Posted by Gordon Cheyne
Our two discussion groups, Current Affairs and Literary Appreciation met by Zoom last Thursday. 
They may not have solved all the world's problems, but both groups are having lively discussions.

The Fixers

The Fixers discussed Covid vaccination. Ably led by Delphine Genin, we split the topic into four issues:  Does vaccination prevent Covid-19 infection?  Should there be a choice of vaccine?  What’s the priority for distribution? Will vaccination enable a return to normality?

We noted epidemiological evidence about the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.  Most members of the group had already had one dose of AstraZeneca and were eagerly awaiting the second, since evidence indicates that two doses provide a similar level of protection against serious illness as the Pfizer vaccine.  Neither vaccine provides 100% protection against catching Covid. 

All agreed our preference would have been to have Pfizer had it been available.  However, since it was provided free of charge, it was hard to argue for a ‘right’ to choose.  We touched on whether vaccination should be mandatory, noting that 50% of 193 nations surveyed in recent research had evidence of a national mandatory vaccination program.  It was thought that compulsion to vaccinate might occur indirectly if travel and other restrictions were imposed on the unvaccinated. 

While rich nations secured the bulk of early vaccine supplies, efforts are now being made to provide supplies to poorer nations.  Since we are only as secure from Covid as the poorest nation, vaccination needs to be vigorously pursued in every country.  In this regard we discussed the prospect of waiving patent rights to Covid vaccines to reduce cost and facilitate manufacture and distribution.  The problem is that without IP protection (or government funding) pharmaceutical companies would be hesitant to undertake expensive research into new vaccines or treatments for serious disease.  The solution was for governments to negotiate a price for vaccines that made them affordable for all nations.

It was agreed that the world would not return to a pre-Covid ‘normal’.  What is ‘normal’ in any event varies between nations, communities and individuals.  However, the pandemic was likely to bring about universal improvements in public health awareness and protocols; better infection monitoring capability, and more effective quarantine regimes.  The development of mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna also held the promise of better future protection against a range of diseases. 

We concluded the discussion by wondering why more Club members don’t join the Current Affairs group - our discussions are so enjoyable and informative.

So what are you waiting for?  Signup for the next meeting on 8 July when we will discuss : ‘How can social media be managed so its benefits are realised and its destructive use curtailed’?



The Bookworms

Six Bookworms met by Zoom last week, and they had a lively discussion on “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” by John Fowles. 

The customs and modes of the 19th and 21st centuries were compared and contrasted, especially stereotypes of young women. 

Members had varied views about the central character, Sarah Woodruff: from a fantasy, a woman of intelligence, a modern woman using her attributes to cope with her situation, to an example of Histrionic Personality Disorder. 

The problems of the alternative endings of the plot, and the effect of Fowles injecting himself into the narrative were discussed before the problem of making a movie with multiple endings was confronted.

Readers spotted a couple of “bloopers”:  Sam (the manservant) was not really a cockney, as he was not born in an appropriate suburb, and his written pronunciation of words such as “with” was incorrect.  All good fun!

Fossil-hunting featured frequently in the book, and the highlight of the evening was when Jane Bentley produced a fossil which she had bought in Lyme Regis, the location on the story. 


Photos: Jane with an old fossil. No, we don’t mean Ian. We add a close-up for clarification. 

All Bookworms enjoyed the book and gained something from the discussion. 


Next topic?  “Sixteen Trees of the Somme” by Lars Mytting, Norway's bestselling novelist and the author of “Norwegian Wood”. 

"An intricate story about war, family, secrets and, yes, wood ... An engaging, satisfying read" - The Times

"So cleverly plotted, and it builds up such effortless dramatic momentum as it zeroes in on its conclusion" - The Scotsman

The Bookworms would be delighted if you could join them to discuss this book on 8th July.