Saturday, 30th April, 2022 [Day 775]

Today seemed to be one of those ‘running around’ days where I rushed from one thing to another. I went down by car to collect the newspaper even though it was a fine day. This is because we wanted to meet up with a Waitrose acquaintance way back from our pre-pandemic days. We had arranged to see her for a coffee in Waitrose because I wanted her to have some material in my possession fron a body called ‘Worcestershire Association of Carers‘.  From what our acquaintance had told us the other day, it was evident that she was having to give a lot more care and attention to her ailing husband – as I already had several leaflets and pamphlets in my possession, I thought some of the material I had might be useful to help her get ‘plugged’ into whatever networks she might find helpful.  So I was glad that we made contact and shared a few stories before I had to dash off to WH Smiths both to buy a birthday card and to get it into the postal system as soon as I could. Having selected my card I found an incredibly long queue at one of the counters. There were two counters in operation and one counter was being used to check the passport application of a couple who were getting married/re-married. Whilst their complicated  form was being processed at one counter, a queue of about 20 were waiting (impatiently) in the other queue. I decided to save time by writing the birthday card as I waited in the queue but even this became complicated as I needed to handle/juggle a parcel I needed to post, a diary with the address of former colleague within it, the card itself, its envelope and finally a stamp to transmit the whole thing. Fortunately, I managed to finish this and pop it into the post box as the queue slowly advanced through the shop. When I reached the counter, I needed to post my parcel (maps of Madrid for a former colleague who is visiting there in a week or so) and I also bought a ‘book’ of first class stamps. A first class stamp is practically £1.00 (95p actually) and the Post Office are trying to compensate for this by making the stamps bigger but also incorporating a bar code. Although I like to have a supply of first class stamps in the house on a ‘just-in-case’ basis, today I only bought the stamps that I knew I was going to actually need in the next few days. Several of my former colleagues all have their birthdays in May so I need to get myself organised to get the card buying and posting activities suitably sequenced. After all of this, I made a lightning visit round one of our local cut-price cosmetic stores to get Meg and I things we both needed and finally, I picked up Meg at the entrance to Waitrose, still  chatting. Meg and I made our way to the park and to our normal bench but we did not have our coffee flask with us as we had drunk our fill in the Waitrose café. I left Meg on the bench to see if I could locate our University of Birmingham friend in the park cafe. Fortunately, he was there and I managed to hand over a few little calculations I had done for him and wanted him to have before we both forgot. When we got home, I made up a salad by throwing together some thing I already had in stock, supplemented by a few last minute purchases at Waitrose.

Once we had done this and were settling down after our lounge, I was perusing the newspaper to see what we might watch this evening (not a lot as it turned out). The newspaper told us that it was the England v. France Rugby final of the Women’s ‘Six Nations’ both teams having undefeated before this match. So we settled down to watch this, the match only a minute or so old. The French women made a storming start and scored a try which they converted in the first few minutes. But the English women slowly started to reassert themselves and eventually won the match 24-12. It seemed that French errors, typically in the lineout contributed to their demise. The English team certainly had the maul perfected and scored several tries  after their maul and the English defence was very robust. Both England and France had a player ‘sin-binned’ for transgressions that were more technical than as a result of foul play but in the end, not even the partisan French crowd would deny that England were the better team.  

After the rugby match, I shot outside to do a little lawn edging at the font of the house. This took me about half an hour and I am going to keep on top of this if I do it the day after the main mowing is done. Then we went to church which is usual each Saturday evening and treated ourselves to a bowl of ‘good’ soup before we settled down for the evening. 

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Friday, 29th April, 2022 [Day 774]

Well, today turned out to be a beautiful day and whilst a trifle cold, there was not much to spoil our enjoyment of the day. Meg and I tarried a little this morning so that we could have a chat with our domestic help who arrives every Friday. She was a little later this morning as she was taking her dog to the vet (and, incidentally, it seems to be overcoming its health problems and responding well to treatment) So we strolled down to the park and had a chat with our Italian friend down the road who was about to give her plants a bit of a watering. We got to the park about midday and fell upon our coffee and comestibles of which we were by now feeling the need. Before long, our University of Birmingham friend strolled along  and we had our usual far-ranging discussions, speculating about which parts of Spain we wanted to visit, and when. Our friend is teaching himself Spanish and is going to organise an expedition to Spain by himself where he can just sit and chat  and absrb the culture. He is thinking, and quite rightly, that the best way to really learn a language is to travel alone which forces you to interact with the culture. If you travel with a companion, then the two of you will always form a ‘bubble’ within the country that you are visiting – travelling alone forces you to interact with culture and get things like bus and rail tickets organised, meals and drinks ordered and the like. Meg and I think he is absolutely right in all of this and although it would be wonderful for us to travel together, we respect and understand our friend’s reasons for wishing to travel alone. Then a surprise was sprung upon us-  our friend had acquired a cake cooked by his 92-year old mother-in-law but he is trying to cut down on his consumption of cakes and the like so he wondered if we would like it. We accepted it gratefully as we could regard it as an advance birthday present (in less than two weeks time) To help us transport the cake home, our friend gave us a lift home which, again, was gratefully received and we said we would meet again tomorrow to discuss some other matters of mutual interest. Whilst at home, we cooked our by now conventional meal on Friday which is smoked hake baked in the oven. Our domestic help who loves smoked fish shared a smidgeon of this with us  and we also helped us to a little, advance portion of the cake we had just received.

