Today is Bank Holiday Monday and is one of those rare occasions, which happen once every seven years I suppose, when the Bank Holiday associated with 1st January is shifted not to the day afterwards (which is a Sunday) but the day after the day after. Now I come to think of it, I started work in my very first job on 1st January, 1962 – New Year’s Day was not to become a Bank Holiday until 12 years later in 1974. My wages in that first job was the princely sum of £3 17s 6d which translate to the sum of £3.86 a week. My second job, though, was to triple my wages at the National Lending Library for Science and Technology, Boston Spa in Yorkshire. But today was one of those days in which, although it was a Bank Holoiday, many shops including our local Waitrose were open whereas many shops were actually closed last Saturday (which was New Year’s Day itself) Meg and I made our trip to the newspaper shop and then detoured slightly on way home to call in at Waitrose to buy a little ‘something’ before we go out for tea this afternoon. On our way back home, I called in to see our neighbour because I wanted the name and telephone of his electrician so that he could do a little repair job for us when next he is around. Chatting with our neighbours is always pleasant and I tapped his musicological memories to try to assess the relationship between folk singers and their typical political leanings. I was given a present of some Christmas cake which actually turned out to be extremely timely. This is because we were running somewhat short of time as our chiropodist was due to call at 2.00. We made a shortcut of lunch by consuming a slab of the recently donated Christmas cake with a large slab of Wensleydale cheese. This is a little delicacy often given as a treat to customers of public houses in Yorkshire. When I was a youth, it was not uncommon for the publican and/or the publican’s wife to offer a slab of Christmas cake with a slab of Wensleydale cheese upon it to all of the pub’s customers, many of whom would be regulars at this time of the year. Then our chiropodist called round and made sure that Meg and I had properly manicured ‘trotters’ so that we could proceed with our daily peregrinations. Incidentally, we find it always useful to keep our feet in good condition and hopefully with hundreds or even thousands of serviceable miles left in them.
This afternoon, we had been invited to have a Christmas ‘afternoon tea’ with a neighbour of a friend who we have to know quite well over the last few months. She is French by origin and taught the language for many years locally although we discovered today that her first foreign language, studied at University, was actually Spanish. We did discover something in the course of our very lively and informative conversation that we had not appreciated before. Our French friend’s university course was rather punctuated by the fact that many male members of the course were constantly being called up to provide conscripts for the French-Algerian conflict. This is formerly known as the Algerian War for Independence and is formerly dated as 1954-1962.The height of the conflict was known as the Battle of Algiers (1956–57). French forces (which increased to 500,000 troops) managed to regain control but only through brutal measures, and the ferocity of the fighting sapped the political will of the French to continue the conflict. Apart from our conversations about some matters of French history and geography of which we were a little bit ignorant, we also discussed both French and British politics. We also have some acquaintances in common via our Italian friend who we saw the other day. We left our friend after a fascinating afternoon and perhaps we might explore the possibilities to see each other a bit more often and not just at Christmas time if the winter days turn out to be indeterminably long and miserable.
The political news today is the revelation that Epstein agreed to pay $½ million to Virginia Roberts/Virginia Giuffre. The file having now been ‘opened’ and made public, it is up to a judge to decide tomorrow whether its wide-ranging provisions to extend immunity for further legal actions applies to Prince Andrew or not. Tomorrow is probably the only thing that can save Prince Andrew and as I see it at the moment, which way the judge will decide is really too close to call. In domestic politics, the government is so desperately anxious to keep schools open that it has already been announced that all secondary school students in England will be required to wear facemasks in class as well as in communal areas when they return. Pupils will also be expected to take lateral flow tests on-site and take a test twice a week from home. In the event that there are not enough teachers, then head teachers are urged to ‘merge’ classes to avoid school closure.