Wise words

While teams of serious scientists search desperately for a coronavirus vaccine others – bumbling, flap-jawing amateurs like Donald Trump, who first described it as a hoax – believe in all sorts of remedies, from downing disinfectant and quaffing cows’ urine (really!), to drinking lemon juice and vodka, although not necessarily all together in a cocktail.

Fortunately, an 87-year-old from Carnoustie has the answer. Derek Meikleham has come up with A Poem A Day Keeps The Virus Away. He recites a new one a day on Facebook, filming himself sitting in a comfy chair with his flat cap on, standard lamp behind him, a drink in reach on the table beside him, battering out rhyming couplets from Wha Put The Z In Auld Lang Syne, Auld Lizzie Wha Bided in Watson Street Lang Ago, and A To Do At The Tattoo.

Derek, who is originally from Dundee, is apparently a weel-kent face around nursing and old folks’ homes in those pairts as an entertainer. He used to perform with his wife Moira, but she died, as did a grandson, so he knows tragedy.

When you think of Dundee poets, inevitably William McGonagall comes to mind. Some might describe Derek’s poems as doggerel, but dinnae scorn, tune in and just think of the prophylactic benefits.

Victim, not villain

Neil Ferguson may be guilty of misjudgment or hypocrisy, along with Catherine Calderwood, who also had to resign as a Government adviser over breaking lockdown. But please, the real hypocrisy is in the media and in the people who hired them to give scientific advice. Neither were politicians – in Ferguson’s case, he was the most prominent scientist in the Sage advisory committee, and the one who, with his colleagues at Imperial College, forced the UK Government into abandoning its herd immunity approach, saving who knows how many lives?

The newspaper splash that he had met up with his lover came out – fortuitously but probably not – on the day that the UK achieved the highest death rates in Europe, which should have been the story of the day. Ferguson is not a policymaker, simply an adviser, but he was immediately, shamelessly and shamefully pilloried by one who is, Matt “Hapless” Hancock.

Ferguson wasn’t paid, he gave his life-saving advice for the public good and he shouldn’t be damned for his private behaviour.

Testing times

When Hapless said that we’d achieve 100,000 Covid-19 tests a day in April I didn’t realise that it was only for one day! And on that day the target was only reached because he fiddled the figures, in one of those dog-ate-my-homework ploys, by counting in about 30,000 tests which had been sent out, not returned. And now Boris, who may still be suffering from fever, promises that it will be 200k a day some time this month. The posties are clearly going to have some heavy lifting of heaving mailbags in the days ahead.

A real Turkey

There has been so much “you couldn’t make it up” stuff in the UK’s Government’s handling of this pandemic that it’s difficult to keep track. The latest, well, at the time of writing because each day brings another corker, is the 400,000 PPE surgical gowns bought from Turkey which aren’t safe to use. They – or a sizeable portion of them – were flown in by the RAF and it was then discovered that they had holes in them, or were of breathable fabric or dissolved under sweat, blood or tears or something. Wearing one would be a bit like taking a tennis racket to a gunfight.

I mean, didn’t anyone actually check them before buying? Apparently not. The British Embassy in Ankara didn’t, nor was one sent in the post so that Boris or Matt could test its efficacy by striding through a Covid ward, the Downing Street sauna, or even a press conference,

Who actually signed off on the order and shouldn’t they be sacked (although of course won’t be)? Such incompetence should be staggering, except it is, in the Government’s buzz phrase, the new normal. I hope the Turks know of caveat emptor (buyer beware) and give a suitable reverse Churchillian response to any request for a refund.

I married Joan

So far we’ve resisted blandishment and threats to bail out the airlines. Although we are paying for the 30,000 BA staff who are furloughed, the 4,000 at easyJet and those at Virgin Atlantic. Overlaying all this is the threat to slash jobs – 12k at BA, more than 3,000 at Virgin. If ever there was an argument for a national carrier, as we used to have, this is it.

The good news is we aren’t going to give Richard Branson £500 million to stop his Virgin airline going bust, despite him throwing in his private island Necker as collateral (you can even hire it, for £39k a night). Branson bought the island to impress the woman he was wooing, whom I knew as Joan Templeman in Glasgow way back when.

But that was then, this is now. So I have a suggestion Sir Richard, stop trying to mortgage the island for the bailout, the sensible thing is to ask Virgin Money for a loan. Sorted!

Gie’s a break

The greatest sax break in popular music is on Baker Street, written by Gerry Rafferty. And the album it comes from is the greatest by any Scottish artist, City To City, the only one I have on my phone, for some technological reason I can’t fathom.

The guitar solo is by Hugh Burns, a Glasgow lad, and the saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft grew up in Dumfries. Ravenscroft claimed he was only paid £27 for the gig and that the cheque bounced, although the second part is myth. He also claimed he extemporised the riff, but an earlier demo has Gerry playing it note for note on guitar.

I once shared a train journey from London to Glasgow with Gerry, but that’s an old tale.

Rafferty was the most reluctant rock star. He refused to tour in the States despite his success. He came from Paisley and at his funeral in 2011 his daughter Martha and five of the family sang his song Whatever’s Written In Your Heart. Achingly beautiful.

The album is, of course, the only one playing in my ears on my daily perambulation around my village. The streets are dotted with others doing the same walk and they keep greeting me and smiling, which I find most disconcerting.

So I have taken to wearing dark glasses.