Friday, 22nd October, 2021

[Day 585]

Today turned out to be a beautiful day as the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there was still a modicum of sunshine to enjoy. We were a little late down into town today as our domestic help gives Meg’s hair a specialist ‘twirl’ after we had showered and this, plus other general chats, ensured that we were a little tardy. When we got down to our favourite bench, none of our friends were there so we drank our coffee and ate our biscuits (Meg) or oranges (Mike) before we set off in the general direction of the newsagent. On our way down through the park, we bumped into our University of Birmingham friend and Seasoned World Traveller friend who were having a coffee together in the sunshine and near the café which was the source of their coffee. After a chat about films (particularly what the Americans had detailed in the film ‘Pearl Harbour‘) I went off to collect our copy of the Times. It is often said that war is the American’s way of teaching themselves geography – so I wondered by extension whether Hollywood movies are the American’s way of teaching themselves history and so on. Whilst on the subject of American history, I was exploring the two channels to which I now have access once I have retuned the TV. I stumbled into a documentary about Annie Oakley, the great American wild west hero (either on the Sky Arts channel or the PBS America channel – probably the latter). Annie Oakley regularly took part in ‘Wild West’ type shows, involving her shooting and horseriding skills. On one occasion, she was subjected to a hoax by an imposter who suggested that Annie Oakley herself had committed several dastardly crimes and was having to spent some time in a penitentiary. The ‘true’ Annie Oakley reckoned that the ‘imposter’ story had to be denied and rebutted at every single opportunity so she spent years suing every newspaper (including those in the Randolph Hearst stable) to restore her reputation. Although she won every one of her cases against the newspapers (bar one) she hardly made any money out of all of this, most of her ‘winnings’ that were small spent on the lawyers engaged to defend her. I am reminded of the expression, though, that ‘A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on?‘ Some version of this saying has existed since Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) and probably well before him. This particular phrasing is usually attributed to the American writer Mark Twain (1835–1910) or to the former Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill (1874–1965). It should be attributed to a British preacher named C.H Spurgeon (1834–1892) whose 1859 book has it as: “A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.” The interesting thing about all of this is that the expression has been coined, and quoted several times, before anything approaching the era of mass communications has dawned. This raises the interesting question of why lies are often believed but the original (true) story is disbelieved?

After I returned home, it was time to start cooking in earnest. I had promised our domestic help that I would cook some sea-bass for her (as she had originally taught me how to do it in the first place) So this only took five minutes (three minutes on the skin side, two minutes on the other) served on a bed of salad leaves and served with some tenderstem broccoli. This was washed down with some glasses of Pinot Grigio (I had a bottle in the fridge and thank goodness for screw tops as it only took a few seconds to serve) We all really enjoyed the meal and I promised that next week, I would treat us all to some home-made soup. Whilst on a culinary theme, I was a little bolder in my soup-making activities this evening. I decided to use up the coriander-flavoured carrots left over from last night’s soup and then added to it a fried onion, some parboiled parsnip (half of a huge one), a third of a tin of coconut milk and a smidgeon of curry powder. The result was pretty good (even though I say it myself) but again I prepared too much and saved half of it for a future occasion. I am still a learning curve here but so far so good. I think next time I will avoid any parsnip or carrot based mixture and try a leek and potato instead.

The COVID story rumbles on with results as predictable as a Greek drama. On the one hand, we have an almost united medical profession saying ‘Start Plan B immediately‘ (i.e. compulsory facemarks, work from home). They also make the point that it is better to act now rather than later when the virus is even more rampant. On the other hand, Boris is terrified of his own right wing and the Daily Telegraph and will only act when forced (but too little and too late – have we been here before?)