Hello world!

This is my introduction to the world of blogging!
I display two photos, the first being a favourite ‘work’ photo of myself taken at the University of Winchester and the second of my wife (Meg) and I taken in the summer of 2016

Professor Mike Hart, University of Winchester, about 2007
Meg and Mike Hart, Hereford Cathedral, Summer 2016

Here for your amusement/entertainment or a series of more-or-less true anecdotes often of an autobiographical nature.

http://bit.ly/mch-vca

 

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Tuesday, 29th November, 2022 [Day 988]

Last night, as I now have a perfectly functioning little music system in our kitchen (useful when I have to do a lot of food preparation and/or cooking, let alone eating) I decided to turn my attention to our main living room. Here when I surveyed a little bookcase that we have underneath a window, I realised that we were still storing a clutch of operas recorded on VHS for which we have absolutely no use as we do not have the technology to play these upon, so they were just occupying some valuable shelf space. Once the shelf was cleared, I found that it would just neatly accomodate the Boombox (CD player with integrated radio) I had acquired recently and was very impressed by its sound quality. A few experiments, though, revealed that although the Boombox plays CDs beautifully and in the kitchen the FM radio could pick up and play our three favourite radio stations (including ClassicFM), this was not the case for the lounge. Here, the unit could pick up and play ClassicFM, the little inbuilt aerial for FM could not pick up either Radio 3 or Radio 4 in this particular location. I was not too distressed by this, however, as the Boombox plays both CDs and the 200 classical tracks from my old iPhone and I only paid £15 for it about a month ago in any case. I then relocated a DAB radio which I had purchased over four years ago and scarecely used – there was a type of logic behind all of this as after a serious operation some four and a half years ago, I imagined that I would spend a lot of time recuperating in the garden and I would probably value the companionship of a portable DAB radio. But I made a much more rapid recovery than anticipated and hence the radio was underutilised. Now, though, I am bringing it into much more constant use as I can use it together with the BoomBox as a ‘de facto’ little music centre, located at the other end of the lounge to our main HiFi system and the TV. Also, the little bookcase contains some boxed sets of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart (the latter a collection of some 40 CDs) so we not only have another little music centre but also all of the music that we would want to play in a proximate location. To finish off this little reconfiguration of our audio within the household and did a little hunting around and found a pendrive (USB stick) which I had just labelled ‘Bach’. When I examined it on the computer, I think there are about 60+ tracks which I think is the equivalent of about three or four music CDs. I then tried this out on our new little Panasonic music centre in the kitchen and found that it played this beautifully. So this wonderful little system, can now play music from four sources (the DAB+ radio itself, the CD unit, Bluetooth from wherever (my old iPhone) and now a pendrive. So this makes this little sysem incredibly versatile. Now that I have rabbited on so much about all of this audio, I suspect that I won’t mention it again – once you have little systems set up that functioning well and need no further enhancement or improvement, you can just forget all about them)

Meg and I went down to Waitrose this morning where, quite unusually, we only bumped into one of our usual Tuesday morning crowd. Undeterred, we had our midday coffee, did a little shopping and then made for home so tht I could get ready for my Pilates class later on in the day. When I walked down into town, I bumped into our Italian friend with whom I chatted for a brief 4-5 minutes and then passed one of our Irish friends and then later on passed some of our older Irish friends, to all of whom I could only make a quick ‘Hello and Goodbye’ as I did not want to be delayed for my Pilates class. The class contained the usual five members including myself but one of our number is a regular horse rider and had experienced quite a disturbing, not to say frightening, incident the day before. She had been out riding when a dog let off its lead shot in front of the horse and barked its head off – the horse took fright and bolted, with my classmate hanging on for dear life until it had calmed down from its gallop to escape. I asked her how long she had been hanging on and she replied that it was for about a mile! Fortunately, she had not fallen off but was a little sore in various places having been astride a bolting horse and I think may have been experiencing a little delayed shock. We all expressed our concern and relief that she had not been injured but had come of this little incident completely unharmed. After that, it was return to home, a lunch of fishcakes and ‘instant’ vegetables and a quiet afternoon waiting for the all important England-Wales match in the World Cup this evening.

