Wednesday, 16th November, 2022

[Day 975]

Today was the day, twice postponed because of rail strikes, when the collection of former colleagues known as ‘The Old Fogies’ met for a meal in Winchester. Meg and I got up early and left the house at 7.45, prepared to zoom around the M42 motorway to get to Birmingham International railway station. Because the motorway can so congested first thing in the morning, we left an extra haf an hour to cope with the anticipated crawl due to motorway congestion. In the event, we got there about 40 minutes early which was time enough to get the car parked and ourselves into the system ready for our train at 9.30. We found our allocated seats and had to turf out some people who were occupying them but hadn’t made a booking. The journey was very straightforward and the weather and countryside looked beautiful in the late morning. Towards the end of our journey, we got into conversation with a young man whose job was computer security and had a fascinating little chat – our only regret was that we had not started chatting to him earlier rather than the last 15 minutes or so. When we got to Winchester, we were an hour in advance of our booked meal time so Meg and I strolled down the hill into town and the restaurant proved quite easy to find on the High Street. We got there half an hour early and instead of hunting for a another coffee bar nearby, we stayed in the brasserie and drank coffee until the rest of our party arrived. We turned out to be nine in number all in all and we were delighted to see our friends after an absence of about three years. We had a decent meal and as were dividing up the bill at the end of the meal some of us were reaching for cash but the whole brasserie was cashless so we paid on credit card (which I must say made life a lot easier) Towards the end of the meal, at my suggestion, we each took the floor to explain in a few minutes what significant event had taken place in our lives. For example, one of my previous colleagues had sold his house and was moving into a flat to be much nearer to children and grandchilden in South London. Others mentioned things like pacemakers being fitted (three of us, as it happened) and as you might expect, the years had taken a certain toll of several of us over the years but none of us had had a serious illness but just enough to slow us down somewhat. After the main meal, Meg and I and two other colleagues departed to a local Wetherspoons which has the advantage of nice round tables around which it is so much easier to have a conversation where we can all take part and without too much ambient noise but with a noggin of some nice ale to make the conversation flow. We drank and chatted until half an hour before our train was due to depart and so we took our leave and walked back to the station, although by this stage the weather had turned a little squally. As we approached Birmingham International and we standing around in the vestibule ready to alight from the train, we stopped at an intermediate suburban station. After a halt we crept along at an incredibly slow pace and the train manager informed us over the intercom that we were experiencing severe speed restriction (for an unspecified reason) After these halts and creeping along, we took about half an hour to limp into Birmingham International all in all. By the time we did get out, it was raining cats and dogs which meant locating the car in an ill-lit carpark an unpleasant experience. The heavy rain persisted all the way home and fortunately we did not make a wrong turn around a roundabout which is not a difficult thing to do when the weather conditions and visibility were so poor. So we were very pleased to get home and enjoyed a nine tin of mushroom soup which always seems appropriate on occasions like this.

Tomorrow is going to be quite a full day as I cannot afford the luxury of a lie-in but need to get up early to go for a (routine) scan in one of our local hospitals. Again, the road system between Bromsgrove and Redditch is bound to be quite congested. After that, I am going to postpone my normal weekly shopping for a day as in the early afternoon I am due to go down to our local GP practice to play the part of a ‘patient’ in a practical session designed to allow medical students in training interact with with some actual patients before they have to do it for real once they are in post. Tomorrow, of course, the Budget is due to be presented to Parliament but most of the major elements of this seem to have been systematically leaked in order to prepare public opinion that I doubt we will be surprised by very much. First thing in the morning, I heard that Donald Trump had decided to stand again but it will be interesting to see what the reaction to this is going to be in the USA as the recent elections leave Trump no reason to celebrate as most of his endorsed candidates fared less well in the elections than their unendorsed counterparts.