Friday, 18th February, 2022 [Day 704]

This was a very strange type of day. We have been given lots of warning by the meteorological authorities that storm ‘Eunice‘ may well be the worst to hit the UK since the infamous great storm of 1987 which did all kinds of damage across Southern England. Because at that time the country did not receive sufficient warning as was thought that the storm would veer away and only clip the UK, I get the impression that nothing is being left to chance this time. So we have had lots of warnings including a ‘red’ warning from the Meteorological Office and people are being urged to stay away from the coasts as they could literally be swept away. So when I woke up this morning, I expected that there would be at least some premonition of the storm yet to come but there was only a strange calm. I had previously texted our domestic help to delay her journey to us in case the storm was at its height first thing in the morning but in the event there was no need and she arrived at the normal time. By mid morning, the weather conditions were evidently worsening so I texted our University of Birmingham friend to suggest that we meet in a coffee bar along the High Street. This we did, arriving within a couple of minutes of each other so we sat down for a nice long (and warm) chat with some cappuchinos and a round of teacakes inside us. The wind had got rather swirly and rain-filled as we made our way to the coffeeshop but when we emerged about an hour and a half later, the height of the storm seemed to have passed us over. We invited our friend to come and have some lunch with us and he readily accepted. I was cooking a simple rissotto with some smoked mackerel as the protein element so our friend stood at my shoulder as I cooked the meal (which I have done many times before) to learn some lessons. Then we had a very pleasant meal which we complemented with half a glass of white wine and a good time was had by all. This afternoon, we have a kept an eye on the news broadcasts to see if the storm damage was extensive or not. The most dramatic pictures were of parts of the (plastic) roof of the O2 Millenium Dome building being ripped away in London whilst the church spire of the principal church in Wells, Somerset was pictured in the act of being blown away. There were also some dramatic pictures of trees being uprooted and falling – I suppose with the ubiquity of mobile phones, it is easier to capture these images than would have been the case in 1987. I am going to email some of our Hampshire friends to see how they have coped and as they tend to live in rural environments, whether they had been troubled with falling trees or worse.

To overcome my conputer problems (my computer getting slower and slower for none of the usual self-evident reasons) I have resolved to start a miniature savings programme and to replace my desktop computer in or about May time. This gives me the time to do as well as a certain amount of saving as well as ‘project managing’  the transition from the old computer to the new. This is the kind of thing that has to happen every 5 years or so or whatever is the interval that people choose these days to update their systems. Things are a little different this time around as ‘normally’ one gets as much RAM as you can afford and, more or less the same for storage capacity. But Apple has rather changed the nature of the calculations insofar as they have developed a new generation of chips (M1) with what what is called ‘unified memory’. Without getting at all technical,  this allows their minimum configuration of an 8GB memory to be tightly integrated into the CPU to give the same performance as a conventional 16GB configuration often regarded as the minimum necessary for today’s ‘normal’ home user. I have got the benefit of time on my side and I may be able to resurrect the arrangements that I have made in the past to get an Education discount on my hardware although this has proved possible but a little complicated when I was last in the market.

The winter Olympics in Beijing has largely failed to set the nation alight, no doubt due to the fact that many of our hyped up medal hopefuls have not managed to deliver and it seemed very likely that as the games end in a few days time that the GB team leaves Tokyo with the sum total of zero medals. But in the past few hours I gather that both the men’s and the women’s curling teams have pulled off thrilling last-minute victories over their rivals meaning that they have both qualified as finalists. That means a guaranteed silver even if both fail to achive their ultimate victory so there may be some interesting highlights to catch up on later.

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Thursday, 17th February, 2022 [Day 703]

Today is our grocery shopping day so it was up at 6.15am so that I get to the supermarket at 7.00am in the morning before there are a significant number of shoppers around. I must say that I have felt somewhat tired this morning as a result of my long journey of yesterday followed by not too much sleep during the night. I have taken with me a very long (computerised) shopping list from which the items I do not need this week have already been scored out. But as always in a (newish for me) supermarket you can spend trudging around and looking for eg soy milk. Should this be with the other milks? With cream and cheeses and so and and on on. Eventually I sought the help of one of the shelf stackers who took me to the other end of the store, explaining that all of the ‘vegan’ type stuff was now stored a long way away from more conventional lines. As always there is a logic in all of this but it will take some getting used to over time. Altogether, my shopping trip took well over an hour and a half so next week should be a lighter week and therefore easier to cope with. Once the shopping was unpacked and Meg and I had breakfasted, I went down into town by car and picked up our daily newspaper and then we had a fairly early lunch and decided that we would have a little walk some time after lunch when the weather was a little more accommodating.  After lunch and a nap, we journeyed to the park by car and did one complete circuit around the lake so as to give ourselves a little bit of exercise and some fresh air. On our way home, we needed to call in and see our Irish friends because we had some potential holiday arrangements to discuss. Our plans to go together to Rome as part of a larger group from church  have been subjct to constant change as the pandemic got in the way of our original plans and then flight information and availability kept changing. The travel agent who is trying to cope with all of this emailed us so that we could decide upon and then coordinate the various options that are now open to us. We had a good opportunity to discuss the various ins and outs of the options under discussion and we have now decided that we shall postpone the plans for this year, take the offered refund of the deposits that we had paid and then start again with new plans next year when the situation should have clarified considerably.

