Tuesday, 31st May, 2022 [Day 806]

Today we are on a half-term week and evidently, the count down to the Jubilee celebrations due to take place from Thursday onwards. Today, although there were quite frequent showers, we decided to go down to the Waitrose café by car because we wanted to bump into some of our pre-pandemic friends. They were a little bit earlier than their normal routine and consequently we were quite fortunate to coincide with them in the foyer of Waitrose just as they were leaving. We had a chat about some matters of mutual interest and promised each other that we would have a longer chat next Tuesday, all being well. The day started off quite well as we received news from one of Meg’s Uncle Ken’s oldest friends that he moved from a care home near to his son-in-law (and incidentally where his sister is a resident) and is now in a care home in Conway where he has a deep association. At one time, Uncle Ken and his wife had been on the management committee when this fairly new care home had been set up by the Methodists and Ken always wanted that home to be his final resting place. Now he seems by all of the news that he is very happy there and many of his former friends and neighbours can now visit him more easily. Now that we have some very good news, Meg and I have got ourselves booked into a hotel that we have stayed in several times before. This particular Holiday Inn is actually very convenient for us as we can make rapid transit along the A55 expressway into Colywn when we wish to visit Uncle Ken and his relatives. In a fortnight’s time. we intend to travel up the day before, have a really good meal in a country club we know well some three miles down the road from the hotel. Then we can see Uncle Ken and some other relatives on the following day and Friday is left free for us to have a day wandering around Chester that we know quite well by now and is on a very compact and ‘human’ scale. So all in all, we will be having a mini-holiday even though we are visiting past haunts – at least the know the good places to eat and drink (and the places to avoid) and we always enjoy a little pilgrimage around the cathedral which is not over-full of the kind of military impedimenta which I think is not always an adornment to Anglican cathedrals.

At midday, I walked down into town where I met with the Health Care assistant who I had seen a few days ago. Although she has indicated on her documentation that one particular blood test had been ordered, this did not appear to have been conducted and so I gave another sample to be sent off so that the Nurse Practitioner would have a full set of results when we come to a review in a couple of week’s time. After I had left the surgery, I went onto the High Street and banked a cheque, being a returned deposit from an Italian holiday that never came off. Then I wandered into one of the many charity shops and bought a shirt which is identical in design and size to a ‘Next‘ shirt I had bought a few weeks previously. Whilst I was at it, I impulse bought a pair of workplace boots to be used as gardening boots. When I got them home, I discovered they were a ‘Screwfix’ line, very well regarded by the online reviews that I had and one seventh of the price that I would have paid if I had bought them brand new. To extend their life, I have given them a cleanup (not that they needed much) and a good reconditioning with some black shoe polish and I will leave them for another day or so for the polish to work its way in before I give them one more treatment and then bring them into use.

The political news is getting more and interesting. The trickle of letters going into the Chairman of the Conservative 1922 committee is still flowing and now we are getting some more heavy weight MP’s showing their hand, such as Andea Leadsom ex-leader of the House of Commons. As some MPs will have submitted letters without announcing the fact, it may well be that we are already near the total of 54 letters needed to trigger an election for Tory leader. Aficionados of political history may well recall that Jeremy Thorpe, an ex-Liberal party leader, was involved in an enormous scandal in which a Great Dane dog called ‘Rinka’ , belonging to his gay lover (Normal Scott) got shot. As there is a precedent for a big dog being shot, and Boris Johnson had called his own operations to save his political skin ‘Operation Save Big Dog‘, then the anti-Johnson MPs are calling their actions ‘Operation Rinka‘ 

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Monday, 30th May, 2022 [Day 805]

