Can the PPE tsar save Boris’ bacon?

We are lucky to have a garden to enjoy the warmer weather during lockdown

Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 35 (Tuesday, April 21 2020)

IT looks like we are in for a few days of glorious weather which will make lockdown all the more palatable.

We are managing to keep fairly occupied in the mornings at LymeOnline, working from home, and putting as much material as possible on our website where we have a special platform for all things connected to coronavirus, as well as producing the fortnightly digital edition.

I write this diary after returning from my early morning walk and Francesca does a long walk (sometimes 10k) every afternoon.

Having got up so early for my walk and spending the morning writing stuff for the website and catching up on admin, the afternoons tend to drag a bit so being able to potter about in the garden or read in the sunshine is a godsend.

I’m no gardener but I am a voracious reader so I’m catching up on all the books I have not had time to read over the years. I have just finished ‘Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’, one of the most fascinating books I have ever read.

It tells the story of a dedicated group of mavericks who fought a guerrilla war wreaking havoc against Hitler’s troops through spectacular acts of sabotage which played a huge part in the defeat of Nazism. Their dirty tricks were shunned by the British military because they thought their tactics were’ just not cricket’. Churchill, however, loved them.

Today I am just about to start reading ‘Spitfire – a Very British Love Story’ about the iconic wartime plane that played such a vital role throughout the war but especially during the Battle of Britain in 1940. It is written by John Nichol, the Royal Air Force pilot who got shot down during a mission over Iraq and was tortured and held as a prisoner of war.

I’m particularly interested in the Spitfire because my Dad, an engineer, helped to build them during the war.

Mrs E is adamant that I won’t spend all day watching the rolling news bulletins on the television, but I’m always back in my armchair by tea-time to listen to the coronavirus briefing from Downing Street.

These are coming increasingly more depressing, not just because of the shocking news about the disturbing number of people who are dying of COVID-19 but because of the manner in which the questions from journalists are delivered, about which I’ve written several times in this daily diary.

I’ve been somewhat torn between the necessity for government ministers to be held to account for decisions which may have led to more deaths and the aggressive manner some of the journalists have adopted.

Having worked in the newspaper industry all my life, I’ve come to accept that some journalists court notoriety to boost their own egos, but what has surprised me is the level of criticism from those who take very little interest in the relationship between press and government which has never been more strained.

Negative effect on morale

Many of my friends who do not work in the media believe press coverage, both on TV and in print, is causing a good deal of distress among the populace and is having a negative effect on the morale in the country.

After every bulletin, social media goes into overdrive with much of the flak aimed at the journalists and not the government spokespersons.

Here’s a typical one after yesterday’s press conference: “Hugh Pym kicks us off with an utterly embarrassing question that sums up the BBC’s ability to understand the public at large; perfect illustration of how bad journalism has been during this crisis.”

There can be no doubt that the issues over testing and personal protection equipment (PPE) have been handled poorly, but it’s a global problem, not one solely of our own making.

Early in this diary I was advocating the appointment of a tsar to take responsibility for the procurement of PPE, as Churchill did during the war when he appointed Lord Beaverbrook to boost aircraft production, which he did in magnificent fashion.

At long last our government has appointed Lord Deighton, who led planning for the 2012 Olympic Games, to co-ordinate a national effort to make life-saving gowns, gloves and masks. Let’s hope he can save Boris’ bacon.

Here in our own patch there is a group of ladies who call themselves the West Dorset Scrubbers who are doing just that with a number in Lyme helping to make scrubs and the bags necessary for the to be laundered. My own wife Jackie, a talented seamstress, is on the list to help out if more are required.

When all this is over (how many times have I written this in my diary?) I hope we can find a way of thanking Sarah and Neville Causley for bringing some light relief to these troubling times.  Not only is Sarah operating her Fitsteps classes online, she is also doing regular baking sessions for the kids, and between them they are staging a virtual quiz every Monday night which is now being followed by hundreds, some from abroad.

The highlight of the evening comes during the break when Sarah, a consummate stage performer, and Nev, who hosted popular quizzes when they ran the Hunters Lodge pub and restaurant, perform a cabaret duet. This week it was Renée and Renata and it was brilliantly funny.

Nev and Sarah also revealed they were celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary – so congratulations from all the Monday night isolated virtual quizzers.

Thanks for your support

Finally, a warm thank-you to all those who have responded to our appeal for financial support to help LymeOnline, a community not-for-profit project, keep going through this crisis, especially to those who have agreed to make a monthly on-going donation.

We have written to them all to say thank-you and were chuffed to receive the following reply from one supporter: “Thank you for the note but really not necessary. Given that LymeOnline is one of the few newspapers that I chose to read from cover to cover, an on-going monthly donation is certainly something I will continue as long as I am able.

“Lyme is lucky to have a local newspaper/online resource and someone willing to put in the effort to run it and maintain it.  I certainly appreciate being able to keep in touch with what’s going on when not there and feel somehow that I am still in touch with my somewhat diminishing now family roots.”

You can donate to LymeOnline securely via PayPay by clicking the ‘Donate’ button on our website homepage, or get in touch for further details.

This quotation from philosopher Alfred North Whitehead sums up our feelings: “No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”

Woodmead Halls

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