Wednesday, 4th October, 2023

[Day 1297]

Today has turned out to be the most interesting of days so far. We knew that the major highlight of the day was going to be the lunch to which we had been invited with friends down the Kidderminster Road. After I had made a quick journey into town to collect our newspaper and some supplies from Waitrose, Meg and I needed to decide how to spend the morning before our lunch date. We wondered whether to make a trip to the park as we have not been for several days now or whether there was an alternative venue to capture our interest. We decided, almost on the spur of the moment, to visit a special ‘drop in’ centre and coffee bar organised by the local Methodist church in Bromsgrove. One of our church friends who we know quite well we had seen yesterday in our local church hall where we had a sort of social afer the service yesterday indicated to us that she worked in the drop in centre on Wednesdays so we decided to give it a go. We took the wheelchair and parked in the adjacent local authority car park before we embarked upon this new venture. As soon as we got in, we got to a table labelled as the ‘chatty’ table and quickly made our number both with our church friend and also with one of the regular Waitrose Tuesday gang so within a minute or so of entering, there were two people whom we already knew. The crowd on the table were quite a jolly and friendly group and we soon got into conversation (assisted by a few jokes) and availed ourselves of coffee at £1 a cup and toast at 30p a round (making a dramatic change from Waitrose). We chatted for quite a long time with a lady who had spent several years in Yorkshire after her husband died but eventually returned to her roots here in Bromsgrove. Later on in the morning, we were joined at the table by a couple of Police Community Support Officers. We learned from them that it is now part of their role to make their presence felt in local community centres and the like and people are encouraged to come to them with their little problems. They probably acted most of the time as a signposting agency and, as I suspected, many of the day-to-day problems with which they had to deal were people with mental health difficulties. I was reminded of an article I read whilst a university student entitled ‘The Police as a Social Service’ and this was an ethnographic piece of work in which policemen were followed around for the study period and most of the time they are actually dealing with issues that could be described as social rather than criminal. The time seemed to fly by and so the time came for us to leave but with a resolve to probably go there every Wednesday from now on. At least, it it a source of additional social contacts with whom we can have some conversations and it will be interesting to see which groups of people we may come across in the future. It may be that there is even more convenient parking available to us once we get the layout of the Methodist centre in our heads.

And so, we arrived home for a few minutes respite before we set off down the road for a lunch date with our friends. They were very solicitous and caring for Meg and we had a wonderful couple of hours in their company, which we always enjoy. We dined on a lovely meal of pork prepared with some delicate spices and served upon rice and with a little salad, followed by home made apple pie and ice cream. Talking of apples, I looked to see how this years crop of apples are doing on the trees planted several years ago on the borders of our communal green area and was delighted to see that we had quite a good crop of really quite large apples (of a variety called ‘Jonathan’ as I recall) So I picked just the ‘low hanging fruit’ and kept some for ourselves taking the rest down to our friends. Meg and I sampled one apple that had been pecked a bit by birds and ate it with some cheese which is a favourite way in which we enjoy apples.

I know today has been a day of big political announcements but I have yet to find time to sit down and absorb the implications of it all. The HS2 leg from Birmingham to Manchester has now been abandoned amidst quite a backlash from northern mayors and former Prime Ministers who all think the cancellation is a colossal mistake. Rishi Sunak is promising to divert the HS2 money to a project called Network North which seems to have been an instant plan dreamed up in the last few days in hotel bedrooms in Manchester and this is intended as a sop to quell the inevitable disappointments. The terminal is now going to be in Euston which was, after all, the initial plan and the political narrative seems to be to argue that connecting up a lot of the Northern cities is going to be better value than a high speed link with the capital. What will be interesting to observe is how big a political backlash there is likely to be (and who knows what the reaction of the City and other institutional investors might be.)