Thursday, 22nd December, 2022

[Day 1011]

Today was a day for getting up early and getting all of the Christmas shopping done. So I arrived at the supermarket door at 7.55 only to discover that the supermarket doors had already been open for an hour to accommodate the Christmas shoppers. Nonetheless, the store was not particularly busy and so the shopping was relatively straightforward, apart from the fact that the extra Christms stock tends to mean that some regular items get displaced. Nonetheless, I got almost everything I wanted save for the fact that chestnuts were nowhere to be found and the store had completely sold out of its excellent and award winning mince pies. Tomorrow, Meg and I are probably going to pop into Waitrose in any event to have a rendez-vous with some of the cafe regulars, so that will be the opportunity to buy any last minute ‘forgotten’ items. Needless to say, the shopping always takes a certain amount of time to unpack and one has to hunt the space for the ‘Christmas overflow’ but I suspect that Christmas Day being on a Sunday this year somehow makes the food buying less of a deviation from one’s normal pattern. What struck me this year was the fact that some of the veg prices seemed ridiculously cheap – for example, a swede, parsnips and a cabbage were all being sold for the price of 19p. I seem to remember a few years ago that one of the local supermarkets had evidently massively over-ordered some of their Christmas stock and were actually giving away free pre-packed bags of parnsips as you entered the store. I must say tht I have known some horrendously crowded supermarkets stores in the day or so before Christmas probably in the 1980’s and I happy that those days have gone.

This afternoon was the type of afternoon when all of the normal TV schedules have been abandoned and the Christmas season is well and truly kicking in. This afternoon, for example, we were offered a choice between ‘Casablanca’ on one channel and ‘Paddington’ on another. We chose ‘Paddington’ which we have seen several times before but I love the jokes contained within it. I have always thought that ‘Paddington’ was not just for children but can be enjoyed by adults at another level. In the late afternoon we watched a ‘spoof’ Nativity play (in which everythng was designed to go horribly wrong and it did not disappoint) I just wonder of any fervent Christians will send in letters of complaint, though. Whilst watching the TV, I wrote up some of damson vodka/gin labels and later on tonight, they can be affixed to the bottle which can themselves be wrapped up. Wrapping up bottles is not a favourite activity of mine but you get better at it once you perform it multiple times. Tomorrow will be the day when all of these bits of Christmas spirit get distributed to friends up and down the road and after that I may be able to relax just a little as all of my Christmas preparation will have been done.

Yesterday , we witnessed the first of a series of strikes by ambulance men. There were indications that the government were secretly very worried about this particular strike (people dying is never good publicity) but it looked as though members of the public thought long and hard before calling an ambulance and hence demand in the system was down yesterday. However, today we have seen some of this pent up demand pushing up calls to the ambulance service and the next few days will be critical as well. The volume of rhetoric is increasing as well – the government (or rather Barclay, the Health Secretary, was particularly trenchant in his criticisms of the ambulance men in effect accusing them of allowing people to die to make a political point. Needless to say, the unions involved have hit back equally hard arguing that the government has allowed this situation to develop by refusing to discuss pay, indirecly therefore cutting the real wages of ambulance staff. So far, public opinion has been supportive of paramedics, ambulance staff and nurses but the government may be waiting until they feel that the public has had enough and the pressure of public opinion forces a change in the union’s stance. This is not at all likely and two further and more intensive strikes have been called for January so the New Year may well start off in an even more hostile industrial environment than we have at the moment.

I have just a final note on my newly installed audio system where I am getting really good reception on ClassicFM (to which I listen a lot) but some interference on Radio 4 and occasionally Radio 3. Last night, I conducted a little experiment and managed to improve the FM reception on Radio 4 to quite a large extent (i.e. elimination of FM hiss in the background) by the simple expedient of moving the aerial to a new position some 6″ to the left of where it was (and held in place by a map pin) Why this should be so I do not know and do not really care so long as I get reception within acceptable limits.