Monday, 29th January, 2024

[Day 1414]

The week started off with an exceptionally overcast and gloomy sky, in stark contrast to some of the clearer weather we have been experiencing in the last few weeks. Meg’s carers arrived extremely promptly this morning and I am always amazed how cheerful they seem to keep when they have such a busy workload. They were explaining to me how they do not really get paid when they go from one job to another or else they have a very small time allocation and, of course, in rush hour it is always problematic getting from one job to the next in a reasonable time. I have done a little investigation of this issue and I think that care workers in the public sector may receive some minimal protection via their UNISON trade union. But I suspect that the private sector is much worse – in fact, in recent years, HMRC reckoned that 43% of workers in the private care sector were paid less than the minimum wage once travelling time between appointments was factored into the equation. I feel that I have to tread carefully in our personal situation here but I would have thought this is one area in which an incoming Labour government could legislate, if it had a mind to do so. This morning after we had breakfasted, we set forth on the road, first calling by our newspaper shop that used to be our daily supplier. Although it is a week since I last called in, they still do not appear to have their supply of newspapers organised – a newsagent that does not sell newwspapers is a little like a pub that serves no beer. Then we called in at a local supermarket to get some supplies for Meg and then finally hit the road for Droitwich. Here we got our daily copy of ‘The Times‘ and then went to our regular coffee shop where they know us well and treated ourselves to our regular pot of tea and bacon butty. Afterwards, we called in at a local charity shop where I bought myself a shirt in my regular size and colour and some new tea towels of which we seemed to be running short.

Earlier this morning, I had received both an email and a text message from my former colleague from the University of Winchester whose wife is very ill and who has been having a bit of a hard time recently. So I decided that a phone call might help to lighten his mood so we had a good telephone conversation for well over half an hour. As our respective wives are exhibiting some similarities in their symptoms and the ways in which we are both managing to care for them, so we keep in contact to provide each other with some mutual support. By the time we had concluded our conversation, it was our tea time after which we hunted the air waves on the TV channels to see if there was anything that grabbed our attention (but in the event, there was not) So we resorted to the old standby of some music and found a programme devoted to the works of Handel on YouTube. Sometimes, this helps to provide Meg with a source of entertainment and diversion but, sadly, today was not one of those days.

There now seems to be a consensus that the international world is becoming a very unstable place. In the first place, the Israel-Gaza conflict is threatening to spill out into a regional conflict involving Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iran and Iraq. The international shipping that is using the Red Sea is being attacked by Houthi rebels, emanating from Yemen, and the response by the US and the UK to these attacks, whilst understandable, may well be providing fuel for further conflicts. The war in Ukraine in some respects is starting to have some resemblance to the first World War in which both sides are dug in and not much progress is being made on either side. From what one can glean and decode from a variety of military sources, it may well be that the Russians are having slightly better of the fighting than the Ukranians but it may well be that both sides are not preparing any major moves until the European winter is over and in the spring, offensive actions can recommence. Common to both of these arenas of conflict, we have the situation in the US where it looks as though Donald Trump may reassume the presidency and he is uttering some bizarre and contradictory soundbites. According to the Trump view of the world, by appeasing Russia and engaging in renewed hostilities against Iran, peace will break out all over. There are some reports that indicate that Trump may be seriously unbalanced as he confuses various things happening around him. For example, he confused one of his Republican rivals, an ex-ambassador to the United Nations, with Nancy Pelosi who is the recently retired Democrat speaker of the House of Representatives. But even amidst these tales of doom and gloom, there are some glimmers of hope. Talks are taking place for a series of ceasefires and hostage release in the Israel/Gaza conflict and it appears that the players in brokering the deal are the US, Saudi Arabia, Quatar and perhaps other players as well. We are not quite in sight of an agreement as things stand at the moment but the reports indicate that some progress is being made and so after further negotiations, we may get some rather more positive news within a week or so.