Wednesday, 31st May, 2023 [Day 1171]

We had nothing in prospect this morning so Meg and I collected the newspaper, after which we went to a local garage to get six litres of the highest grade petrol we can find to appease the mower. I paid a tenner for six litres of fuel and it still contains 5% ethanol rather than the 10% you find in the more regular E10 fuel. But at least I have some Briggs and Stratton fuel stabiliser which is meant to stop the ethanol from oxidising to form water which degrades the fuel and can cause problems in some petrol mowers. There was a bit of a chill wind blowing today and Meg and did not fancy sitting on a windy and cold park bench. But we compromised by driving to the park and then having a walk as far as our favourite bench whereupon, after a two minute rest, we set off for the car again. In the car park I happened to see a Honda Civic which I think is more or less the colour of the car that we may get around to ordering next Monday when we are due to pay a visit to the dealers. Cutting short our walk in the park meant that we could have some decent elevenses at home whilst also watching the Politics programme shown from midday onwards. After lunch, the weather was still fairly bright so I seized the opportunity to get our lawns cut. I used to do this regular mowing job on Fridays but have swopped to Wednesdays which tends to a better day, free of other commitments.

After I had cut the lawns and dragged our dustbins to their collection point by the side of the road, I sat down to a well-earned cup of tea and started passively watching what was on the TV which was still tuned to BBC2. The programme transmitted was one of the history of the corner shop and this turned out to be quite a fascinating watch. At the point at which I started to watch, the programme was focussing on the ‘hula hoop’ which hit the market in about 1958 and most corner shops obtained a supply of them, as the hula hoop must have been one of the first mass crazes in modern history. If my memory serves me correctly, even the PE teachers caught the bug and bought a supply so that schoolchildren could either start, or finish, a PE lesson with a hoola hoop session. From 1958, the programme then moved onto another landmark which was the introduction of the concept of ‘self service’ even from a corner shop. The first self-service supermarkets had actually hit the UK in the late 1940s but by 1961, the corner shops were forced to follow the concept of self service once firmly established. At that time, a system was in place named ‘Resale Price Maintenance’ in which manufacturers tried to dictate the selling price of their goods whether it be in the supermarket or the corner shop. This system eventually broke down as the supermarkets with bulk buying and a mass of customers could allow the kind of aggressive price-cutting that drove many corner shops out of business.

The latest sleaze revelation comes with the news that four Tory MPs have recently been ‘caught’ passing off their speeding fines as expenses thus getting the general public, or at least the taxpayer, to pay for their transgressions. But they have now been found out and are being forced to pay the fines themselves. Some of them had pleaded that this was an ‘inadvertent error’ which surely is an excuse that no-one can believe. The stand off between the Hallett (COVID-19 enquiry) and Downing Street should end tomorrow as this is the renegotiated timetable for the handover of all unredacted diaries, notebooks and WhatsApp messages. There are some fascinating nuances to this story. It is (ahem) difficult to understand how the Cabinet Office could be so strident in its Application in saying that the WhatsApp messages and notebooks contained ‘unambiguously irrelevant’ material and then to admit that, well, the Cabinet Office did not actually possess those messages and notebooks. So there is evidently someone being economical with the truth in these two statements. But the chair of the Inquiry is no fool, and her notice first thing on Tuesday in response is a fascinating exercise in procedural power. Firstly, she granted an extension – not the extension which was being sought, but one just long enough to serve what follows. The extension was of two days, until Thursday, 1 June 2023. Secondly, she says she will accept that the Cabinet Office does not have under its custody or control the requested materials- only there is a full detailed explanation for why this is so – and that this explanation will need to be attested to by officials with a signed statement of truth, that is, under pain of perjury. There is a wider point here, of course. Evidently government must be continued with all kinds of discussions between politicians and civil servants but should these not be on officially approved, and secure handsets with their own software and protocols, so that the information is secure and protected – and retrievable if necessary? For government to proceed using WhatsApp as a principal mode of communication semms sloppy at least if not downright irreponsible.

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Tuesday, 30th May, 2023 [Day 1170]

Today is normally my Pilates day but we have a week ‘off’ this week as my Pilates teacher is taking a half term break as the Bank Holiday was on Monday. So Meg and I made for Waitrose where we met up with our normal three Tuesday friends – the staff have learnt to look out for us on a Tuesday. One of the long established staff told us that one of the staff who we have known for the last six years is leaving today as she is going to work in a branch much nearer to her own home. Naturally, we are sorry to see her go as she has been a good friend to us over the years but we have to get used to times changing. One of our number was going to go to a concert in the nearby Bromsgrove (public) school and she told us that she made a regular donation to the school after which they gave her concert tickets at a special price. The season is fast approaching, now that June is almost upon is, for the Bromsgrove festival. Certainly the large Anglican church which dominates the town (on a hill overlooking it) is always host to a good concert so Meg and I will certainly look out for this. Sometimes, though, the events are not heavily advertised and one finds out almost by accident. I know that our own church is going to host a ‘Bite Size’ Classics at it did last year and it was very popular but I suspect that it is towards the end of the month.

