Wednesday, 24th January, 2024

[Day 1409]

Today the pair of carers turned up for Meg very promptly and we had scarcely woken up before it was time for their ministrations. They are always so cheerful despite having to dash from pillar to post every morning and we were commiserating over a colleague who had just crashed and written off her car which she was going to have to replace. Carers are probaly only paid the minimum wage so to have one’s car written off when it is essentiual for you to get from job to job must be a trouble indeed. After we had breakfasted and digested some of the day’s news, we set out on the road both to collect our newspaper (our regular newsagent not quite having got his act together with the new owners taking over) and to fill the car up with petrol. You would have thought this was easy but most of the pumps that allowed easy access to the fuel tank opening on the passenger’s side seemed unaccountably to be out of action. But we got filled up after a certain amount of waiting around and then made for the Methodist Centre for our mid morning cup of coffee and teacakes. Once inside, we were greeted warmly by someone we know well from our own church and for whom it just happened to be their rostered day serving the tea and coffee. Then we saw our 90-year old friend that we helped in a minor way to celebrate her birthday on Friday last and another opportunity for a good chat. We also got into conversations with a gentleman who had been recruited into the Army Apprentices Corps which was based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. As residents of Harrogate, we got used to seeing waves of young 16-17 year recruits turn up at the railway sation and then be whipped away to their barracks elsewhere in the town. We wondered whether we might have passed each other in the street before we ever knew each other. The Methodist cafe was particularly full today because in an adjacent hall there is a type of ‘Balance and Keep Fit’ session organised in several classes on a Wednesday morning and we just happened to coincide with a period where one class ended and the other was about to start, so this always ceates a crowd at change-over time. Meg and I left before 12.00pm which meant that we get home in time for ‘Questions to the Prime Minister’, which is, of course, the usual knockabout and over-rehearsed stuff. But a senior Conservative has come out into the open and publically criticised Rishi Sunak’s leadership, arguing that the Conservative party is facing a meltdown in the general election which surely must come some time this year. The Conservative party really is in panic mode right now and althouugh no other MPs were ready to thrust their heads above the parapet and argue that Rishi Sunak should be replaced, it is rumoured that quite a lot of Tory MPs privately feel that both they and the party as a whole are doomed.

This afternoon, we made a lighning visit into Worcester to pick up a parcel and found the distance both closer than we thought and the whole journey comparatively easy. But we had to endure roadworks at both end of our journey in both Worcester and Bromsgrove which adds to the length of the journey. But having made our trip it was good to get back in plenty of time for the wheely bins to be wheeled to the end of our drive. This is a weekly job which I must prefer doing in the daylight whilst I can. This afternoon, we accessed YouTube and watched a concert put on initially by a Dutch group called ‘Voces8’ They specialise in baroque choral pieces but they also are strong on modern master pieces by Faure, which tends to start off the concert. When we access YouTube, we tend to start off with Faure’s ‘Cantiques de Jean Racine’ but the YouTube algorithm chooses a slightly different selection of works each day, which suits us greatly. This afternoon, for example, we found ourselves listening to some of the choruses from J S Bach’s Matthew Passion, which we greatly enjoyed.

The news has come through today that the Royal Mail service is under investigation to determine its future role and funding. The backdrop to this story is that the Royal Mail is losing money and the number of letters has dropped significantly from about 14 million items a day to about 7 million. Evidently, people are using email and a variety of social media so it is not surprising that with its business halving, the letters part of Royal Mail is now in a dire state. One suggestion is that to balance the books, it may be necessary to move to three deliveries a week. But nothing much is likely to happen in the very short term because the major recipient of postal services are the elderly and the thought of offending this key part of the electorate before an election in the UK is anathema. But any new government will have to take some very unpalatable decisions – as first class stamps now cost about £1.25 the scope for further price rises may well be limited. Meg and I are both part of the generation where we worked on the Christmas post in a variety of locations – Meg in Staffordshire and I worked in Harrogate, Leeds and also Manchester delivering the post. I have vivid memories of bacon butties being cooked on a shiny steel shovel over a brazier in a sorting office in Leeds in 1966. But these opportunities were denied to students when preference was given to the unemployed and now the number of extra staff taken on by the Post Office at Christmas time must be very small.