Today was another of those indeterminate type days in which it appeared to be uniformly cloudy but not actually raining or drizzling, although the threat was there. Meg and I walked down to collect our newspaper, as per usual, and then made our way to our normal bench overlooking the rest of the park. Whilst we were sitting there, we seemed to be passed by all kinds of people, including a near neighbour and had chats with four sets of friends and acquaintances overall. Some of our friends were off to watch the World Cup cricket on Sky TV and we talked cricket with another of our acquaintances as well. I told them the story that I had few regrets in life but one of them was as follows. If I had stayed on for one more year at Thornleigh College, Bolton (in which I was a boarder whilst my mother trained to be a teacher in Newcastle upon Tyne) then it was more than likely that I would have received some coaching from an up and coming West Indian cricketer who was coming over to play in what was called the ‘Lancashire Combination’ and who had secured a coaching contract with the school. The name of this West Indian cricketer was – Garfield (Gary) Sobers. We are taking about 1958 here so it was long before Gary Sobers reached his full potential (and greatness) as a cricketer. When Meg and I walked home, we felt quite enervated by the conversations we had had – of course, it is very much ‘luck of the draw’ and we could have ended up talking to nobody. After lunch, we finished up with a bit of a look-in to the Budget speech being given today but a lot of it has been pre-announced this year, to the great ire of the Speaker of the House of Commons. Then I got back onto BT to clarify the terms of the new (reduced) contract that I thought I had negotiated with BT about a fortnight ago. The trouble is the what I was I told at the time, the documents I received subsequently from BT and my account on the BT website all show different and to some extent contradictory things so this needed some resolution. The car is due in for service tomorrow but fortunately, I am on one of those schemes where the garage picks up the car to be serviced and then delivers it back either that day or the following day. So this makes life (in this respect) extraordinary easy for us.
The next experimental day along and today it was the turn of ‘Leek and Potato soup’ The result was fine, if a little bland, although it was delightfully creamy as the result of some coconut milk in the mixture and a large dollop of yogurt when it was served (and helps to cool it down as well) I still have half of the ingredients left for another day so I think that as this preparation is done I may experiment with some home-made croutons and perhaps a sprinkling of some fresh herbs. Looking at some cooking websites, it looks as though some fresh rosemary, thyme or even, for an exotic touch, chopped hazel nuts might do the trick so perhaps we might experiment a little next time.
It was budget day today and we get the usual smoke-and-mirrors performance from a chancellor (of either party) Sometimes, the full implications of a budget are not felt for a day or so until analysts have had a chance to dissect the ‘Red Book’ which is the huge folio published at the time of the budget containing a lot of data, statistics and graphs. Some commentators are calling this budget the end of Osbornomics (= austerity). Some are even calling it a ‘Labour’ budget given that this Conservative chancellor has raised taxes by a record amount, with the tax burden now at a level not seen since 1949, and increased spending to an extent that the state is bigger than ever before. But the acid test for this budget isn’t how it lands in the next few days but how this lands in the coming months against a backdrop of inflation, predicted to hit 4% next year, and continued cost of living pressures in the form of energy bills and rising prices, which the chancellor himself warned would take months to unwind. We have to take today’s measures in conjunction with the tax rises that will come into effect next April (National Insurance increases) and with the prospect of inflation rising to as much as 4%
As the political commentator Beth Rigby obsserved: ‘And in the meantime, there is a real risk that the gap between the optimism and the lived experience of people is going to grate and this budget and government could soon look very out of touch with the people they lead’.