Saturday, August 01, 2020

Cycling

One of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been that the numbers of people in the UK who cycle have soared.

Luckily on the day most shops in England were closed  in March 2020 because of the effects of the pandemic in England cycle shops were exempt. Having booked in my very old (30 years plus) Raleigh bike for a service I looked around the shop whilst awaiting the bike engineer. In the event we struck a deal under which my old cycle was traded in for  new Giant  bike. Giants  are Taiwanese made and are or at least were at that time, not too pricey. Since then many bicycle shops and on-line, have sold out of decent bikes so I was fortunate.

Cycling either to, then around, Richmond Park, returning over Wimbledon Common or along the River Thames to Hampton Court Bridge and back, is good exercise for a couple of hours. On balance the Richmond Park route is harder though possibly that feels so because of the accident cycling there a couple of years back - see 

cycle accident

Recalling that Bernie and Paul from HCPT had treated me to lunch a few days back, I sent a copy  of my book to Paul and decided to drop in on Bernie with a copy  The Wandering Soul for her as she lives very close to the Hampton Court cycling route.

Bernie provided some much needed refreshment in her beautiful garden and also provided a beautiful home made cake for mrs maytrees. 

We  then spent a little while strapping the delicious gateau to the bike,after which the hard pedalling home resumed. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

HCPT Groups 35 and 729 Reunion During the Covid-19 Pandemic

As Westminster Cathedral is now open again for holy mass, Bernie Paul and I who had for years led our HCPT groups on pilgrimages with HCPT The Pilgrimage Trust to Lourdes at Easter time, agreed to have a reunion last Thursday.

Westminster Cathedral authorities had combined their 12 noon and 1:05 pm masses to a single mass at 12:30 pm which we decided to attend before meeting. One had to queue before entering the Cathedral and cleanse one's hands prior to entering the pews. 

Not having been to confession for a year I decided also to join the queues for that sacrament. Confession did not take place in the rather old confessionals in the cathedral but rather in side chapels standing up before  young priests, who wore  clear plastic visors rather than a mask. The latter are not required within the cathedral in any event. I thought that taking the sacrament in this way was holy and dignified and congratulate the clergy for working out that new procedure so well.

However  after confession, going to sit in one of the cathedral pews I though that the way the authorities had effectively taped off pews using what appeared to be flashy road accident type police tape, was poor. Using carefully tied string as is done locally at the Sacred Heart church Wimbledon, is rather less obtrusive. 

Mass was spiritual but speedy with no sermon nor as it happens any altar servers,  though  at Wimbledon, a short sermon during masses there, seems fitting enough.

Afterwards Bernie Paul and I made our way to The Ivy restaurant Victoria Street which had just re-opened and enjoyed a terrific meal together:


There was much talk and laughter about our enjoyable but difficult, times travelling together to Lourdes over many years principally by train. There was naturally, sombre conversation about the appalling effects of the pandemic not the least of which was the cancellation of this year's HCPT pilgrimage to Lourdes, for the first time since the foundation of the Trust in 1956.

On a happier note however as our long lunchtime  conversations began to conclude, both Bernie and Paul declined to let me pay for the meal which had been my intention. Instead they said that they would pay for me provided that I gave each of them a signed copy of The Wandering Soul:

https://www.shieldcrest.co.uk/?product=the-wandering-soul

And the deal was done.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The European Union - Current Position

The  tragedies and difficulties caused by the continuing  Covid-19 pandemic have really eclipsed many other important issues affecting Europe and the world at this time.

One such issue is that of the development of the European Union. To its credit the Financial Times until now a strong supporter of the EU and very negative about Brexit has the current position of the ongoing EU leaders' face to face  summit meeting in  Brussels as its front page headline whereas the BBC, eternally praising of the EU, so far has noting on its main news page about this.

My own position on the EU  was for  a long time that of the UK should remain. However after many enjoyable lunchtime meetings and walks between a foreign office official and his wife (they met whilst on Foreign Office business) and mrs maytrees and myself, I  changed my view and supported Brexit. Most  but not all of my brothers and sisters support remain so we agreed to avoid EU politics in family emails where possible.

Reverting to the FT and the ongoing EU leaders' summit meeting, the headline reading:

"EU leaders deadlocked on recovery fund as summit falters" signifies some real ongoing problems. The readers' comments however are very critical of the EU position  whereas previously both the FT and its readers, have  been very critical of the British stance and Brexit. Possibly as is often the case the EU  leaders will reach agreement at the eleventh hour thus enabling their project to continue until the next crisis emerges.

