Tuesday, 17th August, 2021

[Day 519]

Today being my Pilates day, Meg and I knew that we had to keep a careful watch upon our timings. We walked down into the park and I left Meg with one of regular park acquaintances discussing geopolitics whilst I went off to collect our newspapers. I also took the opportunity to race into Poundland and grab another couple of storage boxes (for topsoil) before they disappeared from view. Poundland can be great if you shop very selectively and these particular lidded boxes at £2 each will be excellent for storing some of my supplies of topsoil. As they contain 14 litres each, the three stacked on top of each other will occupy less space than even my mini-dustbin but each box will be excellent for one load of topsoil per plant. Tomorrow, I need to plant out the nice little rose that our French friend bought for us and where I already have a nice space (and container) waiting for it as soon as I have a little bit of time and a smidgeon of fine weather. After we got home, I started off some ‘boil in the bag‘ fish wedges which will mainly cook before I go but can be quickly completed when I return from my Pilates class and we have a ‘quick turn around’ style of lunch.

When I went to my Pilates class, it fell to me to announce the sad news of the death of my neighbour and long term member of our Pilates class. The news was evidently a shock for the teacher and the other class members because although we are used to the occasional member coming and going, the death of a member of the group had a kind of finality about it. Needless to say, a certain black humour soon took over and we pleaded with our Pilates teacher not to push us too hard as it could have dire consequences. But my neighbour’s loss will be quite keenly felt as she introduced me to the Pilates class some 9-10 years ago and we have regularly walked up and down the Kidderminster Road to attend the class each Tuesday (sometimes in pouring rain, sleet and snow as well as blazing sunshine)

When I did get home, the plumber was already here installing some new kitchen taps in our utility room and I must say that he produced a beautiful job for us with new taps which absolutely fitted the design of the existing sink. We now employ a central heating firm who are only about half a kilometre away from us. This has got all kinds of advantages for both of us as they can pop into our abode at the end of another job for an investigation and also fit us in if we have a small job that needs doing. Having ensured a week or so of misery with a dripping tap, we are mightily relieved to get it sorted once and for all.

We had the bizarre sight this afternoon of the very first Taliban press conference when they had only taken over the reigns of power last Sunday and not had even formed a government yet. There seemed to be extremely long winded answers and discourse followed by what seems to be only a sentence or so the English translation. The Taliban were asked more than once about their attitudes to women and they replied with emollient type phrases as follows: ‘Of course… we are committed to women’s rights, to education, to work and to freedom of speech, in the light of our Islamic rules.’ Of course the sting in the tail here is the expression ‘in the light of Islamic rules’ and this can be used to justify almost anything they choose. Many with long memories remember when girls were denied any school type education, were sent home from their places of work to have their work taken over by men and in the more extreme cases were subject to forced abduction which could rule in a forced marriage or even rape. Naturally, there was a great deal of cynicism amongst the assembled reporters whether we were actually seeing a Taliban Mark II or not. As evidence that there may be some change in the air, we saw some clips of film in which male Taliban members were being interviewed by female interviewers which would have been unheard of in the 1990’s.

Whilst waiting for another program to commence, I tuned into the rolling news channel ‘Russia Today‘ where I heard the following news item. Russia’s embassy in Kabul said on Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in. It is interesting that this news item does not seem to have been reported on the BBC News nor is the word ‘corruption’ mentioned. After all, it wouldn’t do, would it, if members of the population with sons and daughters who had been killed or severely wounded in Afghanistan had offered the supreme sacrifice in favour of a leader who only seemed to be hell-bent on enriching himself?