Hello world!

This is my introduction to the world of blogging!
I display two photos, the first being a favourite ‘work’ photo of myself taken at the University of Winchester and the second of my wife (Meg) and I taken in the summer of 2016

Professor Mike Hart, University of Winchester, about 2007
Meg and Mike Hart, Hereford Cathedral, Summer 2016

Here for your amusement/entertainment or a series of more-or-less true anecdotes often of an autobiographical nature.

http://bit.ly/mch-vca

 

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Wednesday, 24th July, 2024 [Day 1591]

So another Wednesday dawns and I was pleased to see the carers this morning as Meg, as is customary these days, had not got to sleep by the time I actually got to bed but she was not actively restless so that was a type of blessing. After we had got ourselves up and breakfasted, I popped out to get a newspaper and also to ‘liberate’ some MPS cutlery that I had seen in a local charity store. In one of them there is a collection of largely worthless miscellaneous items of cutlery but hidden in their midst are some magnificent and high quality soup spoons which hold twice the quantity of a desert spoon and which I find particularly useful in my culinary preparations. I managed to buy half a dozen at these at the price of 10p each and promptly donated some to our domestic help whose day it is on a Wednesday. I also found a little knitted crochet blanket which is going to be useful to put around Meg’s knees when I take her out in the wheelchair and the weather is a little chilly. I also bought some seat pads which I intend to use on our outside metal garden chairs now that we are enjoying our own back garden so much. So all in all, it was a very successful little venture out this morning and as there was a slight drizzle, I was not unhappy that I had not taken Meg out for a spin this morning. As it was, I bumped into one of our Waitrose friends but we could only have a brief conversation in the rain and with my needing to get back to Meg as soon as practicable. Meg was feeling a little wobbly this morning but our domestic help was very good in helping Meg to cheer herself up somewhat. We lunched on ham, baked potato and the remains of an onion gravy and delicious it was as well. Then this afternoon, we thought we would settle down and watch ‘Chariots of Fire’ which,in anticipation of the Olympic Games that open in Paris on Friday, was shown at the weekend and which we thought we would access on the BBC iPlayer. We originally saw this film decades ago and there seems to be a very long build up as we view it today but one can see why it was scheduled to be shown last weekend (as the theme of the film was the Olympic Games held in Paris in 1924)

There are just a few indication that the American presidential race may be getting very exciting. Jo Biden finally decided to withdraw, The Democrats have united behind Kamala Harris and one feels that the Democrats feel like a part reborn. I saw some clips of Kamala Harris speaking with campaign organisers and she was unscripted but seemed to hit all of the right inspirational notes. Practically every significant Democratic leader has now endorsed Harris with the exception of the Obamas and this is still fuelling suspicions that Michelle Obama might enter the race if it looks as though Kamala Harris faltering. I thought I saw one poll (amongst many, no doubt) which is now indicating that the Democrats have enjoyed a ‘bounce’ in the polls and may now be narrowing the gap to 1%-2%. Almost certainly, the black voters who were not enthralled by Joe Biden’s support of Israel in the conflict in Gaza may now come back into the fold. And another ‘straw in the wind’, Kamala Harris and some Democratic leaders are not rushing to meet Netanyahu who is currently on a visit to the States. I also saw a report that some of ‘MAGA’ (Make America Great Again’) lobby in the US are worried that Harris may appeal to younger voters as well as black and Hispanic voters and this does not help the Republicans to win over some of the centre ground (not that much of a centre ground exists in the US at the moment)

I have recently started to reflect on the ‘several ages’ which it is said most of us exhibit. It is often said these days that we all have three ages – a chronological age (years we have inhabited this earth), a mental age (our mental acuity which might be in advance or behind our chronological age) and finally a biological age (what a pathologist might judge from the state of our internal organs were they to be subject to a pathological examination) I have generally bought this analysis but I think that I would want to add a fourth age. This is the age that one thinks of oneself as being but even this may be a bit more subtle than I have suggested. Given that we may incorporate the ways in which others react towards us and we absorb these reactions of significance others into our own psyche, then perhaps it is more accurate to say that it is our perceptions of other peoples perception about ourselves that we build into our own self image. Some of this is drawn from some of the American social psychologists and I have thinking in particular of the work of them. The term looking-glass self was first introduced by Charles Cooley (1902) who refers to the dependence of one’s social self or social identity on one’s appearance to others. I have tried out some of these formulations with a couple of the younger care workers who are studying psychology at ‘A’-level so some of the care sessions whilst they are ministering to Meg are taking on some the appearances of an academic seminar. In general, the care workers like to chat and to joke with each but a lot of their conversations revolves around how they are going to cope with the rest of their rota which tends to change endlessly around them and they consult their mobile phones to see what are the allocated jobs for that day.

The first Labour rebellion has been, quite predictably, over the issue of the abolition of the cap on extending universal credit support to children beyond the first two. This was a policy adopted by the Tories and which Labour inherited, as it were. No one in the Labour party likes this policy but it will cost about £2.5 billion to get rid of the cap so that Labour party policy is to wait until it can be afforded. There were seven MPs who voted against the government last night and the Labour whip was immediately withdrawn from them. One of the rebels representing the Tower Hamlets constituency (one of the poorest in the country) was arguing today that she was elected on a policy of ‘Change’ but keeping the existing Tory policy is not to change anything and the voters had voted for ‘Change’ (the Labour Party slogan) in the General Election.