Today started a little gloomily and there were a few spatters of rain early on. But this soon gave rise to some sunshine and what turned out to be quite a pleasant day. As we needed to do a little running around today, we decided to take the car into town so that we could retreat reasonably quickly if we were caught in a sudden downpour. So having collected our newspaper, I then called in at Waitrose to get one or two things that we needed. I then called in at our local Health Centre (a newish building housing two of the largest GP practices in the town) to drop in a sample and to make a further appointment for a blood test that seems to have been overlooked.We then drove to the park and had a short walk to our normal bench where we communed with dog walkers which is quite normal for us. The skies started to darken so we were pleased that we had got the car with us as a real downpour threatened but did not actually materialise. Once we got home, we had an easily prepared lunch and, as the weather had brightened,  started to think of some little jobs to be done outside. I wanted to apply some Danish Oil to a couple of new outside brooms that I have so that they will be weather resistant i.e. will not rot if I were to leave them outside. Danish Oil is a miexture of linseed oil and Tung Oil and, once applied, it has great resistant to water and other liquids. Danish oil works as a waterproof coating on your woodwork. The reason for building this kind of strong water-resistant layer is that the particles that are contained in danish oil react with atmospheric oxygen for a highly polymerized strong solid structure. Moisture cannot penetrate through this surface. This makes danish oil great for outdoor furniture. As it turned out, the oil was incredibly easy to brush on but I had diluted it with 20% white spirit to help it penetrate brand new timber (as it suggested on the tin). Altogether, I am going to put about three coats on so I will put a second and third coat in the next day or so. Whilst I was in the middle of my painting job, I received a telephone call from the surgery and it seemed that there was some doubt as to whether one of my scheduled blood tests has actually been performed although the nursing assistant with whom I spoke can remember requesting it on the form but the results don’t seem to have come back. So I am going into the surgery at midday tomorrow so that, if the blood test has not been done, I can get another one into the system ready for a chat with a nurse in my appointment in a couple of week’s time. As I finished my painting job quite quickly, I spent a bit of time clearing a gully of holly leaves that I thought was going to be quite an unpleasant task. But slugs and snails do not like crawling over holly leaves, so armed with some industrial style gloves, I need to build this into a fortnightly routine i.e. in the day before our garden waste bin is due to be emptied on a fortnightly basis.

One of the The Times regular columnists, Clare Foges, has floated a very interesting idea in today’s edition. She floats the suggestion, first formulated by a Conservative peer, that we establish an Office for Demographic Change analagous to the Office for Budget Responsibility. Given the toxic nature of immigration in British politics and the enormous role that it played in our EU referendum campaign, perhaps this is one in which, as a society, we could work out how much immigration we need  and of what type and how we can accurately measure both the costs and benefits of whatever level of immigration we collectively desire.  I wonder whether this suggestion will be taken up by any of the political parties.

‘Partygate’ continues to rumble on and the number of MP’s who have now written a leter to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee (requesting an election for a new PM) now numbers 27. One of the MPs who  declared today is Jeremy Wright who is a former attorney general. He has also published a long statement on his personal website indicating the sources of his dissatisfaction with the PM. So we are now at the ‘half way’ point of MPs calling for Johnson to go (the critical number of letters that need to be sent in being 54).  I suspect that the numbers may grow slowly as MPs have a chance to chat with their constituencies over the next week but the critical event is going to be the two bye-elections in about 3-4 weeks time which will be a good indication of far the electorate as a whole are prepared to withdraw support from the government.


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Sunday, 29th May, 2022 [Day 804]

Today being Sunday I walked down early to collect our newspaper and then got back to have a bit of breakfast in front of the TV whilst watching the Sunday (politics) programme. The show today was hosted by Clive Myrie and also included was a fairly lengthy extract of an interview that he had conducted with the Russian ambassador. Clive Myrie, in my view, did an absolutely excellent job in presenting the Russian ambassador with evidence of war crimes (which the Russians say is all ‘faked’ evidence). He had a quiet, polite but very insistent style of interviewing. One suspeccts that he acually made more headway than a more aggressive style of interviewing. Wishing to confirm my impressions, I did a quick Google search and came up with the following: ‘Clive Myrie was brilliant, there is no other word for it. There were some close ups of The Ambassador’s face and looking at his eyes I felt that not only was he lying he was afraid, probably of saying the wrong thing and incurring Putin’s wrath.’ I am sure that in professional terms, Clive Myrie has done himself no harm at all and he must have shot up in the estimation of his bosses at the BBC. After breakfast, Meg and I walked to the park and decided to vary our route slightly – quite by accident, we bumped into Seasoned World Traveller and our University of Birmingham friend and whilst they made room for Meg on the benches, I sat on our portable, three-legged portable stool facing them so that we could have a face-to-face conversation. We had quite a long chat on politics and a certain amount of confessional times in which in our lifetime careers we were in danger of getting sacked, largely because we stood our ground in the face of managements who wished to go down rather a circuitous, not to say devious, route. After a fairly long chat, we made for home and ran across one of Irish friends who was busy gardening, until we interrupted him. Having got home, it was time to cook Sunday lunch and this is always a slightly a longer procedure as we have slow cookers to clean up, onion gravy to make and so on. However, it makes subsequent meals during the week so much quicker and easier to prepare and we also take the opportunity to divide whatever meat we have cooked in two as one half gets labelled up and then frozen for future weeks.

