Saturday, 21st January, 2023

[Day 1041]

Today being a Saturday, we are always in a bit of different routine. Meg and I slept in a little this morning but we got our act together once we actually got up, had breakfast and then repaired to our Waitrose cafe hoping to see some of our regulars. We made contact with one of our pre-pandemic Waitrose regulars and spent an interesting half hour chatting with each other, mainly talking about the health needs of our respective partners and we how we were both managing to meet them one way or another. When we got home, I read my emails and we had received one from one of the sons of an eminent professor of publc administration in Spain, who died about two years ago. His name was Mariano Baena and he actually helped to frame the modern Spanish constitution after the death of Franco. As the Professor of Public Administration at the Complutense University in Spain (roughly equivalent to our Cambridge) he made contact with us at Leicester Polytechnic and, cutting a lot of history short, helped to form an exchange relationship under the then Erasmus scheme, designed to facilitate students (and staff) to spend a certain portion of their study in a partner university. We sent several students to Spain once we had given them a crash course in Spanish and received several back, some of whom are now amongst our oldest and closest friends. I spent a term teaching Information Technology to Spanish public administration students and Mariano Baena was immensely kind to me, generally offering me a trip at the weekends to other Spanish cities such as Avila and Burgos, usually centering upon monasteries. I have one abiding memory of one trip out which we made with some of his trusted, postgraduate students. We were parked in a very tight space and even though our own car was small, it would prove difficult to get it out of the tight space. Mariano Baena’s solution was to edge his own car forwards and bump the car in front about a foot. He then adopted the reverse procedure and bumped the car behind him a similar distance. And so this proceeded until it was judged that we had space enough to get out of the parking space without more ado. All that I can remember about this particular incident is that the postgraduate students and myself were absolutely helpless with laughter. I have to add that Mariano Baena was a distinguished academic and an equally esteemed High Court judge who, at one stage, required round the clock protection lest he get assassinated by ETA, the Basque terrorist group, who had a penchant for killing High Court judges when the occasion arose.

Late on this morning, the postman delivered nearly the last of my acquisition of classical CDs, bought through eBay. I must say that I could not resist a boxed set of all 9 Beethoven symphonies on six CDs with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic recorded by Deutche Grammaphon. This is about as perfect a combination as it is possible to get for which I paid £5.60 and so again, like my other recent acquisitions, hours of listening pleasure remain. I tend to give Meg and myself a breakfast time concert as we are preparing, eating and then washing up after breakfast – and ditto at lunchtimes. Although I haven’t done a count, I suspect that I now have a collection of about 120 classical CDs so that it certainly enough to keep us entertained and relaxed over the weeks ahead. Saturday afternoon is always a fairly relaxed affair as we attend church late on in the afternoon and when we return, we already have the good tin of soup organised for when we return, as well as scoping out the TV we intend to watch for the rest of the evening.

Politically, the big story today is how Nadhim Zahawi, a one time Chancellor of the Exchequer of the many we have had recently, has reportedly paid a tax bill of at least £5 million if not more. He says that the tax error was found to be ‘careless and not deliberate’ after calls for his sacking by the Opposition parties. But it is evident that he has paid a penalty of some 30% of the overdue tax so there is an evident lack of transparency, not least to officials of the Inland Revenue, in the past. Zahawi has repeatedly indicated that he had nothing to hide when enquiries have been made of him by journalists but it now looks as though events are overtaking him. How long he can survive as Chairman of the Conservative party remains unclear because although he has the reputation of being a good communicator, every public appearance from now on will be dominated by questions about his tax affairs. This means that he either keeps quiet on futue occasions (thus rather making a mockery of his present role) or he has to face persistent and potentially embarrassing questions. If questions about his tax affairs persist for more a week, then I suspect that like other Tory politicians who have been found out, he will soon become toast (as Alastair Campbell, ex Labour party spokesman was wont to say about other long lasting scandals)