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Tuesday, 23rd July, 2024 [Day 1590]

So Tuesday dawns and it is a day to which we always look forward being the day when we meet up with our friends in the Waitrose cafeteria. We anticipated that we would be one short in number today, as indeed we were because her flat was being redecorated and this involved the supervision of items of furniture as they were moved around the room. It was a pretty fine day today so we were happy to get out and have a pleasant walk down the hill with just the hint of a cooling breeze to keep us comfortable as we walked. One of our favourite Waitrose partners whose job it is to attend to the flowers section of the store and to throw away dead or dying stock presented us with a bunch of roses each so Meg and I came home with a beautiful bunch of yellow roses. Once we had returned we had the late morning comfort call for Meg and after that the carer came along who we know quite well who was on sitting duty today. I received a telephone call from a person in the Transport and Highways department of Worcestershire County Council who explained that he had some good news about our pavement problem. But the good news turned out to be telling us about about a road reconfiguration which is going to take place near us at some time in the future and might be of some assistance to us. The officer from Worcestershire explained that the day-to-day management of the plan and the scheduling would now rest with the planing department of the District Council so I should contact them for any more up-to-date news. As the road reconfiguration is probably not scheduled for several months if not years ahead then the net result of all of this is that we would get nowhere. So the next result of all of these activities is that everyone concerned at official level seems to be passing the buck and the responsibility for someone else to solve and always at some indefinite time in the future. I cannot be surprised by all of this but I think I think it is faintly amusing that if a ‘problem’ arises on someone’s desk, the first response is to pass it on to someone else so that from their point of view, the problem is sorted and so on, ad infinitum. I am reminded of the story of the communication between a GP and a consultant, both noted for the terseness and brevity of their communications. So the GP wrote to the consultant regarding one patient ‘Please see and treat’ to which the response came back shortly ‘Seen and treated’

The carer who came to sit with Meg gave her a spin around the house in the wheelchair and upon my return from a mini shopping expedition was intrigued by the wedding photos that we have on our iPhone dating all the way from 1967 (i.e. the date of the actual event but the digitised versions only appeared in time I think for our 50th anniversary nearly seven years ago now) I managed to get out on the road for half an hour buying some important non-food shopping and managed to obtain a supply of much needed toiletries as well as seizing the opportunity of buying a couple more cushions. These happen to be just the right size and shape to fit behind Meg’s back to help to keep her vertical and not slumping in her wheelchair and were were quite a useful buy. Once returning home, we finished off the meal of fishcakes which turned out to be a fairly delayed lunch and then what should have been the mid-afternoon career’s call came an hour or so earlier than we would really have liked. So we made the best of a bad job of scheduling and Meg and I then spent some time in the back garden where we sat in the shade and enjoyed some cooling ice-cream to boot.

Last night, Meg had another rather disturbed night again which seems to occur every other night at the moment. So this means that various domestic jobs that I have lined up to do in the evening now get neglected or postponed as I have to supervise Meg in the evening to ensure that she does not attempt to get out of bed or to fall out of bed. Were Meg to actually ‘fall’ or should I say slither out of bed, the the carers are not allowed to pick her up and put her back into bed again. They are instructed that they must call the ambulance service and/or the falls team and these carers also are instructed that in the event of falls (or rather slithers) people have to be admitted to A&E. So I try very hard with a combination of techniques to ensure that Meg stays intact in bed each evening and if she is asleep this is not a problem. If on the other hand she gets agitated and attempts to get out of bed, then we are living dangerously, not to say on a knife-edge and, of course, I cannot convey the seriousness of all of this to Meg who cannot understand fully why it is essential that she stays put when put to bed for the evening. A request had gone in to the Occupational Therapists for a bed with sides but we are awaiting for an assessment, and then a recommendation and finally perhaps some provision but this might be some weeks away. I think the month of August is going to be a nightmare month as so many services are short whilst the largely female staff with families are taking them off on holidays in the six week period between the third week of July and the first week of September. I often wonder if these carers look forward to the summer holidays in the same way that turkeys look forward to Christmas i.e. with a degree of excitement but some trepidation about the weeks ahead.

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Monday, 22nd July, 2024 [Day 1589]

So today, being a Monday, we pop into our Monday morning routines. After we had got up and breakfasted, we start to think about our routines for a Monday morning. I whizz down the road in the car leaving Meg to watch the Voces8 (Dutch) group singing Fauré and similar works that we regularly view using YouTube. After I had returned home, we prepared our elevenses and then set off down the hill at which point we enter the park and occupy our usual bench overlooking the lake. It was a fairly gloomy day but one in which the clouds were being drifting away. Whilst in the park, I received a phone call on my mobile from the County Councillor with whom I am in contact who informed me that she thought that our request to the County Council (for amelioration of the absence of a pavement) should be directed to a different councillor. As it happens, I know the colleague very well because he was tremendously helpful to us when we were attempting to prevent the development of the orchard immediately next to our house into a housing development of 18 houses. Just for the record and without revisiting past traumas, if the orchard had been under the remit of Worcestershire County Council more directly rather than Bromsgrove District Council, then the orchard would have received an automatic protection i.e. the development would have been prevented. And for the record, we did win at the planning application on three separate occasions but eventually lost on the fourth occasion. If a developer loses a submission despite their being a presumption of favouring all such applications, then they can appeal, appeal and appeal again until they are ultimately successful. The wider point here is that ‘Nimbyism’ (Not In My Back Yard) may succeed on many occasions but more than not, individuals and communities are not in a position to resist the encroaches of large building firms who can employ KC’s and have larger pockets than a mere individual. So when I returned home, I copied the entire email trail of my contacts with Worcestershire County Council to Councillor No. 2 and I now await a reply and further developments. Just as an aside, I started off this query over a month ago and wrote to a District Councillor who forwarded my request to a County Councillor and then waited two weeks whilst she was on holiday and then awaited a further week before I had our video clip shot and chased again only to be told I should be contacting another person who still has to liaise with the Highways Department. Perhaps no wonder that people lose faith in the democratic process if all contacts with one’s elected local representatives follows a similar pattern.
I then prepared a lunch of ham cooked yesterday, some sugar snap peas and a baked potato, followed as is customary by an after dinner yogurt.

