Thursday, 31st August, 2023 [Day 1263]

Today has been quite a day, as it happens. During the night when I just happened to be up and about, I idly turned on the Amazon FireStick that my son and I had been manfully trying to install yesterday but without any success. We left the system chugging away with a message on ‘Now registering..’ or something similar but as nothing seemed to be happening, we assumed it was stuck in an endless loop of some kind. But when I tried the system in the middle of the night, the registration seemed to have worked and now I could start to explore some of the facilities. To check all was going well I actually watched the Jacob Bronowoski ‘Ascent of Man‘ episode which looked at the contributions of both Newton and Einstein. I had not fully appreciated that Leibniz had come up with the notion of the differential calculus at the same time as Newton and, in some ways, his thought processes were ahead of Newton in that he did not think of both space and time as immutable constants. I needed to update the BBC iPlayer and the system also downloaded some software updates but all in all, I feel very relieved that I now have some of the functionality of a ‘smart’ TV at a fraction of the price. When after a bit of snatched sleep, I got up in order to go shopping, Meg was feeling quite unwell so she required a bit of sorting out before I put her back to bed again to sleep whilst I went shopping. But going shopping about half an hour later than usual was quite beneficial to me and the store seemed very quiet as it now some minutes after the normal opening time. I espied one of those little ‘folding stools’ which are actually incredibly useful and made a gift of it to my son upon my return. Once I got home and unpacked my shopping, I gave my sister a FaceTime call as it is her birthday today. She seemed to have lots of birthday greetings from other family members and bunches of flowers had appeared as well. One of her daughters is going to take her out for a meal today and I think that another of her sons is doing something similar tomorrow so I was pleased to see the family are rallying around. But we had a long conversation about Meg’s health and my sister expressed her concerns about the developments that I managed to convey to her. She seems to have quite lonesome weekends so I am now resolved to give her a call on Sunday mornings which I shall to build into a weekly routine so that we can give each other a bit of mutual support and comfort as we grow old gracefully together.

Just before we lunched, a workman came round and, as a result of the occupational therapist’s visit of a couple of weeks ago, it had been decided that a grab rail fitted into the shower would be a good idea. The chap who came round was so skilful and neat in his work and we chatted about things going in Bromsgrove whilst he fitted the grab rail – so skilfully and so quickly. There was also a suggestion that we might have a half bannister on the ‘other’ side of our main staircase but Meg seems to cope with coming downstairs much more easily than going up. So after some deliberation, we decided not to avail ourselves of this option and I suppose we can reactivate the service should we need it in the months and years ahead. It is always interesting watching a skilled craftsman at work and although I had been worried that his drill might crack the tiles when the holes were drilled, this did not happen and the grab rail seemed to be fitted in no time at all. Then we cooked ourselves a quick lunch of some vegetables, supplemented by the remainder of last week’s joint cut into small pieces and served with pasta (for Meg) and cream crackers for myself.

During the early part of the afternoon, we amused ourselves (if that is the right word) using the ‘Alexa’ built-in voice command system which is a feature of our updated Amazon FireStick. The frustrating thing is that last night, when I first had the system installed, I had clicked upon some Classical Music options which purported to give on demand the most popular and admired classical pieces of all time. But I tried a variety of voice commands but never managed to get back to the options that I had utilised in the middle of the night. A bit more playing around with the system is no doubt called for such that I think we can get the musical offerings that we actually want. But Meg was happy listening to favourite operatic arias whilst I busied myself with writing some much needed emails. In the late afternoon, I was delighted to receive, at last, a piece of Marzi and Remy pottery will be a companion piece to the two oher pieces I bought about a fortnight ago. I had secured this additional piece for the same price that I paid locally and was not unhappy to pay the postage so that we have, practically, a matching set of Marzy and Remy steinware.

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Wednesday, 30th August, 2023 [Day 1262]

This morning dawned quite bright and fair and we had several plans for the day ahead. Firstly, my son and I struggled to implement a new and updated Amazon Firestick which adds all kinds of channels to one’s TV. I have one of these appliances which is several years old now and suffers from an occasional ‘buffering’ problem. When this occurs, whatever program you are watching freezes and you have to reset and restart the system as a whole. It does, however, remember the point at which you get stuck and so you see the whole of the programme that you are watching, albeit with an interruption. The new Firestick seemed to get so far and then got in to an endless loop of some description at the point where the account is being registered. My son and I struggled with this for the best part of an hour but eventually, we ran out of options. On consulting the web, it seems that being stuck in an endless loop is a phenomenon which seems not infrequent so I will study the advice which is given and we will both have a try again of this in the morning. If that fails to work, it will have to be a case of complaining to Amazon and requesting our money back.

