Tuesday, 8th February, 2022 [Day 694]

Today felt a little like ‘the calm before the storm’ because the temperature was going to be at least 10°C potentially rising to 14° during the day. We had got up fairly early this morning which is just as well on the day I have my Pilates class and then set off for our morning walk. Once we got underway, it got incredibly windy but, thank goodness, it was not particularly cold. Meg was finding this particular stretch of walking a little beyond her this morning so I left her on a convenient bench, located on the main road half way between the park and our local Waitrose store and she remained resting there until I had both collected the newspaper and also popped into Waitrose which I tend to use just like a ‘corner shop’ these days when I run out of things. Before we walked down into town, and knowing that tomorrow we are going to make a day out for ourselves in the pretty little town of Malvern, I decided to do a little reconnnaissance before I trip. I ‘googled’ the main theatre in Malvern knowing that it would be surrounded by good parking spaces and coffee shops and therefore would be a good base from which to start. I discovered that the theatre was going to host at least three operas in the next month or so – Puccini’s ‘Madam Butterfly‘, Verdi’s ‘Aida‘ and Bizet’s ‘Carmen‘. We have to make up our mind which of these we would really like to see and perhaps tomorrow we can make a booking if any tickets are available for any of them. I would not be incredibly surprised if having coming to it this late, all of the performances were sold out – and each one is only available for one night. I am sure that in the environs of the theatre, there will be several restaurants and I am trusting that some of them will be open tomorrow lunchtime so  we shall not go hungry. I then walked down to Pilates and back again for lunch. This afternoon is going to quite busy because as well as writing this blog I want to repeat my soup making success of two days ago and the vegetables will take some preparation, as they need to be diced. Then we shall have our weekly FaceTime chat with our oldest Waitrose coffee bar friends and then after the obligatory 7.0pm Channel 4 news we have three hours of good comedy programmes this evening to send us to bed happy and relaxed.

The political news today is dominated by the seqelae to the mob that surrounded Keir Starmer yesterday shouting ‘Savile’ at him and the police were forced to intervene and rescue him by surrounding him with a posse of burley policemen and then bundling him into a police car for his own safety. I quote from some of the verbatim news reports below.

There was little respite for Boris Johnson overnight as pressure mounted on him to apologise for comments about Keir Starmer and Jimmy Savile.  At least six Conservatives, including a former cabinet minister, joined MPs from across the political spectrum in linking the harassment to the baseless claim the PM made while under pressure over the partygate scandal. He falsely claimed Sir Keir ‘used his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile’ while director of public prosecutions (DPP). As he faced growing condemnation, Mr Johnson tweeted the ‘behaviour directed’ at the Labour leader was ‘absolutely disgraceful’ but did not address the nature of the abuse. Julian Smith, who previously served as Mr Johnson’s Northern Ireland secretary, tweeted: ‘What happened to Keir Starmer tonight outside parliament is appalling. It is really important for our democracy and for his security that the false Savile slurs made against him are withdrawn in full.’

The significance of this happening is causing ripples across the whole of the political landscape. The Speaker of the House of Commons (who has a general responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of all MPs) made a statement in the House today again suggesting that politicians should weigh their words with care as what they have to say and the manner in which it is said has consequences. Obviously, these remarks are directed almost exclusively towards Boris Johnson. I think that all MPs are conscious of the fact that emotions are heightened in this way, there can be dire consequences as the Labour MP, Jo Cox, was murdered in full daylight by a right wing fanatic during the Referendun campaign. Many people are drawing attention to the fact that these are the tactics that Trump used with tacit approval for the fascist fringe to take matters into their own hands (as when the Capital building in Washington was invaded) and there is a horror that this poison could infect the British political scene as well.

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Monday, 7th February, 2022 [Day 693]

Today being the start of a new week is always the time for a sort of ‘mini-resolution’. Mine is to keep a careful watch upon my weight and I need to nudge my BMI from a shade over 27.0 to something in the range 25.0-27.0 The BMI is not a particularly exact diagnostic measure but it is in very wide use and is the sort of statistic that is computed and used in medical records when you attend a ‘Well Person’ clinic and for this reason alone may be worth keeping an eye upon. Having said that, I have lost ¾lb since I last weighed myself which is always reassuring so with a good start, I am resolved to keep the carbs off and the protein sufficient. The official Department of Health advice is to keep red meat at the level of 70g-90g a day. For those of an older generation, 70 grams is about 2.5oz which is a pretty small quantity when you think about it.

