Monday, 31st August, 2020 [Day 168]

Today, for whatever reason, Meg and I got off to rather a slow start and consequently only started our morning walk to the park at about 11.00. I had wasted quite a lot of time, though, trying to make a doctor’s appointment through one of the new fancy front-ends that no doubt are springing up all over the country. All seemed to be well until I clicked on ‘Make an appointment’ only to get the message to the effect that no online appointments were available for this GP’s practice. Whether this was a system glitch, or a Bank Holiday type hitch, who can say. There was a mass of information about COVID19 and what to do if you suspect you are a victim of the virus. But what you might have called ‘routine’ or ‘conventional’ illnesses seem to have completely disappeared. The GP waiting rooms in our practice used to be full to bursting but I now wonder if (on non-Bank Holiday times) the GP’s are sitting twiddling their fingers because patients cannot be seen ‘in the flesh’ and getting access through online systems seems problematic if my own experience is typical (which, of course, it may not be) When we eventually got to the park today, though, we met one of our ‘park regulars’ who had been looking out for us because she had a booklet which identified all of the trees in the park and she was going to let us have sight of it (As each tree has an ID number attached to its trunk, then the local authority must have a database and I wonder whether anyone has sought to access this in the past.)

I knew that today was going to be a heavy ‘damson processing’ day so the first task was to scour the local supermarkets for the cheapest and largest bottles of gin I could find (preferably 1.5-litre bottles). Fortunately, the three cheap supermarkets of Asda, Lidl and Aldi are all within spitting distance of each other. I started off in Asda where I purchased some 1.5-litre bottles of really cheap vodka, so I am going to experiment this year with a few bottles of damson vodka as well. Whilst there, I bought a catering pack of sugar which is going to be useful, plus a few bottles of Asda’s rock-bottom price gin. Then I made for Lidl but these seemed to be a dead loss for my purposes as they a lot of fancy gins but nothing to suit the likes of me who just want to but cheaply and in bulk. Finally, I went into Aldi where I used to shop regularly where I purchased 10-litre bottles of their cheapest gin. Incidentally, once I got these home my daughter-in-law expressed horror that you cannot go into a pharmacy or supermarket and buy more than two over-the-counter analgesics (for fear they might be used in an overdose situation) but you can buy 10 litres of gin (which would surely kill you) without any let or hindrance. Then I set to work with my preparations. The first task is to sterilise all of the kilner jars with a sterilising fluid (Boots ‘Baby sterilising fluid’) in my case. Then comes the most tedious and time-consuming part of the process. Each damson fruit has to stabbed about five times so that the fruit can release its essences into the gin. This is a very time-consuming process and I was hard at work most of the evening and only finished at about 10.45. The way I perform this task is to count out the fruit in 100’s so that I have a very accurate count of how much fruit I have. Then instead of constant weighing, I will put the correct number of fruits inside each jar and the requisite amount of sugar – these quantities I know from records I have kept in the past. Then it is just a case of topping up the fruit and sugar mixture with gin, giving it a good shake and then leaving it in a darkish place until about December when it will all got bottled into those little wine bottles or cordial bottles you see (which are suddenly worth their weight in gold). Then they just to have been given a shake once or twice a week to encourage the fruit to release its essences into the gin. Having got this task completed, my hands look a complete mess as they are heavily stained from handling so much fruit but no doubt they will improve over time! 

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Sunday, 30th August, 2020 [Day 167]

After the journey of yesterday, it seemed to take Meg and I a long time to get going this morning, so much so that we failed to get into newspaper shop before they closed at 11.30 but fortunately managed to get our supplies from Waitrose which is just around the corner. I generally read Meg my blog’s from the night before but today she had three to contend with as she has rather missed out as we were travelling away. Then on the way home we bumped into some of our old church friends who were busy in their front garden (which is often the case) As we had not seen them for several days, it was good to have a chat about life in general – and I was donated a so as a yellow clump of something that will grow ‘anywhere’ so as I always have some odd corners to populate in Mog’s Den, this was gratefully received. By the time we got home, the morning was practically gone so we did not even our normal perusal of the Sunday newspapers but cracked straight on with lunch.

