Tuesday, 30th January, 2024

[Day 1415]

Today dawned a little gloomy but the cloud was somewhat higher than yesterday so it lifted the spirits a little to know that we had a slightly brighter day in store for us. We got ourselves up and breakfasted knowing that today was our Waitrose cafeteria day as well as being the day of my weekly Pilates session. We got down to Waitrose just before 10.30 and it is at this time that we generally meet up with our friends which has become part of our weekly traditions these days. After we had spent a pleasant amount of time together it was time to go but before we left the cafeteria itself, we met up again with some acquaintances across whom we had run both in the park when we used to frequent it frequently as well as in the cafeteria itself. They reminded me that they observed me pushing Meg around in the wheelchair and as it is a fairly portable version (the makers call in a ‘transit’ wheelchair, presumably because it is designed to get you from one location to another without being a bit more permanent), they had requested some details. So I had given them details of the website where they could order this type of chair if they needed one and I think they might actually have gone ahead and ordered one. We chatted for a few minutes about this and that and then it was time to get home before we start our preparations for my Pilates class. The same carer comes at the same time on a Tuesday, ready for me to attend my Pilates class and as this carer hails originally from Peru, there is a certain degree of fellow feeling between us (as our son had spent a year in Mexico immediately prior to his university course in the 1980’s) I managed to attend my Pilates class today with no real stress involved. There are only four of us in this particular class but we have been together for years now, one of the group and I going back at least 7-8 years altogether. We had a collective moan about the state of the roadworks around the town which seem to be blighting practically every journey that we make and the benefits of which may not be appreciated by us for years yet. When I eventually returned home, I prepared our usual meal for a Tuesday which is fishcakes with some microwaved vegetables (for speed) and then we settled down for a quiet afternoon.

It is now starting to look as though a government is going to return to Northern Ireland. But it will be quite a significant return to ‘normal’ politics because the first minister will be the leader of Sinn Fein, an Irish nationalist party for whom the majority of Catholics have voted. Although there has been a Protestant majority for decades (engineered like this at the time of the creation of the province), it always looked likely that simple demographic forces would prevail. Put simply, the Catholic population has been increasing at a faster rate than the Protestant population (by having more children per partnership) and so, in the long run, this was bound to effect the composition of the electorate. In addition, the Protestant vote in Northern ireland is split between 2-3 political parties whereas the Catholic vote is somewhat more unified. So it is possible that we could see a Sinn Fein party in power in both parts of a divided Ireland. One can only speculate at this stage that in the decades to come we shall see a united Ireland again. This must have seemed impossible at the time of ‘The Troubles’ and there are still active remnants of both republican and protestant groups intent on violence, even today. The news tonight reveals that civil servants have not had a pay rise for 2-3 years, teachers not for 3-4 years and childcare arrangements are lagging way behind that avaulable in the rest of the UK – all as a result of there not being a functioning government at Stormont (the Northern Ireland assembly) for the last two years, since the DUP walked out of the power-sharing agreement.

There was a story in our regional news this afternoon which gives pause for thought. The centre of Birmingam is ‘under serveillance’ by a network of CCTC cameras, operating remotely but the provider of vital evidence to the police in the case of criminal activity. Apparently, a lot of the network of cameras ,if not all of it, has been put out of action with what was termed a computer fault but which was actually a computer upgrade. Now as many of us know from our personal lives, computer problems are quite likely to occur after an ‘update’ and some people shudder at the thought of Windows operating systems ‘updating’ themselves which means that critical interfacing software such as device drivers no longer work as they did. It is an interesting thought how much mayhem and/or productive time lost is due to a combination of operating systems updates, virus and other ‘malware’ and password problems. There can hardly be a computer user in the population who has not been affected in their working lives by one or more of these downsides. This is what led several users to migrate to Apple systems which seem to be more (but not completely) immune to virus type problems and where problems are likely to be lessened by the fact that both the hardware and the software are under the control of Apple itself.