Saturday, 18th September, 2021

[Day 551]

We had a beautiful fine day today and although a litle cloudy, nonetheless it was a real pleasure to walk out in the autumn sunshine. We struck off for the park where our two regular friends were busy putting the world to rights. Today we were reminding ourselves how the Tom Sharpe (humourous) novels were widely read in the past. It was not an unusal sight in the late 1970’s to be on a train and see an elderly gentlemen quietly reading whilst sitting in the corner of a railway carriage – suddenly,he would be convulsed with laughter and the rest of the ‘normal’ population had no idea what was going on until they realisd that the elderly gentleman was reading a Tom Sharpe novel. I can’t remember which novel it was – it could be the first named Wilt – in which a colleague murders a rival and disposes of his body in a meat canning factoy in which the body is minced up and sold in sausages and meat pies over the whole of East Anglia.

Having collected our newspaper and then taken out a wad of cash to utilise in our forthcoming holiday we made for home. Today it was a case of liver and onions that we had been promising ourselves for some time now. In the late afternoon, I thought I would consult my computer system as I thought that I might have an old NS&I (National Savings and Investments) number. that I might utilise again in the future. The trouble was that I had forgotten my password and the system that they had was to generate not an OTP but a recorded voicemail when, if you expecting the call, you pressed the # sign to acknowledge it – but often your phone was not in the number pad screen and by the time you got there it was too late. Even when I set the keypad stage to the default, the # sign only repeated itself and did not work. After three unsuccessful attempts, the system then shut you down and the only alternative was to fill in an online form with questions that I had to guess at the nswer ( e.g. What type of account did you hold?) and then I might, after a wait of several days, be sent to a sceeen where I could generate a temporary password. I even tried a helpline where I was directed to the same online form I had already filled in so if that draws a blank I see some fraught telephone calls ahead when we return from holiday.

We went to church in the late afternoon (part of our normal Saturday routine) and were delighted to see both of our sets of local Catholic friends, including the one recently discharged from hospital following a ‘heart’ scare. Naturally, we were absoliutely delighted to see her in our midst once again but no doubt she is going to take life a little easier in the foreseeable future. We chatted for a while and finally departed after our stand-in priest was regaling us with an account of a particularly difficult baptism in which the 20-month infant was in the most belligerent of moods and managed to take evasive action against the baptismal water which is really the ‘sine qua non’ of the whole exercise.

Tonight the fragility and interdependence of our industrial system is being exposed for all to see. There has been a massive rise of gas prices for a variety of reasons – but Russia is one of them. The price of gas is so high that two fertiliser factories in the North East have ceased production in the short term which also implies a reduction in one of the most impiotant side products which is carbon dioxide. In the absence of this, then pigs cannot be stunned befor slaughter (by lowering them into a ‘sea’ of carbon dioxide) and something similar may happen wih poultry. Food shortages on our supermarket shelves has been predicted in the next week or so ahead as a direct result of all of this. In addition to all of this, we might add into the mixture some recent pandemic effects on the labour market and, of course, there are also the Brexit effects in the background whose effects are real but difficult to distentangle. I am not sure what the British government can do about all of this but most ‘normal’ governments would make a release of the strategic stockpile which the government holds against emergencies (such as a really hard winter) Most European countries keep sensible reserves of strategic raw materials but I have an idea that after Brexit the government felt released from these ‘onerous’ regulations and so it is quite possible that the UK stocks of both oil and gas had been really been cut back to the bone. The Sunday newspapers might provide a more in-depth analysis of some of these problems, however.