Friday, 12th January, 2024

[Day 1397]

Today being a Friday we pop into our Friday routines. As Friday is one of the days when the two, always cheerful carers, call around to attend to Meg, I was pleased to see them absolutely on cue. I was rather appalled when one of them told me that she was feeling a little tired as yesterday she had started work at about 6.00am in the morning and not finished until 10.40 at night. What makes things even worse for carers, especially first thing in th morning, is that they have to cope with rush hour pressures when there always seem to be huge queues of traffic through Bromsgrove first thing in the morning. What is going to make things worse is that a major trunk road that runs through Bromsgrove and is used by a lot of the resident population, is being subject to a £ multi-million upgrade and, in the opinion of many of the residents of the town and the local newspaper, this may mean months of disruption with no discernible benefits in the meanwhile. Then the carers left and our domestic help arrived so it proved to be quite a busy morning. But we did manage to sort out some old clothing to lighten the wardrobe a little which means that we will pay a visit to our local charity shop before e’er long to dispose of the same. After we had breakfasted and then chatted, our University of Birmingham friend phoned to arrange a coffee rendez-vous in Waitrose, which, of course, we accepted with complete alacrity. After we got home, we had a quiet half hour on our newish two-seater settee before I cooked a lunch of haddock pie which is a fairly typical Friday dish for us.

This afternoon’s news is dominated by the joint attack by British and American forces against the Houthis rebels in Yemen who had rather indulged themselves attacking shipping in the Red Sea. Whatever the justifications for the retaliatory attacks, it has certainly extended the Middle East conflict beyond the confines of Israel-Gaza which is the fear of many foreign affairs commentators. Of course, this may have the effect of reducing the strength and/or the resolve of the Houthis but I do get the horrible feeling that this may go badly wrong for the West. It is being said that the Houthis are acting as proxies for Iran as they both have Shia populations and have an undying hatred of Israel. Our University of Birmingham friend and ourselves were discussing all of the ramifications of this as we were having our coffee this morning. We often find that our independently derived opinions are often quite closely aligned on issues like this. We both agreed with each other that whilst Israel has the absolute right to defend itself, the ‘kill-ratio’ of Palestinian versus Israeli lives lost might now be running at a rate of about 10-1. The net effect of this may well be to stir up resentments and hatreds for decades in the future. If a Palestinian youth, aged 10, lives for 75 years beyond an age of 10 then by this calculation, this is as long as the state of Israel has been in existence which is also 75 years from 1948 to the present. The South African government has recently taken the step of accusing Israel in the International Court of Human Rights of the crime of genocide. There is a panel of distinguished judges drawn from a series of nations who may well take years to both hear the case and then to make a final and definitive ruling. But there is a possibility that they may come to an interim and provisional judgement (perhaps on the grounds of ‘Is there a case to answer’) within quite a short space of time measured in weeks and this may have the effect of requesting the state of Israel to call for an immediate ceasefire. Israel itself will probably ignore such a ruling but the position taken by the UK and the American governments is much less certain so this may prove to be quite an interesting development in the whole conflict. Actually, I would have preferred to be watching any further coverage of the Post Office scandal but I suppose the continuous media such as Sky will always have the tendency to follow something visually exciting (such as war planes being launched, bombs being dropped) rather than something as dry and undramatic such as the examination of a Post Office witness.

There is a current news item which gives one pause for thought. A survey by the British Retail Consortium this year found levels of shoplifting in 10 major cities had risen by an average of 27% compared with 2022, costing businesses £1.76 billion over a 12-month period. It is also reported that some supermarkets are equipping their staff with body cameras to capture images of shop lifting. This is surely a sad commentary on the state of affairs in contemporary Britain but even my local Aldi has resorted to putting special anti-theft devices, which used to be reserved for bottle of spirits, to be now utilised on joints of meat that used to be the weekend roast. The staff in my local Waitrose infom me that shoplifting has risen substantially but they tend to know who the main culprits are by now. But they have resorted to utilising special security staff at the weekends rather than during the week (when presumambly the staff are less busy and therefore shoplifters easier to spot and to challenge)