Wednesday, 14th February, 2024

[Day 1430]

This morning we knew we had a sort of social engagement later on in the day, so after we were up, washed and breakfasted we set out to visit the rugby club in Finstall. a small village which to all extent and purposes a suburb of Bromsgrove. Here AgeUK runs a special cafe on the second Wednesday of each month so we made sure that we got there promptly for proceedings to begin at 10.30. Today being Valentines Day, we had some activities based around this (recognising songs on the ‘Love’ theme principally) I also took the opportunity to speak for 2-3 minutes at the end of the meeting informing all of those present about the little one page website I created recently for the benefit of carers but which may grow if other carers want to email me with additional comments that I can incorporate into further pages. Our activities, complete with coffee and biscuits, were completed by about 12.15 so we picked up a newspaper from a local suburban post office and then made for home. We lunched today on a fairly conventional lunch which did not too long to prepare and then we settled down, afterwards, to watch the second half of the biopic ‘La Vie en Rose‘ which was the life story of the French ‘chanteuse’ Edith Piaf. This was a fascinating, but not an easy, film to watch in many ways. True, it did start with her early life and it did end with her death but most of the film consisted of episodes that reflected the turbulence of Piaf’s life. There was a gritty realism to the film and it pulled no punches in its telling of the Piaf story. Meg and I watched it with a kind of fascinated horror, not knowing exactly what episode was going to be displayed next which is an approach to film making with many may well find disconcerting. After we had concluded our viewing, I did a search to see if I could find reviews of the film and did find an American review, full of praise for the biopic which was one of the finest that the reviewer had actually seen, but the sentiments expressed almost echoed my own feelings. Incidentally, this reviewer also translated ‘La Vie en Rose‘ in the manner that I suggested when I blogged yesterday as ‘life viewed through rose-tinted glasses’ At the conclusion of the film we had Piaf singing ‘Je ne regret rien’ which sounds morbid and mournful but is actually a song with quite positive sentiments as it encourages one to look forward to what the future may hold in the store despite whatever vicissitudes have been endured in the past.

Further aid for the Ukraine might well be in doubt after votes in the US Congress. Although a bill for billions of dollars has passed through the Senate (Upper House), the House of Representatives (Lower House) may well vote down the bill requesting additional funds. There is a large amount of political opportunism in all this as Republicans are generally supportive of extra spending on the military. But the Republicans sold it as ‘why should we be helping Ukraine secure its own borders when our own are wide open’ and is proving an argument which is appealing to even uncommitted voters in the USA at the moment. Speaking of Ukraine, it is reported today that their forces have destroyed the Russian Navy’s Tsezar Kunikov large landing ship off the occupied peninsula of Crimea in the Black Sea. This has been done with the aid of ‘sea drones’ and it may well have been that the Ukrainians struck lucky by getting the ship’s ammunition store to explode, this destroying the whole ship. The Ukrainians have now developed a pattern of being able to destroy some of the Russian landing craft in the seas around the Crimea which cannot be replaced in that part of the Black Sea. To some extent, this may be a consolation prize for the fact that the Russians may be getting the better of the land war as they are pushing back at the Ukrainians defences.

As I was reflecting upon some of the archaic customs associated with St Valentine’s Day in the past, I also remembered a rather strange custom which I had observed when we lived in Leicester. Being a city the economy of which was based on the textile industry, there was a large factory much of which output went to Marks and Spencer. There was a tradition that when young women were to be married, her mates would dress her up in the gaudiest clothing imaginable and with garish make up on her face as well. The ‘victim’ would then be taped to a lamp post with yards and yards of sellotape, string and other tape such that it was impossible to escape. Thus tied to the lamp post, the girl did not attempt to make an escape but had to endure the laughter and comments of passing pedestrians and motorists for several hours (normally from about 2.00pm in the afternoon until about 6.00pm) Her friends would then come and release her and get her thoroughly drunk for the rest of the evening (although she may have drunk something at lunchtime as well) In the sixteen years that I lived in Leicester, I think I observed this about twice and certainly more associated with the 1970’s rather than later. I suspect that this habit may well have died out a long time ago and one wonders what the attitude of a modern day police force might be if faced with a girl-tied-to-a-lamp post scenarios in today’s world. I would suspect that this practice has been replaced by a more modern version which might be a hen party organised in Amsterdam or in Prague. Meg and I actually bumped into a more mature hen party when we were staying in a hotel in Madrid – the members of this group all wore identical tee-shirts but I cannot remember what their slogan was at the time.