Saturday, 22nd January, 2022

[Day 677]

So Saturday has dawned with a cold but not that cold feeling compared with some days recently. These days, I seem to be counting off the days until the publication of the Sue Gray report into ‘partygate’ for which the latest best guess seems to be Thursday so not too long to go now. Once Meg and I got our act together, we wandered down into town under no real political pressure and I dropped Meg on the bench outside Waitrose whilst I went off to collect the Saturday edition of the newspaper. Whilst inside Waitrose, I looked at their extensive sauces section and discovered some sachets of Sweet Chilli and Garlic cooking sauce. Why I am delighted to have found this sauce is because when I consulted the web, I discovered an excellent YouTube video in which an (English) chef demonstrated exactly how pollock could be cooked using the chilli and garlic sauce as a type of marinade. This looked so easy to prepare and so good to eat, I am looking forward to my next culinary adventure. The interesting thing about all of this is that when you look at the completed meal, the cost of the sauce is probably equal to the cost of the fish in the first place. But given that pollock is such a mild-flavoured fish, it is necessary to add some flavour to it and this recipe has obviously been tried and tested before the video was made.

Tonight is the night when we attend church for a 6.00-7.00 service and it will be the third week that we have experienced with our new priest. Attendance is alwasys a little down when the weather is poor and the cold strikes but we expect to see many of the regular ‘old faithfuls’ this evening. I am always quite interested in the sermon as this part of the service is completely unpredictable and I am always interested to see what messages can be crammed into a five-minute slot. On Radio 4, there used to be a regular slot called ‘Thought for the Day‘ and this was generally given over to a variety of denominations and religious speakers – the contributions of the speakers from the Jewish, Sikh, Muslim and Hindu callings was always quite interesting, given that in the normal course of events one would not often hear what these religious persuasions had to offer. However, I was always incredibly impressed by what various speakers could cram into a 5-minute slot. I particularly remember Rabbi Lionel Blue (the first Jewish Rabbi to acknowledge the fact that he was gay) and he contributed to ‘Thought for the Day‘ for a period of 25 years. His Wikipedia entry is particularly interesting and his contribution was nearly always a comic and often self-deprecating story or extended joke with a little moral twist at the end. Given what could be said in 5 minutes, I often used to wonder in my lecturing days how good a lecture I could deliver if it turned out to be the equivalent of 12 times a five minutes ‘Thought for the Day‘ slot.

When the TV is poor on a Saturday evening, Meg and I often turn to YouTube for an opera performance. The only slight snag about this is that unless you know the opera particularly well, you are never quite sure how long the performace is going to be and we don’t particularly fancy making a late night of it, even though tomorrow is a Sunday. If we try that this evening, we must remind ourselves to get our viewing started quite early. We tend to stick to our favourites drawn from Mozart, Puccini and Verdi so we might just might have a go at ‘Madame Butterfly’ (Puccini) this evening. The fascinating thing about this opera is that the theme (an American fathering a child in an oriental coutry and then coming along to claim the child as their own and taking them back to America) is exactly what happened when American GI’s fathered children in Vietnam several decades after the opera was written. Some 26,000 children were brought back to the USA. They grew up as the leftovers of an unpopular war, straddling two worlds but belonging to neither. Most never knew their fathers. Many were abandoned by their mothers at the gates of orphanages. Some were discarded in rubbish bins.

The big political story today is whether the over-zealous behaviour of the Tory party whips has led to consequences which might have crossed over illegality. One particular charge is that the whips had threatened to deny the constituents of a particular Tory MP a new school if the MP rebelled (paradoxically, over the withdrawal of the provisions for free school meals). Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is chairman of the Commons Standards Committee, said alleged threats to pull public funding from members’ constituencies amounted to ‘misconduct in public office’ and should be reported to the police.