Friday, 26th January, 2024

[Day 1411]

Today started off bright and early as Meg’s carers turned up an hour earlier than we had anticipated so we had rather a rush around to get ourselves up and ready. Today is the day when our domestic help calls around and it is always nice to see her. But the weather today is bright and clear today so a trip to Droitwich sounded like a good idea. But then the parishioner from our local church called around as she often does on a weekly basis so we decided to change our plans. On the recommendation of our domestic help, we set off for a large pub with lots of parking that does some magnificent coffees and midday meals but although we got fairly near to the outside of it, it did not seem like the pub she had recommended so we abandoned it and came home. Nonetheless, the journey was not entirely fruitless as we managed to get a copy of our daily newspaper from a local Spar shop and also picked up a couple of nice cushions from our off-centre Age Concern shop which is always stuffed full of bargains. Then we progressed home to enjoy the fish meal that we usually cook on a Friday and prepared ourselves for a quiet afternoon. We filled our afternoon with a certain amount of TV (watching a wildlife program), some music courtesy of YouTube and, to round off the afternoon, we accessed some of ‘Yes, Minister‘ which is still vailable as a download on the BBC i-player. It is said that this program and its successor, ‘Yes, Prime Minister‘ was always a favourite of Margaret Thatcher whilst she was our Prime Minister. There is quite a back story to this TV series which I believe to be fundamentally true. This is that most of the episodes depicted had more than a kernel of truth about them i.e. they were not constructed out of thin air, as it were. Rather, Marcia Williams (very close confidante of Harold Wilson who became Lady Falkender once enobled) and a policy wonk whose name I have forgotten, used to meet with the script writers each week. They would then ‘spill the beans’ or in other words recount the essence of the story of a particular escapade which the scriptwriters then used to form the basis of their script. Two episodes spring to mind, one being when Sir Humphrey has to cede his (privleged) office to the prime Minister’s senior political adviser. The other episode was the story of a visit to an Arab capital where the consumption of alcohol was outlawed- the British, though, had a secret stash hidden away in an adjacent tent and would burst in upon the minister indicating that there was an urgent message from the likes of ‘Mr Johnnie Walker‘ who had to be seen immediately and so on and so forth.

The airwaves have been dominated today by the judgement of the International Court of Justice where the South African government had laid a charge of genocide against Israel. The full case may take some years to actually hear and for a definitive judgement to be announced. But today’s ruling is fundamentally to decide whether there is a case to answer. The South African government were not successful in their plea for an immediate ceasefire but most of the judgement of the Court was to enjoin upon Israel that it had to take immediate steps to ensure that a genocide could not actually take place and to make a report back on the progress made within one month. This is quite a stern ruling and the judgements were generally of the order of 15 cases to 2 (including an Israeli judge) against the Israel government. The Israelis are saying that this judgement is absolutely outrageous and are arguing that Israel has been subject to discriminatory treatment at the hands of the Court. But it is going to be interesting to see how this plays politically because the pressure to achieve a ceasefire must surely increase. It could be that the case that only Israeli public opinion could be the final factor in this conflict as Netanhahu is massively unpopular with all shades of Israeli opinion except the extreme/hard and religious right.

Sky News is reporting tonight on the latest Brexit story. This is that ‘new Brexit border controls will leave British consumers and businesses facing more than £500m in increased costs and possible delays – as well as shortages of food and fresh flowers imported from the European Union. The new rules are intended to protect biosecurity by imposing controls on plant and animal products considered a medium risk. These include five categories of cut flowers, cheese and dairy produce, chilled and frozen meat, and fish.’ I heard a representative of the flower industry saying this morning that these new controls could be exceptionally arduous for their business and it is just one more twist to the Brexit saga. There was another story today that the Canadians were playing ‘hardball’ in a trade negotiation with the UK and, of course, these agreements can often take months if not years to negotiate and to bring to a satisfactory conclusion. In fact, leaving the European Union (EU) added an average of £210 to household food bills over the two years to the end of 2021, costing UK consumers a total of £5.8 billion. And to make matters worse, this impacts much worse on low income rather than high income households as food costs are a higher proportion of the budget of the poor.