Saturday, 3rd February, 2024

[Day 1419]

Last night we had a rather disturbed night’s sleep what with one thing or another and we started to get ourselves up and ready at just about 6.30am whereas, ideally, we could have done with an extra hour or so of sleep. So after we had breakfasted, we were rather in advance of ourselves but were regarded with a nice, bright morning. I took the opportunity to photograph our latest ‘captain’s chair’ addition to our hall furniture to add to my collection of similar photos. I then took the opportunity to give a treatment of ‘orange oil’ to both of my captain’s chairs as one needs to choose quite a bright day so that one’s efforts are shown to their best. When you first apply the orange oil, it leaves quite a bright lustre on the woodwork but some of this evaporates and you are then left with a more subtle patina. I left the cushions off the chairs for the time being so that I can give both chairs a light buffing with a polishing cloth before the cushions get replaced. Then we went down to Waitrose at our normal time and were pleased to make contact with two of our regular friends and spent about three quarters of hour in a pleasant chat. I took the opportunity whilst in the store to buy a pack of four bottles of an alcohol-free lager which Waitrose sells and which has in incredible favor despite being alcohol free. The earliest versions of alcohol beer seemed to result in a vert tasteless not to say insipid product but I think that the brewers are doing a better and better job in producing low alcohol beers that are still quite flavoursome. I must confess I do not drink very much beer these days but it is always nice to have some of this favourite variety in stock. When we returned home, we lunched on quiche but put together a ‘melange’ of vegetables with which to complement it. As with so many things, I started with a couple of small onions and then added some small sweet peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and a cup full of petit Bois. I added a squirt of tomato taste and also a squirt of hot sweet chili sauce just to add a little bit of piquancy and the results were absolutely delicious, so I think I shall repeat this little experiment which ended quite well.

This afternoon, we had some ‘Six Nations’ rugby matches to enjoy. The first of these was Italy vs. England in Rome and the Italians made a very good start to the first half and actually were still enjoying a narrow lead at half time. One always imagined that the English would gradually overwhelm the Italians in the second half and this proved to be the case. But both teams had a new generation of quite young and fit players and the Italians actually scored a try in the 85th minute of the game, making the victory seem somewhat harrower than it actually was. And so we settled down for the second game which was Wales vs. Scotland and I suspect that the Scots do not have a very good record against the Welsh. Having said, the Scots had an exceptionally good first half to their game and by half time, the Welsh had failed to put a single score on the board. However, the game proved to be absolutely remarkable because in the second half, the young Welsh team changed tactics and played out of their skins, finishing up within one point of the Scots at 26:27. One did have the feeling that as all of the momentum was with Wales and they playing before their home crowd in Cardiff, that they would actually manage to over some a deficit of 27 points to actually win the match. Instead, the Scots chalked up their first victory against the Welsh for 22 years and the match in the second half proved to be one of the most pulsating it was possible to see.

What is always intriguing about the first few matches of the ‘Six Nations’ competition is that this is after the opportunity for a rebuilding phase in the national teams – players who we have come to know and whose performances we have enjoyed in the past may well have retired or even be injured in pre-season training (which was true of the Ireland vs France match yesterday) This weekend is a little bereft for us because we generally meet up on a Sunday with our University of Birmingham friend but this weekend he is off on a visit to Yorkshire so we will be deprived of his company for a further week. The forthcoming week for us is going to be a trifle irksome as on both Wednesday and next Sunday, we have been warned to expect electricity disconnections as our power utility is having to turn off the power in order to prune back the overgrown branches of trees that are threatening to compromise some of the power lines. I also have the second of my meetings for carers organised in one of the local hospitals.

There is quite a momentous shift in the political scene in Northern Ireland where eventually, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill has accepted the nomination to be the first minister. She accepted the nomination in the Irish language, a nationalist held the highest title in devolved government for the first time. Under the power sharing agreement, the deputy First Minister post will go to the (Protestant) DUP but the appointment of a National first minister has a huge symbolic significance. But the new first minister represents a party that does not acknowledge those six counties as separate from the 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland. This means that it is quite possible that within the foreseeable future, we shall see a united Ireland after the Protestants have held power since the creation of the state.