Sunday, 31st May, 2020 [Day 76]

We speculate how busy our local park is going to be in view of the weather and the release of the lockdown sentiment in the country – as it turned out, it was the most pleasant of days with a gentle breeze keeping the temperature a little cooler than in recent days and the numbers of people in the park being quite tolerable, A few days we watched whilst some of the local authority workers dredged the pond which only has about 8″ of water in it but acquires a certain amount of dead branches and other debris falling into the water. The park caretakers had carefully arranged for the detritus to dry out when no doubt it would easier to dispose of. Our enjoyment of the pond was marred somewhat by the sight of a couple of teenagers, evidently quite bored, who hunted some of the biggest sticks that could find and threw them back into the pond. In circumstances like this, does one intervene with a reprimand? Whilst contemplating what to do, the youths got bored and ran away. In the early afternoon, we got a text from our domestic help with the red-hot news that Asda was selling off 70-litre bags of forest bark at 3 for £10.00. Actually, this was very good news to us as we had engaged one of our neighbours in conversation who was giving his garden a makeover and had unsuccessfully toured some of the local supermarkets (who typically have supplies of forest bark with their gardening requisites outside the store) Accordingly my daughter-in-law and I went down to Asda where they had a well-developed system – whilst I loaded up my trolley with the forest bark, my daughter-in-law went inside and paid for it with crisp £10.00 notes (which the staff preferred not to handle even though virus does not survive for about 11 weeks on crisp new notes) Nonetheless, this was a very welcome little venture as we had contemplated doing it a day or so ago but it all depends upon the local supply situation.

The afternoon was quite a busy one. The principal task was to plant the lilac tree that had been bought for me as a birthday present and I had a green 75-litre pot which certainly ought to be a sufficient size for a young tree. Fortunately, during my make-over of Mog’s Den I discovered that I already had a bag of topsoil as well as one of compost and already had some ‘normal’ soil put by ready for a large planting. As I am always running out of both bonemeal and Blood, Fish and Bone, I had recently bought from Amazon some 10kg bags of both so it was quite easy to make a nutritious mixture (bonemeal at the base, blood fish and bone as a general fertiliser) and planting was thus incredibly easy, I have decided to locate it against a wall of the house in the back garden so that all members of the family can see it from the kitchen window. To make space for it, I relocated the (pot-grown) Corylus avellana which is a hazel bush/tree. My final job of the afternoon was to relocate all of the dustbins, gardening impedimenta away from the sides of the hose so that our painter and decorator has a free run of the outside of the house when he starts off at 8.30 in the morning.

I might point out that in my various activities, throughout the day I have been assisted and supervised at times by Miggles the cat, who has variously supervised my hanging out of the washing, planting of the lilac tree, relocating the hazel tree and preparing for the decorator. At one stage when I had just planted the lilac the cat investigated the pot by standing on her hind legs and then jumped in to roll in the soil (a trait she has exhibited many times before!)

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Saturday, 30th May, 2020 [Day 75]

We thought that today the park was going to be exceptionally busy as people were anticipating the end of the lockdown. But, in truth, although it was a little busier than normal, the park was busy but not teeming. We decided to vary our route on the way back through the park and encountered one of our ‘old lady’ friends that we had not seen for several days and hoped she was OK. The husband of this particular acquaintance had worked for the Parks Department and, upon his demise, the family had donated a bench to the borough council and upon this bench, we often sit. The old lady in question can see this bench from the vantage point of her own home as she lives adjacent to the park – and she is always delighted to see that the bench is in use. We had not seen her as she had varied her routine and got into the habit of going around  the park very early in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowds. She was having a few problems with her health but at least she had some hospital appointments lined up in the forthcoming week, although the logistics were getting to be a bit of a nightmare as under the Coronavirus rules one couldn’t be accompanied into the hospital. Still, we were pleased to see her. On our way up the hill, we exchanged news with one of our oldest friends and then bumped into an acquaintance who was visiting his parents and who we often see at the weekend. As it happened, he was engaged in the most humdrum of tasks (sieving through a bucket full of slate chippings to remove the bits of leaves and twigs) What was so coincidental about this is that I had detailed myself to do exactly the same task myself in the afternoon. Last year, I had taken the pains to lay down a whole new path along half of the length of ‘Mog’s Den‘ and, to keep a naturalistic look, I had laid down some weed control fabric and then had a ton of slate chippings delivered in the customary large plastic/hessian builder’s bag in our driveway. I had then made the journey down with loaded buckets of slate chippings to lay the path. This is generally quite maintenance-free but although the weed control fabric prevents the problems of annual weeds growing from below, one still has the problem of dried leaves accumulating on the top. This maintenance job didn’t turn out to be particularly arduous and I finished off the whole job with a Bosch blower that I use just to disperse dried leaves and the like. This now completes the makeover of ‘Mog’s Den‘ and whilst there will also be ‘pottering about’ little jobs to be done, at least it is now looking fairly shipshape and should be easy to maintain for the rest of the season. All it needs now is a good downpour of rain, but we will have to wait a little longer for that.