I got a rather unexpected statement from a building society in which I used to have some savings accounts – the statement showed a mass of zeros i.e. no money in it but is was evidently still regarded as ‘live’ So I decided to resurrect it as a pot for odd bits of savings and this led to a merry dance. The credentials that I used years ago were unrecognised so this necessitated a phone call where I was informed that I would have to log in as a new customer. As part of the verification procedures, it wa necessary to get confirmation from a telephone number which happened to be a landline that does not accept SMS messages. Eventually, after several attempts I managed to re-register only to discover that I had about five savings accounts all with about £1 odd in each one. Some of these went back some 15-20 years. It was evident that I had all but emptied then save for £1.00 but tiny bits of interest had accumulated over the years which explained why they all seem to be £1 and then some odd pence. When I have a moment, these will get rationalised and put to a good use.

I read something in The Times today that gave me pause for thought. The newspaper article indicated that the large building firms that had donated millions to the Tory party had gone ‘on strike’ and were refusing collectively to give any more money to the Tories because the present government has got worried about the hostile local reaction to building developments particular on ‘green’sites, even if not technically green belt, in various parts of the country. Locally, Tories on the ground are in a bit of a bind becaus they want to be shown to be providing more housing for local people. On the other hand, we have the development of a site of 390 houses just down the road from us massively opposed by all of the local people who probably took their vengeance across the local Tories who lost their overall majority on Bromsgrove council for the first time in about 25 years. So the large building firms are fulminating against local people saying things such as ‘people who with their grey haired cronies want to draw up the drawbridge because their view is I m all right Jack.’ So what we have here is a massive conflict between large donors who give money at the national level and expect the government to do their bidding and the local Tories on the ground who have to suffer all of the unpopularity. Many MPs are similar conflicted but with a general election not too far off are thinking about the voters who may be turned off them by their approval of local projects against those who may feel more favourably disposed towards them.

At a national level, Boris Johnson and the Cabinet Office have been handed a two day extension to the request by the COVID enquiry chairperson (a respected judge) to hand over unredacted diaries and WhatsApp messages to inform the enquiry. If Downing Street prevails and fails to hand over what might be crucial and incriminating evidence to the enquiry, then its integrity might be threatened from the very start. But a more informed view is that if it comes to a tussle in the High Court between the politicians and a judge-led public enquiry into the lessons to be learnt from the COVID pandemic, then the courts are likly to back the enquiry chairman rather than Downing Street. Incidentally, it looks as though George Osborne, the ex-chancellor, may be questioned whether the austerity cuts imposed upon the NHS accounts for the lack of preparedness of the UK when the pandemic came to strike. Interesting!

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Monday, 29th May, 2023 [Day 1169]

The day and the new week dawned bright and cheerful even though it is a Bank Holiday. Reflecting upon the football results of yesterday, I realised that I had lived in the three cities of Leicester, Southampton and Leeds all of whose teams were relegated from the Premier division recently – Leeds and Leicester yesterday and Southampton some days beforehand. As a counter factual, I had also lived in Manchester just round the corner from City’s previous ground and they won the Premier. Last night, Meg and I felt that we wanted to watch an opera but we did not want one that extended beyond two hours. What we found on YouTube was an absolutely stunning production by the Vienna Philharmonic featuring a very young Luciano Pavarotti and Ingmar Vixell. Whilst I was checking the spelling of these names I discovered this Amazon review: ‘This Rigoletto with beautiful tenor Pavarotti, the great Ingmar Vixell and Edita Gruberova is superb. It is an orgy of sound and a rejoice for the viewer’ With all of this I concur absolutely. This production was one of those where the action does not take place in an opera house but in real locations, such as castles, manorial houses, lakes and so on. In this type of production, the camera can also focus intensely on the faces of the singers during important arias, duets and quartets and I think it is fair to say that we were absolutely spellbound by it. Many people regard this as one of the finest productions of Rigoletto ever made.

Meg and I made a venture out into the park today, not wanting to venture too far afield on a Bank Holiday. Whilst we were in the park and chatting with an acquaintance, we received a telephone call from our University of Birmingham friend who wanted to pay us a visit. There was quite a cooling wind in the park today so we did not want to tarry too long. When we got home, accompanied by our friend, he accepted our invitation to stay for lunch and then spent the early part of the afternoon with us. Later on, I consulted my emails and found that one of our University of Winchester friends had read of my ‘adventures’ with my front door key yesterday and emailed me with some very useful tops and suggestions. I have found a good solution to my errant key problem. Firstly, I hunted around in a drawer and located a little leather key case complete with its own little chain. This will do the job but I have also discovered an almost concealed litle leg pocket on my cargo trousers and this is fastened with a Velcro strip. So my key now fits snugly and securely in its own little pocket from which it should never escape.