In the last few days, Meg and I have been evaluating some of our clothing options. Meg has a series of kilts of various tartans and they are incredibly versatile pieces of clothing because they never really date, are really practical and are very hard wearing as well as being good ‘winter clothes’ weather. We evaluated one of Meg’s favourite kilts which is now getting a little ‘tight’ around the waist so we took it to our local dry cleaners who also act as a agency for clothing repairs. When the kilt was examined in the shop, the assistant was of the view that there was not sufficient spare material to extend the waist in a properly tailored way. We explained this dilemma to some of our ex-Waitrose friends when we were FaceTiming them the other day and they told us about the concept of ‘waist extenders’ (which was, of course, news to me, a mere male) So I got onto the web and bought very cheaply a set of five ‘extenders’ which arrived today. The things that arrived were actually designed and marketed to extend jeans and they were interesting little gadgets, being like a loop of really tough elastic with a metal design button on one end. You loop the extender over the existing button and the new button will take over about ¾” displaced to either left or right. So tried this on Meg’s kilt and actually used two (an extender on an extender) to give an extra 1½” on the kilt. This was worked superbly well, so Meg can now bring a wonderful garment back into use at absolutely minimal expense -so you live and learn.

There is a huge storm (codenamed Eunice) destined to sweep over the country tomorrow with the South West taking the initial brunt of the storm.  This storm is predicted to be the worst that the UK has experienced for decades – so a rare red warning (imminent danger to life)  has been issued by the Met Office. All trains have been cancelled in Wales, the army is on standby and the country is waiting to see what damage winds of 90mph might cause. Exceptional  winds and heavy snow could hit many parts of the UK so we await tomorrow with a degree of trepidation.


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Wednesday, 16th February, 2022 [Day 702]

Today is the day when we are going to see our friends in Oxfordshire so we got up reasonably early to get breakfasted and our washing done. After my son had a good old ‘go’ at my desktop computer to attempt to ascertain why it is running so slowly, I think I may have identified the source of the problem as virus checking program seemed to be hogging a lot of CPU resources. My son and I might have a go at uninstalling the virus checker which is not as simple as it sounds as this sort of program protects itself against attempts to disable it – for obvious reasons. We may have to search on the web for a specialised uninstaller specific to the make of virus checker, then see if its absence makes any difference and then possibly installing another program that may prove to be less problematic. I have  investigated the price of new systems and I may have to buy a new one in a few months time but not yet. I have started to log the amount of time that it takes to log on and whereas it was 7 minutes yesterday, it was 5 minutes today so it is possible that our attempts to clean up the system are meeting with a modicum of success.

We called in to collect our newspaper before we set off on our journey. I had previously given our newsagent the web address for my collection of ‘Vertically Challenged Anecdotes’ – this is so named because  my collection of stories are not ‘tall stories’ but are basically true and therefore the opposite of ‘tall stories’ – hence they ‘vertically challenged’ or short stories.

We set off  to see our friends in plenty of time and once we had located a particularly tricky junction south of Oxford we pulled into a favourite parking spot and allowed ourselves a quick cup of coffee and a banana to sustain us. Although the weather had been fine for most of the journey, once we got into Oxfordshire the rain clouds had started to gather. We did notice at fairly close range a couple of red kites- there is a colony of them towards the south of the M40. We then proceeded to our friends, ignoring the Sat Nav’s instruction to us to take a narrow ‘forest’ road – if you ignore this direction, the Sat Nav takes you by a more sensible route a mile or so down the road. Then we arrived at our friends about 20 minutes early but no matter. We had a wonderful meal all made with home-grown type ingredients and of course several hours of wonderful conversation. As well as the perennial politics, our friends were telling us about a car crash in which they had been involved a day or so ago but fortunately with no injuries of any kind. We then gravitated onto the topic of how we were all growing old (dis)gracefully and other family matters. We left for home whilst we still had a couple of hours of daylight left to us and made progress at a reasonable pace until we were half way up the M40. Then the skies darkened and we ran into a torrental rain storm – or rather it ran into us. Fortunately, the rain was of an intensity that the windscreen wipers could cope without difficulty but we passed a crash which must have occurred minutes beforehand in which one car had run into the back of another. 