The covid-19 pandemic could not of course, sensibly have been predicted by EU or British politicians, however how we and other  countries, deal with the consequences for their futures' sake, is what one  now needs to look at. 

The UK is borrowing is it  a £trillion, to try to protect peoples' livelihoods  for a few months and has helped to fund Oxford University and Imperial College London in the search for  effective vaccinations, although like some other European countries, the UK has made serious errors in the way some care homes  have been treated. Currently in England questions are also being asked about the overstating of Covid-19 deaths, a mistake  which has not apparently been made elsewhere.

Reverting to the EU; FT readers' comments quite unusually, are scathing of the EU leaders. One for example (Livrett A) states:

"Please would all ministers at their next caviar picnic have the grace to say 'Grace... and may the Lord make us truly thankful' before seating in honour of the tens of millions unemployed, under employed and forgotten who have but bread to put on their tables. This summit's show of wealth delay argument and political dissent within a supposedly European Union is contemptuous of the people governed, demonstrates a lack of urgency to solve the matter at hand and is seemingly conducted in poor to bad spirit. This meeting has descended in to the very survival of a seventy-year attempt at European unison which has produced little despite its age. Enough prattle, Ministers act with compromises".

There are some comments praising or excusing the EU leaders but overall, the comments are critical and tend to confirm my own view that it is fortunate for the UK that we left when we did.

My autobiography is now available at:


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Face masks- Covid-19 and Personal Freedoms

Learning that the  prime minister is probably minded to require face masks to be worn by those entering shops, added to which face masks are already obligatory for journeys on public transport, I have bought an attractive one for mrs maytrees and another for myself the latter decorated by gorillas. Both are cotton and can easily be washed though whether they will serve any useful purpose is hard to judge at this time.

The World Health Organisation which was of course rather slow to decide that the world was facing a pandemic, has just decided that face masks do protect third parties from the wearer's own Covid-19 viruses (or should that be vira?).   

Individuals' freedoms are probably more constrained now than at anytime since WWII and indeed in the USA I gather that some are strongly  protesting about this and not   simply by failing to wear masks. 

Upon reflection however I am not sure that individual freedom is always what it is made out to be. Thus using Covid-19 as an example, do I not have a duty to my sisters and brothers to minimise any risks to them that I might cause? In any event  a basic principal of Christianity has always been that of having regard to sisters, brothers and total strangers, as illustrated by the parable of the good Samaritan as recounted in St Luke's gospel.

Reverting to secular freedoms however, I have often speculated that the human rights set out after WWII and which if respected and honoured are undoubtedly beneficial to the world's population, should have had some kind of mirror in a list of human duties which if applied to   people of sound mind, would also have had a positive impact on humanity. However that was not to be, and the biblical accounts are as important for mankind, as ever.

In the USA the individual right to own fire arms is in my view not really a right at all but rather  an inhibitor of the human duties of giving warmth and friendship to each other. Of course there are some who are entirely self seeking and always trying to 'rip off' their fellow man or woman but gearing much of everyday life to the possibility that one might meet someone of criminal intent, is surely antithetical?  

Turning the other cheek is an ideal which does not always seem possible to follow but  possessing a gun with a view to wounding or killing another human being, intent say on doing one harm, is in my view going far too far the other way. Of course those possessing the gun might say it should deter criminals but that was the argument used in the 1960s Cuban missile crisis; personally I do not consider that possessing nuclear missiles is justified by any party but that is perhaps another issue.

My autobiography is now available at:

The Wandering Soul

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Lessening Covid-19 Restrictions in England

The British Conservative government appears to be criticised for every action it takes or does not take to reduce and overcome the dreadful effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A few weeks ago it was being berated, particularly by the BBC, for not making sufficient arrangements to repatriate the hundreds of thousands of people from this country who had been travelling abroad. When the government listened and repatriated about a million from countries as far apart as Argentina and Bangladesh, there was no apparent praise from the media. Perhaps  much of the criticism is best ignored by the government.

Of course after  repatriating so many from around the world, when the British numbers of people catching the virus began to increase sharply, there was no acceptance by the media that its shrill calls for repatriation of travellers from abroad, led to large numbers of Covid-19 affected people returning to the UK, thus increasing the  illness statistics here.

Much the same kind of attitude may be discerned in the media about the government's decision to ease the lock down at least in England by allowing restaurants and pubs to reopen and hairdressers to resume their work. For example the reader comments in the FT today at least those that I have read, are full of moans, whereas even constructive criticism would surely have been apt for the more  intelligent readers of that newspaper. Perhaps someone has borrowed the Covid-19 actions to take, book from the library and has forgotten to return it for Boris Johnson's government to use; absurd media comments in my view.

