Saturday, 21st August, 2021

[Day 523]

Today was a really gloomy day and it was one of those days when it never really seems to get light all day long and there was a constant drizzle to dampen the spirits. In view of all this, we decided to go down into town by car and in Waitrose, we met our good friend from the University of Birmingham who we have not seen for a week. We seemed to have quite a lot of news to catch up (as well as stories to tell) so we spent a good hour, I should imagine, chatting in Waitrose until it was time to get ourselves home and prepare for lunch. On our way home, we loitered in the car outside the house of our Irish friends who have just returned from their fortnight’s holiday in Ireland until our friend spotted us and came out for a chat. We have agreed to pop into their house mid-way through the morning tomorrow as we have quite a lot of catch up on. We had both received the news by email that the Rome trip was ‘off’ and, it was on that basis, that we went ahead and booked our little stay in the Brecon Beacons. However, we have received another email from our bespoke travel agent who was organising the Rome trip for us and it could be if were to agree this collectively that our Rome trip might be ‘rescuable’ if were to choose other available dates such as late December to January or February. Meg and I quite fancy a January holiday (to help to draw the sting of the winter) but we need to have a collective natter with our friends to see if we are all of like mind. Another thing that we need to discuss is our wedding anniversaries. On September 9th, Meg and I ought to be celebrating 54 years being married to the wrong partner and our friends’ wedding anniversary is very proximate to that date so we are trying to see I we can organise a collective meal for ourselves to help ourselves to celebrate (or is commiserate?) Roll on tomorrow and our plans might clarify somewhat.

This afternoon and this evening we have been watching the finals of ‘The Hundred‘ which is a cricket format designed to appeal to the young- each side has only 100 balls and the batting team attempts no cricket finesse apart from the fact that they try to hit every ball for 6 (or at least a 4). As a lifelong ticket fan, I feel somewhat ambiguous about this form of the game. One the one hand it is entertaining (and the teams are dressed in colours and with names to reflect the new form of the game such as ‘Birmingham Patriots‘) The young seem to love this form of game and it has certainly attracted an enthusiastic fan base from those who have never played or watched a game of cricket in their lives. It is true that cricket needed to do something to attract the younger age groups and this certainly fits the bill. On the other hand, to purists this form of the game is doing nothing to enhance the traditional cricket skills. In particular, the patience involved in constructing a long innings is entirely lacking in this form of the game – instead we are seeing incredibly beefy individuals who have the power to hit a ball for six have to display a degree of athleticism on the pitch where typically they have to run around a boundary (to save it) or to catch a ball out in the deep. So cricket as we know it is not – but I am trying (hard) to appreciate it on its own terms.

The scenes from Kabul airport (or rather the approaches to it) that we are witnessing today are horrendous. The pressure of the crowds if proving so intense that fairly young British soldiers are forced into a front line where individuals are dying before their very eyes from a combination of heat-stroke, dehydration and crush injuries. The British soldiers and associated medics are rushing from casualty to casualty covering those who are too far gone (and have died) with white sheets whilst trying to save others from the crush injuries which almost inevitably occurred when a large crowd panics and attempts to rush an entrance. The Americans have decided to actually close the airport for a full 48 hours so that the some of the existing crowds, many without any documents, can be processed. One thing that seems to be happening is that even those with a fully documented right to leave Afghanistan cannot get past the ring of Taliban controls outside the airport – and those who are undocumented are actually blocking the safe exit from those who do have the documentation. This sounds (and is) an absolute nightmare. The BBC website puts it cogently:

‘Looking back, putting the processing centre in place at the end of a long narrow street, publishing a press release saying the UK would take 20,000 Afghans without explicitly explaining it would be over the next five years, and then deploying a small group of soldiers given the job of processing people in the first instance while also maintaining military security – is morphing into a planning catastrophe’