Not being of a particularly royalist disposition, I did feel a smidgeon of sympathy for the Queen. Yesterday it looked as though the Prince Andrew affair had been finally put to bed as an out-of-court settlement had been made. There is no way Prince Andrew would have won this case with the damning evidence of his arm around Virginia Giuffre (nee Roberts) and the standard of proof set as ‘the balance of probabilities’. It is rumoured, by the way, that the Queen might be digging into own pocket to fund the (reported) settlement which may well be of the order of £10-12million. So the Queen might have slept easily for one night before police have launched an investigation into a bid to give honours and citizenship to a Saudi national linked to the Prince of Wales’s charity The Prince’s Foundation.  The Met said in a statement: ‘The decision follows an assessment of a September 2021 letter. This related to media reporting alleging offers of help were made to secure honours and citizenship for a Saudi national.’ So in two days we have two large scandals both involving sons of the Queen and, in Charles case, the Monarch in waiting. Needless to say, all kinds of questions are now being asked about the future of the monarchy – republicans must be rubbing their hands in glee for this conjunction of two scandals in two days!

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Tuesday, 15th February, 2022 [Day 701]

Today was a really gloomy day and it never really seemed to get light all day, The country was evidently covered with a dense layer of rain cloud and so we ruled out our daily walk. For some reason,  Meg and I slept in a little this morning although we did not have a late night last night. My main computer system is slowing up a lot for a reason which is a mystery to me at the moment – otherwise I would have fixed it. My son had a spare hour this morning so we decided to have a go  to see what we could do between us. For a start we took off all of the USBs except the one driving the keyboard. Then we looked at the disk system and it only seemed about 20% full so the problem did not lie in this direction. Then we looked at the memory system but the computer had passed all of its POST (Power On Self Test) system so nothing was self evident here. Then we looked at the Resouce Monitor to see what might be clogging up the system and removed some Western Digital software (driving a backup hard disk) to see if this helped. Then we used an app callled AppCleaner which is good at removing software from the system and took off one or two things  that might be slowing things down. Impressionalistically, I think the system is now a little crisper (by which I mean less sluggish) but it still runs as though the CPU is being throttled by something we know not what. As the system is now 7 years old, it may well be that we have to think about replacing it with more up-to-date hardware. The alternative is to hoik the whole sysytem of the Apple shop in Solihull where they might be able identify why the system is running slowly – but the system is still quite old in computing terms so the money spent might be better spent in defraying the cost of a brand new system. Having done what we can to make the system a bit more liveable with, I need to decide whether to ‘bite the bullet’ and go ahead to upgrade or not.

Eventually, Meg and I decided just to pop into town by car to collect our newspaper and then we came back home to enjoy our coffee and elevenses in front of our own home fire. Then it was a case of popping on my tracksuit bottoms and hastening off (in the pouring rain) for my Pilates class. We had the normal exchange of banter as we have all known each other for years but I always take the opportunity to alleviate the ATM of some of its cash whilst I pass it each week. Then it was home for a delicious meal of haddock fishcakes which we have doing in the oven whilst I am out of the house. After lunch, I made a quick visit to Waitrose to buy some wine and a plant before our dinner date tomorrow.

We now have learnt that, as we suspected, at the height of the pandemic plum jobs were being handed out to those very well connected with the Tory party. Former health secretary Matt Hancock broke the law when he appointed Tory peer Dido Harding to a top job during the Covid pandemic, the High Court has ruled. Two judges have ruled that then health secretary did not comply with a public sector equality duty when he appointed Harding as interim chair of the National Institute for Health Protection in August 2020, and former Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe as director of testing at NHS test and trace a month later. I am not sure what sanctions or penalties are to applied in this particular case but it does add to the present government’s tendency to engage in nepotism and sleaze.

