Sunday, 7th November, 2021

[Day 601]

Today being Sunday, I collected our Sunday newspaper from the newsagent and then Meg and I watch the Andrew Marr show on the TV, all routine stuff for a Sunday morning. On consulting my phone, my daughter-in-law (following last night’s blog) had sent me a text informing me that the current series of rugby matches can be seen on Amazon, not the normal channels. However, we met our University of Birmingham friend in the park and I said I would bring along a copy of the Ladybird reading scheme books which we have retained since the days when we were teaching our son to read (approximately 49 years ago) This book was written in the mid-1960’s when Ladybird had been criticised for outdated and probably middle class images of young children and their interactions with other. So the principal characters, Peter and Jane, had been modernised somewhat, Peter having longish hair and Jane now wearing jeans rather than a skirt. Ladybird tried to bring their work up-to-date but there are still massive ‘tell-tales’ in the book. For a start Peter plays with his football (which he subsequently retrieves from the highest branches of a tree) and chooses a toy tractor in the toy shop whereas Jane still chooses to have a doll (but is pointing, with a degree of political correctness, to a ‘black’ rather than a white doll, trains the dog which she is taking for a walk and encourages Peter to retrieve the lost football but does not climb into the tree herself. In another Ladybird book of the era, Jane helps her mother to bake a cake whilst Peter helps his father to paint the fence. Just to make everything worse, the book shows an illustration of Peter and Jane on the beach and is entitled ‘Play with us’ (a title that must rank alongside Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts movement, whose book was entitled ‘Scouting for Boys’) One has to say that in these sad times of 2021, neither of these books could have been entitled thus.

I also amused our University of Birmingham friend with a letter than had been written by Boris Johnson’s house master and classics teacher to Boris Johnson’s father. The letter indicates with a startling clarity with what we know now that ‘Boris really has adopted a disgracefully cavalier attitude to his classical studies…Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failureof responsibility (and surprised at the same time he was not appointed Captain of the School for next half) I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligations which binds everyone else…‘ I must point out that this letter was written in April 1982 and here we are nearly 40 years later and it must be said ‘plus ça change’ ( or ‘what has changed?’)

This afternoon, Meg and I watched a most enjoyable game of women’s rugby in which the English team (the ‘Red Roses‘) surpasssed their win of last week over the New Zealand (the ‘Black Ferns‘) by winning 56-15 (a largest margin of victory than last week’s 46-12) At half time,the New Zealand team had no points on the board at all and the commentators were speculating whether they might end the match without scoring at all. Next week, though, they play France so that might be an interesting game as well.

Soupmaking experiments are continuing later on this evening. I am going to try a combination of celery, swede, carrot, potato and perhaps a little parsnip to see how all of that pans out – it is, after all, a classic root vegetables type of soup but how the flavours will combine or not we will have to wait and see. It actually turned out to be a lot better than I predicted that it might – so I am pleased that I saved half of the raw ingredients so I can quickly make another batch if the weather turns particularly cold in the next week.

The next week is going to be a crucial one for Boris Johnson. Not only is COP26 Climate Change coming to an end (with what result?) but the sequelae of the Owen Paterson debacle are rumbling on. Even John Major the ex-Tory PM was driven to declare that the present government was corrupt – a very powerful word in politics. Basically, the Tory party collectively put its foot down and the newer intake basically said to the Brexiteers and the ‘old guard’ that they could not be rolled over. Does this make the present Tory party almost unwhippable? Also the position of the Leader of the House (Rees-Mogg) and the Chief Whip must now by in doubt – in any event, they have lost all credibility and will they ever be believed again after last week? Watch this space!