As it was quite a fine morning, Meg and I went out on the road. It is my sister’s birthday tomorrow and although I had purchased a birthday card, I wanted to ensure that it got delivered on time. Our post office is now a counter in our local branch of W H Smiths so I parked the car in such a way that we are pretty sure that we have caught the post which is collected at about midday. Then Meg and I made our way into the park and enjoyed a burst of sunshine whilst we drank our coffee in the park, surrounded as is usual by a fair collection of toddlers on their bikes and dogs of every shape and size. When we turned home, I got busy preparing the lunch which was going to make use of some donated runner beans. These were actually donated by the neighbour of one of the church congregation that we see regularly so we know they are fresh out of someone’s garden or allotment. I steamed them as I would any other veg but then as we had the oven on for a quiche,I stirred in some little shreddings of ham and baked them in the oven with a dousing of olive oil. This is a very Spanish way of eating both peas and beans although in their case it would be a bit of chorizo. In any event, I thought it would make the beans a little more interesting. I also prepared some ham and cheese sandwiches as well as some tuna sandwiches for our guests later in the afternoon. In preparation for our friends coming round by prior arrangement at 3.00 in the afternoon, I threw together some collections of biscuit and cake in readiness for the afternoon. As I had a few minutes spare before our guests arrived, I shot outside and got rid of some pretty big weeds which had grown tall by the side of our access roadway and were proving offensive to the sight. When our friends arrived, we showed them first into our Music Room where I explained how we had gradually furnished the room. I gave them a rendition of ‘Shenandoah‘ on the Casio keyboard followed by two quick bursts of the ‘Barcarolle‘ on the two manuals of the organ. We spent a jolly few minutes whilst I explained to them how the Music Room helped us to relax particularly in the afternoons and with our favourite CD of Fauré. A CD also arrived by today’s post of ‘Renaissance – music for inner peace’ which I trust we shall enjoy playing in the days ahead. After our sojourn in the Music Room, we went off to the lounge and had our cups of tea and what the Anglo-Indians perhap called ‘tiffin’ and we told our friends the various interactions that we had had with social services, some of which had worked out quite well and some of which had not. We also discussed some of the options for Meg’s forthcoming eye treatments as our friend had recently had cataract surgery and was in a very good position to offer us some very useful advice, particularly as in her professional life she had been a nurse/midwife. After a very pleasant afternoon, our friends left and Meg and I scoffed whatever were the remains of the food for our afternoon tea.

The reasons for the massive disruption to the SATS air traffic control system are slowly starting to unravel. The finger of suspicion was put upon a French flight plan which was erroneous and with which the system could not cope – and therefore the system was shut down for safety reasons. But this is not an unknown scenario and there are also suggestions that better storage systems and backup systems that actually worked well would have given flight controllers more time to locate and isolate the source of the problem. In the meanwhile, the disruption has gone on for days and travellers may well be hundreds or even thousands of pounds out of pocket wth the airlines reluctant to pick up the bill as it ‘was not their fault’

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Tuesday, 29th August, 2023 [Day 1261]

So Tuesday has come round again, which is a day to which we always look forward when we meet up with the ‘gang’ in the Waitrose cafeteria. I must say I am quite pleased to get the Bank Holiday out of the way so that now we can get on with the normal rhythms of life. But the British feel pretty hard done by as there are no more public holidays between now and Christms which is quite a long stretch. I think some families may make a little thing around November 5th/Bonfire Night although the americanism of ‘Trick or Treat’ seems to have undergone a creeping takeover in the past two or three decades. Today, though, we had normal kind of discussions which are sometimes music based between one of our group whose son works in the recording industry whilst with another we talk about vaguely Labour party politics as she has campaigned for them in the past. When we parted, we did a bit of shopping and then got home to prepare for my Pilates class, later on in the day. This week we were going to try a somewhat different pattern as I had decided to go there and back by car which would save at least half an hour of walking time. Then, in order to keeo Meg ‘company’ whilst I was out of the house, now that we had got our DVD player working to our satisfaction we put on a DVD of Bryn Terfel and Cecilia Bartoli in concert at Glyndebourne in 2000. In theory, this should have worked all right but the best laid plans of mice and men..when I got to my class, there was nobody in the studio as our instructor was on holiday. As I have not managed to attend a class for some two weeks now, I might have known about this week’s holiday as the class would have been reminded of our instructor’s absence. So having paid my car parking fee for a couple of hours, I returned home and we cooked ourselves a lunch that was so much earlier than would normally be the case on a Tuesday. Yesterday evening (or it may have been the wee small hours of the morning) I had made a counter offer to get 8 opera DVDs for the sum of £26 with postage paid. This offer had been accepted by the vendor and they were all operas which Meg and would have enjoyed in the past so we are more than happy to play them again when we get them. There is a theory behind all of this bout of purchasing in that whilst I am out of the house doing my Pilates (which I am loathe to give up as I have been doing it for about twelve years now) then Meg may well be able to enjoy a little concert whilst I am out of the house and this will help to provide some diversion.

