Monday, 2st August, 2023 [Day 1253]

Today started off bright, then turned gloomy and finally turned bright again. Meg and I were a little unsure how to spend the morning but eventually we settled upon our old favourite of Droitwich if only because we want to get some things from the Wilko store there whilst the administrators are letting it trade as they search for a buyer. I bought a shower hose from there about a week ago but not only is it a bit longer than usual, it fitted like a dream with not the slightest hint of a dribble which had bedevilled me in the past. So I was determined to get another one whilst I could and whilst stocks lasted but evidently other people had had the same idea and they had sold out. Nonetheless, I got one or two useful bits of hardware. We also visited our favourite Cancer Research UK shop which just happened to be having a sale. We bought Meg both a top and a skirt for which she expressed enthusiasm and, quite fortuitously, they happen to go pretty well with each other. We suspect they are better as ‘Sunday best’ rather than everyday wear but they are nice to have for ocasions out of the ordinary. We visted the Works shop to see if they had anything that tickled our fancy. On reaching the car, we realised that Meg’s stick was missing so I hoofed it back as quickly as possible to the coffee bar where we had our elevenses. Talk about the kindness of strangers but the people on the next door table had kept it safe for us and although I was reconciled to not seeing it again, nonetheless we pleased to retrieve it as Meg places quite a lot of reliance on it these days. Finally, we had a lightning visit to pick up some sandwiches for our son for whom they constitute lunch when he is working in our house (much more eficient that catching a train into central Birmingham which is the ‘official’ way of working)

There are pages and pages of analysis of the defeat of the English ‘Lionesses’ yesterday. A lot of the coverage is pointing to the enduring legacy of the ‘lionesses’ in promoting the women’s game here in the UK but acknowledgement is made that the Spanish team (mainly Barcelona players) were technically and strategically superior to their English counterparts. I did one hear one story that rather tugged at the heartstrings, however. The father of the Spanish captain had died on Friday but the news had been kept from her so that she had nothing to distract her from her game. As she scored the only (and hence winning) goal this was probably a decision which worked all right in the end. I don’t know at what point the news was broken to her but I am sure her Spanish teammates and tean management would have handled this very well.

This afternoon, I finished off a little craft project which might be described by some as the epitomé of being naff but by others as homely, albeit quirky. It started off with the two cartons that Meg’s wheelchair were delivered it – one was the box containing the wheelchair itself whilst the other was a very stout container designed for the safe transportation of evidently heavy objects. I could have ripped up these boxes and thrown them away but I wondered if a bit of recycling could be done to make the cartons into something useful. They are nearly 3 ft in height and 1′ square and are thus fairly substantial. To start off, a covering of stout brown paper was made, held down by a heavy duty black ‘Gorilla’ tape. The carcase now looked exceptionally plain so I wondered what could be used by way of decoration. I just happened to have come across an old but completely unused tea towel decorated with alternating hearts picked out in light grey and dark grey. This was affixed but I had to use some street cunning as the teatowel was a rather stretchy material and, in any case, only covered about two thirds of the height. Hunting around the house, my eye fell upon two square box of tissues and I pressed these into service after some adaptation. One of these was autumnal flowers and ferns in a silhouette design so this served served well as a frieze for the lower portion. But the other tissue box was spring flowers and this went exceptionally well as the top frieze. I had to have a think about the sides but had a brainwave. Somewhere and months ago, I had bought a series of adult ‘colour-in’ book used nowadays as a an adult relaxation aid. I found a book of beautiful large colourful butterfly designs which one was meant to use as an aid to your own colouring efforts. Instead, I took the colourful butterfly illustrations on a quite a sophisticated ochre background and deconstructed the whole of the book so I could use the individual pages. With the aid of a Prit stick and some masking tape, these constituted the covering for the sides and the finished product looks – interesting! This ‘stand’ is designed to perform a function because I have a small unobtrustive white desk lamp perched on the top of it (I just happen to have one spare) and it casts a perfect light at just at the right angle over the left hand side of my Casio keyboard. I will take the reaction of my style consultant (aka our domestic help) as the ultimate arbiter of whether all of this has succeeded or not (although I must confess I am pretty pleased with it).

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Sunday, 20th August, 2023 [Day 1252]

