Today is going to be a day dominated by sports news as the Commonwealth Games are proceeding apace and at 5.00pm this evening, England will play Germany in the UEFA women’s football finals. But first things first. Being a Sunday, I collected our newspaper first thing this morning and then Meg and I breakfastd on cereal as we normally do on Sunday mornings. Miggles the cat turned up for a plateful of food for the first time in about ten days so we at least we’re not forgotten. The weather looked as though it was going to threaten us with rain so we decided to play it a little bit safe and go down to the park by car, also making sure we had some rainproof outerwear on in case we were subject to a sudden downpour. As we were a little earlier than is normal, we were not particularly surprised not to bump into any of our regulars. In any case, we needed to get back fairly early because I was due to go to the railway station at about midday in order to pick up my son who had been minding a house for his sister-in-law and her husband in Hertfordshire, which is an engagement which is undertaken every year. After we had returned home and had an early lunch, we watched in its entirety a mixed relay Triathlon. There are four members in each team, two male and two female. Each athlete has to first cold-water swim 300m, then undertake a 5km bike ride and finally run a 2km walk. Apart from these three events following each pther, the competitors have to ‘transition’ i.e. change from event to the next observing very strict protocols about where they should dismount their bike, for example. The England team got off to a flying start and perhaps the gold medal was never in doubt but there is always the possibility of things going wrong such as your bike getting a puncture. Much more exciting was the battle for silver or second place. At on time, the Welsh female runner on the last leg was about a couple of yards behind the Australian runner with the New Zealand runner breathing down her neck and in a good position to overtake. In the event, the Australian and the Welsh runner put on a spurt and put some distance between themselves and the New Zealand competitor. Evntually the Australian and the Welsh girl seemed to be running shoulder to shoulder but eventually the Welsh athlete managed to gain an edge and subsequently with the silver medal quite easily (but somewhat unexpectedly).
Late this afternoon we had the Europan Womens Cup Final between England and Germany. The two sides were very evenly matched but then about half way through the second half, England took the lead with a well-timed lob over the German goalkeeper. But could they hold on until the end of the game? The answer was no because just before the end of the game, the Germans scored a well deserved equaliser. So the game was destined for extra time. Normally in football matches, whoever scores the equaliser goes on to score a final and decisive goal and I was convinced this was going to happen on this occasion. Neither team made much impression upon their opponents in the first period of extra time. In the second period of extra time, England managed to score after a goalmouth scramble from a corner kick which the Germans failed to clear and then the England team had to hang on for about another ten minutes until the final whistle. They did ‘game manage’ this part of the match brilliantly by taking short throw-ins and then making sure that when tackled by a German defender the ball would bounce out for another throw in – all of which wastes precious seconds. So the final scoreline was Englnd 2 – Germany 1 but in all honesty, the game could really have gone either way. It is not that England were lucky to win but that it was a game of incredibly tight margins. The Germans have won this particular competition on nine previous occcasions and when they lost, they seemed to take defeat incredibly hard. The celebrations on the pitch went on for about an hour what with the formal presentations, the parading of the trophy around the pitch, innumerable TV interviews and so on. No doubt, tomorrow morning there will be masses of headlines to the effect that the ‘lionesses have roared’. But some of the football pundits were speculating that after this success, the shape of women’s football in England will have been dramatically changed and we may well see that girl’s football will now be much more prominent in the school curriculum.
The Sunday Times analysis of the Conservative party ‘race’ to be party leader was interesting,in a way. There a huge double page spread given to the contest but one quarter of one page (i.e. one eight of the double page spread) was devoted to Rishi Sunak and the remainder (i.e. seven eighths) to Liz Truss. This is hardly and fair and equal treatment but I suppose the Sunday Times has decided who the winner is going to be and thrown in their weight behind the likely winner. If I were part of the Sunak camp (which I am not!), I imagine I would rather peeved by this absence of equal coverage but politics is not a fair game in any event.