It was an overcast but not particularly cold day today so Meg and I decided to make a full round trip which means collecting the newspaper, calling in at Waitrose for one or two things and finally getting to the park for our coffee. We did not anticipate meeting many of our usual park acquaintances as it was a Monday and the park is usually bereft of its normal clientele at the start of the week. The dogs continue to bound towards us, of course, expecting ‘crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table’ and their owners are typically effusive in their apologies for the presumed poor behaviour of their family pets. Then we made our way home and cooked lunch at the normal time for us.

After lunch, I engaged in a certain amount of tidying up of paperwork and consequent filing – one little interesting dilemma is where and how to file an invitation to renew our holiday insurance. I am not sure whether I paid for any last year but I may have done two years ago and it would be an act of faith to do so now. Once our way becomes clear as regards holiday destinations, we will consider whether to renew a bit nearer the time. Again, as part of my ‘new week’ resolution I thought I would resurrect my ‘stepper’ routines in order to increase my exercise quotient somewhat – a stepper being a type of low plastic bench upon which one steps  up/down to engage in the exercise. In the past, I have used a particularly good (appropriate) stepper routine created by a youngish American instructor called Kelly-Anne. Actually, I think she is very good because she has tried to make her routines demanding but not too demanding and suggests that you adapt the routines if you want to reduce impact on joints e.g. by stepping up/down instead of jumping up and down. I knew that I had a shortcut link to this particular video on YouTube but as I have not used it for months, I couldn’t quite remember what it is. I did manage to find my link though – it contained one capitalised letter which is why I found it difficult to remember in the first place but after about 15 minutes of searching I managed to find it. I always change to wear my ‘track suit bottoms’ which I also use for Pilates as I find there is a powerful psychological effect at work here. I suppose it is the adult equivalent of changing into ones gym kit when you are at at school as once you do this, you are in the right mindset to engage in exercise. It is only 15 minutes in length but sufficient for you to feel a little out of breath and in need of a long drink and a sit-down afterwards. No doubt, if I keep up this regular routine, I will slowly increase my fitness level and it will become a tad easier day by day.

As a society, we are now starting to see how the NHS can respond to all of the conditions in the population that have not been treated due to the pandemic. The Labour Party has conducted research that indicates that in the case of cancer treatment, the wait between seeing your GP and seeing a cancer specialist is now about 13 times higher than before the pandemic. Because of the often fast-developing nature of cancer, these delays to treatment ultimately mean that many people die who would not if the NHS was able to treat them as quickly as they were 10 years ago. This is quite a scary statistic once you start to digest the implications of it. Today was meant to be the day when the NHS was due to announce its post-pandemic recovery plans but at the last moment, it looks as though the Treasury are denying the appropriate funds and hence the principal announcement was pulled. There are some people arguing that the politics of skulduggery is at work here, the Treasury (under the control of Rishi Sunak ) being unwilling to hand Boris Johnson the propaganda coup that would result in the NHS being handed the necessary extra billions of £s that are undoubtedly needed.

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Sunday, 6th February, 2022[Day 692]

Today being a Sunday, I fell into my normal routine of setting the alarm a little early and then walking down before breakfast to pick up my copy of the ‘Sunday Times‘ As it was likely to be quite a chilly morning, I regaled myself with one of those little packets of ‘instant’ porridge oats that you can do in the microwave for two minutes- I had previously bought myself a little packet of these instant oats for just such as occasions as these. Then I treated myself to some Bach and Mozart via my headphones and ancient iPhone retained for its music playing facilities. I thought the Sunday Morning politics show was OK without having especially penetrating interviews but Sophie Raworth seems to be doing  a reasonable job in following Andrew Marr without exactly setting the world on fire. After we had breakfasted and I had made some preliminary preparations for lunch, Meg and I went down to the park by car (principally to save a bit of time) and there we met our University of Birmingham friend as well as Seasoned World Traveller. Knowing that the latter was quite a film buff, I asked him if he remembered a film made in the early 1950’s  I would think, that portrayed Rommel in quite a sympathetic light – he had, as it happened. What is so interesting about the film is when it was made ie. 1951. I suppose in the late 1940’s there were a host of war films always exploring the daring-do of the heroic British and these had to run their course before the film makers turned their attention to Rommel. According to Wikipedia The movie played a significant role in the creation of the Rommel myth: that Rommel was an apolitical, brilliant commander, opposed Nazi policies and was a victim of the Third Reich because of his participation in the conspiracy to remove Adolf Hitler from power in 1944. So perhaps it played into the Anglo-American narrative of WWII after all.