Today almost inevitably was going to be dominated by the fact that England were due to meet Spain as finalists in the Women’s World Cup. This was due to start at 11.00am and our University of Birmingham friend had very kindly invited us to watch the match wih him. But first, we needed to pick up our Sunday newspapers and whilst I was in the newsagents, I thought I would buy a box of chocolates to take along for our host. But the newsagent has sold out of boxes of chocolates so I just grabbed several packets of chocolate biscuits and we trusted to the SatNav to find the way to our friend. In practice, between us we got a little lost and we arrived a about two minutes late with the match already having started when we arrived. It is always interesting to watch a match like this with friends and the match was certainly an underwhelming event for English viewers. Spain deservedly won the match 1-0 and could well have added two or three more, one of them being a penalty for handball in the penalty area. But the penalty was poorly taken and England survived but as the match progressed, there seemed to be no way that the English women were ever going to win this match and if, by a quirk of fate, they had done so, it would have been a massive injustice. If I were a sports writer, I think I would agonise over whether to write that the England team was ‘outplayed’ or ‘completely outplayed’. As we watched the match and saw the English defenders back off the Spanish forwards, it is pretty obvious that the Spanish were being given the time and space to score and when the goal came after about 30 minutes, it was no surprise to either of us. The English coach was gracious in defeat and evidently when the match ended, there were tears all round – the Spanish with joy and the English with disappointment. I must say that I did not find the result particularly surprising as they had very tight matches against both Nigeria and Colombia that could well have been decided the other way. Perhaps the confident perfomance against the hosts, Australia, had lulled the English team into a false sense of security but the bookies were perhaps evenly divided over the eventual result so perhaps they called it right. At least, we have got all of that out of our system and we shall a little less of the xenophobic rantings to which commentators are prone. After all of that, Meg and I got ourselves home and having had coffee and biscuits thoughout the morning, neither of us felt particularly hungry. It was a fairly humid day so we contented ourself with a meal of bananas and icecream instead of our normal lunch.

Sunday afternoons never have a particular pattern but this afternoon, Meg and I spent about an hour in our Music Room where we could relax to our normal repetory of soothing classical music. The TV this afternoon was dominated by an athletics competition from Budapest which seemed relatively interesting and exciting, so we watched this in intervals whilst reading the Sunday newspapers. As one might expect, there is a lot of analysis of the Lucy Letby affair and whether senior management could have done more to have prevented some of the deaths once the nurse had commenced her killing spree. There are repeated calls for a judge led enquiry so that witnesses can be compelled to attend and then to give evidence under oath. By all accounts, it does seem that the ‘frontier of control’ had passed somewhat from consultants to managers as managers were particularly concerned about ‘reputational damage’ to their hospitals/trusts if the Letby suspicions would prove to be true. There is an awful lot of being wise after the event going on at the moment and I am not sure that Letby was actually ever caught in the act of administering insulin/injecting air into the bloodstreams of babies that caused their demise. The suspicions were always circumstantial in that Letby always seemed to be on duty when the babies died. What may have been the clinching evidence came from Letby herself, of course. Once finally arrested, her premises were searched by police where they found scribblings and ramblings with words like ‘I am evil’ and practically an admission of guilt on its own. What safeguards to put in place are not easy to say. I would not like to be in the position of a critical care nurse in a premature unit where if two babies were to die in quick succession for quite understandable medical reasons then any unfortunate nurse may find herself investigated to within an inch of her life.

During the athletics showing this afternoon, there was quite a dramatic end to one of the competitions. In the World Athletics Championships,Katarina Johnson-Thompson won her second world heptathlon gold medal by only by a margin of about 20 points. In the very final 800 metres, she was was trailing an American competitor but needed, according to the commentators, to be no more than three seconds behind the American. In the event, she was about two and a half seconds behind and therefore won the gold mdal with one of the tightest of margins imaginable.

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Saturday, 19th August, 2023 [Day 1251]

Today started brightly enough and so Meg and I got ourselves going, knowing that after breakfast we had friends that we were going to meet up with. We collected our newspaper and then made for our favourite haunt on Saturday mornings which is, of course, the Waitrose coffee cafeteria. I had taken along with me a simple piano primer with twenty (simplified) classical tunes in which the melody can be played with the right hand whilst the more ambitious can try to add the appropriate chords with the left hand. This was destined for one of the staff who, like me, is starting to teach himself the rudiments of piano so I thought to myself that the loan of the booklet might be very useful for him. If it proved useful, he could always order his own copy from Amazon and, if not, at least he had not wasted any of his money. As he was not on duty, one of the ‘Saturday’ girls who is always very friendly towards us old lags promised that she would give it to him tomorrow morning. Our friends turned up by degrees and we had the usual wide ranging chat over this and that, spending the best part of an hour and a half. After this, we reluctantly parted but said that we meet up again on Tuesday morning. As we were leaving, I enquired of our University of Birmingham friend what our arrangements might be in view of the all important football match in which England Spain meet in the World Cup final starting at 11.00am. He very kindly invited us round to his house so that we could all watch the football match together which promises to be a very enjoyable occasion. Incidentally, I heard that in the third round play offs (which no team enjoys) Sweden had actually beaten Australia, the hosts 2-0. I suppose that by the end of tomorrow’s match in which we know the winner and the runners up (gold and silver) they will present the winning medals in reverse order starring with the Swedes who are now in third place.

After we had parted from our friends, I made my way again to the AgeUK charity shop where I have found so many good bargains recently. The lamp standard I had my eye on which had been around for weeks seems to have been sold but I did make a purchase of a shower stool which will be worth its weight in gold, helping Meg in the shower. After a good clean up with a bleach spray, I transported it to the en-suite bathroom to see how it fitted. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it seemed to sit securely in either orientation (lengthways or across the bath) and the stout rubber feet ought to ensure no slippages. So I am looking forward to a good try out of this piece of kit which looks as though it may prove very useful to us under the cirumstances. I have also put together and ‘prettyfied’ the stout cardboxes in which the wheelchair was delivered and this is now pressed into service as a stand for a spare desklamp which I happened to have which shines some light on the Casio keyboard at just the right height and angle for when I get the urge to play the ‘Barcarolle’ which I always find so relaxing. I may need to do a little more work finishing off my stand but I will wait until Meg is safely tucked up in bed which is when I tend to do some little craft type things.

