Tuesday, 24th January, 2023

[Day 1044]

So Tuesday has dawned which is the day for our regular weekly visit to the Waitrose coffee bar, where we hope to bump into some of our regulars. No sooner had we got ourselves in place and enjoying a repast of muffins and coffee, one of our pre-pandemic Waitrose friends turned up and we started chatting again about musical topics as in a previous conversation, she had revealed to us that she used to sing regularly in a choir and that her son had been a music editor with Decca records. I know from another friend, not with us today, that our friend actually had her 89th birthday last week so I am going to note down the actual date of her birthday so that hopefully, I can remember it next year and, as it a ‘big’ birthday, reward her with a cake or something similar. Our friend indicated to us that she had been invited back to sing in the choir now that the Covid restrictions are no longer in force. When I asked her if she knew what the choir was going to practice in their next session and did you need any sheet music to participate, she informed me that she knew the piece already as it was Brahm’s requiem. It also emerged in the conversation that she had sung Mozart’s Requiem and was very familiar with Handel’s Messiah having, in the past, sung some of the solo mezzo/contralto cantatas. We must have known our friend for some three years now and she has the demeanour of a quiet and unassuming person, so I was amazed to discover that she was so talented. The popular expresson, not much heard these days, is not to ‘hide ones light under a bushel’ which seems rather a strange expression until you go back to its origins in the New Testament (Matthew 5:15): ‘Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick.’ which is drawn, I suspect from the King James Bible.

After the experiment of last night in which some sections of the population were attempting to save all available power between 5.00pm and 6.00pm, I got onto my account with my energy supplier to see if, in these days of SmartMeters and accounts that can be calculated by the minute, I could tell how much energy I had saved (or points accumulated). I was a bit disappointed to be thanked for my participation and then informed that it would take them ‘some days’ to calculate the actual contribution I had made, which was disappointing. Then came the news that the National Grid was going to repeat the experiment his evening but over a longer period of time – not an hour this time but an hour and a half from 4.30pm until 6.00pm. I decided to try a somewhat different strategy this evening, in view of the longer time period. So I decided to turn off all of our major consumers of which the greatest at this time is a Baxi electric fire which supplements the central heating on really cold days. But I did leave on a really low energy lamp in our living room and the TV itself and I did dig out a blanket which I threw over Meg and for myself, I put on a extra thick jumper. Apart from the electric fire, it is actually quite difficult to save energy whereas for other people, it just a case of rescheduling activities. For example, in the TV reports of how this experiment was proceeding, the case was given of a nurse who typically came home and threw her uniform (and other family washing) into the washing machine when she got home at 5.00pm and I would imagine that this particular family could save quite a lot of energy in the relevant time slot by just using the washing machine an hour later than was her custom. It will be interesting to see if the experiment will run for several more days and whether, in fact, the combined efforts of many of us will have succeeded in averting the use of either or both of the two coal-fired power stations that are standby in case they are needed. Perhaps a large advertising campaign that just encourages people to move activities away from the pressured 5.00pm-6.00pm slot would be a good way forward.

In my walk back from my Pilates session, I took particular care to look at some of the trees and shrubs in the gardens that I pass on my walk back home. I noticed about three trees/shrubs where, if you looked carefully, you could just about discern some buds that are waiting for the advent of spring. Although no biologist, I get the impression that some plants do an initial budding from deep within their stems and then put the process into abeyance once the cold weather starts. But then, when we get some spring like weather, the trees and shrubs can get off to a flying start. It is also possible that we shall have another high pressure/cold weather snap in February which is not unusual in the winter months. Meanwhile the temperature had been up to 16 degrees in some parts of Scotland whereas the cold artic air means that Oxfordshire has experienced -9 degrees last night.