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Monday, 28th November, 2022 [Day 987]

Today seemed pretty cold when we woke up and got ourselves going so it was one of those days when an extra jumper went on at the start of the day. After breakfast, I took a few minutes to tune the DAB on our newly installed music centre into Radio 3. Some radios make the tuning process very easy but this one does not – however, once you have pressed the appropriate buttons and got the station that you desired, it is then not too difficult to put it into your list of favourites. The left and right double arrow keypad key then sends you backwards or forwards through your pre-selects which is as simple as it could be. The fact that this is not really explained in the sparse instructions in the manual but is something that you discover after a few days of use is something that is a joy to discover. After we had picked up our newspaper, we called in at Waitrose because we needed to pick up some supplies and then we made our way to the park. It was quite a fine morning although fairly sharp and cold. As usual, the bench which is our favourite was deserted but we do come supplied with a variety of sponges, kitchen paper and the oldest of old tea towels which we use to wipe the bench dry so that we can sit down on it. We never really expect to see many people in the park on a Monday and,indeed, we had to get our skates on because I had a dental appointment at the rather awkward time of 1.30. After we had got home and had another hot drink, I got busy preparing a ‘quick’ lunch so we could have this in plenty of time and then get washed up before I departed for the dentist. The visit to the dentist was actually in two parts and the first one was a visit to the hygienist. This all went well and I got seen the minute that I arrived. After this treatment, I was then going to have a permanent crown replace the temprary crown affixed some three weeks beforehand. For this, I had to wait about 40-45 minutes and I even got up from seat in the waiting room to enquire whether or not I had been forgotten in the system but it was just a case of running late. The actual procedure of affixing the new and permanent crown only took some 5-10 minutes and I soon returned home after the procedure.

There are all kinds of ‘off-the-ball’ events surrounding the current World Cup, of the sort that one has never seen before nor expect to be seen. One of the latest is that the USA have taken the Iranian flag and ‘doctored’ the image so that the emblem of the Iranian Republic is actually removed from the flag before it was posted on social media. The Iranians are incensed (as any other nation be, I imagine, if the image of their national flag is altered). They are demmanding that the USA be kicked out of the World Cup or subject to a 10-match suspension which is a penalty laid down in FIFA regulations. Evidently, FIFA will not act in any meaningful way against the USA (which I am sure it would against a small struggling third world country who particiapated in flag desecretion) I am just left open-mouthed at the arrogance of the Americans, who feel that they can perform actions like this with impunity.

A much more significant and serious story concerns the current actions of the Chinese authorities who are trying to stem the most recent outbreaks of COVID-19. The Chinese have practiced a policy of ‘total lockdown’ whenever and wherever an outbreak of COVID-19 is identified. The population in several parts of China is starting to react very strongly against this policy and protests were to be found in several Chinese cities where the crowds were chanting ‘Down with the Chinese Communist Party’ as well as ‘Down with Xi Jinping’ These are the greatest protests since the time of Tiananmen Square in 1989. I had not fully appreciated that the vaccines that have been developed in China do not work particularly well and that levels of vaccinations in the society as a whole are below the comparable figures we have achieved in Western Europe. This then means that the level of immunity in Chinese society also fails to match those in comparable western societies – of course they could import ‘better’ vaccines from the West but of course the Chinese, for political and ideological reasons, would never go down this route. Meanwhile, many in China have watched the World Cup on TV and wonder why the rest of the world is getting on with life, gathering unmasked in large stadiums, while they risk being locked in their homes at short notice or having their businesses shut down and unable to trade. The Chinese are even showing the World Cup with censored images of crowd scenes so that the Chinese viewers do not see unmasked crowds enjoying the football as otherwise, the population may ask serious questions of the ruling Communist Party.

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Sunday, 27th November, 2022 [Day 986]

Today being Sunday was a day upon which I leapt out of bed fairly early and then walked down into town in order to pick up my Sunday newspaper. As I walked down into town, I was turning over in my mind why my newly acquired little mini hifi system which I have recently brought into use in our kitchen seemed to give such high quality sound. One little thing that I did last night was to tidy up the masking tape which held the aerial in place and the whole thing now looks quite neat. But listening quite a lot to ClassicFM I am very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the sound I am experiencing. Thinking about this and pushing aside completely subjective factors for the moment, I suppose the quality of the sound in a system must be a combination of the design and quality of the individual components in which the loudspeakers are critical and the quality and positioning of the aerial/antenna. I then noticed that the front of the unit referred to DAB+ so I did a bit of research to discover what the ‘+’ element stands for. I now appreciate that DAB has evolved over the years since its introduction in the 1990’s and DAB+ ought to deliver more stations and of higher quality than its predecessor. I wondered how many broadcasters are actually transmitting in DAB+ mode and I think that some of the bigger players are not in the market such as the BBC and ClassicFM itself. I suppose that the broadcasters are nervous about cutting out part of their market as many of their audience may only have the older version of their technology, including myself. As I purchased the Pure DAB radios that I do have, this was on average about ten years ago and only radios purchased within the last year or so will be DAB+ radios. So one of my initial hypotheses about why I should be getting the sound quality that I have on my new hifi system bit the dust as ClassicFM is not transmitting in DAB+ mode insofar as I can tell. But just to satisfy my curiosity, I found a website that aggregates evaluations of my little Panasonic system and I noticed that about 60% of nearly 300 customer reviews all specifically mentioned the quality of the sound produced by the system. The terms ‘excellent’ and ‘amazing’ were very prominent, so it is not just my own subjective opnion that the system produces a quality sound. Many people seem to have purchased this system not as their ‘main’ hifi system but as a smaller unit which is ideal for a teenager’s bedroom, a kitchen, a conservatory or even a garage. One or two brave souls even mentioned that they were so delighted with the system they were going to purchase a second one to utilise in another part of their house.

