly states: “Champagne only comes from
Champagne.” But in a provocative move Vladimir Putin signed legislation requiring all
non-Russian producers to mark their products in Russia as “sparkling wine” on the back of
every bottle, this including some of the world’s most famous and expensive bubbly. Under
this new law, only locally made шампанское (Shampanskoye) is worthy of the name, and
French appellations are not even recognised. Vasily Oblomov, a Russian musician
(comedian?) suggested a law requiring that “Mercedes” be defined as cars only made in
Russia. A glass of champagne français now to Rachel Armstrong (20), who has completed
her 3 year course at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. It is very rare for academic &
vocational places to go to overseas students – on several counts; firstly, students have to pick
up the language, and believe me, even after mastering the cyrillic it’s not that simple;
secondly, the barre is set so high (sorry, couldn’t resist that one) and the competition to get
in is ferocious. With many attendant sacrifices along the way, dancers have to LiveForIt.
Congratulations also go to chess prodigy Abhimanyu Mishra (12) from New Jersey, USA,
who has broken a long-standing record to become the youngest Grandmaster in history.
The boy, already in a race against time before he became too old, was hampered by
tournaments around the world being cancelled because of Covid. He and his family had to
relocate to Hungary for several months to find events with the strength of opposition
needed to qualify, and needed three grandmaster ‘norms,’ which he did. The youngster, a
pupil of the 13th world chess champion Gary Kasparov, had already achieved the other
criteria of crossing the 2500 Elo rating barrier. He has been breaking chess records since the
age of seven, when he became the US youngest Expert. Mishra became the National Master
at 9, and then at 10 years he became the youngest ever International Master. For the chess
community the Grandmaster title – the highest accolade – is akin to the holy grail.
Speaking Russian and playing Chess: Two skills I’d like to master before I retire, {well I’d
settle for basic skills +}, and if I’m lucky I might play chess in Russia. Да!
Jacqueline x