Wednesday, 29th November, 2023

[Day 1353]

We knew that we had no particular commitments on today so Meg were I looking forward to our visit to the Methodist coffee bar centre on which I think we missed out last week. As this centre does not open until 10.30, we decided to go out on the road before we had our morning coffee and parked the car at the top end of the High Street. Then we got Meg into her wheelchair and trundled around a few of the three or four charity shops that cluster around that end of the High Street. We were on the lookout for some cushion covers and after a fruitless search of the first few were eventually successful in obtaining half a dozen and also half a dozen fabric placemats that are sufficently large that they will serve as a small table cloth which is also what we wanted. Eventually, we got to the Methodist Centre where we bumped into two or three people that we already knew, two of them being part of our normal Tuesday crowd in Waitrose and the other a parisioner from our local church. We were greeted very warmly when we made our way through the double doors into the centre and although the ‘chatty’ table was already full, the other patrons of the coffee centre made room for us on the large table so that we could join them. We treated ourselves to some teacakes as well as our customary tea/coffee and had some jolly chats with some of the people around the table. One of them had actually worked in Harrogate for a couple of years as a civil servant so we had some topics of mutual interest to commence our chats before we moved on to other issues. Meg and I stayed for about an hour and Meg remarked how much she had enjoyed our social encounters in the morning (as indeed had I) so we journeyed back home in good heart. We had a fairly conventional lunch of ham, fine beans and baked potato but for one reason or another, it seemed particularly tasty today (perhaps because of the onion gravy I had prepared) so we were pleased to have dined well, in our opinion.

After we had had our lunch, I discussed with Meg the various little furnishing projects with which we have engaged whilst populating our Music Room with some appropriate furniture. In the main, we want our furniture to be both aesthetically pleasing but also functionally useful so sometimes, we feel the need, for example, to complement some of the items with seat pads in the case of wooden furniture. I hane not actually seem any seatpads in evidence at any of the charity shops but cushion covers seem to be fairly well represented in some of the shops. I then have to deplay a little ingenuity to make sure that I have a filling for the seatpad which is not too plump and ‘bouncy’ which can occur if you choose only a cushion for the purpose but I am quite pleased by the improvisations I have made on the past. In particular, I am very pleased with the items I have managed to adapt both our captain’s chair, our carver chair and now our recently acquired dining chair.

Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ for short) are generally very knockabout affairs which has become almost farcical recently as the anticipated questions, answers and jokes all seem to bear the hallmark of being well rehearsed beforehand. I only caught some of the résumés of todays PMQ as reported on Sky News but it did appear that Keir Starmer was using humour to devastating effect and, if I can read body language correctly, Richi Sunak seemed wounded by it. Keir Starmer was making the valid points that on immigration, NHS waiting times and the overall level of taxation, Rishi Sunak had promised to bear down on each of these but in each case the figures had gone up rather than down. In a thinly veiled reference to derogatory language used by James Cleverly, Keir Starmer jibed ‘It is ironic that he has suddenly taken such a keen interest in Greek culture. But he is clearly become the man with the reverse Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to… maybe the Home Secretary can help me out with this?’ This last reference was not lost on MPs as the Home Secretary was recently heard to mutter that the constituency of Stockton North was a ‘sh*thole’ although a sort of semi-apology has already been made concerning this. The select committee hearings are generally quite good to watch when civil servants as well as politicians are held to account. The red-wall Conservative MP Lee Anderson asked Home Office bosses about the number of failed asylum seekers that had been deported. What followed was excruciating because it was completely evident that they had no idea. At first there was a mumbled ‘We will have to write to you about this’ but when Lee Anderson persisted with the question asking for any kind of estimate e.g. in the last month or last year, then there was an embarrassed silence and shuffling of papers and answer came there none. There are two possible explanations here, one of which the officials had no idea at all whilst another is that they did not dare admit that the answer was zero i.e. that none one had actually been deported.