The political news this weekend looks interesting. It seems that the ‘love-in’ between the scientists/health chiefs on the one hand and the politicians on the other has finally broken down, particularly with the added irritant of the Dominic Cummings affair. In particular, they feel that trust has been badly damaged by Cumming’s failure to stand down and the prime minister’s refusal to dismiss him. In addition, they feel that the failure to set up an effective test, trace and isolate regime means that the safety and well-being of the general public are now certainly at risk. Today was a day when I missed the Downing Street briefing but for the first time, one of the senior scientists has made his feelings known. The government’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, with Dominic Cummings in mind, laid his criticisms on the line thus : “In my opinion the rules are clear and have always been clear. In my opinion, they are for the benefit of all and they apply to all.” And so say all of us (or over 80% in an opinion poll published over the weekend).






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Friday, 29th May, 2020 [Day 74]

The end of another hot week – and more hot weather to come. We were particularly pleased to see our domestic help arrive to assist us in the burden of housework and we always seem to have a lot of news to catch up on. We do try to be careful to not be in the same room at the same time so there is a certain amount of calling to each other from doorways! We had a chat with one of our regular friends on the way down the hill and wondered if the park was going to be teeming today. However, despite the proliferation of picnic blankets, the park was only moderately busy and we enjoyed watching various antics with dogs and balls. By the way, by consulting Google, I have just discovered that the official name for the device that throws a ball further than one could unaided is called a ball-launcher – you live and learn.

After lunch, I cut the communal lawns and our own lawn with the trust petrol mower, but in truth, it had hardly grown at all but I succeeded in removing the wispy bits of dandelions. The two ‘weeds’ that I liberated from the roadside verges (an ox-eye daisy and the dandelion-like cat’s ear) seem to have taken in their planted plots and the trees I recently transplanted are just about surviving the heat (I think) Halfway through the afternoon, we took delivery of the lilac bush/tree that was a birthday present from the rest of the family. I also took delivery of a dozen half-round fencing posts with which I intend to construct a hand-rail to assist in reaching ‘Mog’s Den’ in the lower recesses of the garden. Although I have all the materials in place (posts, screws. cement, hole-boring implement) I think this job might be a bit more than a one-man job so I have sent off a text message to a useful contact of ours to see if we could do the job together sometime in the next few weeks (time is not of the essence)

Life next week will start to see some of the ‘turning of the analogue dial’ as the country as a whole is entering the first stages of release from the lockdown. As a family, we will face some changes – our daughter-in-law is in charge of the complicated logistics of getting the primary school in which she teaches ready to receive Year 1 and Year 6 pupils. I am going to enter a regime in which I go and collect my own newspapers which entails going to a small newspaper shop in town. I will go masked-up and will not enter the shop unless it is clear of other customers for a start. I have acquired a collection of face masks which will now come into their own. In addition, we are having the outside of the house receive a routine painting which is another small return to normality. As the government attempts to gradually end the various furlough schemes, the grim reality of how many businesses will be able to survive will become all too apparent. My own feeling is that this stage of the unlock down is going to be incredibly difficult. I suspect that as people have got used to new patterns of doing things (e.g. using online grocery shopping), then the old ways of doing things may never return.

Our local newspaper is reporting that Bromsgroveis in the top 20 of COVID-19 hotspots in the country. Of 329 local authorities, Bromsgrove has the 15th highest coronavirus death rate with a standardised rate of 106.4 per 100,000 (Birmingham was 89.7 per 100,000 and Worcestershire 50 per 100,000) A local consultant neurologist has pointed to the high death rate in residential homes (38 of the 105 deaths reported in Bromsgrove) and has argued that it is the neglect of care homes by the government that has led them to become pockets of infection where it is easy for the disease to spread and to re-spread. A sobering thought!

