Peter Rhodes on the Covid blame game, an encounter with deer and memories of the foot-and-mouth contagion

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Hello again, deer (Photo: John Hayward)
Hello again, deer (Photo: John Hayward)

Just spent an hour trudging through three inches of that stuff the Met Office said we wouldn't be seeing again.

Ah, the joys of middle age. Layers are the secret of cold-weather yomping. So it's on with the briefs, thermal long Johns, thermal vest, T-shirt, fleece trousers, sailing overtrousers with braces, puffa body warmer, wellies, neckover, woolly hat, fleece, anorak. And thus attired against the cold, guess what you suddenly need, with great urgency?

A surprise on this wintry (can also be spelt wintery) (and spelt can also be spelt spelled) trek was to find three deer in the field next to Chateau Rhodes. Not the little muntjac fellas who race around all the time, but three proper, pony-high roe deer with white bottoms and surprised faces. The last time I recall them this close to the house was in another rotten year, 2001. It was 20 years ago this winter that foot and mouth disease broke out. By the time it was over, six million farm animals had been destroyed and the countryside reeked with the stench from their funeral pyres.

During that ghastly year, all the footpaths were closed and, with no humans or dogs to frighten them, deer and buzzards steadily drifted back into our neighbourhood. When it was over and the ramblers reappeared, the deer cleared off. But the buzzards stayed and spend their summers screaming at each other while soaring on the thermals. Not the long John sort.

To recap. The new English variant of Covid-19 may be 30 per cent more lethal than the old sort. Or 40 per cent. Or even (depending on the medical team you trust) a worrying 90 per cent. So how certain of these predictions are the doctors? About 50 per cent, apparently.

Again, the golden rules of this pandemic. If something goes right, it's thanks to the NHS. If something goes wrong, blame the Government.

By way of example, Labour leader Keir Starmer describes a new vaccination centre in Stevenage as “a real tribute to the NHS, to the team here and all the volunteers.” On the same day Labour's cheerleader columnist Polly Toynbee tells us: “There will be inquests into why care home deaths are rapidly rising again, as the government fails to vaccinate half of them.” You could just as easily argue that the Government should get credit for the vaccination centre while the NHS could be blamed for not jabbing enough old folk. But it doesn't fit the agenda, does it?

Back to the online calculator to find out when I can expect my first jab. A couple of weeks ago, you may recall, I was pencilled in for May 28. The latest calculation tells me: “Based on your profile, there are between 4,825,942 and 7,205,162 people in front of you in the queue for a Covid vaccine across the UK.” Not terribly precise, is it? I suspect it's not so much a calculator as an abacus.

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