"Events, dear boy, events"
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sure you recognise that quotation. It is supposed to have come from Harold
Macmillan, when he was asked what would most influence his Government’s policy
old boy knew that the most carefully-laid plans and thoroughly-researched
policies could be derailed in an instant by some unforeseen happening.
was right. A sex-and-spying scandal, labelled The Profumo Affair, came out of
nowhere and led to the collapse of his Government in 1964.
track record of judging the importance of 'Events' was not good. One Saturday
afternoon in 1961, when manning the News Desk of The Sunday Times, I tracked
him down to the estate near Sheffield where he was enjoying a shooting weekend.
When he came to the telephone, I asked for his thoughts about the wall which
the East Germans were starting to build in Berlin. His reply? “Oh, I think it’s
all got up by the Press.”)
before you start wondering where the heck I am going with this, my purpose is
to point out that the best-laid plans have to take into account unforeseen
events. And it seems to me that Boris’s 'escape route' from our present
situation does precisely that.
a certain set of circumstances applies, then certain things will happen. If
something delays the process, those things will, similarly, be delayed. It
makes sense to me, even if a few braying backbenchers and other assorted
axe-grinders can’t seem to grasp the concept.
can we possibly know that some new and ghastly variety of the bug isn’t waiting
to pounce? 'The Ascension Island Variant' that turns your skin green, or 'The
Zanzibar Mutation' that causes you to shed your toenails? In such a situation,
should we press on regardless?
Boris and his political chums, along with all those top-notch scientists are
going to follow the science and the statistics as they make each cautious move
towards the exit. Good for them, says I.
in one respect, they are not following the statistics. If they were, they would
close the hospitals and open the pubs, for the former are responsible for more
people becoming infected than the latter.)
Events aren’t always
upsetting. Right now, the most heart lifting event is the surge in holiday
bookings. It is led, as I mentioned here some time ago, by the 'Silver'
generation. Not for the first time are they setting an example. Good
for them, says I (again).
I think we will end up
with some type of 'Covid Passport', which will make travelling abroad –
and, just as important, coming back home again – a straightforward
business. Some people object, because, they think, it infringes their
freedom in an unspecified way.
you feel like that, fair enough. Refuse to have such a document. But don’t
whinge when reputable tour firms or cruise operator refuse to accept a booking
for me, I’m looking forward to being the bearer of good tidings in the coming
months, after well over a year of trying to keep a sense of proportion, and a
sense of optimism. Information I am receiving from several sources is that, on
a practical level, the countries that rely on tourist income are already
putting in place schemes to encourage us to visit, and make life easier for us
when we do.
the beginning of last year I forecast that we would, once again, be travelling
the world – sooner than most people imagined. As long as 'Events' don’t
interfere, we’re well on the way to that happy moment.
a final thought, let me share with you what I believe is the most striking
example of an unforeseen event upsetting a carefully-planned applecart.
do this, you must come with me to Washington D.C.
It is the morning of 4th July 1876. The day America will celebrate the Centenary of its Independence. A day filled with parties and merrymaking, sumptuous luncheons, great banquets, grand balls.
fireworks, of course. Lots of fireworks.
has been planned to the last detail to ensure the day will be joyful and gay. However
the morning of 4th July 1876, news reached Washington D.C. that General George
Armstrong Custer had been defeated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
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