The breaking news this afternoon is that Prince Andrew has finally come to a settlement with Virginia Giuffre which means that a really damaging court case is now avoided. The amount of the setllement has not been diclosed  but it will probably be of the order of about £10 million. From the point of view of Prince Andrew, this settlement will no doubt draw a line under the affair – but how strange to give a woman several millions of pounds when you claim never to have met her. I am sure the rest of the Royal Family will draw a collective sign of relief. Whilst I do not like the ‘bread and circuses’ aspects of royal junketings for the Queen’s 70th Jubilee, I think that a monarch who has been that length on the throne is entitled to a smidgeon of celebration unsullied ny newspaper headines of one’s favourite son embroiled  in a long and damaging court case that can only damage the reputation of the Royals as a whole.


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Monday, 14th February, 2022 [Day 700]

Today was always going to be quite a busy day and so it proved. We knew that we had our electrician calling around at 8.30am in order to fix the light that we have inset into the sloping wall over our shower. We had previously decided that we were going to ditch the previous unit which is at least 17-18 years old so we decided to replace it with a modern LED type unit. When the electrician came along I did my little bit by focusing a temporary battery-operated lamp that I had been using to illuminate the shower upon his work area. Good fortune was with us as the new unit exactly fitted the ‘hole’ in the tiled area  occupied by the unit that had died. The new unit is LED driven and we could have a choice of warm light, daylight or a brighter white so we chose a warm light to be consistent with the rest of the bathroom. The new unit has a  guaranteed life of either 50,000 hours or 15 years of life so should never need replacing whilst we are around – should the unit fail, we will be covered by the warranty in any case. So this was a good job around the house that was good to get fixed. Then we decided to make a little trip out to Droitwich, our neighbouring town. First we treated ourselves to a cappuchino and huge toasted teacake in our favourite cafe in Droitwich.  After that we had a quick whizz around some of the local shops and finished off in Waitrose where I bought some things that I know I can only get in Waitrose. Then it was a case of getting home and finishing off the delicious veal casserole I have made the previous day. Our principal appointment of the day was to pop around and have afternoon tea with our next door neighbours with whom we get on tremendously well. We had a variety of finger sandwiches and some delightful cakes before we settled down to go down memory lane. My next door neighbour has a hobby of collecting and caring for classic juke boxes and he was proud to show us his latest acquisition – which I must admit has the wonderful warm sound as opposed to its digital counterpart. We then got onto the subject of popular music from the mid-1950s until about the mid 1980’s. I told our neighbours about my association with a band who played in Tiffany’s in Manchester who went by the wonderfully quaint name of ‘Ross Mitchell and Les Nocturnes‘ The two girl singers (Eve Graham and Lyn Paul) when on to have an illustrious career as the girl singers in the band ‘The New Seekers‘. This band came second in the Eurovision song contest and is most famous for the Coca Cola advert ‘I want to teach the world to sing’. The two female singers went on to have independent careers and are still alive and sometimes performing. They have never quite got over the fact that they never quite got the recognition or the money that they should have earned from these very popular tracks.

The situation regarding COVID remains unclear in my mind. There seems to be a notion abroad that as the Micron variant of COVID was milder in its effects than the Omcron and Delta variants, then any future variants might be milder still yet i.e. nothing that much to get too worried about. But virologists are arguing that there is no treason why other variants might not prove to be deadlier and it could be that any variants might prove to be even more  infective (more transmissible) and have more adverse long-term consequences than even the variants we know about at the moment. I think it is now acknowledged that the move to rid of the country of all restrictions are more led by politics rather than by science. Boris Johnson may only have a few more weeks left to play with and this may well explain why restrictions are being lifted so early.

In the wake of the Cressida Dick resignation as the first female commissioner of the Met, much attention has been focused on the role played  by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Whilst in constitutional terms not to mention ‘realpolitic’ it is perhaps not surprising that Sadiq Khan has chosen  to weild the knife at this point of time. But it is an interesting question why he chose to act now and not to stay his hand for about 2-3 weeks which may be the time when possible fines are to be levied by the Met on Downing street staff, including the PM. With the benefit  of some hindsight, Sadiq Khan could well have left Cressida Dichk ‘dangling’ for a little and I am puzzled by the fact that he only gave her a day or so to come out with her proposals how the culture of the Met was to be  turned around before adminstering the ‘coup de grace’

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Sunday, 13th February, 2022 [Day 699]