Boris Johnson has been pursued by British reporters, particularly from Sky News, and repeatedly asked questions asked about the ways in which visits and meetings have been referred to the police to see if any more COVID regulations were transgressed both in Downing Street and at Chequeurs. Johnson’s response is to fulminate and to say that all of these allegations are ‘total nonsense’. Reports in the Sunday Times indicates that Johnson feels that the Cabinet Office is actively plotting against him and, from what one reads, the present government is full of factions who mutually loathe each oher. Some blame Rishi Sunak as the person most responsible for starting the sequence of events that led to Johnson leaving Downing Street. Others believe that Johnson is ‘yesterdays man’ and regards all of the machinations around him as a distraction from the real problems faced by the government at this time.

This afternoon, I thought as the weather was fine it was opportune to give the car a much needed wash. Naturally, I was supervised all afternoon by a lazy cat, Miggles, who sprawled out in the sunshine and made sure that I did an adequate job. The cat is opportunistic in the extreme and if the front door, or even the back door, is open a chink, does not fail to take the opportunity to sneak inside. I am pretty convinced that Miggles has a cunning sort of intelligence because he seems to sense which rooms have not been visited by him before and so makes a beeline for them in order to explore them – curiosity killed the cat. The cat had to be ejected on two occasions today but at least does not object to being bundled up and cast into the exterior. Next week we have an appointment to see the car dealer about a possible updating of our model of car but the supply chains are incredibly stretched with shortage of some key components (chips from China?) so we may have to think about the next car some five or six months before the change. It seems quite difficult to ascertain what colour ranges are available to us this time around but I may settle on a colour called ‘Sand Khaki Pearl’ which is the essence of blandness with nothing about it to particularly like or dislike. However, several cars ago, I seem to remember having a car in a similar livery and, if my memory serves me correctly, hardly shows the routine road grime at all.

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Sunday, 28th May, 2023 [Day 1168]

This morning was a fairly typical Sunday morning for us as Meg and I got up and then breakfasted in front of the TV watching the Sunday morning TV programmes. It is evident that the TV studios are very close to each other because the same government spokesman seem to appear on the Sky News programme at 8.30 and then immediately pop up on the Lorna Kuennsberg programme half an hour later giving identical answers to what appears to be identical questions. We found nothing remarkable of note this morning so got ourselves ready to go down to Waitrose where we had made an arrangement to meet with our University of Birmingham friend. Once we were parked in the carpark, I left Meg in the car whilst I walked a hundred yards or so round the corner to get a document popped in the post. Once I had done this, I felt in my back pcket to check that my front door key was safe on a little lanyard and keyring that was attached to it. I was dismayed to find that it was missing but I know that this sometimes pops out of the back pocket of my trousers. Whether this pocket is particularly shallow I cannot say but the other day I found that my front door key was missing and as I went to the car to see if it dropped out of my pocket whilst there. But as I went to the car, I discovered my front door key on the driveway outside our house so was naturally was very relieved. But this morning when my key had gone missing again, I immediately drove the car back to the house to see if the missing key was again on the drive or indeed inside the house. Not being there, I drove past our newsagent to see if the missing key was on the pavement near to the newsagent. It was not there either so I went again to the Waitrose car park, left Meg inside the car and walked slowly to the postbox to attempt to locate the missing key. I did not find it but on the way, I bumped into our University of Birmingham friend and I explained to him my quest for a missing front door key. We walked slowly to the postbox and then the two of us walked back slowly to our parked car but taking a very slightly different pedestrian route. And then I found my missing key lying on the pavement where anyone on earth could have picked it up and run off with it – although it has no signs of the house address. To say I was thanking my good fortune is putting it mildly so we immediately repaired to Waitrose for a celebratory cup of coffee. Tomorrow morning, I am going to make it a priority to go to the gent’s outfitters on the High Street to see if I can find a pair of trousers with appropriate zips so that losing house keys is a thing of the past. What I used to do when we were on holiday in Spain was always to have a special wallet which had a chain attached to it so that I could attach it to my trouser belt and never be parted from it. In the context of a holiday, where one is often heaving oneself at a funny angle fron the back seat of a taxi, I found this has saved my life on more than one occasion. Also in the case of a black wallet we have the ‘black on black’ syndrome where a black wallet falling onto the black floor of a car can render it almost invisible. After we had consumed our elevenses, our friend needed to depart for a midday appointment that we had but as we were cooking a nice beef joint, we invited him round to the house to participate in our meal if he felt so inclined. I had bought some carrots and made a parsnip and carrot mash which is a particular favourite of ours when we have a beef meal. I dished up a third portion and kept it warm in the oven and our friend turned up after his appointment and enjoyed the meal and we all further treated ourselves to some ice-cream, enhanced by a few plump apricot halves and a drizzle of honey. The washing up seemed to take quite an age but nonetheless we got this done and enjoyed an hour of a natural history programme on the life of gibbons, filmed in Malaysia.

