Saturday, 9th April, 2022

[Day 754]

Today dawned as a beautiful bright day but it was one of those that when I arose to make our early morning cup of tea, it was evident that there had been quite a hard frost during the night as the lawns were white over – however, as the sun rose, this soon burnt off. It is always a pleasure to look out on the front lawn once it has been mowed (and edged) the day beforehand. After breakfast, Meg and I walked very slowly down into town. We passed our Irish friend who was busy on his knees in his front garden (planting rather than praying) and he was busy planting out some dahlias as his others had not survived the winter. Once we got into the park we had our coffee and I left Meg to go and off and collect our newspaper. I did have a brief chat on the way back, though, with Seasoned World Travellor who was having a coffee in the poolside cafe. When we got home, we cooked some chicken breasts for lunch – I was anxious to ‘tart them up’ a little as otherwse they might have been a bit too bland. I decided to experiment with a honey mustard sauce, augmented with a little barbecue sauce. In theory, this should have been OK but I suspect that I overdid the mustard somewhat so I am making a mental note to myself to moderate the amount of mustard the next time I try something similar to this. This afternoon we are due to go to church leaving the house at 5.30 and returning just before 7.00pm. What is rather good now that the hour has gone back is that we both go and return fom church in the daylight which always elevates the spirits a little. When we get to church, we must stop and admire the floral decorations in which one of our friends has been heavily involved, tomorrow being ‘Palm Sunday’. We will have to wait and see whether we get our traditional palm (folded into the shape of the cross) which used to be the tradition years ago, but of course things change.

One of the unanticipated consequences of the conflict in Ukraine is the likely absence of wheat which has probably not been sown and/or harvested. Ukraine and Russia account for a third of global wheat and barley exports, which countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa rely on to feed millions of people who subsist on subsidized bread and bargain noodles. They are also top exporters of other grains and sunflower seed oil used for cooking and food processing. So there are some predictions that the hungry of the world might be even more hungry once the full consequences of the war in Ukraine have played out. The other news from the Ukraine is equally depressing. Sky News reports that General Alexander Dvornikov has been placed in charge of Russia’s invasion after it failed to gain control of Kyiv. Formerly commander of Russia’s southern military district, General Dvornikov has been linked to some of the worst atrocities committed by Russian-backed Bashar al Assad forces in Syria. Speaking to Sky News earlier, former UK ambassador to Russia Sir Roderic Lyne appeared to confirm the reports. Claiming Vladimir Putin has failed in his military objectives, he said: ‘I think that’s why they are re-concentrated their efforts on the south and the east. They’ve appointed a new general with a pretty savage track record in Syria to try to at least gain some territory in Donetsk that Putin could present as a victory.

Tonight, or rather late on this afternoon, I put all of the ingredients together for a ‘souper’ winter vegetables soup. So far, I have used carrots, parsnips, swede, celery and turnip supplemented with a fried onion and made with half a tin of coconut milk. This should be bubbling away whilst we are out and ready to consume when we return.

It is the first round of voting in the French president election tomorrow. Normally, this would not be of a great deal of interest to us in the UK but this time around, things are different. This is because the extreme right candidate, Marine Le Pen is within a percentage point or so of beating the incumbent president, Macron. She took over from her father as leader in 2011 and, in an attempt to distance herself from his reputation, banished him from the party in 2015. After losing out to Mr Macron in 2017, she rebranded the National Front to National Rally. Although anti-immigration by nature and a previous supporter of Mr Putin, Ms Le Pen has been quick to announce her support for Ukrainian refugees. She has also focused heavily on the cost of living crisis, which many credit with her recent uptick in the polls. Were she to win through in the second round, the dynamics of the politics of the whole of Europe would receive quite a jolt.