Every month I write a monthly report about county council activities. Sad I know but I try to add a little colour with a final ‘and finally’ paragraph. Here’s the set of such paragraphs for 2020-21. They are of course the last such set. I’ve also included my photos of the month although in most cases there’s no correlation between them!
And finally … we seem to look at everything though a Covid lens these days and you do worry that although we are ‘surviving’ and that the pandemic appears to be easing that the future is going to be pretty miserable because of the impacts that the lock down has had on so many sectors of our economy. I imagine that there’s going to be much more home working in the future so that means less commuting and less traffic in the rush hour so that’s good. But what does that mean for Vision Park if there’s less demand for office space? I also reckon that as long as we’re to live with social distancing air travel as we’ve recently known it will not return for some time. So without low cost travel on EasyJet and Ryanair how am I going to get my annual fix of Italian culture?
At the same time it’s good to see the businesses adapting: pubs selling beer and pizzas for take away, restaurants upping their take away game and traders offering home deliveries. Thankfully our High Street is almost back to normal but some outlets have let us down which is sad. This time next month we’ll see much more on offer but will it be at the expense of controlling the virus?
And finally … I guess we’ve all got into different habits to use up our enforced free time at home during lockdown and it’s easy to get sucked into tasks which all of a sudden take longer because there’s time available or to spend time on peripheral stuff which isn’t what you intended to do in the first place. I’ve been using my extra time for two purposes. Firstly I’ve been developing a little more expertise in Photoshop. It’s incredibly powerful software and you can use it to transform photographs. I try to limit my use of it to correcting my shortcomings in framing the shot and setting the exposure and to compensating for the inability of the camera itself to expose simultaneously for shadows and highlights. Click here for a relevant post.
And secondly I’ve been doing a little light archiving. I’ve got maybe 15 years of digital photography with limited archiving and I’m slowly trying to knock it into shape. It’s a slow process but I’m getting there and it’s good to be reminded of what I’ve been up to during this time.
And finally … I am of an age and Mr Sunak has taking over where Messrs Osborne, Hammond and Javid left off in sending me a pleasant sum of money every 4 weeks. That should mean that otherwise my life is quiet with few responsibilities. Sadly it doesn’t seem to be the case and in addition to a little paid work and my roles on the county and parish councils I’ve also got ‘sucked in’ to a couple of pretty important community initiatives. The first of these has been the local Covid response which has now largely wound down. Thankfully we’ve experienced few infections locally and our High Street has come back to life remarkably. I continue to publish the HICovid weekly digest. The second is Abbey Farm Future which is working out ways to safeguard Long Meadow, the Croft Close set aside and the various rights of way across Abbey Farm now that this property is up for sale. There’s more information about this at www.abbeyfarm.online.
And finally … I confess to spending more time than I should in from of a computer screen these days and recently too much of that time has been waiting for my computer to do something. I’ve had my current beast for 5 years now and I’ve been testing its ability to deal with the sophistication of Photoshop and associated software. I’ve therefore treated myself to a new one and it is pleasantly fast. Counting back I reckon this is my 6th computer. I seem to have bought a new one every five years or so. I bought the first one in around about 1990 and it was based on an Intel 80386 processor. I replaced this with one from Gateway, remember it shipped its computers in ‘cow-spotted’ boxes, and followed that with number three which I bought from a Cambridge company. After that I bought my first one from Dell and then an HP before this one which is also a Dell but which I bought through Grace Computer Systems. I’ve also had a couple of laptops. First a Dell Latitude 400 and my current one which is an Acer Ultrabook. I bought the latter just before I stopped travelling a lot for work and nowadays if I do I just take my iPad so it’s proven to be a little redundant.
I started my working life in 1970 writing computer programs for big mainframes. I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing that my latest PC packs more of a punch than they did.
And finally … I’ve spent quite some time during the month interviewing candidates for positions in a company I work with in St Ives. At one we strayed into the subject of immigration and how best to address the challenges related to it. We managed to avoid any real political discussion but did very quickly agree, in a true quality management approach, that what’s needed is to address the reason why people should wish to leave their own countries in the first place. A first step we reckoned would be to stop buying cheap clothing because doing so simply condemns those who work in the sweatshops which manufacture them to enduring poverty. Standing back and you realise that it’s a part of a generic problem of those who ‘have’ not valuing the contribution of those who ‘have not’. It starts at home of course with less well paid but essential workers like those in care homes and extends to those in the less developed world working for a pittance in the fields and factories which produce the products which we take for granted but do not value. I guess there’s a need to address wealth inequalities, between people and countries, because the former are surely unacceptable in our society and the latter underpin the forces that drive migration.
