Wednesday, 18th August, 2021

[Day 520]

Today was one of those days when even the weather forecasters were given to explain ‘The only word we can use for the whole of the country today is cloudy‘ and so it proved to be. Meg and I walked straight on down to the newspaper shop and then retraced our steps as far as the park. On our way down, we encountered the French lady who we had round for tea in the garden about a couple of weeks ago. We were commiserating with other that the one Arts Centre that we had in Bromsgrove called ‘The Artrix’ was initially ‘dark’ at the start of the pandemic when all public places of entertainment were closed. It was then ‘repurposed’ as a vaccination centre which I think was quite an inspired choice of building. Given that it couldn’t be used as an Arts Centre until the end of the lockdown, I think a vaccination centre was a brilliant idea. It could process up to 2,000 vaccinations a day, there ws plenty of car-parking and ‘The Artrix‘ was on signposts all over the district and just off the arterial A38 road. Although we are getting to the end of vaccinating most of the adult population, it now looks as thought the vaccination regime will extend into the secondary schools and the the more elderly sections of the population, there is talk of combining the normal autumn ‘flu vaccine with an updated COVID-19 booster in the autumn. Perhaps, eventually, we might get our Arts Centre back but in the meantime, I think there will be plenty of work for the repurposed building for the foreseeable future.

Halfway through the afternoon, the daughter of our recently deceased neighbour called by. She gave us the date when the funeral was going to be, now that then post-mortem had been conducted. The daughter was explaining that whilst her mother had had a stroke followed by a second one that we to prove fatal, she had no predispositions that one can think of such as high blood pressure. She also led an abstemious lifestyle with no alcohol and an avoidance of ‘junk food’ so we commiserated with each other that there was no justice in the world. As our neighbour’s daughter is in the final stages of completing her PhD, I tried to proffer what I hoped might be some useful advice , namely to choose one’s external examiner with care. I say this because in the course of my academic life I have seen 2-3 rampant injustices where deserving candidates were denied their just desserts because an external examiner had a hidden agenda or a point to prove by turning down the applicant.

In the late afternoon, I finally got round to planting out the nice rose that our French friend brought round with her the other day. I rescued some topsoil from a bag I scarcely knew I had, laced it liberally with chicken pellet manure and then planted out a rose and also a companion stone container which is awaiting a nice plant to go in it. I am also minded to take the small collection of hazels I have put in a temporary location in the front garden to start to form a little hazel hedge along the front of the raised wooden beds I painfully constructed down the side of the house some years ago now. If this comes off, we shall have effected our ambition to have a good ‘green screen’ between ourselves and the newly developed housing estate (now some three years old built on the site of an orchard down by the side of our house)

Today the House of Commons was recalled for an eight hour emergency debate on the situation in Afghanistan. The Commons was in a sombre mood and the government were peppered with questions, many from their own side, about Britain’s lack of preparedness for the scenario unfolding before us. The mood in the House of Commons was almost non-partisan – in some of the contributions it was not easy to discern whether the MP who was speaking was a Tory or not. In fact, Teresa May, the previous Prime Minister, was particularly scathing. The fact our Foreign Secretary was on a beach when Kabul was falling speaks volumes. Boris Johnson himself reinforced his reputation for being unprepared, if not asleep on the job. I think the House of Commons is at its best on occasions like this – the previous debate of a similar nature I remember was when the Commons was recalled for a Saturday debate after the invasion of the Falklands (the Malvinas to the rest of the world). I have been considering whether to not to pen a one line letter to the Times posing the following question -‘In view of the long historical association of the UK with Afghanistan and in view of the commitment to promote the education of women, why does the government not suggest that it should build and fund a university in Afghanistion solely for the education of Afghani women?‘ Were the Taliban to refuse such an offer, this itself would speak volumes about their real intentions.