I ticked on a little with the new piece for the competition yesterday, coming up with some decent basic material, hopefully enough to get me to the length required by the application. I also planned out the structure of the entire piece and its route through that structure, also a schedule of work that should get me to completion with a little bit of time to spare before the deadline for submission.

It is hard to remember where the rest of the day went. I do know that I listened with great joy to Brahms’s first violin sonata in that luminous recording by Ashkenazy and Perlman, one of my favourite discs, and it provided a little oasis of calm in what, at moments, was a turbulent day.

Another little ray of sunshine was the realisation that Somerset are clearly doing well on the vaccination front, for I was offered and then booked my first jab for Saturday week. I know that I will need two of these and that the second is a while off, but this actually does feel like the beginning of an end rather than merely the end of a beginning, and I think that it lightened my mood immensely. While I would be there, frankly, in the next half hour if they were to offer it to me, I do actually know somebody who is not going to get a vaccine because he genuinely, really believes that Bill Gates or Darth Vader or somebody has put nanobots into everybody’s doses. Yes, of all the different types of vaccines. Mind you, this is a man who always keeps location switched on on his phone, so quite what the nanobots will tell The Empire about him that Facebook has not already gleaned from his Nokia I am at a loss to guess.

Mind you, if this pandemic has confirmed anything it is surely that we as a species really are bent on self-destruction wherever possible, and that laudable notion that we would all band together in the face of a global catastrophe now seems to have gone the way of so many idealistic views. Even nanobots seem more likely than a single, sensible approach in the face of something that will wipe us all out.

Still, it was heartening to see what extraordinary people can do as Perseverance touched down in the evening without hitch on the surface of Mars and then almost immediately sent back a holiday snap. I was awoken from my bed by my father in 1976 to be taken downstairs to watch a programme about the Viking landers touching down on the planet, so following something like this feels like a connection to who I am, and it was wholly delightful. I then went back to The Expanse, and to watching future humans bicker and fight and destroy, and was reminded that the surest sign of intelligent life out there is that they are giving us a very wide berth indeed.