Happy things, scams, food hygiene, police racism in America and kindness in protests

7 June 2020

Some happy things came my way this week.  The first was a letter from my dentist saying they are opening again next week, subject to some obvious restrictions.  Well, most of them were obvious but I remain baffled by the one that says “If possible, please come for your appointment wearing a mask”.

Another was to read a short piece by William Shatner (an actor, Star Trek, Captain Kirk, the one who wasn’t as good-looking as Uhura, remember?) reminding us how multi-talented he is and saying “I take on a polyglot of subjects”.

I also enjoyed Matt Hancock’s decisive instruction to hospital visitors and outpatients to wear face coverings and for all hospital staff to wear surgical masks from 15 June, only 6 months after people realised just how infectious the coronavirus is.  I wonder if he just didn’t think of it earlier or if he was scared of comments from his boss about hospitals full of letterboxes?

This week also brought two scam emails (most of mine get filtered out before they hit my inbox).  One was from Amazon saying the automatic renewal of my Prime membership hadn’t worked and the other was an impressively logo-ed notice from HMRC that I hadn’t claimed a tax refund of £535.14 due to me.  Naturally I immediately clicked on the links in both emails and …  No I didn’t, I’m not that stupid.  I went into the kosher Amazon and HMRC sites, found the addresses to report scams and phishing attempts and forwarded the emails to them.  HMRC thanked me for reporting it.  Amazon didn’t.

I knew that restaurants are inspected and given a hygiene rating based on how many rats they find in the kitchen but I learnt this week that you can check a restaurant’s rating online before you go.  Visit https://ratings.food.gov.uk/ for England, Wales and Northern Ireland or, for Scotland, https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot .  Both of our favourite local eateries (if they’re still in business after the lockdown) get the full 5-stars, which is a relief …

More relief came from the announcement that the government is considering renationalising the probation system as part of its attempt to repair the damage done by Chris Grayling’s disastrous reform of the sector in 2014.  Grayling ignored warnings from people who actually knew what they were doing by giving 21 private companies (whose sole raison d’être is to enrich their shareholders and directors) contracts to supervise 150,000 offenders classified as low- to medium-risk.  Since then, the government has given some of these private companies more than half a billion pounds extra to bail out the ones that couldn’t fulfil their contracts.

On a much more serious note, police have found a significant new lead in the Madeleine McCann case, a German paedophile currently in prison for a drugs offence.  Can any of us imagine how her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, must have felt since she disappeared in 2007 when she was 3, and how they must be feeling now.  They must have felt overwhelming guilt at having left their children alone, even in what was supposed to be a safe holiday village, while they went out for a meal and they have since lived with a conflict of emotions, their heads saying she is dead, their hearts holding on to the hope that she’s still alive somewhere.  And how have Maddie’s twin sisters been affected?

I consider myself basically a pacifist and I do not believe in the death penalty which uses the “an eye for an eye …” principle to give the state the power to murder someone who is believed / ‘proved’ to have murdered somebody else.  But, if I were one of the McCanns, I do wonder what I would want to do to someone whom I knew for certain had abducted and killed my daughter;  and how I’d feel afterwards if I did it.

But the biggest news of the week was inevitably the reaction to the police killing George Floyd in Minneapolis by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes, despite his saying he couldn’t breathe.  Nine minutes.  Just look at your watch without doing anything else for nine minutes to find out exactly how long a time it is.

The police over there do it all the time (for example, Sean Monterrosa was killed in California and, back in March, Breonna Taylor was killed by plain clothes police officers while she was asleep in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky) but Floyd’s murder seems to have triggered so much outrage that, just perhaps, it might lead to some sort of change.

(Meanwhile Donald Trump cowered in a specially reinforced bunker when protestors armed only with loud voices neared the White House and then, after changing his trousers, had the streets cleared by armed police using tear gas so he could walk to a nearby church and hold a bible aloft for a photo-op.  I wonder if he’s ever read it.)

Trump’s predecessor said “You should be able to learn and make mistakes and live a life of joy without having to worry about what’s going to happen when you walk to the store.”

This has brought out the kindness which can be seen in the nationwide protests by hundreds of thousands of people across America against what appears to be the systemic racist violence in the police.  One of the protesters in Oakland, California last week was Brianna Noble who was riding a horse.  She wanted to attract media attention to the positive aspects of the demonstration, rather than broken windows and violence, and said ‘I’m just another protester if I go down there alone, but no one can ignore a black woman sitting on top of a horse.”  Brianna, I love you.

In London, thousands of people defied the coronavirus restrictions and crammed into Parliament Square but they felt the risks were worth it to demonstrate that enough is enough and not only do ‘Black Lives Matter’ but all lives matter.

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