Today is the day of our departure after our ‘mini-break’ which we have enjoyed enormously. We woke up at 6.30 and immediately started packing but it is so much easier to pack up when you are coming home than it is when you are going away, if only because the decisions make themselves – everything in the wardrobe needs to be packed and so on. We were packed up by 8.00 and so had an early-ish breakfast. One of the waitors recognised us and asked if there was anything we required and so we requested some muesli which was missing from the cereals corner. Then it was case of getting everything into the car in stages and we set off a little after 9.00am. We have details of how to get through directly to the reception manager at the hotel in order to organise our little get-together for my sister next month and also have a clearer idea of the numbers of people who will be able to attend so we are now in a position to firm up some of the arrangements that we have put in place. We made a stop half down the motorway and bought some Costa coffee whilst consuming our own food which was a pattern that everybody else seemed to be deploying. The first part of the journey was quite straight forward but the second half was more problematic as we were taking the M42 going around Birmingham which was quite massively congested and we crawled along at a very slow pace. This added about 30 minutes onto the journey overall but we collected our backlog of newspapers from the newsagent and then made for home. As it was a little warm and muggy, we just had a ball of ice-creanm to accompany some apple tarts that we had bought as a ‘hotel bedroom’ snack and this made for a quick and instant lunch. Then we got the washing underway, got our suitcases unpacked and finally put everything away (e.g. our food bag, some of the ‘kitcheny’ things that we typically take with us to hotel bedrooms to make our stay a little more comfortable) So having got all of our systems put to rights, as it were, we are having a relaxing afternoon before we go off as we normally do to church on a Saturday evening. In the background, we have the Commonwealth games on where there are some sports that have not completely grabbed our attention just yet. But what is impressive so far is a huge mechanical 10-metre tall metal bull with the various pulleys and mechanical bits that aid its locomotion visible from the outside. After taking part in the opening ceremony, the bull has been transported to Birmingham City Centre where it is already being regarded as a tourist attraction. I think the original intention was that it would be dismantled after the Games were over but I would not be surprised if it could be kept (and occasionally operated) on a more permanent basis in the city centre.
It has been one of those cloudy days with the very occasional smattering of rain. One does wish that the heavens would open and that we could have a good proper drenching but instead we just have gloom interspersed with very light and inconsequential showers. When we return from church this evening, if nothing else in the Commonwealth Games grabs us, then we may treat ourselves to an opera via YouTube. Now that we have faster speed broadband on tap, then we don’t suffer the buffering delays that we have experienced in the past.
Whilst I have been absorbed in family activities for the last few days, I have not followed political events as closely as I generally do. But there are hints on both sides of the Atlantic that some dramatic political events may be unfolding. There is the possibility, foreshadowed in opinion polls, that the revelations of the insurrection and invasion of the Capitol on January 6th, 2021,condoned by ex-President Trump, may finally be making an impact on Republican voters in the USA to the extent that they may be withdrawing support for Trump to have another run at the Presidency. On this side of the Atlantic, Rishi Sunak is trailing Liz Truss so badly after two other prominent Conservatives have swung behind Liz Truss that there are some suggestions that Sunak might withdraw, rather than risking a humiliating defeat at the hands of Conservative party members. As always, the Sunday newspapers may give a lot of informed insights as to what is happening in the actual campaigns. At one stage, Johnson (like Trump) looked as though he might try and effect a comeback bid there is plenty more ‘dirt’ yet to be revealed, I suspect. The Labour Party is speculating that Liz Truss may quite an easy candidate to beat so they are just sitting back and watching developments with some amusement.
Last night, we attended a concert in Harrogate’s Royal Hall and we have attended a run of concerts recently – two in Bromsgrove as part of the Bromsgrove festival and finally the one last night which acts as the culmination of the Harrogate festival. Meg and I really enjoyed the concert last night, made enjoyable as it was only a few minutes away from the hotel in which we are currently staying. During the interval, we joined the crush for the bar and then got into conversation wih a lady who appeared to be on her own but who was the wife of (I think) a double bassist in the orchestra. By way of opening up a conversation, I remarked that this was the first concert I have attended in this Hall since 1963 which is about 59 years ago. For her part, she let us know that the Wigmore Hall in London runs Sunday morning concerts in which, if you in the know, you can attend and have a glass of wine thrown in for a tenner. Whether this is accurate information or not, I am not in a position to say but it made for a few minutes of interesting conversation. The piece after the interval was Beethoven’s 7th Symphony so in addition to Beethoven’s 6th which I heard recently, this makes for a couple of Beethoven symphonies I have heard in the last couple of weeks. As I have just head two good but not world class orchestras play Beethhoven recently, I think I have formed the view that this composer produces the ultimate stress test for orchestras. I think the combination of multiple tonalties and quite complex entrances at just the right microsecond really sorts out the good orchestras from the world class – this having been said, I still enjoyed last night’s performance immensely but it was over by 9.30pm so we were soon back in our hotel bedroom.
