Tuesday, 31st January, 2023

[Day 1051]

Meg and I look forward to Tuesday mornings because we typically meet some of ur pre-pandemic friends in our regular visit to the Waitrose cafe. When we arrived, I saw one of the regular Waitrose staff who is regularly in charge of the flowers and shrubs section and wondered why today they seemed to be overflowing with all kinds of products. She informed me that they were starting to get ready for Valentines day which will be in two weeks time or so. In common with many other outlets, they were getting ready in plenty of time. I suggested to her that we should rename it to ‘hanky panky’ day, which term I gather dates from about 1841 so is nearly two centuries old. I do not think the store will take up my suggesstion but my contact within the store expressed surprise that I had never engaged in sending valentines (apart from to my old friend who has since died when I pretended it came from his very first girlfriend whose name he indisceetly imparted to me. I sent him disguised valentines for several years but he never let on that he knew that I was the sender although the card that I sent him did do the rounds of his family) Once we sat down for our coffee, it was like a gathering of the clans because eventually three of the old regular i.e. pre-pandemic crowd turned up and we had a good laugh and joke with each other. As locals from the same part of town, more or less, we were discussing some of the local issues to do with car parking and the nuisance that it causes. One of our number was highly indignant because she lived in a property at one time under the control of the local authority and for the last fort years there have been large stones situated outide her house which might have been decorative but have the function of stopping casual parking in front of her house. But a van had reversed into one of these stones and then complained to the local authority even though he was technically trespassing onto their property. Some ‘jobs worth’ in the local authority had arranged for the stones to be removed even though they had been there for decades whereupon people now started to park half on the road and half on the grass thus allowing their vehicles to transgress on the area previously occupied by the stones. I suggested that she write to the council suggesting that they restore the site to the ‘status quo ante’ and also try to enlist the help of her local councillor to whom this ought to be a bread and butter issue but I do not hold out much hope. After a jolly hour together, we all went on our way and I prepared for my weekly Pilates class which is a regular fixture on a Tuesday. On the way down into town, I left five minutes early so that I could go to an ATM and also dive into our local Asda from which store I buy one or two items not easily obtainable elsewhere. As I had not visited the store for a few weeks, some of the things I wanted either could not be located without a great deal of searching or were in a different place because they had reorganised where things are on the shelves and therefore they took some searching which took the time I did not have. I located three of the four things I wanted and abandoned the search for the last item – I suppose it is one of the frustrations of life that stores reorganise themselves on a regular basis but I personally do find it frustrating, particularly for items that you buy very infrequently.

There has been an important report by the IMF this morning which has coincided more or less exactly with the third anniversary of Brexit i.e. the date upon we formally left the EU. In the latest update of its economic forecasts, the IMF says it expects the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) to contract by 0.6% in 2023. To add further humiliation for the chancellor and prime minister, most other countries around the world saw their forecasts upgraded. Downing Street has insisted that the UK’s economy is strong despite the International Monetary Fund’s warning that Britain’s economy will go into reverse this year and will fare worse than all other advanced nations – including Russia that is in the middle of a war and subjected to many international sanctions as a consequence. In its latest World Economic Outlook update, the IMF downgraded its UK gross domestic product (GDP) forecast once again, predicting a contraction of 0.6% against the 0.3% growth pencilled in last October. In the media discussion today, the reaction of Tory MPs and others on the extreme right is fascinating. Almost to a man (and a woman) they just refuse to accept the report of the IMF because it does not conform to their world view. An important factor in the IMF downgrade was the damage done to the UK economy by the disastrous premiership of Liz Truss who tanked the economy and had to be ejected after six weeks. Ater journalists put the report to Liz Truss asking for her to comment, she just refused point blank – that is to say, she literally had no answer to the criticisms made of her.