Monday, 31st October, 2022 [Day 959]

After a dullish start, we thought today was going to turn out to be quite a mild day. We popped into our local, friendly newsagent and I opined to the newsagent’s wife that I really didn’t like the month of November and although tomorrow is the first of the month, in my mind November is always the month to be lived through rather than enjoyed. But she informed me that it was her husband’s birthday towards the end of the month so that was something to which she could look forward. When the couple were getting me my newspaper, and thinking of our previous conversation, I remarked ‘Towards the end, then’ – but the newsagent thought I was referring to his life as a whole and remarked that he intended to live for a few more years yet! We all had a giggle at this misunderstading and then we progressed on to Waitrose where I needed to pick up a few things. I noticed that in the self-service coffee machine area, they had a notice informing customers that the ‘free to Waitrose customers’ was due to resume at the end of the week. I expressed my pleasure to one of the long standing staff members and they told me that although it involved more work for the staff keeping the machines topped up and maintained, they knew that it did pull the customers in. In the past, some customers had abused this system just popping in for a ‘free coffee’ so when the service resumes, one is going to have to swipe one’s Waitrose card to legitimise the free drink. Obviously, this was good news for us and the pandemic had evidently caused the demise of the service a year or so back but it is always good to see things resume. We had our normal comestibles and drink of coffee in the park and admired the autumnal colours, which is always a source of delight. On the way back home, we called by the house of our Irish friends on the main Kidderminster road as we had not seen them for a week or so. They had been away on an ‘instant’ holiday on a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi – a trip in which Meg and I intended to participate before the pandemic and the travel restrictions put paid to our plans. But our friends told us that we had been saved from ourselves as the trip had proved quite arduous for some of the elderly and disabled members of the pilgrimage. Apparently, there was a lot of walking involved and in Assisi, in particular, up some quite steep hills which was too much for some. So Meg and I were relieved that this was a potential disaster avoided and, for once, home might be the better place to be.

We had our lunch at midday,finishing off the beef which we started yesterday. To make a change from the almost daily baked potato, I prepared some carrots and the portion for Meg I glazed in some honey just at the end of the cooking process so she was highly appreciative of this. This afternoon, I finished off the little projectI had set for myself which was to catalogue and document the CDs that I have relocated into our little ‘music room’. Last night, Meg had gone to bed early so whilst I was on my own, I took the opportunity to arrange all the 50 CD’s in alphabetic order and to write the composer and their composition into a little booklet I was saving for the purpose. Then I typed up this information into a HTML table I had composed on the computer in order to create a type-written version. This all worked out fine and I did literally a ‘cut-and-paste’ job from my printout into my little booklet which is now residing, ready for reference, on top of the CD’s. In order to make sure that the glue had done its work, I took the whole booklet and put into under one of the legs of our (heavy) kitchen table for half an hour to make the pages were well and truly stuck.

This afternoon, Suella Braverman is having to appear in the House of Commons to asnwer questions about the deteriorating situation at Manston processing centre in Kent, described by the chief inspector of prisons as ‘dangerous’ and inhumane. It appears that Braverman has been ignoring the advice of officials and may well have acting illegally by detaining asylum seekers more than the 24 hours specified by the legislation, all of this in order not to move the asylum seekers onward to hotels which is a policy she privately deplores. At the same time, if the Speaker of the House of Commons allows this, Braverman may now have to answer questions about the reasons for her resignation. She has now admitted to six further occasions of transgressions and has issued a long letter to MPs and the media to explain her past activities. All we can say at this stage is that the storm clouds are rapidly gathering over the head of the Home Secretary and critical, of course, is the reaction of the Tory backbenches where there is already some unease.

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Sunday, 30th October, 2022 [Day 958]

Today was the day when the clocks go back one hour, so a certain amount of clock adjustment is required around the house. Some appliances such as our computers and the DAB radios fortunately adjust themselves but some do not so I have to trail around the living rooms to get our clocks adjusted. This went off without a hitch, after which I walked on down into Bromsgrove to the newspaper shop in order to pick up my copy of the Sunday Times. This having been done, Meg and I breakfast in front of the Laura Kuennsberg show where the Suella Braverman episode received a certain amount of attention but the interrogation could have been more intensive- after all, bringing back a Home Secretary who confessed to a breach of security after six days (when they themselves are in charge of the security services)is quite something, after all.