Being a creature of habit, Friday afternoon is time allocated for the weekly mow of about 250 m² of our communal lawns at the front of the house and approximately half of that for our lawns at the back. I preceded my main mow with a quick flash of the edge overhanging  the gullied area with  the ultra light hand mower. This adds only about 5 minutes to the overall cutting time and ensures the grass is cut right to its edge. The main mowing proceeded to plan and, as it was so warm, I even needed to take my gardening jacket off. When I had finished, my neighbour who was toddling about in his own garden, wandered over and gave me a few complimentary words about how well the overgrown and troublesome clematis had been disposed of. By this time, it was time for tea so we popped in and treated ourselves to some fruit and ice cream.

I have been wondering over last few days whether the identity of the Tory MP who has been ‘caught’ viewing porn on his mobile in the Commons Chamber will be revealed – if not by the (female) Tory MPs who witnessed his viewing or by part of the ‘sisterhood’ if one of the Tory MPs had communicated with her one of non-Tory brethren. Tonight, the identity of the male Tory MP in question has actually been revealed – a certain Neil Parish, who is the MP for Tiverton and Honiton. I must say, though, that the way the MP is being treated by the press so far is quite extraordinary. A male Sky News reporter started his questionning of the MP with the question (or something similar to it) ‘I wonder if you came across the porn site and opened the file by accident‘ to which the ever-grateful MP responded ‘Well, yes, it was an accident…‘  One cannot imagine that a non-Tory MP would get such a lenient and sympathetic tone of questionning, nor can I imagine that a female journalist would come up with a similar tone of questionning. However, no doubt, the satirical programmes broadcast late on a Friday evening wil have a field day and I am also looking forward to what ‘NewsNight’ has to say on BBC2 (hopefully, one of their female presenters)

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Thursday, 28th April, 2022 [Day 773]

It was remarkably colder today – I suppose we have got quite used to the almost balmy spring days in the last week or so and hence it comes as a bit of a shock to the system when the weather drifts remarkably colder, which it will for the next few days. Thursday is my shopping day so, as usual, I got to the supermarket about one minute before opening time but I did allow myself a quick perusal of both ceramic planters and clematis in case we eventually decide to replace our moribund clematis plant with a new one. By the time I had got the shopping unpacked, we were running a little late so  Meg and I decided to make our visit down to town by car. Once we had collected the newspaper, we installed ourselves upon our usual park bench in an almost empty park. As it was pretty cold and I had a job to be done this afternoon, we decided not to linger but made our way to the parked car. As we wandered along, we remarked to each other that we had not seen our Intrepid Octogenerian Hiker for several days now but as we got near our car, he hove into view. It transpired that he had recently had a dose of COVID- paradoxically, he may have been exposed to the virus whilst he attended a busy doctor’s waiting room as he was attending the clinic for his second booster (4th jab in total). He had experienced a few mild symptoms and one of his eyes had been somewhat affected but taking one thing ith another, it had not set him back too much. However, it did explain why we had not seen him in the park for several days.

When we got home it was only about 1.00pm so I decided to make a start on removing the big old clematis root, now that I had got the whole of the old plant snipped into little pieces and ready to be disposed of. I have a particularly good spade for this particular job which i think I had inherited from Meg’s father. It is a ‘Spear and Jackson’ and goes by the rather quaint name of ‘Neverbend’ but it does have the virtue of having a pretty hefty iron shaft. A quick look on the web reveals that this brand name for the spade is still in use and users claim to have massively abused their gardening tool but it has withstood all rigours over the decades. I wanted my trusty old spade to cut through tree (or rather shrub) roots and I had recently  sharpened it  so it should have been up to the job. Indeed it was and the old huge stump came out in about ten minutes of concentrated effort. I then sawed it in half to aid its disposal and spent a fair amount of time disposal of a huge quantity of dead leaves that had been left behind. I think I will sink my yet-to-be acquired ceramic planter so that it sits in the hole left by the old root and I have also left some of the support wires and hooks in the wall so that I can quickly support the new clematis as and when it is needed.