The footballing World Cup is transmitting matches during the morning, afternoon and evenings and this is playing havoc with certain of our well known television broadcasts. So, for example, some of our favourite programmes such as the Andrew Neil show are transmitting half an hour earlier than would otherwise be the case. However, there is one football match which even for those only mildly intererested in football such as Meg and myself is a clash that is well worth watching. That is the match tonight between Spain and Germany, neither of them the footballing giants that they used to be but nonetheless, probably well worth a watch. I tend to support Spain whichever opponents they happen to have but one is always fascinated to see if the Germans might be beaten. Several years ago, I was in Spain on my own, as it happens (I think part of an exminations panel for a PhD at the University of La Coruña) and Spain was playing in, I think, a European cup match. I went to a bar that I knew quite well here they served an excellent dark beer. The bar owner, seeing I was on my own, beckoned me towards the front where I could have a seat next to the bar and with a good view of the TV. As it happened, the Spanish scored first and the bar went wild and I think their opponents then equalised. I had a chat with some of the fellow drinkers about what good goals they were and then the Spanish went on to have nightmare of a match where they eventually got defeated about 4-1 or a similar margin. When the second goal was scored against the Spanish, after a collective groan the bar went quiet – but this was to be followed by goal after goal as the Spanish were being soundly beaten. The bar got more and more quiet and when I turned out to go at the end of the match, I realised that most of the audience could not bear to watch any more so they had abandoned their drinks on the table and walked away in disgust. So a bar that had been full of joyous, gregarious Spaniards at the start of the evening just emptied as the evening wore on. I suppose this was an understandable reaction but it makes me wonder why may happen this evening?

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Saturday, 26th November, 2022 [Day 985]

Today was an interesting day as it turned out. Meg and I treated ourselves to a special little extra at breakfast as we added some chorizo that we had left over to our breakfast poached egg and this made it extra special. When we eventually got to town, we picked up our newspaper and then navigated toward the park where we bumped into one of our park regulars and we had an interesting chat this morning about the friendship groups (and the parties) in which we had participated when we were so much younger. We were all getting a little bit cold so we bade each other farewell and headed home for lunch. However, we had a special little mission to undertake because I needed to make a trip to the one and only Radio/TV and audio shop in town to see if I could get some advice, and possibly even purchase, an aerial of the correct type for my newly acquired little music centre. I had taken the precaution of taking a very detailed photo on my iPhone on the type of aerial connector on the back of the music centre as I felt that if I had tried to make a guess and purchase something over the internet, this would probably be the wrong thing so I needed to seek some advice from a really knowledgeable person. Fortunately, the technician on duty in the shop upon looking at my photo immediately recognised what I needed and was able to supply both it, and a more specialised little adapter, the two of which should work together to give me a functional aerial. This turned out to be an ‘Indoor FM VHF Aerial FM Radio Hi-Fi Dipole Flat Ribbon Antenna’ and I also had supplied an extra little adapter which screwed into the aerial fitting on the back of the music centre and also accepted the new cable. I was very pleased to part with my £5 as I was assured that that it ought to work absolutely correctly. As soon as I got it home, I put it into the approximately correct position and found that it gave me a good signal. By hook or by crook and with a not very helpful manual, I managed to get the DAB+ to locate ClassicFM (whih is nearly always all that I would ever want) and then left everything whilst I went off to cook a lunch of chicken legs.

After lunch, I set to work getting the aerial installed. My music centre is on a work surface in the kitchen immediately next to a power supply and a tall kitchen cupboard. As the aerial is a ‘T’-shape, I figured that I could put the ‘T’ section on the top of the kitchem cupboard where it could occupy two sides, here it would be out of sight if not out of mind. Then, in order to keep the whole thing stable, I used some ‘map’ pins to make sure that the cable did not stray from the top of the cupboard surface and then had to turn my attention to the vertical section. Again, I used some map pins of an unobtrustive colour to hold the aerial in place but the trouble is that the ariel had a few slight kinks in it and getting the map pins into position was not easy and I could only manage the slightest of taps from a very lightweight hammer. Having got the ribbon antenna vertical in the corner formed by the back wall and the cupboard side, I them prettied it up with some masking tape to make the whole thing look as neat and unobtrusive as possible. Obviously, I had ClassicFM playing the whole time during the installation to make sure that the signal did not degrade with any change in position and when I had finished, the whole was firmly in position and fairly (but not very) unobtrusive. At least using the masking tape which was the same as the wall colour was an improvement on the bare cable. I must say, I was absolutely delighted with the quality of the sound I was getting from ClassicFM broadcast on the DAB+ system. When the installation was complete, the presenter of the ClassicFM slot played an excerpt from Mozart’s Clarinet concerto and I also played the same using the Pure radio that I had on the opposite wall – this gave me the effect of sound coming from three speakers and was incredibly good. So I was very satisfied with the late morning and afternoon’s work.

