Monday, 7th September, 2020

[Day 175]

Meg and I both slept in a bit this morning, for reasons which we cannot quite discern. In any case, it was not a particularly bright and cheerful day so I went and collected the newspapers on my own whilst Meg stayed within the house. Today, we missed out on our normal walk through the park but yesterday, an incident occurred which, in retrospect, I find amazing. The mother (or it might have been another female relative for all I know) of two little boys who I estimated to be about three years old encouraged them to go and ‘spend a penny’ by pulling down their trousers and relieving themselves against the trunk of one of the nearby trees. Then she thought it would be a good idea to record a clip of their bare bottoms on her mobile phone, to her great amusement. I thought I had seen lots of things in the course of my life, but nothing quite like this.

After lunch, I had prepared myself for a cutting of the communal lawns but a sudden shower put paid to the ‘best laid plans of mice and men’ Accordingly, I thought I would delay things for an hour or so because often the clouds roll away in the late afternoon, giving a window of opportunity if the grass is not too wet to be cut at this stage. I am reminded that sometimes the gardening books would say ‘If you intend to do such-and-such, then choose a nice day…‘ but chance would be a fine thing. As it was a bit of a messed up afternoon, I amused myself with a detailed reading of the newspapers and a comparison of the various engine characteristics of our present car, previous car and next intended car – actually, they are all much of a muchness, so that I doubt that in practice I will witness very much change at all. I did manage to get the lawns cut in the late afternoon, after all (and just before another shower intervened).

Apart from the constantly worrying COVID-19 infection rate (practically unchanged since yesterday at just a shade under 3.000 new infections), there is only one big political story in town tonight. That is the suggestion that the UK may unilaterally rip up the Withdrawal Agreement (which has the status of a treaty in both national and international law) The government is claiming to be just doing little ‘tidying up’ but the EU and the Irish are deeply concerned. Not to put too fine a point on it, if the UK rips up an international agreement and refuses to abide by it, then the UK become a ‘rogue’ or a ‘parish’ state whose word will be trusted by no-one. Whether this is meant to be the ultimate in a negotiation tactic remains unclear as I write – but the consequences of it, as many commentators are saying, are dynamite.

The Northern Ireland SDLP leader is quoted as saying “How could any country come to an agreement with Britain if they’re prepared to rip up an international treaty? Could Britain really be prepared to sacrifice its credibility on the international negotiating stage in exchange for a more politically acceptable outcome to NI-GB trade?"

By way of a change from British politics, I decided to have a quick look at the current American political scene. On the one hand, the polls look very stable and with a consistent lead for Joe Biden over Donald Trump (50% to 42%) and ahead in 11 of the 14 ‘battle ground’ states. So on the face of it, it might look like an easy rise for the Democratic contender. On the other hand, there is an acknowledgement that the polls will tighten before November 3rd (polling day) and some informed commentators are arguing that there might be a massive ‘submerged’ but silent body of voters who will actually vote for Trump but not admit it to the pollsters ( bit like the ‘silent conservatives’ in the UK). In addition, Trump has been saying that he will probably challenge the result if he loses by claiming that the postal votes in the US are fraudulent (although this has never proved to be the case before) And who knows what dirty tricks will be unleashed on social media as polling day approaches? There has already been a ‘doctored’ photo of Biden making him look much older than he already is – this was taken down fairly rapidly on social media but not before it had been viewed by millions of voters (and the damage potentially done)!