Face masks, baronets, and a parallel universe: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

Britain’s subsidy on eating out is due to end this month, and it sounds like servers will breathe a sigh of relief. It’s brought money into pubs, cafes, and restaurants, and along with it, crabby, demanding customers. 

One server said, “Last week I had someone swearing at me on the phone. They wanted to book a party of 20. I tried to explain there’s no way we could book in 20, the only thing we could do is we have got tables outside. He told me I’d ruined his day.”

You know how it is: Nothing says “Let’s have a good day” the way ruining someone else’s does. 

I don’t know what it is about having part of your meal subsidized that puts people in a temper, but any number of servers report that it’s been horrible.

Irrelevant photo: It’s blackberry season.


Having advised English secondary schools against using face masks when they reopen, the government has now changed its mind and is giving head teachers (if you’re American, that means principals) discretion over whether to require them or encourage them, although how much encouragement a mask needs is anyone’s guess. 

A fair number of schools had already said they were going to require (or encourage) masks anyway and the World Health Organization has said it’s a good idea. (Okay, I’ve simplified WHO’s advice, but we’re in the neighborhood.) So the government’s avoided the embarrassment of a showdown with the schools and instead is having a showdown with its own MPS, who are saying things like: 

“Masks should be banned in schools. The country should be getting back to normal not pandering to this scientifically illiterate guff. It is time to end the fear. And keep it away from our kids, thank you very much.”

“We need to embed Covid and proportionately live with it.”

My favorite is the statement that Boris Johnson–that’s our alleged prime minister–has been “reprogrammed by aliens.”

So yes, we’ve confused WHO and Dr. Who, but we’re on top of this. It’ll be fine.


Speaking of our alleged prime minister: Dominic Cummings, who is Johnson’s brain and quite possibly his programmer, although I don’t think he’s an alien, already caused a lot of trouble by breaking his own lockdown rules, getting caught, and swearing blind that he drove 60 miles to make sure his eyesight was good enough to drive–.

Should we start that over? Dominic Cummings hasn’t been an easy presence in 10 Downing Street, and I don’t think anyone would argue that he’s united the country. Today, though, it’s his father-in-law in the news. He told a visitor (who told the world) that Johnson will be stepping down in six months because he’s struggling with the aftereffects of Covid-19, which he caught by being an idiot. 

Not that I blame people who catch the disease. Only the ones who think the rules of epidemiology don’t apply to them.

Johnson denies that he’ll step down. Number 10 denies that he’ll step down. The father-in-law’s in hiding. Cummings has stolen a tardis and is not available for comment.

The father-in-law’s a baronet. That’s not a weapon, it’s a title–the lowest order of hereditary title, and it’s available to commoners, so feel free to be snobbish about it. It gives you–or him, really–the right to be called sir. But only by people willing to call him that. Its rare female equivalent is a baronetess, and if you find one with your birdwatcher’s field glasses she will probably not want to be addressed as sir. Or siress. 


The Oxford Vaccine Group says it just might have enough data gathered before the end of the year to bring its vaccine before the regulator for approval. 

And that doesn’t say the regulator will approve it. 

Anything leaning that heavily on the word might is a kind of non-news item, but it appeared in a large enough range of publications to make it look like news. Presumably they put out a press release. Maybe they decided we all need cheering up and a press release is cheaper and more practical than tea and cookies. Or maybe they’re afraid we’ll forget them and start looking to Russia and China for salvation. Either way, please join me in a cup of tea, a cookie, and a shred of hope.

Or a biscuit if you’re holding out for British English. I’m very nearly bilingual and happy to work with either version of good cheer.


Okay, that’s enough with the good cheer. You knew it couldn’t last, didn’t you?

The world now has the first fully documented case of someone getting Covid a second time. The man’s 35 and was diagnosed in March and again in August. The two infections have some genetic differences, which says that this isn’t a single infection that hung around.

It’s not clear whether the genetic differences are enough to have made his body not recognize the second version. All anyone can say so far is that nobody should count on being immune. Beyond that, no one’s drawing sweeping conclusions.


At least in Europe, the coronavirus is becoming less deadly, although it’s not clear why. 

If you divide England’s Covid deaths by its cases (and England follows the European pattern in this), you get a fatality rate of 1% in August but 18% in April. And if you take those figures too seriously, you’ll be misled, because deaths lag a couple of weeks behind infections and because testing has changed during that time. 

