Sunday, 3rd March, 2024

[Day 1448]

Today started off bright and early with what promises to be a glorious spring day. We set our alarm and were up and had our early morning cup of tea before the duo of carers arrived at 7.00am this morning – one hour earlier than during the week. We got Meg turned around and then we managed to watch the Lorna Kuennsberg program in its entirety. As it is the Budget next Wednesday and this year is going to be an election year, there is much speculation as to what the Chancellor will give away in the form of tax cuts. Apparently, there is enough money ‘in the kitty’ as it were for a 1p cut in income tax even if this were to be a prudent thing to do, but the Conservatives in their present mood are clamouring loudly for much more significant tax cuts although they seem to be very coy about what public services are to be cut in order to pay for a further tax reductions. The current political thinking is that a 2p reduction in income tax is necessary to make any real political impact and so, at the moment, there is a desperate scrabble around as to where the extra money might be found. Two avenues are in mind, of which the first is exploring the option of scrapping the tax status enjoyed by people who live in the UK, but whose home for tax purposes is overseas (the so-called non doms). As Rishi Sunak’s wife falls into this category and it would be a direct steal of one of the Labour Party’s prime policies, it must be a measure of the desperation of finding the money from somewhere afflicting the Chancellor and the PM at the moment. A second avenue is to withdraw some of the very generous allowances enjoyed by some landlords but so many Tory MPs are also landlords so one can see the political difficulties in this direction as well. After we had breakfasted, we received a very welcome telephone call from our University of Birmingham friend who we did not see last weekend as he was away in Yorkshire so we readily accepted his invitation to join him for coffee in Waitrose. We have discovered in the course of our many conversations, that we have a mutual interest in etymology or, at least, in knowing the derivation of the more rarified words we came across. The one we were trying to work out is ‘minestrone’ (as in Italian soup) but this is a bit more complicated that might be thought. On the one hand, the word probably derives from a Latin root to indicate ‘that (potage) which is served’ but in contemporary Italian the words is used more figuratively to indicate a haphazard collection of objects (hence any bits of vegetables that one had left in one’s kitchen) I am going to scour my collection of books to see if I have any of a vaguely etymological nature that might prove to be of interest to our friend – the nearest that I do know that I have is one called ‘The Pedant’s Revolt’ which is full of interesting bits and pieces including some etymology.

Last night, when Meg was in bed, I vaguely remembered seeing the flash of the latest film from Sasha Baron Cohen (‘Ali G’ to most people) I did a quick check and found out that it was included in one of the Prime collection of films to which my subscription entitles me. So I watched it, alone, and found several sections of it excruciatingly funny as well as disturbing. Without reviewing the main plot of the film, Sasha Baron Cohen takes a massive swipe at many manifestations of the extreme right in America and gets some people in the commercial sector to do the most outrageous things without turning a hair. For example, he gets one patissier to ice a cake with the most outrageous anti-Semitic trope which the shop owner does immediately – I should point out that of course Cohen is himself Jewish and I have seen videoclips of him doing similar outrageous things such as getting a folk club to sing the most outrageously vicious anti-Semitic songs without pause for thought. Having enjoyed this film last night so much, I thought I would play it all over this afternoon for the joint enjoyment of Meg and myself. But the black humour and outrageous nature of some of the pranks played in the course of the movie were a bit too much for Meg to follow so we had to abandon this after watching about half an hour of it. The rest of the afternoon rather put me in mind of the reply that I asked one of original Spanish students on an Erasmus exchange what was the worst time he spent in England. Without hesitation, he replied ‘4.00pm on a Sunday afternoon’ which was a deliberate misunderstanding of course but reasonably accurate from his point of view. I think the contrast with Leicester and Madrid was overwhelming at 4.00 on a Sunday afternoon because in Madrid there was a lively cafe frequented almost exclusively by university students who used to engage in earnest debate with each other. I mentioned this to one of my Waitrose crowd whose husband worked a Sunday shift and she reckoned the only ‘escape’ at this time on a Sunday afternoon with a one year old child was to wander around the local park.