I enjoyed reading some of the detailed accounts of the ways in Downing Street, despite all protestations, tried and may have succeeded in influencing the final draft of the Sue Gray report. The Sunday Times lets us know that Carrie Johnson may well have had another party (illegally) besides the infamous ‘Abba’ party, the initial draft referred to loud music emanating from here but this was excised from the final report, the numbers of named people was reduced from 30 to 15 and the reports of a couple having sex whilst ‘at work’ or even partying did not make it to the final draft (because of absence of proof which is not surprising) I have a feeling that little revelations will keep dribbling out and whilst 10 Downing Street wants us to ‘move on’ I suspect that this is a pious hope. The Labour Party, for example, in one of the days when they can choose the subject for debate will undoubtedly spend the whole debate discussing the Sue Gray report and will challenge any Tory MPs present in the chamber to defend Boris Johnson in public.

After lunch, I did a little bit of gardening. Principally, this was a quick flash with my edging tool up and down the ‘long edge’ of our communal grassed area, pulling out some of the bracken fronds which can appear and make tremendous growth if not pulled out immediately and finally  a cleaning and tidy up of some of my hand tools which had been left in a state of some disarray when the patio and associated paths down the side of the house were cleared before the cleaning job we had performed upon it.

The Champions Leage Final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris turned into a debacle last night with the start of the match delayed for more than half an hour and several thousand Liverpool fans not being able to get into the ground until half-time. Sky News have unearthed some video evidence that shows a broad access way was blocked by 3-4 police vans parked across one of the accessways causing a bottleneck which was the start of all the problems. UEFA themselves claim that many of the Liverpool fabs had forged tickets which may, or may not be true. Given the powerful vested interests at work, I suspect that a completely independent investigation of ‘what went wrong’ may never actually take place. I would not like to have paid a huge price for a ticket and then travel to Paris only to see one half of the match and one’s own team beaten.

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Saturday, 28th May, 2022 [Day 803]

A beautiful day dawned and it was a delight for us, on a Saturday morning, to look out over the front and back lawns freshly mown as of yesterday. After we had got up and showered and I had made a lightning visit into town by car to pick up the newspaper, Meg started to undertake our daily walk down into the park. We drank our coffee and ate our comestibles in comparative isolation, after which we strolled down the hill in search of companions. We soon bumped into Seasoned World Traveller and after we had decided to buy a coffee from the park’s own café, we were shortly joined by our University of Birmingham friend. His slight tendon injury which had left him not being able to play tennis during the last week seemed to have healed so he was looking forward to a normal round of tennis matches. Seasoned World Traveller and I exchanged some observations of a medical nature, as well as talking politics and then we made our way home for a Saturday lunch. I had prepared some Quorn mince which I tarted up a little with some fried onions, peas, onion gravy and some brown sauce which I often utilise to impart a bit of flavour. So we had a total vegetarian dinner but it felt like a ‘meat and two veg’ if you know what I mean.

I had a little project upon which I was intent in the afternoon. I wanted to stake up a Weigela which I want to grow up as tall as possible to provide a bit of screen from our next door neighbour’s garden. I had already purchased a stout piece of timber and I put a point on it with a saw and a spot of Danish Oil to help to prevent the stake rotting in a year or so. In the event, though, I found the hornbeam I had planted about a year back had actually grown a really stout ‘bole’ (the technical name for a tree’s trunk) and so instead of sinking a stake, all I had to do was to utilise some rope to lash the Weigela into a somewhat more upright position. This particular Weigela has beatiful ruby red flowers and I am hoping that it will grow to its full height of 2.5m within a year or so. Having got this job done, I then gave the communal green area a quick edging (as it quickly grows over its natural borders at this time of year) and then Meg and I spent some happy minutes having a chat with our next door neighbour who had just returned from a week’s holiday. We love discussing politics and have a sort of macabre fascination for the machinations of Boris Johnson so we are speculating how the whole of partygate will play out in the longer term.

As is normal on a Saturday, we attended church in the early evening. One of the parishioners who is ‘sport mad’ asked us if we were going to watch the European cup match between Liverpool and Real Madrid which he assured me was on terrestrial TV. Once we got home and had some soup, we realised that this was somewhat duff information so we had to content ourself with the normal Saturday night fare for a Saturday.