This morning, we enjoyed another magnificent breakfast in the hotel’s quite spacious ballroom which doubles as a breakfast room. As we were going to meet with my sister later on in the day, I decided to wear my special Batique (Indonesian) shirt I had acquired in Indonesia when I did a quick spell in Jakarta at lest 25 and probably some 28 years ago. The trouble is I was somewhat slimmer then and even at the time, it was a slimfit garment. As I was putting it on, a strategically placed button in the centre could no longer handle the strain and it pinged off. I enquired at reception whether they had one of those little sewing outfits that hotels sometimes supply but they had run out. So in desperation I turned my toilet bag upside down and located one of those little kits, complete with spare buttons and a needle, which I must have carrying around with me for decades. Threading an incredibly fine needle is a skill I have lost over the decades – nonetheless I succeeded and sewed the button back on again about which I was pleased but was something I have not done for best part of 60 years. After all of this this, we had a gentle walk into town and stumbled across a fabulous little Italian coffee bar which, according to press reports which they proudly displayed had been voted as one of the finest in the UK some years ago. The coffee bar was run by a couple who came from Malta and Albania respectively and they took pains to prepare all of the food on the premises. Certainly, the coffees were of excellent quality and not exorbitantly priced. After this, we jumped into the car and made for the garden centre just outside Knaresborough where we had arranged to meet my sister and my niece again for a luncheon date together. In the restaurant which is franchised by the garden centre, bookings are not routinely made but you have to get there just after midday. We got there at about one minute past 12.00pm and secured a table for four and had a very enjoyable meal with a lot of conversation about family matters. I was tempted to buy (and actually did buy) a concrete owl to which I took fancy as a garden ornament and I think I know of a good locatioon for it on our garden terrace – despite being cast in concrete, it is a reasonably good looking exemplar so we will see when I get it home tomorrow. Then as we were not far from my sisters house we went home and drank tea all afternoon and caught up again on family matters, making some arrangements for my sister’s birthday treat when we return ‘up north’ in a month’s time. Tonight we were watching TV in our hotel bedrooom and saw Andrew Neil tear into Rishi Sunak which will not have helped him in his leadership campaign one little bit. Mind you, I would hve much preferred the spectator sport of watching Andrew Neil tear Liz Truss apart limb for limb which he probably would have done. As Liz Truss is so far ahead in her race with Rishi Sunak, she turned down the offer of an interview with Andrew Neil so as Basil Fawlty would have said (in ‘Fawlty Towers‘) that is yet another avenue of pleasure denied.
Today is the first day of our mini-break. We both slept quite well in what was an extremely comfortable bed and then we mastered the intracies of our shower system – which was actually very straighforward. Whilst I was waiting for Meg to get completely ready, I was thumbing through some publicity leaflets for events happening in Harrogate ovwr the next few days. There is quite a magnificent Victorian concert hall called the Royal Hall which I have not visited for decades although I used to attend concerts by the Halle orchestra when I could. In fact, the last performance that I remember was one when Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ was being played and the orchestra’s conducter – George Wheldon I believe- walked off the podium when he could not slow the orchestra down when they were playing at too rapid a pace halfway through the piece. There is going to be a concert tonight in which Rossini, Mozart and Beethiven are to be played. I managed to secure some tickets over the internet so Meg and I just have to turn up a quarter of an hour or so before the performance starts in order to pick up our tickets. The Royal Hall is only about 400-500 yards from the hotel so we can walk there with no pressure of time and not have to worry about car parking.
This morning, Meg and I called around to see my sister and one of our nieces and her two children (one at university, one at school) were there as well. We spent the morning, as families do, chatting over some family issues and enjoyed the tea and scones which my sister had provided. Fortunately, I had taken along some quiche for us to have a quick lunch. This was quickly warmed up in the oven and did not seem to have deteriorated much in the journey up north so we enjoyed it with a few salad things my sister had provided. As we approached Knaresborugh this morning through what I called the ‘back end’ approach to it, we went past the street upon I used to live and could not resist a quick look at it.The street used to be terminated by some rough fields and then a golf course but the field and golf links had been sold off long ago to provide additional housing. In our journey to Knaresborough by this ‘back’ route, we noticed a large garden centre which contains its own coffee shop and restaurant. We have arranged to meet there at 5 minutes before midday tomorrow so that at midday my sister, niece, Meg and I can have a quick family lunch with each other and carry forward our discussions of family related issues. Then we took leave of my sister and went to Harrogate by car to visit another niece and her family who had just moved house into a larger Victorian villa not a great distance from where they used to live in Harrogate. In theory, this shoukd have been easy to find but in practice seemed to be a bit more difficult than might be imagined. For some reason, our SatNav system gives the street that runs at the back of their new address when one enters the postcode and I had to make a quick telephone call to ascertain that the SatNav would not take us to a completely erroneous place. We spent a lovely afternoon having tea and biscuits and chatting over the horrors of moving house. We both seemed to have internet horror stories of having to live without the technology whilst our internet connections were sorted out but in both of our cases, we have lived to tell the tale. We admired their lovely house which is on three stories (four if you include the basement converted into work space) so there is now more room for their teenage children to enjoy their adolescent years. Our niece is still continuing with the writing in which she use to engage regularly and she had just discovered that one of her pieces if being ‘long listed’ for for an international award which is a source of some pleasure. We were also pleased to congratulate her upon being her awarded her MA in Literature. We discussed the little birthday celebratiomns I intend to hold for my sister at the end of next month but they will be on a much anticipated continental holiday at the end of next month so unfortunately will not be able to attend. We discussed some anticipated birthday presents for our celebrations and think we shall probably be able to meet again near Christmas time when we make another visit to the family about Christmas time which we normally do. Finally, Meg and I returned to the hotel where we had a little rest before we spruce ourselves up a little before we venture forth for our attendance at the concert this evening.