Immediately after lunch, our hairdresser was due to call but she was delayed by about half and hour. By the time Meg and I were shorn, we decided to have a rather lazy afternoon so I devoted myself to writing a few emails and then to a good read of the newspaper.  

This Thursday, Parliament is due to be ‘prorogued’ i.e. this session of Parliament is brought to a close and then a new parliament will open with a Queens Speech on May 10th. No business can be carried over from the current Parliament to the next, so any legislation which is only half way through the process is, I believe, lost. When the new Parliament commences, there will be a ‘Queens Speech’ (written for her by ministers) delivered in the House of Lords, where the members of the Commons have to crowd in to whatever spaces are available. But what is significant at this time of the parliamentary timetable is that the Government has to really make up its mind and decide what legislation will be brought forward in the next session of Parliament and will therefore be announced in the Queens Speech. But whilst Parliament appears to be in abeyance, there is plenty going on behind the scenes. Most importantly, of course, are the elections to be held next Thursday. Also several scandals are rumbling on, of which one is the Conservative MP recently discovered to have been watching porn whilst in the House of Commons chamber.  Some other MP’s (female Tory MPs) know who that MP is but given the rumour mill at Westminster, will the identity of the Tory MP leak out (before Election Day?)

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Wednesday, 27th April, 2022 [Day 772]

Today started off as rather a gloomy and ‘glowering’ kind of day but brightened up latter on so by mid afternoon, it was actually quite a pleasant day. The news came through mid-morning that the government had been found guilty in the High Court of discharging patents from hospital to care homes even though they had tested positive for  COVID-19. More of this later but Meg and I thought we would like to get home to see Questions to the Prime Minister which typically takes place on Wednesdays just after 12.00.  I popped into town to get our newspaper and a few things from Waitrose and we got back to see the bulk of PMQ. This particular one is quite significant because there are going to be no more PMQs for three weeks, local elections being in about eight days time so we expect the questionning to be particularly pointed as each side tries to put on its best possible face just before the political parties have to come face-to-face with the electorate (admittedly only local elections in Scotland, Wales, most of London and a few more elections for mayors in England) The High Court judgement was put to Boris Johnson who managed to bat it away quite easily (‘we will study the judgement with care’) whilst also conveying another mistruth to the house of Commons. It was claimed that not much was known of asymptomatic transmission of COVID at the time and Matt Hancock – the then Health Secretary – is putting the blame on Public Health England claiming ‘we were not told’. But some of the UK’s biggest care home operators have told the Guardian they repeatedly warned Matt Hancock’s department about the risk of not testing people discharged from hospitals into care homes in March 2020. Care England, which represents the largest private chains where thousands of people died in the first months of the virus, told the Guardian it raised ‘the lack of testing in hospitals and in the care sector’ several times in correspondence with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) as well as NHS England in late March 2020. The bottom line to all of this is that 20,000 care home residents died of COVID in the Spring of 2020 – some may have been infected by care staff bringing the virus into the home but the care home sector were forced to receive COVID positive patients as the Government were in an absolute panic and desperate to clear the wards of many cases as it could before the full force of the pandemic was to strike. The implications of this are so huge that the government may well appeal but if their appeal fails, then will the government be liable to be taken to court and compensation demanded in view of their illegal behaviour?

This afernoon I set myself the task of two further ¾ hour tranches of time to reduce our old and decrepit clematis to little pieces.  This I finished off this afternoon and this just leave the huge old roots to be taken out tomorrow. Whether this is going to be easy or difficult, I cannot say at this stage but all will be revealed tomorrow. I have my clippings all stored in some garden sacks and they will deposited in neighbours’ garden waste bins in about a week’s time. Whenever I am engaged in a routine but monotonous procedure, my mind inevitably toys with a well known phrase or saying which, in this case, was ‘death by 1000 cuts’. I estimated, though, that it took well over 2,000 snips of  the secateurs and about three hours of work to get this partiicular task acomplished. I have in mind buying a good ceramic pot from Wilco and then planting a single clematis in the same spot as there are still supports in the walls that can be utilised. However, if we choose our plant carefully we should still see the beauty of the house brick behind the plants but having its roots in a pot may restrict its growth somewhat. I decided to Google the well known phrase ‘death by 1000 cuts’ to ascertain the origins of the phrase.  I have discovered that it refers to a traditional Chinese form of torture and execution in which the perpetrator of a particular heinous crime was tied to a structure like the Roman crucifixion cross and then chunks of flesh were removed, first from the chest, then the arms and finally the legs until the unfortunate vistim died. Some people are reported to have endured this form of torture and still be alive after 2,000 cuts. This method of execution known as ‘ling-chi’  had been in use since the 7th century but was officially abolished in 1909.

