Our skies now have tell-tale signs that advanced economies are edging back into action.  The purity of our skies, glorious while it lasted, is now once again again criss-crossed with vapour trails.  I’m increasingly aware of the sound of distant aircraft when I take the dog for a walk. When I return home my attentions is drawn to road traffic instead of bird-song.  We aren’t back to pre-lock-down intensity yet, but economic activity is noticeably back on the move again. I will cherish the memories of the beautiful quiet of a still summer’s day  in our back garden.  One of the consequences of this pandemic must surely be that it forced a brief interlude in the human manufactured incremental erosion of our planet. Will this experience change how we operate and do business in the future?

The month started with geopolitical tensions echoing around the global news feeds, mainly between China and the West.  Following the Chinese imposition of the Hon Kong National Security Law in June,  Boris Johnson publicly denounced it as ‘a violation’ of China’s Treaty with the UK and our Government swiftly announced plans to extend British National Overseas rights to 3million Hong Kong residents who were born during British rule.  China responded a few days later with a warning to the UK to stop interfering in (what it sees as) Chinese domestic affairs.   There were tit-for-tat closures of US and Chinese embassies and further escalations in the trade ware between the two super-powers.    Mid-month, the UK  government finally issued the order to all suppliers of 5G equipment to remove Huaweii from all networks within the next seven years (by 2027).

By mid July the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases world-wide passed the 12million with 600,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths (world-wide).  In the UK we seem to have the spread under much better control now and the Government have continued to relax lock-down, opening up access to gyms and swimming pools mid month.

In the UK we have followed a pattern of devolving responsibilities for COVID-19 measurements and controls to local authorities.    The government is still setting overall direction and national strategy, local authorities now have autonomy and responsibilities to revert to stronger means to control the spread of the virus when localised outbreaks are detected.  Over the course of the  month we have seen increases in the spread of the virus in about 40 locals across the country with localised policies, management and in some cases localised lock-downs being enforced. While at a national level the overall spread appears to be under control for the time being.

Holidays abroad are being actively encouraged in the UK in an attempt to keep the travel business alive. However, it’s been made clear that isolation could be imposed on UK citizens retuning from any foreign territories that seen to be at an increased risk of COVID-19.  By the end of the month, UK tourists returning from Spanish holiday resorts were subject to 2 weeks isolation due to resurgence of COVID-19 in Spain. The whole situation still seems really wiered. The way we have now become accustomed to seeing these dreadful infection and death rates around the world and are adapting to this new ‘business as usual’ approach.   There have been little snippets of news about progress being made on a vaccine, but nothing tangible yet.

Work situation has taken a turn for the worst. Suffice to say, prospects are bleak. I cannot remember a time when there was more at stake and I find myself unemployed. It is imperative that I find something soon as our family unit is preparing for commitments to University and A-levels. It’s now become apparent that of us who took advantage of a ‘mortgage holiday’ from our lenders will be penalised.  That’s a kick in the nuts as I had multiple assurances this would not be the case.  Learnings: Don’t trust your bank (or the Government)….. Clearly they are making it up as they go along and they don’t really care about the consequences for people further down the food-chain.  As long as they’re alright!  So, I’m spending most of my hours scouring the internet for suitable jobs, updating my cv, completing applications, but hearing nothing back.  It’s a challenge to stay positive.

We celebrated Mums 82nd birthday mid-month. We took some fine fare down to South East Kent in the coolbox, to be enjoyed in the garden where we could remain ‘socially distanced’.  We laid the lunch and drinks out on our picnic table, clad in a cotton tablecloth, which we sat around on our camping chairs. It was a lovely visit and Mum was appreciative and seemed very happy to see us all. While I’m still on daily morning telephone calls with Mum, this was the first time I’ve actually seen Mum since just before the start of lock-down.  We were only there for about 3 hours and she looked tired when we left.

Given the current circumstances, we are not even considering going away on holiday. In stead, we are doing a few family trips out as we did for the last staycation.  This year we are focussing on the National Trust so that we can include Teddy in our explorations.   The first place we visited was Sissinghurst Castle, last weekend, to see the famous gardens. What a fab day-out it was too.   Dogs weren’t allowed into the magnificent ‘formal’ gardens so we took it in turns to go round them and to walk Teddy around the more extensive grounds surrounding formal gardens. There were benches to choose from when we all met up for a lovely picnic in the designated area with views across the Weald of Kent .

This weekend we went to Petworth House. An undiscovered gem is a suitable way to describe this fine house. The grounds are extensive, rolling off into the distance across man-made lakes and hills and cultivated woodland.  The house contains a wonderful art collection that includes works from Turner, Gainsborough, Blake, Van Dyke among others.  We have pledged to go back there and spend more time in the house.

It’s been a busy month for space programmes.   United Arab Emirates launched the Hope Mars Mission on 19th Jul, this will orbit the planet to study the atmosphere. On 23rd July China launched Tianwen-1 which consists of an orbiter space craft and a landing craft and a Rover to explore the surface and search for signs of present or past life.  The third Mars mission blasted off this month was launched by the US yesterday on 30th July, the latest in it’s long running series of US robotic missions to Mars.  This NASA led mission will land a rover and a helicopter on the surface to extend NASA’s exploration and understanding of the planet. One of the objectives is collect suitable rocks and soil samples and store them in a place on the surface where they can later be collected by a later mission and sent back to Earth for further analysis. It is currently anticipated that the robotic ‘fetch and return’ mission will be a joint venture between NASA and ESA and, if successful, will be seen as a major incremental step towards ultimately sending a future human mission to the red planet.

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