Today was the day when we are due to go off to Yorkshire for our little ‘mini-break’ The football was pretty exciting last night when the English lionesses (i.e. women’s football team) scored an outstanding 4-0 victory over Sweden who were one of the tournament’s most fancied teams. By the time we had watched all of the victory celebrations now that the England team are through to the final on Sunday, we felt rather too tired to start packing tonight. We reckoned it was better to get to bed straight away and get up at 6.30am in the morning and do the packing we minute we wake up. This we did and it was a successful strategy because we got packed up in plenty of time, so much so that we could actually leave at 9.00am rather than 9.30 which was our planned hour of departure. We collected our newspaper and then set off in plenty of time, having just one pit stop for a coffee half way along the journey. We wanted to hit the little town of Wetherby by just about midday and, indeed, reached there at about 12.05 and we lucky to get one last parking space in the main street that runs through the town. We have a favourite fish restaurant in Wetherby because they open up their upstairs fish restaurant at 12.00 and it pays to get there early as it fills up very rapidly. We avail ourselves of a ‘pensioner’s menu’ where I suspect that the portions are scaled back a little. We had a wonderful and very satisfying three-course meal starting off with a homemade tomato and basil soup, followed by plaice and chips (I forgot to order salad instead but ate half of the chips) and then a lemon drizzle cake served with a huge dollop of vanilla icecream. This is also served with slices of bread and butter and a pot of tea so we felt the two of us had eaten quite royally for less than £30.00. We did not want to get to Harrogate too early to pick our hotel room which is avaialable to us after 3.00pm so we went in search of a plant shop because I had a vague notion that there was one not too far away from the main High Sreet. Eventually, we were directed to a rather super-duper florist where we made some purchases thinking about members of the family we are to meet in the next few days. We still had plenty of time in hand and so found both a quixotic little coffee shop which sold exquisite coffees and some very specialised (but not low-alcohol) beers. Then we found an Oxfam shop where we were tempted to buy a boxed ClassicFM cd set and so we set off for Harrogate.
When we arrived at the hotel, we entered the quite small car park and immediately made for one small space which we espied in one remote corner of the car park. But when we got to the desk and booked in, we mentioned the special car parking facility we had requested when we made our booking and the very helpul receptionist showed us that a space had already been reserved for us (as I requested more than two weeks ago) straight outside the front door. We were delighted to get this level of service, which completely vindicates coming back to this hotel in which we first stayed last December on the occasion of our brother-in-law’s funeral. We got into the room and quickly unpacked our suitcase. As soon as the laptop was fired up, it found the relevant network and we got ourselves online with he minimun of fuss and bother. I am sure it is getting easier these days because I’m sure in the past we had to fiddle around to get ourselves connected but it now seems so simple and straightforwrd as it should be. After I had had a few words with the reception staff, I am going to make contact with one of the managerial team here at the hotel to see if we can make some forward plans for when we visit again in four weeks time. When we come here in August, we are planning to see our friend who is now living in Scarborough on one day whilst we see my sister and members of the family for a little 80th birthday party celebration on the next.
As you might expect, the media is going silly about the prospects of the English women’s football team who have now qualified for the final on Sunday next, when we will have returned home. Tonight is going to to be the second semi-final in which the contestants are Germany v. France. There is an expectation that Germany will prevail as it has won this competition many times before but in all sporting events the unexpected can happen so will watch tonight’s game with some interest.
