Wednesday, 9th September, 2020

[Day 177]

Today, or rather today’s date, is rather a special day because it is Meg and my wedding anniversary. Today is anniversary No. 53 which is evidently three years on from the triple celebrations that we spent three years ago (one in Yorkshire for members of Mike’s family, one here in the Midlands for family and friends and the final one in Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain). Today, though, we had muted but equally enjoyable celebrations. We did undertake our normal walk to the park this morning which was uneventful. Then we had a lunch date organised at 1.00pm in our favourite hotel/restaurant some eight miles distant, where we incidentally we had held our Midlands celebrations three years ago. Meg and I chose some fairly simple things off the menu (roasted mackerel followed by sea bream for Meg, a delicious pork chop for Mike) but this was supplemented by a fantastic bottle of Rioja of which we seem to have been deprived for months. We had indicated to the hotel when we made the booking that it was going to be an ‘anniversary meal’ and so we had a pleasant surprise when to go with our coffee the chef had prepared a little side dish with some select chocolates and adorned with ‘Happy Anniversary‘ traced out in chocolate in the dish. We had a pleasant conversation with the restaurant manager (from Lithuania!) and made enquiries of our favourite member of the waiting staff who is ‘on furlough’ at the moment. Always when we have had lunch here, we take the opportunity to have a walk in the extensive hotel grounds which are maintained as a beautiful natural park. It is hard not to remind ourselves that we are actually in the heart of the Worcestershire countryside and I collected some ripe acorns which I hope to grow on. It was a most beautiful afternoon and one our way back in we exchanged some thoughts with our next door neighbour (whose own birthday celebrations were being impacted somewhat by the new ‘maximum of 6’ regulations to be in force from next Monday). We then enjoyed a nice treat of ice-cream and the obligatory cup of tea before settling in to relax for the evening. All of this might not sound very exciting but Meg and I have had a really enjoyable day.

The news the afternoon is still dominated by the two major stories of the new COVID restriction to 6 persons on the one hand and the Government plans to legislate in such a way that some of the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement (now a treaty in both national and in international law) is to breached. Actually, the BBC News website was full of a quite useful ‘question-and-answer’ section because the rules that sound simple in theory may be quite difficult to put into practice when people have made arrangements in groups such as birthday parties or walking groups. Although there is some over-optimist talk (not least from Boris Johnson) that the new restrictions might be lifted ‘by Christmas’ if all goes well, the ‘vox pop‘ interviews with random members of the public reveal that many people are resigned for the new measures to last at least until the spring. We shall have to wait and see.

In the meanwhile, the shock waves continue from the Johnson government intention to deliberately break some provisions of the internationally binding Withdrawal Agreement. The Irish, in particular, seem to be in a state of shocked disbelief, as they contemplate the possibility that that a hard border might be virtually re-installed in the island of Ireland. It seems that key components may contradict the Withdrawal Agreement passed by parliament last year, by letting ministers hand themselves the power to determine rules on state aid and goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Other European countries are dismayed that the UK is attempting to renege on its obligations in such a cavalier way and it raises the interesting question of why any group of trading nations would possibly want to conclude any kind of a deal with the UK if the respect for international law is so low that the UK will walk away later from any provisions that it does not like. Even as a negotiating tactic, this seems like a serious mistake by the government (although the ardent Brexiteers will, of course, be delighted).