Monday, 27th December, 2021

[Day 651]

We were up fairly late this morning because we watched the broadcast of La Bohème on BBC4 last night. Meg and I quite enjoyed this production but we have seen better. The singing was of a generally high order but I was not completely convinced by some of the staging. The trouble with La Bohème is that we have seen so many productions of this, both live and on video, when one automatically makes comparisons in one’s mind with past productions. I felt this was a ‘curate’s egg’ i.e. it worked well in parts and at other times, I was not so sure. But the death of Mimi in the final moments of the opera is always a totally compelling emotional experience which is, after all, what opera is all about. We had earlier watched young ballerinas and the youngsters from White Lodge (the Royal Ballet training school for 11-16 year olds) going through a fairly gruelling training procedure. When you watched the ultimate performance, one’s heart was in one’s mouth that nobody made a mistake – I suppose they would have edited out anything that was a disaster. But the physical and emotional demands on trainee dancers has got to be seen to be believed. If you do a Google search for ‘ballet mistakes’ you will see what happens and how quickly some of the dancers recover from a terrible mistake. Sometimes, I wonder if some members of the audience even notice.

Being a little delayed this morning, I walked down to collect the newspaper and do a little bit of shopping for supplies that had run short – Meg and I decided to forgo our normal walk so went down to the park by car. En route, we stopped off with our Irish friends down the road in order to invite them around for a Christmas drink and they were busy with their two grandchildren keeping them suitably entertained no doubt. When we got to the park, it was raining with a stinging type of drizzle despite the weather being on the mild side. The park was deserted – so we walked a circular walk avoiding our normal stay on a park bench (which would have been both wet and cold) and decided to come home and have our prepared elevenses at home. This we did and then pressed on with lunch, eating some more of our Christmas beef. Both Meg and I felt that our ‘leftovers’ tasted particularly tasty this morning. This sometimes happens with a joint which tastes better the day after rather than the day of cooking and our broccoli had benefitted for being the fridge for several days. Even the glass of wine we had tasted a little better than on the day of opening itself.

This afternoon was devoted to some little tidying and mending jobs – the kind of jobs that you always say you are going to get round to eventually and then the hour of reckoning comes. I also tried some experimentation with Meg’s iPhone to see if I can temporarily switch the passcode off (I can!) The idea behind this is to get something approximating to a ‘one touch’ system so that when I am out of the house, Meg can use my iPhone to contact me almost instantly should the need arise.

I came across a nice little expression in the last day or so, namely ‘Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.‘ There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of ’emergency’ is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning. The details of a plan which was designed years in advance are often incorrect, but the planning process demands the thorough exploration of options and contingences. The knowledge gained during this probing is crucial to the selection of appropriate actions as future events unfold. So there we are.

I was disappointed to learn that our Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced that there will be no further restrictions before the New Year – this on the day that we had the highest number of infections ever at 113,628. I dare say that the government are gambling upon the fact that there has been a degree of ‘semi-lockdown’ as people have withdrawn from various activities, such as shopping, over the recent period. Also the apparent ‘mildness’ of the Omicron variant means that hospital admissions have not risen at the same rate as the infection rate. On the other hand, on the ‘supply; rather than the ‘demand’ side of the equation the hospitals are under the most extreme pressure because so many NHS staff are ill with COVID are self isolating. The absenteeism rate due to COVID has risen by 40% since last year. Covid staff sickness rose by 122% in a week at hospital trusts in London, which has had more Omicron cases than anywhere else in England.