And finally … we’re now into Lockdown 2 but since we’ve been there before and done that (although I’ve not yet seen the T-shirt much less got it) and we’ve go access to data which we didn’t have last time we can understand what’s going on. Knowing therefore that in South Cambs there are infections but that the rate doesn’t seem to be rising and that it’s ‘only’ four weeks we should be able to get through this one without the alarm, fear and uncertainty of March and April. However there is the risk that people treat it less seriously because they think it’s not a problem round here. Fortunately behaviour throughout Histon & Impington seems to be exemplary. Our worry though remains Cambridge and its student population where rates are, at least nominally, high.
The big concern, in parallel with catching Covid, is the impact of the Lockdown on mental health from the simple boredom and frustration about not being able to ‘mix with your mates’ to the uncertainties associated with employment as businesses are shut down for longer and redundancies are threatened. It behoves all of us to talk to our neighbours. Who knows what they’re thinking?
And finally … lockdown 2 has been a lot easier to manage than the first one and that’s down to two main factors. The first is data. Nowadays we get good data on infections at the ward level and for most of the time this has confirmed what many of us felt in March viz that we were a low infection territory. However times have changed and in December we are seeing an unwelcome surge. The second is support networks. In March it was all new and there was some fear and lots of worry. But we learnt to cope and the support networks that developed then have quickly reactivated. In my street we used to joke that our support network was Ocado but now it seems everyone has sorted out how to get on-line deliveries if needed. We’ve also learnt that we can be confident that the supermarkets have robust supply chains and that there’s no need to panic buy. And finally and fortunately we’ve found a community spirit which ensures that those who need a little extra help know how to access it.
And finally … it’s difficult to know how our lives are going to pan out in 2021 and as I write there’s still uncertainty as to when schools are going to open. It doesn’t help of course that decisions about changes in tiers are made at the last minute despite previous statements that they would not happen. We changed our plans for Xmas several times during December and decided not to travel to Yorkshire because we understood what the data was telling us. That’s the big difference of course between now and last March. Then we had no data, we trusted the government and we were generally a little bit scared. Now we’ve got data, we don’t trust the government and too many of us think we know better. I don’t and I’ll still count myself in the ‘little bit scared’ camp.
And finally … it’s a strange life and I’m sure we’re all living differently than we did 12 months ago. I’ve almost become a YouTube addict and have found myself listening to, and watching, music which would normally pass me by, reliving great moments, usually Welsh, from rugby and learning how to improve my photography and post processing by following several experts in those fields. I guess this counts as the silver lining of this dreadful COVID cloud. Going forward my future at least is going to be some amalgam of my life today with that of pre-COVID times. I’m optimistic that that will result in it being better.
And finally … it’s easy to slip into the mode of thinking that the NHS is only about Covid these days. It has been doing and continues to do a magnificent job in that regard but it’s doing its best to manage the rest of its job as normal. I can understand that it’s gotten a little behind with operations and other more complex activities but at the same time its day to day life seems to be continuing as normal. Or as normal as it can be with hand washing, face masks and social distancing. And so it was that mid-February I was invited in for a blood test. You get tested a lot when you’re my age and 18 months ago my blood sugar seemed a little high. Compared with my stent at the time it didn’t seem to be so much of a big deal and my GP told me not to worry unduly. I didn’t but last month was time for a retest and now I’m in well into the normal zone. Go to http://bit.ly/3t2CK6l for the full story.
And finally … it’s a countdown to next Monday when Covid restrictions relax a little and enable us to enjoy a little light hospitality in pub gardens. Fingers crossed it gets a little warmer than it is today. I’m reminded that our weather follows few rules but one must be that you always get a last bout of winter temperature, we had flurries of snow yesterday, before you can be confident that Spring is upon us. I remember being on holiday in Australia a few years ago during its early spring time and cafes there supplied blankets to enable their patrons to sit outside and ‘enjoy’ the fresh air. I noticed this at one restaurant in Geraldton and remarked on its strangeness in a TripAdvisor review. The restaurant responded by scolding me: ‘blankets seem to be the new in thing… every café in Perth I’ve been to over the last 2 years in winter have all had blankets hanging over the chairs or in a basket for guests to help themselves. majority of our guests love it, we had so many guests wanting blankets I had to purchase more this year’. Will we be doing the same here?
And finally … it’s election time and I’ve been out supporting the Lib Dem candidate to replace me as county councillor. I’ve done my fair share of canvassing on the doorstep and it’s been good to hear so many people saying that I’ve done a good job and thanking me for 16 (yes sixteen) years of service. What has disappointed me though is the continuing and possibly increasing tribalism of politics down at the local level. I will defend the right of candidates to represent a political party because otherwise how do you know what they stand for but it seems wrong that so many voters make their minds up to vote one way or another without any regard either for the strength and record of the candidate or for the policies which he or she is espousing. What’s the point of working hard if it’s not going to count in your favour? But that’s it. This is my last monthly report. It’s been a good 16 years and I don’t regret the work that I’ve done or the commitment I’ve made. I’ve made many friends and enjoy a position in the community which I otherwise would not have. Cheerio!