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Thursday, 28th May, 2020 [Day 73]

This morning was fairly uneventful for Meg and I although we did have the opportunity for a brief chat with our Italian friend who lives down the road and then for a longer chat with two of our friends from church. One of their relatives had had an operation yesterday morning and we were all relieved that it seemed to have gone well so far. Another hot day which called out for a salad but we managed to rustle up quite a tasty collection of salad-type things even though we didn’t have what you might call any salad greens.

In the late morning, we got the news about Durham police’s view of the Dominic Cummings escapade. The whole wording seemed a little bizarre to us and designed to help the government get off the hook. For a start, the Durham police said that it was a minor breach (well a breach is either a breach or it isn’t a breach- the argument that it is minor because no social distancing was involved seems curious as surely if there had been a social distance issue this would have been two offences of leaving the house and breaking social distance rules). A lawyer has commented on the case as follows:

Raj Chada, head of the criminal defence department and a partner at firm Hodge Jones & Allen, told the PA news agency: “I interpret this statement as them saying that there is enough evidence to say that he breached the rules (but ultimately for a court to decide) but that it is not in the public interest to prosecute for the reasons that they say.”

The fact that the initial journey from London to Durham was adjudged not to have broken regulations presumably drives a coach and horses through the advice? legal requirement? to ‘stay at home‘ and one wonders what will happen if some of those who have already been fined decide to appeal against their convictions.  Finally, one has to say that a wording which says a ‘minor breach’ which ‘may’ have occurred seems to be bending over backwards not to offend Downing Street.

I had a frustrating session this afternoon. Part of ‘Mog’s Den‘ is an area in which I throw stones, bits of brick and other stuff retrieved whenever I go and dig in the garden. To tidy this up a little bit I thought I would put a bit of fencing (Poundland Special) and as I was doing this, I thought I would remove a protruding bit of stone from the route of the fence. Half an hour later and I was still struggling because as I excavated more and more of the ‘stone’ it became apparent that it must have been some kind of lintel, burried by the builders, as it was over 30″ long and about 6″ wide and 6″ deep. Having struggled to free this monster all without success, I reasoned to myself that even if I did free it would be too heavy to move anywhere and I would probably injure my back in making the effort. So I covered it all up again and made the best of a bad job.

Emily Maitless, the lead presenter on BBC Newsnight programme decided she would not appear the following evening after she had intimated that it was evident that Cummings had broken the law but the Government would not admit it. The BBC did not ‘discipline’  Maitless but felt they had to reissue guidance on political partiality but said they were not going to take any further action of a disciplinary nature. It should be very interesting to see what Newsnight says tonight, given that Cummings may have committed a breach of the regulations (subject to a court deciding the case – which of course it never will) The extremely partisan Attorney General has tweeted on Saturday in full support of Dominic Cummings and in which she quoted the full text of the No 10 statement on Boris Johnson’s chief aide in which the prime minister said he had behaved “responsibly and legally”. So the Attorney General’s role is compromised even before the Durham police statement earlier on today…


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Wednesday, 27th May, 2020 [Day 72]

Today was the day that we decided to ‘liberate’ some of the wildflowers we have seen growing on a central verge. But first, we had our customary walk to the park which really did seem a lot busier than usual. For the first time in weeks, I did feel a little unsafe on occasions. Those of a certain age (65+) make every effort to avoid you, providing an almost ritualised arc-shape as you walk past each other. But we did notice that as we were sitting on our park bench, young couples with a 3-4-year-old on tow (or a little bike) made no effort at all to avoid you as we were sitting on the park bench, walking, in my estimation, within about a metre of you. not to mention two metres . The same was equally true of some of the residents of residential homes whom I presume were being pushed in a wheelchair by their carers who trundled along the path making no effort to avoid anyone. Given that residential homes may be the lurking-place for virus (more deaths were recorded in residential homes yesterday than in the whole of the hospital sector) then perhaps the trepidation that I felt had a degree of substance to it.