Sunday dawned as quite a blustery day and when the rain showers started, it seemed to carry on for most of the day. On my walk to collect the Sunday Times, I needed to avoid my hat blowing off which it did on one occasion.  I have learnt over the years to incline my head slightly into the wind when I feel it gusting to avoid my hat blowing off altogether. One the few occasions that this happened, the cars in front of which my hat has happened to blow have been sympahetic and they all have always slowed or stopped to allow me to retrieve my hat completely unflattened. On my way back home, I observed in one of the houses along the Kidderminster Road that the two flowering cherries in the house’s front garden had started flowering. I thought I had first noticed this yesterday but I needed to give the gtrees a good long hard stare to make sure that I was not mistaken. This sight of the flowering cherries reminds me of the holidays that Meg and I used to take in Salobreña in southern Spain (east of Malaga) in January of each year. We used to take these holidays to draw the ‘teeth’ of the winter and when I as at work it coincided with the inter-semester break as well. We always used to take a trip in the Alpujarras which is a mountainous area with some really pretty little villages. On this trip we often used to see almond trees in bloom even though the weather conditions were icy and it was not unusual for snow to be swirling around. Almond trees do flower in the late winter or early spring which is usually mid-February to mid-March and they seem to thrive best when the buds have been exposed to a winter cold spell. Almond trees have the reputation of being amongt the first to flower but here in Bromsgrove it is equally cheering to observe the flowering cherry. Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day and I am not waiting with a bated breath for the postman to drop a special envelope through our door. However, my good friend Clive who lived down the road and who I often used to see exercising his two little Jack Russell dogs most days. One occasion he mentioned the name of one of his very first girlfriends and the fact that she used to live in Manchester. Each year, for about three years, I used to ensure that Clive got a Valentine card with a message inside indicating ‘I remember well the passionate days that we used to spend together when we were both eighteen‘  I am sure that Clive must have guessed who had sent the card but he never ‘let on’ as it were and used to proudly show the card around the menbers of his extensive family. Alas, Clive died some two years ago but at least he was spared some of the most irksome characteristrics of the first lockdown period.

When we got home, it was time to prepare the Sunday lunch and I discovered a bit of venison that I had evidently stored in the freezer. Instead of preparing a conventional meat+two veg. type of meal, I decided to experiment a little. So I cubed the venison into cubes about ¾” square and then seared them off. Then I prepared more than a pint of onion gravy-cum-stock and into the venison and stock mixture I added some carrots, potatoes, onions and peppers all cut into the same chunk size of the venison and then I cooked it in the oven for about an hour and a quarter. I added a little sprinking of powdered potato by way of a thickening agent half way through the cooking and served it with some freshly steamed broccoli. Although it was a bit of an experiment, it was so enjoyable that I am resolved to try the same basic recipe again perhaps with some stewing steak or similar. I may need to pay a visit to the butchery section of a supermarket to get just what I want.

Meg and I settled down to watch the Italy-England rugby match this afternoon. Of course the result was never really in doubt and to be truthful the second half was not particularly memorable. However, the English did confine the Italians to a zero score. We shall now have a two week break (for injuries to heal) before we have another weekend of 6 Nations rugby.

In the political sphere, Boris Johnson continues to receive messages of undying support from some of his loyal supporters whilst other Tory voices are proclaining that he is ‘finished’  I am sure he will cling on to the bitter end until most Tory MPs conclude that he is no longer an electoral asset to them and then they will dump him unceremoniously. But we may have to wait until the May elections for that to occur.

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Saturday, 12th February, 2022 [Day 698]

Everything today was to be dominated by the rugby matches that were to be played this afternoon.  Accordingly, we breakfasted in plenty of time and then I went down by car to pick up our copy of The Times. Once this was safely delievered home, Meg and I set off for the park as we had a sort of loose arrangement that we were to meet in the park about 10.30 – which is a little earlier than our normal pattern.  We made a rendezvous-vous with our friends and we teased each other a little over our known proclivities – but this is fairly normal for us these days. There was quite an icy blast and the wind chill factor made  the air temperature seem colder than it really was, so after we had all drunk our respective coffees we decided to go on our way. We needed to get lunch well and truly out of the way and all of the washing up done before the rugby (Wales v. Scotland) started at 2.15. This, as it transpired, was a pretty tight match with the lead changing constantly between the two teams and for most of the time one team was leading the other only by a margin of about three points. At half time and three quarters of the way through the match, the scores were absolutely level but I surmised that as the Welsh were playing in their own Millenium Stadium for the first time in two years and with a passionate capacity crowd urging them onwards, the Welsh might have the slight edge and so it proved, winning by three points. The other really big match today is been Ireland v. France and whoever wins this particular contest will probably take the championship. I have set the video recorder to record and if I have set it up correctly (which I may not have done) then we can watch this match when we return from our trip to church this evening. As it turned out, i managed to view the recording and it was a really pulsating match from start to finish, as we suspected it might be. The Irish could never quite catch the French but made a valiant effort to do so.

