On Thursday 28th January, I had booked my car in for a service and MoT test at Halfords in Bangor, who know the car well. As it is twelve years old, there is always a degree of suspense about the outcome, even though it has clocked up less than 3000 miles in the last twelve months. Under current restrictions they do not of course wish you to hang around, so I planned to walk over to Menai Bridge, and then to Waitrose supermarket on the far side, which I normally visit once a week. I have driven across the bridge hundreds of times over the years, but never walked across, so this was an opportunity to do that. I always think you never really know a locality until you have explored it on foot. That was certainly true on this occasion, you just don’t register the enormous impact of this bridge until you cross it on foot. Of course, the walkway is well supplied with signs encouraging those contemplating suicide to phone the Samaritans, since jumping into the Menai Strait here is a regular occurrence and always fatal.
Having reached Waitrose and put some items in a basket, I couldn’t find my wallet. Went through the usual routine of checking every one of eight pockets without success, so had to return to Halfords with my rucksack still empty. Although the original service etc had been prepaid, there was an additional bill because of a vital but quickly remedied MoT failure, but how do I pay for it? It transpired that Halfords have the capacity to take payment on a “customer not present” basis, and I had the capacity to remember the necessary figures from the card, so I was able to take the car home.
Three hours later they phoned me to say that my wallet had been found in their car park by a customer and handed in, intact, so I arranged to collect it the following morning.
Twenty minutes after that a call centre offered me a Covid 19 vaccination at the University sports centre in Bangor, “you can come now if you want”. I felt I had had enough for one day, and made an appointment for the following morning.
The background to this call is that postal services here have been seriously disrupted by a Covid19 outbreak at the local delivery office, with relief workers being brought in from 70 miles away. The local NHS had been made aware of this, and my surgery had provided the phone numbers of eligible patients to the vaccination centre. Recent bad weather here had already disrupted the appointments system, and since most vaccinations here are of the Pfizer vaccine which has a short useability life after coming out of specialist freezer storage, there is an urgency about using the phials before they have to be thrown away.
The University sports hall, known as Canolfan Brailsford after a local cycling champion, was fitted out early in the pandemic as a “Nightingale” hospital (Enfys is the Welsh designation) although never used as such. So Friday morning I collected my wallet from Halfords at 0805, did my usual shop at Waitrose, which is virtually deserted at that time in the morning, and got to the Sports Centre a bit early for my 0915 appointment. Packed with nurses and volunteers managing a socially distanced queue, and progress was a bit slow. Like waiting to see Father Christmas, I commented. The actual injection was from my point of view just the same as a flu jab and I was able to leave just after 1000. It was interesting to see the layout as an emergency hospital, the same as I have seen on TV from time to time. No noticeable side effects so far, and I have “paid forward” the fact my wallet was handed in intact (including £20 in cash) and that I have had my first jab, by making a donation to the Samaritans.
Although it will make no immediate difference to my behaviour in lockdown, it did feel like a valuable New Year present, and reflects the enormous amount of work that the UK has facilitated to make vaccines possible.