We had a quiet afternoon this afternoon in our Music Room to which we often retreat to provide an alternative to our main living room. I have also ordered a couple of relaxing DVDs, one being Mozart arias and another being more contemplative Renaissance type music but these will not arrive for a few days yet, given the Bank Holiday and the vagaries of the postal system. I read a rather interesting article about John Eliot Gardiner, the pre-eminent baroque music specialist who has almost single handedly brought some of the finest performances of baroque composers to the attention and admiration of the wider English public. But he is now in his 80’s and has indulged in behaviour (being rude, if not abrupt, to singers who do not meet up with his own exacting musical standards) which is now out of kilter with the times. In the past, the great conducters could be ruthlessly autocratic and they largely got away with it as their intemperate outbursts were excused because of their ‘artistic temperament’. But ‘The Times‘ article written by a critical admirer, argued that these ‘old school’ conductors are now the dinosaurs of the musical industry and behaviour in which they indulged in decades gone past is no longer tolerated. An amusing, but terrible, story is associated with Sir Thomas Beecham who certainly did not mince his words. On one famous occasion, his impatience got the better of him amd he shouted at one lady cellist ‘Madam, you have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands of men – and all you can do is scratch it’ The lady cellist left the stage in tears and I think was never heard of again after this public humiliation. I suppose the story is true and not apocryphal but who knows? This afternoon, Meg and I indulged ourselves yet again with listening to the Joan Baez concert recommended to my ex-Pilates friend a few days ago and she (and we) enjoyed it. I still have to find out if I can get a permamnent recording of this retransmission on our own PVR but I think the technical knowledge of a son and heir might be called for to help me out in this. As Groucho Marx used to say ‘A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.’

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Monday, 28th August, 2023 [Day 1260]

I do not want to sound excessively curmudgeonly but I do not look forward to Bank Holidays these days. Principally, one never knows which shops are open or closed and to compound the confusion this morning, our newsagent is away on holiday for a week so I will have to go on the road to hunt for my newspaper (which is already prepaid as I have a supply of vouchers) Not knowing what supermarket was going to open, I made for the BP petrol station where they have copy of ‘The Times‘ or rather they had one as I purchased the last copy. After that, it was a case of going to the park somewhat earlier than we normally would and we bumped into on or two park acquaintances ‘en route’. I am now getting the folding of Meg’s wheelchair, which can be a little tricky, sorted out and once Meg is sitting in it, afer the effort of the initial push, it runs pretty smoothly and does not present any problems even over the slightly uphill sections. Once we had drunk our coffee and eaten our comestibles, we returned home and had a lunch of cooked gammon, broccoli, baked tomatoes and a baked potato. All was very tasty and we got lunch all eaten and washed up by well before 2.00pm. I had experimented a bit with our DVD-cum-PVR which I have not used for some time to play an opera DVD but after a few false starts, I eventually got it to work as I wanted. We played for ourselves the Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko version of ‘La Bohème‘ which was a filmed version and gave us a lot of enjoyment. I must have seen it one or two times before but have not played this DVD for quite some time and hence there were some things that I had not noticed before. Firstly, the captioning was extremely good and comprehensive so there were several little touches which I not fully appreciated before as sometimes the subtitles are cut to an absolute minimum. Being a film version, the film director allowed himself the occasional use of a video flashback (to the early and most romantic parts of the Rodolfi/Mimi love affair) Also, and I assume this was not a technical hitch on our DVD, when MiMi was near death dying from consumption, the director altered the colouration of the film so that it became black and white, reverting to colour when Mimi had a little revival just before she died. This film is a real weepy and I feel that the acting performance of everyone, including Musetta who plays the role of ‘tart with a heart’, was absolutely excellent. Now that I have got this going, we may treat ourselves to an opera 2-3 times a week until such time as we have run through our stock which is admittedly not very extensive.

The big story this afternoon has been an outage or a technical failure with NATS – the National Air Traffic Control system- which controls all of the flights into and out of the UK. So far, there is an estimate that some 500 flights have been cancelled and the numbers of passengers affected must be in the hundreds of thousands. The disruption is bound to have massive knock-on effects as aircraft are not where they are supposed to be thus affecting future operations. Meanwhile, presumably, there are aircraft flying around in stacks all over the UK taking hours and probably wasting fuel in the process. At this stage, nobody is saying what ’caused’ the technical glitch but but is interesting that it has happened on one of the busiest days in the year for holiday flights. Without being an expert in computer systems, particularly those concerned with managing our airspace, it seems to be that there ought to be an instant ‘failsafe’ system in place such that if one critical part of the system is affected, the backup system should take over within seconds. When the full story of this failure is told, if it ever will be, then the answer will almost certainly point to a lack of investment in critical infrastructure which is a story that we can replicate across many sectors of UK society as a whole. We have got so used to running systems that are pushed to within an inch of their life, then these failures are bound to become more and more frequent.