This afternoon, I settled down to watch the France v. Italy ‘6 Nations’ rugby match, played in the pouring rain in Paris. Of course, one always suspected that the French would win such a contest but by half way through the first half, the Italians were actually in the lead. Naturally the French overhauled them, getting gradually stronger and stronger but with the typical British respect for the underdog, one always hopes that the Italians might actually win a match one of these days.

There is an interesting political story emerging at the moment which is that Carrie Johnson, the ‘power behind the throne’ has been instrumental in leading Boris Johnson to decisions that often turn out to be flawed ones. One of the most repeated stories is that she was the motivating force behind the  decisions such as the refurbishment, at great expense, of the Downing Street flat. The flat refurb, involving gold wallpaper and a £112,000 price tag, has seen critics brand her ‘Carrie Antoinette’, a label she is known to dislike. There are two narratives currently circulating and I shall not attempt to arbitrate between them. The first one is that attacks on Carrie Johnson are ultimately sexist and misogynistic and are being used by critics of Boris Johnson in order to bring him down. The alternative narrative derive from Downing Street insiders, quoted in an explosive new biography written by Lord Ashcroft, which have suggested that Ms Johnson wields huge power within Whitehall and warned that ‘if she doesn’t like you, there can be big consequences’Among her alleged scalps include Ellie Lyons, a one-time advisor to Boris Johnson during his leadership campaign, who was reportedly dubbed ‘the sexy spad’ by a handful of people in Westminster. It has been said that Carrie was instrumental in getting rid of her because she was an attactive red-head and intelligent and therefore could be seen as a rival for the PM’s affections.

Today is quite an interesting day historically because on this day 70 years ago, the present Queen’s father, George VI died and Elizabeth ascended to the throne. This 70 year span is unparalled in British history. She has intimated that she would like Prince Charles’ second wife, Camilla, to eventually become the ‘Queen Consort’ rather than the ‘Princess Consort’. At the age of 95, it appears that discreet preparations are already being made for the accession of Charles as I imagine that the Queen who has had some bouts of ill-health recently is not immortal and as my family doctor said to me when discussing the health of a 90 -year old uncle of Meg’s that in his experience a person of that age could be blown away by a puff of wind. I suspect that the Queen is going to relish the prospects of several Jubilee events, timed for when the weather will be better in the early summer, but once these are over and done with, she is ready psychologically if nothing else to gradually ‘let go’.


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Saturday, 5th February, 2022 [Day 691]

Today was a fairly conventional Saturday morning but with the prospect of the ‘Six Nations’ rugby matches on the TV this afternoon and again this evening as we watch the England-Scotland match on ‘catchup’. I had a certain amount of shopping to do this morning so I took the car down into town to do my little bits of food shopping at Waitrose before collecting the newspaper and heading for home. It was a fairly fine morning with a bit of chill in the air but not the icy blast that greeted us yesterday in the park. So we set off, complete with our flask of coffee and comestibles (biscuits for Meg, organges for me) before we bumped into two of our more elderly Irish friends who has just returned from holiday in Tenerife. By all accounts, they had had a lovely sunny time and were now back to the cold of an English winter. As we were finishing our coffee, then our companion Seasoned World Traveller came to join us and we had another of our interesting chats, on issues medical, political and cultural. We none of us wanted to stay chatting for too long because the cold does tend to strike at your bones a little which is not the case when you are walking along, even at a gentle pace. Then we walked home knowing that we would have to crack on and prepare a lunch fairly rapidly so that we could sit down and watch the first of our schedules 6-Nations rugby (Wales v. Ireland) We then go to church leaving the house at 5.30 so will watch the Scotland-England match on catch-up when we return.

