Wednesday, 16th June, 2021

[Day 457]

Today is another one of those days this week to which we have been looking forward for some time. We needed to update our Waitrose order ready for delivery tomorrow and this was quite soon accomplished. Then we made our way through the now familiar sunshine to pick up our newspapers. Finally, we made our way towards the Waitrose store, knowing that today was the scheduled date on which their coffee bar was due to reopen. We imagined that there would be a red carpet, a brass band playing, a bottle of champagne for each customer with chocolates and flowers to match.Did we get all of that? The answer is – no, we did not but we did have lots of cheery smiles and ‘Nice to see you back after a gap of some 16 months. We sat and surveyed the street scene and the rest of the store, much as we always used to do. It did not feel as though we had been away for any length of time as the decorations were the same and the staff were largely the same. We did have to check in the QR code using the Covid app on my iPhone. Although it worked on the ‘big’ version of this displayed at the front of the coffee bar area, it did not seem to work at all on the little QR codes which they had got pasted onto each table, so perhaps a little bit of fine-tuning is needed there. We saw two of our regular Waitrose friends there but they were just on the point of leaving as we were arriving so we only had the time for the briefest of chats. We had thought it might have been teeming with members of the Waitrose fraternity but instead it was fairly quiet. No doubt news of the re-opening will take some to circulate and it is always possible, of course, that everyone had developed new routines and perhaps patronage of the local watering holes. We chatted at length to one of the employees whose first day it was in the coffee bar. She told us that she had been employed in the (huge and iconic) John Lewis in the centre of Brirminham next to New Street station. It had come as an amazing shock to the staff to be told that they had all lost their jobs and our friendly assistant told us she had cried for two days when she got the bad news. But at least, she is now re-employed within the Waitrose family as it were and I am sure that ‘good’ jobs in retail are as rare as hen’s teeth.

After we had eaten and drank our fill, we slowly made our way to the park. There although we did not tarry as we normally would upon a seat we did bump into two or three of the old faithfuls. There we received some sad news from one of our regular friends as she comes to it nearly every day in her electrically powered buggy. A very common sight adjacent to the island used to be that of ‘Henry the Heron’ was was very distinguishable because he had an injured foot – either a genetic fault or the result of a past injury we know not. Some of the park regulars had noticed that Henry was painfully thin and was off his food – and therefore seemed to be wasting away. The RSPCA had been called and anaesthetised the bird – upon a good examination they was able to ascertain his age (about 11-12 we think) and his overall condition was such it was decided that it was in the bird’s best interest to say goodbye to this life. So that is a regular sight of which we will now be deprived, unless, of course, another heron comes to take his place.

Today’s political news has rather been dominated by the Biden-Putin summit abroad and Dominic Cummings at home. The latter has just published a 7,000 word blog (that is about the length of 8 of these daily entries) and In the most explosive of these entries, Boris Johnson is shown to have said of Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary that he was ‘totally f****** hopeless‘ A similar sentiment was repeated on more than one occasion as well. Of courses, this is hard to deny given that we now the evidence in black-and-white as it were. What Cummings has to say about Boris Johnson is no less revealing. Cummings claims that then PM wants to quit shortly after the next election to ‘make money and have fun‘ He also claimed Mr Johnson has a clear plan to leave Downing Street ‘at the latest a couple of years after the next election’, which is scheduled for 2024. The ex-adviser claimed this mattered because a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the COVID crisis had been ‘designed to punt the tricky parts until after this PM has gone‘. Asked about the claim Mr Johnson had already planned when to quit, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: ‘The prime minister has been asked about this before and described it as utter nonsense.‘ Finally Cummings claimed that the PM ‘pegs it out of the room before anybody can disagree‘ Stories from the inside!