There has been a dripfeed of Tory MP’s who now realise that they cannot continue to support Boris Johnaon any more and are consequently writing letters to that effect to the Tory MP who chairs the 1922 (= Tory backbencher’s) committee. The magic number is 54 ‘letters’ but Sky News is keeping a tally of those Tory MP’s who have called upon Johnson to go and think that the tally might be 24 i.e. less than one half. However, I suspect that two events may prove to be significant. Parliament is now in recess until after the Queen’s Jubilee junketings which start on Thursday and I suspect that many Tory MP’s might be having their ears bent by their constituency party chairmen and committee members when they are in their constitutency for several days. I suspect that the numbers of ‘malcontents’ may be larger when MPs return back to Westminster in about 10 days time. There is another theory about the days ahead which is interesting. There are two bye-elections next month and one in Tiverton is interesting. There the majority is 25,000 but if the Lib-Dems, most of the Labour voters and discontented Tories join forces this could be a stunning Lib Dem victory. Even if Lib Dems fail to take the seat but reduce the Tory majority from 25,000 to say 1,000, then this would put scores of seats across Southern England in danger. Ex-Tory voters might be more willing to vote Lib Dem if by so doing they are not allowing a Corbyn-led Labour Party into power, being able to tolerate a Starmer-led government for some years. We shall have to wait 3-4 weeks until the bye-elections are held to see what will transpire. 

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Friday, 27th May, 2022 [Day 802]

Today proved to be the most beautiful day so Meg and I were looking forward to our walk in the park. First, though, I needed to go and do my weekly shopping and I arrived a minute or so before opening time. However, as it was a Friday (instead of my usual shopping day on a Thursday) there was a queue of about 8-10 people of which I was the No. 2 and evidently Friday is a much busier shopping day than my usual Thursday. I thought I would treat ourselves to some sea bass to be served on a bed of a simple salad but this was to come later. Meg and I had a plesant coffee and comestibles and when we had finished these, we went in search of sone of our park companions. In the vicinity of the cafe we came across Seasoned World Traveller and actually quite an interesting discussion on the accuracy of domestic (rather than clinical) blood pressure monitors. I have decided to purchase a new one as there was such a large discrepancy between the results I got with testing myself at home and the results when taken by the Health Care Assistant yesterday. I discovered that there is a list of NHS approved ‘home’ monitors and having consulted the list I chose the one at the top of the list that came out as the ‘Most recommended‘ in the NHS list and seemed to have a very high proportion of favourable reviews. Having said that, I am slightly wary, not to say cynical, about a host of glowing reviews, because it is well known by now that these are capable of manipulation.  

After lunch my son and I negotiated a new package with our broadband provider. To be honest, we need to wait until an engineer comes to assess whether our property is capable of being wired up with a new fibre optic cable and only when we get his report do we know if an upgrade to our broadband is feasible. A new router is being provided by our broadband provider and all we have to do is to pay for the postage to our house. Although the broadband supplier is saying that fibre optics are being rolled out in your area, we are not sure whether this is feasible down what is a private road when the cabling was laid down about 17 years ago. When the telephone call with our broadband supplier had been completed to our satisfaction, I needed to get the lawn mowing done. Before I could start on this, though, I received a text from the Community Pharmacist of our GP practice indicating that as a result of the blood sample taken yesterday (and analysed probably by computer in the last 24 hours) one of my medications could now be discontinued. I got in touch  with our practice but this took a long wait of about 20 minutes or so. However, I requested that I be given a full copy of the blood serum analysis and was informed that I could pick up a copy today if I could get to the surgery by the time they closed at 6.30. So the minute the lawns had been cut, it was time for a swift cup of tea and then a lightning visit by car to pick up my results. I had a rather curious but quite amicable exchange with a receptionist as she was handing over my results. As I handed over a list of the dates when I recording my weight reduction programme, the health care assistant said she would scan these and affix them to my medical records. The doctor who received my test results had evidently seen these scanned results and indicated that as I looked as though I had some ‘unexplained weight loss’ perhaps I should seek a consultation with the practice in case the ‘unexplained’ weight loss was an indication of something more serious!

Boris Johnson’s latest manoeuvrings make one almost gasp with disbelief. He has rewritten the Ministerial Code so that ministers will henceforth not be expected to resign for breaching the code.  Johnson has also blocked his independent ethics chief, Christopher Geidt, from gaining the power to launch his own investigations and has rewritten the foreword to the ministerial code, removing all references to honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability. All of this at a time when he himself is under investigation by the Privileges Committee for misleading Parliament. Labour and the Liberal Democrats accused Johnson of rigging the system to ‘get himself off the hook’ ahead of the inquiry and one has to be amazed at the constitutional propriety of rewriting the rules when you yourself are under investigation. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and chair of parliament’s standards committee, said the weakening of the system was ‘appalling’. He writes “The new ministerial code is a disgrace. It means that the tiny semblance of accountability disappears. ‘If you break the rules, just rewrite the rulebook’ is the motto of this despicable government”

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Thursday, 26th May, 2022 [Day 801]