There is an absolutely horrific story that has hit the headlines in Sky News this afternoon. As evidence of the so-called ‘canteen culture’ (instituonalised racism and misogeny) which has characterised the Met in recent years, an image has surfaced of a black recruit whose face was painted white with shoe whitener before telling him ‘Now you fit in‘ The black recruit admitted that he was ‘complicit’ in the abuse (did he have any option to resist I ask myself) and therefore did not report the abuse to his superior.  Many of his fellow recruits them went on to have lengthy careers in the Met. In many ways, I find this image to be particularly shocking.

As always on Saturday, I find it quite interesting to see what kind of stance on the week’s political events is taken by the Sunday newspapers. It is possible to have an indication of this by lookimg at the BBC/Sky News report on the next day’s first editions as they come in at about 11.00-11.30 each evening. We know already that Boris Johnson and more than fifty Downing Street staff politicians and staff in total have been issued with questuionnaires by the police and these have the status of the written equivalent of police interviews under caution. At least three ex-Tory leaders and two ex-Prime Ministers have intimated that if Boris Johnson were to be issued with a fine, this would grounds for his dismissal or resignation. No 10, on the other hand, is trying to tough it out. The questionnaires have to be completed and given to the police by next Friday and if the Met then have a couple of weeks to decide whether or not fines are to be issued, then this would constitute about three weeks, I reckon, before some kind of crunch point comes. In the meantime, Boris Johnson and No. 10 are broadcasting the opinion that the PM was elected with a huge majority and corresponding democratic mandate – and therefore it would be the negation of democracy to remove a PM, even one who has acted illegally.

The situation at the Ukraine-Russian border continues to dominate the news headlines and it is an interesting question whether this is just a game of Russia and the West sabre rattling and playing ‘chicken’ with each other. One interesting perspective which was viewed on Newsnight the other night was that even if Russia did overwhelm the Ukraine, then the Ukrainians would fight to the last man against an army of conscripts whose heart might not be in the conflict. In other words, Russia might occupy the Ukraine but could it hold it? In other words, the Ukraine could prove to be another Afghanistan Mark II from the Russian perspective.


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Friday, 11th February, 2022 [Day 697]

Another working week has rolled by and here we are, still with a spell of fine weather. It may be a case of enjoying it whilst we can because a heavy band of rain is due to sweep across the country. Meg and I needed to wait in this morning because an electrician was due to come and assess a light unit over our shower which will probably need replacing. The electrician and I had a quick decision whether to try and effect a repair of the existing unit or replace it with a more modern LED so it was quite an easy decision for us to go with this latter option. All being well, he will be around early on Monday morning so hopefully we will things fixed in a few days. We have been surviving with an admittedly very powerful LED light which we have affixed to the wall of the shower and which has served us very well on a temporary basis. Once the electrician’s visit had been completed, we went by car to pay a visit to the dry cleaners, picked up our newspaper, and then whizzed around Waitrose. Whilst we were in the store, the staff informed us that the re-opening of the cafe had been delayed for a further five weeks so the next scheduled date of the cafe to reopen is 30th March which is evidently some weeks away. Whilst we were in the park, we were spotted by our University of Birmingham friend accompanied by Seasoned World Traveller who had been having a coffee together but spotted us on our bench and came to join us. Naturally, we discussed the Cressida Dick dismissal yesterday evening and its possible ramifications. I have two theories about what may pan out from all of this. The first scenario is that Boris Johnson and Priti Patel between them may seek to further delay the Met investigation into ‘partygate’ and between them choose a candidate to lead the Met who may not absolve them over ‘partygate’, at least ensure that they are not given a hard time. In order to understand the mindset of government ministers at this juncture, I have read an opinion in ‘The Times’ that the effective business of government has almost come to a halt whilst all ministers do whatever they can to preserve Boris Johnson (and therefore themselves) in power. If a new Prime Minister were to  come into office, then there would be a cabinet reshufffle and many of the existing office holders would lose their jobs and the perks that go with it so preserving the present occupant of No.10 is the over-riding preoccupation of the day.  However, a second scenario is possible although not (unfortunately) very likely. This is that Cressida Dick may say to herself that she now has nothing to lose, having been the human shield for Boris Johnson for a long time now. One can only adduce in evidence the fact that the Met have not seen fit to investigate ‘partygate’ until the transgressions and the evidence became glaringly apparent whereas other corruptions (financing of the Tory party, dirty Russian money making London the ‘money laundering’ capital of the world) were ignored. So in this second scenario, Cressida Dick may feel she has nothing to lose and will try to ensure that the Met concludes its investigations as quickly as possible and that any judicial punishments (probably fines) are administered as quickly as possible and without fear or favour. As events unfold, no doubt we will discern which of these two scenarios best fits the drama unfolding before us. Before leaving this topic, I have just read the almost incredible view of the legal counsel for the Met that ‘partygate’ had not been investigated since ‘no-one admitted to attending a party’ and that in the absence of social media, they had no proof of any transgressions.  So using these criteria, I can continue to commit my multiple and various internet frauds secure in the knowledge that if none of my mates ‘snitch’ on me and I avoid social media , then I should be free from investigation. Just to conclude this thought, just 3% of incidents reported to Action Fraud result in a charge or summons and as little as 1% of police resources are dedicated to this form of crime. 

