I have observed some spectacular sunrises this month during my morning walks with the dog. The reducing daylight hours remind me that winter closing in, the northern hemisphere is getting colder and darker. The most pressing thing on the minds of many this autumn is the massive acceleration in the transmission rate of COVID-19 and its trail of death, economic hardship and financial ruin across the world. It feels like the disease is getting very close now, and only a matter of time before it invades our house-hold. Imperial College published a major study earlier this week suggesting that the numbers of daily infections are doubling every 9 days and nearly 100,000 people are catching the disease every day in the UK, with more than 40% being asymptomatic (carriers with no symptoms). We now have friends locally who have tested positive with the disease, resulting in other friends having to self isolate (as per quarantine rules for those who have been in close proximity to an infected person). Immy’s student flat went into isolation for 2 weeks following a positive test on two of her flat-mates.
Northern Ireland and Scotland are now operating under localised 5 tier lock down system, England has implemented a 3 tier lockdown system (again at a local level) and Wales is now one week into a national lockdown. Most countries across Europe are facing the same problems. France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Republic of Ireland are all under various stages of national and local lockdown. Spain has issued a new state of emergency, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Greece are implementing sweeping new measures including curfews and restrictions on movement and business operations. There has big public demonstrations in Italy in response to the new COVID restrictions.
It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about climate change, but this month I have noticed a resurgence in extreme rainfall and high winds. I’m specifically noting, for the blog, that the 3rd October was the wettest day ever recorded in the UK with an average of 31.7mm of rain across the entire country.
At the beginning of the month the EU launched a legal action against the UK over the UK Internal Market Bill which breaches the international treaty covering the UK separation from the EU (therefore breaking International Law). The Bill also overrides parts of the Northern Ireland agreement. This has sparked interest from the US Democratic Party who have indicated that if they win the US Election and the UK continues on it’s current path then the US will not be entering into a Trade Deal with the UK. Regardless, under the leadership of Boris Johnson UK Government trundles along on the same direction. On October 16th announced that Brexit talks were over and that the UK must now prepare for the no-deal scenario. The EU has asked the UK to resolve the issue (about breaching the Brexit Agreement) by the end of the month, but this has not happened.
As if to underline the governments ‘hard-line stance’ in negotiations, there was a public humiliation for the Greater Manchester Council who were negotiated down from a £90M request for financial support. It boiled down to a week-long public spat between the Council (who refused to go below £65M) and the Government (who refused to move above £60M). Andy Burnham is being branded by some local media channels as ‘King of the North’ and I though he gave a good account of himself in front of the cameras. He must have won good political capital with local voters, despite having lost this particular battle to secure the additional £5M and falling out with colleagues in the House of Commons.
The US Election campaign appears to be passing through a tipping point. After an unsightly campaign, it appears that Biden has edged ahead of Trump in the polls, but as we know from the last election “it ain’t all over ‘til the fat lady sings”, and for that we have to wait until Tuesday 3rd November. If Trump does get back in then I believe it will push the world deeper into the perils of accelerated climate change. Another Trump term will lead to increased geo-political fragmentation and a bigger risk of confrontation between nation states.
If Tump is voted back in then I’d also expect to see a further degradation of race relations and law and order across the US. True to form (consistent with his track record while in office) Tump has come across as narcissistic and vindictive throughout the campaign, though his misogynistic views have been toned-down a bit as he clearly needs the female vote. If Bydon gets in, then Trump has made clear his intention to declare the result invalid. He also now has the majority in the Supreme Court and is widely expected to challenge any result that does not go his way. More worryingly, Trump’s rhetoric continues to favour the far right and his tacit approval of white supremacist has hit a new low with an explicit call to the Proud Boys (far right group) to ‘ stand back and stand by’. Trump’s tone has more than a hint of encouragement for confrontation from violent right-wing militia groups if things go the wrong way for him.
Either way, it is likely to be an edgy and possibly dangerous period in the US over the coming days and weeks and the repercussions of this year’s US elections are about to be felt around the world.
There have been two gruesome terrorist attacks in France this month. Earlier in the month a History Teacher was beheaded outside the school gates after engaging his class in a debate about free speech and expression. During one of his lesson he had invited anyone who may be offended to leave the class for a few minutes before sharing some Charlie Hebdu cartoons that provoked the execution of four French journalists in 2015.
One of the Islamic students chose to stay and see what was presented, took offence to it and reported to his family, who in turn, took it upon themselves to stir up some anger over the matter on social media which resulted in this obscene and grisly outcome taking place.
Following this outrage there was a show of solidarity with marches and rallies across France.
Earlier this week there was another dreadful Islamist terrorist attack, killing three people at a Church in Nice. This weas another knife attack, with one of the victims being almost completely decapitated. After the second attack the local Mayor spoke passionately about the rise of ‘Islamo-fascism’ and said that the suspect had repeatedly called out ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he went about his business of butchering local people. While there has been international condemnation to these attacks, there have been unhelpful responses from some international leaders which have coincided with well-publicised anti-French demonstrations in Turkey, Iran, Qatar, Kuwait, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia. This sinister situation appears to be gaining some momentum
At about 6pm this evening the PM broadcasted to the nation once again this time to make the grim announce of new national lock-down measures for England. These are to start on Thursday November 5th and continue for at least a month, or until such time as the ‘R number’ falls below. This will have serious economic impact for the country. The government has no viable alternative option as the Regional Tiered approach is clearly not being effective enough. The lock-down measures exclude Schools, Colleges and Universities this time. It’s a shame this conclusion wasn’t reached two weeks ago before the half term holiday period, as now schools are about to go bac on Monday. By all accounts, the delay in making this decision will be costly in so many ways. The graphs above talk for them-selves.
I started work on a fixed-term contract with a County Council who are in the middle of several very large projects. I’ve been hired into a ‘specialist’ role, back-filling for people who have been deployed onto these projects. I started on Monday this week. To say that I am relieved to land this employment (given the current climate) is a huge under-statement.
Lewis Hamilton is on the cusp of being the world’s most successful formula 1 grand prix driver after equalling Michael Schumacher’s 91 wins on 11th October. He could clinch it tomorrow! Arsenal have dropped down to 9th in the Premier League after their excellent start. At the grass roots level, Onslow FC Under 17s have won every match and share a joint top of our league with the Leatherhead based Ashtead Colts who have been breathing down our necks for a few weeks.
That’s it for this month. Leaving you with a couple of shots taken from my new iPhone 11 which has a wide-angle lens to compliment it’s normal focal-length lens. These pictures were shot from exactly the same position, pointing at the same distant horizon, a few seconds apart, zoomed in and zoomed out.