Monday, 16th August, 2021

[Day 518]

Today was quite a dull, cloudy and not particularly warm Monday morning so it was not a day for too much lingering in the park or anywhere for that matter. Meg and I decided to go down into town by car because we needed to make an optician’s appointment with the optician who has been testing Meg and I for years now. We got the appointment made without fuss and then I made a favourite foray into Poundland where I bought some cleaning products and one or two items for Mog’s Den. We had rather a hurried lunch because we knew that our chiropodist was due to call at 2.00 pm in the afternoon. I had bought a huge cauliflower over the weekend and didn’t want to cook it over the weekend lest it smelled the house out (a potential problem with cauliflower) I overcame this to some extent by adding a layer of brown sugar on top of the cauliflower before I steamed it and had the kitchen window wide open. I made a cheese roux to go over the cauliflower and I am not sure that I made it correctly as I haven’t made a roux for a year or so. I started off with some melted butter and then added the grated cheese and some full-cream milk but I substituted some white gravy thickening granules instead of flour which I think now was a culinary mistake. However, it tasted OK and used it together with some carrot-and-peas mixture accompany the chicken breasts of which I cooked half yesterday. All of this was quite tasty and everything would have been OK but our chiropodist, uncharacteristically, arrived at our house about ten minutes earlier than anticipated and this really messed up our luncheon timetable. Meg had her dinner after she had received her treatment and I ate mine far too quickly than is good for me, trying to get it eaten on time.

This morning, I put into effect something I have been meaning to do and today was the day. After about 56 years of reading The Guardian, I have finally decided to cancel my subscription. I get the Times and the Guardian every day and I tend to read the Times quite carefully but the Guardian only in a more cursory fashion. I am rationalising some of my expenditures to fit in better with my anticipated saving and spending plans and I reckon the £54.00 I spend each month can go to a much more worthy cause. I often read the Guardian’s News headlines and Comment section but I am pretty sure these can be accessed via the internet so I am not really losing out. What was interesting was the fact that the sales team at the Guardian subscription department tried to keep me within their scheme by offering me a half price deal for three months but I was not to be tempted. I have a term (time limited) assurance that is due to run its course by the start of December so that is a bit more money that can find a better home. I did feel a slight pang of regret after ending an association that had lasted so many decades but now is not the time for undue sentimentality.

This afternoon was not devoted to anything very much apart from a doze and a read. Naturally, the news media is still full of the news of the fall of Kabul which is so redolent of the images that we remember of the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war. On the occasion, though, there were scenes of hundreds of desperate citizens trying to escape the clutches of the Taliban and trying to get into the plane by whatever means they could. There were some rumours that some desperate people hung onto whatever they could from the plane’s fuselage and fell to their deaths once the plane had taken off. The scenes from Saigon were of people trying desperately to climb into helicopters whereas this time it was transport planes but the motivation was the same. Everybody is speaking of the speed of the collapse of the existing Afghanistan regime and, according to reports, even then Taliban themselves were somewhat amazed at the pace of events. Of course, the interesting question is whether ‘the leopard has actually changed its spots‘ and whether there will be reprisals galore for having collaborated with the Americans or whether the Taliban are going to offer a different public face to their reputation since the 1990’s.

In the late afternoon, I popped into Mog’s Den to do a frenetic 15 minutes of weeding. I reasoned that if I removed the largest and more persistent of them, I would solve the problem getting worse. For the more minute weeds, I am going to use a combination of vinegar (acetic acid) and washing up liquid (just a splash) This is an incredibly effective low-cost and ecologically friendly weedkiller. The acetic acid in the vinegar dries up and desiccates the plant whilst the bit of washing up liquid helps to reduce the surface tension and therefore makes the whole solution that bit ‘wetter’ A bit of hot sun an hour or so after spraying is ideal for this system to work completely effectively.