Sunday, 11th April, 2021

[Day 391]

It was our normal Sunday morning routine this morning where I go and collect the newspapers almost first thing in the morning and then we watch the Andrew Marr show before setting off for the park. Today when we walked down, there were the occasional blasts of very Arctic feeling air – when these moderated, there was some nice but pale spring sunshine but often so often the icy blasts would return chilling one to the marrow. Not sooner were we seated on our customary bench but we had to ensure a hail storm which was not pleasant to put it mildly. Then we almost had a gathering of the clans with lots of us regulars all coinciding so we had multiple conversations all round. We did have considerable sympathy for an elderly Irish couple that we meet almost every day in the park. Yesterday, we bumped them in Bromsgrove High Street as they were looking for a local Ladsbrooks so that they could place a bet on the winner of the Grand National. They intended to bet on the woman jockey (who may have been riding an Irish horse) In the event, we heard subsequently that this particular jockey had won – the first time a woman jockey had won the Grand National. When we saw the Irish couple, we assumed that they would be flush with their winnings but it was not to be – they hadn’t managed to find the bookies and hence had not placed their bet (and hence no winnings). Then as we were absolutely chilled we made for home where we had some lamb being prepared in the slow cooker. This I prepared last night before went to bed – coating the lamb in flour and then searing in a frying pan before transferring it to a slow cooker, adding some quickly prepared chicken/vegetable stock and the cooking overnight for some 6 hours. Then I chopped some carrrots and parsnips into minute squares before they got a good boiling (as they were due to be mashed eventually). Finally we washed some ‘pimientos de Padron’ and had them slowly cooking in some olive oil/rapeseed oil before we brought all of the elements of the meal together into our final dish.

As you might imagine, the Sunday newspapers were filled with end-to-end coverage of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. Most of his numerous ‘gaffes’ were repeated again (probably for the last time) Of the may indiscreet stories that were told about the Duke, I rather liked his quip when Kenya was just about to declare independence. The formula is nearly always the same i.e. just on the stroke of midnight, a spotlight will illuminate the fluttering Union flag, shortly to be replaced by the flag of the newly independent nation. Just before the Union flag was lowered for the last time, The Duke of Edinburgh turned towards Jomo Kenyatta (the first president of Kenya) and quipped ‘I don’t suppose you would like to change your mind?‘ – his reply was not recorded. The second and more contemplative post I got from the newspapers related to the Queen herself. There was some very sympathetic coverage of the grief that the Queen might be experiencing and some analysis that after 73 years of marriage, she might find her few remaining years without the presence of her life long companion very difficult to bear. Let us hope she finds the resources from somewhere to manage the years ahead.

As I was checking the actual date of my graduation with an MSc (see last night’s blog), I discovered one or two things I had forgotten about. The first was a Certificate in the Schools Religious Certificate in which I gained a distinction just before my GCE ‘O’-levels and this certifies me as competent to teach religion in any Catholic school (but this would have to be seen to be believed) The second thing I discovered again was the results sheet from the Civil Service Open Competition examinations I took in 1964 ( which largely mirrors ‘O’-levels – five papers in English, Arithmetic and three voluntary subjects of French, Chemistry and Physics) In these examinations I gained exactly 600 marks out of a total of 900 which evidently gave me an average grade of 66.7. All of the results were placed in order from the highest to the lowest and I remembered that I had been placed 77th/6085 (which is 1.27% in the distribution). The numbers who passed (i.e. gained 400 marks or more which is about 45%, the same as GCE ‘O’levels) was 2662/6085 or 43%. I suppose that in today’s scales of A,B or C these results might have been classified as an ‘A’. Before the GCE was amalgamated with the CSE to produce GCSE, there were five grades of pass (A-E) and it possible, but I can’t be sure, that these marks would have given me an ‘A’ in the old system as well. The first time around, I did actually fail my ‘O’-level Physics which is a bit strange as I had good marks in my mocks, secured a 60 when I reset the exam the following year and it was one of highest grades when I sat the Civil Service exams two years later. Strange but true! Perhaps the examiner had turned over two pages at once but you did not (and were not allowed) to challenge results in those days.