Yesterday, I had a bit of a brainwave and decided to undertake a bit of a reconfiguration. I took the mini hifi stero system which used to inhabit some space on a kitchen table and relocate it, and some of the attendant CD’s, into a quiet corner of one of our downstairs living rooms. This has made a pleasant area to relax if one wanted to just play CDs and/ or listen to ClassicFM in a different living space to the television. I have ensured that I have the CDs to hand but may well get them into an alphabetical order and record them in a little book. When I have some spare time, I will get the CDs catalogued so that we can lay our hands on what we may wish to listen to with the minimum of searching. I cooked and ate the Sunday lunch on my own as Meg was not feeling particularly well and took to her bed in the middle of the day. After some hours of rest she got up and I got her to try out my newly created music corner so that she could have some relaxation that did not involve manipulating the Sunday newspapers or watching the television.

The attack on the house of Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives in the US Congress continues to horrify. The assailant is reported to have cried out ‘Where is Nancy?’ after breaking into the Pelosi residence and subsequently fracturing the skull of her husband with a hammer. This ‘shout’ is rather redolent of what the mob said when the Capital Building was stormed and it was intent on locating both Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence, the then Vice President. Did they intend to kill them, if they had been caught, I wonder? I can predict that the Democrats will argue that this is what happens when political consensus breaks down and there is no middle ground in American politics any more. I would predict that the Republicans will argue that the intruder was mentally deranged and ‘nothing to do with them’. We will see in the days ahead, which account has most salience or ‘traction’ as the modern political analysts would say.

In the late afternoon, a middle aged couple knocked on our door and were seeking some information about our immediate environment as they were thinking about buying the bungalow across the communal green area. This was actually quite useful as I could give them first hand information about how the BioDisk system worked and how it is maintained by the Resident’s Association. They seemd quite impressed by what they had seen but they still had another property to view so how close they are to coming to a positive decision, I cannot really say. I gave the couple one of my business cards and indicated that I would be happy to answer any further queries that might have if they wanted to email me. In a case like this, I suspect the agents are not particularly helpful to would-be purchasers so I was happy to give them whatever information they needed in order to come to an informed decision. Of course, people look at properties in different ways but I think that one thing that impressed them was the amount of space afforded by the loft which is practically the same as the footprint of the entire house.

The political sphere today is full of gossip. In the Suella Braverman case, a lot depends on how quickly she reported the breach of the regulations as she tries to give the impression that this was fairly rapid. But an email has come to light in which some two hours after the original transgression she had asked the unintended recipient of the message to ‘ignore and then delete’ it. Whether the breach was self-reported or whether it was enjoined upn her by the Cabinet Secretary,amongst others, is a contended question. Meanwhile, in the Sunday Times, there are some jaw-dropping accounts of the behaviour of Liz Truss when she was Foreign Secretary. By all accounts, she made it her absolute and overriding priority to make a photo opportunity in which she figured prominently, even if, for example, this meant leaving the leader of New Zealand waiting to greet her on the airport’s tarmac whilst Liz Truss was scurrying around trying to get her photoshot taken.

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Saturday, 29th October, 2022 [Day 957]

Today was dull and overcast but not particularly cold. We were a little delayed this morning because I had some problems updating the payment system on a photos website which acts as a host to our 50th wedding anniversary photographs and videos. Fortunately, I found a solution to this as well as eventually locating the specialised and personalised name that I have acquired in order to access the website and which I had temporarily forgotten. Whilst I was at it, I thought I would have a dig around my system and my websites to discover some of my original wedding photos and music. Some five years ago now, I retrieved our book of wedding photos (all in black and white in 1967) and successfully digitised them all. But I had a massive stroke of luck because out of the photo album fell a little page of lined notepaper which was the organists original notes of the music that was played. We had remembered some of these pieces but not all. But, armed with the list of music, I could then go onto the web and find MP3 tracks of music that could have well been the original so this, at the time, was a very successful venture. However, by putting the music tracks on one website and the wedding photos on a rolling display on another website, it is possible to see the original wedding photos with the ‘original’ music playing in the background. This is evidently not the same as a video of the original but is a very good substitute which means that if anyone is sufficiently interested, they can see the original photos of which there are only 13 in number but accompanied by the mp3 ‘soundtrack’ with some program notes on each of the six pieces of music that we had chosen and some background to each one. I do not make a habit of looking at these websites very often but it does mean that I tend to forget the URL’s so it is rather good to refresh my memory once in a while. To sort of test this out, I got J S Bach’s ‘Wachet Auf‘ to play along whilst I was writing this blog but I still have to remember how to move from track to track.

