Saturday, 15th April, 2023

[Day 1125]

We awoke to a beautiful and bright day and it looks as though a little spell of fine weather has arrived at last. After we had got ourselves up, showered and breakfasted, we made up a flask of coffee and prepared for a walk in the park. We collected our Saturday edition of ‘The Times‘ and then made our way to the park where there was a slightly cooling wind but nothing to trouble us. When we got to the park, there seemed to be quite a preponderance of really young chidren out on their tricycles. This is the last week of the Easter holidays so I imagine that families are getting a bit of oudoor relaxation time now that the weather has turned a bit more favourable. We lunched on quiche plus some spring greens which I must admit I really enjoyed as they were so fresh. We knew that it was the much anticipated England-Wales Womens International Rugby being broadcast from 2.15 so we determined to get washed up and ready to watch the match and indeed we were ready on time. The match itself proved to be a little of an anticlimax. The Welsh started really well, got three points on the board and were truly ferocious ‘in the breakdown’ But then the English gradually started to wear the Welsh team down and eventually ran in nine tries and beat the Welsh 59-3. Some of the English tries exhibited some brillint runs and performances whilst others just showed the raw power of the English pack. So one finished off feeling a little sorry for the Welsh pack who started of so well but then faded so badly. At one stage, towards the very end of the match, the English team had two players off the pitch as they were ‘yellow carded’ for incidents when a shoulder came into contact with the head of an opposing player but the team of 13 still managed to score a try. Later on today, it is the Grand National which spectacle I generally watch but not this year as the start is very near the time at which we leave for church on a Saturday afternoon. We may, though, be able to pick up a replay of it later if the mood takes us.

On our way to church, we traverse along what is a ‘de facto’ ringroad around the town and every time we travel along the road, we cannot fail to notice a huge new development which is in the process of being built. What used to be a green hillside upon which sheep grazed has now been transormed into a huge, muddy plot upon which they are building nearly 400 houses. If each house has an average of 2 cars and they are each 3 metres of length (or roadspace), then this new development would generate approximtely 2.4 kilometres of cars if they were parked end to end – which is approximately the distance from the new development down to the centre of town and then back again. I think it is quite within the realms of possibility that our town becomes the first in the country to be completely and utterly gridlocked so that each morning, nobody will travel anywhere (unless they decide to walk). I read a very interesting letter in ‘The Times‘ the other day from a local councillor, or it might have been a planning official, who argued that in his experience people were not opposed to new housing. But they were opposed to new housing without the requisite infrastructure of improved roads, footpaths, public transport facilities, schools, doctor’s surgeries, local shops, local community facilities and so on. The planning mode in the UK is that the housing comes first and any other infrastructure a very inadequate second place, if it ever becomes provided at all. I think that in Spain I have seen the reverse process in which local authorities, probably at the regional level, have provided roads, shops and other infrastructure which has been left unused as the building of new housing units has been left to the private sector which often bankrupted itself. In the case of the new development down the road from us, I sometimes wonder as well how much of the newly built housing will actually serve the existing residents of Bromsgrove and how much will be bought by people whose connection with the borough is tenuous.

I think there is now really serious concern that the NHS disputes may start to escalate. The possibility is being raised of ‘cordinated action’ in which both nurses and junior doctors, plus other ancillary staff, may all decide to strike at the same time. The problem is that both sides are now so deeply entrenched. The government regards anything in the region of 30% as being completely unaffordable, whereas the staff have witnessed real term wage cuts for most of the past decade and really feel that they are prepared to tolerate no more. Of course, we have elections looming at the end of the first week in May and possibly a settlement is not possible until the elections have been held and the appropriate lessons drawn. Public opinion may well work against the strikers if it is evident that several deaths are directly attributable to the dispute.