Saturday, 26th March, 2022

[Day 740]

The start of another beautiful day without a cloud in the sky. It is a wonderful sight to look out of our upper storey windows and to behold a vista of beautifully cut lawns – but, of course, they are a reminder that they have to be kept that way with a weekly mow. I am also reminding myself that now some of the hard work of spring cleaning the garden actually starts. The basic mowing having been done, the next major task is to edge the lawn and to clear the gullies. I have found over the years that using the edging tool to cut off overhanging grass strands is one thing but the way that our garden is, there are quite a few neighbouring areas and gullies that also have to be cleared. I have found over the years that the best way to do this is by adopting a semi-prone position i.e. lying on one’s side and then utilising a lot of handwork by pulling our perennial weeds by the roots. In the worst affected areas of the garden, this can be a combination of nettles, bamboo and even ivy not to mention varieties of other creeping weeds. When I used to weed my next door neighbour’s garden on a ‘grace and favour’ basis, I once heard a narvellous piece of advice how to get rid of ‘ground elder’, a particularly pernicious type of weed introduced by the Romans I believe and with a habit of reproducing itself from a fragment about as small as half a thumbnail and with a habit of insinutaing itself round the roots of legitimate plants like roses. The advice I had heard was ‘move house’ – in the absence of this, one had to persist for about five years or even more in order to eradicate this pestilent weed from your beloved borders. I am telling myself that I need to do about 20-30 minutes day regularly each day but I evidently need to be self-disciplined about this. As is so often the case with these projects, I intend to start on this ‘tomorrow’. Meg and I walked down to the park today and we occupied our normal bench, admiring the flowering blossom unfolding on the trees in front of us. I left Meg on the bench to save Meg’s legs somewhat whilst I collected the newspaper and then we slowly walked home, enjoying the sunshine whilst it lasts but conscious of the fact that in a few days time, the warm spell will end and we shall have to get used to some icy arctic blasts early on next week. When we we were in the park and knowing that following the ‘Six Nations’ we were going to have women’s international rugby, we thought that a treat was to follow. However, the first scheduled match was between England and Sotland and started at 12.00 midday so we realised that we should just about be in time to watch the second half. As the half time score was someting like 38-5 in the favour of England, it was hardly going to be a competitive second half- or a particularly absorbing one. The Scots made a few bold approaches but seemed to lack the killer punch to make it across the try line at all in the second half.

Some particularly poignant news is emerging in the aftermath of the bombing of the theatre in Maiupol where about a thousand refugees were sheltering (incuding some transported there from a local hospital). A woman who survived the bombing of a theatre in Mariupol has said she believes the panic of the crowd rushing to escape killed more people than the strike itself. The building sheltering more than a thousand civilians in the besieged southern Ukrainian city was bombed by Russia on 16 March. The blast killed around 300 people, authorities in the country have said – which would make it the war’s deadliest attack on civilians. Mariupol resident Maria Radionova, 27, who was among those who made it out alive, has told of the chaos as the bomb hit. Today, President Biden has been in Poland, pledging more support to the Ukraine and also positioning more American troops in the Nato territories that border Russia. He has been making the quite legitimate point that whilst Putin actually wanted and tried to engineer a weakened and divided NATO, he now has the absolute reverse on his door step. Although there is a certain amount of rhetoric in all of this, what divisions may have existed in NATO now appear minimal. The ‘volte-face’ by the German government when they decided on a much energetic and funded defence strategy is of enormous significance and the Japanese are also considering changing their traditional defence policies in the light of Putin’s aggression. Signals from the Russian Government is that they may attempt to concentrate their energies on the eastern Donbas region where Russia has been supporting secessionist Russian-speaking militia since the detachment of Crimea. Western analysts are thinking, in effect, ‘words are cheap’ and let us see what, if anything, happens on the ground.