Skip to main content

A world view

Today is a bad writing day. I don't mean that I set out write badly. Rather it is that I am only starting to write at 1320. My normal target is to publish at 1000. So what (didn't) happen?

I have not long completed my participation in two Parliamentary Committees which met at the same time. That's the third week in a row. This week I had to ask for my question in Rural to be delayed by 3 minutes so that I could complete speaking in the COVID Committee. A generous Convenor, already trying to juggle quite a few balls and operating over a rural narrowband connection, allowed me that latitude.

But what caused me the late start was a combination of factors. I had a busy day on Tuesday and had started the week without a COVID Committee in my diary. I have been playing catch-up ever since. And I have made sure that I have my diary properly organised (I think!) until the end of July.

Today's announcement that holiday accommodation can open from 15th July may open up the option of a week's vacation somewhere on the west coast of Scotland.

But this afternoon's problem was pretty basic. There were approaching 300 pages of paper-work to be read and, more critically, understood before 0830 this morning. I previously had a skim read of them, but additions continued into the evening. I concluded that the final read, marking up and printing out of the papers could be done this morning.

I set my alarm for 0445, but I actually rose 10 minutes earlier.

It pretty rapidly emerged that the number of references I should follow up, and the sheer volume of words nearly exceeded my capacity to deal with them. And certainly precluded my finding the 60 to 90 minutes required for the diary.

But otherwise, it worked out fine. I am now on my second train of the day. A two hour hop up to Aberdeen. That should do. It’s not busy, three people in my coach, and everyone is be-masked.

With the commencement of Parliamentary recess on Friday, I have one further meeting which I join from Banffshire late tomorrow afternoon. My next Committee meeting is 22nd July so no more double bookings for a while.

With relatives in Denmark, Sweden, Australia, England and the USA being in touch I am getting a pretty substantial world view of the effects of the pandemic.

King’s College London has created an app for phones that about 3 million people have downloaded. I am one of those who report in daily about my health. So far, so good. They have graphs of different areas of the UK. They are “jiggle” about a wee bit, occasionally up-ticks, changes in gradient, but all generally heading down. But the one for Scotland is the only one where there is a pretty smooth line downwards. That suggests but is not conclusive proof of, our having matched the refinement of social constraints in a loosening direction with opportunities created by the drop in numbers of people infected.

But we know it hasn’t gone away. We also know that we have no vaccine that would prevent infection. There is one steroid that helps a number of the most seriously ill to recover. And there is something that helps deal with some people’s “runaway” immune system response.

So there seems little immediate prospect of a move back to a world before COVID-19.

I have decided that 15th July may be the most important date for me. I had thought of letting my hair grow into a pigtail. But it’s being a bit slow and it’s at a seriously irritating length. A rendezvous with Vicky beckons. She has been looking after my locks for some years.

Reports from elsewhere are mixed, Sweden has trodden a very different path from its neighbours. Nearly no lockdown and more hurt from the disease. Their neighbours are keeping the border closed. My niece, now a Swedish passport holder post-Brexit, is a research scientist, is very fit and very aware of sanitary methods. She’s well—others in their community less so.

In politics, it’s interesting that Sweden’s extreme right has suffered most in the polls.

The USA has shown the least effective response of any “advanced” nation. Lack of any effective central leadership, ferocious health bills for COVID sufferers - I have seen one, for a fortnight’s treatment, of over $1 million - a total disconnect between science and policy-making.

It’s going to be interesting to see the political fallout in the USA. Particularly as we are already rising infection curves in states who came out of lockdown too early. And if a Trump “rally” on Saturday becomes linked with COVID infection, who knows. Fortunately, the 1 million attendees signalled by Republicans turned into a half-filled stadium with a mere 8,200—still, enough to create a visible and significant problem for the GOP.

As the train stops for the first time since leaving Edinburgh at Leuchars, I am reminded of some childhood journies. We used to go from Cupar to the swimming baths at Dundee. In the days when Leuchars was the junction where the Tayport etcetera line diverged from the mainline, we used to choose to alight and complete our journey by that route. That would be a wee steam tank engine and, memory suggests, a single carriage. But truly delightful if slow, noisy and rather dirty. But what did an 8-year-old care?

What memories will my 8-year-old god-daughter and her contemporary carry forward from lockdown into adulthood?

That’s probably hard to tell.

But remembered I guess it will be.

Connections, of people, place, and time.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Advice to the new MSPs

A contribution made to Portland PR 's weekly briefing on Holyrood A new job is a time to look in the mirror and undertake a self-assessment about what one can contribute in a new role. And what weaknesses one may have that could inhibit success. Being elected an MSP is no different in that respect. But very different in many others. One has become public property and every action, or action thought to be by you, will be open to public comment, often unfairly. Silence is often your best response. When one comments on criticism one lengthens the “war” and widens the knowledge of it. Set your own agenda rather than respond to that of others. Who can you trust among your fellow Parliamentarians? Make contact with as many as you can as quickly as you can. And make it a priority to interact with political opponents. The first substantive decision in the new Parliament is the election of a new Presiding Officer and it will be a secret ballot. Understanding the dynamic of other partie

End of an Era 2016-2021

Written for  Holyrood magazine's "The End of an era 2016-2021"  published 07 April 2021.    Neil Findlay is the man who loves you to hate him. As he rises from his habitual place in a distant corner of the Parliamentary Chamber, a snarl as firmly attached to his face as he is disconnected to any symbol of middle-class values such as a tie, tension flows as he selects his target for the day. Is it dapper John Scott? The record-holder for the shortest time between his being sworn in and making his first speech in Parliament; a mere twenty hours. Does Willie Rennie attract his ire? Confession; we went to the same school. Almost anything liberal is bound to attract this Labour very-back-bencher’s contumely. Greens rarely attract his attention but he should remember that John Finnie, another member of this year’s escape committee, can efficiently direct a canine arrest. Now of course, I have sought to avoid any engagement with the fellow. I never, just never, even acknow

Clutter

When big things go wrong, and one feels powerless to do much about them, small things in one's life can become surrogates for one's anger. And there are quite a few big things around at the moment; COVID-19, No-Deal Brexit; A US Presidential Election where the incumbent leads with racist statements. As the end of the current session rushes towards us, many of my colleagues are concluding that they will not be putting themselves forward at the forthcoming election. A couple of our younger colleagues are placing their families first. But most are looking at being in their eighth decade, as I already am, at the end of the next session. When the two leading candidates for the US President are both older than I am - seventy-four in five week's time - it may seem surprising that retirement may be beckoning for me and others a lustrum younger than I am. But it illustrates the profound differences between being a back-bencher in our Parliament and the political life of a US Senator