Taking a very early walk through Wimbledon Town centre and up through the Village to the Common, it was almost amusing to see queues of people outside barbers' shops although in some one has to make an appointment before attending. A restaurant in Wimbledon Village serving breakfast outside, was bursting at the seams at 8:30am and many more shops were preparing to open. I see too that Holy Mass is to resume at Southwark catholic cathedral tomorrow, though with limited numbers being permitted to attend. I wonder when mass with holy communion will resume locally?

An haircut for me will probably take a day or two to arrange but  I speculate whether a visit to a local pub may be the Hand in Hand on Wimbledon Common might be possible meanwhile, as there is the whole Common  at its door making social distancing pretty easy.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Employment Tribunals and Covid-19

Having ongoing employment issues being dealt with by the Employment Tribunal system before the Covid-19 pandemic and still continuing after the UK  lock-down came into being  in March 2020, is proving interesting.

In January 2020 at an ordinary hearing at the South London Employment Tribunal orders were made by an Employment Judge which included details of how the claims were to proceed.

However, even before the lock-down, employment tribunals might take weeks to issue printed versions of their orders. In my case when  the printed ET orders arrived they included several errors. for example incorrectly referring to the issues as including disability  (rather than age) discrimination  which error  and others, continued after representations were made to the  learned ET  judge about the same.

The next step was that the parties were given time to exchange  witness statements on the issues of employment and age discrimination, which  exchange after the respondents were given extra time, occurred on 11th June. Unfortunately, the respondents' lawyers did not give any indication in advance that their statement would be limited to the employment issues (unfair dismissal etc) without referring at all to age so their  single witness statement contained no such evidence whereas mine included many evidential details. Previously the respondents had signified that they would provide three witness statements but appeared to abandon  this  without advance notification or explanation  at the eleventh hour

A Zoom type hearing had been offered by an Employment Judge for the hearing that had been fixed for last Thursday but the  respondents  opposed this so the hearing was instead converted to a case management conference over the telephone.

The learned judge at the case management conference, listened to my complaint about the failure of the respondents to cover the relevant issues in their witness statement, and after some  heated representations, ordered them to do so within 7 days. She then fixed a new hearing date for 18th December 2020 ironically specifying the very Zoom type hearing  previously opposed by the respondents, if full attended hearings at employment tribunals were still not occurring by then.

Though the outcome so far is relatively satisfactory, there is a need in my view to change and update procedures at such tribunals, especially as it appears that the backlog of cases caused at least partially by the pandemic, is huge and will take perhaps a year or more to clear.

The first change should be to require claimants to pay fees for commencing ET cases in much the same way as fees are paid for civil court cases  generally.  Of course these should be means tested where apt. Successful claimants would be rebated their fees by the respondents, in addition to payment of the compensation ordered. Unsuccessful claimants would not be rebated their fees. On the last occasion this change was made, the number of ET cases dropped by over 80% making the system more manageable. The fees aspect was at the time, opposed by the unions whose arguments were successful in the Supreme Court. Now that the government has a sizeable majority there should be rather less difficulty in securing this much needed change though legislation.

The second change should be far more involvement of the union/employer representatives with  ET hearings. Restricting so many hearings to Employment Judges alone,  risks parties who are represented by counsel, receiving or being perceived to receive, more sympathy from Employment Judges most of whom (admittedly not all) are themselves also  counsel.

The third change should be to restructure the system to make it far more possible for individuals to conduct their cases personally, as was the original intention when Ted Heath's old National Industrial Relations Court was replaced by the the system of what were then call Industrial Tribunals. The argument against this is that employment law has become so much more complicated as a consequence of European Court decisions. Now that the UK has left the EU this could become less of a difficulty.

When/if the position alters, I  expect to post more.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Imperial College Covid-19 Testing

Having agreed to participate in the Imperial College Covid-19 in-home antibody testing study, the kit required arrived by post within 24 hours which presumably says as much about the efficiency of the Post Office as it does Imperial College.

The kit seemed fairly impressive:







Using it turned out to be fairly straightforward though whether most volunteers would have found it so may be open to question. 

Still I was pleased to be invited to volunteer and to learn that probably Covid-19 has passed me by at this time.

Cycling

One of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been that the numbers of people in the UK who cycle have soared. Luckily on the day most s...