Once we had eventually got ourselves going, as it were, we picked up our newspaper and made it to the park. We didn’t bump into of our regulars in the park but this was not a great surprise to us so after our elevenses we got home and made a pasta type meal out of bits and peces that we had in the fridge. Saturday afternoons are always a little quiet because we start to go to church at 5.30 and then have a bit of supper when we return at about 7.00pm before we settle down to either watch an opera or another video that takes our fancy. Tonight is the night when the clocks go back and this means that in the afternoons and the evenings it will be really dark, to which I do not look forward. At this time of year,though, I cannot wait until December 21st has come and gone as it is means it will then be getting lighter at 1-2 minutes a day. We have quite a few social engagements throughout the month of November to help the autumn pass a little more quickly. Thinking ahead to Christmas, though, I have managed to secure a booking at our favourite hotel in Harrogate not in the week before Christmas which would be horrific but in the week before that. We have decided to extend our stay from our normal three days to four so we may be able to see more family members this time around. In fact, given the success of the ‘family tea’ which we had for my sister’s 80th birthday, we could do worse but repeat this little event but I will consult a bit further on this.

Earlier in the day, I had been in email correspondence with one of my Hampshire friends who had accepted my offer to stay overnight with us in late November – he is breaking his journey in order to pay to visit to Leek in Staffordshire to research some family history. Because a distant cousin of ours who lives in Australia and has a lot of reseearch on my father’s side of the family, we will probably have quite a lot to share with each other. My mother’s side of the family tree is somewht murky but I can disclose the interesting but tangled story of my mother’s side of the family tree when my friend come to visit.

The Chancellors Autumn Statement has now been upgraded to a ‘full budget’ and will take place on November 17th. It will be a model of financial rectitude, not to say austerity. One way or another, the Chancellor is going to have to find at least £40bn to fill the black hole and another £10bn to reassure the markets. Rumours at this stage is that nothing – Defence, NHS, pensions – will be spared so we shall shortly experience Austerity Mark II (Mark I being the Osborne version some Chancellors ago)

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Friday, 28th October, 2022 [Day 956]

Today started as a rainy and blustery day where a storm was evidently working its way up the country. Meg and I had made a tentative arrangement to meet with our University of Birmingham friend in the park today but after a quick text and telephone call, we decided to meet in a cafe aong the Bromsgrove High Street to which we often repair when the weather turns foul. So we met in the cafe and had a good old natter about some of the students we had known in our teaching careers. I told our friend the story how one of my students, a very bright nurse who worked in the Infection Control/Quality Control unit at Leicester General Hospital, offered me some consultancy which was to lay the groundwork for what was to become my PhD. At the time, John Major had just taken over from Margaret Thatcher and he was actively searching for his one ‘big idea’ which would delineate his premiership from that of Margaret Thatcher. Major’s idea was ‘the Citizen’s Charter’ and its sibling ‘The Patient’s Charter’ (the position of the possessive apostrophe is significant but we will not go into that just now) A major source of discontent was the amount of time that patiemts had to wait in outpatient clinics before their appointment started and so this was one area in which quality improvement might be implemented. I devised a short but sharply focused questionnire which was administered to every single patient in all specialities and my job was to analyse the data statistically and to provide a series of reports by consultant so that hospital managers could implement some quality improvement strategies. This led to a series of papers and when De Montfort University changed its PhD regulations allowing a member of staff to write a PhD around a series of published papers, this was an opening that I could not afford to ignore. So the papers were written, presented to international conferences, a PhD was written around them and this led eventually to a new job at the University of Winchester. The point of all of this is that the initial opportunity was opened up for me by one of my students and to her, I shall be eternally grateful.

After we had our coffee, I took the opportunity to get some printer paper from the stationers on the High Street and also to get some cleaning products from one of the cut price stores. The weather had turned absolutely glorious by this stage in the late morning and as it turned out, we could well have enjoyed a turn in the park. But we are always happy to chat with our friends. Then it was a case of getting home and cooking our usual Friday meal of sea bass served on a bed of lettuce which is both quick and nutritious. In the afternoon, I went through a series of newspapers most of which seemed important at the time (all the events surrounding the death and subsequent funeral of the Queen) but could now safely be junked. However, I did find one or two health-related articles at the bottom of the pile which are certainly worth a good re-reading, filing away and then to be consulted regularly. One of these related to a recently published book in which the authors (who had worked in Worcestershire as it happens) were advocating a way in which one’s ‘hunger hormones’ could be tamed that would eventually help to tackle related problems of obesity, diabetes and related health conditions. From the account and four page excerpt given in ‘The Times’, this sounds a very interesting and no doubt evidence-led approach so I have orderd my copy of the author’s book which should be arriving tomorrow and which I shall study with some care and perhaps attempt to implement.

