Monday, 20th February, 2023

[Day 1071]

Today dawned as a beautiful bright and clear day. Meg and I enjoyed very much the production of ‘La Bohème‘ which was shown on BBC4 last night. This was an English National Opera production and the quality of the acting was absolutely superlative – probably the best we have seen and the singing was of a very high order as well. We shall have to wait until Friday to see what our University of Birmingham friend makes of it all, as we had encouraged him to watch particular the scene in Act 1 where Rudolfo and Mimi ‘become an item’ in popular parlance. Today, I wanted to go to a local hardware store to pick up some little storage containers but the kinds I wanted and had purchased only about about a couple of weeks ago had totally vanished. The store had also been reorganised to make way for an influx of gardening gear so after a fruitless search, I left empty handed. So we made our way to the park which was absolutely teeming with cars by the time we got there. A combination of fine weather and the arrival of half term meant that the park was full of grandparents with their grandchildren in tow. For the first time in three years, we found it very difficult to park and had to make several turns around before we could find a parking space of our own. We had not taken any elevenses with us so we had a brief sojourn on our normal park bench before turning for home and enjoying a cup of coffee in our own home. I know it sounds a bit curmudgeonly to say this but half-terms seem to cause quite a large amount of disruption to the ‘normal’ rhythms of life. We knew that our chiropodist was due to call at some time today but I pressed on making a type of ‘Spanish chicken’ for our mid-day lunch (seared chicken added to a mixture of fried onions, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms) to which we add a white sauce and baked in the oven for an hour and a half. I always tend to overcook chicken on the basis that raw chicken may be contaminated with salmonella and rather a somewhat overcooked chicken meal than a stomach upset – or worse. The cooking turned out to be nice and tasty and we even had some of the cooked ingredients left over to form the basis of a curry later in the week.

The news has been rather dominated in the early afternoon by the news of Joe Biden’s surprise and previously unannounced visit to Ukraine to demonstrate American soldarity after practically a year of war. By appearing in Kyiv and filmed within the city, Joe Biden has scored quite a propaganda visit over the Russians. They, in turn, are no doubt arguing that Ukraine is only a kind of ‘Trojan horse’ for America’s imperialist ambitions and are spreading their own messages around some their own friends in Africa and Asia (but not Europe, needless to say). As the war grinds on, it is becoming quite evident that we might be in for a long haul. Russia seems to have vast supplies of (rather ageing) military equipment and, via conscription, of manpower as well. The story is told and probably with a high degree of accuracy, that when raw recruits from Russia were captured in the early days of the war, their Ukrainian captors would sit them down with a cup of tea and a mobile phone and tell them to phone their mothers to inform them what was happening. Although it has to operate clandestinely, we do know that groups of Russian mothers form a source of quiet opposition to the Putin regime. It is also evident that their sons have no idea what the war in the Ukraine is all about.

The breaking news this afternoon is that the junior doctors have voted to take strike action at a date in March and for a full 72 hours as well. Some 77.5% of those eligible to vote had in fact done so and an astounding 98% had voted in favour of strike action. Unlike the ambulance drivers and nurses, it does not appear at this moment that the junior doctors are making provision for any emergency cover – no doubt, the junior doctors feel as though the full consultants can provide the necessary cover. A full 72 hour strike might be an immense blow to NHS management and given the amount of work that junior doctors perform, the impact of this strike might be immense. The junior doctors have long felt they they have had a grievance as workload and waiting lists are at record highs whilst junior doctors’ pay has been cut by more than a quarter since 2008. There has been a scurrilous book written by a junior hospital doctor named Adam Kay a few years ago (‘This is going to hurt’) but the book leaves one in no doubt about the stress involved in being a junior hospital doctor nowadays. The book was made into a TV series which somehow did not convey the full picture of the stresses involved revealed in the wards and I believe that Adam Kay himself has subsequently left the medical profession.