This afternoon, there are several football relegation battles being played out across the country. I still vaguely follow Leeds United but am regularly disappointed as they seem to make a good start to matches and then throw things away. Today they needed to win and both Everton and Leicester are in a similarly parlous position so the various matches are not only hard fought and exciting in themselves but the fate of one’s team often depends on what is happening in the parallel matches as well as one’s own. Leeds seem doomed as they are losing the match 0-2 which they need to win whereas Everton have scored a very late goal which might just have secured their survival.

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Saturday, 27th May, 2023 [Day 1167]

The spell of fine weather continues – as it is Bank Holiday on Monday, this is quite surprising really because over the years one has got used to the perverse way in which bad weather seems to intervene just as a Bank Holiday is due and then for the weather to improve the minute the holiday is over. We knew that we had no particular commitments to see anybody in particular today so we made up our elevenses so that we could have them in the park. We did coincide, though, with Intrepid Octogenerian Hiker who was beetling around at quite a pace of knots as he does every single day despite a slightly gammy knee. He informed us that within only a few months he would actually achieve the landmark of 90 years old so his energy and vigour are quite remarkable.

Last night, we received the sad news that the brother of Meg’s cousin had died, two weeks short of his 100th birthday. We knew that he was in a residential home and that his sister, Meg’s cousin, was in regular contact with her brother and actually spent a few hours with him before his actual demise. A bit of a dilemma is opening before us, though, because whilst a son is living in the area, practically the whole of the rest of the family, including ourselves, are spread across the Midlands. So I am left wondering where the funeral will be held but I suppose local undertakers would like to keep things within the area. This means that the majority of remaining family members will need to journey down from the Midland to Cornwall for the funeral. We do not know as yet what the funeral arrangements are going to be but Meg and I have been thinking about the logistics of attending the funeral. The way that our minds are working at the moment is that we think we will probably go down and stay in a hotel for both the night before the funeral and also for the night of the funeral day itself, thus having a little break of a couple of days in what we know is quite a picturesque part of the world. So we will just have to sit tight for several days until the funeral details have been finalised after which we can make our own more concrete plans. As it happens, Meg and I were in touch with her Cheltenham cousins (the daughter and son-in-law of her actual cousin) to arrange for them to visit us here in Bromsgrove in about three week’s time. We have made the arrangements but we may see each other in the meantime as funeral plans develop. I think that it will only be the first or second time that Meg’s cousins have visited us in this house and there have been a certain number of changes since their last visit. I am thinking about a boeuf bourguignon for a family meal because most of this can be done in our slow cooker and it is the kind of meal that will keep well if our visitors encounter delays on their journey.

They say that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks but I have been trying something new, computing-wise, at the moment. I have reconfigured some of our savings accounts so that instead of several independent little savings accounts for various purposes, I now only have one but a spreadsheet to keep track of the various ‘pots’ within it. I can see the advanatges of this method of working but I suppose one has to be incredibly disciplined not to swap entries willy-nilly from one cell of the spreadsheet to another. But so far, so good so I shall adopt this new method of working for the foreseeable future.

This afternoon, we started watching ‘Casablanca’ but having seen it several times before, we were quite easily tempted to switch over channels to watch the Cup Final match betwen Saracens and Sale, the two premier teams of English club rugby. Until about 20 minutes before the end of the match, the final result was genuinely in doubt but Saracens moved to a 10 point lead just before the end, one of the tries being an incredibly tight decision whether the ball had been held up or not but eventually the tip of the ball being adjudged to have just hit the ground a split second before a Sale arm held up the ball. Rugby as a game often hinges on incredibly tight calls such as this one but I suppose I have to settle for the fact that Saracens did have a marginal edge against their opponents although I wanted the Northen club to win.

Sky News is showing images this afternoon of long queues and ‘scenes of utter chaos’ at the UK border due to a nationwide problem with e-gates at ports and airports. The technical problem caused electronic gates to stop working late on Friday, meaning all passengers have to be processed through staffed airport desks. One does have to wonder what kinds of backup computer systems are in operation (or rather not in operation) for failures to take place nationwide. One suspects that there must have been a lack of investment and robust testing of systems for this to develop but I suppose I am thankful not to be caught in the middle of it all.