It looks as though the Spanish ‘kissgate’ affair may be nearing a resolution, of sorts. The Spanish FA have been meeting all afternoon and I would be amazed if they did not dispense with the services of their president forthwith. But the endgame may be a little messy because there have been reports that the Spanish player who was the recipient of the unwanted ‘kiss’ (in other words a sexual assault) should institute her own proceedings for assault and this may take up to 15 days to go through the complaint and possible prosecution process. The most bizarre twist to all of this is that the mother of Luis Rubiales, the president of Spanish football, is instituting a hunger strike because she feels that her son is being unduly hounded by the Spanish media, not to mention Spanish public opinion as whole.

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Sunday, 27th August, 2023 [Day 1259]

Today being a Sunday, Meg and I always have a rather different routine but as we are in the height of the holiday season, the normal politics programs are also off-air for a week or so until the politicians return from their breaks. There are two stories that seem to be well worth our attention at the moment. One of them is the Nadine Dorries saga after her much delayed (and anticipated) resignation whilst the other is the claim, much disputed by the Home Office, that some of the internees of the barge hired to house migrants and asylum seekers were showing symptoms of Legionnaires Disease as a result of their stay upon the barge. These stories I will follow up in the newspapers no doubt in the days ahead. Meg and I decided that we would make a trip to Webbs for our Sunday morning coffee. The establishment was pretty full as many people make a treat to have a breakfast there on Sunday mornings and yet others have an early lunch. We were warned of long delays but actually we had the Sunday newspapers and did not have to wait too long for two mugs of delicious hot chocolate (part of the free tariff of drinks that we get as a part of our membership) followed by a croissant for Meg and toast for myself. Afterwards, we decided to have a wander around the Hobbycraft shop which is a ‘shop within a shop’ at Webbs and we were amazed at the variety and abundance of craft type things that could be bought there. I was looking for something that might engage Meg’s attention and improve some of her skill sets and although we were tempted by a ‘painting by numbers’ package, we eventually decided against it and came away empty handed. Upon our return, we cooked a lunch of gammon, primo cabbage and baked potato – the cabbage was pretty tasty and I wonder whether keeping the cabbage in the fridge helps to sweeten it up a little and convert some of the starches into sugars (this works particularly well with parsnips as all vegetable gardeners are well aware how much parsnips taste when thy have a hard frost on them but this can be simulated by putting them in a fridge).

This afternoon we engaged ourselves in one of the simplest of past-times which is ‘together’ completing a 60 piece puzzle. Of course I remembered from my childhood years that first you located all of the straight-edged pieces and particularly the corner pieces because you than had a framework from which to work. You would have thought this was unproblematic but what to do with the ‘straight edge’ pieces that were left over? It transpired that the puzzle makers had decided to included a mini puzzle together the main puzzle but this only bacame evident to me later on. The jigsaw was a ‘Thomas the Tank Engine and friends’ which include about three engines, a bus, a car, some people, station paraphernalia and so on so it was quite a jolly time getting it completed. This I did and was particulatly pleased to discover that no pieces were missing which I suppose is always the bane of a puzzle completer’s life. So now we have two puzzles completed and I am trying to encourage Meg to rediscover these skills which she must have had as a child decades earlier. Later on this afternoon, we are all geared up to watching the France v Australia rugby match which I hope lives up to expectations. This evening we will be rather spoiled for choice because there is some Mozart at the proms followed shortly afterwards by the world athletics from Budapest which has proved to be quite an exciting competition.

After last week’s success in the World Cup, Spain and Spanish football ought to relishing their success. Instead, the whole week since the match has been sullied by a most extraprdinary row. The Spanish football federation president is refusing to step down from his role following backlash over his behaviour at the Women’s World Cup final. Luis Rubiales has been heavily criticised after kissing forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips following Spain’s victory last Sunday – but he will not be going quietly. All the powers that be from FIFA to the Spanish goverment are doing their hardest to make Rubiales resign for his atrocious behaviour, which probably amounts to a sexual assault. But by refusing to go quiety, the row drags on and on and Spanish football as a whole must feel that their deserved victory now appears tainted. I am pleased to see that the English lionesses have added their support to their Spanish opponents but it seems extraordinary that this row has dragged on as long as it has.