Meanwhile, as though things could not worse for the Tory Party, a male MP has been accused of watching pornography on his mobile phone whilst in the Commons. Two women MP’s have reported him to the Tory chief whip – will his identity be revealed by the newspapers before local election day in eight days time?

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Tuesday, 26th April, 2022 [Day 771]

Today turned out to be an interesting day. As Tuesday is my ‘Pilates’ day, we know that we have to time manage things quite carefully. Accordingly, we went down to collect the newspaper by car and then visited Waitrose to treat ourselves in their coffee bar. Whilst there, we bumped into one of the old ‘regulars’ that we have scarcely seen since the onset of the pandemic. We had a certain amount of news to catch up, particularly as her husband’s health had deteriorated somewhat and this was impacting upon our friend’s health (who also has problems of her own) Then another of the Waitrose regulars walked in but we have often seen that particular friend in the park over the months so we had less catching up to do. I was eager to see this latter friend because in the green fields quite near to where she lives, a whole swathe of what must be (or has been) green belt is to be developed for some 505 new houses. All of the locals are very strongly opposed and not just on the ‘nimby’ principal (‘Not in My Back Yard‘) The principal problem is that some minor tinkering of the local roads is planned but this is by no means adequate for the traffic that an extra 500 cars will generate. If you were to say that each house would generate 2 extra cars (Mum, Dad and at least one teenage child) then 500 cars would constitute 2¼ miles of traffic (all the way into Bromsgrove and back again) and the consequence is that no one would actually go anywhere as it could be that we end up as the first town in the country to be absolutely and utterly gridlocked. This is by no meand a ridiculous scenario. About four years ago, way before the pandemic, I had an appointment at the local doctors at about 8.20 in the morning and I found that I could get to the end of the Kidderminster Road faster by walking than going by car (the main road was practically gridlocked then). But the point of this story is that we had noticed some bulldozers excavating strips of land in the field designated for the new housing and we assumed that the new housing build had started. However, our friend who lives quite close by was able to give me the relatively good news that the bulldozers were there to dig out strips for a local archeological survey as there is a possibility of some Roman remains – none were found however. So the new build has not started yet but when and if built, then the possibility of a Western Relief Road (which the town desperately needs) will be lost for ever. Our friend informed us that our University of Birmingham friend had enquired after us in the park as were not situated in our usual bench. So we shot off in the car to see if we could make contact with him but in the event, we missed. We did bump into our Seasoned World Traveller friend who has having a coffee in the park’s own coffee but we had to have a really snatched conversation as we needed to get home to change into my Pilates track suit bottoms and then make my walk down into town.

After my Pilates session, I came back via town in order to pay a visit to the Salvation Army charity shop where there was an item upon which I had my eye. Needless to say, although I had seen what I wanted on Sunday it had been sold on Tuesday. But when I was in the shop I did see a pair of workman’s shoes (buffalo hide, steel toecaps etc) which were being sold as a brand new pair for £5.99 As my old gardening shoes are absolutely on their last legs, I knew that they  needed replacing shortly so I snapped these up and will bring them into use once I have given them a good   conditioning probably with some dubbin if I can still locate it to givethem an addional degree of waterproofing.

Yesterday a new TV channel hit the airways ‘TalkTV‘ with Piers Morgan as one of the lead presenters. As I write at the moment, an interview is just being broadcast between Piers Morgan and Donald Trump. This program is called Piers Morgan Uncensored and contains some amazing moments (such as when Trump claims to have saved ‘millions of lives’ by advocating the use of a COVID vaccine). But this is the interview that does not end well as, by all accounts, when Piers Morgan put it to Trump that he had lost the last Presidential election, he called Piers a ‘fool’ for believing the outcome was a fair and free result and then says ‘you haven’t studied it’ before storming off the show. I must say that the Trumpian view of the world has to be heard to be believed. It is early days yet but it will be interesting to see how the program pans out over time.

