Friday, 11th December, 2020

[Day 270]

Today has turned out to be one those busy but interesting days. Having collected our newspapers and drank our coffee in the park, we got into conversation with an Irish lady who was busy entertaining her two small children in the park (or rather putting away their buggies into her car). We told her tales of the Irish/Scottish landlady we had first experienced in Manchester. She ‘didn’t believe’ in baby sitters so gave the children aged about 5-6 a good 4″ of whisky in a glass to knock them out so they would sleep soundly all evening. The following morning, the children would have flaming red cheeks and would be wailing ‘Mummy – I have a headache” which of course the had, experiencing a horrendous hangover. Her husband, Seamus, drank a good eight of pints of beer a night and he explained to us that as his job was to undertake the electrical work upon cranes and they were obliged to crawl out to the end of the jib without any lines or safety harnesses, that he was so frightened that he only dare do it if he was still a little hungover from the night before (that was his story anyway). Then, as it happened, we bumped into our Irish friend and her husband who we will probably see at church tomorrow night and then her next door neighbour (a French lady – as her husband is of an artistic temperament, they have named their cat after Vincent Van Gogh). On the way home home, Meg were thinking to ourselves that in our little coterie we have an Irish couple, an Anglo-Indian couple, an Italian lady and a French lady. So altogether I suppose we form a little cosmopolitan ‘bubble’ contained with the Brexit-supporting majority which is the rest of Bromsgrove.

On Fridays, I often make a risotto with some kind of smoked fish (kippers or mackerel) rounded out with some softened onions, chicken stock, petit pois, yogurt and grated cheese. Our domestic help does not need much persuasion to help us to polish this off with a smidgeon of white wine but then we had a kind of logistics problem. I had previously picked up our domestic help whilst her own car was in for service today but now I needed to drop her back at her house, wait 5 minutes whilst she had a quick tooth clean and then whisk her off to the dentist by 3.00pm. As it happened, there were several reasons for me to visit the High Street in Bromsgrove this afternoon. Firstly, I needed to buy a new pair of rugby trousers from a men’s outfitters in Bromsgrove (the zip having given up the ghost on the previous pair rendering them useless) This was fine as they exactly my waist and inner leg size and then I went on hunt for a wreath (to replace the one that had recently met with an unfortunate accident) I had previously ordered a supply of Christmas cards from Oxfam but they have failed to arrive after several days so had to be chased with an exasperated email after 10 days and having banked my money. I decided to tour the charity shops to get a supply of Christmas cards so that I can start some addressing work over the weekend and managed to get the selection I wanted (some religious, some quasi-religious, some secular). I managed also to also obtain some ‘stocking filler’ presents whilst I was in the charity shops and finally topped up my supply of Vitamin D tablets (now recommended for all of us over a certain age – perhaps even available on prescription although it is more ethical to buy them directly and save the NHS some money).

Boris Johnson has said a no-deal outcome from Brexit trade talks is “looking very, very likely” ahead of Sunday’s deadline for a decision on the negotiations. Instead of using the term ‘no deal’ the Government have resorted to using the term ‘Australian’ deal (which is the same as a Turkmenistan deal – or no deal at all). For the purists, the deal Australia has with the EU even has some advantages for both which not be available to us if Britain accept ‘no deal’ and reverts to WTO terms. The thinking behind using the term ‘Australian’ deal is that it resonates much better with the public and has a positive glow to it (as in Aussie beer, cricket, rugby, and so on). Boris Johnson is increasing upbeat about the situation facing the country if we do crash out with ‘no deal’ , but this apparently upbeat public face does not square with the governments own Cabinet Office assessments of a 2% drop in GDP and a very severe jolt to the British economy as a whole. Many sheep farmers are in absolute despair and there is a well-founded prediction that a no-deal Brexit at the end of this year could lead to the premature slaughter of ‘millions of lambs’. We shall see!