Monday, 14th June, 2021

[Day 455]

The start of another week and we are taking pains to maximise our social contacts whilst the weather is fine and we can have tea in each other’s gardens. We were a little late down to the park, having popped in Waitrose for a few ‘essentials’ (ice-cream of which we have been consuming a lot in this warm weather). Once we actually made it to the park, we were delighted to run across our University of Birmingham friend who we had not expected to see. He was on his way to a tennis tournament but ran into the most horrendous traffic jam so he decided to call it a day and pop into the park (where he can be guaranteed to find people to chat with). So this was an unexpected bonus for us – we took the opportunity to make some final arrangements for tomorrow when we are invited around to some of our oldest friends for coffee. At it is so warm currently, we are popping round the garden two or three times a day to give our pot plants some much needed water. As it happens, I am keeping an eye on a group of plants called ‘verbascum’ which grow to a tremendous height (well, the best part of 6′ anyway) and eventually finish off with a flourish of yellow flowers. Then, apparently, they are very liable to be the host to a particular variety of moth caterpillar that threaten to overwhelm them. The caterpillars apparently creep out at night and do their worst. The official advice to get rid of the caterpillar is to have a ‘hostage’ wild verbascum plant nearby and transfer all the caterpillars you find to the hostage plant in the hope the hostage plants will get eaten and none of the rest will. I am going to follow this particular wild-life cycle with some interest – even if they fail we have some other fast growing plants (sun flowers in a variety of colours, sweet peas which make lovely cut flowers one you get them going) When I last cut the lawns, I decided to see if I could propagate some softwood cuttings from a large Elaeagnus bush that we have growing in one of the borders to our communal lawn. In theory, you take softwood cuttings by taking a cutting some 6-8″ in length, remove nearly all of the leaves part from the top two or three and then plant in a mixture of grit and sand to encourage rooting behaviour. When I have tried things like this in the past I have either had abject failures or a measure of success but on this occasion I have my cuttings planted in a little pot (suitably kept moist with a kind of plastic cover) and then put in the shade of a larger plant so that it gets watered (and not missed) every day. We shall see.

Today, as completely anticipated, Boris Johnson has announced that the lockdown will continue for another 4 weeks although his choice of language was confusing -‘taking the foot off the accelerator’. The press conference at 6.0pm was excruciatingly bad – every time Boris Johnson was asked a straightforward and easily understand question (e.g. will all university students have received the vaccine by September) all we got was waffle, obfuscation, evasion and so on. I think our Prime Minister is incapable to giving a direct answer to a straight question. There seems to be some interesting reactions on the political front. Whereas more than 50% of the population appear to agree with an extension to the lockdown, the Tory right wing are furious. There could be a rebellion when the measures are debated in at the House of Commons on Wednesday. In addition, from a quick glance at Channel 4 News, there seems to be an angry crowd demonstrating in front of the gates which block off Downing Street from Whitehall so it could be that we move into the interesting territory that Downing Street wants to extend measures which the rest of the Tory party will attempt to vote down. They won’t succeed because the Labour Party will vote in favour of the extension but the size of the rebellion might be a pointer to political developments in the future.

Tonight I am going to settle down with a bar and watch Spain play Sweden in the European cup finals. Having watched Scotland play the Czech Republic, I am very much reminded of the reply that Clement Attlee (immediately post war II Labour Prime Minister) gave as a reply to a minister who was asking why he was not reappointed to a ministerial position. Clem’s reply was delightful and apocryphal ‘Not good enough‘ was his sole reply and this was very much my emotion when I watched the Scottish performance. What else do you say when the Czech lead striker hits a ball from just over the half-way line only to lob the Scottish goal keeper who had come off his line and score a second goal?