This afternoon was scheduled to be the great ‘damson’ harvest and as I have mentioned before our old trees seemed to be truly laden this year. According to my records, the previous total that I had gathered was 1,300 fruits so I wondered whether that total would be exceeded this year. Believe it or not, sometimes I can lose track of what count I have got up to, so I relied upon an old cricketing umpire’s trick by keeping a supply of old pennies in one pocket and transferring them (not after every ball but after every hundred fruits) to ensure that I could keep an accurate count. I started picking at 3.00 pm and by 5.00 pm the job was done. Evidently, the first bucket (of 1000 fruits) was relatively easy – as they say, ‘picking the low hanging fruit’ From then on, though, it became progressively harder as I have to resort to a rake which pulls down the taller branches with one hand whilst I pick with the other. However, I was delighted to exceed my previous best which was 1,300 fruits 5 years ago. Today, I picked 1,750 fruits which were 35% more than the previous best. My estimate is that I have picked 9.5 kilos which is nearly 21 lbs of fruit. Again, according to my little book, I am going to need approx 16 litres of gin tomorrow, so I anticipate a very busy day as each damson has to be pricked 4-5 times and then the kilner jars have to be loaded up with the right amount of both sugar and gin.

Tonight there seem to be several pressures building upon the government. The first of these is the re-opening of the school allied to thousands of university students arriving in ‘strange’ cities to take up their places in the now bursting universities. Although in the school and the universities sterling efforts have no doubt been made to preserve bubbles, social distancing and the like, I get a terrible feeling that all might go absolutely ‘pear-shaped’ and these two pressures alone will cause quite an increase in the infection rate. Then, of course, the furlough schemes will progressively start to end, with the result that the unemployment rate will soar. Backbench Tory MP’s will be returning to Westminster this week knowing that according to one opinion poll, the Tory lead over Labour has shrunk to zero, a high proportion of the population feel that the government has not acted with any degree of competence in handling the COVID19 crisis and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is planning big tax rises on the rich to help to pay for it all. The next few weeks are going to be both critical and traumatic aa, after all,  handling a lockdown is relatively easy but releasing a lockdown calls for degrees of political sensitivity and skill not yet manifest in the Boris Johnson scheme of things. There is some talk of Johnson stepping down in about six months – and the Tory party did get of Thatcher when it suited them (and for those with long memories Churchill was turfed out by the electorate in 1945)

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Saturday, 29th August, 2020 [Day 166]

First. I must issue an apology to regular readers of this blog about the appalling number of typos and other errors that crept into last night’s blog. I was composing in on my iPad and these machines are not very good for the production of text (not having a mouse for a start) and all that I can say is that the normal spell-checking/grammatical check did not seem to function on the iPad as it does on my Mac back at home. Anyway, all of these infelicities were soon put right when sitting in front of a conventional desktop. Today was the day of our return but we had done a lot of the packing up last night. As it was, we set the alarm to get up about an hour earlier to give us time to get everything finished off and then we went down to breakfast somewhat earlier. So we had got all breakfasted and the car packed up and ready to leave at a few minutes to 10.00 am. We had mapped out a slightly different route to hit the M6 but we followed the road signs to the M6 and hit the M6 a junction further down than we had intended. We pulled in at Stafford services to have a drink of our own coffee (flask filled in the hotel at breakfast) and made a toilet visit but doing everything we could to minimise exposure to the virus (even to the extent of taking our own pack of wipes with us – or at least Meg did). We had an entertaining moment when we emerged from the exit because we didn’t quite recognise where we were and wondered if we would have to spend ages hunting for the car.  We then retraced our steps and realised our mistake. There was an exit right next to the toilet area which we had taken, forgetting that we had entered at another entrance which was actually at an angle of 90º to the exit we had mistakenly taken. So we found the car with no difficulty!