After lunch which was a little delayed, we thought we would some good ‘live’ TV. Republican members of Congress are focusing on the role of the Secret Service, as their frustration and anger grow over the agency’s response to an attempt to assassinate presidential nominee Donald Trump. A House committee hearing will on Monday grill its Director, Kimberly Cheatle -something Speaker Mike Johnson said would make for ‘must-see TV’ for Americans concerned about security lapses at a Pennsylvania rally earlier this month. ‘She has got a lot to answer for. And these concerns are bipartisan’ Mr Johnson told CNN. Ms Cheatle’s agency is charged with providing protection to the president and his family, former presidents, those in line to the White House and other political candidates. Meg and I watched the start of these proceedings wondering what on earth the chief of the Secret Service would say. Under the most detailed of questioning in which Congress members spoke about the man seeing using a ladder to ascend to the roof a nearby building, taking his rifle with him, Kimberley Cheatle tried to make a distinction between a ‘person who was suspicious’ and ‘a person who was a threat’ trying to argue that the would be assassin was the former and not the latter. To every single question she basically gave a non-answer saying that the matters were subject to an investigation within the agency itself and therefore no responses could be made to the Congressional Committee until the Secret Service’s own investigations were complete. It is no wonder that so many members of this bipartisan committee are calling for her immediate resignation.

After Joe Biden has retired from the presidential race, there has been a coalescence of support for Kamala Harris, the existing Vice President to become the new Democratic nominee. But Barak Obama has failed, so far, to specifically endorse Kanala Harris and there is some speculation at the moment that Michelle Obama might be persuaded to enter the race. This is on the basis of he fact that polls show that Michelle Obama could decisively defeat Donald Trump in all of the key ‘swing’ states but the same is not true of Kamala Harris. Speaking personally, I would be absolutely delighted if Michelle Obama could be persuaded to enter the race but the probability of this actually happening is very small at the moment. The Democratic party has several good potential candidates but not one of them wants to set forward to wrest the nomination away from a female, ‘person of colour’ in Kamala Harris. Kamala Harris has an interesting professional history- in 2010, she succeeded Jerry Brown as California attorney general, becoming the first female, Black and South Asian attorney general in the state’s history. In view of this, one of the slogans that has already been bandied about if Kamala Harris does secure the Democratic nomination is that it would be ‘The Prosecutor versus the convicted felon’ and can only imagine what social media would make of all of this if Kamala Harris does secure the nomination. This afternoon, it looks as though some big money is swinging the way of Kamala Harris and thus we may eventually see a quasi ‘coronation’ of her as the Democrat’s nominated candidate to do battle with Donald Trump.

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Sunday, 21st July, 2024 [Day 1588]

This has been quite a full day what with one thing or another. But firstly, Meg slept very soundly last night for which I was well and truly grateful and although I did fall asleep in the chair downstairs whilst watching the news, I did crawl off to my own bed and have a reasonable night’s sleep. After. we had breakfasted, we tuned into the Politics programs where we are wondering whether, and how, Rachel Reeves, the new Chancellor, is going to respond to the pay review body recommendation of about 5.5% for many of the public sector workers. She hinted this morning that the government may concede pay rises that are above the current rate of inflation but will still probably fall short of the 5.5% recommended by the Pay Review bodies. A decision on this is expected shortly and of course the perennial question of how the increase is to be funded. After breakfast, our Eucharistic minister called around as she does most Sundays and it was pleasant to see her. She has had rather a bad time recently because there seems to have been a spate of some distant relatives and some close family friends all dying and last week she had two funerals in two days. We empathised with her about this because sometimes these deaths do occur in clusters and a few years ago we had a terrible year in which many of our own close friends seemed to die within a few months of each other. Our son popped with a box of chocolates for Meg mid morning and, of course, we are always pleased to see him. I took the opportunity to update him with some of the details of how we are hoping to get some improvement in our pavement situation but he himself thought that he response of the County Council would be to do nothing on the grounds of expense. On the other hand, we showed the videoclip to our friend from church who called around this morning and she gasped in horror when she first saw it so who knows what might happen. I had to dash down the hill which I did at almost breakneck speed in order to pick up our Sunday newspaper and then immediately wheeled Meg back to the park and to our favourite bench. There we got deep into conversation with an acquaintance which we used to see quite regularly but who is now on crutches having had a knee replaced – before she was using a mobility scooter. We laughed and joked about our University of Birmingham friend who she used to assist on occasions finding a lady friend of the appropriate age and status but she has not seen much of him since he discovered his latest squeeze. We enjoyed a pleasant chat when our friend arrived but we both learned that a lady named Gloria that we used to see almost every day in the park in the height of the COVID peregrinations died about two weeks ago. We were saddened by this but not very surprised because the lady in question seemed to be carrying so much weight that it must have compromised her health status. In the past she had been an NHS manager and it is sad to think that although she kept going so gamely on her mobility scooter upon which she used to whizz around at the most enormous speed but now she has made her final journey. So we made our way home in the sunshine getting ready for the late morning carers. Thos morning being a Sunday, I was cooking a ham joint in the slow cooker and we dined on this with a baked potato and some spring greens. This was quite a delicious dinner as I always prepare a rich onion gravy in which I immerse some slices of the cooked ham. Today we had a special sweet that had been donated to us as our University of Birmingham friend had brought along a couple of raspberry compotes which were left over from a party he had attended with his new squeeze last night.