Today was always going to be a different kind of day because I had a clinic appointment at 9.10 which rather set the running order for the day. So I set off by foot and collected our daily newspaper before making for the clinic appointment. Things are somewhat different now as last time I was anyway near the building, there were burley security guards, masked up, making sure that nobody could get in unless they had absolutely firm appointments. I remember having quite an argument at the height of the pandemic as I was trying to make a doctors appointment and was not allowed into the building to do it. Instead, one had to hang onto the end of a telephone and wait for 20-30 minutes to get an appointment in 2-3 weeks time. However, today was routine monitoring, neglected over the last two years and I received two pleasant surprises. The first one was that my blood pressure measurements, when taken with ‘proper’ equipment, showed that I was only about 10% above normal rather than the 40% which my home monitoring equipment was showing. I am now thinking that the unit I have at home is too cheap and not sufficiently clinically accurate so I think I had better pay somewhat more money and get something that approximates to clinical accuracy. The second pleasant surprise was that I asked the Health Care assistant who was taking some of my readings and asked if she could do a really accurate height measurement for me. This she did and it was good to read off the result, clearly indicated in a little magnified ‘window’, that showed my true height differs by about 0.004m from the attempts we made at home to measure my height accurately. I need to point out that this really is a two person job – measuring your own height lying down is easy but inaccurate as you are ‘longer’ when lying down because you do not experience the compression effect on the vertebrae when you are standing up.  After I got home, Meg and I decided to have a little trip out to Droitwich  to give us a change of scene. We went to our usual coffee shop where we indulge in cappucino and a huge toasted teacake shared between us. Then it was a quick whizz around the adjacent charity shop, then Wilko which is pretty close by to get some cosmetic and cleaning products and finally into Waitrose to collect some things that we know we can only buy there. Then it was home for a quickly prepared lunch of quiche and some accompanying vegetables.

After lunch even though the weather was a little gloomy and windy, I thought it would be a good opportuniy to plant out the two Clematis plants which I bought a few days ago to replace the venerable old clematis at the corner of the house. I made a little ‘pit’ into which I sunk a ceramic pot and then planted out the two clematis plants using a combination of the existing soil and a bag of topsoil which I had already standing by. The new plants had some bonemeal at their base which is very slow acting but I also incorporated some chicken manure pellets I had in stock so that should give a boost of nitrogen to get them growing awy quickly. Then I turned my attention to a little trellis work we have at the back of the house and planted a perpetual sweet pea in it. This, too, had been waiting for an opporunity to get it planted so another good job done. I had wanted to make a start on applying some Danish oil to my new outside broom to weatherproof it so this will have to wait another day.

Today, the Chancellor has announced a £15bn package of measures designed to assist all members of the population, and particularly the poorest, to cope with the crisis caused by an inflation rate of 10% and fuel bills that may well triple by the autumn.   The most significant part of this package is that one third of it will be funded by a ‘levy’ on the additional profits of the energy companies – in other words a ‘windfall’ tax. Most commentators are of the view that this package of measures upon which the Treasury have been working frantically have been timed to appear the day after the Sue Gray report into partygate. In this way, No. 10 wants the country to ‘move on’ and not concentrate on the continuing fallout from the report. Three or four additional Tory MPs have now announced that they have no confidence in Boris Johnson but the total number who have done this  falls a long way short of the 54 letters that are needed. If an abortive attempt is made to attempt to unseat the PM and it fails, then no further attempt can be made for at least a year. Hence many unhappy MPs are ‘staying their hands’ until there is a strong tide running in their favour (unlikely at the moment) and an evident successor appears on the horizon.

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Wednesday, 25th May, 2022 [Day 800]

Today was the day when the Sue Gray report was rumoured to be published and Sky News broke the news at about two minutes past 9.00am that the report had indeed been received in Downing Street. From this moment on, the media airwaves were evidently going to be dominated by the revelations of the report and after Boris Johnson had answerd a routine PMQ, the time came at 12.30 for Boris Johnson to answer questions on the report. As we have come to expect, there was a period of quasi-contrition soon to be replaced by Boris Johnson going on the attack suggesting that Keir Starmer, himself under police investigation, should have resigned by now. After about half an hour in which the Tory benches (apart from one or two brave souls) seemed to offer tacit support to the Prime Minister, the green benches occupied by the Tory party seemed to rapidly empty leaving only the ministerial teams in place. One shot of the House of Commons was particularly revealing becase it only seemed to show one or two back benchers in place to give support of ]ohnson.

