Friday, 4th March, 2022

[Day 718]

Meg and I were a little late up this morning but we still enjoyed a chat, as is customary, with our domestic help who calls around each Friday. Once we had got ourselves up and running, we took the car into town and then collected our newspaper. Then we popped into the park and stuck our heads inside the cafe to see if any of our friends were finding refuge inside. There we teamed up with our University of Birmingham friend as well as Seasoned World Traveller. We had our usual exchange of banter over some extraordinary subjects before Meg and I had to make a fairly rapid exit to strike for home. This is because we have a lunch date with the French lady who lives down the road and who we have we have to got to know a lot better recently. We have had a long running agreement to choose a Friday when neither of us had any other committments and this Friday fitted the bill perfectly. Just after our friend arrived, I got cooking the sea-bass which is extremely easy to cook (3 minutes on one side and then 2 minutes on the other). This is then served on a bed of salad and eaten quickly and we washed it down with some glasses of white wine as well. During and after lunch, we had some interesting chats including explanations of the contacts that we had in Spain and in Mexico. We learned today that our friend during her university course in France was due to go off and have a placement in Spain as she was studying this at University. But her course coincided with that period in French history when lots of young men were being called up to serve in the French army in order to combat the Algerians in what was to become the Algerian War of Independence. Her course was quite badly impacted by this as when several course members disappeared, they had to keep reorganising the course around the existing students. So whilst the university experience of the present generation of students has been badly impacted by the COVID pandemic, so her own undergraduate experience had been affected by France’s last colonial war (as I suppose it was) We had a really interesting chat over lunch and coffee and I dare say we will keep on exchanging social contacts like this, which we both enjoy.

The really big Ukrainian news this afternoon is the attack on the nuclear plant which is the largest in Europe. It looks as though the Russian attack was intentional and not accidental. As it transpired, the Russian shells had set alight a training facility building which was a little set apart from the main series of reactors, some of which were shut down. I suspect that an inexperienced commander made completely the ‘wrong’ call when it came to firing on or near a nuclear reactor but if the decision was taken higher up the chain of command this constitutes irresponsibility of the highest magnitude. The USA and many other countries are calling this attack on a nuclear facility a war crime – it may be that this is written into some international law somewhere but I am sure that ‘war crime’ is an accurate description. The world may well have narrowly escaped from a Chernobyl Mark II – the important point here being that the nuclear reactors themselves do not have to be directly attacked but if their power supply fail that automatically cools the core, then we would literally be in ‘melt-down’ situation. This version of the nuclear reactor is better designed and more capable to containing nuclear escapes that was the case in Chernobyl but we have to say that the world as a whole has just ‘dodgd a speeding bullet’ as it were.

Late on this afternoon, the news came through that Shane Warne, the legendary Australian spin bowler had died apparently of a heart attack (or natural causes) at the age of 52. One does have to be a follower of cricket to appreciate that he had a prodigious talent – in general terms, leg spinners do not attract the kind of adulation that fast bowlers do in the whole world of cricket but one has to perfect one’s skills over many years as a rule. It is true to say that Shane Warne lived life to the full, both on and off the cricket field and he was actually found dead in his house in Thailand. The bit of video clip which is replayed constantly is the way that Shane Warne dismissed Mike Gatting, the English captain, with his first ball in the Test match of 1993. The ball itself pitched outside leg stump and then turned prodigiously to nick Gatting’s off stump. Although I disapprove of the habit of ‘sledging’ (loud comments made by a fielding side to disconcert a batsman) one of Shane Warne’s was very funny – he called out ‘How is your wife doing today – that is, your wife and our kids‘ (the implications of which one does not have to dwell upon too much)