This blog may be delayed for several hours as my Internet Provider is having multiple problems right across the country so I wonder if the network hs been subject to a massive cyber attack – one always fears the worst but in the meantime, I am working off-line and may be able to resume a normal post later on. It has been announced in several places that the 2nd booster (4th jab in total) will be available for the 75+ age cohort and I got a text to that effect asking me to make an appointment at my local surgery. But rather than doing that, Meg and I took ourselves off to the huge walk-in centre where we have received our previous jabs. This is a fairly large theatre-cum-Arts centre which was re-purposed to be a vaccination centre at the start of the pandemic and has remained so ever since. When Meg and I got there, we were greeted by one of our neighbours who had been volunteering there as a steward for ages. The centre was practically deserted so Meg and I did not have to queue but were vaccinated (by the Pfizer vaccine, like last time) so we should be well and truly topped up. We had to wait for an obligatory 15 minutes to make sure that we did not keel over after the jab and then went to a local supermarket primarly to access their ATM (as parking is available straight outside). This having been done, we went off to collect our newspaper. The newsagent had been so taken with the story that the Russian cosmonauts going to the International Space Station had somehow got their spacesuits to be decorated in the colours of the Ukranian national flag (blue and yellow) that he had taken a photo of this from one of the newspapers and posted it in his window! I wonder if the Russian TV authorities dare show their valiant cosmonauts getting to the space station dressed in the Ukrainian national colours or whether they will substitute some ‘still’ photographs from their archives and swiftly move on. One way or another, I have a suspicion that the Russian public will find out. As we were parked near the newsagent’s shop, we wondered w]hether to try out a new sort of cafe which is almost adjacent. Actually, it is not a cafe as such but is the base of a sandwich operation which they distribute to local workspaces and of course some people pop in to buy them fresh. We discovered they got to the shop at 4.30 in the morning to start preparing their ingredients. They had a couple of tables in there so we thought as we had had a fairly full morning that we would call in and sample it. The actual shop turned out to be a little cold as people came in off the street the whole time and the door was left open but we spent several happy minutes chatting with the proprietor and establishing some connections. It turned out that they may have distantly related to or least long term friends with our our newish next door neighbours so it was a case of, as they say, ‘wheels within wheels’. In about ten days time, we shall to frequent the reopened café in our local Waitrose where we are liable to bump into more friends. This afternoon, Meg and I thought we would have a quiet afternoon reading, just in case either of us started to feel a little worse for wear after our jabs this morning, but apart from the faintest suspicion of a soreish left arm, so far so good.
The news from the Ukraine continues to depress. Practically every report that we see from the Ukraine contains the proviso at the beginning that ‘the following report contains material that you may find distressing’ Every war has its own particular catalogue of horrors but it is now recognised that the battle for Mariupol, crucuial for the Russians to link up the Crimea with their eastern heartland such as Donetz, is practically being razed to the ground. The Russians had apparently transported several of the surviving inhabitants to ‘safety’ in Russia where they going to be dispersed to far-flung Russian towns and probably the equivalent of gulags or concentration like camps. I find it amazing, and appalling, that the rockets fired by the Russians have such destructive power – for example, it appears from the video images that it does not take too much rocketry to completely wreck a whole block of flats or even flatten a shopping centre. It is said that the Russians have targeted not only an Art Gallery but also a school and a residential home for the aged in which the combined casualty toll has got to be huge. The Russians had offered the surviving inhbitants of Mariupol a surrender and transport to places outside the city – but the offer was promptly rejected as the Ukranians argued the Russins could not ever be believed. However, the city is effectivly encircled and tonight it looks, literally, like a fight to the death for the remaining Ukrainan military forces. So by the morning, the most heart-rending decisions have to be taken either to surrender to the Russians or die.