Weds 12 May 2021
Today is the annual mass observation day in UK, where ordinary citizen-units are invited to keep a record of their daily activities.
The country has been in lockdown now for over a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the past few months there have been intermittent easings of the lockdown rules; last August the Chancellor announced a scheme called ‘Eat Out to Help Out’, where restaurants could offer subsidised meals to diners.
This was immensely popular and encouraged people to start socialising again. At the time, the death rate from Covid was very low in the UK; however, within a few months it had reached new heights, and the total is now about 127 thousand.
My life is very similar to the situation a year ago; the position of my desk in the office has changed to be nearer to the window, but other than that, everything is unchanged. I still perform the same job, discussing income tax with members of the public. I still work the same hours, using the same equipment. We have had a significant pay rise (engineered by the Union, by persuading staff members to surrender some of their terms and conditions) which has provoked anger among the public, who want increased funding to be directed to healthcare workers.
For breakfast I had porridge with cashew nuts, pecans, raisins and dried cranberries.
I was planning to have an ornamental meal, with olives, onions and tinned oysters representing different types of quark. These would be arranged on round cracker biscuits (to represent protons and neutrons) and a group of these laid out on a plate to signify the nucleus of a boron atom.
I stare at the changing world outside my window: the council workers came round this morning with ride-on lawnmowers to cut the grass; it reminded me of Druids Heath, where the council grass-cutters would fling small stones through the wired-glass windows of our maisonette.
From the window I see the neighbour’s cat, elegant in a light brown collar. Sometimes there are birds; magpies, pigeons, blue tits, robins and occasionally a pheasant. Last night I went shopping at Tesco, and purchased various groceries, most of which would be considered non-essential: biscuits, ginger herbal tea bags, wine. This time last year we were being instructed to stay home at all times, except for once-weekly trips to buy essential supplies such as pasta, rice and toilet roll.
The supermarket PA system broadcasts gentle music to distract shoppers; last night they played ‘Sweet Harmony’, which took me right back to 1993 when I lived in Birmingham. I was fed up with the living conditions in my shared flat, so I rang Switchboard to ask if they had any rented rooms available.
They told me there was one on their books, so I arranged to view it one evening after work. On the way there I called into HMV and purchased a couple of cassette singles: ‘Sweet Harmony’, and ‘Little Bird’. Then I made my way to Balsall Heath to look at the room and meet my new landlord. It turned out to be the best move I ever made, and heralded the start of a very enjoyable episode in my life. After moving into this house, I became firm friends with my landlord and his gang of eccentric cronies; we would spend Saturday afternoons in Birmingham, shopping in the arcades for designer shirts and buying gorgeous little nibbles from Marks and Spencer. I recall one afternoon at work it rained hard for two hours, turning the factory yard into a lake. My bus home was delayed by two hours, and when I eventually got home I had to wade through knee-deep water on Stoney Lane.
Sunday 16 May:
The Horror Channel is showing a perfectly dreadful movie called ‘Lord of the Elves’, which features scantily-clad men, giant spiders and flying reptiles, and two lead actors who bear a worrying resemblance to Sonny and Cher. Shot entirely on location in the People’s Republic of Bakelite.
This morning’s commercials are for furniture stores, food-delivery services, erectile dysfunction treatment and intimate feminine antiseptic cream. And a service that enables you to switch between energy providers; there are so many of these nowadays that soon we will see adverts for services that allow you to switch between services that allow you to change your energy supplier.
Some of the major outsourcing personnel providers to the NHS Covid track-and-trace have decided to adopt a similar approach; it appears that an individual worker can find that their contract of employment has been switched to another employer without warning, so that they end up being put on an emergency tax code. The multiple employers in question are usually mini-umbrella companies based in the Philippines; this arrangement allows the parent company to avoid paying National Insurance, since the government has issued an exemption to encourage firms to recruit new members of staff.
Latest Covid-19 figures:
US: 33.69 million cases, 599.8 thousand deaths
UK: 4.45 million cases, 127.6 thousand deaths