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Friday, 26th May, 2023 [Day 1166]

Today dawned as a beautiful bright and sunny day and we were looking forward to the day ahead. First of all, our domestic help arrived and we always enjoy a chat and a catch up on the week’s news. We discussed with her one or two lighting changes we had made to our sitting room where we decided to relocate one of our good floor-standing lights and discussed some other options for some supplementary lighting where we might need it. We finally made it to Waitrose for our coffee and here we met with one of pre-pandemic friends that we normally meet up on Tuesdays but she had beeen prevented from visiting us on that day. Eventually, our University of Birmingham friend showed up and we were delighted to share with him some of the events of the week as well as discussing some oher ventures that we might make in common. It was decided that our friend would come and share in our lunch which, as it was a fish pie, was easily extendable from two portions into three. As well as broccoli, I also made a special mixture of vegetables which started off as a diced onion and a diced pepper and was then enhanced with some plum tomatoes cut sideways, a dollop of pasta sauce and finally some tomatoe purée which added a little bit of zest. We finished off with some ‘real’ ice cream which we ate outside in the garden as the kitchen where we ate was a smidgeon too warm for us. We finished off with some coffee in the lounge and then spent some time comparing the routines in which we engaged during our afternoons and evenings. I have a feeling that after the 7.00pm news on Channel 4 and before the more serious and entertaining programmes start at 9.00pm, the programme makers do not lavish too much attention to the offerings that they put before us between 8.00pm-9.00pm as they are putting their children to bed.

I read a couple of items in The Times the other day which gave me pause for thought. It was that that both BBC Radio 4 and also ClassicFM were losing listeners at quite a rapid rate. This even extended to the classic Today program which has traditionally been listened to by millions of people as they get themselves up in the morning. It always contains really up-to-date political news and tries to present a topical but analytical approach to the forthcoming day’s news. The explanation for Radio 4 in the columnist that I read was arguing that Radio 4 was losing listeners because it was constantly ‘preaching’ at them and people resented this high-handed approach from the BBC. I cannot say that I have ever noticed any of this and my criticism of Radio 4 is that it occasionally fails to land the appopriate punches on the politicians of the day and sometimes lets them get away with murder, so to speak. On the occasions that the BBC does try to pursue a more aggressive approach e.g by suggesting that the politician is failing to answer the question and tries to get them to answer the question that is asked instead of getting an evasive answer, it then gets pilloried by other parts of the right wing media who go ahead to accuse the BBC of a left wing bias. But I think the explanations for the relative demise of both of hese radio channels is more prosaic. I suspect that the audience for both of these programmes is predominantly middle aged and older and, I suspect, is more appealing to middle class than to working class audiences. What I think is happening is the impact of demography where the audience is ageing and eventually dying off and failing to attract the commensurate numbers of a younger audience to compensate. Hence, I think that the changes in audience may not not be so much members of the audience switching off and turning to other channels but failing to switch on in the first place as the age profile of the channel ages with time. No doubt, this question could be answered by more detailed audience research but I find the news about the relative decline of these two radio channels depressing as I listen to them both almost exclusively throughout the day.

In the late afternoon, we received a much anticipated telephone call from a bank which we had expected to get some details finally in place for the transactions which my son and I have been conducting. We need to get everything done by the end of the month which is, of course, next Wednesday but the third Bank Holiday of the month intervenes on Monday and this is cutting the number of days by one and the end of the month is rapidly approaching. But the member of the Bank who my son and I know quite well (and we have even got the personal telephone number) gave us the reassurances that we were seeking that all of the necessary arrangements were in place and all we had to do was to sit tight and wait. Moreeover, she promised a further telephone call to us next week to reassure us that all was well so we started to feel relaxed and a little more at peace with the world.

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Thursday, 25th May, 2023 [Day 1165]

Today was quite a significant day for Meg and myself as we shall see. As Thursday is our shopping day, I had got to the supermarket just before 8.00am and had got all of my shopping done and newspaper collected by 9.00am. Then we got everything put away which was quite easy in a light week and breakfasted. Then Meg and I made our way into town and paid a visit to the local branch of our bank. There we organised for a transfer of funds into the bank account of our solicitors. All of this was occasioned by the fact that my son and daughter-in-law had moved out of this house some year and a half ago and we have been busy disentangling our ownership details and finances so that things are now exactly as we would want them to be. Incidentally, it seems much easier to arrange things jointly as we did all those years ago then to disentangle them but our plans seem to be working out pretty smoothly so far although there are one or two things still to be regularised. Anyway, Meg and I are very happy to have got to this stage and to some extent, it is a weight of our minds as well. We celebrated by treating ourselves to a bowl of ice cream as we sat on the bench in the front of the house during a rare burst of sunshine before the skys clouded over again.

