Friday, 15th April, 2022

[Day 760]

Today dawned bright and fair so this presages the start of some good weather. Once Meg and I got ourselves showered and breakfasted, we popped down into town by car, primarily because I wanted to pick up one or two things at Waitrose, which we treat rather like a corner shop when we run out of one or two things. We met up with our University of Birmingham friend and Seasoned World Traveller and we had quite a jolly time talking about the sinking of the Russian battle cruiser, the Moskva. The Ukrainians had commemorated the original act of defiance in which some Ukrainian military had shouted at the Russians ‘Russian warship, do (obscenity) yourself‘ These military had been captured but then released quite early in a prisoner exchange and were promptly awarded medals for gallantry by the Ukrainian president. The Ukrainians have subsequently issued a stamp which shows the Russian battle cruiser in the background but Ukrainian soldiers in the foreground making an obscene gesture in the direction of the warship. But of course, this stamp is already outdated because the image of a ship needs to be replaced/superimposed by the image of a sinking ship. The ‘inside’ story is starting to emerge today, courtesy of Sky News. The pride of Russia’s fearsome Black Sea fleet was taken out in one of the most cunning operations of the war. Ukrainian commanders destroyed the huge Moskva warship by using drones to distract its defence systems and allowing surface-skimming missiles to strike. The 12,500-ton cruiser’s protective sensors seemingly did not see the Neptune rockets heading its way because they were tracking Turkish TB2 drones. Providing a massive boost to morale in Kyiv, and a huge blow to Vladimir Putin’s navy, two missiles slammed into the port side of the 611ft Moskva, rocking her violently and causing a catastrophic explosion and huge fires. As flames lit up the stormy Black Sea, the ship’s 510 crewmen frantically climbed into lifeboats and fled. As a postscript to this account, the Ukrainians are now claiming that the captain of the battle cruiser was killed. American intelligence sources think that several other crew lost their lives in the fire and subsequent explosion. The Russians are admitting the fire but not the missile damage. However, as if to undermine their own story, the Russians have immediately started to bomb a Ukrainian factory near to Kyif which both manufactures and repairs anti-ship missiles. One wonders why they would do this if, as the Russians would have us believe, the ‘fire’ on board their battle cruiser was accidental or not caused by a Ukrainian missile. By all accounts, though, the Russian cruiser was bristling with defensive equipment which should, in theory, have protected it. But does the failure of these systems to work point to failures in the technology itself and/or to the training of the naval personnel on board? The military significance of the loss of this ship means that any attack on Odessa might be more difficult as the Russians would have to rely upon more amphibious landings.

We lunched on some smoked hake fillets, first purchased from Aldi some 3-4 weeks ago and then purchased again last Thursday. Like last time, these proved to be absolutely delicious – I follow the cooking instructions to the letter wrapping them tightly in tinfoil and then baking them in a pre-heated oven for some 17 minutes. They were delicious and I have an idea they may be a regular part of our cuisine from now on. Last night, we were just setting down to watch our evening’s TV when there was a knock on the door – it was our next door neighbour with two delicious bowls of apple and rhubarb crumble complete with custard which she had just served up. We devoured these with alacrity, secure in the knowledge that now we won’t starve with a good neighbour like that next door. When today’s lunch was well and truly over, it was time for the weekly lawn mow. As it was such a pleasant afternoon, I even had to divest myself of my gardening jacket and mow in my shirt sleeves. I was three quarters finished when our next door neighbour wandered across for a chat. As well as revelling in what had happened to the Russian battle cruiser, we were discussing gardening topics and, in particular, vegetable growing. My neighbour has an allotment or even two and is growing quite a lot of his favourite vegetables this year. I showed him the section of land that had been devoted to dahlias but is now being pressed into service as a vegetable plot. In the next few days, provided it is warm, I will get to work raking the soil to get it into a fine tilth and then I can proceed to sow in the open air. Yesterday, on our day out, I popped into a hardware store that sold vegetable and flower seeds and bought his last remaining packet of sweet pea seeds so these can now be sown pretty quickly.