The Sue Gray report itself would appear to be fairly damning but fails to point a loaded gun at the Prime Minister. It does point out that parties went on much longer than they should have done, that there was evidence of excessive use of alcohol and one member of staff being sick, two Downing Street personnel having a fight (called an altercation), a child’s swing in the garden being broken. Quite amazing was the revelation that cleaners and security staff were abused by the revellers when it was time to move them on. One particurlarly newsworthy incident is the fact that in one message after a ‘bring your own booze’ party to which 200 people were invited in May 2020, Martin Reynolds, the prime minister’s principal private secretary, said: ‘We seem to have got away with [it].’ So there seemed to be widespread knowledge of the illegalities of the gatherings. Political commentators are also pointing out one massive ‘hole’ in the report. One of the infamous events was the so-called Abba party, held in the Downing Street flat on the occasion of Dominic Cummings leaving Downing Street, where there was evidently much loud music and stampings of feet that sounded like dancing. Sue Gray started to investigate this event but then stopped short when the Met began their investigations. The Met issued no fines after this event and there is some doubt whether it was properly investigated or not. There are also persistent rumours that senior staff filled in the police questionnaires with the barest minimum of detail lest they be incriminated which was a remarkably successful tactic as the majority of fines were handed out to junior staff and not to their bosses. When the Met did not investigate further, Sue Gray concluded that it would be inappropriate for her to investigate this further and so one of the most extreme examples of partying might not have been fully investigated at all. Boris Johnson’s defence in the Commons was generally to say that he was present for only short periods of time, that he genuinely believed that he was acting as a good employer by turning up to pay a tribute to departing staff and that rather than resign he had much more important work to be getting on with to fulfil the government’s agenda, not least with the economic crisis. A package of measures is being rushed through the Treasury in the hope that these can be announced tomorrow, but cutting short any criticisms that might follow the evelations in the teport. Critical, though, is the view of the 1922 bachbenchers committee of MP’s who will be making the crudest of political calculations whether Boris Johnson is an asset to them and can help them to win the next election or a liability for them and is therefore likely to lose it for them. About 60% of the population are of the view that Boris Johnson should resign over partygate but it could be that the ‘albino greased piglet’ as Boris Johnson was depicted in a particularly vivid cartoon may have escaped yet again. An interesting question for the Met is why when some people in a party received fines, the entire gathering did not receive a fine. If it was illegal for any person, then surely it must have been illegal for all of the attenders at the party? Later on this evening, it may well emerge what the mood of the 1922 Committee is liable to be but it does appear that journalists are much more likely to hold the PM to account than his own MPs. From accounts of the meeting of the 1922 committee meeting this evening, it appears that Boris Johnson had ‘struck the right tone’ with them and his support remained high amongst the recently elected ‘red wall’ MPs (Conservatives who won the seats traditionally held by Labour) The older generation of Tory MPs were less likely to give Boris Johnson the benefit of the doubt, however.

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Tuesday, 24th May, 2022 [Day 799]

As Tuesday is my Pilates day, we know that we have to manage our time quite carefully. We knew that some of our pre-pandemic Waitrose acquaintances had started to frequent the coffee bar again since its reopening about a month or so ago. We called in at our friend along the Kidderminster Road where we had our little tea party yesterday as I had taken along some slippers to wear and forgot to change into them. I had left them behind me so I called in to collect the same, thinking that I had better not get into the habit of leaving items of clothong in the houses of French widows.  As soon as we entered the Waitrose store, we met up with our acquaintances and sat down to make a foursome. Then we joined by another mututal pre-pandemic acquainatnce and that brought us up to five. The female members of the party were each handed some flowers by the Waitrose staff – when flowers go over their sell-by date thay tend to given away to some of the stores oldest and most regular customers. In addition, one of the assistants that I know particularly well excitedly pointed me in the direction of the shelves where concentrated fruit juices were shelved. I had requested through her that the manager start to stock some beet juice which Meg and I have started to have as a regular part of our diet. This request had evidently been complied with and had worked its way through the system so I now have a regular supply on tap withut having to roam around the other Bromsgrove supermarkets  to find it. Then my friend from the park Seasoned World Traveller occupied the next table and I have not bumped into him for a couple of weeks now so that we rapidly got up to speed on the ‘partygate’ developments, each of us trying to speculate what the next developments were likely to be and speculating upon the role played by the Metropolitan police. It was just as well we had taken the car down to Waitrose because just before we left there was a pretty heavy shower and we would have been drenched if we had made our regular walk on foot.