This afternoon, whilst idly looking at the TV transmissions, I realised that ‘Dr Zhivago’ was being shown – this was ‘our’ film and I think that Meg very much identified with Tonya played by Geraldine Chapman at the time (and had a very similar hair style). Of course, the film is very emotionally compelling as Yuri Zhivago is torn between the two women of Tonya (Geraldine Chapman, a brunette) and Lara (Julie Christie, a blonde) I only saw about the last third of the film as we missed the first hour and I was busy with my aerial fixing for the second hour but I really enjoyed the snatches of it that I managed to see (for the umpteenth time, I think)

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Friday, 25th November, 2022 [Day 984]

This morning Meg and I had company for breakfast as our Hampshire friend had stayed with us overnight after a very pleasant time yesterday evening with general chat about family matters and some of our reminiscencies from when we were work colleagues together. Because our friend had a drive and quite a long day in front of him, I cooked a breakfast of ham and eggs followed by some toasted fruit loaf, all of which was very satisfying. Then we had a brief session on our computer where I managed to show him the photographic evidence that some of my forebears on my father’s side of the family were bicycle manufacturers located in Wolverhampton. A distant family cousin in Australia has devoted years of work to trace some of our common ancestry as far back as he can and he has actually traced back to an ancestor whose dates are 1531-1601 and then the trail runs cold! However, to get back to the best part of 700 years is a considerable achievement but before that date will take no doubt massive amounts of investigation with no guarantee of eventual success. So our friend left us on his way to a Quaker Meeting House and associated cemetory in Leek, Staffs where he had enlisted the help of a local historian who might be able to fill in some of the gaps in his own researches so far.

After our friend was on his way, Meg and I went down by car to collect our newspapers but we parked the car in such a place that I could a lightning visit to Poundland – here I managed to purchase some of the extra plastic storage baskets with a handle which will almost exactly accommodate some CDs that I intend to store in our recently acquired little music cabinet. I now have five of these incredibly useful little baskets but as each holds 20, then I have enough for 100 CDs which gives me some excellent room for expansion. After our errands, we decided to do a quick tour of the park although we did not have any prepared elevenses with us. Nonetheless, we were delighted to just about meet up with our University of Birmingham friend and we spent a very pleasant 20 minutes discussing a recent TV programme which had given our friend considerable food for thought (particularly as some of it was relevant to his own life-story) As it happened our views on the subject were almost completely aligned – perhaps that’s why we are friends in the first place and like to discuss this and similar issues with each other. Then we popped home to have a lunch of sea-bass which we cooked with ‘normal’ vegetables rather than salad as we felt the need for some hot food on a day which proved bright and clear but quite cold.

I spent a little time this afternoon putting some little circular felt ‘feet’ on my boxes as otherwise being quite a hard plastic they could scratch whatever surface they were located upon without some modification. I was expecting to take delivery some time of the recently ordered antenna for my new music system, only to be informed by Amazon that the item was ‘undeliverable’ whatever that means and I would get a refund for the cost. So then I tried to hunt round to find this exact Panasonic spare part and did manage to locate a source at a reasonable price which I have ordered but it will tke about two weeks to arrive which is rather frustating. I then spent some time trying to get the exact manual for the system I have recently acquired as the documentation I have downloaded is for the version without DAB which is the one I actually need. I have tried to view some of the relevant sections of the documentation on line (or even downloaded) but the sections on DAB are not susceptible to being copied from a protected pdf file. So I needed to take the downloaded pdf and use an online facility I found to unprotect the pdf so that I could copy just the section that I needed. This is both somewhat complicated and frustrating but eventually I have found a solution that gives me – more or less – what I require.

In the World Cup today, Wales put on a lack-lustre performance here they were well beaten by Iran. The Iram team had a goal disallowed, hit the bar on two occasions and were judged to be worthy winners even if one of their goals was in the dying seconds of the game. Incidentally, I was amazed that all of the schoolchildren in Wales were given the morning off schoool so that they could stay at home and watch the match. But the real contest this evening is between England and the USA and I think it is correct to say that England has never won a match against USA in the World Cup. I must say that my money is on the USA but both teams are quite ‘young’ sides so the difference between the sides may turn out to be a single misplaced tackle which produces a freekick that in the event will prove decisive.