We got home about 1.00 and had a light lunch of soup before starting one of the principal weekly jobs i.e. cutting of the lawns. Actually, with a reliable petrol mower, this is no problem at all and I have got it off to a fine art (40 minutes in the front), then a tea-break and then 20 minutes at the back. The job used to take somewhat longer when I used to cut my neighbour’s lawn for him but with excellent new neighbours, that is one chore less. As I cut the lawns, I surveyed the damson trees which seem absolutely laden with fruit. Actually, I am so relieved that the fruit has survived the tremendous gales of last week and tomorrow is the day when the great harvesting will commence. When you only do jobs once a year, you have to remember where your particular ‘gear’ is kept – Christmas is generally no problem because most families keep all of their Christmas clobber in one place. But with other jobs that you do one a year, one sometimes has to pick up the pieces. I know that prior to picking the fruit tomorrow I will need to (a) sterilise all my bottles and Kilner jars – for this, I use some Boots sterilising fluid used for babies bottles and the like (Time to find this: 2 minutes in the garage) Then, I need to consult my little hardback book in which I keep records of fruit gathered and recipes (Tine to find the book: 15 minutes!) On consulting my little hardback notebook, my record year seems to have been 2015 when I picked 1300 damsons whereas last year was absolutely terrible for unknown reasons and I only managed to pick 170. Why I count the damsons as I pick them is not just pure ritualism but to helps me to assess the kind of progress that I am making and also, more critically, to work out how much sugar and gin I need to buy. My little book tells me that 100-120 damsons are about 600 grams of fruit and this needs 1 litre of gin so I can work out how many litres of gin I need to buy. I generally go to Asda for this and will buy the biggest (i.e. 1.5 litre bottle) and the cheapest gin I can find. I must say, I always feel a little self-conscious about buying so much gin but the supermarket assistants never to seem to turn a hair. A progress report will follow tomorrow.

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Friday, 28th August, 2020 [Day 165]

Today was a day on which Meg and I were left to our own devices, so we had already decided that we spend some of our free time in Chester. To access the city centre, it is best to utilise the city’s ‘Park and Ride’ scheme which we did, finding to our relief that the bus was very under-populated with only about four other couples on the bus. Naturally, we were all masked up and sitting with at least one empty row of seats between us and with maximum ventilation so we did not feel any imminent COVID-19 threat. We needed to negotiate some blustery rain but discovered that in our favourite little cafe hard by the city walls, we needed to have booked at least an hour beforehand. But we did find another little more down-market cafe which was open and served us our morning coffee and toasted tea cakes, all of which were delicious. We then bought our daily ration of newspapers and went in search of a restaurant where we thought it prudent to book a mid-day meal. We did not find what we were looking for so decided to go to the cathedral -but right in its shadow, we found an Italian restaurant which accepted our booking for an hour and a half later which just gave us time to take a tour of the cathedral.

In the cathedral, we wondered if we could repeat the experience of several months ago and attend the mid-day service. But as luck would have it, the services are not yet being offered on Friday’s so we had to choose some alternatives. We spent some time browsing in the cathedral shop and treated ourselves to a CD of ‘Essential Organ Classics’ (played by leading concert organists on seven famous organs, accosting to the splurge on the CD cover note.) How many of them we will recognise remains to be seen – we will treat ourselves tomorrow morning on the way home in the car. We like Chester Cathedral – it has the minimum of what I call military clutter which adorns (?) walls of so many Anglican cathedrals. They had an exhibition of the work of Graham Sutherland ( the designer of the huge backdrop in Coventry Cathedral) but we have to say it didn’t exactly get the pulses racing.

The journey home seemed quite extraordinary. No sooner had we strolled down to the bus station but an empty bus awaited us and we drove to the Park and Drive depot as though we were in an individualised taxi (to be fair, we did pick up the odd passenger on the journey through Chester). And so to bed for a siesta and then packed up nearly all of the things in our suitcases ready for our departure in the morning. I mapped a slightly different route on the way back to maximise the motorway component and minimise the ‘driving around roundabouts’ component.

The political news of this evening is that ‘failing Grayling’ (the incompetent ex-minister who failed to be elected as the Chair of the Security and Intelligence Committee) has resigned from the committee. God knows what kind of a mess the country would be in if Boris Johnson had had his way and Grayling had been elected as chair of the committee. One of the most perceptive of comments on the British political scene came from a Tory grandee, Nicholas Soames, who commented on the fact that civil servants are being sacked left, right and centre but no politician has yet resigned: ‘Either this government has had the worst luck in the world – coming to power just as the civil service produced a freak crop of uniquely hopeless leaders – or the worst cabinet in my 36 years in Parliament may have found an alarming way of covering up its inadequacies’

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Thursday, 27th August, 2020 [Day 164]

Today was the day we have been looking forward to for some time when we are going to see Meg’s Uncle Ken. We planned to see him immediately before the lockdown started 160+ days ago but we were rather overtaken by events. We had spent a restful night in our hotel, aided by the gentle playing of ClassicFM on an app called RadioPlayer installed on the iPad. The trick is to have the music playing sufficiently softly to lull you to sleep if that is your desire or just loud enough to concentrate on the item being played if you so wish. It had its desired effect because we didn’t awake fully until 7.30 and had to get showered and organised before our breakfast slot at 8.30 When we got down to breakfast we noticed we were the only non-BAME family in the breakfast room and wondered if everybody was taking the first opportunity to visit members of extended families. Breakfast was traditional or Continental and already ‘plated up’ which felt a bit like a regression to the 1950s.