Through the ‘ether’, as it were, I have been sort of following what Nadine Dorries has been saying recently – she is the Minister of the Departmentment of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and as such is the minister who may have the ultimate decision on the future of the BBC as well as being responsible for publishing and piloting the ‘Online Safety’ bill through Parliament. This latter is important as it is the first attempt of the UK Parliament to attempt any kind of regulation over social media and the tech giants that have come to dominate our lives in recent years. What makes Nadine Dorries a particularly interesting figure is that she appears to absolutely idolise Boris Johnson – indeed, there are several images that have been captured of her in Parliament looking adoringly at Boris Johnson whenever (and whatever) he declaims from the dispatch box. There are two particular video clips which have seen the light of day, both of which have, I believe, had the label of ‘Car Crash’ attached to them. The first of these is Dorries appearing before the DCMS committee in which she was challenged to explain why she has used the obscenity ‘F***wit’ about another TV presenter. At first she denied this, then claimed that she had been victimised and was actually the object of online abuse herself before she finally admitted it  and then changed the subject. The impression she did (not) make on the members of the DCMS committee can only be imagined. The second clip is of Dorries trying to defend Boris Johnson making a slanderous allegation against Keir Starmer – known to everybody (and even Boris Johnson himself) as being untrue. Eventually she is led to look the interviewer in the face and to declaim ‘Boris Johnson always tells the truth’ This is so manifestly untrue and known to everybody in political circles that the interviewer was left open-mouthed at her adoring loyalty. The latest manifestation of all this is her claim that 97% MPs support Boris which given the known schisms within the present Tory party seems a ridiculous claim to make. A final suggestion that is made is that most of the opposition to Johnson comes from ‘Remain’ voters who are trying to get back at the PM to get their revenge for Brexit having been implemented. However this is easily refuted: out of the 15 Tory MPs who have so far publicly called on Boris Johnson to go, just seven of those backed remaining in the EU in the 2016 referendum.

Having got back from church, I was looking forward to looking at the England v. Scotland Six nations match on iPlayer.  Having got to the point where this can be viewed, all I get was a message that ‘England v Scotland is not available on iPlayer‘.  Tomorrow night, it looks as though I can view one half of an hour of a summarised highlights programme. When I turn to the web, I cannot find an explanation why iPlayer does not make this match available. I realise that this is a rights issue but it would be nice if the potential viewer can be informed of the fact. But given that Scotland beat England in a tight match, perhaps I am not too interested in watching the match after all.


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Friday, 4th February, 2022 [Day 690]

Well, the weeks roll by and here we are at the end of the week i.e. Friday again. We have the usual chat with our domestic help and exchange news with each other. I needed to get an urgent form in the post so I popped down to Bromsgrove by car and then got my form into the Post Office which I wanted to send as recorded delivery. Then I collected our newpaper from the newsagent, telling him one of my favourite jokes in the process and then drove home. Then, with a slightly foreshortened journey Meg and I walked down to the park and claimed our usual bench. We had just about finished our coffee when our University of Birmingham friend accomapnies by our Seasoned World Traveller so this made the Bromsgrove Literary and Philosphical Society quorate and we contunued to debate some of our favourtite scenes from films. I have to point out that Seasoned World Trdavellor is an inveterate film watcher and there does not seem to be a significant film in the past 3-4 decades which he has not seen so the rest of us have to work hard to compete with his encyclopaedic knowledge. 

Today has been a day with some culinary successes in it. For a start, prepared our normal-for-a-Friday fish dish where we raided our deep freeze stores of pollock. To make this more tasty, we marinaded it with a Sweet Chilli and Garlic sauce (courtesy of Waitrose) and then cooked it on a bed of capers. The end result was a tasty fish where you would be hard put not to identify the meal as cod and we served this with a good helping of Calabrese (broccoli) – so this as success No. 1. This evening, I decided to make some soup in our soupmaker with some vegetables I had got in the freezer for a week and were well chilled. The main ingredients were basically parsnip and carrot in approximately equal proportions, complemented by a few sticks of celery and one large onion almost caramelised. Then to make the soup especially nice, I added about a third of a tin of coconut milk and about 3 soup spoonfuls of a Balti cooking sauce. The result was a beautiful creamed soup with just a hint of spice to it but I always serve it with a good dollop of Greek yogurt (which helps to cool it down from boiling) and some croutons. This was Sio delicious that I was glad I had only used up one half of it and still the rest ready for a meal with in the next day or so.