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Thursday, 24th November, 2022 [Day 983]

I was ‘up with the lark’ which is my usual pattern for a Thursday morning and went on my way bright and early to do our weekly shopping. This was finished quite expeditiously but as usual for this time of year, the Christmas stock of cakes and chocolates is starting to crowd other items off the shelves. I was not tempted by anything in particular but I did eye up an absolutely plain fruit cake which I have bought from Aldi before and is, in effect, Christmas cake without icing, marzipan and other adornments so I might succumb in the weeks ahead. I am of the mindset not to buy anything Christmassy until at least we are in the month of Deember and Christms Day is so much closer. Having got the shopping done in a resonable time, I managed to park the car not too distant from the town centre and proceeded to the Post Office where I managed to post back the CD of ‘Dire Straits‘ which the vendor of my recently acquired music centre had inadvertently left in the tray of the CD unit. This happens to be of some emotional significance so I was pleased to get it into the postal system. Then on my way back to the car, I did a quick ‘dive’ into Poundland which proved to be fortuitous as within the portals of that shop I managed to buy a couple of plastic storage baskets which will be almost perfect for storing CDs in my new unit. I think that each basket will contain about 20-22 CDs which is just right for my needs. All I really have to do is to affix some little felt ‘feet’ to the underside of the basket- after that, I am resolved to buy some more in the next day or so so that I can acquire storage baskets that are all of the same design and hope that the design does not change when the shop restocks. It was then a case of getting home, cooking breakfast and an unpacking of the shopping.

Today, our old Hampshire friend was motoring up to see us and to stay with us overnight before he proceeds to the Potteries in the morning. I busied myself with making some soup of the winter root vegetables I had previously prepared and popped into the freezer. Once these had been parboiled, it was a relatively simple job to add some fried onions,coconut milk, pasta sauce mixture and a quich dash of ‘chip shop curry’ . Then I let the soupmaker work its magic whilst I went around preparing the ingredients of a risotto we were going to have for our main meal. This was really just to ensure that we had a supply of chicken stock, some mackerel which was eventually going to end up in small squares and finally some yogurt and some grated cheese as well as some well-rinsed Basmati rice (arborio being better if I had managed to locate some in time) Then just after 12.0pm I got these ingredients under way and we received a welcone telephone call to indicate that our friend was in the vicinity of the Webbs garden centre whoch is only about 4 miles down the road from us.

After we had lunch and washed down the meal with a little white wine, we had our post prandial coffees and then decided to make an excursion into the town. We made a quick tour up and down the High Street and then we treated ourselves to a coffee and some cakes in the Waitrose café which is the end of the High Street. Tomorrow our friend has an appointment in the churchyard in Leek, Staffs, to meet with a local history expert. He is hoping, if is lucky, to locate some of his Quaker forebears. So a bit more of our friend’s family history may be revealed if all goes well in the search. After we got home (in the dark by now) we spent an hour or so in pure reminiscences of the times and the shared experiences that we had together in Winchester. Soon it was time for the TV news (dominated by news of the RMT ) and then it was teatime in which I could heat up and serve the homemade soup I had prepared earlier in the day. This turned out to be fine and in accord with expectations and we treated ourselves to a kind of ‘nursery tea’ finale which was Sticky Toffee pudding purchased on the spur of the morning in Aldi this morning, served with custard and washed down with some wonderful Beronia rioja wine. As you might expect, we chatted and chatted all night long until it was a little past our normal bedtime and we made for our respective beds at about 11.00pm. Tomorrow we anticipate being a nice quiet day and hopefully the Panasonic antenna I have ordered for our new music centre will have been delivered. If this works as it should, then I should be able to tune/retune the FM and DAB radio stations which, in theory, should be quite a simple job.

