Sunday, 2nd January, 2022

[Day 657]

It was a bit of a wild and stormy night last night so whether that made Meg and I sleep in a little later this morning I cannot say. We knew that we were going round to see some friends from 11.00am onwards and we also got a casual arrangement to meet with some friends in the park. Before we set out on our normal venture, I suddenly thought that I had no idea what was the modern terminology would be for ‘Negro Spirituals‘ – as you might imagine, this terminology is no longer used but I think if you were browsing in a music store you would head for any section called ‘Gospel’ or even ‘Gospel and Blues’ Many of the outstanding black American female singers, of both opera and popular music, have probably been noticed at an early age in their local church choir where no doubt the talent of the youngster was spotted and they were set on the right track early on. Whilst browsing around, I put ‘Gracias a la vida’ as a search term into Google and quickly came up with two outstanding Latin American singers – Violeta Parra (Chile) and Mercedes Sosa (Argentina). At a concert in La Plata in 1979, Sosa was searched and arrested on stage, along with all those attending the concert. Their release came about through international intervention. Banned in her own country, she moved to Paris and then to Madrid. Their recordings of ‘Gracias a la Vida‘ (‘Thankyou to Life’) are both incredible – Parra has an incredibly pure voice whilst Parra adds a sonority and a depth that has to be heard to be appreciated. My little diversion for a Sunday morning.

So to save time, we went out by car this morning once we had indulged ourselves on the internet and picked up our newspaper and then went onto the park where we made a lightning visit to meet with some of our normal park friends. Then we were to leave them to pop into our friend’s house along the Kidderminster Road for a little Christmas nibble. We spent a wonderful 2-3 hours with our friends and we talked over a lot of things, including family histories on both sides. We admired their wonderful display of Christmas decorations and the illustrations of some of their parents and grandparents were fascinating. As it happened, I had a photograph (colourised) of my grandmother taken in about 1908-09 on my phone and we wondering exactly how commercial photographers got colour into their photographs in those days. Anyway, the time just flew past and we made our way home, ready for a sustained reading of the Sunday newspapers. To my mind, there was not very much analysis in the papers this weekend although the ‘juicier’ stories were the aftermath of the conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell and the various political dilemmas now facing Boris Johnson. It appears, though, that the next few days might prove of critical interest. On Tuesday, Prince Andrew is having to navigate some court proceedings in which he is trying to argue that his accuser Virginia Giuffre has no case as she was not a US resident at the time. If Prince Andrew loses his case, then he will certainly go on trial in the autumn and this is a case he may well lose.

More COVID developments are taking place now that Christmas and New Year are out of the way. For a start, the education secretary has declared that masks are to return in England’s secondary school classrooms to help curb spread of Omicron. This in itself is a sign how seriously the government takes the view that school children may be a ‘reservoir of infection’ – this might prove very difficult to teaching staff to operationalise. The government is also drawing up contingency plans over fears that a quarter of public sector workers could be absent due to Omicron. This coupled with the fact that substantial numbers of medical staff may be absent due to COVID related reasons means that the NHS may find it increasing difficult to cope in the next few weeks ahead. The leader of Britain’s A&E doctors said on Tuesday that Omicron could lead to high numbers of hospital staff having to take time off ill just as the NHS was grappling with winter pressures. Soaring Covid cases could cause major shortages across industry, hospitality and healthcare, ministers have been told, as rail companies cancelled services and Royal Mail said it was experiencing high staff absences. West End shows have been cancelled because of the surge in suspected Omicron cases, while waste collections, deliveries and schools are all under threat from shortages. There is also evidence that not only public services but several other parts of the economy are under severe strain as the infection continues to rise. The government appears to be playing a terrible game of ‘chicken’ trusting that a policy of offering boosters will hold the line and that hospital admissions do not rise to unsustainable proportions. Nonetheless, 4,000 emergency COVID beds are being supplied via COVID pods attached to hospitals throughout the country.