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A picture of vials of Covid Vaccine

It was the week in which hope returned. A working vaccine has been approved for use in the UK. I hope there are no anti-vaxxers in South College. The absence of reason required to dismiss good science is incompatible with the intellectual ability required to study at this great University. However, for the elimination of doubt, please be entirely confident that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has passed all the rigorous tests required to be prescribed for human use in the UK.

There has been no cheating. No shortcuts have been taken. This was done fast because the need is urgent and huge sums of taxpayers' money have been invested in getting the vaccine to market. I certainly plan to take my dose - and given that I shall be 58 in January, I think I might get some in the second half of 2021 - if I'm very lucky. Until then, I'll keep taking the Lateral Flow Tests that reassure me that I am still not infected.

What does this breakthrough mean for life in South College? The details remain to be confirmed, but the outlook is certainly improving. Epiphany Term will not be entirely normal. We will still need to take care. On many occasions, social distancing will remain essential. However, if we continue to test and behave responsibly, opportunities for sport and formals, music, drama, and societies are becoming real. With proper consideration for our own welfare and that of others, we may edge much closer to pre pandemic normality. Oswald is yearning to welcome smartly dressed Southies in academic gowns to a series of Formals in The Hub. His pride has been wounded by the absence of ceremony. He is looking forward to presiding over some convivial evenings and receiving your toasts to libertas, aequalitas, civitas totius mundi. I share his fond hope that weekly Formals will soon be a routine feature of life in our wonderful, scholarly community.

As many of us prepare to return to our family homes for the Christmas season, I want to thank you all for making Michaelmas Term 2020 so much more fun than it might have been. South has established a reputation in the university, as an optimistic and inclusive college with clear values and an impressive cohort of exceptionally talented students. I'm delighted that we now also have the best Christmas tree in Durham. It looks superb on the balcony behind my office. I have had to dissuade Oswald who was seriously thinking about taking up residence in it. At the risk of a severe pecking, I made it plain that, on this occasion, my sympathy is with the tree.

So, whether you are planning a break from Durham or staying in residence in College - in which case I shall be delighted to see you around - thank you for all that you have done this term. Things can only get better, as some band from the 1990s once insisted....