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Wednesday, 23rd November, 2022 [Day 982]

Today was a blustery type of day but we did not hasten to get down into town because it was the day when our domestic help calls around and there are always a few things for us to chat over. One of the things that we needed to do was to check over the ‘systems’ for our small guest bedroom in anticipation of tomorrow when our frind is coming to visit us from Hampshire and is having an overnight stay with us. Once we were good and ready, we collected our newspaper and then went to Waitrose primarily to provision ourselves with some wine and beer in anticipation of tomorrow. As we were in Waitrose, Meg and I availed ourselves of the ‘free coffee’ facility that is starting again for its own customers (but was withdrawn for the duration of the pandemc for understandable reasons). In the late morning, a package arrived courtesy of the Post Office which was a Panasonic mini hifi system which I bought from a seller on eBay. I had previously bought a Pure DAB radio replacement for one of my defunct ones from this same seller on eBay and hence had every confidence in him as a seller. After lunch, it was quite an easy job to wire up the speakers and I soon got the CD and the Bluetooth functions working as they should. The sound quality is excellent for my ears and although several reviews of the system (and even the seller himself) said the volume was not particularly loud, it was certainly loud enough for us where the system is located on one of kitchen work suraces tucked away neatly into a corner. The one slight disappointment was that I could not get the radio functions (FM + DAB) to work because it evidently needed an aerial/antenna which was not supplied with the system. This is ‘nice to have’ but not essential to me as I shall be using the CD or Bluetooth 90% of the time, if not more, but I dropped a quick note to the vendor to see if the aerial had been omitted by mistake. It turned out that it had not as this was how the system was supplied when he acquired it during the pandemic so I shall pop down to our local radio/TV store to get a working aerial. At the same time, the vendor had inadvertently left a copy of a ‘Dire Straits’ CD in the tray and thinking this might be precious to him (it as!) I promised to get it back to him in the post. This afternoon, as you might imagine, Meg and I have listening to opur new ‘toy’ and having treated ourselves to some masses/motets by Byrd and Tallis, we then followed it up with some renditions of the Mozart Piano Concertos Nos. 20 and 21 which was needed to fill a slight ‘hole’ in our collection and which arrived this morning.

I will not go into the minutiae of what is happening upon the Parliamentary front except to make the following observation. The public as a whole, if they think of what happens in Parliament, think of the ‘Yah-Boo’ of politics which is exhibited in Prime Minister’s Question Time and other occasions when business is discussed ‘on the floor of the house’ But much more significant are the Select Committees which have a membership proportional to the voting strength of the political parties in Parliament but with Chairs some of which are drawn from the Opposition parties. When MPs are working in committee, they are capable of questionning ministers in much more forensic detail than is possible in the whole House and Ministers and civil servants often squirm under the impact of detailed questionning, much of it coming from their ‘own’ side. Today both the Chancellor of the Exchequeur and the Home Secretary have have to endure sustained and detailed questionning at the hands of select committes and neither,by all accounts, acquitted themselves particularly well. Suella Braverman, for example, could not explain how ‘safe and legal routes’ are actually working.

Giant-slaying is back in vogue in the football World Cup as Japan have beaten West Germany 2-1. There are enormous parallels, which must surely be just coincidences, between Argentina’s defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabia and Germany’s defeat by Japan. Both Argentina and Germany scored first and through a penalty in both cases. Then, in another coincidence, their oppenents scored two goals in quick succeession only to hang onto their lead with desperate efforts until the full-time whistle was blown. Every match seems to have extended way beyond its allotted time as officials have added on extra minutes not just for injuries but for red and yellow cards, substitutions, excessive goal celebrations, VAR interventions and so on. In fact, the England game against Iran went for almost 30 minutes beyond the normal 90 minutes. Evidently, FIFA has made some policy decisions but it does not look as though the effects of this have not been properly modelled. Rugby League has a hooter that sounds on the dot which seems eminently sensible.

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Tuesday, 22nd November, 2022 [Day 981]

We are truly into November-ish type weather this morning as the wonderful autumn spell that we have been enjoying has finally come to an end and we return to what we might term more normal autumnal weather. As it is a Tuesday, we have fallen into our normal Tuesday routine which involves having a coffee in the Waitrose coffee bar. There, as we expected, we bumped into one of our Tuesday regulars where we have our customary chat and contemplate the fact that the Christmas is almost upon us where we will be assailed on all sides to buy perfume, chocolate and goodness knows what else. Once we had our elevenses, we made for home where we caught up with some of the news of the day. Then it was a case of getting into my Pilates ‘gear’ (in other words my track suit bottoms) before I walk down for my regular class each Tuesday – our class is a small but regular group of four with myself and three ladies. Fortunately, the showers held off whilst I walked down and had my class bfore I walked back and we had a late lunch at about 3.0pm. At home, I am engaged in a a little project in which I am having some success so far. I am trying to create some open boxes/containers which hold the CDs I have relocated to populate our newly commissioned music room. This involves trying to find a narrow shoebox or any box which is just a tad over 5.5 inches wide. I then do a certain amount of covering with grey duct tape to give the CD boxes a more uniform appearance as well as strengthening any parts that have needed to be cut or adapted to shape. So far, I have successfully made three of these storage boxes and am half way through adapting a fourth – it is one of those kinds of activities which is reasonably satisfying as you can do it whilst watching TV which is showing any content that is less than riveting in the background.

