Monday, 2nd January, 2023

[Day 1022]

Today is one of those strange days when one is not quite sure whether the Bank Holiday associated with New Year’s Day has been transferred to the following day or not. Meg and I decided that we would make a trip along the Bromsgrove High Street but before we got there, we made a call to see our Italian friend who lives just down the road to see if we can get together for a coffee and some nibbles. She has had a bad cold of late but we are hopeful that in a few days time we can get together as we have a fair amount of news to impart as we have not seen her for an extended chat for quite a long time now. When we eventually made it to the High Street, it was no surprise that some coffee shops were open but there was a very mixed pattern in the remaining shops with most actually being closed today. We had just about got to the far end of the High Street when I received a telephone call from our chiropodist. To my chagrin, she was waiting outside the house for us as although we had her appointment on our planning board, I had forgotten to look at the appointment this morning and assumed that we had a completely free day. So we raced home and had our feet done, by which time we needed to prepare lunch in any case. I was feeling a little fortunate this morning as a day or so ago, I had made a speculative offer on a set of 6 classical CD’s (Beethoven symphonies, Fauré’s Requiem, some Nigel Kennedy and that sort of thing) for the princely sum of 99p and nobody else had bid so I won the auction. Admittedly I have some postage to pay on this lot but I am still very pleased with what I had got. This afternoon is one of those nondescript, dull afternoons where nothing much seems to be in prospect but now that we have the internet working on our TV we can browse the net to see if anything takes our fancy.

The media is rather full of scary health warnings this afternoon. There are now 100 times as many people requiring hospitalisation and critical care for flu then the equivalent time last year. It looks as though we are now seeing a double whammy of both ‘normal’ flu as well as new variants of COVID. One of these new variants is called XBB 1.5 and is causing some significant concern. Some studies have found that the strain is capable of evading antibodies from previous COVID infections or vaccinations so will this sweep the country? Meanwhile, hospitals throughout the country are reporting that they are absolutely in a critical state and two authoritative sources are saying that the number of ‘excess’ deaths due to delays in admission to hospitals may be causing up to 500 ‘excess’ deaths a week. This figure is a disputed one and undoubtedly, it is a difficult job to disentangle the relevant statistics. However,Parliament is still in recess and although the Liberal Democrats have been calling for an urgent recall of Parliament, it looks as though nothing much will happen on the Parliamentary scene for a few days yet.

Denis Healey, the veteran Labour politician used to say that ‘in war, the first casualty is truth’ This is particularly true in the case of the Ukraine, I suppose, but there is a report that the Ukrainians have struck at an army battacks in the Russian occupied Donetsk region. The Russians are publishing a figure of 63 soldiers killed whilst the Ukrainians are suggesting that ‘up to’ 400 may have been killed and another 300 injured. But a former commander of pro-Russian troops in east Ukraine who has emerged as one of the highest-profile Russian nationalist military bloggers has said the death toll was in the hundreds. Whatever the truth of the situation, it appears that the American supplied missile system which is incredibly accurate has actually wrought the damage.

Christmas time always brings with it the messages written inside Christmas cards (and occasionally emails and text messages) and it always good to get the latest news from those who you normally communicate with at this time of year. However, one rather depressing feature in 2022 is the number of our friends who have experienced quite severe illness recently. Of course, we are all aging together collectively and a certain degree of deterioration is only to be expected. But even making allowance for this, it appears that many of our friends have been particularly hard hit. I remember with some affection when Meg and I used to go off on Saga holidays for a two week (and occasionally a four week) break in January each year, to pull the teeth of the winter. One met many interesting people and in general our fellow guests were always lively and interesting company. But there seemed to be an unwritten rule that one never discussed health isssues because we were all of the age when things were going wrong with each one of us so there was no point going on about it. Those days, and holidays, are behind us now but we have a lot of happy memories of the times that we had.