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Saturday, 26th August, 2023 [Day 1258]

Today being a Saturday, Meg and I looked forwarded to meeting up with friends in the Waitrose cafeteria. One of our regulars made contact with us but not the other two but nonetheless we had a pleasant chat for a good half an hour. Towards the end of our coffee time, one of my ex-Pilates class members passed by and we had not seen each other for several months now. We use to be in the same class and used to occupy adjacent mats to each other so often there was a degree of banter and repartee that used to pass between us. Then circumstances changed and my friend, because of a clash of commitments, changed to a different class and so we sort of lost contact with each oher. Nonetheless, we have a lot of common feeling because some five years ago we were both hospitalised at about the same time and we were texting each other fairly constantly to share the latest news, not to mention trying to keep our spirits high. My friend is a member of local ukelele band and, in the past, let me borrow one of her guitar tutors when I rather thought that I could try to learn the rudiments of the instrument. I updated her quickly about the fact that I had swopped instruments and told her about the keyboard instruments (a Casio keyboard and and an organ) which now grace our Music Room and the pieces that I had been practising. We promised to keep in touch a bit more regularly with each other and we might try to organise an afternoon meeting for tea once we can see that the coast is clear and we have no competing commitments. On the way home, we stopped off at the house of some of our church friends and were delighted to find them at home. We have a lot of news to catch up with each other and I was very pleased that they could accept our invitation to come for tea next Wednesday afternoon. I promised them (or threatened them) that I could demomstrate some of the pieces I have been practising on my keybord instrumnts so I have a few days left to get things perfect.

In a week’s time, the world Rugby champpionships are due to start in France and will extend, I imagine, for a couple of weeks. In preparation for this, many teams are playing each other but England so far have had a terrible run of form. Today there were playing Fiji who have never beaten Engand before and usually lost quite heavily. But today the Fijians played a very good tactical and attacking game and England were characteristically poor. At one stage, England were only a couple of points adrift but they seem to lack any kind of killer punch and they were easily outplayed by the Fijians. It has been estimated that approximately one half of the entire popoulation of Fiji were watching this rugby match and as their first victory over England was achieved, I am sure that the celebrations will go on for a long time. What will happen when Englnd start to play ‘for real’ in the world championships when they do start causes one to shudder and now is the time when I think a strategic change of affiliation (to Wales) might be in order.

There is some interesting political news breaking this evening. The former Conservative minister, Nadine Dorries, has announced she is resigning, after months of criticism over her absence from the House of Commons. In her resignation letter, the Tory MP accused Rishi Sunak of ‘demeaning his office by opening the gates to whip up a public frenzy’ against her. But there is a big back story to all of this. Nadine Dorris threatened to resign when Boris Johnson was deposed as Prime Minister as she was one of his ardent supporters and had been angling for a peerage but she has been absent from the Commons for over a year, whilst still picking up her Parliamentary salary of course and appearing on her own ‘show’ on, I think, GB News which is an incredibly right wing channel. But there is quite a hint of pure corruption at work here because she paid her daughters up to £80k from the public purse to work in her office and even gave one a £15k pay rise. This resignation was not before time. Nadine Dorries’ constituents were expressing extreme dissatisfaction that they were not being properly represented in Parliament and senior Tories such as Michael Gove were opining that having said she was going to resign then she really ought to get on with it. The resignation letter itself contains an astonishing and personal attack on the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak and is already being adjudged by many Tory MPs as being completely ‘over the top’ She has earned the
soubriquet of ‘Mad Nad’ although in this case, mad needs to be read as furious beyond belief rather than deranged. Evidently, there will be another by-election called and it looks unlikely that the Conservative party will retain this seat in the light of other recent election results. When this news breaks on a Saturday evening, one always looks forward to the analysis in depth in the Sunday newspapers, of which no doubt there will be plenty. A book is threatened but it is interesting to discern how many in the political elite would want to read it.

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Friday, 25th August, 2023 [Day 1257]

We always look forward to Fridays because the mornings are always full of social contact. First of all, our domestic help (a real treasure!) calls around and we always seem to have a lot of news to catch up on, as well as more hundrum domestic issues to discuss. So she arrived as per usual and I took pleasure in showing her the light stand upon which I have recently deployed my craft skills, such as they are, to attempt to make something out of nothing with only a few raw materials with which to work. Notwithstanding the views of friends and visitors, I am delighted that I now have a little desk light at exactly the right height to shine upon my Casio keybord. This morning, I was playing the ‘Barcarolle’ which is one of my favourites and also saw how much I could remember of the opening bars of ‘Wachet Auf’ as well as ‘Shenandoah’ The common theme behind all of these pieces is that they are relatively simple but evocative tunes, are not too difficult to remember (the ‘Barcarolle’, in particular, as many of the notes are adjacent to each other on a slowly rising scale) and can be played by the right hand alone. So we had a good chat before we took off to see our University of Birmingham friend with whom we had an assignation on our normal park bench at 11.00am. I had already prepared some coffee and comestibles and, whilst we were enjoying these, our friend hove into view. As we have got to know each other better and better, we had quite a long and deep discussion about the impact that our families had made upon us in our early years given that in each of our cases the relationships between our parents never seem to have run very smoothly. It remains a very interesting intellectual and practical question whether these early childhood experiences inevitably make an indelible mark upon us with consequences for our later life or whether, in practice, most people manage to survive these experiences and to lead happy and fulfilling social and professional lives. To this question we will no doubt return but I am personally of the view that the impact of early childhood experiences may be overplayed and the resilience of the human spirit is not to be underestimated. This is, of course, a highly contentious issue but at the end of the day our friend and Meg and I were in broad agreement with each other.