There are two bits of news which are attracting attention this afternoon. The first of these is a YouGov national opinion poll of public opinion which is showing that only 32% of those polled think that Brexit was a good idea and 56% think it was wrong. This is particularly interesting as it puts both major political parties out of step with the public’s view. There is a growing realisation that Brexit ‘is not working’ and, perhaps the feeling as well, that it is not likely to work either. If a trade deal with the USA could be negotiated, then this might give the Brexit project a fighting chance of success but at the moment, most of the deals negotiated amount to pretty small beer. A trade deal has been negotiated with Australia which many commentators are predicting will be a bad deal for the UK. It is widely acknowledged that most of the trade deals negotiated by Liz Truss when she was the Foreign Secretary were really ‘cut-and-paste’ jobs for deals that were already in place but were just repackaged and had a ‘Brexit’ label stuck on them for presentational purposes but nothing all that substantial had actually been renegotiated. Why all of this matters is because of the disastrous failure of the Liz Truss ‘experiment’ to borrow out way into economic growth and where international investors refused to lend us the money. One of the most evident ways to achieve economic growth is to allow for more immigration to fill skill shortages and to establish a new trading relationship with the nearest big economic blog i.e. the European Union. But when the Sunday Times indicated that some in the UK Treasury were contemplating an arrangement with the EU such as Switzerland enjoys, there were immediate howls of protest from the Brexit press and Rishi Sunak was forced to make an instant statement to the CBI (which he happened to be addressing the next day) that anything like the rumours were remotely being considered. Nor would such measures pass through the House of Commons as presently constituted.

The second big new story is the news that in the World Cup, Saudi Arabia – a rank outsider, ranked as No. 51 in the world – has just beaten Argentina 2-1 when Argentina was one of the fancied teams to actually win the competition. The delight in Saudi Arabia, a neighbouring country to Qatar with easy access to it, has just declared a day’s public holiday in celebration. This ranks as one of the biggest shocks in the whole history of the World Cup, although every single World Cup produces one or two surprises. More disturbing news was that a female Welsh supporter was actually denied entrance to the match against the USA just because she was wearing a multistriped hat in favour of LGBT+ rights. I think that the supporter managed to smuggle herself inside the match anyway but it does tell you something about the mindset of the Qatari/FIFA footballing authorities to take action as draconian as this.

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Monday, 21st November, 2022 [Day 980]

As we anticipated, today was wet and windy and, I suppose, we had plenty of warning that this was going to be our weather for the next few days ahead. Before we went out, I busied myself with taking an old shoe box which fortunately was narrower than most and happened to be exactly the right size, to the millimetre, to accommodate a collection of CDs. So I prettified this up by covering the sides in a grey ducktape so that it exactly matches the other cardboard box I have similarly processed. Then I went and rounded up the other Mozart CDs I have in the normal storage units and populated the new CD box I have just created. As I have about two dozen Mozart CDs, I made some little index cards dividing the whole into piano concertos/symphonies/woodwind concertos/operatic arias and I finished off with a compilations section. With the two little CD boxes sitting side by side on the kirchen unit and nicely indexed, I can rapidly put my hand on a suitable CD as the spirit takes me. We ventured out and collected our newspaper and then popped into our local Waitrose to pick up a few supplies. After that, we wondered whether to make a trip around the park but we bumped into our Irish friend so we chatted for a few minutes in the rain and then decided to go home and have our elevenses there. Then we decided to have a fairly early lunch (which was easy to prepare)and thought that when it was over and we were all washed up, we might devote putselves to the second half of the football match between England and Iran.

When we tuned in at what we thought was half-time, the first half was still in progress as the Iran goalkeeper had been injured in a clash (with one of their own players) and they had evidently tried to treat him on the pitch instead of making an immediate substitution. England were leading 3-0 at this stage and we assumed that the second half would be anything but exciting football given the half time lead. In the event, England won the match with a scoreline of 6-2 but the second Iran goal was awarded in injury time after a video review and looked doubtful to put it mildly. But politics had made its influence felt both before and during the match. The England team had wanted to wear a ‘one love’ LGBT+ armband but afer a lot of tense and fraught negotiations with FIFA, the ruling came down that the wearing of such an armband would result in a penalty to the players or at least the captain by the issue of a yellow card before the game had actually started. Then a second yellow card during the match would mean the automatic issue of a red card which would mean the offending player would be sent off and would miss the next match. In the face of this pressure the England team and probably the Welsh also decided to forego the armband but they did ‘take the knee’ without an objection from FIFA. The Iran team were even more conflicted, however, and they made the symbolic protest of not singing their own national anthem and refusing to celebrate the goals that they did score. These actions might be severely sanctioned once the World Cup is over so, I believe, the Iran players showed a lot of bravery in the stance that they took. Tonight, we have decided to break our resolution not to watch much of the football because it is Wales versus the USA and we would like to see a bit of giant-slaying take place.