Just before lunch, we got a call from the care agency with a familiar request which is could I could assist as a second pair of hands at one of the scheduled visits for the day? One of the managers had put himself on duty fo late on this afternoon because I have put to him a proposition for a slight tweaking of Meg’s care package. As Meg does not enter a deep sleep approximately every other night, I am speculating whether we can cut down the time allocation for one of the daytime visits and then release some space for an additional visit to Meg late at night (about 10.00ish) to make sure is comfortable and that might assist in her developing a better sleep pattern. The manager is going to liaise with social services in order to ascertain whether this plan is both feasible and fundable but he, and I, think that it might represent a good ‘tweak’ to Meg’s existing care package. This afternoon as the weather was so fine, I sat Meg outside in her wheelchair whilst I got on with a cutting of the outside lawn which has escaped my attention for a week or so. We managed this all right and then came in to watch the end of a modern Peter Rabbit film which was amusing as far as it went but was not quite what a younger viewer might have expected.

An USA Senator has now called upon Joe Biden to resign together with 36 other prominent Democrats. One does the feeling that Joe. Biden will have to be pushed out of his candidacy one way or the other but one is left with the feeling that the stubbornness and pride of an old man is standing in the way of the best long term interests of the Democrats. Every day that Joe Biden hangs on is a day less to get a suitable challenger to make their way through the system. I think the Democrats, like our Conservative party of old, would prefer to have a new candidate ’emerge’ rather than have a public blood letting in their party conference which is to be held shortly. As a stop press, I can now confirm that Joe Biden has indicated he will drop out of the race and later on he endorsed Kerala Harris, his Vice President (which I feel personally would be a mistake)

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Saturday, 20th July, 2024 [Day 1587]

Last night turned out to be quite an interesting, not to say productive night, in some ways. The carers were scheduled to come along earlier than usual last night which was not really to our liking. However, as it was to be the first night of this year’s Proms, we got Meg into bed and I got our portable TV installed alongside the bed so that Meg and I could watch this together. This half worked and although Meg did not really follow the concert or go to sleep, she seemed less agitated yesterday evening which was all to the good. After I judged Meg to be asleep or at least dozing, I composed the email to the District Councillor plus County Councillor with whom I am in contact to try to get some amelioration of our ‘absence of pavement’ problem. I succeeded in getting the mail sent off to our District Councillor expressing the disappointment that our County Councillor had not been in contact and asking that the email containing the videolink be sent on to her. I also discovered what I should have no reason to know that, by default, the video files shot on one’s i[phone will have a .mov format but this is not the best format for Windows 11 to access. So I managed during the night to not only access a program which concantenated (= joined together end to end) but also managed to save the resultant file in an .MP4 format which the Windows operating system seems to handle more easily without additional codecs (whatever they are) and then the resultant single videoclip incorporated in to the mini website. All of this generated results and fairly quickly. The district councillor to whom I had sent the email replied quickly informing me that my video was being copied to the County Councillor who has responsibility for highways and transport matters. Just after lunch today, I received a phone call from the County Councillor responsible for our area of Bromsgrove so she had evidently received the additional email plus video link. The upshot of this telephone call was that she was going to have a consultation with the Highways Department and some time in the next week they try and arrange a site visit so that they could assess the situation for themselves. As far as I am concerned, this is excellent news as my previous efforts have led only to an email response and a response that this is ‘low priority to be added to our spreadsheets as and when conditions allow’ But I think the circumstances are very different this time around and I am intrigued to see if the Highways department can come up with any workable solutions. But I think the combination of a degree of political ‘oomph’ if I can put it that way together, with some specialist highways expertise stands a fighting chance of something being done this time around.

After breakfast, Meg and I went down the hill to see our friends in the Waitrose cafeteria as is our wont. I had taken with me the ‘singing toy’ that our domestic help had loaned to us for a week. This is a working doll that sways whilst singing two verses ‘When I’m 64’ which is, of course, first recorded I believe by the Beetles. The young counter assistant who often befriends us on a Saturday morning before she goes off to university in January to start a paramedical course was tickled pink and amazed when all of the oldies managed both to remember and to join in the second verse of the song. So this was the source of amusement for the day. Having got the ‘pavement’ video and videoclip accessible on my iphone, I showed it to our friends who are a little intrigued to see what transpires. I have also learned during the night that the Highway Code has been revised over the past couple of years but with recommendations of which some motorists and indeed pedestrians for that matter are unaware. The principal philosophical twist is to assume a hierarchy of ‘risk’ and those users judged to be most at risk (and Meg, in a wheelchair would come into this category) would have a degree of priority. There is some dispute wether this code/philosophy applies at the exit to a roundabout where it is unclear which principle holds good but, in general, you can see that it is an attempt by those responsible for balancing the competing interests of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians (not to mention horses and the like) to coexist well with each other. This may explain why I find some motorists very accommodating when I am pushing Meg across the road i.e. the motorists either know of or are acting in the spirit of the newly revised Highway Code.

The huge IT outage yesterday in which Microsoft’s Windows installations were badly affected by the installation of a badly behaved, software bug occasioned in a security upgrade is still wreaking havoc across the globe. Some IT experts are indicating that it might even take weeks for all systems across the globe to be brought back fully into operation. Although the immediate bug has been identified and then ‘fixed’, machines have to be rebooted and then, almost inevitably there are some settings that have to be tweaked to get back to full functionality. The NHS is warning of GP disruption next week – as travellers report long delays and lost baggage. Airline passengers have reported long delays and lost baggage, while pharmacies are trying to deal with a backlog in medicine deliveries. The Port of Dover says it is dealing with ‘hundreds of displaced’ airport passengers. In the NHS appointment systems, patient records and prescriptions all seem to have been badly hit by the outage and then there is a tremendous amount of catching up to get done on top of already overloaded systems. It could well be that some holiday plans are disrupted as well as planes and their crews may find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time so I think getting back to normal, as it were, might be quite a long slow and painful operations for millions across the globe.