Halfway through the afternoon, I read my emails and am delighted that one of my Hampshire colleagues has accepted my invitation to stay overnight with us on a night in late November whilst he on his way northwards to engage in a little research into family history. With the pandemic, we have not seen each other for years and have a lot to catch up so we are looking forward very much to his visit. A week later, Meg and I will hopefully to be attending an ‘Old Fogies’ lunch time get- together which will be the first for several years after an pandemic-induced abstinence. This meeting, too, has to be re-arranged twice as every time we settle on a date on a Wednesday, a rail strike seems to be announced for the same day so that efforts to find a communal date for us together has been frustrated. One video clip which is emerged this afternoon is the new Prime Minister, visiting a South London hospital in which one of the patients berates him and tells him that he should pay the nurses more and then he replies that the government is trying to achieve this is then told ‘Then you must try harder’ I suspect this clip will ‘go viral’ and I would be surprised if it did not find its way into the major news broadcasts this evening.

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Thursday, 22nd October, 2022 [Day 956]

Thursday is my shopping day so I got up early, got some cash out of the ATM and then stayed in the car whilst it was raining heavily until it was time for the supermarket to open at 8.00am. Then it was the normal whiz around and I collected the newspaper on the way home and finally made it home just after 9.00pm. After we had breakfasted and unpacked the shopping, the weather started to brighten somewhat so we made up our coffee and elevenses snacks and set off for the park a little later than normal. As today was quite a wet day, we had not expected to bump many of our regulars and indeed we did not but nonetheless we appreciated the fresh air, the walk in the park, the changing autumn colours and so on. I suspect that the full glory of the autumn colours may well come in a week or so after we have had some frosts. Yesterday afternoon, our University of Birmingham friend called round with an offer of some cake which may well have been some birthday cake – we made an arrangement to meet in the park tomorrow, weather permitting, but if the weather is absolutely terrible we do have a favourite coffee bar (not necessarily Waitrose) to which we can repair as we have done on Fridays in the past.

The Suella Braverman saga rumbles on, as you might expect. In Parliament, requests are being made to the Speaker that Suella Braverman attends the Commons to answer questions about inconsistencies in the accounts that have been given of the security breach. In particular, was there was one breach or multiple breaches? Were the papers that were shared totally to do with immigration or did some of them involve security matters? Did the Home Secretary volunteer the breach (as she indicated in her resignation letter) or was she hauled before a group which included the Cabinet Secretary as well as the Chairman of the Conservative Party? There is a little twist in the story this afternoon as David Blunkett, a one-time Labour Home Secretary, is of the view that members of the security and intelligence services may feel disinclined to share secrets with their nominal ‘boss’ if they fear that these secrets may leak. This worry is shared by some Conservative MPs as well and the smattering of Tories concerned about Braverman means this is is not simply just confined to the opposition parties. The point is being made that some of our allies and information sources may be reluctant to share information with us if the Home Secretary has a poor reputation for probity. Another question that I have asked myself is this. Surely at the time of her appointment some senior security staff have given her a briefing (read ‘tutorial’) on how to conduct communications when you yourself are in charge of Britain’s intelligence and security communities. Was this initial briefing, refused or waved aside? Assuming that Braverman was properly briefed upon taking up her post, then has she either forgotten it or has she chosen to ignore it? The Bravermans and the Patels of this Conservative party have in the past shown a scant regard for the niceties of ministerial behaviour and they may both have been promoted beyond their competence. In addition, reports have emerged (on the BBC website) suggesting that, as attorney general, she was investigated over the leak of a story involving MI5. So it looks as though she may have ‘form’ in this respect. But the ultimate protective factor is that they belong to the extreme right of the Conservative Party and therefore Sunak may wish to hang on to Braverman in order to appease the right of the party.

This afternoon, I decided to repeat my recent soup making activities and so I have made some carrot and basil soup. I was a little short of coconut milk but have substituted some soya milk in it place. I have just had the briefest of tastes of this and am moderately pleased with it but despite starting off with some fried onions, as most recipes suggest, I feel that it is a little on the thin side. So having transferred it from the soup maker into a saucepan, I think I am going to try a little powdered potato as a thickening agent and see how much of a difference this makes. When I went shopping this morning, I bought some celery as well as a swede so in the days ahead I know I can prepare a traditional ‘winter root vegetables’ soup which I have tried often in the past and where I have always achieved good results. If I see any celeriac on the supermarket shelves, then this has a wonderful reputation as a warming winter soup. Also, of course, there must be masses of pumpkins around ready for the autumnal festivities so this is something else with which to experiment in the days ahead. If I want to be more adventurous, there is also a pumpkin and ginger soup for which Jamie Oliver has a recipe which I have seen on the web.

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Wednesday, 26th October, 2022 [Day 954]

We are still enjoying a spell of weather which is about 2-3 degrees warmer than the average for this time of year as a plume of warm air from the Sahara is being swept northwards. I suspect this is going to last for a day or so at the most, so it is a case of enjoying the mild weather whilst we can. Today is the day when our domestic help calls around and we always help each other with little gifts of food if we have an excess whilst cooking. Today, we have received a little present of some brioche which we are going to enjoy with some suitable accompaniments for our supper this evening when we come to prepare it. Meg and I made our usual trip to pick up our newspaper and then made for our usual bench in the park. There we communed with a variety of dog walkers as is our wont and then returned home to prepare a simple lunch of fishcakes.

