Monday, 23rd August, 2021

[Day 525]

Today has turned out to be one of the ‘chattiest’ of days. It started with a near neighbour of ours – as we were commiserating about the lack of a pavement on the stretch of road between us and the main Kidderminster Road, we were complaining to each other about the ways in which the local traffic often reaches the speed of 40-50 mph despite a 30 mph speed limit being in place. There is a sort of explanation for this. If one to examine the road which acts as a distributor road to us, it is a ‘de facto’ inner ring road but in practice had not been widened or upgraded in decades whereas the traffic has increased exponentially. Also, there are a great variety of speed limits along the road with very frequent changes (variously 30mph, 40mph and 50mph) but absolutely no speed cameras in place, so when the local populace reaches this stretch of road, they tend to let rip (particularly as the first bit is downhill). Further on down the road, we were particularly pleased to make contact again with some of our close (church) friends who live down the road but who we have not seen for a week or so whilst they have been off on their jolly holidays (in England) We confirmed the fact that their wedding anniversary is within about a week of ours so that that makes three of us couples (the two near neighbours, plus Meg and I) who have decided to ‘push the boat out’ and have a celebratory wedding anniversary meal two weeks on Thursday. I still have to organise this with the hotel but that will happen later on this afternoon – as indeed it did (after, frustratingly, it seemed to be difficult for them to answer my call). So we had a good old natter in the sunshine and then struck off, very late, to collect our newspapers. Meg felt she would appreciate a stop off at the Waitrose coffee shop so I left her there munching away whilst I went to collect our newspapers. Then I needed to collect a few things that unfortunately made my rucksack extraordinary heavy – I needed to buy just a few baking potatoes but finished off with 2kg of King Edwards plus 2 times 2 litres of milk so the resulting load was so heavy that Meg couldn’t even lift it off the floor. Nonetheless, we trudged home even though we were incredibly late by now but half up the hill we were stopped by someone we know well by sight who had only just heard that the Honda Civic was no longer to be manufactured in Swindon but either in Japan or in Turkey for the UK market. As our neighbour was an absolute fan of all vehicles made by Honda, he was a bit dismayed to learn they are no longer to be manufactured in Swindon. But is in the nature of modern manufacturing that vehicle production can be switched from location to location as often the same model is manufactured in more than one plant.

We had a very, very delayed lunch. I improvised by trying out a tin of chili beans into which I stirred some cubes of beed that were to be eaten up, petit pois, a stirring of chinese curry and topped with some plain yogurt. If this sounds absolutely foul, then it really wasn’t too bad – and I did get the meal prepared in just about 5 minutes flat. We did treat ourselves to a smidgeon of ice-cream to help to compensate for the earlier culinary ventures. In the late afternoon, I had set myself the task of putting a restraining ‘tie’ on one of our plum trees which is fairly heavily laden with fruit but which could snap or shear away from the main tree if not supported. For tasks like this, I always implore the women of their household not to throw away their old tights but to donate them (having been washed) to my ‘ties’ bag. Because of the material of which they are made, nylons make an excellent tying up agent as they are strong and rot-proof but with a tiny bit of ‘give’ in them which is just what is required. To put this in place, I had to balance on two of my home made devices – one is an old (heavy duty) plastic milk crate which I must say is well prized by those in the know as they can easily bear one’s weight. The other is a stool arrangement which I use to balance on the milk crate.In case, this sounds precarious, it was but at least I didn’t fall off and I managed to get the job done in about 5 minutes.

The Afghanistan pull-out is proving to be incredibly problematic. The Taliban say they are going to allow no extensions but the USA are saying that it will take 3 days (70 hours) just to pull their own troops and equipment out, only leaving four days as from this moment to pull out civilians. I have potential solution to this: why do the British and Americans not pull out (complying with undertakings given to the Taliban) but leave it to the UN to organise whatever evacuations need to take place over their own timescale?