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Friday, 19th July, 2024 [Day 1586]

Today is another day, as they say. Last night was not a particularly happy night for us as Meg was put to bed at 7.15 but did not finally go to sleep until 10.15. It might have been the heat or something else but Meg repeatedly threw off her bedclothes and attempted to get out of bed. After I tried to put her back properly into bed on about half a dozen occasions, I gave up until she fell into a doze with no bedclothes on and with her legs out of bed. I dragged her back into bed and put a heavy blanket on her and now, after an agitated three hours, she fell and then stayed asleep. I resolved to take some remedial action in the morning but in the meanwhile, I tried to get done some of the things that I had intended to get done during the evening. The one thing that I did manage to do was to take the couple of videoclips of me wheeling Meg along the ‘de facto’ ring road which I will eventually send to the County Councillor who has not, as yet, responded to the email which her colleagues had forwarded on to her. I shall try again this evening if I can snatch some quiet time for myself. This morning just before the carers came along to get Meg up and ready for the day, I got the two videoclips into a website which I had managed to create very quickly (having a template which only needed the most minor of adaptations) The point of the website is that I trust that it should be quite accessible via an iPad or a mobile phone where the native files might be too big to download by themselves into a standard mobile. After breakfast, we knew that the weather was going to be fine so we repaired down the hill with Meg in her wheelchair but with a large sunhat because we knew that later on today it was going to get seriously hot. Whilst in the cafeteria we got into conversation with a lady who had lived in San Diego, California and we swapped stories with each other first about our lives whilst living under COVID regimes and then about life in Mexico, where evidently I could expand upon our visits to the country as our son had spent a scholarship year before going to university. Then our University of Birmingham friend turned up as we had arranged and we had a pleasant chat, as always, before it was time for us to leave. Our friend knows Switzerland quite well having holidayed there for extensive periods as a child so I wondered out loud to him why the Swiss had the reputation that they did have for cuckoo clocks on the one hand and for fine chocolate on the other. Both of these mysteries may be solved for us both in the fullness of time. Once we had arrived home and Meg had received the attention of her carers as she always does late morning, I set to making a salad. Normally I have some tins of tuna in stock but I had forgotten to replenish these but instead I had bought a can of corned beef several weeks ago and this served the occasion well. Like yesterday, I made up my own coleslaw and I was as pleased with this today as I was yesterday.

It was a very hot afternoon and we spent a little time outside at the front of the house. Eventually, though, we retreated indoors and I searched YouTube using the search term of a ‘Life of Mozart’. This generated two or three possibilities and Meg got absorbed by one of them, I am pleased to say, before the two young carers turned up for Meg’s afternoon visit. These two young people, one male one female are best mates with each other so in the morning we had promised them a little treat of vanilla ice-cream. So for our afternoon treat, I treated Meg and myself and the two young people with a serving of vanilla ice-cream enhanced by a dollop of ‘Orange Blossom’ honey which the young people had never had the opportunity to try before. So this was very welcome on what might prove to be the hottest afternoon of the year and this heat could extend into the evening as well making for a hot and sticky evening. Having said that, tonight is the first night of the Proms and Beethoven is often performed on an opening, Friday, night and tonight it is to be Beethoven’s 5th. To try to learn from the events of last night when Meg lay awake for hours, tonight I am going to ensure that as soon as I have got her into bed I will discourage her from going to sleep and we can follow the Proms concert which is to be broadcast from 7.00pm-9.00pm tonight. In this way, I hope that Meg can fall asleep naturally and without the benefit of some of the ‘sleep’ preparations of which I have purchased several varieties and none of which appear to work.

In the USA, it now looks as though some of the leading lights of the Democrats party are trying to put pressure on Joe Biden to withdraw from the presidential race but, so far, he has shown all of the obstinacy for which old men are often notorious. It is rumoured that even former President Barak Obama has given his view that Biden should withdraw but the way in which Joe Biden is being encouraged to leave the Presidential race seems long and protracted and the eventual outcome far from certain. But it does appear that the Democrats must get Joe Biden to relinquish his hold on the presidency soon because time is very rapidly running out in which a replacement can be found, approved by the Democratic Congress and then a campaign mounted to start to fight with Trump. I personally think that Joe Biden may not be able to hang on until after Sunday but we shall have to wait and see.

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Thursday, 18th July, 2024 [Day 1585]

The spell of fine weather continues today so Meg and I thought that we would make the most of it whilst we could. Thursday is the day when the weekly shopping gets done and we have a sitting service from the care agency to enable Mike to go and get this done. The carer that we typically have is a young female psychology graduate and Meg is well used to her so we were pleased that she had been allocated to us again this morning. After I returned home with the shopping, I wheeled Meg into the kitchen as she was had been put into her going out’ wheelchair and the carer and I busied ourselves with unpacking the shopping. Then the time came for her to depart and we awaited the arrival of a couple of carers in the late morning who attend to Meg’s comfort. But whilst they were here and knowing there was typically not much to be done in a late morning call, I asked them if they would assist in a little project of mine. I am in email correspondence with Bromsgrove District Council/Worcestershire County Council concerning the absence of a pavement between our road and the main Kidderminster Road. This means that when I take Meg out in her wheelchair, I have to wheel Meg along what is a ‘de facto’ inner ring road around the town. I am trying to get the road authorities to alleviate this situation somehow and to assist me in my mini-campaign, I asked on one of the carers to make a videoclip of me wheeling Meg along the road. This he did and a car overtook us which rather makes the point. Of course this was crass bad planning and cost cutting some twenty years but my argument is that Worcestershire County Council has a duty of care to its residents and particularly to its disabled residents. If Meg and I were to be hit by a passing motorist and the local authority had done nothing to alleviate a clear and present danger, then my argument is going to be that they can sued for a considerable volume of money. Of course, none of this is going to happen and I would be amazed at the end of the day if I were to get any alleviation of our access problems but it will give me a certain amount of pleasure to keep pursuing the local authorities to see what solutions (or more likely excuses for inactivity) they come up with. The carers at the conclusion of each visit have to complete a task and a care log and I wonder what today’s entry might read – something along the lines of ‘assisting the service users to record a video documenting the dangers consequent upon no pavement being provided’ or something similar. Tonight, when Meg is safely abed and I hope, asleep, the video clips are to be forwarded onto the relevant County Councillor and we shall see what happens.

