Saturday, 24th June, 2023

[Day 1195]

This morning, after a slow breakfast, Meg and I went on the road and first we collected our Saturday newspaper. After that, we went round to Aldi where I noticed when I did the shopping the other day that they were offering some bags of a decorative garden stone which went by the glamorous name of ‘Cotswold Cream’ The little border that I resurrected the other day could benefit, I feel, from a little beatifying and I had these white/cream stones in mind with our domestic help confirming my view that this would be a good idea. It should take a minute or so to get these little stones into position and when there is a fine spell tomorrow, I will seize the opportunity. When we eventually got home, I purchased a couple of items on eBay and then started to think about an early lunch. In view of the heat, this was a salad with quite a lot of ingredients and we certainly felt more than satisfied after it. We had a reason for an early lunch, because the church we attend each Saturday evening is playing a host this afternoon to what is known as a ‘bite size’ classical concert. This is part of the Bromsgrove festival which started today and carries on for the next month. There are a series of artistic and cultural events but the whole is not particularly well publicised to date. This afternoon’s concert is a repeat of last years in which a local violinist of some repute and her father as accompanist put on a program that lasted for an hour. It started with some Elgar and contained some Stravinsky but practically all the pieces bar one or two were known to us, probably having had a play on ClassicFM. The concert was very much appreciated by the patrons, many of whom were regular attenders at the church in any case. On the way out, a collection was taken for a local project which caters for the needs of young, homeless adolescents and it looked as thougb everyone had been generous in their contributions. After the concert, there was a general invitation to have tea and cakes in the parochial hall. Meg wobbled her way to a table and there we were joined by another couple who also normally attend the Saturday evening service and in the course of the conversation, it transpired that the husband had been a lecturer at Coventry University. We exchanged some pleasant reminisciencies about the kinds of issues we both faced in our times of university employment and then it it was time to go. We had a few spare cakes put in our direction and we went home for about half an hour before returning to the church for our normal Saturday service.

As we watched some of the lunchtime news reports, it appeared that a military coup was taking place in Russia. One of the pecularities of the present conflict in the Uraine is that the Russians have practically subcontracted some of the hardest fighting to a group of mercenaries in a faction known as the Wagner group and led by Yevgeny Prigozhin. The latter commanded a group that was small compared with Russian forces but very much battle hardened. It looked as Prigozhin’s convoy was heading towards Moscow and one could anticipate a coup in progress. But when we got back from the concert, the situation has completely turned around. Prigozhin had reversed his troops’ onwards march towards Moscow on the reasoning that there no reason to shed Russian blood. The mercenaries. and Prigozhin himself are relocating to Belarus. The bloodcurdlng threats or proseuction for treason made by Putin seem to have been dropped and we have now what is a classic stand-off. It also looks as Alexander Lukashenko, often described as Europe’s last dictator, is the disputed president of Belarus. He has led the country as president for nearly 29 years, assuming office in July 1994. But it looks as thougn Putin may have had a narrow escape and we shall just have to wait and see what unfolds over the next few days. Whether the Ukrainians can profit from all of this confusion is hard to say but certainly Putin is starting to look quite vulnerable. As always, tomorrow’s newspapers may be relied upon to give more analysis in depth to this rapidly evolving international scene.

Last night, I received quite an unexpected phone call from my sister who lives in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. We now have a new addition to the family as the daughter of one of my nieces (does that make her a grand-niece?) has given birth to a baby boy and although the baby arrived a few days early, all the indications are that the child is healthy. It could be that in a few week’s time, Meg and I will journey to Yorkshire for a few day’s holiday as we feel in need of a little break and all around us, family and friends, seem to making holiday plans. Whenever we go up to Harrogate where I spent most of my youth until I was about 18 years old, I wonder if I will ever bump into anybody that I ever knew at school but it has not happened yet and perhaps it never will.