Today was always going to be rather an ‘action-packed’ day because there were quite a lot of domestic chores to be undertaken before we start our preparations for spending a few days away in Yorkshire. First thing this morning, I received a voicemail from my BT contact from Lincoln – unfortunately, I had missed her call on my mobile and she did not phone me on my newly restored landline but, in truth, we had hardly anything to discuss because with my ex-landline restored (or more technically, ported over to the Fibre Plus plan I now have with BT) then everything we needed BT to sort out was now actually working to our satisfaction. As today is a Tuesday, Meg and I indulge ourselves with going down to Waitrose where we did bump into one one or two of our regulars. I took the opportunity of doing a little bit of shopping, the most important of which was to have longer-life milk that will survive the rigours of a hotel bedroom whilst we make ourselves drinks as we require them. Then it was case of going home and getting through a pile of papers that needed to be processed i.e. either junked once the addresses had been shredded or else filed. When all of this, I was ready to change in my Pilates track-suit bottoms and then walk down into town. Our class is currently quite small and there were only two of us today – one of our regulars is fitting in to a Thursday class and another regular to another class this morning. We had the usual jokey session as our tutor and my fellow-class mate and I have been attending for some 8-10 years, I would estimate. Then it was a case of getting home and cooking a quick dinner for the two us. This afternoon, Meg and I thought that we would make a trip to our local vaccination centre to work out whether we needed a COVID booster jab or not. We have both had the two initial vaccinations and two boosters but nonetheless our local surgery had written to us to request that we present ourselves for a ‘spring’ booster. But this, too, proved to be as fruitless a journey as was yesterdays. The very friendly nurse on the entrance door explained that the vaccination centres all over the country were being closed down and further vaccinations would now be under the aegis of one’s own GP/medical practice. She explained to us that most of the time she was busy turning people (like us) away as part of the NHS machine was urging you to attend whilst another part was turning you away. So we now have it from the ‘horses mouth’ as it were that we would wait for the official autumn boost to the vaccine to be rolled out for us in September. On the way home, though, we took the opportunity to get the car topped up with petrol and we also dived into a nearby supermarket to buy one or two cosmetic items.
Last night was a televised debate beteen Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss in pursuit of the Conservative party leadership. Rishi Sunak made a pitch which seemed overly aggressive to many with a host of interruptions. For her part, Liz Truss seemed somewhat robotic as she evidently had prepared ‘mantras’ in which the word ‘deliver’ was certainly overused. In an opinion poll after the debate,the two candidates appeared to be level pegging. But amongst Conservative party members, Liz Truss held the lead whilst Rishi Sunak held a similar lead amongst Labour supporters. A debate held on TalkTV tonight was halted though when the presenter, Kate McCannn, fainted half way through the broadcst. Liz Truss appeared shocked and rushed to the aid of the presenter but the broadcast was immediately abandoned. Both candidates subsequently tweeted their good wishes to Kate McCann who seemed to recover from her faint but the programme makers had to issue an apology citing a medical incident. The debate so far this evening appeared to be much more even tempered but I think the spin doctors and associated journalists probably had to consider the whole of tonight’s confrontation as a ‘non-event’
We took the opportunity to FaceTime some of our pre-pandemic Waitrose friends this evening and we had quite a lot of news to catch up on. Earlier in the day, I had texted my two nieces in Yorkshire and it looks as though we can see both of them on Thursday as well as my sister. So far this leaves Friday for Meg and I to enjoy ourselves in Harrogate but we will see what emerges from our opportunities to catch up with our relatives who seem to be leading hectic lives (moving house, changing jobs) and so on. The weather seems set fair in the days ahead so this will no doubt enhance our little stay away.
