Monday, 20th September, 2021

[Day 553]

Well, the day has finally arrived when Meg and I are off on our jolly hols. I got up reasonably early and then did last minute packing, including the MacBook Pro I generally keep in the lounge to blog away quietly in the corner whilst listening to the TV on the one hand and, occasionally, having a conversation with Meg on the other. I made sure last might that I had all of the software I needed properly installed and, more importantly, all of the file structures in the right place. Then we had a quick breakfast and I popped into town as I needed to collect our newspaper, take out an extra supply of cash and replenish our milk supplies. As I was packing the car, our domstic help called by to give Meg’s hair a final tweak before we set off and we finally got underway at about 11.0am. The journey down the M5 and M50 was generally unproblematic and then we had quite a pleasant meander, minly using the A40 which was quite fast in places, until we finally arrined in Brecon just after 1.00pm. We decided to let the SatNav take us on a drive past the guest house with whom we have a booking and then we turned the car around and headed off into Brecon itself so that we could find somewhere to eat. We got the car parked in quite a tight parking space – as you can imagine a historic market town like Brecon built on a hillside does not have great areas of space available for car parking. Nonetheless, we did get parked and in town found a Wetherspoons where we had a lunch of ‘mini’ fish and chips with included drink which served the purpose. Then we had a gentle stroll through the town and visited one or two of the local (charity) shops where Meg bought some necklaces from a ‘hospice’ type shop. Then about 3.30 we ready to head for the guest house.

At first sight, we thought we were going to have another parking hell as there seemed to be little ot no space. Eventually, when the door was answered, we directed down to the traffic lights, then left, left and left again until we finally ended up in a sort of back street with the proprietor waiting for us where he had a huge block of parking spaces for his guests which gained access to the Guest house through his back garden. We had requested a downstairs room and, so far, everything seems to have worked out OK. We got connected through the WiFi very quickly and fairly soon got ourselves unpacked, sorted out and eventually treated ourself to tea and biscuits. I am trying to get this blog written and ‘put to bed’ quite early so that we can have a good night watching the telly and then straight off to sleep.

I have just about got my head around the causes and consequences in the price of gas – 250% since the start of the year and 50% since last month alone and four times the price of a year ago. For causes you can take your pick from the following clusters of factors operating together – a cold winter last year, supply problems in the USA following hurricanes, Russia using a bit of muscle to get its pipeline deal approved by withholding gas supplies, a broken connector in the North Sea, poor reserve controls by the UK compared with other societies such as Germany and so on. Now for the consequences. The UK government (or rather the regulator) has allowed a lot of ‘small players’ into the market’ to encourage competition. But unlike the ‘big boys’ they had not learnt how to ‘hedge’ their supplies and with a regulated price, the cost of newly purchased gas is exceeding the price at which it can be sold – and hence they are collapsing like snowballs in June. The regulator moves their customers from a big supplier to another but the big boys do not want new customers as they tend to be a bit fickle (not having chosen them) and hence the market ‘churns’ and they switch again. If you had to point the finger at anybody you would say that the UK government has been lax in encouraging competition over continuity of supply, the regulator has not enforced proper standards of probity on newcomers to the market (did they ‘stress test’ them) and the UK strategic reserves are dire compared to, for example, Germany. No doubt we thought – why build up a reserve when we can always go ‘to the market’ but of course markets can, and do, go wild on occasion. At the risk if being a little smug, we have just (in the last 2 weeks) arranged a fixed price for our fuel which is both a fixed price for the next two years and saves us £75 a month.