Saturday, 5th December, 2020

[Day 264]

Today was a fine, bright day (eventually) and we strolled down to pick up our newspapers and have our sojourn in the park in relatively good conditions. In comparison with yesterday when the biting wind gave a really raw edge to the morning, today was quite mild with quite a clear sky and a breeze that whilst cool did not have the cutting edge of yesterday. We walked home to our by now traditional Saturday lunch of sausages, knowing that we had three rugby matches in prospect. The first of these was Georgia vs.Fiji, two ‘second flight’ teams but who turned out to be a very interesting contest. The trouble is that I only saw about two-thirds of the second half of the match as it had started early and I had to fit in cooking lunch at some point. The matches were being provided over the Internet as a live stream on Amazon ‘Prime’ and this has proved problematic the last time we accessed it to watch rugby. The problem appears to be a live-stream, there is quite a degradation of internet quality, occasional freezes and a need for pausing for buffering. When it came to watching the second match which was Ireland vs. Scotland this problem became acute and I was on the point of abandoning the whole of the second half after I had been treated to several minutes of the screen saver. Eventually, I switched Amazon Prime back off and then back on again and this actually helped to ‘solve’ my problem. Having had a delay for several minutes and then restarting, the program re-started from practically the start of the second half. The program was now adequately buffered so I managed to watch the whole of the second half adequately. Then onto the third match which was Italy vs. Wales. We only managed the first half of this as the second half coincided with our visit to church, which had started to resume after the lockdown of a month. When we returned home from the service, we managed to watch the whole of the second half that was evidently provided a kind of ‘catch-up’ service from Amazon.

Our attendance at church was not exactly filled with unalloyed joy. Attendance was limited to a maximum of 36 and I doubt that there were that many of us. The necessity to socially isolate, a freezing church (as the boiler still had to be repaired) and the inability to meet with other parishioners all made for a somewhat bleak experience. Our mood was not exactly lightened by a chat we had in the car park as we were leaving with one of the parishioners whom we know well. One parishioner who we know and usually sits near us was ill in hospital with the COVID-19 virus. To compound difficulties, she had had a fall in her home but was not discovered where she had fallen on the floor for 24 hours. Another acquaintance had fallen and her glasses had caused her to have an eye injury. Moreover, the parish weekly newsletter informed us that our parish priest was stepping back from active ministry due to personal and private reasons. As he recently had a bout of colon cancer, we can only fear the worst and hope that his absence is only a temporary one. As I wrote to him on the occasion of his last illness offering him whatever support I could (as a recent sufferer myself) so I will do the same again in the next day or so and hope for the best.

The political news tonight seems to indicate that a stalemate has been reached between the UK and the UE over a new trade. I suppose it is theoretically possible that two savvy political leaders could agree to meet and resolve all outstanding issues by splitting them down the middle and then no side would be able to claim either defeat or victory. But I suspect that the issues that divide the parties are so deep and intractable that such a ‘splitting of the differences’ is impossible. For example, the EU is very keen to have a level playing field i.e. we all stick by the same rules and trade within them. But the UK wants to have an ‘unfair’ playing field such as abandoning common standards of protection for the workforce (such as the minimum provision of holiday pay, maximum hours worked) so that we could have a competitive advantage vis-a-vis other EU states. How it is possible to ‘square the circle’ in such fundamental issues of principle is difficult to say – it is quite possible that playing games of brinkmanship such as we have experienced recently can result in a bad outcome almost by accident. As they say, the next 48 hours should prove critical.