Today was set fair with no particular rain forecast so we had a pleasant walk to the park. On our way home, we were recognised by one of our erstwhile friends from church who often used to sit in the pew behind us and chat when we attended the service every Saturday evening. Whilst we were deep in conversation catching up on all of our ‘lockdown’ news and experiences, we were joined by two of more regular friends so we had a very animated conversation between the five of us. We were given the news that services in the open air have re-commenced each Sunday morning at Harvington Hall, which is just a few miles down the road. Harvington Hall is not a National Trust or English Heritage House but is owned by the Catholic archdiocese of Birmingham, being one of the centres of medieval Catholicism in the Midlands and it boasts the finest collection of ‘priest hides’ (where Catholic priests used to minister to the local population but were successfully hidden in the house during the Reformation when they hunted by the authorities) So we are resolved to all go next Sunday as social distancing is quite easy in the open air and we hope to see many more of our acquaintances then, assuming of course that the heavens have not opened on us to dampen our ardour. Just after we got home, our son and daughter-in-law arrived back home from their stay in Dorset where they seemed to have a restful and interesting time away for the last few days. It is our daughter-in-law’s summer holidays but she still has a lot of school organisation and planning to do whilst our son is still carrying on working from home as he has done since the start of the lockdown.
The rest of the day was spent quite peacefully enjoying a Sunday lunch, reading the Sunday newspapers and looking forward to the summary of the latest cricket Test Match between England the West Indies broadcast at 7.00 pm each evening. I normally only glance at the business news in the Sunday newspapers but I did read an interesting analysis how the chain of Pret-a-Manger had really lost its way since it had passed from initial business to various hotel and restaurant chains who had then sold it onto private equity owners. The impact of the article was to argue that private equity owners are only interested in ‘sweating the assets’ and milking the last drop of business and this is one explanation why Pret-A-Manger and similar businesses eventually meet their demise. I also read with a great deal of interest the account by Tim Shipman, the principal political correspondent of the Sunday Timeswho always seems to be able to write some incredibly well-informed stories. This week he thought that privately No. 10 (Downing Street) is secretly fearing another Trump victory that might bind us into an incredibly unpopular ‘chlorinated chicken’ deal with the United States as well as being bounced into a much more hostile stance vis-a-vis China that might not be in the UK’s long term interests. (Just in passing, it seems incredible that in these days of Brexit negotiations we are falling out with the EU, the USA, Russia and ambiguous relationships with the US. Who are we going to trade with successfully, I ask myself?) Turning to HuffPost for some inside reporting of the current Brexit negotiations state of play, I read that a government analysis in November 2018 predicted that leaving without a trade deal would cause a 7.6% contraction in the economy, while leaving with an “average” free trade agreement would cause a 4.9% reduction in GDP, compared to the UK continuing as an EU member. There are already reports that the red tape businesses will need to navigate as a consequence of leaving the customs union could leave the UK with a £7bn bill. Of course, there is still room for a deal if there happens to be quite a lot of compromise on both sides but this might be one of those situations where the negotiations really do go to the wire i.e. not decided until hours of the final cut-off date/time. How much negotiation will go in August when most of continental holiday goes on holiday is hard to say so it makes September and October really critical months.