We have been taking solace from the tranquility of our garden this month, as the outside world seems to have drifted further into some kind-of surrealistic dreamlike state. The easing of the lock-down announced by Boris Johnson ‘s triggered a measured opening up of business activities in the UK at the beginning of the month. Images of economic activities in the UK were accompanied by images of social unrest across America, followed by demonstrations world wide. By the end of the month we had pictures on every channel of packed beaches of sun-bathers in the UK. The social unrest in the US had escalated from the unlawful killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. The demonstrations taking place across the US at the end of May spiralled into rioting in early June and I saw images of burning vehicles and buildings in several big cities. There was talk of bringing the US Army in to support the police and protect the State at one stage.
The sentiment of Black Lives Matter movement could be seen rippling out across the world with many sympathetic protests here in the UK. It seemed that authorities across the world stood a few paces back and watched for a few weeks as the whole concept of ‘social distancing’ was ignored by millions of protestors all over the world.
This feels like a flash-point in our history. The presentation of historical accounts are all being challenged. Time and time again, attention has turned this month to statues of the fat-cats of the past who made their fortunes from the slave trade. They have, understandably, been a target for protestors to deface and vandalise. We must be careful though, not to simply destroy the evidence and human consciousness of past atrocities. More important, now than ever before that we address these issues, face up to them and make sure it doesn’t ever happen again.
While the Black Lives Matter movement has surfaced the controversy about how we interpret our history, it has also been a magnet for the far right, reminding us all about the risks that we still face. At one stage it seemed that scarcely an hour would elapse on the radio without a public debate on the matter. I won’t forget the footage of Mallory Nicholson being pulled down by a noisy (and very joyous) mob in Bristol. The statue was dragged across to the edge of the harbour wall where it was unceremoniously pushed over the edge an into the sea. Many well-known statues celebrating the lives of such exploitative individuals are now likely to be put into museums and accompanied with suitable balanced narrative. The public spaces they formerly stood in will see more appropriate and politically correct artefacts.
On 10th June the OECD made a public announcement that of the world’s ‘developed countries, it expected the UK to be the hardest hit by COVID-19. BP had announced a few days earlier they were shedding 10,000 jobs, Over the next few days there was a stream of announcements in the press that suggested thee economic downturn was already underway, including Cetnrica shedding 5000 jobs, the ONS released figures showing that the economy had shrunk by 20.4% in April (the larges contraction on record) and it was confirmed that the UK’s national debt had exceeded 100% of GDP for the first time since 1963. The policy to shut down UK schools and business and stay at home is now inflicting irreparable damage to parts of the economy and our children. But this policy was the only option that the government had, given its initial hesitation and inadequate timely preparation for the global crisis. A prolonged lockdown was the only choice the government had left when things got so out of control.
So the UK is now caught between a rock and a hard place. The choice is to get the country back to work and the economy going again, or to continue in this battle to get COVID-19 infections and death rates even lower and prepare more fully for a second wave. While the Lockdown has enabled us to dampen the effects for a few months, we must still expect the next wave to hit the UK in the Autumn.
While the re-infections rates and death rates had reduced sufficiently to lockdown to be eased off., we remain exposed to the high risk of a second wave until we have a vaccine in mass production.
There has been increasing media attention (in the UK) on how people changing plans for their holidays abroad. I understand we want to get the economy moving, a understand that a large proportion of global public spending is generated through travel and holidays. However, I find this focus on holidays slightly incredulous as we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. As restrictions were further relaxed towards the end of the month there were scenes of packed beaches around the country. Seaside resorts were over-run and there was a ‘major incident’ declared at Bournemouth with roads being gridlocked and local business and services completely overwhelmed by unprecedented numbers of visitors.
Geopolitical tensions have been rising this month around the world. Several of them involving China. Hong Kong is feeling the rachet being tightened by China with new laws that affect human rights and limit freedom of speech come into effect. There has also been a big crack down on opposition to Bejing with many hundreds of arrests being made this month. Chinese and Indian military have also been involved in ‘skirmishes’ on the border (Galwan Valley) with India loosing 20 soldiers and China losing 50.
So, back in the relative peace of our family bubble, we’ve avoided the stampede for the packed sandy beaches on the South Coast, though has begun venturing out with her mates, sometimes heading down to the quiet pebbled beaches near West Wittering. They are enjoying their new found freedoms that come with passing the driving test! As a family we are, on the whole, keeping to the new routine: We’ve been continuing with our daily work in the ‘office at home’ and I’ve enjoyed tending the garden and new fruit and vegetable patch. We take it in turns now to walk Teddy, usually across the Downs and often further afield down to Loseley Park and Watts Gallery. Immy Looming on the horizon are forthcoming announcements of academic results in the summer (GCSEs and A Levels) that have been playing on our minds since the beginning of lockdown.