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Monday, 25th April, 2022 [Day 770]

Today was the most beautiful spring day so Meg and I decided that we would pop into Droitwich, some seven miles distant, as there were one or two items that we need that we could only get in the Droitwich branch of Waitrose. As is customary by now, we paid a visit to our Coffee#1 coffee shop for our regular capuchino and toasted teacake. This was as as good as usual and, of course, we could not resist a visit to the local Charity shop which just happens to be next door. We discovered a wonderful skirt for Meg and also indulged in a pack of men’s socks and a very stylish leather/suede pair of shoes for myself. These will make good formal wear for the occasions when I want to smarten myself up a little. After we had indulged ourselves in the charity shop, I could not resist into my favourite hardware store which is Wilko. The last time we were in this store some 2-3 weeks ago I noticed that they had a particular gardening implement and I wondered if they still had them in stock. I was delighted to say that even though they had moved them to a different location (isn’t it annoying when stores do that?) I readily purchased a Wllco ‘root breaker‘  These implements are made in a heavy carbon steel (in India) and I have always been impressed by their quality and price for other implements I have bought in the range. This ‘root breaker‘ has a cast iron shaft as well as the  cutting edge itself, so I reckon it would function very well without breaking unless you were to use it to lever up a most enormous weight, which is not very likely for me from now on.  When  read the online reviews, it was also mentioned that these implements could be used as fence post hole creators which, I must admit, is not a usage that would have occurred to me immediately but I can see how it would be useful in this respect. Finally, we made our way to Waitrose where we got the things we needed  and then finally got home just in time to listen to the 1.00pm news. This afternoon, after lunch, I resumed my attack on the huge old clematis that is having to be removed bit by bit. I did my stint of ¾ hour but, I must admit my next door neighbour and I had a bit of a chat how to restore a degree of world order. Just as we were finishing, we noticed  that one of our drains (which, I suspect ends in a sort of big ‘U’ shaped bowl shaped sump) seems to have got itself filled up with leaves and other detritus. My neighbour and I decided to tackle it there and then, although my neighbour did most of the hard work. We used a variety of implements between us, the leaves floating on the surface being deposited in our garden waste bin. There was quite a lot of a black sludge which we reckoned was quite a nutritious liquid (actually sloppy) type of compost. So we took out two large builder’s bucket loads of this stuff and I spread it onto some of the areas of the garden. The drain is actually at the junction of our two properties so it was probably just as well that we tackled the drain promptly and together before it became a problem for both of us. Tomorrow, I shall cover it with a blue garden bag before I start my next tranche of cutting up the old clematis plant to ensure that bits of vegetation do not fall into and clog up the drain, now that we have it cleared. We could just do with a good downpour to give the drain a good washing through now that we have done this good work.  

Last night, we received a very welcome invitation to go to visit Meg’s cousins in Bolton, Lancashire. We made several attempts last year but pandemic and other issues constantly got in the way although we made it in the end. We hope that everything should run smoothly this year and we have jointly agreed a date for 15th May which is the Sunday after my birthday the preceding Wednesday. I think last time although we took up our iPad there are a lot of photographs to catch up over the years so we will try and make amends this time around. At the same time, we are in the middle of trying to arrange a lunch date with some friends who had a base in both Leicester and in London but are now based exclusively in London. There is a restaurant that my son and I have used round the corner from Marylebone Station and we hope that we may be able to fix a rendez-vous there in a week or so’s time.

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Sunday, 24th April, 2022 [Day 769]

The run of fine weather is continuing with only a slightly cold wind to spoil a stroll in the sunshine. In fact, the gardens are feeling as though they could do with a good soaking of rain but I suspect that we shall have to wait several more days for that. I got up early to collect our newspaper and then back in time to see the Sunday Morning (politics) programme which was reasonably interesting but with no real revelations or noteworthy things. After that, Meg and I spent some time choosing what outfit she was going to wear today.  We chose a skirt which we think she has not worn for at least a couple of years and, in fact, we couldn’t remember where we bought it. As the skirt is patterned we located a plainish top with a little motif that goes superbly well with the skirt – so much so, that it looks as though they could have been designed to go with each other. We might make a note of the fact that these two items of clothing go so well with each other but as skirts are stored in one place and tops in another, they evidently get separated when we come to put them away. When we were ready, we sauntered down to the park and were joined by an acquaintance we know who has a rather striking labrapoodle. I am not quite sure how we got onto this topic but eventually we got onto the subject of riding horses and he let slip that he had last ridden horses when he was visiting Venezuela and Cuba. I let him know that my horseriding experience was limited to 10 seconds or so. When I was about 9 years old, the village kids in the small village in Yorkshire in which I lived were stuck on the back of a horse which was an ex-racehorse and although black had been liberally dusted with flour to make it look a sort of grey so that the village kids could parade as Uncle Tom Cobley and all. But when the race horse heard the sound of the musical loudspeaker van, it remembered its time at the races and broke into a trot, whereupon all of the kids on its back promptly slid off. In the park, we were joined by our University of Birmingham friend where we had a good chat. Eventually, we were also joined by an old lady that we know quite well who lives on the edge of the park and whose husband used to work in the park as one of the maintenance men and has a bench located next to the lake with his name on it. The old lady has a dicky heart and was a bit breathless by the time she made it as far the bench so we readily gave her a seat so that she could get her breath back again. And so a journey home with the wind behind us on the way up the hill and a lunch of gammon.

