Wednesday, 7th June, 2023

[Day 1178]

Today was a fairly uneventful day with not a great deal to report. Our domestic help had called around today rather than Friday which is her usual day. She had very kindly brought around some items of kitchen equipment for me to utilise when we entertain Meg’s cousins in about ten days time. We needed to purchase a condolence card for the son of the elderly relative of Meg who died recently two weeks short of his 100th birthday and our domestic help also wanted me to buy some cleaning products for her to utilise this morning. Then we returned home and I started to think about the lunch preparation which I needed to get done in plenty of time. I seared off a couple of the remaining chicken thighs and then got them going for a thorough cook in the oven so that we could eat fairly promptly. Wednesdays are now the days when I get the lawns cut but I must say that with the absence of rain, their growth had moderated slightly. I started getting the lawns cut promptly after lunch and was pleased to get them all done by mid afternoon. Then it was a case of getting a treat of some ice cream as it had been quite a hot afternoon after which I did a couple of outdoor jobs and prepared for a restful evening.

Today, I have re-started a little savings process which I used to deploy some years ago but I had got out of the habit. I found £2 coins quite hard to come by these days and I suspect that I know the reason why. As part of my little savings program together, I suspect, with similar minded savers throughout the country, every time I get a £2 coin in my normal change it goes into a little ‘savings owl’ that I am utilising for the purpose. I keep track of how much my owl contains and when I get to a total such £10 or even £20, then I withdraw so much less from my normal shopping money for the week. My savings are now effectively banked and this being the case allocate it into which ever particular savings pot I want. This has the effect of making that savings pot receive ‘interest’ which greatly exceeds the paltry rate that the banks and building societies pay to savers. Of course, since quantatitive easing (aka the government throwing money at the banks to ‘stimulate’ the economy) financial institutions do not have to try to attract savings from customers which is part of the traditional financial orthodoxy and which is why until the recent rise in interest rates, they managed to get by with only rates such as 0.1% a year. Of course, I know that I am paying myself interest with my ‘own’ money but I find this little savings regime psychologically satisfying and a bit of thrift is not a habit to be ditched lightly.

As part of a commentary on social and cultural lives in the UK, a new approach has recently been undertaken to acertain where to draw the line between north and south in contemporary Britain. This approach looks at the distribution of fast food stores and notes where ‘Pret a Manger’ gives way to ‘Greggs‘, the latter being judged to be much more proletarian and hence ‘northern’ A similar analysis has also been done but this time using the distribution of ‘Waitrose‘ versus ‘Morrisons‘ supermarkets as a cultural marker. But more importantly than all of this is a report that has been prepared by the TUC as part of its submission to the COVID enquiry. The report details how the years of austerity made major cuts to each of the necessary parts of the social fabric and hence, when COVID did strike, the necessary social infrastructure was ill-prepared to cope with it all. George Osborne and David Cameron as the relevant Prime Minister and Chancellor at the time who implemented the years of austerity are going to be asked to give evidence to the COVID enquiry. I am not sure at this stage whether they will be subject to a stringent barrister-led investigation of their role but this might be quite an interesting ‘calling to account’ that will be worth listening to when it eventually happens, probably in the Autumn. I also heard a rumour recently that the timetable for the subjects that the COVID enquiry is due to undertake so that ‘lessons can be learnt’ has been adjusted so that the ‘success’ of the pandemic such as the developmemnt of effective vaccines will be discussed first but the preparedness of the NHS and the Care sector in residential homes for the elderly might not now be heard until after the next election. On the face of it, this seems like drawing the teeth of the enquiry before it has even started its work. We are still unsure who will win the tussle between the Chairman of the enquiry and the government over the release of un-redacted WhatsApp nessages. A much wider question remains, of course, what the government was doing allowing the background to critical decisions being conducted using the medium of WhatsApp in the first place rather than using more bespoke secure government systems.