Saturday, 24th April, 2021

[Day 404]

It was another fine bright day in this wonderful spell of weather we have been enjoying. It was a bit cooler than yesterday with a cooling breeze but nothing to spoil our enjoyment. We ordered some more clothes from John Lewis (to be delivered in a day or at no charge to our local Waitrose) and then made our way to our normal bench. There we met with one of our regular friends and we congratulated her on her recent birthday (in her mid-70’s) In the expectation that we may see her, I had included in my rucksack a large bottle of my own damson gin. As it was happened it was her birthday last Thursday when we didn’t get round to going to the park – the cafe in the park (run by people she had known for decades) had made her a present of a lovely large cake and she had other treats on the day itself. As it happens she is only about three weeks older than I am so we keep a check on well (or badly) we are doing for our age. We expected to see our University of Birmingham friend but we had a ‘no show’ – at least initially. However, as we were walking home he caught up with us in his car – we hadn’t coincided earlier as he had an appointment in Kidderminster just down the road. We admired his lovely Saab car, now about 14 years old but since Saab went bust, our friend has his car serviced by an independent garage who mage to get hold of Saab spares when they need to without too much difficulty. We chatted by the side of the road for several minutes but will have a more comfortable assignation tomorrow when we meet in the park.

As I write this blog, we decided as it was a terrible night on the television to see a YouTube production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. The two principal singers are Luciano Pavarotti and Ingvar Wixell (the Swedish baritone) and this production was evidently made when they were very much in their prime. The production is a German one and as one might expect, the quality of the singing (naturally), the quality of the acting, the staging, the camera angles and so on are of the very highest standard. Rigoletto is one of those operas which is full of really good tunes (and no doubt the Italian audiences would come away from a production singing or humming many of them). Anyway, when there is a really stunning aria, I break away from my blog and soak up some of the glorious moments from the production – this is a sort of multitasking becausse it is quite easy to listen to music and blog at the same time.

This afternoon was the final of a women’s rugby competition between the two best teams in the tournament who happen to be England and France. We knew this was going to be a tough match and the two teams having quite easily beaten the opposition in the course of the tournament were fairly evenly matched. Having said that, the French had vastly superior scrummaging, better backs, a somewhat more imaginative approach to their forward play – but still lost. To be fair, both teams displayed some nervousness and the kicking at goal meant that some easy attempts at goal were fluffed. In the event, both the French and the English teams had a conversion where the conversion ball hit the post and then, just, slid inside. The English forwards were pretty brutal in an effective but not particularly pretty fashion. The French were only about 3-4 points behind about 10 minutes before the end and could have sneaked the game but the English team managed to snaffle balls away from their line, get it upfield, force a series of penalties from the French and eventually won the game. So neither team played particularly well and the windy conditions did not help.But I would not have been disappointed if the French had gone on to win the final because in many ways they did everything right – but not at the crucial moments as did the English team ( scoring the only try of the match about 60 seconds before the end of the first half of the match)

If I had to make a guess at the stories dominating the Sunday newspapers tomorrow morning, it will be one or both of the following. For a start, the row over who paid for the ‘over the top’ refurbishment to the PM’s Downing Street flat, fuelled by a particular animus between Boris Johnson himself and Dominic Cummings (the Brexit ‘master mind’ and at one time the principal advisor to Boris Johnson) will occupy a great deal of space and attention. And secondly, there is a culture war going on as Oxford Street shoppers are heckled over face masks as thousands protest coronavirus rules in London. But we have now passed the point where more than half of the population have received at least one dose of vaccine.