After lunch and a good read of the Sunday newspaper, it was time to go out and do a spot more of snipping up the huge old clematis which has now detached itself from its support and our front wall and needs to be disposed of bit by bit. I am tackling this job by getting bits of plant, both alive and dead, which I am chopping up into reasonably sized chunks before they get disposed of in our brown ‘garden waste’ wheelie bin. This whole job is going to take several sessions to complete so I am trying to do it in about ¾ hour sessions. Whilst I was at it and had the clippers on my hand, I had a go at removing some straggly branches of our Elaeagnus shrub which was threatening to brush the car as we drive it round the bend in our drive.

In my reading of the Sunday Times today, there was a very long and detailed exposé of the ways in which the UK in particular has ‘sucked up’ to the Russians, allowing dirty money from the Russian oligarchs to flood the London housing market. In the context of the Ukraine conflict, apparently the Ukraine has repeatedly asked for help to defend itself any Russian incursion. The West in general and the UK in particular have taken the view that ‘we must not upset the Russians’ and, in any case, given the military might of Russia they would overwhelm the Ukraine in no time at all (which assumption has turned out to be false) Then we were meant to receive a detailed report of the ways in which there may have been illegitimate attempts by the Russians to influence the Brexit campaign and subsequent referendum. Of course, a lot of Russian money has found its way into the coffers of the Conservative party. The report into Russian activities was delayed for a long time,kicked into the long grass as they say and its potential impact systematically minimised. So this was a fascinating, but disturbing, set of revelations some of which we already knew anyway. 

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Saturday, 23rd April, 2022 [Day 768]

Yet another fine day dawns and we wonder what is in store for us. Having collected the Saturday neswpaper, Meg went by car to the park and took a long walk round, wondering whether we would bump into any of our Saturday regulars. In the event, we did not so we had our coffee and comestibles and then went home via the side road which borders the Kidderminster Road. There was a method in our madness as we thought we might coincide with some of our church friends and so we did. We had a nice chat whilst we congratulated our friend on a magnificent set of flowers and decorations for the church, for which she is largely responsible. So we got home relatively early  and had a lunch of mince and onions at an early time for us. This is because I needed to make a start on a fairly big job outside the house. We had a big and very old clematis which had been attached to a framework at the front of the house. But under the combined weight of the plant and some high winds, the whole of this had blown off the wall and we had to make a decision how to put things right. The weight of the foliage was so great and there was so much dead wood in evidence as well as new growth that I thought the best thing was to get the whole thing detached from the wall, which was easier said than done. I finished up using my body to lean against a mass of foliage whilst I snipped away at various tendrils to detach a whole bundle of foliage, which I think was about one fifth of the total. Then came the job of snipping the whole mass of vegetation into smaller chunks such that they could be thrust into a blue plastic sack and ultimately into our ‘brown’ (vegetation) bin.  My next door neighbour who had been watering his garden came over and offered some supportive words of advice. This was reassuring in that he thought that if had the same problem, he would have sorted it out in a simiar way. At least today, I have made a symbolic start to this quite large clearing up job and I shall attempt to tackle it in lots of ‘bites’ over the next few days. I think it would be a mistake to attempt all of tis job in one fell swoop so I am glad to divide it into manageable portions and do it bit by bit over the days.

