August 2020: Eat tech to help out your returns

In the UK, August was ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ month.

A whizzy gimmick by the government gave us 50% off at restaurants/cafes/pubs on Mondays-Wednesdays. This proved a big hit, with restaurants that have never before opened on a Monday doing a roaring trade. Allegedly 40% of covers were people who hadn’t eaten out since lockdown; if they keep eating out, then the scheme should definitely prove a success.

The UK was jostled off its place on the Covid naughty step in August. Most other European countries saw Covid-19 cases per person rise dramatically, with a bunch of hitherto golden children now scoring worse than the UK. Put simply, the UK has not deteroriated as fast as other places – Ireland, France, the Netherlands are all now officially ‘less safe’ than the UK. Even Greece, largely a collection of sunny disconnected islands, threatens to overtake the UK.

Have BoJo’s “world beating” policy measures finally given the UK its place in the sun? Or, whisper it quietly, has the UK’s travel quarantine policy proved surprisingly appropriate for the summer months – at deterring travel to/from virus hotspots. Are UK workers just too scared to return to the office? Or is the UK’s service-driven economy proving more capable of operating from home than the more traditional workplaces in Italy / Germany / etc? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I didn’t use the tube or a bus once – though I did use Uber a bit. I don’t think I went into the West End, London’s historic centre, at all. I got around a bit though, finding myself in some enjoyably off-the-beaten track spots.

Deserted spot, North
Deserted spot, West
Famous park, East
Park I’d never heard of, East
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July 2020: shambles and zombies

Lockdown continued to dominate the news in the last month.

Poor old Australia seems not to have escaped Covid so lightly after all. Victoria, at the time of writing, is bearing the brunt of it. With a population of just over 6m, i.e. about the same as Scotland, they now have 11k cases, with 116 deaths to date. Their new daily cases figure of almost 400 amounts to, by my calculations, around 60 per million – which would put Victoria in the worst quartile in Europe.

New daily cases in Europe, Tue 28 July. Source: The Times

BoJo would like us to think of these increases as presaging the ‘second wave’. His government is now adjusting the settings almost daily, across several dimensions. One moment, in Oldham a lockdown is applied; the next moment, people across the North West can’t meet others indoors. One moment, masks are now (finally) compulsory in shops; the next moment masks are now required in all indoor public spaces. Meanwhile across the country nobody can now get married, whereas as of yesterday they could.

One government policy, one shop, one day – two ministers.

This leaves everybody having no idea any more.

BBC Radio 4 Today program, as transcribed by FT Alphaville
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June 2020: Disadvantage month

Well, it’s nice having some new news. I would struggle to mention any big stories over the last six months except Brexit and Covid-19. But June has been ‘disadvantaged minorities’ month.

The month began with the awful George Floyd story ricocheting around the world.

Thousands around the world protest against George Floyd's death in ...
Protests over George Floyd’s death spread to Europe (Source: CNN)

My first reaction was to think of this as a very American thing; my conclusion from reading Robert Caro’s masterful biography of LBJ was that America not having apartheid to the present day was a close run thing. And the American policing system is in a western world of its own, helped by those archaic constitutional clauses about the rights to form militia / bear arms / etc. Closer to home, I didn’t approve of the ‘anti statue’ brigade, siding with those who see it as rewriting history.

Edward Colston statue pulled down in Bristol, England during ...

A month later, and my thinking has changed significantly. I’ve woken up to some of the ongoing issues that are easy to ignore in the daily grind. I’m slightly more aware of the UK’s own role in the shameful American legacy (whose colonies were they, after all, when slavery was legalised in 1640?). I now concede that statues are as much style/decoration as they are historical record, and that a town square’s/Oxford college quad’s choice of statue can be seen as a contemporary aethestic choice. I don’t want to see statues destroyed, but I do accept that some might be better moved to a museum rather than left in pride of place.

Is Oriel College, Oxford, right to remove the statue of Cecil ...
Oriel College, Oxford
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