This afternoon I busied myself with one of the more mundane but necessary tasks which is to get the labels off a collection of 200cl wine bottles with which our domestic help keeps me well supplied. These bottles are the ideal size for containing my damson gin when it comes to bottled in about mid to late December (in time for Christmas) This apparently simple job has its complexities. The neck of the bottle often has a little metal ring that needs to be cut off. As for the main labels, they do not just float off but have to be tackled with tough thumb nails and a variety of other implements. There are a variety of glues used and even the labels themselves sometimes separate into a top plasticised layer and a lower paper layer to which the glue has adhered. But over the years, I have learnt how to get a supply of really clean bottles that are ready for bottling when the time comes.

Now that one conservative prime minister has had to resign after a few disastrous weeks, there are a variety of articles to put the recent economic debacle into context. One that I have read helps to contextualise what is been happening : ‘The Brexit cult that blew up Britain’ and there are several others explaining how Trussonomics (Liz Truss version of economic theory) has failed so spectacularly (as, indeed, Rishi Sunak constantly predicted in the Tory leader election hustings but only a minority of conservative members believed him). The article explains how in the course of a decade a group of little-known politicians, fringe think tanks and outspoken media figures helped to drag the Tory Party to a Brexit-loving, free-market embracing,low-tax juggernaut. In this analysis, Brexit itself was only a stage in a much wider libertarian vision and the Brexit referendum would have been a defining moment. But the Brexit success only emboldened the libertarian right and then Boris Johnson had delivered Brexit into their laps, they were not unhappy to ditch Johnson and to enthusiastically to endorse Liz Truss who had espoused liberterian ideas for a long time. As Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University, London has observed ‘They felt their moment at come at last.. This would prove that Brexit had not been a ghastly mistake but a fantastic opportunity. But, of course, as it was always based on fantasy, it was bound to collide with reality’ Now that this experiment has been shown to comprehensively fail, some of the extreme libertarian right are just saying, like a millenial cult, they feel that their theories have not been disproved but just badly implemented by an incompetent political operator (Liz Truss). Like other cults when asked to explain why the ‘spaceship’ did not arrive, they explained that they had just got the timing wrong and the ‘spaceship’ would arrive later.

Now that we have a Rishi Sunak cabinet in place, I was a little puzzled when Suella Braverman, the disgraced Home Secretary who was forced to resign by using her own personal phone to transmit government documents (strictly against all of the IT protocols for how government communications should be handled). However, we now have the full story. The Rishi Sunak government, rather than being a model of integrity, has shown itself to be the beneficiary of a squalid back-door deal in which Braverman promised to support Sunak and to bring votes with her in exchange for being reinstated as Home Secretary. The cabinet secretary, Simon Case, as well as Alistair Graham, former chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said there were questions over whether her appointment was appropriate, especially because the breach was not examined by an ethics adviser. I have a feeling that this one is going to run and run – but already there is an air of sleaze hanging over the new government. As he was appointed the UK’s 57th prime minister behind closed doors by 200 or so Conservative MPs, this will invariably raise questions about his democratic mandate – for this reason, Sunak is sticking very closely to the 2019 electoral mandate.

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Tuesday, 25th October, 2022 [Day 953]

Today is the day when Rishi Sunak has been formally appointed as the Prime Minister and so the rest of the day is going to be devoted to the comings and goings in Downing Street when new Cabinet positions are offered and then accepted or rejected. According to the weather forecasts, today was going to be a beautiful fine autumn day and so it proved. Although Tuesdays are my usual Pilates day, this week it is half term so we knew that there were no Pilates classes scheduled for today. So I offered Meg the opportunity to go out somewhere for the day as the weather was so fine. We went down to Waitrose and had our normal jolly conversations with three of the (by now) Tuesday crowd. One of the older ladies that I know quite well, I asked if she would like to live in a society where she could have three or four husbands. After a moment’s reflection, she replied that would not be a first preference because ‘I could not handle two husbands at once!’ I thought this was an interesting reply. In the past few days, I have been sent a WhatsApp picture of Larry, the Downing Street cat, who is technically a ‘Brown and White Tabby’. He looks as though as though he could be the father of Miggles, our ‘adopted’ cat who visits us regularly. In the WhatsApp photo, Larry is shown sitting outside the door of No. 10 and the following words are attributed to him : ‘I am getting another one today – it is another rescue. I take them in for a few months until I can find them a permanent home. I hope this one will be OK but the last one was a nightmare!’ When the reporters are queuing up outside 10 Downing Street waiting for an important announcement or arrival of a visiting head of state, the cat is often the subject of much attention. Larry’s most recent appearance was with Liz Truss when she was greeting the Danish prime minister on the steps of No. 10. As she bent down to stroke Larry, he shrugged off her approaches and walked briskly away which is probably how the rest of the population felt. The assembled reporters and photographers thought this was probably an omen for the future – and events were to prove them right. Larry outlasted prime ministers David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and, as of Thursday, the six-week tenure of Liz Truss.’The King has asked me to become Prime Minister because this nonsense has gone on long enough’ Larry the Cat wrote in a now viral tweet from an unofficial account hours before Truss announced her resignation.

