New Normal Random Thoughts #11

I have been back home in Italy for 10 days, and it looks like we are heading for a new lockdown.

Back in England I was waiting for my new driving licence. It was one of the reason I went back in September. It was supposed to arrive in three weeks, but of course there had been Covid related delays, and when I called the DVLA they had no idea of the status of my application. My main concern was my passport, which I had to send them as proof of identity. I could still travel with my Italian identity card, but the idea of my passport being left for a couple of months, all by itself, with the Royal Mail was not reassuring.

Luckily, the very day before I was supposed to leave, two envelopes arrived, with my passport and my brand new UK driving licence. It expires on April 28 2041. I’m counting on the fact that by then cars will self drive and I won’t have to renew it.

The colours on my hills are magic in this season. I’ve been enjoying them in my daily early morning walks.

Once I got back to Italy I was supposed to be tested and self-quarantined until I got the results. There was zero information on how to get tested at the airport, the police woman who checked my passport didn’t have a number or any other useful information.

After some useless phone calls and some digging on a number of local healthcare web sites, I found an email address. I sent a message and within five minutes I had a reply! Next morning we went to a drive-through testing facility near a local hospital, there was no queue, got swabbed and a few days later a nice lady called to say that I was negative and free to go.

So here we go, two experiences with European bureaucracy which turned out to be not bad at all.

Stay safe. Stay home. Vote. Hug your pet.

New Normal Random Thoughts #10

So I’m flying back to Italy this week. I don’t know how the situation has changed there over the last six weeks, while I more or less follow the news I’m missing the day to day experience, but I’m looking forward to get back to what seems to be a much less stressful environment.

Meanwhile I’m loosing some of the admiration I had for my new home, this article on the NY Times captures well the feeling and the situation in London:

The current crisis seems exacerbated by an offshoot of the very virtue celebrated in the conventional historical narrative — an admirable refusal to bend. The national mantra, “keep calm and carry on,” seems to have been reconfigured into the misguided notion that nothing is amiss.

The sense of permanent confusion here is just unnecessarily stressful, there’s a continuous flow of contrasting information coming from all sides, and while the Prime Minister likes to compare himself to good old Winston, instead of delivering “we shall never surrender” speeches they seem to be afraid that shutting down pubs would trigger an insurrection. While I have always found the tradition of pubs interesting, I had never realised before the importance of the “right to get drunk” felt by what appear to be sizable parts of the population.

Weekly laundry in 2020.

Then last week there was a debacle with the track and tracing programme (which government here defines “world-beating”), where some 16,000 test results were lost for a few days.

Many wrote that the problem was somehow related to using Excel to process some of the data. I feel bad for whoever was in charge of setting up this whole system: I have recommended myself to just dump data to Excel if you need a quick way to manipulate large tables: it’s almost as available as a web browser and it is usually a much faster and more effective tool than building custom software.

So while I don’t know what really happened, I’m pretty sure that whoever had to put together a highly scaleable solution with little time and resources and then hand it over to thousands of untrained users is not the one who chose to call it “world-beating”.

Meanwhile on the streets and the shops of London there’s still plenty of people not following social distancing rules, and recently I’ve heard been defined “fascists” those shops imposing them in a slightly more assertive way.

On Thursday I’m leaving this all behind. I’m not saying that everything is going to be perfect, but at least we have plenty of experience with fascists in Italy.

Hope to be back soon, in the meanwhile be kind, and good luck.