On our way home, I took out a sharp knife I had brought with me and liberated some small clumps of ox-eye daisies, cat’s-ear (similar to but not to be confused with dandelions) and a common poppy. These are, in effect, weeds but I wondered if I get them going in a few small plant pots and use them to brighten up a dark corner. I may not have much success in this particular venture as the specimens I obtained all seemed to have exceptionally shallow root systems but at least it was only about 10 minutes after lifting them before I got them into pots and watered.

After lunch, I busied myself with tidying up the steps that lead down into Mog’s Den but in truth, I didn’t spend a lot of time doing this as, apart from being assisted by the cat, I knew that Boris Johnson was due to appear before the Select Committee chairmen at 4.00 and I particularly wanted to evaluate his performance. A few little things stood out (i) despite referring to evident ‘falsehoods’ in the press treatment of Dominic Cummings, he couldn’t name any (ii) although he indicated that he did check on the evidence supplied by Dominic Cummings he was not going to refer any of it to the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service as he was ‘already far too busy to be troubled with things like that’ (iii) he hadn’t read any of the scientific papers but only relied on summaries of them provided for him (iv) he seemed not to know at all that there were thousands of migrants to the UK who because of their ambiguous citizenship status had no recourse to any public funds (and could be destitute for all he knew or cared) (v) he must have mentioned 5-6 times that it was time to ‘move on’ because that was the great British public wanted(!)

After reflecting upon the day’s events and some of the comments on late night TV, I suspect that three factors will stand out. The first of these is that the rebellion of 40+ Tory MP’s is showing some signs of fizzling out which means that Cummings may survive and hang on. However, Cummings may well be a ‘busted flush’ and will have lost whatever authority/respect he used to muster. But the second thing to emerge is that in the lockdown, the great British public invested a lot of trust in the government and helped to prevent the direst of tragedies (whilst still having the highest number of deaths/related deaths in the world) but this has largely evaporated and government messages may not be heeded (as there is ‘one law for the powerful and another law for the rest of us‘)  Thirdly, and this point follows from the second, the ‘Test and Trace‘ system (due to be announced on Monday, 1st June but brought forward two working days in an attempt to ‘move the agenda on’) may well be fatally flawed as it is by no means certain that when contacted by a ‘tracer’ and told to isolate for 14 days the request will be followed as no sanctions are to be deployed in the short term. It is also evident that the fabled  tracing app is not ready, that turn-around of test results is far too slow, and that we have failed to learn how to do things properly (as in South Korea, Germany for example)

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Tuesday, 26th May, 2020 [Day 71]

As you might expect, this was a much quieter day after the Bank Holiday yesterday – quite unusually, we saw none of our usual friends to chat with on the way to the park but we were graced by the sight of our resident (club-footed) heron. The ducks seemed unusually prolific this morning but we suspect that they had been fed some chunks of bread, which is not good for them as it fills them up without giving them many of the nutrients that they might need. A few nights ago, our garden was graced by a hedgehog (observed in the middle of the night when one of our PIR lights was activated) and we know that there are masses of corners full of dead leaves and the like, which they will enjoy. The more the merrier, I say, if they constantly feed on the slugs that play havoc with several of our plants.

Our local authority, for reasons best known to itself, has started a policy of only mowing the central grassy strip that runs along the length of Kidderminster Road to a width of one metre (something to do with the fact that only one man can mow at a time but it sounds a fishy story to me) There is a bonus in that the un-mown areas are starting to sprout some wild meadow flowers. There seems to be an invasion of what at first sight might look a dandelion but is actually a dandelion-type wildflower known as ‘Cat’s ears‘ Tomorrow, I will gather a specimen and see if I can more definitively identify it but comparing it with images on the web. There is also a proliferation of poppies at the moment and I am keeping my eye on a whole series of poppy heads in a vacant house so that I can liberate them for future supplies of poppy seed.

More gardening this afternoon whilst the weather was fine. As opposed to construction work, this was just ‘routine’ gardening which involved clearing away about a year’s worth of fallen holly leaves from Mog’s Den. I decide to enlist the help of a huge plastic shovel which I purchased some time ago to shift snow (but actually looks like one of those huge things that you see stable workers muck out horses with – it might even be called a stable shovel). But in truth, I was just waiting to see what the latest briefing from Downing St. had to make of the Cumming’s affair.

