Back to school!! A war-cry which many parents – and occasionally some children – look forward to. But this week’s return to school is like nothing we’ve ever experienced or witnessed before. I would have imagined suitable checks and procedures, such as temperature checks, improved hygiene measures and appropriate distancing would have been enough, but alas, no. Schools are returning with classes divided into groups (bubbles) with each group occupying separate classrooms, desks spaced out, children not allowed to touch each other, borrow equipment, use the water fountain etc. Question is – what happens about the toilets? Is someone on permanent duty to go in after every visitor, and wipe everything down? I mentioned helicopter parenting in an article on resilience back in January, but I read in this week’s press that children will be encouraged to play games like ‘helicopter,’ where they will run around the playground waving their arms furiously. This is not an attempt to use their imaginations to effect ‘lift off,’ but a directive to keep everyone else away from them. If this is a temporary measure I completely understand, but if it is a new look for schooling which is going to be here forever, I think I might have to sign out. At least if one home-schools, we can do normal activities, like fighting over the colour pencils, sit close enough to have a conversation, pick up toys, share books, and essentially revert to normality. I remind myself that there is no evidence that children could spread anything, assuming they were even carriers, and could transmit anything back to adults – which is where the fear comes – but we’re taking the ‘better to be safe and be very sorry’ route, than to take the slightest risk of anything happening. I read that some parents are refusing to send their children back, not because of Covid but because it’s ‘the end of normal life as we know it.’ We’re going to have schools that might look like Tesco with floor arrows directing your children around, it’s going to be confusing and stressful. If your child is in the key worker group, they won’t be allowed to mix with their peer group when/ if they return as a class. If a child in the bubble becomes ill (or a parent), then the whole bubble may potentially be sent home for 14 days, just to be on the safe side. I console myself with the fact that there’s only 6 weeks left of school, but I’m still anxious that this could roll onwards into September, and our children will never again have a normal educational environment… one where they have friends, rather than zoom relationships. I can’t believe this is good in any way for their mental health, or for that matter, for the staff.
On the plus side the Government is considering proposals to run summer camps for children to catch up. This does not mean that the schools must educate children during the summer, but the proposal is that school should remain open so that those children who want to catch up, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds who are lost without the security and safety of an educational environment, can look forward to being supervised, get regular meals, and generally make headway in lost curriculum, but unfortunately lockdown is further widening the gap between rich and poor. As yet the PM has not called on retired teachers to come back to bridge this gap, thank goodness. I wouldn’t be a proponent of that anyhow because when a teacher has put in 40 years’ service it shouldn’t be incumbent that they are expected to return, even owing to a natural disaster. I’ll be far more in favour of having
schools open for sports camps, because 3 or 4 months of being stuck at home, often without any opportunity for proper exercise or eating sensibly, is fuelling a pending obesity epidemic, which will have serious ramifications for years to come.
Over now to the north-south divide. There has never been much ‘united’ about the United Kingdom, at least not since Nicola Sturgeon took office as First Minister of Scotland. As a leader intent on breaking from the Union and persistently at loggerheads with anything the British Parliament suggests, she’s now drafting her own covid constitution. Be glad you’re not a resident, or if you have no need to travel there, but be very, very worried if – like myself – you’re a native from the North and have a variety of reasons for needing to travel up there.
This week’s news shows that Sturgeon is ready to enshrine into Scots law her 5 mile travel limit, as a result of national disobedience. High numbers of people have flouted her previous guidelines, and she has said that they require a further 3 weeks lockdown. Now this is worrying, for let’s assume (optimistically) lockdown might end here in 3 weeks. As Scotland is further behind in their perceived Covid journey, she may only, hypothetically, permit people to travel 10 miles from their home. Will that mean I’m likely to be prosecuted if I make the journey up to attend to essential business? Dad’s house is sitting vacant, the contents and possessions are inside, and its literally just waiting for squatters to break in at the back. I’m not sure the insurers would extend a leniency for claims arising during lockdown….There would be nobody else at the property but myself, but that doesn’t mean that some disgruntled person, on Nicola’s neighbourhood-watch, staking out the property with binoculars, might still make a call to the wee polis, causing me to be arrested for having made an ‘unnecessary’ journey. As a cancer patient on a rather tight schedule, I consider it a very necessary step, enabling me to do in-house jobs (clear, clean and vacate) without which it could sit idle until I’m installed in a [non] des-res, several feet below ground. I know in my heart that’s not what my parents would have wanted, they would want me to take steps to extend my life, which already looks like it’s going to be cut short by 20 or 30 years. Anyway, back to Scotland….
Hugh Pennington, emeritus Professor of bacteriology (University of Aberdeen) has an interesting view on the much speculated second peak for Covid infection. He began his career working in respiratory viruses, and was mentored by June Almeida, the discoverer of human coronavirus.
When giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament in April, Pennington made reference to an observation from WHO, which felt that the decline in many cases across the world has been mainly attributed to control measures, rather than to the virus running out of steam.
He disagreed with this theory, remarking, ‘that in the absence of controls, flu has an R rate of 7 and Covid has an R rate between 2 and 3.’ Consequently, he says the notion of a second spike or wave is very weak. He was roundly criticized by Nicola Sturgeon for sharing his opinion [I forgot that she’s an expert in epidemiology]. I’ve never been a fan of Nicola Sturgeon, aka the Queen of Scots – can you tell!?! Truth be known, were it not for some dreadful political mess-up, she would never have had a seat in Parliament, far less become the leading lady of a majority party. If she could install a border like that of 1960s `Checkpoint Charlie’ in Berlin, to stop us from crossing into her beautiful country, she would, make no mistake. Passports will doubtless be needed in the future. It’s commonly known that many indigenous Scots dislike her – and her policies – intensely.
Her stubbornness to follow the leader of the UK is both divisive and frankly, very worrying.
I’m not a killjoy though. If somebody wants to lock themselves up for the foreseeable future, that’s their privilege. However, for Jacqueline Curzon, mother of 7, cancer patient, journalist with a manic lifestyle, I want life to return pretty much to normal. I couldn’t even dream of spending the last days of my life locked up, based on a false premise that doing so would be ‘for my own good.’ With a death rate approaching zero in a country of 67 million, I am willing to take my chances.
Getting away from Covid-19 now, we have a little touch of the James Bond to conclude this week’s news. A gang of confidence tricksters got away with £4 million worth of diamonds, whilst posing as ‘wealthy’ Russians.
The Boodles chairman had been invited to Monaco by a group of Russians, and during this meeting he agreed to sell 7 luxury single diamonds. When he returned to London arrangements were made by the buyers for their ‘gemologist’ to attend the showroom where she examined the diamonds, down in the basement. Unfortunately, the manager was then called upstairs to take a phone call from the buyer during the inspection, and at this point the gems were swapped for worthless pebbles, evidently by sleight of hand. Given there were likely 25 cameras in remote surveillance, it must be that the gemologist was indeed a dab hand and extremely skilled, but it still begs the question how could such an exclusive store not have a policy of continuous staff presence, with millions of pounds of gems at stake? When the manager returned, the gems (which he still thought were the originals) were then replaced in a locked bag and placed in the safe. Only when the agreed purchase funds failed to materialise, was the trickery exposed. Naturally, the diamonds have never been returned, and likely never will. The stolen gems included a heart-shaped diamond worth more than £2 million. Altogether rather different from the amateur ‘Fagan’s School of Thievery.’ 007 would agree – Diamonds are Forever…. to Russia, with Love.
Until next week
Никогда не говори “никогда”
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