We were just in the process of cooking lunch when our next door neighbour popped around to invite us around for ‘tea and sandwiches’ on Monday afternoon next. My next door neighbour and I have both invested in the same brand of soupmaker and are both fairly early on in our learning curve for all of this – so we are going to swap our soupmaking stories and recipes when we meet on Monday. I must say that is on the one of the best investments in kitchen equipment  that I have ever made and no doubt I can get more ambitious once I have the basics mastered. 

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Thursday, 10th February, 2022 [Day 696]

Thursday is my shopping day so like last week with Morrisons, I was resolved to renew my acquaintance with the Aldi store I used to frequent years ago. On a purely intellectual level, I thought I rather liked the Aldi approach which was not to offer five varieties of everything but to concentrate on having one of what-have-you and organising a deal with the manufacturer to devote their exclusive output to one outlet i.e. Aldi. This is one of the ways that Aldi managed to keep their prices low and I must say that at the end of my morning’s shopping I had spent just over a half of what I spent in Morrison’s last week. Needless to say, the ‘baskets’ of goods were not completely comparable but sufficient in terms of quantity to make a comparison interesting. So this morning I had to accomodate to the twists and turns of what was effectively a brand new supermarket and I had to recognise that some esoteric items had better wait until I could make a quick call into Waitrose perhaps tomorrow. Nonetheless, the overall shopping experience was such that I felt it was a worthwhile venture so for the next few weeks I will persist in a ‘bigger’ shop up at Morrisons once a fortnight for more choice and more specialised items but then alternate these with a ‘smaller’ shop at Aldi. In a few weeks time, I should be in a position to determine whether all of this turns out to be a sensible shopping pattern or not. When I got home, I took some time to unpack the shopping and to chat with our domestic help who had swapped her normal day this week as a one off. Tomorrow is going to be a ‘chewy’ day because we have an electrician call round round to assess a little job for us and he has indicated that he will be along some time  ‘in mid morning’ which can mean anything. So Meg and I will stay in until he calls and then may well go down to town in the car if we are pressed for time. As it turned out to be a beautiful day, Meg and I walked down to collect our newspaper and then go off to the park. This walk, whilst we are attempting to do it on each ‘normal’ day is just getting a little to the limit of Meg’s capacities so we may have to judge it quite carefully. But we have a ray of hope opening up to us in about ten days time because by then our local Waitrose should be reopening their cafe and this alleviates the pressure on us a little because Meg can wait in the cafe whilst I go off and collect the newspaper from around the corner.

The political news this afternoon is the attack that John Major has made upon the Boris Johnson style of government and its consequences – which he feels is damaging Britain not only nationally but internationally. I think there are two interesting things that can be said about the John Major attack. One of these is the commentary that I have heard on Sky News (in the background) that whilst this kind of attack might have seem exceptionally wounding in the Conservative party as in John Major’s time, the Conservative party as a whole has been remoulded in the Johnson image. For a start, all of the heavyweight ‘remainers’ and non-Johnson aficionados have been thrown out of the Conservative party which is now a Brexit party (almost a UKIP party) in all but name. So many of the current crop of Tory MPs in the current House of Commons who owe their election to Johnson may well shrug off whatever John Major has to say, arguing that it just the view of an ex and embittered Prime Minister.

