School’s back, and ‘To wear or not to wear’ will (not) be the question debated in Malmesbury Academy which I visited over the Recess to see the preparations they are making for the whole school getting back next week, (a staggered return on 2/3/4 September). They – and I am confident all of the schools across North Wiltshire - have put in place carefully thought through plans for a fully operational timetable, with all due safeguards for students and teachers alike, and I salute them for the magnificent work they have done. Face masks, of course, are voluntary, leaving aside those areas of England in Lockdown where they are compulsory. My own view is that they most definitely should NOT be worn in classrooms but may well have a real or psychological utility in communal areas like corridors. Meanwhile the A Level crisis seems to have blown through, thanks to the Government listening to very real concerns such as those expressed so widely around here, although there is of course a knock-on crisis to be had in University Admissions Offices.
Parliament’s back next Tuesday, but we have yet to see whether we have been as sensible and well-prepared as local schools are. I have told the Whips that I do not approve of the mildly discriminatory arrangements we had in place before the Summer Recess - only 50 MPs in the Chamber at any one time, idiotic voting arrangements and so on. I have joined the Committee which arranges these things- the Procedure Committee; so they can expect some straight talk from the HM for North Wilts at the first meeting!
I will have to continue working from home for at least the first week back to finish my recuperation. The operation was a huge success- discharged after only 24 hours, which is a bit of a record (with some gentle persuasion, I have to admit.) Just got to be strict about my exercises now and I will be fighting fit in no time. Hip Hip Hooray, if that is not too corny!
I’ve been holidaying, recuperating and self-isolating right here in North Wiltshire, amongst other things doing a bit of research into Philippa’s ancestors. I am fascinated to have discovered one, Captain William Tucker RN, who commanded the Navy’s West Africa Squadron around 1840, combatting continuing slaving operations by the Portuguese and Spanish. The Squadron captured 1500 slaving vessels and emancipated 150,000 slaves as a result. Philippa’s great (x 5) grandfather then rather tragically drowned on his way home in 1842 when the merchantman, Reliance, on which he had hitched a lift hit rocks in the Bay of Biscay. “Rule Britannia. Britain never, never, never will be slaves.” Not only that but we should be proud of the role that our Royal Navy played in liberating so many, at a cost of 2000 British lives including Captain Tucker.
So yes - I’ll be singing it; and Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory as well.
Everyone’s had a bit of a break post-lockdown, and I really do feel that Parliament, schools, business, all of us, must now do what we can to try to get back to some kind of new normality. The PM, and Gavin Williamson alike deserved their holidays, and it is a shame that Boris’s midge and whisky adventure in the far North West of Scotland was prematurely ended by the paparazzi, tipped off no doubt by local people, who may well have their own agenda! No one thrives on 24/7 for the whole year, and no matter who we are we deserve a bit of a breather.
But for me- I’ve now had more than enough R and R and am champing at the bit to get back into discussing the vitally important issues facing the country as we struggle to recover from Covid.