Immediately after lunch, we took delivery of a piece of furniture I had espied in our local Age Concern shop and which I had noticed last Friday on my way to Pilates. This piece was rather hidden away in a corner and I suspect that if it had been given a more prominent position, it would have been snapped up very quickly. The piece was designed, I think, to accommodate a music centre or similar and inside had three shelves with two decorated glass doors which have given the whole quite a quality look. I gave the whole a good rub down with a damp sponge cloth and then finally gave it a treatment of furniture polish and it now has a pride of place in our music room. The intention is for me to store CDs and other associated audio equipment inside. The top of the unit had evidently been marked by having a music system placed on because you can still discern th marks made by the loudspeakers. But I have ameloriated this by putting a nice piece of crochet work on the top of the piece and relocating a little lamp onto the unit so that we now have aa array of occasional lighting which gives the whole music room a quiet and relaxed air. Meg and I celebrated all of this by listening to Janet Baker singing Bach cantatas (recently redicovered in the raid on my other collections of CDs)

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Sunday, 20th November, 2022 [Day 979]

It was quite a fine day today and although there were expectations of rain later in the day, we could still enjoy quite a fine morning. I walked down into town early to collect my newspaper, as I always do and then we made our way to the park. There we bumped into one of our regular friends but missed the other one. The park café had suffered a small fire and as the fire crew complete with appliance (one must learn not to call it a fire engine anymore) had cleared the café and its environs of all customers then our friend had abandoned his walk early. We had a chat with our regular friend and then made our way up to our ‘normal’ bench where we enjoyed our coffee and had a chat with another couple that we meet quite regularly in the park. Then it was a journey back to the house where I had a Sunday lunch to cook. We had some beef cooking in a slow cooker but there is always a certain amount of extra clearing up to do once I have washed out the (gravy) slow cooker container and prepared some onions to make a decent onion gravy. We typically cook the whole of a small joint but when it is removed from the slow cooker we usually halve it. One half, when cooled, goes into the freezer for another week whilst the ther half provides us with 2-3 days of meals. This pattern that we have evolved ensures that we have sufficient protein for our needs but at the same time means that we are not consuming too much red meat which the health professionals tell us we should only eat in moderation.

This afternoon, I spent a certain amount of time searching through some of my CDs so that I can have a choice selection of Mozart to have by my side in the kitchen. The various first Mozart Piano Concerto that I have heard in its entirety was Concerto No. 23 which was bought for me by an old friend (who has since died) some time in the early 1960s. Since then I am particularly fond of Concertos 20 and 21 but it is is possible that I already some CDs of these but I have to some hunting around to find them. But I found the Mozart Clarinet Concerto which again is a favourite and I also discovered the Horn concertos and the Oboe concerto so these, too, have been added into my little boxed collection which is already about two dozen long.

I have not taken any interest in the World Cup but I have noticed, with a certain grimace of pleasure, that Qatar lost its opening match against Ecuador, 2-nil. Apparently, it is the first time that a host nation has ever lost an opening match of a World Cup and I suspect that the host nation will not survive. I wonder how long the football competition can take place before some politics intrudes with a vengeance. The England team are going to wear rainbow arm bands and perhaps even ‘take the knee’ but I wonder whether the extreme heat, despite ‘air-conditioned stadiums’ will eventually take its toll and make a mockery of the competition as a whole. I might make an exception of not taking much interest in any of the football when I see that Wales are playing the United States in their opening game tomorrow evening. If Wales could possiby eke out a draw, then this would count as a moral victory at least but I am not holding my breath.

There is not much in prospect for Meg and I this week although we are expecting a close friend from Hampshire to come and see us on Thursday and to break his journey ‘up north’ by staying the night with us. If the weather is fine on Thursday, we can always do a little tour of Bromsgrove and the park but if the weather is windy and squally, we will have enough time to entertain us with filling in the news of what has happened to us in the past few years. Our friend is going to research some of his family history and, in return, I might show him some of our own researches in this area. I always thought of myself as ‘born and bred in Yokshire’ but in practice, a distant Australian cousin on my father’s side has devoted a lot of time and energy to researching that side of the family. I find now that rather having my roots in Yorkshire, my forebears actually can be traced back to a West Midlands bicycle manufacturing company who prospered in Wolverhampton. I have even a photograph which is incredibly valuable because it shows the family name prominently displayed above an exhibition stand in which the latest models of bicycle were being put on show. So I discover that I am actually a Midlander through and through which means that I have had to have a sudden reversal of self-identity since the information has been known to us.

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