Saturday, 21st October, 2023

[Day 1314]

Meg and I were up slightly late this morning but we had both had a decent night's sleep so we were quite looking forward to the day ahead. Once we had got ourselves up, we knew that we would pop down into the Waitrose cafeteria to make contact with our normal Tuesday-cum-Saturday crowd so we even forgot about breakfast, thinking that we would probably treat us ourselves to some porridge and blueberries as part of the breakfast fare. We collected our newspaper and enquired after the health of our newsagent. He is going to have two hospital appointments next week, one of which at least is a discussion with a surgeon about a lung biopsy which is going to be performed. I can see that his wife is very worried about all of this going on (as indeed are we) but the least we can do is to hope that once within the hands of the medical profession, the diagnosis is not a poor one. I got Meg into the cafeteria with the aid of the wheelchair and met two of our normal friends there. The young assistant who is very friendly towards us and we engage in a light banter over her 'gooing' over a baby but when we teased her about this, it turned out to be one of her own relatives as members of her own family had come into the cafeteria for a Saturday morning treat. We thought that we stay having our breakfast and then start off our journey to Sutton Cheney which is a village about 45 miles away fom us but only two thirds of the distance into Leicester. We have an arrangement to see some long lasting friends that we have not actually seen since just before the pandemic so we know that we have lot of catching uo to do. The journey substantially involves a trip around Birmingham on the M42, followed by a stretch on the A5 and then roads off from that. Our Sat Nav indicated that should get there about half an hour before our lunch appointment which seemed fine to us as our friends in all probability would be there early and we knew we had a lot of catching up to do. But the journey around the M42 was nightmarishly slow and a lot of the time we were crawling along at a speed of some 15-20 mph. Apart from roadworks which always seems to be present somewhere long the M42 (including the preparations for HS2 where a lot of preparatory work is being undertaken) we think that an exhibition at the NEC might explain some of the delay- we did notice traffic wizzing along in the opposite direction. We did find out that this week is devoted to a Camping and Caravanning show which apparently is enormously popular. We noticed that the estimated time of arrival crept up from 12.35 to about 12.53. We did get that on time but were not surprised when our friends were not already there. In the hotel, there was evidently a huge wedding party in process so we had to make sure that we did not get entangled into it by mistake. Whilst we were waiting, though, and all of the guests dashed off to their special wedding breakfast meal, Meg and I kept the wolf from the door by snaffling some of the pre-dinner canapies evidently left over from the elebrations. Eventually, the friend who was the daughter turned up and we had some excited conversations waiting for her mother who eventually turned up half an hour late.But when she did arrive, we had so much to catch up on tht we did not sit down for our meal until 2.30 which is when the chef was ready for us even though, technically, the lunch date was 1.00pm. I dined on belly pork and Meg on cod - the food portions were not over large but the food itself was quite delicicous. In actual fact, we did not find the wait for our food at all irksome as we had ordered ourselves some drinks, snaffled some of the canapes and both informed the other of the important events in our lives in the last few years. In the case of our friends, it was principally job changes whereas for Meg and I it was healh-related issues. We carried on eating and chatting until it was time to go and it was now 5.00pm in the afternoon. The journey back, though, was so swift and uneventful that what had taken us an hour and a half in the morning only took about an hour on the way back home. Once we had got home and had some high quality soup for our afternoon tea, I prepared Meg for bed and we settled down to watch England vs. South Africa in the World Cup semi-final. England were almost universally regarded as the underdogs but outplayed the South Africans leading by about 12 points to 6 at half time. England were still about ten points ahead some 10 minutes before the end of the match but the South Africans scored the only try of the match some ten minutes before the end reducing the deficit to some two points. But the South African scrummaging was technically superior to the England team and they were awarded a series of scrum penalties in the last 20 minutes of the game. With two and a half minutes to go, the South Africans were awarded a scrum penalty from which they scored giving them victory over England by a single point. Nobody would have predicted some weeks ago that teams like France and Ireland would be knocked out in the quarter finals and that England would come within an ace of ending up in next's final which will now be New Zealand vs. South Africa. So complete heartbreak for England but they could scarcely have played better.