Sunday, 19th June, 2022

[Day 825]

It is part of my normal Sunday routine that I get up early and then walk down to town to collect my Sunday newspaper. It had rained heavily yesterday and evidently the rain had dislodged some of the moss on my roof which I was anxious to remove from our newly restored patio. As I was sweeping the path near to our back gate, I heard a familiar rustling sound and, sure enough, it was Miggles (our adopted cat) who upon hearing the sound of the sweeping decided it was time to pay me a visit. Mind you, it not my company that he/she seeks but a little dish of premium cat food which is always forthcoming. I thought that the cat had showed a degree of prescience to associated the noise of my sweeping to the fact that food was in the offing. Once we had viewed the early morning politics program, Meg and I decided to go down into town by car as the weather looked a little indeterminate and we did not particularly want to get caught in a shower. So we made our way to our normal bench and wondered if we coincide with any of our park regulars. In the event, we did not, so we decided to walk in the region of the cafe to see of any regulars were having coffee in the park’s own coffee bar. Again, we were not in luck but as we walked back to our car in the top car park, we noticed that a huge branch of a weeping willow that must have been a foot in diameter had been wrenched off by the wind and had completely broken off. I imagine that it will some time with a chainsaw to chop it up into smaller pieces and do whatever is done with the timber from fallen branches. It rather reminded me of the occasion when we motoring in mid-Wales and on approaching Betws-y-Coed we were only a minute or so away from being at the receiving end of a falling tree with which fortunately we did not get entangled. And so it was home for a Sunday lunch that was rustled up from bits and pieces that we had in the fridge and the freezer but nonetheless gave us a tasty meal.

Last night, we promised ourselves that we would treat ourselves to an opera, courtesy of YouTube on the TV. But we started off with a frustrating period when our access to anything on the net was met with the informative message ‘You are not connected to a network’ or similar. I think, but am not sure, that I had activated a ‘Reset’ button but nothing seemed to happen for quite some time. Then, in about 10 minutes, the system indicated that it had made an internet connection so we pressed ahead and found a copy of La Bohème featuring Luciano Pavarotti and Mirella Freni. The singing was of quite a high order although both singers looked as though they were in the mid-to-late stages of their careers. We got subtitles in Italian which was a little interesting in itself as you could match up the words coming out of the singer’s mouth with the actual text. Fortunately, this opera is not exceedingly long so it meant that Meg and I could crawl into our beds at a reasonable time.

The political story which is going to dominate the headlines for the next few days, or at least until the results of Thursdays by-elections are known, are the three days of strikes timetabled for later on this week. About half of the entire rail network will be affected and the strategy of striking for three days in which trains are automatically out of position makes a three day strike into effectively a five day strike. Besides the transport workers, there are many other public sector unions queuing up for what may well be a ‘summer of discontent’ as wages have been ‘restrained’ for so long. But as the pandemic and associated furlough schemes have been wound down, so a lack of parity is increasingly evident and all of this is before a predicted inflation rate of 11% hits us. Official data show annual growth in total average earnings reached a 15-year high of 6.2 per cent in the private sector in the first three months of 2022 — while falling to a five-year low of 1.9 per cent in the public sector. There are some indications that both unions and government are itching for a fight. From the government’s perspective, it is quite easy to demonise union leaders and to mobilise public opinion against the strikes. In a week when the government might appear to be on the back foot before voters go to the polls on Thursday, then the government must think of a strike as like manna from heaven. On the other hand, with so many public sector workers in the queue whose wages have been less than the inflation rate for years giving a real-terms pay cut, then the government must feel that it cannot afford to cede an inch to the transport workers. As the strike continues without a resolution, so the government must feel it is quite content to let it run and run if it delivers political advantages for them.