Sunday, 1st October, 2023

[Day 1294]

And so Sunday has come round once again but with the additional feeling that this is the first of the month. I did mutter ‘White rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits’ to my wife but she assumed that I was talking my usual nonsense. After our ablutions, I got us sitting in the Music Room where we listened to the Laura Kuennsberg political program amd she was interviewing Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister. She pressed him as far as she could to give an unequivocal answer to the fate of HS2 in which it has been heavily briefed that the Birmingham to Manchester link is going to be axed, making a complete mockery of the whole project. In response to this question, Sunak relied upon a formulaic form of words in which he declaims ‘We have spades in the ground’ which is meaningless and, of course, does nothing to answer the question. One of the studio guests was the impressionist, John Culshaw, who when asked his opinion of the interview said what the rest of the population must be feeling i.e. a master class in how never to respond to a direct question. Culshaw was then asked, and obliged, to give impressions of both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer which he did with great aplomb.

We were unsure what arrangements we were going to have this Sunday but after a quick phone call with our University of Birmingham friend, we decided to have a coffee and elevenses at Webbs garden stores, just three miles down the road. We collected our copy of the Sunday newspaper from Waitrose and then made for the eating area in Webbs, which is always tremendously busy on a Sunday morning and an evident meeting point for friends and relatives, as well as having an area where young children can bounce around on a variety of toy things. We reviewed the events of the last week with each other and somehow got onto the subject of the sexual behaviour of young couples. At this stage, I inadvertently uttered one of the funniest ‘bon mots’ for a long time. I was deploring the recent trend for couples to have sex with each perhaps on a first date and before they had even established that they particularly liked each other. I expressed the view, probably taken over from my Catholic upbringing, that I thought a young woman’s body should be a temple ‘and she should not allow access to it from any young man, willy nilly’ Incidentally, I thought I had better check on the current interpretation of the phrase ‘willy nilly’ and discovered the following. Although we more commonly use it nowadays to mean ‘haphazardly’, the origin centres around the first meaning. The early meaning of the word ‘nill’ was the opposite of ‘will’, as in ‘wanting to do something’. In other words, ‘nill’ meant ‘wanting to avoid doing something’. So, combining the two words – I am willing, I am unwilling – expresses the idea that it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other! We had a very enjoyable chat for about an hour before we decided to strike for home.

Just before lunch, we put on ‘YouTube‘ and stumbled into a concert that was being given by Anne-Sophie Mutter, with the proceeds going to the Ukraine. This sounded excellent but then lunch intervened, so we did not listen to it all the way through. Lunch was very easy to prepare today, as it happened. Meg’s cousin who we visited yesterday had prepared too much casserole for the four uf us to consume at one meal so she gave us a plastic container with the excess and we were delighted to eat it up for lunch today with only some broccoli to prepare and to eat alongside it. As it was, it was pretty filling and we didn’t quite finish it all. After lunch, we started to watch an André Rieu concert from the principal square in Maastricht. This was a themed concert, entitled ‘Love in Maastricht’ and I am not sure what time of year it was filmed although I know that these Rieu concerts are sometimes held over the Christmas period. This was a concert unlike any other that I have seen filmed. Before each piece, there were some words of explanation and context. Before one aria, for example, a young Brazilian soprano was explaining how much she missed her boyfriend and then fabulously attired and made up for the role as Madam Butterfly she sang the aria as though to her missing boyfriend. There was some fascinating cameras shots as members of the auduence were picked out, some of them with their eyes glistening with emotion and others evidently transported by the piece. There were lots of shots of couples exchanging kisses with each other and even three heavily pregnant members of the orchestra were interviewed as part of the performance. There was an explanation of the Strauss ‘Blue Danube’ walz which is not always to my taste but the whole concert was quite an emotional and compelling view. Whilst on this subject, I read an absolutely jaw-dropping piece in today’s Sunday Times which was describing how ill-behaved some modern theatre audiences were in this post-Covid period with what used to be occasional bouts of drunkeness, aggression and boorish behaviour not just an isolated occurrence but almost an everyday event with which theatre personnel are having to deal.