Saturday, 20th May, 2023

[Day 1160]

Today was a beautiful day when Meg and I awoke so we are certainly looking forward to the rest of the day. After showering and breakfasting, we got ourselves down to Waitrose via the newspaper shop to meet up with some regular friends. The coffee shop always seems to be popular on a Saturday morning as I suspect that parents and grandparents offer to treat their offspring at the weekend. The downside of all of this is that there seemed to be a proliferation of shrieking and wailing young voices from the 2-3 year olds – as soon as one voice abated, another seemed to arise to take its place. Nonetheless, we were pleased to see two of our regulars including our University of Birmingham friend who was feeling a little under the weather. We exchanged ‘hospital’ stories with each other as two of the three of us had been afflicted during the week but having got the moans out of the way, we turned the conversation around to happier subjects. After we had left, there were a few items that I needed to buy from the local Asda supermarket that do not seem to be readily available elsewhere so we went to the vicinity of the supermarket and I left Meg in the car whilst I went in search of items. Some I found eaily enough whilst others I could not find – even some of the supermarket’s own staff did not know where ‘Bovril’ can be found (which I have been taking to drinking as a tea substitute) Our University of Birmingham friend accepted our invitation to come home to lunch which was easily extendable from two into three. We were having some chicken, ham and leek pies bought about a week ago and complemented with a large leek, left over from last week and enhanced by an onion-type sauce and some broccoli.

After lunch, I was eager to recount to Meg and to our friend a particularly vivid dream which I had last night. I was the guest speaker, or at least asked to give a talk, at a meeting of academics largely, I think, drawn from De Montfort University where Meg and I worked for 26 years. I remember stepping up to the podium without a script or any idea whatsoever I was going to say. I think the talk was given an excessively broad remit such as ‘The role of the academic in the modern world’ which meant I could say anything I liked. I remembered to start by thanking my hosts for issuing me with an invitation and then proceeded with what I could call a ‘stream of consciousness’ in which one theme gradually led onto another. I know that initially, I was speaking about the role of the dialectic in academic life i.e. how through the operation of a thesis (known to one party) and its anithesis (known to another party) one could arrive at a synthesis which is now new knowledge unknown previously to either. The subsequent themes I cannot now remember but I seemed to be speaking in ‘real time’ in my dream and the whole talk was certainly more than 30 minutes – probably 30-40 minutes in total. But everything seemed to flow smoothly and without any arkward pauses, lapses of memory or even jokes and when I finished I had the most enormous sense of self-satisfaction of a job well done. I reflected to myself that if I had written a script or had some prepared notes, then it was possible the speech would not have flowed so smoothly. I then awoke, very abruptly, and seemed to be absolutely wide awake so I got up and prepared for myself a cup of special night time tea before I took to my bed again for the rest of the night.

Some interesting news is occurring on the Ukraine war front. US President Joe Biden told G7 leaders on Friday that the US will back a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots for F-16 fighter jets, and will not oppose any allies that wish to transfer fighter jets. A plan that could take months to realise, it nevertheless fulfils a request President Zelenskyy has long made as part of his war efforts, and reflects a longer-term commitment on the part of allies to make sure Ukraine can better defend itself. This news is quite surprising as the US has resolutely set its face against the provision of F-16 jets until now. One wonders what the military calculations are that may be going in the background. Evidently, the ‘oldest’ generation of F-16 may be released to the Ukrainians and perhaps not directly but via other European societies who possess this fighter, such as Belgium. Meanwhile, Russia’s Wagner group claims full control of Bakhmut whilst the Ukraine says ‘fighting still going on’ Whilst this town may not have much military significance, the Russians appear, if reports are correct, to have lost a great many troops or allies in capturing this town for not a great deal of gain. The Ukrainians are preparing for a major ‘push’ against the Russians and so we may well be entering a decisive, and indeed critical, stage of this particular conflict. Of course, it is always a little difficult to disentangle the ‘hard news’ from the ‘spin’ that is put on the reporting of these developments in the war.