500 days of plague

So, back when I started these ten-day updates in March last year, I had no idea I’d still be at it half a thousand days later. (I did skip the updates between 100 and 220 days in; that was the lull of summer last year.) I will keep at it for now; we’re not exactly back to normal yet.

We’re a lot closer than we were. Today, for the first time in a month, the weekly average of new infections in BElgium was less than the previous reported day – and since that’s a seven-day average of the period from three to nine days ago, that means we are probably over the hump. The number of cases has risen a lot from its dip in June, but is still lower than at any time since mid-September 2020, more than nine months ago. And although hospitalisations and ICU occupancy have risen, they are many times less than the levels last time we had infection rates this high. There were six days in July when no COVID deaths at all were reported in Belgium, for the first time since 10 July last year.

So I’m on the optimistic side at the moment. I’ll be going back to work in the office five days a week, starting next Monday, 2 August. There are not a lot of people around during the holiday season – this week, I was in on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and I don’t think there were more than six others present on any of those days, in an office whose capacity is around 50. I have an actual physical meeting planned in London on 12 August, and I’ve also booked some time off to go to Ireland, now that that is possible again.

Apart from that, we celebrated F’s 22nd birthday with cake last Sunday.

And shopping in Leuven, I came across a band playing “Ciao Bella”, not sure exactly why.

Irish friends will have noted that the retired politician Desmond O’Malley died, aged 82. He famously challenged the church’s role in Irish politics in a speech during a parliamentary debate on legalising contraception in 1985, which ended with the famous phrase, “I stand by the Republic”:blockquote>The politics of this would be very easy. The politics would be, to be one of the lads, the safest way in Ireland. But I do not believe that the interests of this State, or our Constitution and of this Republic, would be served by putting politics before conscience in regard to this. There is a choice of a kind that can only be answered by saying that I stand by the Republic and accordingly I will not oppose this Bill. A friend pinged me to remind me (and I am not sure if I had ever realised it) that O’Malley had actually cited my father at some length earlier in the speech:

I took the opportunity over the last weekend to read some of the chapters in J. H. Whyte’s book on Church and State in Modern Ireland. To read, perhaps in full for the first time myself, the whole mother and child controversy of 1951, as it was called, is unbelievable. It is incredible that Members of this House and of the Government of the day could be as cravan and supine as they were, as we look back on them now. It shows how much the atmosphere has changed. Then one has to ask oneself “Has the atmosphere changed?”. Because when the chips are down is it going to be any different?

It was interesting to read the so-called mother and child scheme. There were ten provisions for women in it relating to ante-natal and post-natal care and care of the children when they were born. One of the provisions was for free dental treatment for pregnant women. The most tremendous objection was taken to that at that time. I recall only a couple of weeks ago, the Minister for Finance reading that out here in the budget speech and there was a howl of laughter all round the House. How could anyone seriously object to something like that? How could anyone seriously object to anything in it, as one looks back on it now? Look at the effect it has had on this island. We have to bear in mind that this is 1985, and whatever excuses one could make for people in 1951, those excuses are not valid today for us.

We are 36 years on from 1985, which was 34 years on from 1951, and Ireland has come a lot further in the last 36 years than in the previous 34.

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