After our jollities in Waitrose, we set off to visit Alcester, a pretty little Georgian town which we particularly like and is only about 15 miles distant. It is characterised by a range of superb charity shops and, true to form, we bought a new skirt for Meg and a new shirt for myself. Alcester also contains one of those wonderful little hardware shops that seems to stock everything you could possible think of and I bought the three bottles that they had in stock of a ‘scratch’ cover. These were the light, medium and dark varieties so with a little judicous mixing, you could get an almost exact shade for whatever you wanted to treat. I have found this product particulatly useful in the past for restorative work on dark furniture not confined to scratches but any little blemish. We had already booked a meal in one of the local hotels which does a most magnificent ‘pensioner’s lunch’ and we both had a root vegetables lasagne complete with a generous side serving of salad. This is always a most satisfying and enjoyable meal, after which we were happy to journey home.

This afternoon, we have passively watched the comings and goings on Downing Street which always makes the political journalists drool with excitement over who is in/out or up/down. As expected, Rishi Sunak has made a very conscious effort to draw a cabinet from all sections of the party and not just reward his natural and loyal supporters which was the mistake made by both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss before him. So far, the Cabinet seems to have been filled with people of some talent. Beth Rigby, the Sky News chief political correspondent did repeat the oft-repeated comment that Boris Johnson filled his cabinet with ministers best described as ‘B formers’ whereas the Liz Truss cabinet was said to be composed of ‘C formers’ The only appointment that I think is a great political mistake is to offer the recently resigned Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, the post of Home Secretary again. Suella Braverman is not known for the quality of her intellect and is a ‘rabid’ right winger who has confided that her secret dream is to see a plane load of asylum seeker and refugees transported to Rwanda and never seen again. As a historical footnote, we used to transport convicts to the then colonies from approx. 1700 until 1850 but one of the definitions of a true Conservative is that they are always ‘looking backwards into the future’.

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Monday, 24th October, 2022 [Day 952]

Today was going to be the crunch day for the election of a new party leader for the Conservative party but more of that later. It did not look as though there were any imminent showers forecast for the morning so after breakfast, we set off to collect our newspapers. Unfortunately, there was a sign on the newsagent’s window to indicate that he was closed for the moment to deal with a crisis of some sort so Meg and I went to the park and had our elevenses, admiring the beautiful autumn colours as we went. We always have a cloth buried deep within the rucksack to wipe the park bench clear of any rain water, after which we thought we would circulate back to the newsagent to see if he had opened by then. As it happened, it was but he was still unsupplied with newspapers as his distributor has once again let him down. It appears that a crucial employee has gone sick and that leaves all of the regular clients of local newsagents in the lurch. So we popped around to Waitrose where we knew that we could pick up our copy of The Times and took the opportunity to buy some extras. We got back home just after the Politics programme had started on BBC2 because it was interesting to see what Penny Mordaunt was going to do, now that Boris Johnson has withdrawn from the race. We knew that an announcement was to be made by the Chairman of the 1922 Committee at 2.00pm and at one minute before the appointed hour, it seemed that Penny Mordaunt had withdrawn, having failed to make the minimum of 100 nominations. What was interesting about all of this was that one of her most loyal supporters on the Politics programme was adamant that Penny Mordaunt had definitely reached the required minimum of 100 so she was obviously either lying to us or lying to herself. Evidently, her credibility is now in tatters but that is what happens when you are over-enthusiastic in your support.