Today being April 23rd is St. George’s Day – the patron saint of England. But he can be found all over Europe and he is the patron saint of no less than 15 European countries (including Georgia and Greece). But you tend to see most images of Saint George in the Spanish (or rather Catalan) version where is known as Sant Jordi. If you visit the Barrio Gòtico of Barcelona especially one figure is present everywhere: Sant Jordi. The knight is of course Saint George – in the Catalan version his name is Sant Jordi. You see him on buildings, squares, in paintings, fountains, etc. The knight with his sword is fighting the dragon and saving the princess. This is all rather strange to an English person visiting these regions of Spain (or rather Catalunya) as I imagine that we all think of a patron saint as ‘ours’ and not shared with the rest of Europe. Most of the things that English people think about St. George are probably wrong. For a start he was born in what is now modern day Turkey and died in what is modern day Israel, without ever visiting England. He was probably not a knight, either,  but probably a soldier in a Roman army. However, he did have a reputation for virtue and holiness spread across Europe and his feast day – the 23rd April – was celebrated in England from the 9th century onwards.

Way back in the 1950’s all of the cubs, brownies, scouts and guides used to participare in a St George’s Day parade – probably on the Sunday nearest to April 23rd. All I can remember is that we used to walk waving a flag and assemble with the other ‘packs’ in the town. Either immediately before (or immediately after – I cannot remember which) all cubs and scouts used to go knocking on doors and asking to perform little tasks for which they ought to have paid one shilling  (5p). This was known as ‘Bob-A-Job’ week. The Scout Association’s annual ritual for much of the last century came to an end in 1992, amid fears of predatory paedophiles and harm to the health and safety of children working unsupervised. My memories of doing these ‘Bob-A’Job’ were that that the tasks were so incredibly hard, thet they were impossible (e.g. trying to dig over a whole patch of sun-baked earth on which you couldn’t even insert a spade) On the other hand, some people used to give you the money for nothing as they couldn’t find a job for you to do.


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Friday, 22nd April, 2022 [Day 767]

Today we seemed to be running a little bit late all day. Our domestic help had been delayed whilst she was taking her much beloved Jack Russell terrier to the vets where it appeared to have been poised between life and death for a few days. In the meanwhile, the vets seemed intent on suggesting more and more expensive treatments at what appeared to me to be outrageous prices but at least the dog has now rallied and seems to be intent on inhabiting the world of the living for a bit longer yet. We were just on our way out to the park when our domestic help arrived – as she and her husband had just enjoyed a wonderfuly sentimental journey back to Venice in which city they were married some 25 years ago, we had quite a lot to chat about. Eventually, though, we got down into town by car and treated ourselves to a coffee in Waitrose but unfortunately we did not bump into our former acquaintances in the coffee bar who, since the pandemic, have no doubt developed new haunts. Eventually, though, we made it home and enjoyed a wonderful lunch of smoked hake for which I have recently acquired a taste and which I buy at a ridiculously cheap price as part of my weekly Aldi shopping.

This afternoon was my regular lawn cutting day – and I still breathe a sigh of relief when my trusty petrol mower starts at one simple pull of the starter cord. Although it is not absolutely necessary, I tend to cut the lawn in one direction and then perform a second cut at right angles to the first as a kind of cross-cut. Where the wheels have traversed over the ground, they still leave behind a faint impression which gives the lawn overall a sort of vaguely striped appearance which adds to the overall manicured effect. The grass in the front of our house, when originally planted by the builder, evidently did not use some really fine lawn grass but it is what I call ‘meadow’ grass whose apppearance is enhanced by not having it cut incredibly short (and it is probably better as regards water retention and the like not to have the grass cut too short)  

Boris Johnson is still hoping that a degree of bluff and bluster will see him through the latest ‘crisis’. However, one analysis has pointed out that the reference yesterday of Boris Johnson’s behaviour to the Committee on Privileges will keep the issue alive for months, whereas the PM himself is desperately trying to move the agenda onto other issues. What I think is slowly sinking in is that there are now three enquiries into Boris Johnson’s behaviour. For a start, the Met have got to complete their work and this may take some weeks more. They revealed the other day that they are not going to make any more pronouncements as to who may or may not have received a fine until after the elections on May 5th – this kicks the can down the road for another two weeks. Only then can the Sue Gray report be concluded and handed in – there may even be a delay before it gets published or see the light of day. After these two enquiries have been concluded, the Committee on Privileges will start its work but, with holiday breaks and the like, the Committee may not be able to report until the autumn. This will keep the issue alive fror about the next six months, unless other things (such as election-induced resignations) intervene.

The French presidential election seems to be heading for a fairly predictable conclusion. Marine Le Pen has failed to deliver anything approaching a knock-out blow to Emmanual Macron so the French president looks set for another term. The French electorate, given the choice between the two candidates have one who has a small minority adore (Le Pen) but who does not appeal to the centre ground whilst the other (Macron) seems to generate enthusiasm from nobody but at least they are not Le Pen. A week or so ago, it looked as though the contest was going to be very much closer than seems to be the case – on Sunday, no doubt, a predicted result will appear within seconds of the polls closing and then all be over except for the counting.