Throughout the day, more and more Tory MP’s were withdrawing support from Cummings and one Scottish junior minister has resigned. Matt Hancock took the press briefing which was almost farcical as it was cut from 60 minutes to 30 and half of this time were the ritual presentations of graphs and statistics. Practically every question was on the Comming’s affair and Hancock allowed no supplementary questions. He half promised the first questionner (a vicar from Brighton) that he and his Treasury colleagues would examine the case for rescinding the fines of all of those who could plead a ‘special case’ à la Cummings – but having made up policy on the hoof, as it were, Downing Street went on to deny that there was going to be a change in policy. This really is like watching a car crash in slow motion but the interesting question remains that half of the cabinet have lined up to support Cummings whilst the other half wants to see him sacked!  Michael Gove even suggested that he himself had driven to test his own eye-sight! If the situation persists, whereby every briefing from Downing Street is asked no questions about the pandemic but concentrates on Cummings with more and more influential Tories withdrawing their support, then Cummings looks doomed (and perhaps Boris Johnson doesn’t come out of it at all well either)

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Monday, 25th May, 2020 [Day 70]

Well, today doesn’t exactly feel like a Bank Holiday when most days feel alike. However, we must say that the park was a lot busier than normal and we had to hunt for a park bench upon which to munch our comestibles. Being what used to be called ‘Whitsun’ or ‘Whitsuntide’ put me in mind of the Whit walks that used to take place in Manchester and other Lancashire mill towns in times gone by. I thought the tradition had died out some time ago but apparently, they are still lingering on, according to Google, with a march of 1800 people as recently as 2018. The Catholics used to walk on one weekend around Whitsuntide (perhaps on Whit Friday) and the Anglicans and Non-conformists a week later. What was always so colourful was that as well as the scouts, guides, nurses, trade unions, brass bands etc. it was a good excuse for various ethnic groups (particularly, as I remember, the Poles and the Ukrainians who were strongly Catholic) to process in their national dress. As I write this blog and look upwards, I have a print of L. S. Lowry’s ‘A Procession in Pendlebury’ (showing a Whit Walk procession) on my study wall. I am told that L.S. Lowry who was a curmudgeonly old soul, used to take a taxi to the moors above Oldham and then set up his easel and paint.. pictures of Manchester mill towns!

As I write this, I am listening to ClassicFM and as a special guest they have Prince Charles on his own personal selection of classical music (Only Wagner and Strauss so far, but I have only been listening for 15 minutes) I think that as well as being a guest today, he may actually be presenting a show of his own in the next day or so. Interesting, really (well, it is for me)

Today, after lunch, I spent some time in Mog’s Den putting some finishing touches to the various supports I have put in place but in truth, I was just killing time because we had heard that Dominic Cummings was to have his own press conference later on in the day. I guessed it would be about 4.00 but it actually got going at about 4.30, eventually. Whatever, your view of Dominic Cummings (hero or villain depending on whether you are a Brexit or a Remainer or a supporter), it was an unprecedented type of event and an extraordinary piece of political theatre. Some of the revelations were incredible – e.g. going a 30-minute round-trip to ‘test one’s eye-sight’ before returning to London by car) In view of this self-confessed break of the regulations (which none of the journalists actually pinned him to the ground on) is surely grounds for a prosection or a £1000 fine (like the rest of us) I bet the Durham police pull their punches though. More of this later – I am fascinated to see Sky TV’s ‘Review of the Press’ make of it all. I will report later when I’ve had a chance to view it!

It seems now that it is quite legitimate to ‘use your best instincts as a father’ to exempt yourself from the lockdown rules you had helped to create. Some aspects of the Cummings account stretch our credulity to the limit e.g. you go on a 60 mile round trip to test your eyesight (incidentally putting the health and safety of your wife and child at risk) – an alternative explanation is that it is your wife’s birthday and you go a pleasure trip before you return to work in London the following day! What is fascinating is that politicians, the clergy, the police, scientists, lawyers, medics and the rest of the media have all universally expressed their disbelief and astonishment at the Cummings account. To read this for yourself, the article is entitled  ‘Dominic Cummings draws condemnation from across UK society’

As we suspected the Daily Mail is not at all convinced (and neither are the rest of us!)