After breakfast, we made for Conway and then for Penrhyn Bay, the distance being a little further than we had imagined. Ken seemed to in fine shape for a nearly 93 year old – whilst we were enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of fruit cake first the District  Nurse turned up to dress Ken’s leg and then one of the army of carers who pops in on Ken to help him with his more social needs. We left Ken in good heart and headed off to enjoy our (pre-ordered) lunch in Conway town itself. When we got to our favourite tea rooms we were delighted to have successfully made a prior reservation as other would-be customers were being turned away but our reserved table was awaiting us. I had a fantastic home made fish pie and Meg had cod and chips – we have never had a poor meal there yet. During the lockdown period the owner had undertaken some renovations, knocking the wall through to liberate the space taken by a small shop area they used to have but now replaced by a serving counter. We also begged some empty Prosecco miniature bottles as a neighbouring table was being cleared, ready for the damson gin I hope to make the minute I have picked all the damsons off the decades old series of damson trees that runs along the bottom of our garden.

Then after lunch we made our way to see some other relatives on Ken’s side of the family who live in Old Colwyn ( not too far away) and we managed to get a bit of sea air into our lungs before the visit. We both had lots of Covid-19 stories to share with each other. In particular, the police in North Wales seem to have interpreted their role very zealously moving anybody from sitting on the benches overlooking the sea even though the guidance at the time said you could tale a rest whilst taking your daily exercise. Some members of the family are currently in New Zealand so it was to interesting to share stories of how they were coping with the virus over there. I made the offer to give some advice on dissertation writing as an MA needed completing within the next few months and whilst I was working I was responsible for providing the material for dissertation writing on all of the undergraduate programs.

When we eventually got home, we turned to see what was on the TV tonight, only to find it all seemed to be absolute rubbish. However on BBC4 they were re-broadcasting the film of ‘Brideshead revisited’ and although initially, I was not sure  that I liked the production ( a voiceover giving expression to some of the actions and emotions as though read out from the book itself) eventually from the half-way point onward I got absolutely absorbed, not least because one could never be quite sure what the ‘denouement ’ was going to be.

As a postscript, I might add that this blog has been written twice over because whilst at the point of saving the final draft, the iPad seemed to ‘freeze’ ( every computer user’s nightmare!) and I lost everything I had written and just had to sit down and write it all again!


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Wednesday, 26th August, 2020 [Day 163]

Today has arrived at last when we are going to go on our little trip to Chester to see Meg’s Uncle Ken in Penrhyn Bay ( next door to Llandudno). We had set ourselves a schedule of getting off by 9.30 but as it was, we actually left promptly at 10.00. We called in to get our newspapers and then made our way with just a brief stop half way along for a drink of coffee in a lay-by but not requiring a loo visit. We got to the hotel and everyone turned out just as we expected – we had been given a family room with two double beds in it which was welcome. We had brought a selection of wipes and cleansing materials with us and although, no doubt, the room had been ‘deep cleaned’ we still gave it another go on all of the evident flat surfaces before venturing forth for our lunch at the Country Club which is only a couple of miles distant down the main A55. We have never had a poor meal here and we have had meals at least three times before. We felt we both have had a magnificent meal (starter of black pudding and chicken salad, followed by a main course of sea-bass and finished off with a sticky toffee pudding. I suppose it might be a function of not having a meal out for practically six months but we both enjoyed our food tremendously – and of course, thanks to the government we had it with £10 off per person. Afterwards, it was a case of repairing to our room and whilst Meg slept off the meal, I buried myself with unpacking and getting my little hotel systems sorted out. I must say the WiFi works effortlessly nowadays and it really does make a tremendous difference not to have to struggle with the technology the minute one arrives.

Being in a ‘hotel room’ disposition, we idly flicked through the available TV channels and found one which had filmed some of the ‘lost’ Dad’s Army scripts. The BBC had wiped, or failed to save, the original recordings so these episodes were created using actors who approximated to the original cast ( the vast majority of whom must be dead by now) It was marginally amusing but didn’t quite match the original.