Today being my regular Pilates day I walked down at the usual time and was delighted to discover that the health scare which my Pilates’ teacher had suffered last week turned out to be just that i.e. a scare. and not a suspected stroke. But it still took a four hour wait in Worcester Royal’s A&E to get this diagnosis. After my class, we dined as we always do on a Tuesday on haddock fish cakes which seemed particularly delicious today for a reason I cannot discern. After a brief rest, I was eager to start work on clipping up the pile of Elaeagnus branches that I had left lying at the top end of our communal green area. I suspected that this job was going to be done in two tranches but suddenly the pile seemed to diminish rapidly so I got it all done in one day with just a certain amount of clearing up of leaves to be done tomorrow.

Westminster is still full of anticiation for the Sue Gray report into ‘partygate’ to be delivered in the next day or so. As you might expect, there is a sharp division of opinion concerning the photograph that shows Boris Johnson proposing a toast to a departing colleague. In the photograph, are several other personnel (with faces blurred out) but evidently no social distancing has taken place. In the photograph, there is a table laden with bottles of booze. The Johnson loyalists are saying that this is just a ‘work-related event’ and thus falls within the rules applicable at the time whilst the majority opinion (all of the opposition and a few Tory MP’s) maintain that this is clear and evident proof that Johnson lied to the House of Commons when he said that no parties took place on that day and that all social rules had been observed (it is evident, from the photograph, that they were not)  In advance of the publication of the Sue Gray report, The Times reports that Boris Johnson had asked Sue Gray to pull the whole report as most of the findings were in the public domain anyway. If true, this would be a clear attempt to influence the outcome of the ‘independent’ report. No. 10 denies this furiously – but then, they would say that, wouldn’t they? Three individuals have told the BBC that they witnessed regular rule-breaking events during restrictions of 2020 and 2021. According to their testimony, staff crowded together with some sitting on each other’s laps at parties. The fact that Boris Johnson was present and did not tell the party goers to disperse was taken to be a tacit acknowledgement that their attendance at these events was quite legitimate. A lot more will emerge in the next few days, no doubt.


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Monday, 23rd May, 2022 [Day 798]

Today was an indeterminate sort of day with us being unsure how the weather was going to pan out. We knew that we were going out to tea later on in the afternoon so I shot into town to collect our newspaper and to pop into Waitrose where I needed to buy a little ‘prezzie’ for later on this afternoon. At the same time, I shot into Poundland in order to replace the dog-collar which I have mislaid. In case the question arises why I should require a dog-collar (i.e. something to put round a dog’s neck rather than a clerical garment) the explanation is as follows. When I walk down to the park every day, I carry our flask of coffee and other comestibles in my trusty rucksack. This has a slight tendency for the straps to slip off my shoulders, particularly if I am wearing something remotely shiny. The solution to this is to have  small leather strap that ties together the two straps so that they do not have a tendency to wander. I have used a specimen of dog-collar bought from Poundland some months ago but it has gone ‘walk about’ so I needed to replace it. The new one works just about fine and it means that it is easier for Meg to link arms with me and not fall when we walk down the road. The park, as we suspected, was pretty deserted and so we were not surprised  to see only one of our regular acquaintances. Then we made our way homewards, preparing a fairly lightish kind of lunch as we suspected that our calorie count was going to be radically increased this afternoon. Just before lunch, I spent about 20 minutes pruning back some of the errant branches of an Elaeagnus shrub which stands at the corner of our roadway and is threatening to get well and truly out of hand. My neighbour and I are going to tackle it properly when he returns from holiday but in the meanwhile, I snipped back some of the branches that vehicles were likely to brush against if no action had been taken. I kept all of the branches in a fairly neat pile at the corner of our communal grassed area and tomorrow, presuming the weather is fine, I will wheel up our garden refuse bin and chop the branches into smaller pieces in order to dispose of them.  

This afternoon we went out to tea with the French widow with whom we have become friendly in the last year or so. At the same time, our two lots of Catholic friends who are very near neighbours were invited along side so we formed a merry little group of six. Our French friend had hoped that we could have a nice little party outside but it started to spatter with rain so our friend had moved to ‘Plan B’.  She has a double length garage but the portion nearest to the garden has been made into a sort of garden room so we all sat down for tea inside the house as it were. We had a lot of jolly conversation and as our friends had just returned from Oberammergau in Austria, we had a lot of travellers’ tales. Meg and I had gone down the road by car which is just as well because shortly before our tea was concluded, the heavens opened and we had the kind of downpour you typically associate with May/June. No doubt the gardens will appreciate all of this water  and I was glad that I had got my outdoor jobs done before the heavens opened. When we got home, I assembled the parts to a 36″ soft brush to which I have treated myself. This should help to make short work of keeping our newly refurbished patio in good nick as well as the never-ending job of keeping the holly leaves at bay which fall at the front of the house.  