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Sunday, 24th May, 2020 [Day 69]

I once asked one of my Spanish students what was the worst time he had ever spent in England and he replied ‘4 pm on a Sunday afternoon!‘ I suspect that is because when he was studying at the Complutense University in Madrid, many of the students used to go to a really atmospheric bar in central Madrid where they could drink coffee and meet up with friends – and hence the contrast with England. Today we watched the Andrew Marr show and noticed how adeptly Grant Shaps managed to evade or wriggle out of tighter corners than Houdini. For example, when confronted with the statement from the Durham police about the contact with Dominic Cummings’ father, we were offered the following (i) ‘You haven’t gone on to give the whole quote and particularly the portion that follows‘ (tending to imply that this would somehow negate the damning quote that had just been read out to him) And how about this for circumlocution ‘The police did not speak to Mr. Cummings père but he spoke with them‘. This was a downright falsification anyway but it only serves to potentially confuse the listener.

Just after we first moved into this house, nearly thirteen years ago, I planted some golden privet hedging (Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’) to shield the BioDisc(= mini sewage treatment plant) we have outside the house. At the time, I got 30 plants in the boot of my car. Now it has grown to the extent that it is at least 1.5 metres tall and equally as wide and so, consequently, it was in need of pruning twice a year. My daughter in law had invested in battery-operated hedge clippers but even standing on some home=made platforms it was still too wide to get a completely even cut. Nonetheless, the job was done and cutting is the easy part – the more tedious part being clearing up all of the clippings into plastic sacks (two huge ones) Anyway, we managed to get the contents of these plus a sackful of cardboard shreddings into our compost bin (the right combination of both ‘green’ and ‘brown’ i.e. nitrogen/carbon as the aficionados of this blog will recognise) and all I need know is copious quantities of home-made compost accelerant (aka human urine) to let the microbes get to work. The people next door are having a party (I counted some 8-9 adults+children besporting themselves around a recently constructed garden bar – I am reliably informed these are increasingly popular but I had no idea they existed, until very recently…) I think it is several conjoined families so that is all right then – the distinction between a household’ and a ‘family’ is rather a subtle one anyway!

It is quite possible that this forthcoming week is ‘the calm before the storm’.  Our daughter-in-law will be returning to school a week on Monday (June 1st) and it remains an interesting question of how many children actually turn up. But it is quite possible that she will be exposed to many more children than hitherto and, of course, there are several adults running a school as well as the teachers and parents who will be both leaving and collecting children from school – whether they will properly police themselves to be at 2-metre intervals is an interesting question ( I suspect not) We feel that we might have to take extra precautions in our household cleaning and domestic routines from June 1st as there may be a very small, but nonetheless increased risk that the Coronavirus may still pose a potent threat.

Politically, it looks as though the Daily Mail is turning against Dominic Cummings. The Daily Mail always thought of itself (particularly under the editorship of Paul Dacre) as having its finger on the pulse of Middle England and if they pursue an anti-Cummings agenda for any period of time, then the future does not look bright for the most senior adviser to the Prime Minister.


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Saturday, 23rd May, 2020 [Day 68]

For whatever reason, I had a wakeful period in the middle of the night last night so I decided to deploy my time productively my updating the Waitrose order I have scheduled for eight days’ time. This all went smoothly and it is always reassuring to be emailed an up-to-date copy of your order which helps to ensure that the extras you have ordered are actually included. The park today was not quite so busy as it has been in recent days – perhaps a function of the fact that the temperature has dropped down several degrees, it was very windy and the sunbathing tendency has abated. Whilst in the park, we met with our friend Julie who now seems fully restored to health after her recent little health episode. She told us though of one of the Waitrose staff who we know well who seemed to have similar symptoms to Julie’s (gall-bladder?) – however, our Waitrose friend had not had a happy time in A&E at our local hospital and was left for several hours with no prospect of a scan or similar investigations. She felt that she had been badly treated and we were speculating whether she got worse treatment by having her husband drive her directly to the hospital rather than calling an ambulance. It might just be the luck of the draw whether you get good treatment or not – Meg and I were hoping that no implicit racism was involved. Whilst in the park, we also ran into our good friends who had bought us an excellent bottle of wine on the occasion of Mike’s recent birthday.  This wine turned out to be absolutely excellent so we soaked the label off the bottle to give to our friends in case we saw them – which of course we did. It sometimes happens when you give a bottle of wine as a present, then apart from the price and the label and the vintage, you might have few clues whether it was a good or an indifferent wine so we were glad to pass the label onto our friends so that they could enjoy a bottle for themselves.