Most members of the population need to get braced for a severe blow to their household bidgets from April onwards. Those in work have got rises in NI contributions as well as a non-indexation of income tax brackets which is always the government’s sneaky way of raising income tax without saying so. Those in receipt of Universal Credit will have to accept jobs outside the spheres of employment for which they are qualified. But the real killer is going to be energy prices which will now rise by about 50% for everybody. In order to alleviate the ‘sharp spike’ the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that suppliers will be offered taxpayer-backed loans to knock around £200 off the more than £600 expected jump. But this is only a ‘loan’ so each of us will have to pay the £200 back in the next five years so we are, in effect, being bribed with our own money. And inflation may well have risen to 7% by then as well. And  I forgot to mention that there are council tax rises as well. So the overall effect of all of these increases is that Britons will experience the biggest drop in living standards since the present set of records began – probably fifty years ago.

In the political arena, Boris Johnson has lost one maore advider from his policy unit and another MP has sent in a letter expressing his lack of confidence with the Prime Minister. Also the backlash from the disastrous slur sent in the direction of Keir Starmer at Prime Ministers Questions last Wednesday continuing to reverberate with Sajid Javid now distancing himself from Boris Johnson’s remarks. A few cabinet ministers have tried to defend the Boris Johnson lie (Nadine Dorries springs to mind, who made herself looking absolutely ridiculous) but this is going to be like a running sore for the Johnson entourage.  An interesting statistic with which to round off the week – three cabinet ministers are now isolating because they have COVID (Grant Shapps, Nadhim Zahawi and Liz Truss)

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Thursday, 3rd February, 2022 [Day 689]

Thursday is my shopping day and today I am due to try out a new supermarket store (well, one I have not used for about 4 years) I have decided to give Morrisons an experimental trial after my experience at Aldi last week. Last night, I spent a certain amount of time producing a shopping list of almost everything I could possibly buy. Today, I got up early and made sure that I got to the supermarket at just about 7.00am in the morning. Whilst there, I bumped into the one of our ex-Waitrose coffee shop friends that I FaceTime regularly. When we were having one of our regular chats last night, we said that we would probably bump each other at 7.00am in the morning and so it proved. However, we only had the briefest of chats as we were both intent on getting our respective shopping done and we scurried on our way with lists in hand. Altogether, I spent a good hour and a hlf shopping as I thought I would as I was unfamiliar with the layout and some things are not always where you expect to find them. Nonethless, at the end of the day, I was relatively pleased at the range of goods on offer and the overall size of the shopping bill. However, having shopped in smaller stores for the last year or so, I must say that Morrisons seemed quite large by comparison and although I did not do too much back-tracking (when you forget something), nonetheless I covered a goodly number of yards in my peregrinations. Out of a shopping list of more than 40 items, there was only one that I finished without and that I can probably get from Waitrose on my normal walk for the papers. Next week, though, is a bit of a dilemma. I may well go back to the smaller Aldi store in which I used to shop before its larger big brother opened. In some ways, I quite like a lot of the smaller stores without a vast array of choices and which makes shopping a much more compact experience. So next week, I am minded to try another experimental forage and then I will sit back and think about the balance of advantages and disadvantages associated with each of the local stores. 

Today, Meg and I took the car down to the park as were running a little late. We did not expect to see any of our regular crew and indeed we did not. We did strike up a conversation with an interesting young lady who was out exercising her labrapoodle. Not being a ‘doggy’ person and therefore not knowing much about this particular cross-breed, I thought I would explore a little and discovered from the web that they are a cross between the nation’s much-loved Labrador and Poodle breeds. Labradoodles, we are told, are kind and affectionate with plenty of energy and a playful nature, making them an ideal family dog. High energy, these active dogs are best suited to families who can take them for long, interesting walks of up to an hour a day. Certainly, this description seems to match up with the labrapoodles that we seem to notice every day in the park so perhaps there is a lot to be said for this admixture of genes. I often ask the owners whether such cross-breeds ‘breed true’ as they say, but they never seem to know.Then Meg and I got home to cook ourselves a vegetarian style lunch with a quiche as its centrepiece and then followed this up with a quick doze. In the late afternoon, there was some vital photocopying that needed to be done and I was reassured that everything concerned with the scanner worked like a treat, I employ a particular piece of software called ‘Vuescan‘ which had its origin in a small family firm in the United States. The founders were appalled at how many scanners were ‘junked’ because the original software had been lost or mislaid – easy to do if you have changed machines and cannot find the software to re-install it. So they set about writing an ‘all purpose’ scanner which will will run practically any basic scanner ever made and I have found it marvellous and easy to use. Not only is it free but regular free updates are also made available to registered users.