Three Political  stories seem to be Hitting the headlines this evening. The first of these was an asylum seeker in Glasgow who had lost her job and with no food, starved to death with her starving baby beside her. The Home Office said it was ‘sorry’ but crocodile tears,  methinks. The second story is one in Sky News ( the BBC wouldn’t run a story like this for fear of offending the government) which documents the 11 ‘U’ turns the government has made, giving the impression of a government completely out of control. And the third issue is the way in which Boris Johnson has had sacked first the chief regulator at Ofqual and then the chief civil servant in the Department of Education. Interesting, isn’t it, how civil servants have been sacked or sanctioned (making it look as though they are to blame) whereas no politician has yet had to ‘walk the plank’ and resign ( or lose office). Of course, the constitutional dictum used to be that ‘civil servants advise, ministers decide’ But in the new style of politics, it looks as though a not particularly bright bunch of politicians ( but all ideologically pure as all of the competent remainers  have been got rid off or sidelined) refuse to accept any degree of accountability and blaming the civil service is cowardly. It also lessens the degree of trust between civil servants and ministers that must flourish if a healthy democracy is to flourish.




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Tuesday, 25th August, 2020 [Day 162]

Today was an incredibly blustery day with the storm ‘Francis’ blowing away all day long. Meg and I needed to make a trip out on the road so we decided to miss out on our normal walk and call in at the park on the way back from our trip to the dry-cleaners. As we were in the car, we parked in a section of the car park away from our normal route and located ourselves on a bench next to the pond itself, replete with ducks. This proved not to be a good idea. The park benches had little advisory signs on them explaining that it was NOT a good idea to feed bread to the ducks and suggesting some good alternatives. Nonetheless, just a few yards away from us were several mothers with their children busy feeding bread to the ducks – I suppose people have done it for generations and an advisory note on a park bench is not going to stop them now. But at least we were not rained upon despite the winds being incredibly blustery. As we are going away tomorrow we knew that today was going to be our packing up day and that took a goodly part of the afternoon, even though we are only going for three nights. Of course, we do not quite know what to expect when we get to the hotel although I suspect that the Holiday Inns have got a very well worked out set of protocols in these COVID-19 days, not to mention the restaurant into which we are booked for a meal just after our arrival. The great thing about packing when you are going for a stay in an English location and in your own car is that you don’t have to think about jamming things into a suitcase but can take several dedicated packages along. So far, I have one carrier bag devoted to cleaning products, another to ‘useful things’ such as kitchen roll, spare toilet roll, waste bin liner bags and the like, whilst a third bag will be devoted to teamaking things and some necessities/luxuries such as biscuits!

We think that a change of policy is now rapidly underway as regards the use of face masks in schools. Although the situation is developing rapidly, it now looks as I write that the use of face coverings will be mandatory in all areas (such as Greater Manchester) subject to the COVID-19 restrictions but that headteachers in secondary schools will be given discretion as to whether pupils might wear face coverings for example in communal areas (which is the policy in Scotland) It does appear that whatever sensible policy the Scots adopt, we in the UK do it eventually but two weeks later!

There is a sign of a culture war boiling up over whether the traditional ‘Rule Britannia – Britannia rules the waves/Britons never, never shall be slaves‘ is still appropriate as a rousing point of English nationalism at the ‘Last Night of the Proms‘ The argument from the Conservative right is that these patriotic songs are an intrinsic part of British culture and should certainly not be jettisoned. I must confess that I used to quite enjoy watching ‘The Last Night of the Proms‘ but have felt increasingly uneasy about it, especially since the success of the Brexit campaign. What with the ‘Black Lives Matter‘ campaign and the toppling of the Colston (prominent slave-owner) statue in Bristol, perhaps the culture is at a turning point and the time has now come to quietly abandon such cultural artefacts, stirring though they may be. If you read the words of ‘Rule Britannia’ then the 17th/18th century sentiments seem completely inappropriate to modern-day British society. After all, we put an end to witch-ducking, bear-baiting, sending children up chimneys and at the time no doubt these were said to represent ‘traditional British values’. One way out for the BBC is to let the tunes be played but without the words being provided or sung (but would an audience behave itself, one wonders?) As an afterthought, perhaps in the light of the Brexit (non) negotiations, we should all be singing that ‘Britain waives the rules‘ rather than the other way around!

