Thursday, 4th August, 2022

[Day 871]

Today was a beautiful, bright and sunny day but somewhat on the humid side. First thing I did this morning was to visit an ATM, top up the car with fuel and then race round my local supermarket all in advance of our trip down to Oxford today. We set off 15 minutes earlier than we would have intended as Bromsgrove is experiencing horrific traffic delays at the moment whilst a four-way traffic scheme is in operation as some of the critical junctions in the town centre are being widened (or so I am told). The traffic delays are horrendous and a lot of local businesses are suffering a bit hit as nobody can get near them to spend any money. We stopped just north of Oxford in the car park belonging to a cafe which I used to use when I journeyed down from Leicester to Winchester some 25 years ago as this car park represented the half way point through the journey. We used the SatNav to locate the restaurant in which we were booked at midday before we set about finding a place to park (not easy in central Oxford) We turned up at the restaurant the minute it opened as did our friends who had travelled through Oxford on bike (parking their car on the outskirts and then cycling a couple of miles into the city) We had a pretty good ‘meal du jour’ and a wonderful chat, which is par for the course. We tend not to have coffee in the restaurant where we have had a meal but we search out a more specialised coffee house with the prospect of enjoyable cake also being available. As you might imagine, Oxford was teeming with tourists and we stumbled through crowds of tourists, some of whom were being a guided tour to the Oxford Colleges. As well as these more ‘normal’ tourists, there are are also others who are following the Morse/Lewis/Endeavour trails as these popular television programmes typically use Oxford as their backdrop. Oxford appeared amazingly cosmopolitan with a massive range of accents, dress, hairstyles and the like mingling in the streets. After we had lunched and then located a suitable cafe for coffee and cakes, our Oxfordshire friends have given us some magnificent gifts of eggs (newly laid from their own hens), honey (from their own hives) and finally a book on Beekeeping that our friend had just written. It seems to be a day for friends displaying the books they have written because our friendly newsagent from whom I buy a newspaper every day has a big banner in his window advertising the book that he himself has just written.

When we got home, we turned on the TV and watched the news items concerning the Commonealth Games currently held in Birmingham. This afternoon we had quite a lot of ‘background’ stories explaining how individual athletes and even presenters were performing in these games. Although the games are entitled the ‘Birmingham’ games, it is in fact a West Midlands regional games because many of the venues and the atheletes themselves come from many different parts of the West Midlands. For example, today’s time cycling trials were held in the streets of Wolverhampton and the citizens had come out in their hundreds and even thousands to cheer on the competitors. Compared with similar games that have been held in the past, several themes are very prominent. The first of these is that the paralympics athlete events are integrated into the overall programme so we do not have a pattern, as in the Olympic games, where the able-bodied athletes in one time period are then followed by the paralympic atheletes about a fortnight later. So the Birmingham games are massively inclusive in terms of different classes of athletes but also the LGBT+ communities are finding an incredibly inclusive atmosphere suffusing the Games. The multiculturalism that ‘is’ Birmingham is being shown in many diverse ways, not least in the ways that the street vendors of different kinds of food are finding great opportunities to bring their foodstuffs to the spectators of different events. It is already being said that these are the ‘friendly’ games and there certainly seems to be a fund of good will in evidence at every sports venue around the region.

Tonight Sky News are going to stage a debate between the two Conservative party front runners before an audience of Conservative voters. It is being trailed that the key presenter, Kate Burley, is going to try her hardest to ensure that the candidates actually answer the questions that are put to them. I suspect that she will fail in her efforts, however well intentioned, as politicians seem almost as a class to be programmed to answer a questions that was not actually asked, to be enamoured of a soundbite and despite the fact that they claim that debates are all a matter of policies, in practice the whole debate will be seen in terms of style rather than substance i.e. how well they manage their own self images rather than a projection of policy issues ‘per se’.