Friday, 14th April, 2023

[Day 1124]

Today has been a very interesting day, alhough it started off dull and gloomy. It was the day when our domestic help calls around and she brought with her a specialist carpet spot cleaner which proved very useful after Meg had a little fall but a cup of coffee was sent flying everywhere. This little unit proved so good that, after a demonstration, I may even feel tempted to purchase one for ourselves in the fullness of time. After we had breakfasted, we knew that we would probably meet up with some of our friends and acquaintances in the Waitrose coffee lounge and so it proved. We met up with our University of Birmingham friend plus another two of our pre-pandemic friends and a jolly time was had by all. I recounted our experiences at the club the other day when we were treated to the renditions of some traditional early 1960’s songs by members of a ukelele band. I even sang (softly) the words of ‘The foggy, foggy Dew’ and one of my friends had heard it before, one denied all knowledge of it and the third was a bit unsure. I have Googled the words (although, confusingly, there are several versions) but I have downloaded the version that most closely accords to my own memory of the ditty so that when I render it next time (if there be a next time), I shall have memorised the words correctly.

This afternoon, I reviewed some of my WhatsApp messages and received a message which is always nice to receive. It was from the daughter of the couple we meet on Wednesday who has spent some of her life in Spain and some in Mexico and seems to try to get back to Hispanic cultures whenever she can. To cut a long story short, Meg and I have issued an invitation to her and her parents to pop around for an afternoon cup of tea and we are finalising some diary dates for this. When we do meet, I am sure it will be fascinating for us to exchange our reminisciences of our experiences of the two Hispanic countries we have in common (Spain itself and Mexico) and we may be able to try out some of our, by now, very rusty Spanish as well. We also sent a quick WhatsApp message to Meg’s cousin in Cheltenham just to confirm that we are still on track for our lunch date next Friday, to which we are looking forward as there is so much news to catch up on when we do meet.

Although today is wet and windy, there is every indication that the weather is going to improve quite markedly in the few days ahead. I am quite keen to get out into the garden and to start what I call my spring maintenance jobs. I know from bitter experience over the years that you more you get the garden basically shipshape during these early growing periods, it saves a lot of time and effort subsequently. I like to work on what I call ‘the gullies’ but basically it means that every border to each flower bed is maintained by cutting the grass short and ensuring that any adjacent and accessible weeds are well and truly dealt with. Over the years, I have evolved a technique to try to ensure that I do not engage in too much bending which can wreak havoc with one’s back. Rather, I lay semi-sideways so I can reach anything within about a two metre radius and thus work my way down the whole length of the garden. As with my other jobs of this nature, some sections always require a great deal of work whereas others allow me to proceed at a much faster pace. This year, though, instead of trying to do the whole of the back garden in a couple of days, I am going to confine myself to little increments of about 20-30 minutes at a time. We used to have a regular gardener to do some of the heavier pruning but in mid-Autumn of last year he was taken quite seriously ill and has to abandon his gardening activities.

There is some quite mixed news on the nurses and ancillary NHS workers in their pay dispute with the government. Members of the Royal College of Nursing are to go on strike again after they voted against the latest government pay offer. This result comes despite a recommendation from union leaders that they accept it and means there will be a round-the-clock 48-hour strike – without exemptions – from 8pm on 30 April to 8pm on 2 May. Meanwhile, members of Unison voted to accept the government’s latest pay deal. As of now, it is a little difficult to predict whether there will be a degree of solidarity to maintain the strike or whether there actually be a split with some going into work and others supporting the strike. Any split on the side of the workers actually plays into the hands of the government in this dispute and, as with doctors whose strike is due to end at 7.00am tomorrow morning, the degree to which public opinion remains supportive of the NHS workers will be a critical factor.