After we returned home, it was case of getting our fish pie into the oven and then enjoying a meal of a haddock dish pie, green beans and tomatoes baked in the oven. This was delicious when we finally came to consume it and then we settled down to enjoy a quiet afternoon. Before the athletics were due to be shown later on in the afternoon, I had a particular treat lined up for Meg and myself. Earlier in the week, I had noticed that BBC4 had put on a classic Joan Baez concert before an invited audience in the BBC studio sometime that I would judge to be the very early 1960’s – glancing at the hairstyles, clothing and demeanour of the audience, I would make a guess at 1962 and filmed in black and white as well. After some research, I was ‘out’ by three years because it was actually filmed at the BBC TV Theatre on June 6th, 1965. The concert was in two halves and gave Meg and myself the most enormous amount of pleasure. Joan Baez’s voice was of crystal clarity and the message was always unequivocally anti-establishment. One of the most pwerful ‘anti-war’ songs that it is is possible to hear is ‘With God on our Side’; which is actually a Bob Dylan song. Joan Baez and Bob Dylan were actually ‘an item’ for one time and the song ‘Diamonds and Rust’ reflects upon the dissolution of their relationship. The lyrics of the song ‘With God on our Side’ goes through a variety of conflcts and wars and one of the most powerful verses is actually the second which runs ‘Oh, the history books tell it/They tell it so well/The cavalries charged/The Indians fell/The cavalries charged/The Indians died/Oh, the country was young/With God on its side‘ and so on with the refrain that every victor in the conflicts we have experienced in the West have always claimed that ‘God was on their side’.

On the other side of the Atlantic, images have energed which may make many of us on this side of the pond watch open-mouthed in astonishment. Donald Trump has been formally booked by authorities in Georgia over accusations he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state. The authorities have revealed an offical photograph or ‘mug shot’ in which Trump appears to be looking venemously into the camera (This may sound subjective but the image really has to be seen) This has immediately been ‘weaponised’ by being put onto the sides of mugs (what else), tee-shirts and a variety of other merchandise. The proceeds are intended to fund the legal fees that Trump will face and perhaps those of his fellow conspirators. There is an expectation that Trump’s lead amongst Republican voters could well get even higher after the release of this image.

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Thursday, 24th August, 2023 [Day 1256]

Today is my ‘shopping day’ so I was up bright and early and got my weekly living money out of a supermarket’s ATM, filled up with petrol and was waiting for the supermarket to open just before 8.00am. This was all done by 9.00 and when I got back Meg was still in bed asleep – I think she must have had a rather disturbed night so I let her sleep on. After we had breakfasted, we were running a little late so immediately went into elevenses mode to catch up on time a little. Today was quite a beautiful day so this lifts our spirits somewhat but we decided to make the best of the day by having lunch a little earlier than normal. This was because I really did need to get outside and get the lawns cut. For a reason I cannot quite explain, my grass seems to be growing exceptionally fast this year, particularly at the back of the house and I wonder if the more humid conditions is stimulating the growth. I managed to get the lunch cooked, eaten and the washing up so that I could make an early start on the front lawn which generally takes about 40 minutes. This went fine and I then have a more extended break (keeping Meg company at the same time) before I start on the back. Despite the back lawn only taking half the time compared with the front lawns, it always proves to be a bit more troublesome as there are lots of curves around which the mower has to be guided. Another feature of my mowing this year is that I seem to be using miniscule mounts of petrol this year and it only takes a few ‘glugs’ from the petrol container to top it up from one week to the next. After the lawn mowing is done, I allow myself to have a well-earned rest.

