Tuesday, 11th April, 2023

[Day 1121]

We seemed to have a nice and bright day when we awoke this morning but we still had a nagging doubt that it might not last. After we got ourselves up and breakfasted, we went on the road to collect our newspaper. I asked why our newsagent had been shut for the past two days and he, for his turn, asked why I had not called by to pick up my reserved copy of the newspaper. It transpired that after opening at 8.00am or even earlier on these special days, he closes at 11.00am which I had not realised. So we had actually missed each for the past couple of days. Being a Tuesday but a non-Pilates day as my instructor is taking her Easter break, we popped into Waitrose as is our wont every Tuesday morning. There we bumped into two of our regular Waitrose, Tuesday crowd and spent a jolly half hour or so with them. Then we picked up a few supplies and made for home. By this time, it was midday and the sky was glowering somewhat but not actually raining. The weather app on my phone informed me that there was a 50% chance of rain after 2.00pm so I launched straight into a cutting of the lawns, whilst I could. I am always reminded that the gardening books I used to consult earlier in my youth were full of phrases such as ‘Choose a fine day’ as though one could. In April, particularly, one is always dodging the showers and fitting in jobs like mowing the lawn whilst one can is par for the course. As it turned out, this was a good decision because towards the end of my mowing ‘hour’, some spots of rain started to appear and the rain did, indeed, fall in more copious quantities as the afternoon progressed. So I was very pleased to get this job done as I have several commitments tomorrow. I came in and quickly cooked us a spot of lunch before having a well earned rest.

Last night, we abandoned the TV in order to listen to the last half hour of the ‘Hall of Fame’ on ClassicFM to see which piece of classical music would make it to No. 1 this year. I was pleased that the perennial favourite which is the ‘Lark Ascending’ has been knocked off its No. 1 spot to be replaced by Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. This latter piece is best known for being the background music to the classic black and white movie ‘Brief Encounter’ which had another showing about a couple of weeks ago. I wonder if this might have influenced just enough people to have cast a vote which enabled the Rachmaninoff to triumph once again. I am pleased, in any case, to see this change in fortunes. There was a rather snooty article in ‘The Times’ the tone of which I did not really like but which confirmed my impression that film music is coming more prominent in the ClassicFM charts. Now that I have some good audio installed in our living quarters, Meg and I are listening to the offerings each day and I gain the impression that they have somewhat more relaxing and soothing tracks on in the afternoon and early evening.

The visuals in the newscasts today have been rather dominated by the sight of thousands of young hospital doctors on strike and demonstrating their case to whoever is listening in Trafalgar Square. The junior doctors are saying that their real pay has been squeezed by some 35% in the past ten years whilst the government are saying that a claim of 35% is completely inadmissable. One can say that both sides are essentially correct but how this dispute gets resolved rather depends upon whether each side can successfully appeal to public opinion to sustain their case. So far, public opinion seems pretty firmly on the side of the hospital doctors and the interesting question is how far this might move in the next few weeks as the local elections approach. Whilst local elections do not generally attract very much interest, it feels very different this time around. If the Tories have a particularly bad night, they may lose up to 1,000 local seats which would be a great blow to party morale and to workers on the ground.

The IMF has warned that world economy is entering a ‘perilous phase’ of low economic growth and high financial risk, in its latest set of assessments. The forecasts are some of the most gloomy since prospects for the world ecoomy are published in the spring of each year. The prospects for growth in the UK were the lowest in the whole of the G7 group of advanced industrial economies. When one looks for reasons, the impact of high interest rates and high energy costs are more severe in the UK than amongst other member nations of the G7. Of course, Brexit never seems to be specifically mentioned in this context but it is hard not to draw the conclusion that this must be one of the contributory factors to the low projected UK growth rates. The fact that the IMF is using words like ominous, perilous and ‘significant vulnerabilities’ rather sum it up a great deal of nervousness about the future shape of the world economy.