Tuesday, 26th December, 2023

[Day 1380]

Well, with Christmas Day well and truly out of the way, it is now time to enjoy the rest of the holiday. Last night, though, when Meg was safely in bed, it allowed me to enjoy a couple of episodes of ‘Father Ted’ which, in its eccentricity, is always so enjoyable. Actually, the secretary to the chaplain of the Catholic Society when we were students in Manchester was not a million miles away from the character of ‘Mrs Doyle’. But I did read an interesting, and most touching, email from one of my former Erasmus students with whom we have been in close contact over the years. She had recently just lost her husband who, as her PhD Supervisor, was probably several years older than her but with whose loss she was still coming to terms. But she seemed to have promoted to a senior position in her University in Madrid for which I was enormously pleased. Last night, I sent her a fairly long email detailing how Meg and I spend our days and adding a few words of my recollections of her husband and the kindnesses he had shown towards me when I doing my term of teaching in Spain. This morning after I discussed the original email and my reply with Meg, we thought it would be a marvellous idea to invite our long lasting friend to come over to England to visit us if she has the inclination and can afford the time in her next vacation which will be at Easter. I pointed out how she could meet with our friends, visit some interesting places and then have a generally relaxing time. The only thing is that I would prefer to have a week in Spain next Easter rather than the other way around so I await her reply with interest. Today, we had a luncheon date with our University of Birmingham friend but first we called in at a local garage to collect our copy of ‘The Times‘’ (‘Waitrose‘ being closed). Then we went for a little spin in the park which we have not visited for quite some time now. No sooner had we parked, than we ran into of our ‘park friends’ who has a magnificent labradoodle and who spotted us in our new car. As it happened, he had a slightly different model of Honda which he had changed quite recently and so we spent a few minutes extolling the virtues of Honda technology to each other and indicating our loyalty to the brand.

In order to get to our friend, we needed to program the SatNav which we did sort of by accident, not having programmed an address into it before. Having entered the address, there seemed to be no way of pressing ‘Return’ or otherwise entering the information supplied into the system. I have noticed with some other forms of electronic entry, particularly on the TV, that it sometimes seems difficult to find a ‘Return’ or a ‘Enter’ key so had to try almost a random combination of keys with symbols on to get the information entered. Anyway, we got to our friends on time and then had a wonderful meal that he had prepared for us of a Hungarian Goulish. I am pleased to say that the ‘Beronia’ rioja that we had taken along really lived up to expectations and was streets ahead of the wine that we had for our Christmas lunch yesterday. We agreed that we would find an opportunity to reciprocate our friend’s hospitality by inviting him and his new found friend along as soon as we could arrange something and I shall enjoy cooking another special type meal when I am given the opportunity. Before we went out on the road today, I called on our next door neighbour to see if they would be available tomorrow afternoon. As it happens they were free (quite unusually as they have lots of family and always seem very occupied over the Christmas period) So we made an appointment for our neighbours to call round tomorrow afternoon and they promised to bring some supplies of Christmas cake with them. I joked that we had run out of mince pies which was just as well as our neighbour confessed to not really liking them.

I heard on the news this afternoon that big retailers like ‘John Lewis‘, ‘Waitrose‘ and ‘Marks and Spencer‘ had decided not to open today despite Boxing Day being the day when frantic sales used to start. It was not unusual in the 1970’s for people to queue in the cold all Christmas Day to get the bargains on offer in the big department stores but those have gone. Firstly, we seem to be living in an era of perpetual sales and discounts. But secondly, retailers have worked out that with severely cut living standards and a lot of money already spent on Christmas food there is precious little left in the collective buying population for much sales-related purchasing so they are adopting a strategy to conserve their resources and maximise their returns. Their dilemma is that further discounting will only reduce their already strained profit margins even further. I think that quite a lot of families have got a little savvy and used the January period to buy things that they needed to replace sometime but discounted prices were always available in January and perhps February as well.