After the unexplained death of Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, the western media has been full of speculation as to how a private jet, flying in good weather conditions, could have crashed in uch a dramatic fashion. Most western experts are of the view that the video footage of the stricken plane, falling like a stone catastophically until it hit the ground in a huge explosion, was in all probability caused by an ‘external agent’ This was almost certainly a ground-to-air missile which may well have blown off the entire wing of the private jet, although the possibility of an on-board bomb cannot be completely discounted. The Russian state is cynically initiating a ‘criminal’ investigation into the causes of the crash, thereby seeming to rule out that a genuine accident had occurred. Presumably, there were will be some remains of a ground-to-air missile to be found somewhere amongst the wreckage but one wonders whether this will ever be ‘found’ Practically every analyst who has hit the airwaves today is convinced that Putin was exacting some sort of terrible revenge for his humilation at the hands of Prigozhin some two months ago. Putin has apparently sent messages of condolence to the family members which again takes cynicism to untold depths. In cases like this, the ultimate cause must always be conjecture and informed speculation but I heard one analyst on the radio this morning who reckoned that in the past Putin had disposed of 200 of his critics by making them ‘disappear’ in a whole variety of means – some are poisonings, some are assassinations by firearms and some simply disppear without trace. It is possible that Putin has surrounded himself with a cadre of people who do his dirty work for him but which allows Putin to maintain a figleaf of deniability. It used to be said, of course, that the old KGB used to use the Bulgarians for similar ‘black’ operations but as an KGB officer, Putin will be aware how to distance himself from any evidence that it was he that pulled the trigger.

There was a very amusing political letter written in the letter pages of ‘The Times‘ the other day. Suella Braverman, our Home Secrtary is said by some be one of the most stupid ministers to have held high office whilst yet others see her as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party. The letter writer expressed the view that in view of the recent history of the Conservative party, there was not necessarily a contradiction between these two positions. On the other side of the Atlantic, the media are preparing itself for the sight of Donald Trump arriving at a court house in Georgia. Donald Trump has not yet had to submit a mugshot photo during his previous three bookings – but that could change tonight. If he does indeed have his photo taken, he will be the first former US president to submit a mugshot. The booking process usually involves a mugshot, fingerprinting and having your height and weight recorded. It is understood Trump has asked a mugshot not be taken, but it is not clear whether this request will be met. His allies who have also been booked in Atlanta have already provided mugshots, including his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Supporters of Trump have already started to arrive outside the courthouse with a clutch of banners proclaiming Trump to be a ‘political prisoner’. However, his substantial poll lead will probably only grow larger after today’s court proceedings and the possibility remains of a very, very tight election between Biden and Trump next year.

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Wednesday, 23rd August, 2023 [Day 1255]

Today was quite a busy day and we had to organise our time a little carefully. Meg and I got up and showered which does not sound at all remarkable, but there was a crucial difference. The other day when I was at our local Age Concern charity shop, they had a bathstool on sale just inside the door which, as it as only £1.95, I snapped it up thinking it might prove to be useful. When I got it home, I gave it a thoroughly cleaning with a bleach spray and noted, with a degree of satisfaction, that it seemed to fit extremely well inside our bath with particularly stout rubber ferrules on each leg. Today was the first time that we had used this and it proved to be remarkably successful. Meg felt much more secure in the shower and I found it easier to administer the shower as though I was washing a car or a horse! You can never be quite sure whether these aids are going to live up to their promise but, on this occasion, Meg and I agreed that the bath stool was a great success. Then, of course, it was a case of getting breakfasted and then making our way onto the road. I had decided that I wanted to visit the Age Concern furniture shop in search of a footstool but one was not forthcoming. But there were one or two pieces of glassware the shape and size of which I was actually hunting for so these were snaffled up together with a little original Wedgewood dish, complete in its box and provenance certificate. Whilst we were in that end of town, I browsed quickly in three of the other charity shops and did find something useful in each one so all in all, we felt that we had a particularly successful morning’s venture out. We knew that our hairdresser was due to call round at 2.00pm and she was actually five minutes early – unusual for her. So we determined that we would have our elevenses promptly at home and then ensure that we had got the lunch prepared, eaten and all washed up by the time our hairdresser arrived.

This afternoon, I spent some time trying to establish the provenance of a decorated glass dish which I purchased for a song this morning and for which I have an anticipated use. I have tried to use Google Images to ascertain whether it has any real value or not but it is a bit difficult, being clear, to photograph and to establish any kind of provenance. I am going to reserve judgement until our domestic help calls round on Friday because I trust her judgement in terms of evaluating objects such as this. During the afternoon, I spent some time perusing a pile of newspapers for articles that I wanted to keep and this is particularly important on a WednesdaY because it is the day this week, for the green and brown bins to go out, the green bins being used for excess paper products of which I have a lot. I managed to make a fair dent on the pile but there is more to do. Whilst I was taking my own bins out as well as those of my neighbour, I bumped into him which was a useful little chat for both of us, so that I could update him on developments that are taking place to assist with Meg’s health status.

This evening, quite exciting new came through that the Indians have managed a soft landing of a craft near the southern pole of the moon. The Russian venture crashed into the moon a few days ago and I think thsat the Japanese might have tried and failed also. So this is a magnificent success for Indian technology and may prove to be quite important if and when we make missions to more distant parts of our solar system such as Mars. The southern pole is believed to contain what might be volumes of ice and, if this is the case, then he resulting water can be split into oxygen and hydrogen or in other words the basic components of a rocket fuel. The Indians have a little rover on board which may make some trips and the craft is already transmitting data back to Earth and, so far, it appears that the soft landing has been successful and that streams of data can now flow. It is early days yet so as the hours and days roll by, we will be able to see how much the Indian soft landing has pushed forwrd the space programme.