The political news this afternoon is centred around continuing feedback from the Boris Johnson personal (and unjustified) attack on Keir Starmer made last Wednesday.  Two of his key aides (his ‘policy chief’ who has been with him for many a long year and his communications director) have both resigned. Apparently, his policy chief pleaded with Johnson to make a genuine apology – but all Johnson could manage was a semi-retraction whereupon the two officials felt they had no option but to resign. As I write, No. 10 has revealed that both Dan Rosenfield, the prime minister’s chief of staff, and Martin Reynolds, Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, are leaving their roles. Is this a case of rats leaving a sinking ship?

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Wednesday, 2nd February, 2022 [Day 688]

Today was always going to be a slightly foreshortened day because, for better or for worse, Meg and I wanted to be home in town to watch PMQ [Prime Minister’s Questions] at 12.00pm. So we ‘cut our coat according to our cloth’ and just made a lightening visit into town to pick up our newspaper before making sure that we were parked in front of the TV, coffee in hand, wondering what attacks would be made upon Boris Johnson in this post Sue Gray era.  Watching Boris Johnson’s typical blustering performance, I am reminded of the expression used by Charles Falcolner who was Lord Chancellor in Tony Blair’s government. He wrote a memorable newspaper article which was entitled “‘Greased piglet’ Boris Johnson could evade justice due to the Met’s disastrous move”. This headline evidently struch a few chords because there was a brilliant cartoon illustrating just this in last week’s Sunday Times and evidently most of the political class knows what a slippery and evasive customer Boris Johnson is. Dominic Cummings is on record as alleging that Boris Johnson lies to absolutely everybody including his own wife: ‘While it’s true that I think Carrie has been a dreadful influence, and it was incredibly foolish of her to start a briefing war with me and others, it’s also only fair to point out that he lies to her all the time about stuff and she’s often operating on duff information herself. This is obviously an incredibly toxic combination.‘ Today in Parliament, Meg and were watching to see if anybody could land a blow. The most critical point here is to have an account of what happened in the PM’s flat on the night of 13th November. Boris Johnson has consistently denied that a party ever took place but even the BBC’s political correspondent, Laura Kuensberg, is convinced by all of the accounts of the party, including the loud playing of Abba tracks that could be heard elsewhere in Downing Street. Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader, specifically asked if there was a party held in the 10 Downing Street flat on 13th November 2020 and, of course, got an evasive reply in which Boris Johnson argued that he was working on COVID measures during the month of November (‘Greasy pig’ time again) So a well-directed and crafted question could not be landed. Incidentally, it is a very sad commentary on our Parliamentary life that Ian Blackford was thrown out of the Commons for the day when last week he specifically called the PM a liar. As this is ‘unparliamentary language’ , the Speaker felt he had no option but to suspend the SNP leader for the day. On the other hand, Boris Johnson repeated a lie about Keir Starmer that he was responsible for the non-prosecution of the serial sex offender, Jimmy Savile, whilst Keir Starmer was the Director of Public Prosceutions. This is a ‘meme’ that has been circulating on extreme far-right social media for some time now and had been comprensively refuted. Even Boris Johnson’s advisers told him not to repeat this well-known falsehood against Keir Starmer but evidently Johnson could not resist the jibe. The Speaker was in the position of having to rule that an MP who told the truth but used unparliamentary language (Ian Blackford, the SNP leader) had to be suspended for the day  whilst somebody who told a lie but did not use unparliamentary language (Boris Johnson) could not be sanctioned. Meanwhile, three more Tory MP’s have publicly withdrawn their support for Boris Johnson by submitting letters to the Chairman of the 1922 committee so we are now seeing a steady haemorrhaging of support, one might say ‘drip by drip’.

The big political announcement in tnhe Commons today was Michael Gove’s 300 page document promising the ‘levelling up’ of the UK. After a great deal of verbiage it was revealed that the whole of this agenda was to be accompanied by no new money. As Lisa Nandy was driven in exasperation to note at the of the the Michael Gove presentation ‘Is that it?’ One is tempted to retort that we don’t need any 300 page documents full of flim-flam – rather, all that it takes is a one line Excel formula in a spreadsheet which reverses (and compensates) all of the local authorities that had a disproportionate cut in the Rate Support Grant (or whatever it is called these days) during the years of ‘austerity’.