I suppose all days are likely to have minor triumphs and some disappointments and such a day it was today. However, our day started off exceptionally well because our ‘old’ landline number, disconnected when we upgraded to Full Fibre acquiring a new number in the process, was successfully ported over to our fibre connection. To be fair to BT, one of their technical staff last Monday promised me that they could ‘probably’ restore my old number starting today and they confirmed by text in what they called a new order. If you were to go on the web and look at some of the kinds of discussions that people have had in similar situations, it has often proved to be quite problematic as BT had often said that they would attempt but not guarantee to get the old number back again. So the strategy that I deployed to move my whole fibre package over to BT so it was a case of transferring from ‘old’ BT landline to ‘new’ BT fibre broadband, seems to have paid dividends. Tomorrow morning one of the very helpful BT technical staff with whom I dealt last week is going to contact me (ring me on my new number?) to check that everything has worked all right. I am not committed to my old number for sentimental reasons but it is is printed on lots of business cards and address labels that I put inside Christmas cards and the like so the ‘old’ number is probably written into diaries all over the country. Now that we our comms restored to something like a decent state, I texted some of our friends with whom we have not been in contact for a week or so to arrange a FaceTime ‘chat’ with them tomorrow. Then I downloaded the instruction manual for the new phones so that I know how to utilise all of the features (including the volume control). After all of this, Meg and I decided to return to our re-purposed Arts centre where we have already received two vaccinations plus two ‘top-ups’. It is unclear to us whether we are now due to receive a third top-up as our last one was on 21st March which is now four months ago and our enhanced immunity status might have diminished a fair bit. But when we got to the centre, the whole building was closed and will only re-open at 2.00pm tomorrow afternoon. So this means that Meg and I will need to return tomorrow after my Pilates class and a somewhat delayed lunch so we could have done without this on the day before we are due to go away.
Although we have had several days of intense sunshine, like the rest of the country, the lawns were looking a little sorry for themselves with some tall-stemmed wispy looking weeds spoiling the overall appearance. So as the sun was shining I took the opportunity to get our grassed areas cut which I like to have done before we go away for a few days. When I was in the middle of this, two cars appeared outside the empty bungalow which faces us across our communal green area and this was no great surprise to us as the house which was ‘Sold’ then reverted to ‘Unsold’ and then again to ‘Sold’ all within the last week or so. I imagine that the cars belonged to new owners, either actual or potential, and they might have a word with me about how the BioDisk works and related issues but in the event they just drove away.
Tonight, there is going to a ‘Question Time’ type of program in which Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are going to defend their political stance in front of an audience of Conservative party members. This may prove to be another ‘bearpit’ after some of the hustings last week but as Liz Truss is apparently so far ahead in the opinion polls of Conservative party members, tonight’s program is seen as crucial for the Rishi Sunak campaign. The debate is going to be held in Stoke-on-Trent as it was one of those Labour ‘red wall’ seats that swung massively behind Boris Johnson. From this, we might be able to infer that many of the audience will favour Liz Truss as she is seen as the Boris Johnson ‘heir apparent’in a community like this. How the BBC is going to get a ‘balanced’ audience tonight is an interesting point because in the run up to the EC referendum, most editions of ‘Question Time’ seemed to dominated by very vociferous Brexit audience members whereas Remain members appeared much more subdued. Some fairly late news this evening is that Rishi Sunak has agreed to be interviewed by Andrew Neil – in my view, one of the most penetrating interviewers in the whole of the media scene. For her part, Liz Truss has not agreed to be interviewed. So I suppose the very evident front runner feels she has everything to lose and the candidate who appears to be a long way behind has everything to gain.
Normally when we go to church each Saturday evening, it is a fairly ‘low key’ affair but yesterday proved to be the exception. About 10-15 minutes into the service, it was evident that something was happening at the back of the church because we could hear some groaning, a bit of a kerfuffle and lots of loud, worried whispers. As all of this was happening in the back of the church, none of us could see what has happening without turning round to gawp. Our parish priest, though, who was facing the congregation could discern what was going on which was the collapse of an elderly gentleman. One of the assistants to the priest went into the Sacristry and gave the priest some sacred oils which means that he could perfom the sacrament of what used to be called ‘Extreme Unction‘ but which nowadays is more accurately described as the ‘Annointing of the Sick‘. The theology behind all of this is that this sacrament is meant to be administered to a person who is on the point of death and gives remissions of sins and such like to ease one’s passage into the next world. The priest went to the back of the church and annointed the sick gentleman – whether he was conscious or not at this stage, we did not know. After a brief pause and after some prompting from the congegation, the priest continued with the rest of the Mass but when it came to the administration of Holy Communion, the priest went immediately to the back of the church to minister to the stricken gentleman. The whole congegation exited the church through the Sacristy at the front of the church (as we used to do in pandemic days as a form of simple crowd control) only to be greeted by not one but three ambulances in the church car park and the street nearby. One of them was even bore the message that it was part of the ‘Air ambulance’ service. I suppose people can be taken seriously ill almost anywhere including cinemas and theatres and so perhaps a church is probably as good a place as any for such a trauma to occur. Then we had to navigate home through a new route as our normal route back home was impeded by two sets of temporary traffic lights (one a consequence of the demolition of a local pub, the other being due to the flattening of the normal traffic light by a drunken driver) So it was good to get home, have a spot of tea and then settle down to what might be called a more normal, peaceful evening.
