Monday, 6th February, 2023

[Day 1057]

The weather forecast warned us that today was going to be one of those clear and bright days as we are subject to a high pressure system at the moment. Actually, the Spanish have an expression for this which is ‘febrero loco’ or ‘Mad February’. I have some first hand knowledge of this because in my working life, I spent a term teaching at the Complutense University in Madrid. Here I would typically set off to catch the metro and then a bus to get to the relevant University campus and the days always started off being crisp and cold and pretty dark at that hour in the morning. I taught from about 9.00am to 11.30 and then after some coffee returned back to the Hall of Residence in which I was lodged. As I returned home, the sun had arisen and there was quite pleasant, almost warm sun by midday which made the journey home very pleasant. I seem to remember that in the metro journeys that I had, first thing in the morning the carriages were silent as people were contemplating the day’s work ahead of them. But by midday they had relaxed and the carriage was full of chatter as some people returned home for lunch (but they would return back home for an afternoon shift from about 4.00 until maybe 7.00pm). The other thing that I particularly remember about those metro jouneys was that the trains were full of Madrileños i.e. people who were born in or near the capital and were predominantly white with just a smattering of Latin American hispanics. But there is a massive contrast with the London Tube which is about as cosmopolitan as it is possible to get, with a massive diversity of ethnicities, skin colours and languages. Returning to this country, though, Meg and I were happy to get to the park once we had picked up our newspaper. The air was pretty cool but completely still which meant you could simultaneously feel the cool of the air but also get a hint of pale spring sunshine on one’s forehead. As we have by now come to expect, the park was full of dog walkers and one of the regulars is a ‘labradoodle’ or a mixture of labrador and poodle. But the fine looking dog looks more poodle than labrador and when let off the lead, he has a series of similar doggy friends and they love chasing each other in huge circles around the park. Evidently, the dog owners know each other well and ensure that their dogs do not get out of control but there was a great deal of yapping and barking which was just the doggy equivalent of ‘joie de vivre’ on a morning like this. We had some pleasant elevenses and chatted with seveal of our acquaintances, all of us appreciating the weather for what it was.

When we returned home we cooked ourselves some lunch and then watched, with a degree of fascinated horror, some of the unfolding stories of the huge earthquakes that have hit Turkey and Syria. Sky News are reporting that nearly 3,000 people have been killed and thousands more injured after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and several aftershocks caused widespread destruction in Turkey and Syria. The earthquake struck at 4.17 in the morning when most people would have been in bed and this has contributed to the enormous death toll. Very often when earthquakes strike, deaths are reported in their hundreds but on this occasion the deathrate was immediately reported as in the thousands so it was known within minutes that this earthquake was huge and extensive. The fact that it was quite shallow within the earth crust adds greatly to the destructive power and I heard the gographical impact of the earthquake being likened to a tear in a piece of paper and the resultant destruction extending over hundreds of kilometres. There were, in fact, two earthquakes, one of 7.8 magnitude followed by one of 7.7 magnitude impacting not just Syria and Turkey and the impact has been felt further afield, including in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The reaction of most countries to this apocalyptic earthquake has been an immediate offer of assistance from a host of European countries but it is now nighfall in Turkey which will hamper rescue efforts. Another factor in the destruction is that the first earthquake may well have weakened some already shoddily constructed buildings which the second eathquake soon caused to collapse. One particularly dramatic of mobile phone footage shows the whole of a block of flats collapsing in about 10 seconds flat.

Meanwhile, back at home the largest number of NHS personnel on strike has had a big effect upon the hospital sector. Some 80,000 appointments and 11,000 operations have been cancelled on the biggest NHS strike day and the nurses are to to strike for a further day tomorrow. This is a massive trial of strength and it is hard to predict the outcome as of now. I have a feeling that the bad feelings generated by these disputes may last for quite a long time. The strikes are not just about pay – the failure to recruit sufficient staff in the past few years for whatever reason (Brexit? low pay?) has entailed massively increased workloads and workspace stress.