My second observation is as follows. I have noticed a kind of thread between external events in recent days. If you have overt aggression (Russia and the Ukraine), internally (mobs attacked the Leader of the Opposition) or more personally (e.g. a robbery) then it is easy for this PM and government to utter imprecations about the force of law and so on. But if the threat is more insidious and less visible (Russian oligarchs laundering money through London, the power of the social media to allow space to far-right political ideologies and threats, the PM to argue that crime is actually decreasing by choosing to ignore fraud and online frauds which, when included in the official statistics show that crime is actually increasing) So the argument here is the government only acts against the overt and the visible  and the televisual whilst ignoring, minimising or even condoning more insidious forms of transgression. I may be guilty of over connecting events in this way (to which I plead guilty) but at least there are evident parallels in the governmental reaction to different types of law breaking and infraction.

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Wednesday, 9th February, 2022 [Day 695]

Wednesdays are quite good days for us to have a day out as it is sandwiched in between my Pilates day on a Tuesday and our usual shopping day on a Thursday. Today we had promised ourselves a day trip Malvern which we had visited only once in the last fifteen years and was well worth another visit. So having picked up our newspaper this morning, we headed straight off for Malvern and we got to the vicinity of the theatres reasonably easily. However, a cold drizzle had settled upon the town so it was not exactly the weather for casual wanderings about. Nonetheless, we felt that a coffee shop was destined to be our first stop and avoiding Costa and the other national chains we managed to chance upon an empty but tastefully fitted out little coffee bar-cum-bistro where we enjoyed a very nnice cappuchino and toasted teacakes. The proprietor and his assistant were very chatty and told us that Malvern had the highest proportion of independent business (and therefore the lowest proportion of chain’ shops) of any comparable town and this we could believe. Wev suddenly realised that we were maskless so we returned to the car and reparked it so that we start another two-hour slot. Then we made our way up one of the major streets and encountered an Oxfam shop which was magnificently stocked with CD’s, books and knick-knacks. We availed ourselves of some spectacular bargains. The most dramatic of these were two boxed sets of ‘Spectacular Classics’ tracks, each box containing 10 CD’s which were on offer for £0.99. Naturally we bought both os these together with a double CD set of ‘Best of Opera’ also £0.99. Then we splashed out on  three more CDs – a Bach, a Mozart and a Bryn Terfel for which we paid the lavish price of £1.49 per CD. I reckon that I have purchased about 175 tracks of music at an average of 7½p a track. Some of these CDs can be left in the car to play on long journeys and the rest we can gradually sample over the next few weeks at home. Then we browsed in the book section in which we could have browsed for hours. The book selection was in effect an adjoining shop and was divided into sections as if it were a library but we confined ourselves to buying ‘The Pedant’s Revolt‘ which we can reserve to ourselves or use as a future birthday present. Then it was lunchtime and we managed to locate the type of cafe which serves light lunches. Meg and I both indulged in the same lunch which was a home-made quiche with a baked potato and salad together with a huge teapot of Earl Grey tea. On our way out of the cafe we noticed in a little niche a couple of photos of Edward Elgar. When we read the attribution on the photos, we discovered that this little upstairs cafe happened to be one of Elgar’s favourites so this seemed to a suitable subject for a quick photo on the mobile phone. As we wandered slowly down a very steep street towarss the car, we encountered the charity shop associated with a local hospice, again which we could not resist. We bought a box of quality coasters and a few kitchen knicknacks. I also found a set of four elongated glass dishes which I believe are actually corn-on-the cob dishes but whose size and shape makes them ideal for storing pens on a desk top. One would have been sufficient but what was on offer was a complete set of four. Then we returned home and watched a little of the Winter Olympics.

If we had been at home in the middle of the day, we would have watched Prime Minister Questions at midday. One of the revelations today was a photo from the so-called ‘Zoom’ Chrustmas quiz held in Downing Street. The photo shows Boris Johnson, one of the Downing Street staff wearing tinsel, a bottle of champage and some party food. The Met had apparently considered the case of this ‘Zoom’ quiz  and had concluded that the available evidence did  not merit further investigation – but in the light of this photo they said that they would reconsider their previous decision. It certainly looks damning enough as the elements of a ‘party’ seem to be in place but not a quiz. Boris Johnson’s retort to all of this was that Keir Starmer was ‘in error’  whilst Dominic Cummings was letting it be known that were many more and even more damning photos than this one available. Whether he has these in his possession or merely knows that they exist in an interesting question. In the last 24 hours, a major Tory party donor  who has donated more than £3m to the party and  £½million since Boris Johnson became party leader has indicated that he feels that the PM has ‘past the point of no return’ but how many more of the current batch  of Tory MPs agree with him?


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