Today, although the weather was cloudy, I had already collected my Sunday newspaper first thing in the morning so Meg and I decided to take a walk down into the park. We took our coffee on our ‘normal’ bench and waited for a few of our friends to turn up but none did. But as we turned for home, our University of Birmingham friend turned up, apologising for being a bit later than usual. Nonetheless, it was very useful to have a little chat with him as we could inform him that as we are going to be away next week and only returning on Saturday, we would not coincide with him again until next Sunday morning.
I have not had the chance yet of a detailed read of the Sunday newspapers, although they are giving a lot of the ‘insider’ information into both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. I do not suppose there is a lot of point being well informed about the strength and weaknesses of the two candidates as the whole result will be determined by about 160,000 Conservative party members in the country as a whole. The rest of the 60 million of us are reduced to the role of passive bystanders whilst the next Prime Minister is chosen by about 0.4% of the voting population. One particular feature of political parties in the UK is that the constituency political parties being populated by the activists and the committed are always more extreme than the parliamentary parties (for MP’s have had to appeal somewhat to the middle ground in order to be elected) So the constituency labour parties are to the left of the parliamentary party and as in a mirror image the constituency Conservative parties are to the right of the parliamentary party. Therefore the two candidates for the post of Prime Minister are having to pitch their appeals to the right wing members of the constituency parties which are themselves to the right of an already right wing parliamentary party. Today, both candidates have chosen to use the subjct of immigration to gain some electoral support. Liz Truss is arguing that we can search for other countries as as well Rwanda to accept would-be asylum seekers whilst Rishi Sunak is proposing a cap on the numbers to whom the Home Office eventually grants settled status. When all other arguments are exhausted, the Tory party can always rely upon ‘immigration’ and its modern day variants in order to garner support.
You are never quite sure what a day is going to bring and so it proved to be today. The day dawned bright enough but it was somewhat cloudy, not to mention muggy, and looked as though we might get a smattering of rain although it didn’t arise. Getting into town to pick up our newspaper proved to be a little problematic. There were enormous traffic jams throughout the town and particularly upon the street on which our newsgagent has his shop. When I eventually, and patiently, found my way to the shop I was infomed that a drunken driver had crashed into one of the local traffic signal staunctions and as a repair crew were busy working upon this, there was a complex sytem of temporary traffic lights. On our way down into town, we espied our University of Birmingham friend and wound down the car window to tell him we would meet him in the park. When we did get there, rather later than we had anticipated, we met two of our regulars (our friend just hailed and Seasoned World Traveller) who were sitting on a park bench together. These two are being a smidgeon careful in each other’s company as they both have had sniffles in the last week and were anxious that if they were harbouring anything a bit more serious than a slight cold, then they had no wish to inflict it upon each other. Nonetheless, we all did meet up on a regular ‘high level’ bench which overlooks a lot of the park and which is our favourite watering hole. We have a bit of a suspicion that when we start to talk politics, which is nearly every day, other members of the public who are nearby do not want to overhear any part of our conversation, even by accident, and tend to get up and walk away. This may well reflect a deeper division which sociologists in the past have labelled the difference between a ‘local’ and a ‘cosmopolitan’ world view. I suppose that with a mutual interest in national politics and more broadly in international affairs, we are firmly in the ‘cosmopolitan’ camp and are frankly just a bit bored, not to say uninterested, in what is happening within the very local vicinity (say within a couple of miles). This is perhaps too crude a distinction because one can be both local and cosmopolitan as the mood might take you although ‘pure’ locals are more likely to stay that way. As we were sitting on the bench we were passed by a couple of elderly Irish friends (friends of friends) that we know quite well and who attend the same church as we do but on a Sunday rather than a Saturday. We all congratulated each other how we had managed to survive the horrendous temperatures of the past week when the temperature reached over 40 degrees in Lincolnshire. Finally, Meg and I set off for the car on a way home and were enthusisatically greeted by a labradoodle type dog – this is quite a common occurrence. We got into conversation with the middle aged lady owner and one topic of conversation flowed on to another. Eventually, it transpired that she was a headteacher of a Catholic school in a neighbouring town but also attended our church but on a Sunday rather than a Saturday. We found we had quite a lot of interesting points of mutual interest, so I gave her one of my business cards which I keep with my phone in the event that we have a chance meeting like this. As my daughter-in-law is a headteacher, we understood to some extent the occupational pressures that she was under and we parted wondering if we might bump into each again somewhere. Finally, before we actually reached the car, we encountered our Intrepid Octogenerian Hiker and we exchanged some reminisciences about the characters that we could remember from ‘The Beano’ of our youth (principally Dan Dare, Dennis the Menace, Pansy Potter, Beryl the Peril and Desperate Dan) I will not start to explain who these characters well but readers of a certain (more advanced) age may well remember them quite well. In addition, as I ran around with the ‘vicarage’ children in the small village in which I lived in Yorkshire, I was introduced to the very middle class comic (‘Eagle‘) because the CofE vicar himself was very friendly with Marcus Morris who founded the ‘Eagle‘ and ‘Girl‘ comics in about 1950 and it survived until about 1969. These two vicars had served together with each in WWII and hence their friendship.