Still, something seems to be going on.  It could be that the disease is infecting a younger group, who are, wisely, less prone to dying to if. It could also be that hospitals are treating it more effectively. 

One set of scientists thinks a variant of the virus, known by its friends and family as D614G, is more infectious but less deadly. A second set thinks that’s not so. I think we’ll find out occasionally, so let’s wait and see. 


For a while there, it looked like scientists in Antarctica might have found a parallel universe, created in the big bang right with ours. In it, left is right, up is down, and time runs backward.

Then it looked like they hadn’t found one at all, damn it. A new paper argues that the pulses that hinted at the parallel universe were reflections off the ice formations. 

Am I disappointed? Damn right. If time was running backwards, there’d be a way out of the pandemic. Not to mention climate change and anything else we’ve screwed up, although I’ll admit there’s an awful lot of stuff in the past to not look forward to. 

19 thoughts on “Face masks, baronets, and a parallel universe: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

  1. Sadly, I can believe that if someone was stupid enough to get infected once, they’re stupid enough to get infected twice.

    I think one of the reasons why fewer people are dying while infection rates are going up might be because those of us most at risk aren’t getting out much. I don’t know if that will change in the short term.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many people, though, don’t have the choice: It’s fine for those of us who are retired or who have an income from a government program or who can work at home. But for people in none of those categories, the choices are limited. Ida was in the hospital lately, with gallstones, and I was very aware of the risks of being there, in spite of all the precautions they take. And of the risk I brought in when I visited. Not to mention the risk everyone who works there takes. So for all my impatience with people who simply deny the risks and take stupid risks, the picture isn’t a simple one.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah ! If only we could get the Aliens to REprogram Dear Leader’s brain. The way it was done before is detrimental. But there is definitely a parallel universe, which is where the GOP convention is being held.
    I haven’t had COVID yet, but I got the first shingles shot several years ago and got shingles in January. Luckily there is now a shingles shot that is really effective. Supposedly. Also supposedly once you have shingles you won’t get it again. That is also not true, as a couple of my friends have experienced.

    There has been some suggestion that Trump’s son and his (junior’s) girlfriend who spoke Monday at the convention were both high on cocaine. Not sure how they could tell.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, as I understand it, reprogramming Johnson’t brain is possible because it’s external, located in Dominic Cummings. Trump’s is internal and very, very hard to locate. Hence the problems the aliens are having.

      I didn’t know that about shingles, or the shot, which is called a jab here-. It’s one of those words I really have to watch myself with, since I’m American and may be assumed to be armed and dangerous.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m pretty sure that if we could go back in time, we’d make the same mistakes again, or perhaps bigger ones. We don’t learn well from our past.

    Many years ago, I was at a technical conference – “Enterprise 2.0” (back when the term “2.0” was cutting edge). An executive from Hewlett Packard was a keynote speaker. HP was in serious financial trouble at the time. He was talking about not having access to the company’s history when he said: “If HP knew what HP knows, we wouldn’t be in trouble.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • If time were running backwards, though, I don’t know if we’d get to make mistakes. Wouldn’t we unmake them? Of course, we’d also unmake any good decisions and actions we made and took along the way.

      Actually, the idea of time running in the other direction is mind boggling, since what I wrote is logically, and probably physically, impossible. I can’t think what it actually means–if anything. My mind short circuits.

      The idea of HP not knowing what it knows is–. Um. Yeah. Fascinating. I could think about that for a long time without short-circuiting. And I just might.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was assuming that time would run backward and then start again. Hmmm, if it’s continually running backward, then we should know what to expect. Oh, wait, that would require knowing history. Isn’t that where we started? I think we’re screwed either way. Maybe time can go sideways for a while.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sideways might be our solution. It’s also possible that we’re taking this forward/backward thing too literally. Mind you, I don’t know any other way to take it, but since any way we go we’re backing ourselves into a corner it might be good to have an out, even if we don’t know what it means.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Honestly, yes, so many U-turns from this government, if they swear something will / won’t happen, then we can safely begin to assume the opposite. Johnson denies that he’ll step down. Number 10 denies that he’ll step down… watch this space. I wouldn’t mind only… What’s the alternative?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, we have to learn never to say, “It can’t get any worse.” On the other hand–okay, I don’t know if someone with half a brain would be an improvement or not, given what these s.o.b.s have dedicated themselves to.


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