CategoriesThought of The Day

Are You Important?

I’m not particularly important to the functioning of society, and nor are most people. But that’s OK. This confirmation was made crystal clear by the Department of Education’s recent list of who the Government states are key workers in our response to COVID-19.

I would argue that the people on this list aren’t just crucial to the tackling of the virus, but they are – and always have been – crucial to the functioning of society. The below people are heroes and have always been heroes.

Health and social care

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

This includes childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.

Key public services

This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government

This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response, or delivering essential public services, such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms-length bodies.

Food and other necessary goods

This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).

Public safety and national security

This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.


This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.

Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.

When this virus passes, lest we forget the heroes on this list – those who cannot hunker down at home with every other sensible person.

Let’s celebrate the delivery drivers, and the paramedics.

Let’s praise the refuse workers, and the doctors.

Let’s remember the bank workers and the journalists.

Let’s commemorate the supermarket workers and the police.

CategoriesThought of The Day

Then The Earth Healed

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.

And listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.

Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

Kitty O’Meara

I hope you will agree, this poem is a must-share, in these times.

With the speculation surrounding just how many people COV-19 will take from us, it is right that we remember that according to the World Health Organisation findings, pollution kills around 7 million people annually, with some 40,000 Brits per year. And with our pre-pandemic roads fit-to-bursting, we lose circa 2,500 to road deaths, with thousands of others dying needlessly on the roads.

Whilst the earth heals, due to a significant drop in pollution caused by this pandemic, it might well be that the world’s population will finish this year higher than it would have been. Is this a cause for celebration?

How blinkered we are as a species! We respond with devastating alacrity to acute problems like pandemics, but we find it near-impossible to handle the larger threats to the human species – pollution and climate change. We need a longer lens. It’s time that we press reset on what is important to us as a species.

CategoriesThought of The Day

My answers, to those questions

With permission from the Head Teacher, today I took the kids out of school in order to spend the day filming a documentary about one company’s efforts to tackle manmade climate change (for The Daily Telegraph). That company is Make it Wild.

We were up in Nidderdale, near Summerbridge. It’s gorgeous up there. Had Wainwright written about Nidderdale, then the world would know Nidderdale. Perhaps this is a good thing. Tourism is like a spark: if used correctly it can heat your home and cook your dinner. Used incorrectly, it can burn your house down.

Having volunteered with Make it Wild before – planting dozens of trees – and having secured a sponsorship deal with them for 1,500 trees for Truth Legal to offset my firm’s environmental impact.

I know and like this family firm: the Neaves. The world needs more Neaves. Bold, caring philanthropists – people who don’t wait for governments to take action: they lead. Whilst the rain beat down on me and the kids, with the camera crew filming as we planted more trees, I answered the director’s questions.

  • Why are you concerned about biodiversity?
  • How can planting trees reduce climate change?
  • Why do you volunteer with Make it Wild?
  • What do your children make of it all? Etc, etc

Without preparation, I candidly answered, with everyone listening to my every utterance. The director asked me those questions several times. Each time he did, for reasons unknown, I gave a different answer, and of different lengths. With some of my rambling answers, I had to stop myself – so incoherent were they. Sometimes what I said – even though I was being as precise as I could – was incredibly inaccurate. Many times, I had to start my answer again. Even trying my best, in a relaxed, delightful environment, my answers to the same question, were erratic. Odd.

Lesson learned: in future, when some politician or celeb is supposed to have said this or that and got into hot water for it, even if that’s what they said, I’m going to extend them some latitude. They probably didn’t choose the rights words and only had one shot at it. Let’s extend some grace to people who may have misspoke.

In contrast, when judging someone by their measured writing, such latitude need not be extended.

CategoriesThought of The Day

4 things that I’ve learned from a few nights’ stay, courtesy of Harrogate Hospital Urology Department

  • Men can – yes we can! – talk about delicate health matters, but we shouldn’t have to wait for hospitalisation until we do so.
  • It’s possible to lose a needle phobia.
  • I love the NHS more than I did, and I already adored it. We need to protect it and enhance it.
  • My wife was so stressed when packing my things that she put a pair of socks – rather than a flannel – in my wash bag to wash my face! The chaps in here laughed so loudly that their stitches nearly fell out.

I’m fine. Will be fine. No need to comment.

CategoriesThought of The Day

The Good Old Days

It seems to me that many folks hunger for the good old days, when life was – so some people argue – better, in every conceivable way.

Leaving aside the Brexit issues of xenophobia, economic illiteracy and the rejection of all expert opinion, we must challenge the notion that British life was better in the good old days: because in no strand of British life has the country deteriorated.

Take morality, for instance. During my lifetime, casual racism has gone from being pretty normal behaviour, to something only seen on the fringes. And take celebrities: today celebs – just like all of us – do some pretty stupid things, but the behaviour of today’s celebs has nothing on the likes of (Sir) Jimmy Saville and his ilk. Operation Yew Tree does not target newbie celebs, rather, its focus is on celebs from the good old days because so many of those celebs acted with impunity. In part, this is because people today are less deferential, ready to report on bad behaviour. This is progress.

Take graffiti: it has nearly been eradicated. Take littering: it has reduced immeasurably. Take violent crime: it is on the decrease. Take schools: no longer do teachers beat their pupils. Take stately homes: today many are owned by the National Trust, available to millions.

Societies progress each generation. This is because people spend much of their early lives ironing out their own flaws caused, to a large part, by their parents (“They f*ck you up, your mum and dad” wrote Larkin). And when these people become parents, they make a special effort not to make the mistakes that they and their parents made. As a result, each generation is an improvement on the one before.

In addition, today, nearly half of all students go to university, mixing with kids from all backgrounds, often studying for the sake of intellectual development. With degree subjects for most walks of life, it is inevitable that the people of today are smarter than the people of yesterday, as society’s collective knowledge improves everyday. To aid this progress, the teachers of today have been taught to a more advanced stage than the teachers of yesterday; in turn, they use more advanced teaching methods on their pupils. Society is better at paragraph two of this blog, than it was at paragraph one. And the pace of improvement is accelerating.

Thanks to the internet, today information is democratically devoured: it isn’t the preserve of the rich, and the children of the rich. Physically, the people of today are stronger, healthier and more aware of their health. No footballer from 1966 could get into today’s England team. Smokers are now regarded as weird, not cool.

In yesteryear, doctors could make grave mistakes (“never-ever events”) – like removing the wrong kidney – and could get away with it. Not today, so much. Back then, lawyers were often in the pub most of Friday, and most law firm partners were men. Not today, so much. Back then, men didn’t spend much time with their kids: not so today. Back then, men didn’t cook or clean. Not so much today.

It is true that life was simpler “back then”, but life was pretty crap, too. Next time you speak to someone who wants to turn back the clock, confront their lazy, pernicious thinking with facts. It will be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Andrew Gray is the owner of and and is writing in his personal capacity.