The media have been incredibly excited this afternoon as a small silver car has smashed into the gates installed at the end of Downing Street. It seems that the police responded with alacrity and professionalism and fortunately there was no random shooting involved. One can only imagine that in the US, the police might have used firearms first rather than any other protocols and the driver might have been shot dead rather than questioned. But the police have arrested the sole driver of the car and cordons have been erected along Whitehall. But at this moment, the police seem pretty relaxed so it does not seem that we have witnessed a terrorist attack in the making but perhaps just the results of a simple accident. Downing Street absolutely swarms with armed police but the reporters are saying there is now quite a relaxed attitude on behalf of the police so perhaps the incident will now gradually ‘unwind’ once it has been established that there is no terrorist intent.

Today was the day when the immigration statistics for the last year are to be published. There was a certain amount of ‘expectation management’ as a total figure of 700,000 and upwards has been frequently mentioned. But the published figures revealed that net migration rose to 606,000 in the year to December 2022, which figure is the highest on record for a calendar year. It comes despite a Tory 2019 manifesto commitment to ‘bring overall numbers down’. The figure was 488,000 in 2021. Net migration is the annual number of people arriving in the UK when both immigration and emigration are taken into account. The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this morning, show that total long-term immigration was estimated at around 1.2 million in 2022, while emigration was 557,000. The government is making the (quite valid) point that the figures are swollen by the numbers of Hong Kong who were granted visas as well a similar offer to the Ukraine. A lot of visas have also been awarded to students and many universities are desperate to recruit as many overseas students as they are able. Students represent the largest part of non-EU migration at 39%. But the fees they pay were worth around £19bn in exports in 2020, more than aerospace exports. And that was in the teeth of the pandemic – it will surely be even more valuable now. Work visas are the next biggest chunk – and here, this is partly thanks to the skilled worker – largely for health and care. The public certainly do not want less less staffing in the NHS, for example. So public attitudes towards immigration seem a lot more nunanced than the days of the toxic Brexit debates. The Tories might care to reflect upon the fact that at the mainly white immigrants from the UE have more than been replaced by the non-white immigrants from India and Nigeria – was this ever their intention, one asks oneself?

On the other side of ‘the pond’ the Republican Ron Desantis , a Trump-light figure, was announcing his intention to run for President. He was due to do this in a novel fashion by having an on-line discussion with Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter on Twitter itself. But there seemed to be numerous technical glitches and the discussion did not start for about 20 minutes but not before threats were heard that the relevent technicians might be sacked on the spot. So this novel way to announce a candidature was a fiasco compared with use of the Main Street Media so Donald Trump himself must have been laughing at his opponent’s discomfiture. At this stage of the proceedings, Trump seems well ahead of his rival but this may not last of several other court cases some to fruition in the next few weeks.

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Wednesday, 24th May, 2023 [Day 1164]

Today has been marked on our planning board for a week or so now because it is the day when I am due to go down to our local medical centre for some routine monitoring tests. We were due to be seen at 10.30 and I took Meg along with me and this stage of the proceedings went as expected because it was the practice nurse taking some blood samples and routine measurements. The real ‘moment of truth’ will happen in about a couple of weeks time when I have another appointment with the practice but on this occasion to discuss what the blood tests reveal. This part of the morning was quite satisfactory but then it all started to go downhill. After Meg and visited the eye clinic some nine days ago, some special drugs were prescribed for her and I got a text from the ‘Community Pharmacist’ that the medication was with the pharamacy. So, as it is part of the same premises, Meg and I called in at the pharmacy to collect the prescription but they could not find any trace of it. They recommended that we go back upstairs to the practice, which we did, to find out what had happened to it. In the practice, I was given a code number to show the item had been dispensed and then went down to the pharmcy again. In the pharmacy, they did not have it on the premises but thought it might be with the online delivery service and it should have been received by now. As this has not arrived, then the onus is on me to do lots of online chasing to see what has happened to this medication. As you might imagine, I am not a happy bunny in all of this as the onus is now on me to do all the chasing to see what has happened. Chasing ‘online’ providers is always a rather fraught process but I am going to try later on today to see what progress I can make.

This afternoon it was a beautiful afternoon so I thought I would seize the opportunity to get the lawns cut. I thought I was going to run short of petrol but fortunately I had enough to get this afternoon’s job done but I have to remind myself to get another gallon’s worth before I start the lawn cutting process next week. After that it was a quick consultation with my solicitor to get some of my legal work done and my ducks are almost, but not quite, in a row for me to complete my transactions quite soon. But at least things seem to be moving in the right direction and one has to be thankful for small mercies when it appears that things are going right rather than wrong.

