Saturday, 17th June, 2023

[Day 1188]

So Saturday dawned on what we suspected might be quite a busy day. When we first woke up, the weather was a bit gloomy and drizzly so after breakfast, we decided to give the park a miss this morning. Instead, we decided to make a little trip out to Droitwich which we have not visited for a week or so. We had our normal coffee and teacake and then came home to think about lunch. Just before we went out, we had a telephone call from our Italian friend who lives down the road. I thought we had an arrangement for her to call around yesterday in the afternoon but she thought the arrangement was for the morning, when we happened to be out. So we failed to coincide on this occasion so had a quick conversation to make our number with each other. This afternoon, there were two jobs that I knew I needed to get done. The first, and major, job was to start the preparation of the boeuf bourguignon for tomorrow’s meal. This involve some frying of the meat, followed by the lardons and then laced with some chopped onions, garlic, tomato puree, a bottle full of wine and the bay leaves and thyme. This then went into the slow cooker where I am cooking it for about eight hours. There will be some further finishing off tomorrow with the shallots and a further bit of cooking but at least we are half way there. I had just about finished putting all of the ingredients to bed and into the slow cooker when our domestic help called around. She presented me with a freshly ironed shirt (a present for Father’s Day?) and some more ranekins in which to cook and serve the special starter I am to prepare tomorrow. This involves smoked salmon topped with a cream and egg yoke mixture which cooks in a bain-marie in the oven for about half an hour. This sounds quite ambitious for me but our domestic help assures me that it will cook easily and taste wonderful. After the cooking was done, I needed to get a border sorted out which was an eyesore. I have demarcated the dividing line between the border itself and a lawn with a number of large, rounded pebbles to form an attractive ‘dividing line’ These had become overgrown through the years so I had to dig them out, get the border straightened and a gully formed and then replace the decorative stones. This worked out practically as I intended but I was rather working at pace trying to get it done and for this corner of the garden to look a little more tended so that if were to have coffee outside tomorrow, the garden looks a little more presentable. Of course, we go to church in the late afternoon on Saturdays which, given the business of the rest of the day might be a period of some quiet contemplation and relief. After the televised cricket this evening, which Meg and I enjoy watching, there may be time for us to a least start to watch the first act of an opera but we shall have to see how we feel.

This morning as we were in the car, I heard a consumer report on Radio 4 which I think concerned access to the HMRC service. Apparently, they have (if I heard the report correctly) about a million visitors to their phone lines in the three months of the summer months and under these circumstances, you would have thought that HMRC might have thought about the extra resources needed to meet the demand. But they indicated that they intended to close the phone lines and were going to direct everybody to use web-based resources. Their argument was that they needed to conserve their precious ‘phone call access’ to those people who could not use the web. HMRC seemed oblivious to the fact that half of the people who were phoning them had tried to get the answers to their questions using the website and having failed at this were then driven by desperation to attempt a phone call for which they had to wait a very long time to get answered, if it was answered at all. All of this I found quite shocking and I suppose it was self evident to them that they did not have the staff resources to answer queries and therefore directed callers to a website.

Some really shocking video clips have emerged today Conservative staff were filmed partying at their London headquarters during the height of the COVID lockdown. The new footage, obtained by ‘The Mirror‘, shows Tory Party staff at a Christmas party dancing, drinking and joking about Covid restrictions while lockdown rules were in place in December 2020. Two of those at the party were among people awarded peerages in Boris Johnson’s honours list. These revelations are only go to add to the anger of those families who were not allowed to see their relatives when then they had to die alone of COVID in hospital. The official COVID enquiry has already been accused of giving insufficient weight to the concerns of bereaved relatives and the emergence of this further evidence is only going to infuriate them even more. What is particularly galling is that not only were these Tories not observing social distancing but were filmed drinking, dancing and generally cavorting during the lockdown.