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Monday, 24th August, 2020 [Day 161]

Today is one of those days when you look at the calendar and can scarcely believe that the month of August has only a week to run.  It was a pleasant walk to the park with no rain being threatened (in the past few days we have been caught once or twice) We notice particularly in the park today that groups of people are evidently getting organised to meet with each other but evidently to keep on the right side of the social distancing regulations. We notice that there tend to be two types of these groupings – in the first place we evidently have a group of more elderly (retired?) people who have got themselves organised. Secondly, we have the impromptu birthday party and we noticed one was in process today. Evidently, three elements are involved – a groundsheet or blanket, some portable garden chairs and finally a hamper of food. It was clearly a nine-year old’s birthday party today and the group had carefully placed themselves in the bandstand where they could display things in the centre (like food) whilst the chairs formed a ring on the periphery. You also got the advantage of the open-air on the one hand with the opportunity to shelter from the rain in the event of a sudden shower on the other. It shows what a bit of organisation can do. On the way home, we encountered one of our oldest ‘church’ friends who is always good to see and we exchanged news about family matters and the like.

When we got home, Miggles the cat was lounging about in a variety of poses enjoying the late morning sunshine. We have come to the view that she quite likes our terrace because as our house is ‘L’ shaped, she can desport herself without fear of attack from two of the four directions. Before we got down to the park, we received a friendly text message thanking us from Miggles’  true owners thanking for looking after the cat but asking us not to give her any more food in future (in case she never returns home?) We indicated that we would certainly comply with their request and as we are going away later in the week then the cat might learn not to expect any more food in future from ‘Cold Comfort Farm‘ This message, too, was acknowledged in a friendly fashion so it is good that we have established a good modus vivendi with her real owners. Incidentally, I thought I might do a quick google search on ‘Why does my cat keep going to the neighbour’s house?‘ The internet is replete with information on this, much of it American, but I gleaned from it one interesting fact. Apparently ‘entire’ i.e. non-neutered cats are much more likely to roam and therefore to regard a neighbour’s house as merely the extension of its own territory. So if you possess a male cat and wish to keep it within the confines of your own garden, then apart from feeding it well the solution seems to be to ‘cut its knackers off’ ( you live and learn something new every day)

Knowing that we were going on a journey, I went out on the road to fill the car up with petrol (a rare event in these days of lockdown) and also to check the air pressure in the tyres. To my dismay, as well as paying for the privilege of free air, I found myself in the queue behind another motorist who decided not only to check the type pressure but also avail himself of a vacuum service (which is a utility just added to the air and water) I then discovered that the drycleaners from whom I wanted to collect some garments now shut at 4 pm in the afternoon rather than 5 pm so that will entail another journey to tomorrow. As we leave for our trip to Chester on Wednesday, much of tomorrow will be devoted to packing in any case.



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Sunday, 23rd August, 2020 [Day 160]

Meg and I had quite a full morning by the time we had chatted with various people. On our way to the park, we ran across an old lady (in her 80’s) who we know quite well from walking her dog in the park. She had been in the wars recently and had a fall inside her own house as a result of which she had damaged her foot. After attention in hospital, they had given a special boot but she had to stay overnight until she was in a condition to look after herself as she lived alone. She was now hobbling about (gardening!) and gradually recovering, but this does explain why we had not seen her for a few weeks. She seemed to be coping very well but she does have a fiercely independent spirit. As we had been somewhat delayed, by the time we got to our little newspaper shop it had shut (perhaps they only open until 11.30 on a Sunday and by this time we were somewhat after that) So we popped into Waitrose to get our newspapers and had a chat with one of the regular staff we know well. We enquired about the possibility of the Waitrose cafe re-opening and got rather dispiriting news. (I need to point out tat this stage that before the lockdown there were a series of ‘regulars’ in the Waitrose cafe who used to meet several times a week before the lockdown and hence the absence of the cafe has been quite a blow to us) Waitrose had run a trial in one of their stores to see if it was feasible to reopen the cafeteria. But the trial was a failure – the trial site only took £70.00 in three days and with the adaptations that would be necessary, there was no way in which this floor space could be justified. So it looks as though the facility we have known and enjoyed over the years at Waitrose has come to an end. This was such an interesting little social grouping but we shall have to learn to live without it from now on. On our way out of the supermarket, we met one of our ‘church’ friends (who often used to sit by us for a chat) A friend of hers had given her some home-grown tomatoes and a couple of little pots of home-made jam for us to have – which was a wonderful thought (and wheels within wheels).

