Sunday, 10th December, 2023

[Day 1364]

Today dawned as one of the wettest and most miserable days imaginable and having made our early morning cup of tea, we promptly fell asleep again. However, we both felt that we had a good night’s sleep which is particularly important for Meg. By the time we had got ourselves up, washed and breakfasted, we had even missed the Lorna Kuenssberg show so we listened for a while to Trevor Philips on Sky News. Then we received a telephone call from our University of Birmingham friend to indicate that he could not see us this morning so we set up a coffee date for 2.00pm in Waitrose, one of the few places that we can guarantee to be open on a Sunday afternoon. This left us with the prospect of how to fill the morning but we were not too unhappy about a stay in the house as it seemed to be raining cats and dogs outside. Almost by accident, we stumbled across an ITV programme hosted by Alan Titchmarch called ‘Love your Weekend’ which runs for the best part of a couple of hours. This was a very gentle form of TV but we found it pretty engaging nonetheless. When we first tuned in, Keir Starmer was being interviewed not as a ‘political’ interview per se but more as a reflection upon his own life and times. After that there was an interview with Penelope Keith including some of the funniest clips from ‘The Good Life’, including the one where Margot refused to wear a Christmas party hat made from a copy of the ‘Daily Mirror‘ but would consent to one if it happened to be the ‘Daily Telegraph‘. After that, there was a feature on non-alcoholic cocktails to try at this time of year which was interesting enough. I must say that the presentational manner and even timbre of the voice of Alan Titchmarch is well suited to this type of magazine format (and I even like the same style when I hear him as a presenter on ‘ClassicFM‘). We had put some beef into our slow cooker to cook throughout the morning but we felt as though we needed to change our plans. So I relocated the beef from the slow cooker to the conventional oven and, this way, we could have a Sunday lunch and just about get things cleared away before our afternoon coffee date. We got down to Waitrose to see our University of Birmingham friend at 2.00pm and arrived just about five minutes late. As we had not met for a fortnight and we had a fairly eventful time during the past few days, we had quite a lot of catching up to do. We both scoped out for ourselves the various activities in which we were both engaged and then made tentative plans to meet each other next weekend.

After a very pleasant chat we got ourselves home, we got ourselves home and fortunately the rain had stopped. We started watching a YouTube showing of Brahm’s ‘A German Requiem‘ and were really enjoying this when the dreaded ‘buffering’ problem emerged when the program seems to freeze and the only thing you can do is to tune away and then tune back in some minutes later. I wonder whether YouTube might be more prone to this on Sunday afternoons when there is a lot of demand for downloaded video. On consulting the TV schedules for this evening, there is going to be a showing of one of the classic versions of ‘Pride and Prejudice‘ from 6.00pm until about 9.00pm. We think that we may do under these circumstances is to get Meg all prepared for dropping into bed but watch it together in the comfort of our normal lounge where a gas fire supplements the central heating during a spell of cold weather. This means that Meg may go to bed an hour later than normal but if she can stay awake and is enjoying it – otherwise, I can always bundle her up into a warm bed and carry on watching it myself downstairs.

The next week is going to be quite a busy one for myself with one thing or another so we may not be able to follow all of the political news with our usual intensity. We think that Tuesday is going to be a critical day because Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, will probably start to give evidence to the COVID-19 enquiry. Tuesday as well is probably the date then a critical vote on the revised ‘Rwanda’ legislation is going to be taken in the House of Commons. A few days beforehand, there is intense speculation whether the rebels on the Tory Right will stage an out-and-out rebellion or vote for the bill through gritted teeth and reserve their fight for the Committee stages of the legislation. I think that many people have forgotten how Boris Johnson was faced with a similar problem when trying to get Brexit legislation through the Commons. His solution was brutal but simple, namely to withdraw the whip (i.e. throw out of the party) any who did not agree with the legislation and in this way many outstanding and extremely competent members of the Commons (David Gauke, Anna Soubrey for example) were effectively despatched. Of course such MPs still remain MPs and might feel inclined to force a vote in the House of Commons effectively bringing an end to the present government and precipitating an early general election. But the very hackneyed expression comes to mind at this point which is, simply this : ‘Do turkeys vote for Christmas?’

The situation in Gaza seems to become more dire with every day that passes. We now have the prospect of mass starvation ans an almost complete breakdown in the social order. Now that the north of Gaza has been so heavily bombarded and the citizens encouraged by the Israelis to flee to the south of Gaza, these areas are also subject to the most severe bombardment. I think I saw an estimate recently that about one quarter of the entire infrastructure of Gaza has already been destroyed and the Israelis unless constrained by the Americans may try to fight on for months yet. Another, terrible alternative is that there is hand-to-hand fighting actually within the tunnels that the inhabitants of Gaza have dug all over the place. The loss of live is almost too terrible to contemplate and, of course, some of the casualties are bound to be the Israeli hostages that Gaza is keeping hidden in the tunnels.