This morning, I amused myself by creating a little ‘Group’ of my BT email addresses in one of my companion email clients. This is so that I can send a ‘keep alive’ message at least once every 150 days which is a condition of use for the BT accounts in order to keep them active. So I have put a note on my calendar to activate my ‘Keep Live’ routine in about four and a half months time.
The day dawned today as one of those murkey looking days with a yellowish type of tinge to everything. We suspected that it was going to be one of those overcast drizzly type of days and so it turned out. We eventually decided that it would be a good policy to collect our newspaper by car, which we did, and then we made our way to the park carpark. At this stage, although the main rain showers had passed by, it was still spitting somewhat so we decided that today was one of the bandstand days to which we typically repair in weather conditions like todays. Two other groups of people had also intended to have a little picnic in the park so that they, too, also headed for the bandstand. This does have the slight disdvantage that there is nowhere to sit so I have thought of a little reminder to myself to hunt in the garage to see if we have a really lightweight little camping chair which we can take with us on days like these so that Meg has something upon which to sit. Needless to day, the sun was practically shining by the time it came to leave and we decided to pay a quick visit to Waitrose to see if any of our park acquaintances had finished up there. I popped my head round into the coffee bar area, saw no-one we recognised and so we made for home and thought we would treat ourselves to a quick viewing of the 1.00pm news before we started on lunch preparation. We had a simple lunch incorporating the one kipper fillet I had dug out of the freezer into a Friday risotto which used to be a staple for us every Friday lunchtime.
In my long, leisurely read of The Times over the last day or so, I have taken great pleasure in reading a commentary upon the important speech that Liz Truss made to the Food and Drink Federation when she was an advocate of remaining within the European Community. In this speech, she gave several detailed examples of the ills that would befall us were we to leave the European Community and the really interesting thing is that she was remarkble prescient, and accurate, in the things that she said before she ‘changed her mind’. Evidently, this is causing some glee amongst erstwhile Remainers amongst the staff writers and commentators. Of course, when it comes to a General Election, all of these just have to be constantly repeated back to Liz Truss and no doubt she will constantly asked exactly why she changed her mind (if not for naked political opportunism) and why she things she was wrong then (although she was right) and right now (although she is wrong) A rather shocking statistic is that only 31% of Tory MP’s actually voted for Liz Truss and, assuming she does become leader of the party, then some 69% of the parliamentary party of which she shall be the leader did not vote for her. To put it mildly, even some Conservative thinkers are worried that this will be a recipe for long run political stability even though loyalty used to the ‘secret weapon’ of the Tory party. In fact there is quite a massive tension between the ideological, Brexit-driven wing of the Tory party and a more centrist managerialist wing, typified by Rishi Sunak. To a large extent, this is a mirror image of the problems that the Labour party used to have where Jeremy Corbin led a parliamentary party here the majority of members had not voted for him.
I spent some of the afternoon exploring the email client provided by BT, now that I have eleven spare addresses ‘free’ provided to me as part of my new fibre broadband deal. If you look at the reactions of many users, there seems to be a consensus that the BT offering is terrible but as I am only going to use it fo the most occasional of uses (including quoting an address might eventually be ‘spammed’), this is not really source of concern to me. I have worked out a way I can navigate straight into my preferred email without having to go through the more general BT portal in the first place. I have also set up one auto-forward which means that anything that lands in my BT mailbox will be forwarded to my normal email client so that I can see what it is. Tonight, as we have our TV stitched into our new wifi-through-the-mains service, we are going to treat ourselves to an opera and see if we can get this viewed without any buffering problems which have plagued us in the past. I have one of those Amazon ‘USB’ gizmos stuck in the back of the TV and through this, I can access YouTube and hence to whatever operas they happen to have available. These tend to be very dated but nonetheless excellent productions, probably made 20-30 years ago.