Tomorrow, I am going to try a new pattern in my weekly shopping. After a few years of pre-pandemic shopping at Aldi (followed by post-pandemic at Waitrose) I am going to try Morrisons supermarket in which I used to shop a few years ago. To prepare myself, I composed a computerised shopping list of all the items I might possibly need (some to be deleted as the need arises week by week) as to all intents and purposes I will be shopping in a ‘brand new’ (to me) supermarket.  So I intend to be there at 7.00am and we will see what happens.


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Tuesday, 1st February, 2022 [Day 687]

Well, it is always nice to get rid of one of the ‘winter months’ and here we are in February with having had a pretty good winter so far. The last week or so has been dominated by a high pressure system which has generally meant blue skies, coolish mornings and the absence of snow, hail and rain which is often our lot at this time of year.  I am sure that the water companies will not be particularly happy as they rely upon precipitation in the winter months to fill up the underground aquifers and their profits will be adversely effect if they have to build or maintain overground reservoirs or if we have a long, hot summer that restricts demand. On Pilates days such as today, we tend to take the car into town as much to save time as anything else. So we collected our newspaper, made a lightning tour of Waitrose for some supplies and then treated ourselves to only a 15 minute stay on our normal bench. Then it was a case of scampering home and having a quick turn around before I walk down for my Pilates class.  I needed to sear off some chichen thighs before I adjudged that they could go on cooking slowly in the oven in the remains of the sauce from yesterday.

Last night, when I was up in the middle of the night and consulting my emails, I did receive one that was a pleasant surprise. Regular readers of this blog will know of the battles I have been having with the bank that looks after the communal affairs of our residents’ association to comply with their safeguarding procedures. Well, the email I got sort of indicated that we are now in the clear but they do not say as much. All that we do know is their admission that  We recently contacted to you to ask for further information as part of your Safeguard review, however we have all we need. Thank you if you already responded to our initial request, any information provided will be added to your profile, but for now, there’s nothing else you need to do.‘  I suppose this is a roundabout way of saying that we have complied with their procedures but it seems a bit like a weasly worded email, particularly as later on they say they might jump upon me at any time for more information. The next thing will be an augument with them over fees as they now have started to charge us for each item which is a change to how the ‘free’ account has operated for the last 8 years or so.

In the wake of the Sue Gray ‘partygate’ (truncated) report to the PM and to Parliament, yesterday there have been two ‘U’ turns emanating from No 10 Downing Street today. The first one was an admission (after an initial refusal) that Sue Gray’s report will be published in its entirety once the investigations conducted by the Met have been concluded. The second ‘U’ turn is a reluctant admission that if the PM is subject to a fixed penalty fine for transgressing COVID regulations, that this fact will be released to the public rather being kept as a ‘secret’ with Downing Street. However as the names of members of the public who  have been fined are not released by the police into the public domain, then the same would apply to Downing Street – despite the overwhelming public interest. So a policy of secrecy and non-disclosure – anything but transparency – will extend to all of the law-breaking personnel in Downing Street which may extend to some very senior figures indeed. The promised ‘new regime’ at Downing Street, promised yesterday by Boris `Johnson, has yet to be take place but certainly the ‘old guard’  are doing all they can to protect themselves. Mind you, it will be quite possible that leaks might take place emanating from some disgruntled staff. In the meanwhile, another Conservative MP has indicated that he has sent in his letter to the Chairman of the 1922 (backbencher’s committee) but we knew this already. Another Tory MP who is a suppoirter of Boris Johnson has indicated that the report needs to be published in full and immediately and that some of the interventions by Boris Johnson’s allies had been ‘so cack-handed that the best way they could be of assistance to the prime minister would be to disable all their social media platforms and cease carrying out media interviews‘. Another clip has resurfaced in which Boris Johnson categorically assured Parliament that no party took place on his flat on 13th November, 2002 – now that this has been documented in the Sue Gray report and is being investigated by the Met, we can assume that the Met are not investigating something that did not take place? So do we have here ‘prima facie’ evidence that Boris Johnson lied to the House of Commons and this one fact, be itself, is enough for him to be removed?

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