Saturday, 26th December, 2020 [Day 285]

If there is such a thing as a typical  Boxing Day, then I suppose today was it. Meg and I got up a little late after staying up a little latter than normal to watch most of a film on the life of Maria Callas, the soprano diva of the 1960s. We were a little perturbed to discover that our normal newsagent was closed and even when we popped around the corner to our local Waitrose store that we use as a ‘backup store’, we found that closed as well. We were particularly keen to get the newspapers today because it was the first occasion in which commentators could get their teeth into the EU-UK trade agreement, arrived at on Christmas Eve. So having walked home, I jumped into the car and made for the local BP garage which always sells newspapers, only to find they had The Guardian but they had run out of Times. So I had to find a place to park the car and hasten towards a local newspaper shop that I suspected would be open and it was. So I secured my copy of the Times and made my home before cooking the kind of dinner that you always cook on Boxing Day e.g. with the ham that I didn’t use yesterday. As it turned out, I was particularly pleased I had made the effort to get the Times because the whole of their weekend magazine was devoted to the work of Peter Brookes who is an award-winning cartoonist and who produces a round up of the political year. Peter Brookes has the ability to fuse current events with other images drawn from popular culture and this is often savagely funny as well as being very clever. I will cite four examples that I really enjoyed. One was one of Boris Johnson who has morphed into Vicky Pollard (a popular character from the TV and radio series of Little Britain played by Matt Lucas. who is a moody, obnoxious teenage girl seemingly incapable of doing anything but make excuses) standing in front of a Downing Street Press podium with the slogan’Yeah But’ ‘No But’ ‘Yeah But’. Another was of the Chancellor of the Exchequer Riski Sunak. Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings who form a film poster for ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ (fit the faces to the descriptions).  A third was of Jo Biden sitting at his desk in the Oval Office saying ‘Thank God! I thought he would never leave!‘ but if you study the picture carefully, you see the tip of Donald Trump’s famously long red tie just peeping from underneath a curtain to one of the windows. And finally, one of the most brilliant of all, is a poster for ‘Mat Hancock’s Half Hour‘ In this, the cartoonist has brilliantly morphed the face of Matt Hancock into that of Tony Hancock, the famous comedian. He is receiving an injection with the nurse saying (as they used to) ‘Just a little prick’ and the poster comes with a slogan  ‘From the Blood Donor to the Vaccine Guinea Pig‘ (but with a flash across the bottom right hand corner saying ‘Live on TV’).  When you analyse this cartoon, it combines about five jokes or elements into one- absolute brilliance!

This afternoon I engaged in that perennial chore (removing the labels from my remaining stock of damson-gin bottles). I particularly like the 200-250cl bottles which are just about the right size for a gift but they are rather like gold dust. For some reason, most labels remove quite easily after a soaking but sometimes the principal manufacturer’s label is put on with a particularly aggressive industrial glue. I tackle this with a combination according to severity of a pan scrub, a Brillo Pad, some cream cleaner and sometimes a dribble of boiling water if that is the only thing that will soften the glue. I now have enough to bottle about another 16 bottles as my initial supply is completely exhausted, having been given away to friends up and down the street.

The long awaited trade deal is to be debated on Wednesday in Parliament and the government are hoping to have all of the legislation passed through all of its stages in one day. As the agreement is  some 1246 pages in length, it is interesting to see how much scrutiny can be had of the whole document (surely part of the Johnson plan anyway) According to one initial take on the deal, Johnson has also been slammed over fishing rights with industry representatives claiming he has ‘bottled it’ in negotiations. The deal does not cover services  or financial services which are such a large part of the British economy but I am sure that we can rest assured with the words that  the two sides simply commit ‘to establish a favourable climate for the development of trade and investment between them‘. So that’s all right then (I don’t think!)