Tuesday, 27th June, 2023

[Day 1198]

Meg and I always look forward to Tuesdays because it is the day when we usually meet friends in the Waitrose café. Having picked up our newspaper, we braved the rain and the car park was absolutely teeming for no apparent reason. But later on, we noticed part of a funeral party so we wondered if the local undertakers had advised members of the funeral party to park at Waitrose becaue once we set foot inside the store, things were pretty quiet. We met up with our practically 90 year old chorister and, as we had not met for about three weeks with holiday and other commitments, needed some updating with my various keyboarding activities. She was very supportive and encouraging even though she herself cannot play as well as formerly as an arthritic finger is getting in the way. Another regular friend brought along more than the normal punnet load of strawberries to share between us. We gave these a rinse, de-stalked them and then put on a light scattering of sugar and had them with vanilla icecream for our tea this evening- and they were delicious. I said I would bring along some of my own gooseberries that I picked and topped and tailed the other day so that the pleasures of our own produce can be shared around a little. When we departed, I needed to buy a few provisions in the store and then we repaired to home so that I could get ready for my Pilates class later on in the day. This class went as normal with the regular four of us (this particular class is quite small and select) and then I got home to prepare our meal of fishcakes. Apart from a smattering of rain between 9am and 10am this morning, it has been cloudy and hence gloomy practically every hour of the day. Sometimes days start off like this and there there is a burst of late afternoon sunshine but not today where we experienced unremitting gloom.

Today, it has been Matt Hancock’s turn to give evidence to the COVID enqiry. As he was Health Secretary during the most critical parts of the pandemic, his evidence was more than especially important. According to Sky News, families who lost loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic have turned their backs on Matt Hancock as he tried to apologise to them at the COVID inquiry. In fact, the cry of ‘Murderer’ rang out when he tried to approach bereaved families. The former health secretary approached the public gallery after giving evidence, and admitting that the UK’s approach to planning for pandemics was ‘completely wrong’. Matt Hancock was forced to resign when he was shown in a clinch with a lover (for whom he had wangled some employment) in complete contravention of the COVID lockdown rules. Some of the soundbites from the Hancock evidence is notworthy. He admitted it was a ‘colossal’ failure to assume the virus spreading could not be stopped. Under questioning from Covid Inquiry counsel member KC Hugo Keith, Mr Hancock stressed that the ‘attitude, the doctrine of the UK was to plan for the consequences of a disaster’. He said the government was focused on different questions, such as whether they could buy enough body bags and where the dead were to be buried.

The ramifications of the attempted rebellion in Russia are gradually come to light. In the midst of several claims and counterclaims, it does appear that the Russian military suffered losses of aircraft at the hand of the rebels. One large military plane and about six helicopters had been downed by the rebels which is quite a feat considering that the Ukrainian forces could not inflict similar damage upon the Russian miliary machine. Meanwhile, the Wagner group, with their leader, seem to have relocated to an abandoned military base in Belarus and one can only wonder how two authoritarian leaders and their respective armies will co-exist. We have seen in Sudan what happens when groups of armed militia roam the streets whilst the warlords fight it out for some kind of supremacy. Whether Putin feels safer than he was, now that potentially rebellious forces happen not to be in Russia itself but in a client state such as Belarus, is an interesting question. It could be that if Putin is overthrown, then the consequences for the Ukraine and other states such as Moldova and Latvia are not particularly good. In this very volatile situation, almost anything can happen and all that the West can do is to sit back and watch with a kind of fascinated horror.

The NHS disputes are rumbling on. The latest ballot of nurses failed to produce the majority required by law for further rounds of strikes. On the other hand, it looks as hospital consultants themselves are shortly to take strike action arguing that even with their relatively high level of pay, the erosion to their salaries in real terms over the past few years is even more severe than that of the nurses. It might well be that those medics who are on the verge of consultancy status may themselves feel very tempted to emigrate to the old ‘white’ commonwealth countries where rewards for their efforts seem so much higher (and probably work less stressful as well)