Passing Observations 19

Vernon Coleman

1. If Oriel College, Oxford removes the statue of Cecil Rhodes I hope they give back all the money he gave them. Those who demand that Mr Rhodes be taken down don’t understand anything very much. If you remove all traces of history then you never learn from the past and are more likely to repeat the errors made by people living in another time with other standards. Besides, if those who want the statue torn down knew anything about anything they would know that Mr Rhodes, an Englishman and a miner not a slave trader, made a greater contribution to the development of Africa than anyone else in history. I suspect that most of those who want his statue removing know little and care less about history; many of them have benefitted enormously from the money he left to the college and very few of them were born in England. (I doubt if the French would take kindly to it if I suggested that statues to, say, Joan of Arc should be removed.)

2. The trouble with being censorious about figures from the past is that it can be difficult to find an end. So, for example, The Guardian newspaper was built on a fortune from cotton picked by slaves. Moreover the newspaper branded Abraham Lincoln `abhorrent’ and sided with the Confederates in the American War of Independence. Many are now calling for The Guardian to be closed on the grounds of hypocrisy as much as its past link with slavery. If the Rhodes statue goes then The Guardian must go too.

3. More payments are now being made with plastic than with cash. I bought a coffee the other day and was asked to pay a bill of £2.40 with a credit card. There were no other cafes open in the town and the café I visited flatly refused to accept cash.

4. It is quite clear that the people in power do not believe that we need social distancing. After weeks of ordering us to maintain social distancing, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock was seen with his hand on the back of another MP. In the US, President Donald Trump has been seen standing shoulder to shoulder with his advisors.

5. The highest paid jobs in the US are now likely to be data scientists. Starting salaries for young data scientists are $100,000 a year.

6. The new director general of the BBC has generously agreed to accept just £450,000 a year. But after august 2021 his salary will soar to £525,000 a year. How will he manage until then?

7. There is still much controversy about how the coronavirus arrived in our lives. Did it escape from a laboratory? There is much criticism of the Chinese (most of it justified) but critics should remember that a sample of the smallpox virus escaped from a laboratory at Birmingham Medical School long after the disease had been eradicated.

8. Doctors and nurses are, I fear, going to be the most loathed people in the world for allowing hospital departments to close – and stay closed. Millions of cancer patients and their relatives are unlikely to forget, let alone to forgive. Antoinette wakes every morning in tears because of the pain in her shoulder – caused by her surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer. She could make an appointment to see a hairdresser but she can’t go to the local hospital for physiotherapy because the physiotherapy department is still shut and the staff have no idea when it will open. We should all be standing on our doorsteps on Thursday evenings and booing as loudly as we can. I would do this but only the rabbits and the squirrels will hear me and they will be alarmed.

9. Cyclists do enormous harm to the environment. All those cyclists pedalling along with a queue of traffic behind them do massive damage. When cars and lorries travel slowly they are inefficient – and they chuck out far more poisons than if they travel faster. To improve the atmosphere, cycling should be banned.

10. Governments now want their citizens to spend, spend, spend in order to help revive battered economies. Low or negative interest rates, together with higher prices, will be used to force people to spend all their savings. It suits the authorities for people to have few or no savings.

11. The number of EU citizens in the UK has been under-estimated by the Home Office by a staggering 55%. The UK Government had estimated that there were 3.8 million EU citizens living in the EU. But the real figure is around 6.0 million. Apparently the Home Office appears to have forgotten to count people living in multiple occupation homes, in caravan parks or in dormitories. Once again it is clear that the Home Office is not fit for purpose. Is there any Government department which is fit for purpose? If you don’t know how many people are living in a country it is impossible to plan the services which are likely to be required. Still, that won’t matter much now since there aren’t likely to be many services available. Remainers usually say that London voted to remain in the EU because of the wisdom of the Londoners. In reality, of course, most of the voters in London are not British and so their loyalty lies with the EU rather than Britain.

12. Silicon Valley in the US is full of people who oppose the use of fossil fuels. However, Silicon Valley uses so much electricity that diesel fired back up power plants are being built for local data centres. There will, I hope, be lots of red-faced sanctimonious nerds in Silicon Valley.

13. Those who support the endless lockdowns seem to have forgotten that there are risks in everything we do. Trying to eradicate non-existent risks by lockdowns which will destroy our economy, our future and all the things which make life worth living is insane. Kids are going to grow up utterly fearful, restless and unbalanced. In ten years’ time the world will be awash with crazy psychopaths.

14. The civil service seems to be still on holiday. We bought a new car in March (just before the lockdowns). We are still waiting for the log book. I have written, telephoned and emailed numerous times. How is the country ever going to get back to anything resembling functional? I was told by HMRC that I must complete my tax forms online. I would rather carve my accounts in stone than use the HMRC website. But I must. I got past several barriers on the website and was then told that I must wait to be sent a code number to use. The code number has not arrived. So I cannot complete my tax form. The chaos is everywhere. Our drains were blocked yesterday and although we have insurance I could not bear the idea of trying to make an appointment in these semi-lockdown days, so I pulled out the drain rods and did it myself – in the pouring rain. In my dark moments, I don’t think anything will ever be bearable again. The suicide rate is going to go through the roof. Except, of course, that the Government will tell doctors to put down all suicides as Covid-19 victims – which I suppose they will be.

15. An old, worn-out fox visits our garden every evening. He’s been coming for some time now and has a routine. He takes a drink from the bird bath and eats up any seed that has fallen from the feeders. Last night he suddenly saw me watching him and, alarmed, he loped off up the garden and into the trees. I felt so guilty that I had interrupted his snack. But then I saw that one of the rabbits was standing frozen on the edge of the cliff. Thankfully the fox, probably half blind, didn’t see it and just carried on up the hill. The rabbit survived and I hope the fox managed to find some supper elsewhere.

Copyright Vernon Coleman June 2020

Vernon Coleman’s most recent diary Tickety Tonk is available on Amazon as a paperback and an eBook. (It ‘s the seventh in a series of seven.)