Sunday, 26th February, 2023

[Day 1077]

This has been an interesting day for Meg and I. It turned out to be quite a nice bright day with a modicum of wind. We received a telephone call from our University of Birmingham friend to say he was going out for the day (quite understandable when the weather was so fine) so we would not have an assignation in Waitrose as we sometimes do on Sundays. Accordingly, I made up a flask and some comestibles and we set off for the park anticipating a little walk although Meg was a little unsteady on her feet this morning. Although it seemed fine when we set off from home, we picked up our copy of the Sunday newspapers and then made our way to the park. When we got to our ‘normal’ bench, the icy wind seemed to have intensified somewhat so we did not anticipate too long a sit down. So we drank our coffee in a hurry and had a bite to eat but decided to cut our losses and get home where we could have a warming drink of some packet soup we reserve for occasions such as this. Upon sitting down to read the newspapers, the Sports supplement fell out of the pile where the sports writers were celebrating a good victory of England versus Wales last night. This put me in a state of absolute confusion because when we got home from church last nigt and had a little bit of supper upon our return, we settled down to watch the second half of the England-Wales match. The Welsh ground out a good and deserved victory against England, or so we thought. But when I saw the result in today’s newspaper, evidently something had gone amiss. I turned to our PVR upon which I had recorded the Wales-England match and then by closely consulting the date realised that we had actually watched last year’s match – which happened to have the same refeee and the same score after about 35 minutes. I had set the PVR to ‘series record’ all of this year’s matches so it was a sort of understandable mistake. What has happened to this year’s recorded match is still a bit of mystery to me but as I do not record much these days, I am never very confident about the procedure working as it should or myself being able to retrieve what I want. So late on this morning, I turned to the iPlayer instead of the PVR and did get yesterday’s match and so we could enjoy today the second half that we had missed yesterday. After that, it was a case of preparing a Sunday lunch of smoked gammon, broccoli and baked potato and then a fairly quick turn around to watch the France-Scotland match. This turned out to be entertaining in the extreme. Before the match was 11 minutes old, both teams had lost a player as a result of a red card issued after a head collision. This is the new rugby protocol to try to avoid the damage that can be done to players as a result of head injuries. After the referee, linesman and third match official had consulted with each other and looked at video replays of the two incidents, a red card and a sending off seemed to be the correct decisions. The head collisions were probably a result of over enthusiasm and micro-second misjudgements rather than foul play with intent. Nonetheless, the Scots found themselves 19 points down quite early on in the game. You would imagine that many teams would have thought that the game was lost at this point. But the Scots, to do them credit, played adventurous and sustained rugby and clawed themselves back into the match. They tended to dominate the second half in terms of possession and about five minutes before the end of the match, were only a converted try away from overhauling their French opponents and winning the match. Bt the French managed to score a try of their own and this put the whole game beyond doubt. However, the commitment shown and the skills deployed on each side really made this rugby at its best and a delight to watch.

It is now being widely reported that tomorrow may be ‘make or break’ day for Rishi Sunak and his attempts to find a solution to the problems created by Brexit and the Northern Ireland border problems. It is said that the government is ‘on the cusp’ of a deal with the EU on post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland. Sam Coates, the Sky News political correspondent has been told that an announcement over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland could come within hours. Whitehall sources have suggested Rishi Sunak is set to ‘put his deal on the runway’.Coates is reported ministers as saying that ‘We could get some form of statement. We could get some form of telephone cabinet meeting so they get updated on the content of the deal then it will be rolled out to parliament tomorrow’. What is critical is the reaction of the Ulster Unionists, the DUP and the members of the hard-right Brexit faction known as the European Research Group. I suspect that within a day we may have some high level resignations from the cabinet but that Rishi Sunak will get his deal done and members of the ERG will have been ‘seen off’. Or it is quite possible that there will be a massive revolt within the Conservative party but Rishi Sunak can always put it to the Tory MPs that they vote for any renegotiated settlement which will be regarded a vote of confidence. Should the Brexiteers revolt ‘en masse’, Sunak could threaten a general election which would wipe out most of the present Tory party (which may help to concentrate minds)