There is some interesting political news which is just breaking in the early evening. The Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was said to be ‘on the passenger list’ of a light aircraft that has just crashed and it seems likely that all ten people on board may have perished. If this prove to be the demise of Prigozhin, then the Kremlin may be secretly quite pleased as it was Prigozhin who ordered a march on Moscow some two weeks ago and humiliated Putin in the process. Given the dark arts of the Russian state, then was the crash completely accidental or was it engineered by the Russian state? Perhaps this story will develop in the hours ahead but it does seem that a prominent critic of the Kremlin’s war effort is no more.

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Tuesday, 22nd August, 2023 [Day 1254]

Today turned out to be quite a chewy day what with one thing or another. I had telephoned the garage from which we anticipate picking up our changed car in a couple of months time but various bits of documentation needed to be in place before we could proceed so this delayed things somewhat. We finally got out of the house and did coincide with three of our friends in the Waitrose cafeteria which always brightens up our Tuesday mornings. One of our friends had been driven to all kinds of exasperation when she was trying to pay a bill for a repair to her garage roof but trying to do this online had generated all kinds of alerts necessitating a variety of interactions with the fraud department of her bank causing maximum frustration all round. I am sure that the banks are kept busy fending off the attentions of fraudsters and spammers but the numbers of us conventional people just trying to pay a routine bill must be legion. We parted after about three quarters of an hour and we re-parked the car in a different part of the carpark but one which is a bit nearer to the High Street. I left Meg in the car whilst I dashed into Poundland to pick up something I buy regularly. These are vinyl floor tiles with adhesive backs and there are two basic designs which I deploy for different purposes. But the one I use most is a pseudo wood effect which looks pretty realistic and where I buy five for £3.00. Mind you, when I started buying these several years go, they were five for £1.00 so there is inflation for you. In the order of things, given that I price everything as multiples or fractions of a cup of coffee, these are still quite a good buy. I tend to use them when I construct one of my favourite little ‘craft’ pieces which is a decorated ‘cube’ or rather ‘oblong’ that I use in a variety of ways. Initially, I had in mind a storage box, sufficient for a variety of lightish objects such as papers and bric-a-brac. But latterly, the design has ‘evolved’ so when used as a closed, rather than an open box, it becomes a convenient artifact upon which to place my coffee cup. Using my recently purchased vinyl, I finished off my latest creation today and decorated the top with one of my ‘butterfly’ pictures after my venture of the other day. I have got this off to quite a fine art havin constructed several of these little boxes which I utilise for a variety of tidy up boxes. They are actually surprising strong although they start off life as a cardboard box. The vinyl floor tiles on each side add a measure of stability and I have invested in some really tough black ‘Gorilla Tape’ which is claimed to be thicker and stronger than all of their competitors. As I have used a variety of black tape over the years (mainly as a bookbinding material when I have been putting together conference papers and other academic documents), I can attest to the fact that this variety of gorilla tape is really strong and with an excellent adhesive and I have learnt all kinds of tricks of the trade which is the best way in which it can be cut (at an angle, with a box-cutting knife when the tape is put under some moderate pressure)

This afternoon brought its share of frustration. Normally, Tuesday is my Pilates day but last week I engaged upon an experiment in which I joined my Pilates class via ‘Zoom’ rather than attending it in person. After consulting with Meg to see how she felt about things, we decided to go for the Zoom experience again this week but although the link I had been sent by my Pilates tacher worked last week it did not do so today. After about 40 minutes, I had to give it up as a bad job and was left very frustrated that I had managed to miss my Pilates session both in person and over a videolink. As I have been doing Pilates for some 10-12 years now, to miss a session needlessly is not something I want to repeat. It may be that I have to have an online discussion with my Pilates teacher to work out how I can get this link reactivated as I do not wish to abandon the one exercise session to which I gave some priority in the week. I suppose it is always possible to do it ‘on my own’ and I know the exercises off by heart and could easily put together a routine that exercised all the muscles nd joints that needed it but finding time free from interruptions in the day is going to be problematic unless I can find a way round this.

There was an item on Channel 4 news that genuinely seemed to be apocalyptic. With fires raging in Northern Greece, 18 bodies have found in a mountain hut that may well have been undocumented migrants from the Turkish border which is nearby. In fact, a UN representative was quoted as saying that the numbers of deaths on this dangerous migration route may well rise and it is estimated that some 4,000 migrants may have utilised this perilous route in the summer months.

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