I’ll not forget the morning  of 4th March 2021, driving to St Christopher’s Church in Hazelmere to receive my first COVID-19 vaccination.  I knew it would be another couple of weeks for the vaccine protection to be significant.

The relief was immense, immediate, and tainted with some level of guilt (that I am now covered but others are not yet so lucky).

By the end of the month it is possible to observe the world through different lens, through which there is clear and visible optimism and a sense society is beginning to turn the COVID crisis around.   To back this up,  the press was reporting by the middle of the month that the number of  daily  COVID-19  deaths in the UK  had fallen below 100 for the first time since October.

The schools have been re-opened to children in the past couple of weeks (after two-months of home / online education).

Incredibly, the UK vaccination programme set a record this month of administering just under 850,000 vaccinations in one day!

Today (30th March) the ONS reported that half of people in the UK now have  the required level of antibodies to protect them against against the virus, either through infection or vaccination. What a turn-around!

At 12noon, on 23rd March, people of the UK took a minute’s silence to look back and to remember the 126,172 people who have died from the virus since the beginning of lockdown.

Harry and Megan did an interview with Oprah Winfrey  this month, during which they got their dirty washing out for the word to see.  Self-centred? Maybe.  Irrelevant to most of us? Probably.  I wonder what the world (outside the UK) made of it?  Personally, I found the re-organisation of my sock drawer more compelling.

The government announced a miserable 1% pay-rise for the NHS a couple of weeks ago.  This decision has,  quite rightly,  received a lot of bad press.   For many of us our memories are the echoes of all those hollow statements about how we must all protect the NHS. Vivid, are the images of our political elite cheerleading the county to ‘clap for NHS’ during the peaks of the COVID crisis. What a bunch of hypocrites!  So, thanks to Brexit,  more than 30,000 EU nationals formerly working for the NHS have been / are being kicked out of the country.  The NHS loses over 10 million days  (sick-leave) a  year due to the high stress-levels of it’s massively over-worked and under-resourced workforce that is routinely dealing with dangerous diseases. The UK went into the COVID Criss with a shortfall of 40,000 nurses and  is currently needing to recruit across all areas. The NHS is in a staffing crisis and has just saved our nation from disaster (more information on this link).  What is it that the government is not understanding?  Are they nuts?   Of course, we all know that the country is in a massive financial hole at the moment. Of-course, we need to re-think tour approach to NHS funding and to re-prioritise. But the answer is not to give the staff at the NHS a shite pay-rise!   The Chancellor (Rishi Sunack) also warned, in his budget speech this month,  that future tax rises would be inevitable to prevent ‘irresponsible’ increases to the UK’s debt mountain (expected to grow to £335bn later this year).

I need to get off this subject.

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During the past winter I’ve spent much more time outdoors than I’ve ever done in previous years. I’ve been getting more walks with the dog this year than ever before adn working in the garden has been a particular priority. The past few weekends have I’ve been focussed on tidying up and seeding the area that I landscaped in the autumn. Over the past few weeks I’ve thinking about when to plant the veg-patch. A by-product of the kids getting older, leaving home and taking on other responsibilities is that I can find time to indulge in these activities.  Increased exposure to the elements and the great-outdoors has drawn my mind increasingly towards climate change again as I’ve been feeling the effects of slightly unusual weather patterns through-out the year: This month, for instance, it started off really cold with a rainfall that was well below average for this time of year.  In fact we’ve had so little rain that I’ve been watering all the trees that we planted in the autumn as the ground was way too dry and they were all struggling to survive.  Last week we experienced the second warmest March day on record, with temperatures of 24.5 °C (76.1 °F) in Kew Gardens (the highest since 1968).

A significant  step towards reducing our carbon footprint was announced yesterday by Tokamak Energy, a UK company based in Oxford.  The Company released some incredible pictures of a Hydrogen Plasma being generated in a spherical tokamak fusion energy device which they’ve designed, built and put through (some of) its paces for the past few months. These pictures are evidence that this UK company is on a roadmap to deliver commercial fusion energy, a renewable energy source that will play a key part in a more sustainable future (by reducing emissions in energy generation).  More information can be found on this link.

https://www.tokamakenergy.co.uk/tokamak-energy-on-track-to-be-the-first-private-company-to-achieve-100-million-degree-plasma-temperature-paving-the-way-to-commercial-fusion-energy/

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Couple of other science and technology headlines to end my post this month:

Amazon opened shop in London which has no cashiers or conventional scanning /product check-outs . So you can walk in, fill your bag, and wave your phone at the payment-check-out as you walk out. Sounds radical!  Well, yeh, it is (radical) at the moment.  They’ve had them in the US for a few months, and this store (in Wembley) is the first of it’s kind in the UK. No doubt it will soon become mainstream.

Following the successful landing last month, there have been loads of amazing images coming through from NASA this month of the Perseverance mission on Mars.

This picture below has some controls that will enable you to zoom in and scroll around this high resolution panorama. It has been stitched together from 79 individual images, taken on the afternoon of Sol 4 (Feb. 22, 2021) of the mission; a sol is a Martian day.

The edge of the crater is just over a mile from the camera, which is mounted on the Rover.

Click on the image below to expand and see a 360° view of the landing site.