Friday, 24th February, 2023

[Day 1075]

Here we are at the end of another week. When I announced to the wife of the newsagent that for the Lenten period, I was abstaining from fast cars, loose women, gambling, alcohol (and chocolate for good measure) she laughed and told me that she would believe it when she saw it. Bearing this insult with good grace, Meg and I progressed to Waitrose where by appointment, we met with our University of Birmingham friend. For whatever reason, we chatted and chatted and when it was time for us to go realised that we had spent the best part of two hours in conversation. I must say it is more pleasant than sitting on a windy park bench and our topics of conversation ranged over science, family matters, our educational experiences and goodness knows what else. We were both speculating that having got to a certain stage in the life cycle, we are both relieved that we do not have to shepherd adolescent children through the times of tribulations of the modern world. At least when we were young, we participated in the sorts of activities, hobbies and past-times typical of the day. One that I remember was a firm called ‘Keil Kraft’ and when I went onto the internet to ensure that I was not suffering from false memory syndrome, there is a fascinating film on YouTube largely shot in the 1950’s and early 1960’s of the Keil Kraft factory. The video is about 15 minutes long but I only indulged in watching the first few minutes of it and if time permits I may indulge in the rest a little later. One of the more amusing bits of commentary that accommpanies the film announces that ‘no fingers were lost in the making of this documentary’ and when you saw the chunks of balsa wood fed into a circular saw with unprotected fingers only inches away from a fast revolving circular blade, you get a real feeling for how things were then. The models were just printed designs on sheets of balsa wood which you then cut out with a craft knife and glued together before covering in tissue paper, ‘doping’ it to shrink the tissue paper and finally painting it. The first one I made of these was the ‘Hurricane’ WW2 fighter aircraft and there was a brief glimpse on the video of the kit I purchased in about 1960. The firm did diversify into plastic models but it never quite captured the imagination in the same way.

Once home, we cooked ourselves a lunch of a pre-bought fish pie which I supplemented with carrots and sprouts, par-boiled and then fished off in the oven glazed with a little honey (a trick to stop sprouts smelling out the whole house) This was delicious and although I had bought some white wine to accompany the meal, I did not serve any of it up because I had forgotten when I bought it that I was going to give alcohol a miss for the next six weeks. This intention may not survive any social engagements that we have from now until Easter but at least I will have made a little bit of effort.

Today the media has been dominated by the news that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is one year old. The staff in Waitrose had put up notices asking for a miniute’s silence at 11.00am which we observed whilst having our coffee this morning but how widely observed it was in the store, it was not easy to tell. At the United Nations, there was an effort to get all of the delegates to observe one minute’s silence to honour the dead in the Ukraine but the Russian delegate interrupted the one minute to argue that all of the dead, i.e. including the Russians, should be honoured by the one minute silence. Whoever comes out with most credit from these parlour games, it is hard to day but Russian support throughout the world is limited to a handful of nations. The Chinese may be about to announce some peace proposals that may just amount to a ceasefire which would leave the Russans ‘in situ’ as occupiers and this would be rejected out of hand by the Ukrainians. Which way the Chinese jump may be critical but of course one never knows in the world of high-level diplomacy that there might be a position taken in public whereas behind the scenes other factors might be in play. If the Chinese were to supply the Russians with significant miliary aid, this might prove to be a serious escalation. It is rumoured that the Chinese may be about to supply a new generation of drones to the Russians but again it is possible that like governments in the West, the Chinese might be saying that will supply military assistance but without doing anything very much. Some other political developments are brewing as Tory MPs are being put on alert to expect an announcement over the Northern Ireland Brexit renegotiations early on next week. So the next few days might prove to be a critical test of the Rishi Sunak premiership and thus it may be ‘make or break’ time for the Brexit rebels in the European Research Group.