All kinds of allegations are swirling arond Boris Johnson this afternoon. It has all started off with the Cabinet Office and the Whitehall machine getting its act together for the formal evidence to be handed to the independent enquiry into the COVID pandemic.
But Boris Johnson has been battling fresh claims he broke lockdown rules after The Times reported that he had been referred to the police by the Cabinet Office after his diary revealed visits by friends to Chequers during the pandemic. The trips to the country residence were highlighted during preparations for a public inquiry into COVID, as well as new allegations about his behaviour in Downing Street, the newspaper reported. It looks as though the Prime Ministerial diary as well as a WhatsApp trail are crucial bits of evidence here. The Cabinet Office seems to think that what they have uncovered is such a ‘hot potato’ that they are immediately passing the whole thing onto the police so as not be accused of a cover-up. At the end of all this, I suspect that the police may well have their suspicions but no real evidence trail. It does look as though Boris Johnson had been inviting friends and perhaps civil servants and other politicians to Chequeurs (his grace-and-favour country residence for use primaily at weekends) But did they comply with the COVID regulations in force at the time? Unlike Downing Street that has security cameras all over the place, perhaps Chequeurs has not. So can Boris Johnson prove that his guests actually complied with the relevant COVID regulations and can the police prove that they did not? I can see this case petering out in a week or so for lack of any evidence. But another battle royal is also taking place as the COVID enquiry is demanding unredacted WhatsApp messages whilst Downing Street is refusing. Who will win this tug-of-war, it is hard to say.

Rishi Sunak is appeasing the right wing of the Tory Party by accepting the advice of his ethics advisor that Suella Braverman did not break the Ministerial Code (although it looked to many as an open and shut case) Rishi Sunak said that after receiving a letter from Ms Braverman – in which she apologised for causing ‘distraction’ – ‘my decision is that these matters do not amount to a breach of the ministerial code’. However, acknowledging the row that ensued following the reports, he added: ‘As you have recognised, a better course of action could have been taken to avoid giving rise to the perception of impropriety.’ So the mildest of slaps on the wrist, then.

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Tuesday, 23rd May, 2023 [Day 1163]

So Tuesday dawns to our normal set of routines for a Tuesday. After we had breakfasted, Meg and I collected our newspaper and made our way towards Waitrose where we met up with two of Tuesday morning regulars. One of the topics in our conversation was the hardships endured by the population in the immediate aftermath of WW2. The very harsh winter of 1946-47 caused severe hardships in economic terms and living conditions in a country still recovering from the Second World War. Herds of animals either starved or froze to death. Two enduring aspects of this really impinged upon me when I started my primary school in 1950. As the country was so short of absolutely everything, every single crayon allocated to us in the school was cut into two to make them last as long as possible. Another memory that I have is that we had toilets outside the main school building and one needed permission from the form mistress to go to the toilet. She would reach inside her tall desk and reach for the roll of ‘San Izal’ type toilet paper (soft toilet paper only came years later) allocating you either one sheet or two sheets of paper depending upon her assessment of your size and need. Incidentally, the IZAL brand finally ceased production in 2010 after being sold to Jeyes in 1986. We then did a little bit of shopping in the store before returning home.

After donning my kit and walking down to my weekly Pilates class, I returned home shortly before 3.00pm. Then we had our normal lunch of fishcakes and awaited the arrival of our University of Birmingham friend who had asked if he might pop round in the afternoon. This he did and we had a cup of tea and a chat on our outside terrace, perused at all times by Miggles, our adopted cat, who was luxuriatng a little in the afternoon sun having been fed. It was a very pleasant afternoon but sitting outside was a reminder to me how much garden tidying up needed to be done when the opportunity arises.

Some political news that has emerged this afternoon concerns the fate of Dominic Raab, the ex-Deputy Prime Minister, who was forced to resign after a series of bullying accusations against him were found to have some substance. He has decided to leave politics and not contest his seat when the next general election comes arond in about 18 months time. Raab’s once-safe constituency of Esher and Walton in leafy Surrey – which he won by 28,000 votes in 2015 – is now marginal, with a majority of just 2,743. The Lib Dems were completely confident that this seat would easily fall to them but it is an interesting question whether a ‘new’ opponent would be easier to defeat ot not. But what is interesting about the Raab decision is that he is not alone. There are 53 current MPs who have decided not to stand at the next election – of which 36 are current Conservatives, and three are independents who won their seats as Conservatives in 2019. It seems that many Conservatives are resigned to the fact that they will not win the next election and not many of them relish the prospect of 5 years (or even 10 years) in opposition which is the likely fate of the current Conservative party.