When it came to lunch today, the weather seemed a bit too warm for a conventional meal. I had already taken a quiche out of the freezer to defrost so I warmed this in the oven for the appropriate length of time. Then I made up a salad with tomato, pickled beetroot, cheese and some coleslaw. The coleslaw was actually made up myself with bits of pieces – I chopped some of the really bits of fine white cabbage up that I had in our fridge and then added a few sultanas and put it in a mayonnaise sauce with a topping of honey and mustard sauce. This sounds like a weird and wonderful combination but it actually worked pretty well, so much so that I will not mind repeating the experiment if I need to. The visit scheduled for the carers was an hour earlier in the afternoon than I would have liked so Meg and I had the prospect of a fairly long afternoon of Meg in her wheelchair. But we ‘solved’ this problem by having a trip to the park where we regaled ourselves with bananas. When we got home, we wondered what YouTube had to offer to us and the algorithm offered to us today ‘Romantic operatic arias for Valentine’s day’ Meg started to watch this and I attended to some emails but we were both enthralled by the music and enjoyed it more than we can say. Every one of the arias is known to us anyway as they are largely drawn from Puccini/Verdi/Mozart but why look a gift horse in the mouth. Just before lunch, I got a phone call from the nurse who specialises in Meg’s conditions who visit us about once a month or so and who is always available to advice and support where needed. She is always very helpful and supportive but was going off on holiday with her family and so was giving us a ring before she went. I mentioned Meg’s sleeping problems and she said that she would get into contact with the doctor on our behalf to see if a ‘melatonin’ agent could be prescribed for us which might be sleep inducing. The nurse always seems to get results when she communicates with the doctor and much more so when I do so, we shall have to see what happens in this instance as well.

Some of the political news today is highlighting the fact that Joe Biden is afflicted with a bout of Covid but according to the White House the symptoms are mild rather tan severe. But I wonder whether this medical event might be enough to induce senior members of the Democratic party to force a resignation of Joe Biden from the presidency. A factor that might be significant is that Joe Biden might not only lose the presidency but some Senate seats could also be lost giving the Senate as well as the Congress and the Supreme Court to Trump. This would hand Trump an unparalleled degree of power and is not the framers of the American constitution had ever envisaged. So once again, we shall have to see if this particular story stands up. The fact that a supreme isolationist, Vance, now has the ticket for the Vice Presidency means that the USA could well abandon Ukraine under a Trump presidency. He himself has indicated that he would force the Ukraine to accept a part of Ukraine back to the Russian state. At this point, I wonder if there is any truth in the rumours that the Russians have a video of Trump having sex with a Russian ‘honey pot’ when Trump was in Moscow and this helps explain why Trump is so beholden to Putin?

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Wednesday, 17th July, 2024 [Day 1584]

Today has been an interesting day. As is customary each Wednesday, our domestic help pays us her weekly visit and we exchange news about our tribulations and, indeed any good news, about the happenings of the last week. We knew from the weather forecast that we were going to have 2-3 days of quite warm and brilliant sunshine but this is only to be a short-lived interlude before the rains of the summer return. So we lost no time in getting ourselves geared up to go down the hill to Waitrose where we collected our newspaper and bought some milk. Then it was time for us to start back up the hill so that we could spend some time in the park where we could consume our elevenses. We were delighted that on the way home, we bumped into our Irish friend who was busy mowing his front lawn and we exchanged news with each other about the various things happening to each of us in our day to day lives. We were also equally delighted to see our Italian friend a little further up the road and we made tentative plans where we could meet in one garden or another whilst the weather was fine to catch up on our news in greater depth. When we got home, it was almost time for our carers to arrive and when they did, one of the female carers attended as she has often threatened to do in her dinosaur (Tyrannosaurus Rex) inflatable outfit. This was huge in size being at least about seven feet in height and complete with a little fan incorporated within it which had the whole task of keeping the outfit inflated and perhaps cool at the same time. Needless to say, I secured a couple of photographs of this which I can show to some of our friends and indicate some of the things with which as ‘service users’ we are subjected to via our carers. But this was not the only happening of this morning because our domestic help also let us listen to a doll about 10″ or so in height of a bear with sunglasses and hat and whose vest is emblazed with the text ‘At my age, We have seen it all, Done it all, I just do not remember it at all’ When a little switch on the left paw is activated we hear the Beetles song ‘When I get old and losing my hair etc. etc.’ which goes on for a couple of verses whilst the doll itself sways in time to the song and even the mouth operates in time with the song. Needless to say, this was a tremendous surprise and delight to us and we have already played with it a couple of times. We have it on loan for about a week so that we can play it several times over and over before we hand it back.