Tonight  a photo has seen the light of day which shows Boris Johnson with glass held aloft evidently making a toast at one of the Downing Steet ‘parties’ The other faces have been blanked out but it is evident that social distancing is not being observed. Moreover, this photo has emerged at one of the gatherings when Boris Johnson had categorically told the House of Commons that no party had taken place for the date in question. Whether this photograph is one of those which may well be published in the Sue Gray report when it sees the light of day is unclear at this point. However, when matched up with Boris Johnson’s categorical denial that such an event had taken place, then this is the nearest to a ‘smoking gun’ to have emerged so far. There is an interesting observation in The Times today which indicates that junior staff were told to be truthful when questioned by the Met and were subsequently fined whereas some of their superiors and their political masters were much less forthcoming and tightlipped on the advice of Conservative party lawyers on the assumption that the Met would have to go after them which they generally did not. So many of the senior staff seem to have got away scot-free.

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Sunday, 22nd May, 2022 [Day 797]

Today being Sunday, I walked down early in the day to collect our Sunday newspapers. At this hour of the day (8.00am) the only people out on the road are dog-walkers and joggers, all of whom are intent on their particular activity rather than chit-chat. As I treated myself to my weekly ‘concert’ on my ancient iPhone, the second track along was Bach’s cantata ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring‘ This is quite significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was one of the pieces of music that Meg and I had chosen when we got married nearly 55 years ago. Secondly, I remember well the morning after I knew that I had been awarded my PhD way back in 1997. I always used to have some Bach playing on my computer when I switched it on in the morning. and this track started to play. I was suddenly overcome with emotion and burst into tears – more of relief than anything else. Thirdly, our good friend Clive who had been taught the trumpet in a Salvationist household when he was about 10 years old was still playing the trumpet some 75 years later. Clive came along to our 50th wedding anniversary celebrations and played this piece for us. This was of particular significance because at our wedding all of those years ago, the cantata was sung by a very good friend of ours, Austin, who was training to be an opera singer. I have lost contact with Austin over the decades and he was about ten years older than me, then there is quite a fair chance that he is no longer alive. But here was a neat kind of symmetry in that the cantata was performed for us by close friends at the original celebrations and again fifty years later.

After the Sunday politics programme, Meg and I walked slowly down to the park. On the way down into town, we had quite a long chat with our Italian friend who was busy making her immaculate garden even more immaculate until we interrupted her. Then when we got to the park and had our elevenses, our University of Birmingham friend strode into view and we chatted at length about the Rick Stein programme which we had seen on TV last night in which he was extolling the virtues of the sights (and even more the food) of Cadiz which is a city we have visited before. After we had put the world to rights, we made for home and on our way out of the park, we bumped into our Intrepid Octogenerian Hiker who we have not seen for a few days. He was just starting one of his many trips around the park when we coincided and, as always, I marvelled at how fit he keeps himself by keeping to his regime of about 9-10 kilometres a day at the age of 88. Then it was home for lunch and some tasty beef accomapnied by tender-stem broccoli.

After lunch, I set to and gave all of the newly weeded gravel areas in our front garden and adjacent roadways a good soaking in PathClear, a weedkiller, which should keep everything looking shipshape for at least the next three months and probably longer. Of course, with walking up and down the roadway every day I can now despatch a weed whever it ventures to raise its head from now on.

I have been reflecting upon the ways in which politicians in general, and Boris Johnson in particular, survive whatever particular difficulties they happen to be in by ‘kicking the can down the road’ At one time, when Johnson’s premiership seemed to be in peril the word on the street was waiting to see how many letters calling for a leadership context would be submitted to the chairman of the 1922 (= Tory backbencher’s) committee. When this revolt seemed to fizzle out, the Tory backbenchers were saying ‘Let us wait for the results of the local electons in May’. Then it was a case for waiting for the Sue Gray report into ‘partygate’ Then this had to be forced into abeyance when the Met decided to investigate. Now that the Met investigation has been concluded, it may well be a case of waiting for the full publication of the Sue Gray report which is expected this week. If this fails to deliver a knockout blow, no doubt people will be saying that it might be better to wait until the results of the two by-elections due next month. And so on and so on. Then of the course the war in Ukraine has happened which has enabled Johnson to pose as a Churchill-type figure and the focus of the political gaze has altered. It is often forgotten that Margaret Thatcher was the most unpopular Prime Minister of all time immediately before the Falklands War but became the most popular Prime Minister of all time after its successful conclusion. Not for the first time foreign affairs have helped to distract from unpopular policies on the domestic front – authoritarian right wing leaders across the world  have typically used the fight against an external enemy as a useful distraction from unpopular domestic policies.

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