One of the pleasures of having a largish garden is that you discover things in odd places that you did not expect. Whilst I was waiting for Meg the other morning, I looked down the slope towards our fence and discovered a tree about 5′ tall I never knew I had. To be honest, when I periodically tidy up this area, if I discover a small set sapling, I tend to replant it near to the fence and then forget all about it. From the shape of the leaf I think this tree is a horse chestnut but it may be a self-set maple – when the leaves get a bit bigger, I may be able to ascertain more exactly.


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Thursday, 21st April, 2022 [Day 766]

We are still in our period of fine weather and so we are still enjoying some spring sunshine – even the cool wind had moderated somewhat.  Today being a Thursday was our ‘food shopping’ day so I made sure that I was outside the door of the supermarket a minute or so before the doors opened at 8.00am. There were about four of us in the queue and, of course, once inside we seem to disperse very rapidly. I got all of my shopping done in just about an hour and then I went off to collect our newspaper before getting back home and unpacking the shopping. Then Meg and I strolled down to the park at a very leisurely pace and we seemed to meet a lot of our friends and acquaintances on route. For a start we met our Irish friend before we got into the park and chatted about her recent holiday. Then, as we were sitting in the park, we were passed by two prominent members of the church we attend on Saturday evenings and discussed  how the celebrations had gone in the Easter vigil last Saturday. Then we had a chat with our Italian friend who was walking in the park with her companion so all in all, we seem to have had quite a conversation-filled morning. We got home just after 1.00pm and then had a completely vegetarian lunch of quiche, carrots finished off in some hot walnut oil and with a touch of syrup to add some sweetness and finally, the remainder of some spring greens. We found the whole very tasty and then settled down, after lunch. to watch the debate in the House of Commons.

As it turned out, the Tories got themselves into a bit of a mess over the vote which was on a motion proposed by the Labour Party that the PM be referred to the Committee on Privileges (a committee which in one shape or form goes back centuries) Last night, the Tories tabled an amendment to the effect that any referral to the Committee on Privileges should be delayed until after the Met police enquiry was concluded and the Sue Gray report was both concluded but also published. This was largely seen as a ‘kicking of the can down the road’ and it becme evident to the government whips that a lot of Tory MPs would suddenly discover that they ‘had COVID’ and would absent themselves from the vote. The Labour Party had promised to plaster the constituencies of all MPs who voted to delay the further investigation and support Boris Johnson with news of their backing for the PM  and this might have spelled electoral disster for them. The government whips realised that they could not win the vote on their own amendment and withdrew it. Then they announced that Tory MPs could vote however they wanted. In the event, when the question was put to the House at the end of the debate, there was not a single ‘Noe’ in response to the Speaker’s traditional question and therefore the whole Labour motion went through ‘on the nod’ without a vote taking place. When Meg and I observed some of the debate, it was principally crowded opposition benches telling heart-rending tales of how their constitutemts were not allowed a few minutes with their dying relatives as the Tories were partyfying. The tone of the debate was set by senior Brexiteer, Steve Baker, who told the Boris Johnson to resign over the partygate saga, sayig ‘The gig is up’. In an amazing U-turn, Steve Baker had led to the de-fenestration of Teresa May in favour of Boris Johnson. Of course, Opposition MPs had prepared their speeches which they delivered to a House of Commons in which there were only about 4-5 Tories in the Chamber to be berated by the Opposition benches.  The whole point about being referred to the Committee on Privileges is that this Committee has extraordinary power to call for documents, including photographs (several of which are known to exist and are incriminating) If found to have misled the House, then Boris Johnson could be suspended from the Commons and might even be subject to the members of his constituency being allowed to have a vote of recall. In the view of all of this, the word on the street today is that the Prime Minister is already ‘toast’ One is reminded that when Margaret Thatcher was out of the country in Paris, the Tories turned against her as she failed to muster sufficient votes in a Tory leadership election. Boris Johnson is on a visit to India at the moment – was this ill-advised? It used to be said that Soviet leaders were anxious at travelling abroad lest they be deposed in their absence. According to the Channel 4 political editor, Gary Gibbon, the Speaker of the House of Coimmons gave special dispensation for the word ‘liar’ to be used with reference to Boris Johnson as normally it would be contrary to the rules of the House  and unparliamentarty language to use the word ‘liar’



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