Sunday, 29th January, 2023

[Day 1049]

Today being a Sunday my normal habit is to get up quite early and go down to collect the Sunday newspaper before settling down to watch the politics programme on BBC1. However, we knew that later on today we were going to meet our University of Birmingham friend in Waitrose (as we had arranged yesterday) so this morning I allowed myself the luxury of an extra couple of hours in bed. Then we collected our newspaper just before popping into Waitrose where there appeared to be lots of families enjoying a Sunday morning treat. Our University of Birmingham friend always has lots of topics of conversation to discuss and today we settled upon sporting issues. As he is a keen supporter of our local rugby team here in Bromsgrove, we were discussing the likely impact of the rule changes in rugby that we may see come into effect in the Six Nations competition which starts on Saturday. The new rule, which has been introduced for the best of reasons to reduce or minimise the chances of head injury, is not to allow any tackles above the waist. How this is going to be interpreted and put into effect by referees might actually prove enormously difficult, with the best will in the world. On a rugby field, opposing players are likely to be running at speed and/or be in a semi crouched or a bent forward position so the new rule change might be very difficult both for players, coaches and referees alike. So after this, we both discovered in the past that we had been followers of Leeds United football club which is not a much followed team outside Leeds these days. But back in the 1960’s the half-back line was Jack Charlton (Bobby Charlton’s brother), Billy Bremmer and Johnny Giles. In addition, Paul Reaney played at full back as well as Bell (first name forgotten) and Norman Hunter whilst Peter Lorimer often took penalties as it was reckoned that he had the hardest (and therefore fastest) shots in football and penalties were almost completely unsaveable, even if the goalie dived in the right direction. The legendary half back line and defence were so good as it was said by some of the Leeds supporters that Gary Sprake (the Leeds goalkeeper) was regarded as somewhat fallible even though he was good enough to play for Wales and therefore the half backs ensured that the ball never got anyhere near him. The legendary nature of this defence (and Leeds were not a pretty team to watch) is that occasional supporters such as myself and our University of Birmingham friend can still remember the names of the players some half a century later.

Before we even got as visitng the Waitrose cafe the news had broken, two minutes into the Lorna Kuennsberg program, that Nadhim Zahawi had been sacked earlier that morning. The report from the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial ethics had reported to Rishi Sunak that Zahawi had committed several severe breaches of the ministerial code and therefore Rishi Sunak found it easy to dismiss him immediately. Perhaps conscious of the fact that he has been judged as weak and indecisive, Rishi Sunak did not give the minister the chance to resign but there was an immediate and decisive sacking. Most of the commentators and members of the politicl elite thought that this should have happened days, if not weeks, ago, The interesting question now is where Zahawi will resign as an MP or be deselected by his Stratford consistuency – in ‘vox pop’ interviews aired over the last few days, he has little to no support locally so I should not be surprised if he stands at the next election and then leaves politics altogether.

This afternoon, Meg and I watched Jane Austin’s ‘Emma‘. The only reason that I mention this is because it was the book that I studied for my GCSE ‘O’-level in English Language. The opening sentence of ‘Emma‘ and I quote, runs as follows: ‘Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich with a comfortable home and happy disposition seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her’ I remember at the time going through an ‘angry young man’ time in my adolescence and upon reading this first sentence my lip curled and I wondered how on earth I could find anything remotely interesting given this start to the novel. In particular, I could think of nothing in the ‘handsome, clever, rich with a comfortable home’ with which I could possible identify. I think when you study a book for ‘O’ level, you have read the text minutely several times and then built up a mental image of the characters in your mind. So it is especially interesting to see how all of this is portrayed on film because, in my day, you never had the opportunity to see a film of the classic novel chosen for you. In retrospect, I still sometimes wonder whether Jane Austin can be fully appreciated by 15 year old male students of whatever ethnicity and I am unsure whether Jane Austin is still on the curriculum for school pupils of this age.