Allegra Stratton: Elephants in Green Park, technology to catch cow’s burps and the trials of wearing a roboboot

·3-min read
Allegra Stratton (PA Archive)
Allegra Stratton (PA Archive)

Today is a big day: my mum arrives to help. It’s now just over two weeks since I snapped my Achilles playing tennis — it’s too high up and close to muscle for surgery so instead it’s just (what my son calls) my Roboboot, gravity and three months of rest that’s going to heal it. It’s meant to immobilise you and it works. Alok Sharma (COP26 president designate and one of the nicest guys in politics) has said my boot is the COP unit “mascot”. God I hope not. I hope it’s off by November. Lots of my meetings at the moment focus on the Government’s push to end deforestation by 2030. Zac Goldsmith is one of the ministers driving this and last week Gilly, his rescue jackdaw, hopped on his shoulder during the Zoom.

I dial into the PM’s office meeting from my kitchen chair while the PM whistles through things he wants sorting. Since the accident, I’ve only been in to No10 twice. The first time, fresh from hospital on Boot Day One, I was caught by the phalanx of cameras outside No10 as there’s no way to reach my desk other than through the black door. Since that ordeal, the PM’s office lets me use his lift and even in the twistier upper reaches of Downing Street, kindly custodians appear from nowhere to press buttons elevating platforms.

In my kitchen, most meetings are check-ins on Alok’s determined bid to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees — remember the phrase, “keep 1.5 alive”, you’re going to hear it from us a lot ahead of COP in November — probably the most important post-war summit Britain has ever held. Right now he’s in G20 countries trying to cajole them to reduce carbon emissions. (I was going to be filming him until the leg went bang). Mid-morning sees a presentation on how the world may have warmed even more than we thought. The afternoon brings joy: the idea we transport the beautiful life-sized wooden elephants in Green Park to Glasgow. Have been timing how long it takes to get to the loo and today there’s a personal best: three minutes and 15 seconds.

To shower while protecting the boot, I have to hoick on a waterproof sock which even the manufacturers call a “condom”. On Tuesday night, we rip it — ending the shower. The next day, dishevelled, I keep the camera off for my first Zoom with a distinguished and polished colonel about an idea for the world leaders’ summit at COP. Afterwards, mum washes my hair in the sink, allowing me to turn the camera on for the next Zoom — a chat with the committee on climate change about reaching net zero by 2050. On her return from nursery, my four-year-old daughter decides to sit on my shoulders and turn the mute button on and off. Deftly, Mum retrieves her.

A check-in with Nigel Topping who always cheers me up: he’s trying to get private finance to fund clean energy for 150 million sub-Saharans who currently rely on kerosene lamps. The next meeting with No10 touches on methane emissions from cows. My favourite government pilot gets a mention: technology that catches cow’s burps. I read some emails while doing arm dumbbells and learn there may be some progress on finding our elephants a Glasgow home. So much for never working with children and animals.

Allegra Stratton is COP26’s spokeswoman

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