I promised not to keep mentioning, ad infinitum, my gardening activities so I will keep this particular entry short and sweet. I finished off the major construction work that I have needed to do once our fallen tree had been removed and now include a little video clip so you can get a mental picture of what is going on. I must mention that the iPhone first records the journey down the steep little slope (a height of 6ft) into what we call ‘Mog’s Den’ and you can then get an idea of the shoring up that has been necessary in what is quite a steep slope. Whether or not my beech trees survive is another matter but they can always be replaced. After a little ‘pan around’ the journey is reversed and you traverse up the path towards ground i.e. normal lawn level. Here is the URL :

The Dominic Cummings story continues to dominate the news agenda, as you might imagine. On tonight’s ‘Review of the Papers‘ (Sky News Channel, 11.30-12.00), I have never seen a journalist so incandescent with rage as was Christina Patterson in her comments. She even used a phrase that I myself had used last night (‘contempt for the little people‘) but, of course, will the rest of the press join in the hue-and-cry?  What makes the story particularly juicy was the revelation that, if true, Cummings had transgressed on at least two if not three occasions! There are now calls for Boris Johnson to sack Cummings forthwith – if he does not, then Boris Johnson himself seems to be condoning the moral, if not downright illegal, transgressions that have taken place. Watch this space!

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Friday, 22nd May, 2020 [Day 67]

It comes to something when you look forward to the Iceland delivery of shopping as the highlight of one’s day! But this is not quite as ridiculous as it might sound as I got delivery of a pack of 10 eggs which my spies tell me are hard to find as everybody is going crazy baking goodness-knows-what in which eggs are a vital ingredient. Anyway, the order came as expected and I suspect that the quality is going to turn out OK (although I did change one item when the reviewers said it was the most disgusting rubbish they had ever eaten). Today proved to be a different kind of day as our regular cleaner/domestic help was now allowed to come along (she can come into our house because that’s for money but not into her mother’s house because… the difficulty in applying the lock-down rules) However, we managed fine by agreeing never to be in the same room together at the same time. On our walk down into the hill, we encountered one of our regular husband-and-wife friends who we were glad to see again because their grandson is about to enter higher education and having given advice to countless youngsters over the years at a similar stage in their lives, we were quite happy to make the offer again when these strange times are over (or have at least, moved on).

Friday is grass-mowing day and again this went without a hitch – I say this, because there is always the slightest scintilla of doubt in my mind whether my petrol driven mower will actually start – it is a Swedish ‘Stiga’ model and it always does. I only mention it because I once had a Mounfield which was an absolute ‘beast’ ( polite word!) to start and eventually, I got so fed up with it that I gave it away. I suspect it had never been set up properly form its manufacture but it leaves a horrid memory. Right at the end of the afternoon, I did finish off my gardening ‘opus’ with a swift strategic use of forest bark and the construction of a bed with the slope removed (or at least ameliorated) in which I can plant my California poppy seeds tomorrow. There happen to be one or two poppy plants that have ‘escaped ‘ onto the public highway (footpath) so I will attempt to ‘liberate’ one tomorrow, all being well.

The breaking political news this evening is the ‘revelation’ that Dominic Cummings, the Svengali-like special adviser to the Prime Minister has been caught apparently breaking the ‘lock-down’ laws following a period of self-isolation (definition of Svengali: a person who manipulates or exerts excessive control over another) Other senior figures who have engaged in such hypocritical behaviour have been forced to resign (e.g. Professor Neil Ferguson, the scientist whose modelling led to the lockdown, the Scottish health minister) and it remains to be seen whether the same will prove true of Dominic Cummings or not. It is a sad reflection of the operation of political influence that the nearer one is to the centres of political power, the greater the feeling that ‘rules are only meant for the little people, not for people like us‘ It all depends on whether the press, which is generally Tory-supporting, decides collectively that they are going to ‘go’ for a political figure or not. I think it was Alastair Campbell, the last press secretary in the Labour administration who argued as a rule of thumb that if a negative story ran for more than about three days, then the individual in question was probably ‘toast’ – so we shall watch ‘What the Papers Say’ with particular interest over the next few days…

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