National incompetence, Labour’s back, Boris’s latest bridge, a weird thought, nose jobs and kindness

26 April 2020

A couple of weeks ago I bemoaned the UK’s lack of risk management but I was wrong:  they used to do this in the dim and distant pre-Cameron past.  As a result, the NHS did have an emergency stockpile of PPE for an epidemic but, during the years of George Osborne’s austerity cuts to NHS funding, these stocks were reduced by 40%.

Apart from that it’s been a funny old week.

Kier Starmer’s first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions as leader of the Labour party brought a breath of fresh air into parliament.  He asked Dominic Raab how many Covid-19 tests they were now carrying out per day and Raab said they had the capacity to test 40,000 people per day.  Instead of going straight on to the next question as has become the norm, Starmer asked again how many tests were actually being carried out each day and how the government was going to get to the 100,000 tests per day it had promised to do by the end of the month.  Raab said 18,000 were being carried out and he was confident blah blah waffle waffle.  Starmer 1, Raab nil.

In an earlier government briefing, Laura Kuenssberg asked Rishi Sunak if he could give an honest answer to a question, and he prefaced his reply with “I’m happy to be honest with you about that” and then answered her question.  I was itching for her to follow this with “What would you prefer not to be honest with us about?” but she didn’t.

The new Nightingale hospitals are open for business but, again thanks to Osborne’s austerity cuts to NHS funding, there aren’t enough doctors and nurses to staff them.

Is it coincidental that the top politicians who don’t want restrictions on movement loosened too early are people like Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock, both of whom have had Covid-19, while those who do favour an earlier loosening are people like Dominic Raab and Rishi Sunak, who haven’t.

Johnson is reported to be returning to work tomorrow and, no doubt, will be hoping we’ve forgotten his plans for a 28-mile bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland that would span Beaufort’s Dyke, a trench some 30 miles long, 2¼ miles wide and 1,000 feet deep (300 metres for younger readers) in the bed of the Irish Sea, which was for many years used as a dumping ground for unexploded ordnance, chemical weapons and radioactive waste.  According to Fellows International, an independent commercial Bomb and Mine Disposal company, something down there goes bang two or three times every month.

In America, Mark Grenon is the self-styled ‘bishop’ of Genesis II, a commercial producer of chlorine dioxide bleach that claims to be a church (honestly, I don’t make these things up).  They claim that MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution) cures people of almost anything, and Trump believed them.

Why does this make me think of Scientology?

Then oil prices went negative, which means oil producers would have paid you to buy their oil.  All you had to do was find somewhere to store the oil and the money.

Even on the home front, things got weird.

When I was cleaning my teeth on Monday morning, I suddenly thought of a friend I’d first met when I was 16.  We’d kept in touch by exchanging Christmas cards but I otherwise hadn’t thought of her for years.  Anyway, on the spur of the moment, I emailed her to see if she and her husband were coping with being locked in and she replied the following day to say he’d died that night.

I’ve had a couple of similar things happen before but it does convince me (and, I hope, Horatio) that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy.  My wife just thought it was creepy.

I also learnt this week that the first nose job was done in the 16th century by an Italian, Gaspare Tagliacozzi, who pioneered plastic surgery.  He actually built on the work of a couple of earlier surgeons but he wrote De Curtorum Chirurgia per Insitionem (“On the Surgery of Mutilation by Grafting”) which described his techniques and included the perceptive remark that his work was done “Not so much that it may delight the eye, but that it might buoy up the spirit, and help the mind of the afflicted.”

Microsoft Word has suddenly decided that a full stop only needs to be followed by one space, not two.  Well, you’re still going to get two spaces from me because I think the extra one helps emphasise the gap between sentences.

By the way, if you visit myactivity.google.com, Google will tell you what you’ve been doing on your computer.  I was surprised how little of my activity is recorded and hope that’s because it only registers what I’m doing if I forget to connect my VPN.  However, Google does let you delete past records and set up automatic deletions of your future activities.

This week’s act of kindness came from a real celebrity (not one of those I’ve never heard of whose pictures fill the old magazines found in dentists’ waiting rooms).  Tom Hanks, who has recently recovered from Covid-19, typed a note of thanks and support to an eight-year-old Australian boy, who had written him a ‘get well soon’ letter.  The boy had also said he was being bullied about his name, Corona, so Hanks sent the boy a present with his letter:  the old Corona typewriter on which he had written it.

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