Wednesday, 31st January, 2024

[Day 1416]

So today we enter our Wednesday routine. We had a fairly early start to the day as Meg got up and had a little wander about whilst I was fast asleep but I got her back into bed for another hour’s kip before the arrival of the caring duo who arrive promptly at 8.00am. After we had breakfasted, we watched a little of the day’s news before setting forth for the Methodist Coffee Bar, knowing that it does not open until 10.30. We bumped into one of our Waitrose friends but not the other one that we were expecting. But Meg and I sat on the ‘chatty’ table and got into conversation with 2-3 people that we have come to know. The married couple to whom we were talking had spent some of their lives in Harrogate in North Yorkshire which was the town in which I was raised and where I lived until the age of 17. They had also lived in the Catterick Camp army barracks in North Yorkshire so there were some places that were familiar to both of us. We then got into conversations (all five of us) about aspects of our family history and this is always quite fascinating. I told them the story about my grandmother and the circumstances of my mother’s birth, which happened to be in Droitwich just down the road. They in turn told me what some of their researches had revealed about their own ancestry so we all felt we had a very interesting morning of shared reminiscences before it was time for us all to leave. We knew that we had to leave after a reasonable space of time because I had an appointment in the local hospital for some of the early afternoon and this necessitated an early lunch. I threw together a meal of scrambled eggs with some grated cheese on slices of toast augmented with ham slices. All in all, it was more than adequate given that we had prepared it in ten minutes and then ate it in five.I had a carer come in to sit with Meg whilst I went off to attend my meeting. This was organised for the benefit of carers themselves and there are to be two sessions. The first of them today focused on the needs of the patients for whom the carer was caring whereas the session for next week was going to look at more practical support for the carers themselves. There were about six of us altogether and a couple of occupational therapists and we were well supplied with tea and biscuits to make the proceedings whizz along. Actually, I needed to leave just before the end and, as is often the case, it is the practical advice and support of other attenders that may well prove to be the most beneficial in the long run.

The government is today publishing the details of the deal which has been struck which has led to the resumption after a gap of two years of the power-sharing executive in the Northern Ireland government. I must admit I have not the time or the patience to unravel what has been ceded or negotiated away but I feel that the overriding emotion of all of the parties, including the EU, is to be glad that a solution to the seemingly intractable solution of where to place the boundaries of the EU (down the Irish sea cutting off Northern Ireland, or down the Irish border making Northern Ireland ‘leave’ together with the rest of the UK) has been fudged. I suspect that the truth is that there are various forms of words, and indeed trade practices where each side seeks to save face but different things are said to different people to get a deal done. The former permanent secretary for the Department for Exiting the EU has given his opinion as follows: ‘Mr Johnsons Brexit was “a lot of smoke and mirrors. He left it to subsequent prime ministers to sort things out.’ At the same time he praised Rishi Sunak for having ‘rolled up his sleeves’, negotiated with all the various parties, and resolved some of the problems’ of Brexit. So whilst we have had the slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’ ringing through our ears, it seems that only now is Brexit actually being done after so many years. What the opinion of the EU is about all of this I do not know but after any problem has dragged on for years, I suspect that they are not unhappy to get a solution of sorts agreed by all of the parties. No doubt, there is a lot of devil in the detail and many members of the Westminster political parties are probably holding their breath until a Speaker is eventually elected and the Stormont (NI assembly) resumes its work. Mind you, I was a little staggered to learn that a population of 1.86 million has had a bounty of £3.3 billion showered on them which according to my calculations is about £1770 for every man, woman and child (approx £5,000 for every family) in the province. Some of this will be for pay increases enjoyed by the rest of the country but not as yet in Northern Ireland but given the mantra that ‘you do not solve a problem by throwing money at it’ I suppose the response of the rest of us might well be ‘Oh yes, you do, provided that the amount of money is large enough’ If I can stay awake and ‘compus mentis’, it will be interesting to see what NewsNight on BBC2 and ‘The Politics Hub’ on Sky News make of all of this, once they have a chance to read through the fine print.

Most of us have almost forgotten about COVID these days but we are now being told that the virus is evolving at an incredible rate. More disturbing is the fact that the damage to the cardiovascular and immune system might be much more long term than we had ever thought and COVID may well develop into a time bomb, particular for those of us who have been unlucky enough to have been infected on several occasions.