After lunch, the news media was dominated by the news of the ‘election’ of Rishi Sunak as his was the only valid nomination received by the 2.00pm deadline. Although Boris Johnson and even the Mordaunt camp claimed that they had met the 100 threshhold, one of the Channel 4 reporters revealed that the number of pledges exceeded the number of MPs by about 30. In other words, the figures had been inflated by the various camps and given that politicians of all stripes are constantly manipulating figures to tell favourable stories (and dare I say Tory politicians more than most) it was hardly a surprise that the figures did not add up. But now we have the first Hindu PM elected and also the youngest for two centuries which was quite a surprise. All the formalities will occur tomorrow when Liz Truss formally attends the Palace to tender her resignation to the King, shortly followed by Rishi Sunak who will be asked to form the next administration. All of the talk at the moment is one of ‘unity’ and bringing the Tory party together but I dare say that this will least for about a week before the factionalism and infighting will start again. Rishi Sunak will avoid the self-evident error of not appointing people of talent across the party (both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss only appointed people they thought were ‘one of theirs’ and this was particularly evident in the appointments made by Liz Truss) Nonetheless, there is a deep well of hatred not to say resentment amongst erstwhile Boris Johnson supporters who feel that Rishi Sunak was the person who dealt Johnson the fatal blow by resigning from the Johnson cabinet when he did.

This afternoon, I received a telephone call from my friend in South Oxfordshire and we are going to arrange a ‘dinner date’ in his house, probably in about a month’s time. This we will look forward to but like other things we have to agree mutually convenient dates. In this morning’s emails, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from one of my Hampshire colleagues who is going to attend a family event in Liverpool in late November. We are in the proceess of arranging a date in Novenber when we might meet and my friend hasn’t quite decided whether to make the journey by car or by train. If he decides to travel by train, then I can arrange to meet him at Birmingham International which is quite an easy journey for me to make by car (M42 permitting). There is also the possibility that he might have the time available to make an overnight stop with us as well. In the second week of November, we are due to have an ‘Old Fogies‘ lunch in Winchester so I am pleased that the social diary is filling up quite nicely for November. November is one of those months without the charms of October on the one hand yet Christmas is still some way off in December so it just a month to be lived through. Nonetheless, it looks as though Meg and I will have quite a few social engagements to which we can look forward.

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Sunday, 23rd October, 2022 [Day 951]

As soon as I was awakened by my alarm this morning, I realised that it was raining quite heavily. Early on Sunday mornings, I walk down in order to collect our Sunday newspaper but was soon brought to realise that it was not only raining with intensity but I was shortly to get as wet as the proverbial drowned rat. In fact, it was raining so hard that you could hear the water gurgling down the drains which, in places, failed to cope. You have thought that walking down a pavement would have been unproblematic but the excess of surface water in various places meant that you had to keep a careful eye on the traffic lest a passing vehicle send a ‘whoosh’ of water all over you. Nonetheless, I consoled myself with some of the tracks on my trusty old iPhone which gave me a selection of old favourites. One of these was the Halleluja chorus from Handel’s Messiah which always puts me in mind of the Huddersfield Choral Society and how Meg and I used to whiz through the environs of Hudderfield on our scooter when we made the journey on our trusty old Lambretta scooter from Manchester to Leeds in the 1960’s. At the same time, I heard ‘Zadoc the Priest‘ first composed as a coronation anthem played for George II and I believe played at every coronation since then. The ‘anthem’ starts with a lot of ‘tum ti tums’ which you can imagine as background music whilst everyone was waiting in their seats in the Abbey until the choir bursts forth. When I did eventually reach the newsagent, it was a frustrating time both for him and for myself as his supply of newspapers had not been delivered. He was feeling somewhat upset (and with good reason) as when he phoned his suppliers to ask/complain, all that happened was that the phone was put down on him. When I got home, I had to strip off most of my clothes which were wringing wet and I put them straight into the washing machine before a drying out. After this thorough soaking, it was especially nice to change into some nice dry clothes. Then Meg and I had breakfasted and watched the Sunday (politics) programme, after which I popped down to Waitrose to pick up the Sunday Times and I also took the opportunity to replenish some other supplies.

Attempting to comment on the ‘race to No. 10’ rather puts me in the positon of a sports reporter who is having to predict the result of, say, a Rugby match which is only two thirds played. Concentrating on what we do know, though, it is the case that Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson had a long meeting last night, starting at about 8.00pm and going on for a couple of hours but what was decided between the two, if anything, has not been revealed by either side. Perhaps each was playing a game of ‘chicken’ with the other to see who blinks first. Johnson may have felt that his strongest card was that if he were to reach 100 nominations, he would probably win when the vote goes to the constituency associations. On the other hand, Rishi Sunak is piling up nominations for himself and probably feels that he has to say nothing, and to concede less. As today has progressed, Rishi Sunak has gained the support of influential figures on the right of the party such as Steve Baker, ex-chair of the ERG (European Research Group who are composed of Eurosceptics in the vanguard of Brexit) and Suella Braverman, the ex-Home Secretary (also from the right of the party) As I write, the declared figures seem to be 142 declared for Sunak (well over the 100 bar), Johnson on 59 (well under the bar). Also the Johnson camp are claiming that they have 100 nominations in the bag, it seems odd that they are not publishing these names or figures so perhaps there is a certain of ‘spin’ going on. There is also an account of a telephone call from the Johnson camp to Penny Mordaunt (who is a long way behind) asking her to swing her supporters the Johnson way in return, no doubt, for a lucrative top cabinet post. The Mordaunt camp have refused this outright, adding that most of the supporters will not be ‘delivered’ to Johnson but would probably break for Rishi Sunak anyway. There is also the issue of the Committee of Privileges investigation of Boris Johnson which is really hanging over him because were Johnson to be elected as Prime Minister then within weeks he might have to be suspended from the House of Commons, his constituency seat subject to recall and he will probably lose the bye-election. Another factor to be taken into account and which will be revealed in the Andrew Neil Politics programme tonight is the threat, in the face of a Johnson victory, to side with the opposition and either cross the floor of the House of Commons or simply to refuse to support a Johnson government in the face of an Opposition confidence motion in th House of Commons which would certainly generate a General Election. More will be revealed hour by hour but that is the latest state of play.

