Thursday, 18th January, 2024

[Day 1403]

Thursday is my shopping day and things were slightly fraught this morning as I needed to cope with the sequelae of an overnight temperature of -6 degrees, plus the fact that a crucial access road that we use to get around Bromsgrove is blocked off which means that I have join a traffic queue of two thirds of a mile long to get anywhere. But these annoyances having been negotiated, I got the shopping done expeditiously and then joined queues to get back home again. When the weather is as cold as this, I have started to put on a windscreen protector on the car, held in place by rubber mats and these always help to allay the worst of the frost. Then it is a case of hot water in a specially designated long-spout watering can to clear the windscreens before I set off. Today, dawn was just about breaking as I left for the supermarket but by the time I got there it was half light. I tell myself that with a bit of luck, if the sunrise starts about two minutes earlier per day, then I might manage the trip to the supermarket in the light next week when I do the weekly shop. I had just about got back when the carer allocated to us on a Thursday turned up one hour earlier than we really wanted or needed – the carer herself realised that the start time they had allocated here was probably wrong and had texted them to this effect but the information had not really got through to those responsible for the staff allcation each day. The carer on a Thursday is a Pyschology graduate so we often have extended chats about matters which of interest to us both. Once she had departed, the sky was blue and the air was clear so we decided to make a trip to Droitwich to our favourite cafe where we indulged in our usual pot of tea and a bacon butty on large, chunky brown bread. We normally finish our little trip to the shop run by Worcestershire Association of Carers and today was no exception. We did purchase one item which was quite a pretty silvered dish which I bought as a present for our friend who is going to be 90 years old tomorrow. If she does not happen to like it, I am sure she will have a relative to whom she can pass it on. We may or may not see her tomorrow but if not there is always Saturday and failing that, next Tuesday.

This afternoon, I wondered what film I might try to access in order to keep Meg entertained. After a false start, I thought I would try and see if YouTube had a suitable Thomas Hardy film and found ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles‘ which is a story that I know reasonably well. We watched about one half of the film but, as it is quite a long one, decided to cut it short about half way through so that we can watch the second half another day. When Meg and I used to go on extended holidays in January in Salobreña, Southern Spain I located a copy of this Thoms Hardy novel in the hotel’s book collection and read it avidly. I was particularly interested in the final few pages because the sister of Tess and Tess’s one time ‘amante’ walk up the slope of a hill in Winchester called West Hill, half way up which is Winchester gaol. In this gaol Tess is to be executed and the pair observe the black flag flown when there is an execution. Now it happens that King Alfred’s College which was to become the University of Winchester (where I worked for ten years) is built on the slopes of West Hill and I used to walk through the grounds of the West Hill cemetery (more of a park than a cemetery these days) on my way to college. So I feel that there is quite a connection between the final pages of the novel and the scenes over West Hill that I used to walk and knew quite well.

Last night, the vote took place on the government’s Rwanda bill and, as I had anticipated, many of the Tory rebels drifted away from voting against their own government when it came to it. In popular parlance they had ‘bottled it’ and the government won by a fairly comfortable majority. The bill having got through the Commons now passes to the House of Lords which is where the fun is going to start. One of the (very few) virtues of un unelected second chamber in our parliament is that members are not always looking over their shoulder having to appease an electorate who might might turf them out if they did note vote the ‘right’ way. Consequently, the House of Lords has many independently minded members, irrespective of party, and the whipping system is very much more light touch than the Commons. So the Lords may not feel they could refuse to pass the bill but they might pass so many amendments that it emerges an entirely different creature from the one that was passed to them by the Commons. The Commons then has to decide which, of the probably many, amendments to accept or reject and then the consitutional game of ‘ping-pong’ starts in which the bill is batted backwards and forwards between the Lords and the Commons. My own feeling is that the Bill is probably doomed and the Lords will have no truck with any legislation that will make the UK a laughing stock and the only European country apart from Russia and Belarus that does not accept the jurisdiction and the rulings of the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights – nothing to do with the European Community but largely drafted by British lawyers at the end of the second World War)