At 1.00pm this afternoon, I was the recipient of a long and detailed phone call from the care coordinator of Worcester Association of Carers. We had seen the lady who acts as the Coordinator about a year ago in the AgeUK club which is run in Finstall, a village adjacent to Bromsgrove and easily accessible from it. This lady is a very ‘can do’ person and has a host of information and contacts and she had organised a follow-up call from what might have been as much as a year ago. So much water has flowed under the bridge so I needed to explain the really significant events of the past year in my caring role for Meg. This has included Meg’s brief stay in hospital, the installation of a stairlift, the installation of a hospital bed in our downstairs living room and the latest developments which mean that Meg cannot walk, let alone stand, and therefore has to be hoisted from bed to wheelchair or armchair with a hoist and sling system. We also need a team of two carers to manipulate this hoist and Meg needs four visits a day – in the morning to get up, in the evening to be put to bed and a late morning and a late afternoon call to check on Meg’s level of comfort. Our phone call went on for an hour a half and I detailed all of the things that were most problematic which were Meg’s inability to sleep once put to bed about every other evening and the fact that she has to be attended to in the wee small hours of the morning. I also pointed out that I now had to sleep in a camp bed by the side of Meg in case she is distressed during the night and have not only to cook her food but to feed it with at mealtimes. On the other hand, I was able to point some of the mare positive things, principally my acquisition of the wheelchair (after a bit of a bureaucratic struggle) which enables me to push Meg up and down the hill so that we can visit either Waitrose or the park or sometimes both (as this morning) I also pointed out that the partner of one of our carers had called around and blitzed the garden for us so that Meg and I could round to the back of the house and enjoy the garden once more. I explained how poor I thought the GP services were in the supposedly proactive role catering for the carers of dementia sufferers and she was going to contact the practice manager of our GP practice to make sure that the relevant ‘flags’ were in place. Trying to get sense out of our GP practice is always difficult as one has to go through the process of web forms to elicit a telephone call in order even to get access to talk to a GP who does not visit Meg in person but relies only on whatever can be described in a telephone call. The Care Coordinator in whom I have a lot of confidence has several networks accessible to her and she was hoping to make some relevant points both to our GP but also to social services to ensure that I as Meg’s carer am getting the relevant attention and service to which I am entitled. She was particularly concerned that my own health might be suffering because I did not have the time or energy to conduct the things that need to be done such as blood pressure monitoring, access to dental services and goodness knows what else.

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Tuesday, 16th July, 2024 [Day 1583]

Last night and this morning have not run particularly smoothly. Last night Meg was awake all of the evening and although I tried to get an earlier night I was kept awake until about 1.00 in the morning. Then Meg awoke me at about 5.00am so I finished off with only four hours of sleep and consequently have felt like ‘death warmed up’ during most of the day. There was a large band of rain sweeping up the country but, fortunately, at the time that we came to make our journey down the hill to Waitrose, the band of rain had largely passed over just leaving gloomy clouds in its wake. In the store, we were pleased to meet up with two of our friends and we had our normal pleasant chat. To he musical nonagenarian chorister friend, we related the following story with some relish. Late yesterday afternoon, Meg and I found a programme on Beethoven celebrating the life of the great composer. Now most depictions of Beethoven show him with rather scowling features and certainly not a tranquil face at rest. The programme that we saw yesterday revealed the reason why. After he had achieved a degree of fame, it was decided that a bust of Beethoven be made (to be displayed somewhere in Vienna I wonder?) This procedure involved applying a kind of thick plastic wax or paste in some depth to the whole of Beethoven’s face and in order to breathe two large straws were inserted through the wax into his nostrils. Beethoven found this procedure particularly unpleasant (as I suspect we all might) and when the wax was removed and ultimately converted into a mould for a bust of the great man, he is depicted with a huge scowl, or rather a grimace. So the images that we have of Beethoven displaying a scowling or tempestuous air about him might ultimately all derive from the face mask. Another little nugget that came from one of the musicologists contributing to the programme was that after failed attempt to make a lasting liaison with the opposite sex, in which Beethoven was always unsuccessful, his music seemed to make a great leap forward. So the musicologists thanked all of the various women, usually of aristocratic lineage and beyond Beethoven’s league, for the fact that they had all turned him down (usually citing his ugliness and strange habits) and had thus helped Beethoven to write even more masterpieces.

After we had got Meg home, we had our late morning call complete with a third young care assistant who was shadowing as part of her training, and then we prepared for these care workers to depart and for the ‘sit’ call to commence. The carer allocated to the ‘sit’ call who we have known from some weeks back came along and we discussed some medications that I might be able to buy to induce some sleep in Meg this evening, given that the doctors are loathe to prescribe any sleeping aids whatsoever. So when I went out on the road this morning, I went into our local herbalist to find something that the carers have recommended based upon their clients and/or relatives so I purchased a bottle of something which may or may not help. All of these sleep supplements are a fantastic price but I suspect that they trade upon the fact that once deprived of sleep for some time one becomes almost desperate. Whether these preparations will work in conjunction with Meg’s other medications, I cannot tell and it may be that they are a complete waste of money but I feel that I have to make the effort because I cannot continue indefinitely only getting four hours of sleep a night and with the medical profession unwilling to help.

