Sunday, 22nd May, 2022

[Day 797]

Today being Sunday, I walked down early in the day to collect our Sunday newspapers. At this hour of the day (8.00am) the only people out on the road are dog-walkers and joggers, all of whom are intent on their particular activity rather than chit-chat. As I treated myself to my weekly ‘concert’ on my ancient iPhone, the second track along was Bach’s cantata ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring‘ This is quite significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was one of the pieces of music that Meg and I had chosen when we got married nearly 55 years ago. Secondly, I remember well the morning after I knew that I had been awarded my PhD way back in 1997. I always used to have some Bach playing on my computer when I switched it on in the morning. and this track started to play. I was suddenly overcome with emotion and burst into tears – more of relief than anything else. Thirdly, our good friend Clive who had been taught the trumpet in a Salvationist household when he was about 10 years old was still playing the trumpet some 75 years later. Clive came along to our 50th wedding anniversary celebrations and played this piece for us. This was of particular significance because at our wedding all of those years ago, the cantata was sung by a very good friend of ours, Austin, who was training to be an opera singer. I have lost contact with Austin over the decades and he was about ten years older than me, then there is quite a fair chance that he is no longer alive. But here was a neat kind of symmetry in that the cantata was performed for us by close friends at the original celebrations and again fifty years later.

After the Sunday politics programme, Meg and I walked slowly down to the park. On the way down into town, we had quite a long chat with our Italian friend who was busy making her immaculate garden even more immaculate until we interrupted her. Then when we got to the park and had our elevenses, our University of Birmingham friend strode into view and we chatted at length about the Rick Stein programme which we had seen on TV last night in which he was extolling the virtues of the sights (and even more the food) of Cadiz which is a city we have visited before. After we had put the world to rights, we made for home and on our way out of the park, we bumped into our Intrepid Octogenerian Hiker who we have not seen for a few days. He was just starting one of his many trips around the park when we coincided and, as always, I marvelled at how fit he keeps himself by keeping to his regime of about 9-10 kilometres a day at the age of 88. Then it was home for lunch and some tasty beef accomapnied by tender-stem broccoli.

After lunch, I set to and gave all of the newly weeded gravel areas in our front garden and adjacent roadways a good soaking in PathClear, a weedkiller, which should keep everything looking shipshape for at least the next three months and probably longer. Of course, with walking up and down the roadway every day I can now despatch a weed whever it ventures to raise its head from now on.

I have been reflecting upon the ways in which politicians in general, and Boris Johnson in particular, survive whatever particular difficulties they happen to be in by ‘kicking the can down the road’ At one time, when Johnson’s premiership seemed to be in peril the word on the street was waiting to see how many letters calling for a leadership context would be submitted to the chairman of the 1922 (= Tory backbencher’s) committee. When this revolt seemed to fizzle out, the Tory backbenchers were saying ‘Let us wait for the results of the local electons in May’. Then it was a case for waiting for the Sue Gray report into ‘partygate’ Then this had to be forced into abeyance when the Met decided to investigate. Now that the Met investigation has been concluded, it may well be a case of waiting for the full publication of the Sue Gray report which is expected this week. If this fails to deliver a knockout blow, no doubt people will be saying that it might be better to wait until the results of the two by-elections due next month. And so on and so on. Then of the course the war in Ukraine has happened which has enabled Johnson to pose as a Churchill-type figure and the focus of the political gaze has altered. It is often forgotten that Margaret Thatcher was the most unpopular Prime Minister of all time immediately before the Falklands War but became the most popular Prime Minister of all time after its successful conclusion. Not for the first time foreign affairs have helped to distract from unpopular policies on the domestic front – authoritarian right wing leaders across the world have typically used the fight against an external enemy as a useful distraction from unpopular domestic policies.