Monday, 7th March, 2022

[Day 721]

This morning we knew that our regular central heating engineers were due to call around to give our gas boiler its annual service so we were prepared for a slightly different routine this morning. Fortunately for us, the firm we utilise, who live almost around the corner from us, turned up reasonably early so we got the boiler serviced with the minimum of fuss. It was interesting to chat with the central heating engineer as to what he thought the future held in store. We got the ‘low down’ on the different alternatives and varieties of heat pumps such as air source heat pumps (a bit like air conditioning in reverse) and his view, for what it is worth, is that many of the alternatives have not been thought through and we could see the return of traditional gasometers filled with LPG. His own view was that hydrogen is a fuel worth considering apart from the fact that every house will contain within a potential bomb if hydrogen technology to become more extensive. Once the gas service had been completed, I walked down to town on my own because I wanted to visit a few shops after picking up the newspaper. So I made a trip along the High Street, making an appointmnt at the opticians, paying a visit to an ATM and finishing off with buying some cosmetic items principally for Meg. When I eventually got home, we decided to have our ‘elevenses’ at home amd then proceeded straight away to cook our lunch. The afternoon seemed to presage a beautiful sunny afternoon as the sky was blue and the sun shining brightly but only when we got outside did we realise that there was actually quite an icy blast. So Meg and I decided to reverse our normal pattern and go for our walk in the afternoon. Of course, the park has a different clientele at this time of day as there are fewer dog walkers and youngsters on their little bikes and more school children making a shortcut through the park on their way home. We were pleased to get home, though, as by the time we had left our bench the icy blasts had started to chill us more than was comfortable.

The Ukraine news still appals us and fascinates us at the same time. The most extraordinary ‘event’ of today is that the Russians have established some humanitarian corridors but only if they lead to Russia or Russian-controlled areas – for example, a corridor has been established out of Kyiv but only straight to Belarus. Naturally, the Ukrainians have rejected these ‘offers’ believing that Ukrainians who availed themselves of these corridors might end up being used as a propaganda tool for the Russians. One particularly heart-rending stories of today is the account of the death of mayor of Hostomel, a small town close to Kviv and home to the Hostomel airfield, a key strategic point at the centre of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces. The mayor had been shot and killed, dying with a couple of his colleagues while distributing bread and medicines to those in need. There are numerous other stories of direct attacks upon civilians and their dwellings which must, by any account, constitute a war crime. There are some Ukrainian journalists compiling careful evidence for what may well become critical evidence when those responsible are charged (as they will be) with war crimes.

Now this may be clutching at straws but here goes anyway. There are some intelligence sources which claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin is suffering from terminal bowel cancer. An ex-military intelligence offer working at the Pentagon in the US said analysts had been studying the 69-year-old and that they believe him to be gravely ill. The ex-intelligence offer says that his ‘puffy face’ is a sign that he is taking chemotherapy drugs or steroid and that his unsmiling expression shows that is he in constant pain. This could have made him more aggressive or he may be attacking Ukraine as he knows he is dying and wants to leave a legacy. The source said: ‘In the past we have seen him smile, but in 2022 there are few pictures of him looking happy. His look suggests he is in pain and our people suggest his angry look is most likely as a result of him being in agony.Our people are confident he is ill – he is concerned about Covid as he keeps his staff at a distance.’ Well, this might be largely material designed to bolster the confidence of everyone opposed to Putin and I would take it with the very largest pinch of salt but it is interesting nonetheless. Of perhaps more significance is the story that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the United States was ‘working actively’ on a deal with Poland to supply Ukraine with jets to fight invading Russians.The deal, according to reports, could involve Poland handing over its existing MIG-29s, a Soviet/Russian-made jet fighter Ukrainian pilots are familiar with, and the US would then provide its F-16 fighters to Poland as replacements.