Gareth Southgate has resigned this afternoon and I suspect that whilst there may be some regrets, much of the footballing public will feel it is time for a new broom. What is ironic that some of the more avid followers of football are making the point that the individual talents of the squad seem quite manifest but often they fail to be displayed as soon as they pull on an England shirt. The point has been made by more than one commentator, that the players seem to manifest good performances for their individual clubs but these are often only brought to fruition in an England team when they are brought on as a substitute with ten minutes to go. Personally, I feel that we need to develop a more aggressive, penetrative style of football that runs at and takes on the opposition. The worst thing that I witnessed in the current England was the sight of three England players passing the ball laterally to each other in their own third of the pitch. So in the words of the old fashioned expression, perhaps it is a case of ‘Nothing venture, nothing gain’

Tomorrow is the day of the King’s speech in Parliament. The King’s Speech is a speech written by the government and delivered by the Monarch at the State Opening of Parliament. It marks the beginning of a new parliamentary year, or session, and is an opportunity for the government to set out its legislative agenda for the coming month. Tomorrow might be particularly interesting for us to observe which bits of legislation will receive a degree of priority and which will be sidelined. I foresee at least one defeat for the new Labour government. When they have the opportunity, the SNP has announced plans to table an amendment to the King’s Speech calling for the government to scrap the two-child benefit cap. There are so many of the new Labour MP’s who agree with the SNP that this is one of the best ways to alleviate child poverty that I foresee either a massive rebellion or a Labour retreat. Rather than risk a revolt at the very start of a new Parliament, the new Labour government must be able to find a way to prioritise this item of spending rather than resorting to the formula of lifting the benefit cap ‘when conditions allow’.

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Monday, 15th July, 2024 [Day 1582]

So last night whilst fortunately for me, Meg was soundly asleep, I settled down to watch the England vs. Spain Euro finals match. After the end of the first half, I thought that it was a fairly evenly matched competition with Spain probably having the slight edge. But after half time, it was a different story. The Spanish went ahead with a well deserved goal although it did appear to me that there was a woeful lack of marking of the Spanish forward who seemed to have a clear run at goal. Then the Spanish played much better football but then England managed to score an equaliser. For about 10 minutes, it looked as though we had a real match on our hands as England pressed forward perhaps confident that a second goal would secure them the match. But this did not last and the Spanish started to overwhelm the England team with much superior football and then scored the winner some four minutes before full time and not leaving enough time for England to mount a counter strike. So at the end of the day, the Spanish victory was very well deserved as they had played much better football not only in this match but throughout the whole competition and were therefore worthy winners. Why we can only play ‘properly’ with an attacking intent when we are a goal behind and not throughout the whole of the match is undoubtedly a topic that will engage acres of newsprint and much discussion but points to the fact that a very cautious and defensive strategy is never going to win you a football competition although it might work for a single match.

There are certain photographs of historical events that live on in our collective memory. Many will remember the images of people in business clothing falling from the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, shortly before the towers collapsed. Or, going further back in US history, the photo of soldiers raising a US flag on the battlefield on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, during the final stages of World War II in the Pacific. It looks like there’s another image for the history books now: the photo Evan Vucci, a photographer for the Associated Press news agency (AP), took of Donald Trump seconds after Trump was shot in an assassination attempt during a rally on Sunday. Already, people are comparing the photo to the iconic flag raising picture from WWII. A user of social media platform X called it the ‘Iwo Jima picture of this generation.’ Renowned The New Yorker magazine pointed to similarities too. It is easy to see where the comparison comes from. Trump’s raised fist and his facial expression, accentuated by the blood splatters across his cheek, can be read as a declaration of defiance in the face of adversity. And then there’s the flag itself, the center piece in the Iwo Jima image, and the perfect patriotic background to Trump’s ‘I am still standing’ gesture. However, to my mind there is something that does not ring quite true about the image that is being flashed across the world. For a start, the sky was not a startling blue but a little overcast. Secondly, I do not actually recall an American flag flying ever so conveniently just over the image of Trump defiant fist pumping the air and mouthing ‘Fight! Fight!’ I am sure that the photographer opportunistically took his moment to capture an important image, But without saying that the resultant image has been doctored or even enhanced, I suspect that some judicious rearrangement of certain elements of it have been made perhaps with the photographer unconsciously aware of the ionic Iwo Jima image. If one decomposes the image – a flag, a wounded but defiant hero exhibiting strength in the fact of an assassination attempt- then it all seems a little too good to be true. I do not suscribe to conspiracy theories as such but if the Republican party in their wildest dreams had thought of an image that exemplified Trump’s heroic status, then they could hardly have bettered the image that has now been flashed around the globe.

Last night, I needed to ‘help out’ the care agency by being the second pair of hands to help to prepare Meg for bed in the evening. I was not a particularly happy bunny by being asked to do the same again this morning but fortunately with a carer with whom I find it easy to collaborate. Staff shortages/illnesses are being blamed for the absence of staff but the cynical side of my nature wonders wether the absence of a second carer last night might be football related and the absence of a carer this morning hangover related. However, I am pleased that this Euro competition is now well and truly over and in the near future we have the Olympic games to be held in Paris to entertain us. I do have the feeling that advance publicity about the Olympics is incredibly sparse this time around, perhaps because they are to be held in France. But normally there is quite a lot of news in the build up to the Olympics, highlighting the anticipated successes of locals.

After breakfast this morning, Meg and I went on our way to the park. We called in at our Italian friend down the road but she was not in but fortunately another set of church friends from down the road happened to be in so I could return the dish in which a cottage pie was baked for us. In the park, we had a conversation about football with a local dog walker and were then passed by a group of an older woman and two younger females walking their collective dogs. When the elder female cast an admiring comment about Meg’s hat, I explained that it was very similar to the hat worn by Tonya (played by Geraldine Chapman) in the classic film of Dr Zhivago. I briefly went through some of the plot of the film and how Zhivago was torn between two women – the blond Lara (Julie Christie) and the brunette Tonya. The film ends with Zhivago on a tram espying a woman who he believes to be Lara on the streets of Moscow. He struggles to get off the tram and runs to try to keep up with the blonde Lara only to have a heart attack and to die before he could actually meet up with her again. The older lady explained that she had wept buckets at the conclusion of the film and the younger females thought they might try and see if they could view it for themselves.

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