Sunday, 6th March, 2022

[Day 720]

On Sunday mornings, I get up a little earlier than I would normally feel inclined because I like to set off to collect the Sunday newspaper at about 8.00am so that I can get back, prepare breakfast and watch the Sunday Morning (politics) programme. As it tends to be quite cold first thing in the morning, the last time I went shopping I bought some of those packets of ‘instant’ porridge which takes about 2 minutes in a microwave. I am finding these very useful on those days when I leave the house early, for example to go shopping, although I find that I have to watch the microwave very carefully to make sure that they do not bubble over. After we had watched our fill of Sunday morning TV, Meg and I set off for the park and, quite unusually, we did not take any provisions with us. This is because we had a loose arrangement to meet our two regular friends in the park cafe. We started off drinking some coffee outside but eventually, the cold wind got the better of us and we beat a hasty retreat to one of the few tables provided inside. A lot of our discussion today, as almost every day, was to discuss Putin’s frame of mind and his likely courses of action. One line of speculation that we have is whether the American diplomats are in touch with the Chinese president (Xi Jinping) and whether it would be in China’s long term interests to put some pressure upon Putin (by not buying any of his gas?) in order to resolve the situation. This might consolidate Xi’s position as a world leader but I am sure that the situation is being watched with interest from Beijing. After we had sorted out the geo-politics of the world, we set off for home and cooked a Sunday lunch of turkey. We had some sprouts left over from last week but I have discovered a rather innovative way of ‘tarting’ them up a little so that they become a culinary treat. We have in our kitchen some chopped apricots which bought because we could not find any of the whole ones. To make the sprouts a little special, I have cooked them in some boiling water (with a little demerara sugar added to counteract a ‘sprouty’ smell) and then drained and dried them off and returning to the saucepan with some cooking oil. Then they get tossed in oil and a little bit of runny honey added at the last moment and this makes for a delicious – and unusual- vegetable.

The Ukrainian situation continues to appall. Firstly, in the nuclear reactor which narrowly avoided damage in the conflict in the last week, the Russians in control are cutting off phone and internet contact in the area. This is making the plant very difficult to operate by the native Ukrainian staff and the international nuclear autorities are getting increasingly concerned about the situation. Secondly, the number of refugees from the Ukraine now constitute the biggest flow of immigrants since WWII and is 1½ million and rising. But thirdly, the protest movements are really starting to underway in Russia itself. The Russian government has banned the use of the phrase ‘war’ or ‘invasion’ under pain of a 15 year prison sentence. Nearly 4,000 people have been detained at anti-war protests across Russia on Sunday, rights groups and Russian authorities say. Some 1,700 people were detained in Moscow alone, the RIA news agency reported, citing the interior ministry. The OVD-Info rights group says detentions took place in 53 cities. Although protests have become increasingly restricted in recent years, numerous rallies have taken place across Russia since the invasion. In the last 11 days, more than 10,000 people have been detained at protests, OVD-Info says. So the amount of internal repression is enormous but in these days of the social web, it is increasingly difficult for the Russian authorities to maintain the tight control over news events to which they are accustomed. The older (and non-internet savvy) elements of the population do tend to believe the messages that their government is feeding them. But If the protest movements keep growing in size, a point will come where the government cannot shoot and imprison all of the protesters in the country.

Meanwhile, at the border in Calais, the French are saying that the UK authorities are displaying a great ‘lack of humanity’ in denying Ukrainian refugees. According to the French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, 400 Ukrainian refugees have presented themselves at Calais border crossings in recent days – only for 150 of them to be told to go away and obtain visas at UK consulates in Paris or Brussels. Priti Patel (the UK Home Secretary) later denied France’s accusations that Britain was not doing enough to help those Ukrainians in Calais. So who to believe? This is just another example of the constant spats between French and British officials over whole of the refugee crisis.