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In sight of some difficulties

As we gradually move from the most restrictive of lockdowns, things change for my close relatives. One, who has been shielding, returned to her work in a care home on Thursday.

She was previously the matron, but as she is now in her late sixties, she stepped back from management a couple of years ago. As she writes on her Facebook page;

"First day back at work yesterday! Lovely to see people but I had forgotten about the heat when you're busy, not helped by wearing full PPE!"

I haven't had a report from her cat Lucy. But if our pair are anything to go by there will be mewing and pacing. They almost immediately leap onto my lap when I sit down. Quite new behaviour. Like my MP colleague John Nicholson's cat Rojo, our Donald Ruirdh has appeared on screen during a broadcast Parliamentary Committee meeting, but fortunately, my camera was not on the broadcast matrix at the time. Notoriety avoided.

But Lucy and others of our domestic animal companions will be likely to find our absence unsettling as some of their slaves return to work.

The other close family member who has been shielding, she is well into her eighties and of good health but with a compromised immune system, has been venturing out.

The small rural village in which she lives has always been a collaborative group of people who have looked out for each other. So lockdown merely fine-tuned the way that worked. A neighbour simply took her bank card and did her shopping. The quite big garden assumed a new orderliness, it had never been untidy, and the weather has contributed to good crops.

The first drive out to do her own shopping appears not to have phased her.

As these two members of the family are both nurses, they have well understood the need for the lockdown and the rules that have gone with that. It can be very quiet in their villages. Both have exercised judgement and gone walking without, I am told, their meeting anyone while doing so.

That's been good because exercise aids physical health and boosts the mind.

Being confined at home has not necessarily meant being isolated; they are both grannies with most of their families living well away from them. Electronic communication has always been part of their management of family relationships.

One of them is listed for some important, but not urgent, surgery which may involve an overnight stay in hospital. The offer of an online consultation as part of the preparation for that has been eagerly accepted and seems to have worked well. Another step for that individual into a different world. One more move towards a more efficient and accessible health service for all of us.

Other changes are afoot as well. My car goes for its service at the end of the month. As I write this, I thought I would check about the MoT which is due about the same time. And I find it does need an MoT on schedule. No extension for my car as the UK Government's web site says;

"Car, van or motorcycle's MOT expiry dates were extended by 6 months [if] they were due between 30 March 2020 and 31 July 2020"

Ignoring the missing "if" on the web site, I deduce that my car must have its test on schedule. Good job I checked.

Although none of this applies to me, it also says;
  • "you should not take your vehicle for its MOT if either you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms
  • you've been told by the NHS Test and Trace service that you've been in contact with a person who has coronavirus
  • you have returned to the UK in the last 14 days, unless you travelled from a country on the 'travel corridor' list (there's a different 'travel corridor' list if you live in Scotland), or belong to one of the groups who do not have to self-isolate"
See it all for yourself at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-mots-for-cars-vans-and-motorcycles-due-from-30-march-2020#mot-due-from-1-august-2020.

I am now making sure by sending an email to the garage to add the MoT to the car service.

As a minor ponder, one wonders why it is still an "MoT" test? It was originally supervised by the Ministry of Transport. Hence the initials. Having just checked, I find that there hasn't been a Ministry of Transport since 1967. Or any replacement body with the initials M O T.

If asked to guess, I would have thought it a much more recent loss to public administration. How many, say, thirty-year-olds could tell you what MoT stands for. And if they can, would they know that there has never been such an organisation in their lifetime.

Early in my motoring career, the MoT test only kicked in when your car was at least ten years old. And it didn't test very much. But cars have changed dramatically.

I previously wrote about my father having one of the very early Mini-Cooper S cars. The police at that time used Austin Westminster saloons. They could catch father on the straights, just, but were left far behind after the corners. I should remind you that this was before Labour Cabinet Secretary Barbara Castle introduced a national speed limit. That had been after Aston Martin decided to use the M1 to test their cars at up to 140 miles per hour.

The Cooper S had a top speed of under 100 mph and could accelerate to 50 mph in under 9 seconds. To do that it had 70 brake horse-power. The ordinary Mini Cooper had 55 with the standard mini coming in at 34 brake horse-power. The 70 bhp was regarded with awe at the time.

Today my Honda Civic, not the "R" model, with an engine of only 10% more capacity than father's "S", pumps out 170 horses.

Cars have changed dramatically since the MoT test came along. They save more people when a crash occurs, seat-belts, airbags and other design improvements have helped. But I am less certain that the drivers have changed as much.

The eyesight test, which applied when I took my first test in 1963, when 60 mph was regarded as a really high speed, has not changed materially since then. Once it was that one had to be able to read a number plate at 25 yards; now it's at 22 metres. Actually, I have just thought to check .. it's 20 metres.

The standard has fallen by 12.5%. So actually I was wrong.

In these days of much more powerful cars, we have relaxed what was already, in my humble opinion, a very limited eyesight requirement.

Years ago, I drove blindfold on a private circuit with a conductor alongside me who gave me instructions. It was organised by a local blind support group and was great fun.

But I want the drivers I meet on our roads to have much better visual acuity, with correction lenses if need be, than seems to be required.

I am appalled at the 20-metre rule. I have four sight defects and can pass the test without my glasses.

Shortly away for my daily walk.

I shall step even further off the road when I meet cars.

Still appalled.

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