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Saturday, 22nd October, 2022 [Day 950]

As the weather forecasters had predicted, today dawned as a beautiful bright autumn day which is just as well in view of what we had in mind for today. After we had breakfasted, we went to collect our newspaper and then made our way to the park where we anticipated that we might meet up wih some of our park friends. This we did and we met up with Seasoned World Traveller first of all and then our University of Birmingham friend secondly. As we settled down for a coffee, the former reached into his rucsack and pulled out the bar of chocolate which I had now won in a bet. I predicted a few weeks ago that Liz Truss would be gone in three weeks time and won my bet. I divided the chocolate into two and was about to offer half of it back to my friend but he wouldn’t take it as he is abstaining from chocolate as part of his healthy life style so the rest of us shared the chocolate between us. Naturally, we had a lot of discussion how the next day or so was going to pan out politically as the three probable candidates for the Tory party leadership are busy securing nominations to attempt to reach the high threshold of 100 nominations each by 2.00pm on Monday. We decided to cook a fairly early lunch as I particularly had in mind that I wanted to get the lawns cut today if I possibly could. Fortunately, we got the lunch prepared and eaten and the washing up done so that I could start the lawn cutting promptly at 2.30. I was pleased to get this done by 4.00pm which gave me a little bit of time to descend into Mog’s Den and to liberate one or two of the larger apples to eat during the week. Having got the lawns cut this late, there will be one last cut this year which I generally time around November 5th or bonfire night. On the the last cut of the season, I take pains to drain the petrol tank completely and also to empty the oil from the oil sump. Normally speaking it is getting dark when I do this as I have to run the engine of the lawn mower until the petrol tank is exhausted but I will try and short circuit the process a little this year by getting myself a petrol siphon.

The whole day today has been dominated by the rumours of how the various contenders for the Tory party leadership are doing to secure their nominations. It looks as though Rishi Sunak has easily reached the minimum required for the nomination of 100 supporters. But the really critical question is whether Boris Johnson can reach the required minimum number – there are some commentators who felt that he might not. But now in the late afternoon, some of Boris’ supporters are claiming that they have the required number ‘in the bag’ but this does not match up with the numbers reported on the various spreadsheets in the Main Street Media. Of course, there might be a certain amount of ‘spinning’ in all of this but less us assume, for the purposes of argument, that Johnson does exceed the required minimum. We could end up a scenario in which Rishi secures the nominations or votes of one half of the party but Boris Johnson only about a third. When these two choices are put out to the wider electorate in the constituency parties, the received wisdom is that Boris Johnson will almost certainly win and therefore be back in Downing Street by Friday. This prospect is filling various parts of the political elite with both fury and dismay. The editor of the Conservative party website, ConservativeHome, is of the view that the Tories may be engaged in a ‘spiral dance of death’ as a Johnson election could lead to the total annihilation of the Conservative party. Having been rejected by a majority of the party quite recently and ejected from Downing Street, the prospect of a PM voted for by only about a third of the Parliamentary party means that we are in a Jeremy Corbin/Lix Truss type of scenario again. The Conservative party may well be ungovernable and it could be that a chunk of MPs might vote with the Opposition to precipitate a General Election (which three quarters of the population want, by the way) Any legislation might be impossible to pass as rebellions will be widespread and a period of massive instability is the prospect before us which can only be alleviated by the calling of a General Election. The Tories are trying to avoid this like the plague as it will mean the practical wiping out of the Tory Party which it will take some two or three parliaments to reverse, if ever. The ultimate irony about all of this is that the greater the mess that the Truss administration is judged to have left behind and more the Labour Party pulls ahead in the opinion polls, the more there is a call from some (uninformed) sections of the electorate to ‘bring back Boris, to sort it all out’

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