I have been playing around quickly tonight with an online photo editor called ‘Pixlr‘ Basically I want to make my portrait photos (480 x 640) into landscape ones (640 x 480) and this basically involves some cropping. This seems to work OK and the crop tool actually tells you what pixels you are working worth. I have to take my 480 x 640. crop the top and the bottom to make it  480 x 360 and then resize it. So far, I have only done one but it seems to work OK so I will try it out on the rest now!

It is interesting that there seems to be a head of steam building up politically to ensure that children resume school in a week’s time. There now seems to be an acknowledgement, though, that (a) the children do not/will not reinfect each other (b) but the network of relationships involved in children attending school (mothers dropping children off at school gates, returning to work) means the infection rate in the society as a whole will undoubtedly rise. The question is – what compensatory mini-lockdowns might have to be traded off? One suggestion ( and I would concur) is that one should close the pubs again if it becomes a choice of ‘pubs’ versus ‘schools’ It may be a bit clearer in a couple of week’s time. In the meanwhile Brexit negotiations rumble on – the UK insists on trying to cherry pick’ e.g. it wants an unlevel playing field so that, for example, lorry driver’s hours will be regulated right across the UE but not in the UK. Of course, some would argue that the UK has never wanted a deal and prefers to crash out, blaming all of the undoubtedly economic consequences upon COVID-19 (and who will be able to tell which are Brexit and which are COVID-19 consequences which is making the ardent Brexiteers salivate!)

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Saturday, 22nd August, 2020 [Day 159]

Yesterday’s blog contained the details of how our adopted cat, Miggles (our name for him/her) turned up after an absence of 11 days and the explanation for this. We always knew that today might be a critical day i.e. would she turn up for her breakfast (i.e. be capable of leaping over fences, be let out by her true owners) Happy to report that after a few dings on her breakfast bowl (cats can hear up to 100 yards away I understand) she appeared and posed for some snapshots, as you can see…


[In the first snap, you can see she is still nursing her poorly left foot but the second is a more classic pose!] If you are a fanatical catlover, you can see a lot more at 

After this exciting start to the day, Meg and I attended our pre-planned church service, made a little more interesting because it commemorated the life of a local saint who was a frequent visitor to Harvington. We then collected our newspapers (full of weekend supplements, as per usual on a Saturday) and had an enjoyable coffee on the park bench, just avoiding the rain showers as we did so. After lunch, it was time to get the lawns cut and they badly needed a cut on this occasion as they had ‘missed’ a week owing to the hot weather  (when they hardly grew at all) but, of course, since then, we have had frequent showers not to say downpours for a day or so now. There are several things to keep our attention in the garden at the moment. Our daughter-in-law is an expert on growing superb dahlias i.e. she starts off with really good stock and then they get nurtured in an especially prepared bed adjacent to ou communal grassed area. Also this year we are growing some sunflowers and their growth has been so rapid that they are needing the support of some really large stakes to keep them upright (particularly in the light of the high winds we are experiencing currently). We are also growing some sweet peas against our back wall in the rear garden and these are progressing but are some way off the vigorous flowering stage. Down in Mog’s Den (the reclaimed bit of sloping land that lies at the very edge of our property), various things are coming along through a policy of benign neglect. Because the whole area is quite a severe slope and underneath trees, I have put various barriers (detentes) in place to create a series of mini terraces and liberally applied forest bark (both in the past and more recently.) Over this is growing some periwinkle (‘vinca major‘) and after a slow start, this is now starting to grow laterally, which is what I intended. I the past, I had bought some Skimmia and one of these is starting to look as though it is going to burst into bloom. Also, I had transplanted some Penstemon from another part of the garden and this seems to be thriving. The overall effect I am trying to achieve is a part of the garden you can visit for a bit of peace and tranquillity but with absolutely minimal maintenance! I am slowly getting there and can only say that the whole is looking so much better than a couple of years ago when, to be frank, it was just brambles and nettles. The other major thing of interest is our damson trees which are very old and form part of the hedge/boundary at the bottom of our garden. Last year, the crop was inexplicably light but this year the trees are absolutely laden with fruit – and a lot of it has matured about two weeks earlier than is usual. I am hoping against hope that although we have had some blustery conditions today that we do not have any really severe gales which would result in all of the crop being lost. I just want things to hang on until a week tomorrow (i.e. Sunday 30th August) which is a date when, having returned from our little sojourn in North Wales later on this week, I can pick all of the damsons and immediately use them to make litres and litres of damson gin (most of which is given away at Christmas)!






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