Every so often an item is broadcast on the regional news which is shocking in the extreme. Today an item was broadcast about the way across the West Midlands region, food bank contributions are being channelled towards the local primary schools. As half term approaches, so does the prospect that many children who would have been fed at school with a school dinner and also been provided with a breakfast face the prospect of no food in their stomachs over the next week. Some parents must look dread the occurrence of the half term period as childcare may be difficult to organise and they cannot afford to feed their children in any case. Apparently, 320 Tories voted against the extension of free school meals into vacation periods which must be the majority of the parliamentary party. I remember being somewhat shocked when I was very briefly in New York for a conference and saw a big sign in Central Park advertising free food for school kids – even some decades ago, the American school system evidently gave school children some nourishment during the normal school term times but all kinds of ‘ad hoc’ arrangements had to be made, often on a voluntary basis, to ensure that poor (and predominantly black) school children were fed in the summer vacation.

There is some breaking news this evening that Boris Johnson has been referred to the police by the Cabinet Office after his diary showed friends visiting Chequers – the grace and favour home – during the COVID pandemic. This was plainly against the law at the time but, no doubt, Johnson and his supporters wull argue that all of this was work-related activity and therefore lawful. The Lib Dems, however, say that Mr Johnson should ‘consider his position’, and also called for the taxpayer to stop funding his legal defence for the Privileges Committee probe into whether he misled parliament about partygate.

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Monday, 22nd May, 2023 [Day 1162]

Today turned out to be one of those ‘chasing around to catch your own tail’ kind of days. After we had breakfasted, Meg and I made our usual trip into town were we picked up our newspaper and then began our round of things that we needed to do. The first of these was to call into our bank to ask for some advice about how to arrange for the transfer of some funds and the advice we were were given was fairly helpful but we will have to wait until later in the week to effect what we want to do. The next thing along was to call in at a photographers on the High Street to arrange that Meg has an up-to-date photo of herself that we found out we needed by a piece of mail that arrived in this morning’s post. Since our neighbour from across our communal green area died, her house has subsequently been sold together with the interest that our neighbour had in the ownership of the communal green area. This is now now working its way, late, through the legal process and we had a request from a firm of solicitors that we confirm our identities but also we update the form for regularising the records of ownership with the Land Registry. This is now so much more complicated than was the case a few years ago but also requires confirmation of identity plus up-to-date photos which all to be verified by a solicitor before the document is returned to the originating solicitor. So this explains why Meg and I have need to do a certain amount of running around to get a photo organised and to have forms signed for us verifying our signatures via a helpful friend who has to witness the document. This happens to parallel some similar runnings around in which my son is engaged also. It appears that solicitors have to go through these legal checks to comply with Money Laundering Regulations but I do ask myself whether all of these checks are incredibly burdensome for the law-abiding majority of the population but probably do not deter the organised money launderers of this world. What is particularly galling is that London is practically the money laundering capital of the world. London has long been an appealing destination for global elites with deep pockets. Since the 1980s, the United Kingdom’s relaxed regulations, world-renowned capital markets and thriving real estate market have created a welcoming environment for foreign investors. While many elites want to invest their wealth legitimately, others have historically leveraged London’s financial ecosystem to conceal dirty money. Following the Soviet Union’s collapse, for example, Russian kleptocrats used ‘professional enablers’ in the U.K. to avoid taxes and acquire assets, according to the Chatham House. This is known as money laundering or making illegally gained funds appear legitimate or ‘clean’.

To cap this little tale, our kettle sprang a leak this morning and as boiling water and elecrics do not form a good combination, I thought I had better get it replaced straight away. So in the late morning, I made a lightning visit to our local Asda store which in the past has had a fair choice of kettles. I chose a mid-priced one which seemed to be reasonable enough and am just in the process of bringing it into use. The makers recommend that you boil two kettle fulls of water and then dispose of it before you start to use the kettle in earnest. I decided to pour the kettle fulls of boiling water along the edge of one of our lawns where I know that in the past ants have made their home and thought that might be an ecologically sound way of disposing of the boiled water. Meg and I settled down to watch Suella Braverman defend herself in the Commons this morning from the accusations that she asked civil servants to organise a one-on-one ‘driver awareness course’ after her admitted speeding offence. Suella Braverman evaded all attacks on her, which were not many, by simply refusing to answer the question she was asked and repeating the facts that are not in dispute that she was caught speeding and accepted the penalty of the fines plus the points on her licence. The Prime Minister discussed the case of the Home sectretary with his ethics adviser this morning but it is unclear whether further investigations are to take place. But this whole case comes from a politician who has broken the Ministerial code before and has even been sacked for it but was still reappointed to appease the right wing of the Conservative party. Indeed, it is said that the PM may not want to sack her because she is more of a danger to him outside the government rather than inside so political considerations, rather than ethical ones, will be the most important considerations in this case.

On our way back from town, we have a fairly horrendous crossroads which is a five-way junction with slopes on two of the approach roads – but Worcestershire County Council refuse to put traffic lights there. We witnessed the results of the latest crash where two cars with their front ends stoved in had been pushed onto the verge. This poor junction has been like that for decades but nothing seems to persuade the authorities to have traffic lights installed.

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