Last night afer Meg was in bed I happened to tune onto BBC4 and found myself in the middle of a Joan Baez concert, recorded evidently in the mid 1960’s. I forgot all about the other viewing I intended to do and immediately immersed myself in the Joan Baez experience. I already have some of her CDs but I suspect that this show was actually recorded in London to a UK audience. The camera shots, in black and white, showed an incredible array of 60’s faces and hairstyles and the audience was fairly restrained and polite compared with what might be the norm nowadays. I am waiting until there is a total dearth of anything worth watching on any channel before I start to watch this again with Meg on catch up TV. I am hoping that I can master the technology and that I manage to get this recorded on our PVR even though the program itself will be a ‘catch up’ item – I suspect that my son may have to be pressed into service to give me some guidance.

The media is full of the Letby case, as you might imagine. The nurse was found guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six other infants while working in a hospital’s neonatal unit between June 2015 and June 2016. What is happening now, though, is an urgent check of every case with which Letby may have had some contact to see if there a plethora of as yet, undetected cases. All of this seems eerily similar to the Harold Shipman case who, as a GP, murdered his elderly patients systematically and has the reputation of the UK’s biggest serial killer.

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Friday, 18th August, 2023 [Day 1250]

The day dawned wet and miserable and, like the rest of the country, we feel that we are living through a premature Autumn. However, our gloom at the weather was to be lightened by the fact that our domestic help calls around on Friday mornings and we always enjoy her company and start off the morning with a good chat. This morning, I had a particular reason for wanting a chat as in the past week, I have restored a bamboo chair of which she was particularly fond and was otherwise destined for the domestic tip. Last night, after Meg was safely tucked up in bed, I applied some beeswax polish to the principal bamboo struts of the chair, left it the requisite 25 minutes and then buffed to what might be termed a lustre. I was quite pleased with the results and know that by daylight, rather than artificial light, the result might look even better. Incidentally, when I was a teenager, my mother often was engaged in house cleaning activities in the late afternoon and railed against ‘the passing of the light’ As an intolerant teenager, I wondered what was wrong with putting on the electric light but now that I am older, and perhaps wiser, I now know that there is no real substitute for observing some things in their natural light rather than under artificial light. Our pleasure at having a chat with our domestic help was rather moderated when we received a phone call from our University of Birmingham friend, apologising for not being able to meet this morning and postponing our meeting over coffee until tomorrow morning. This will be fine by us as there will be a little gathering of the clans of the old ladies and Meg and myself in Waitrose tomorrow morning and our University of Birmingham friend will redess the gender balance somewhat. Then Meg and I had the dilemma of how to spend a rather gloomy and rainy morning, given that we wished to get out of the house and do something. We went to pick up our Saturday morning newspaper and were then fortunate enough to find a parking place outside a little shop which specialises in preparing sandwiches and snacks for offices and firms in the area. At the same time, they have a small area of about three tables in which they will serve you a coffee and what have you. Meg and I ordered a coffee and then a bacon sandwich (for Meg) and a round of toast for myself. In the event, we finished up sharing theae provisions and not being a regular eater of bacon these days, I must say that this was one of the nicest bacon sandwiches I have had for a long time. Normally, I associate bacon sandwiches with old fashioned cafeterias attached to station buffets which my son and I frequent when we go on a Rail Enthusiasts day – for some reason, they nearly always seem to have bacon butties on offer which my son nd I consume with particular relish. After our coffee and repast, Meg and I made our way to our little suburban (i.e. not High Street) AgeUK charity shop which is always stuffed full of goodies at incredibly reasonable prices. I bought myself a couple of shirts one of which is my definite size and the other one of which may fit though it is called a ‘slim fit’ but the design of which I particularly liked. I also bought for very few £s a piece of fabric the function of which is hard to decribe. It is 2 x. 2.2 metres square and I suppose could be a table cloth or a throw. Our domestic help who used to work for Laura Ashley and who has an incredible eye for what goes with what helped us ascertain it was of ‘Damart’ brand and we then used it as a throw over our main settee. This has really helped to alter (beneficially) the mood of our sitting room as well as protecting the suite from any predations so I was pleased to have made another ‘good buy’

And so we came to lunch, which turned out to be a culinary disaster. I had some Basa fillets in my freezer and the instruuctioms said ‘cook from frozen’ I wrapped these in tinfoil and had them cooked in the oven for about half an hour. The smaller fillet cooked perfectly and Meg was quite satisfied whereas the larger fillet seemed only half cooked and only some portions of it seemed to be edible. But we did these with some broccoli and then plum tomatoes, cut in half, sprinkled with marjoram (it would have been tarragon if I had had in our spice rack) and then done in the oven. At the end of the day, though, I felt satisfied enough with our meal. Later in the afternoon, we have a FaceTime call (unexpectedly) with our son and daughterin-law who had returned from their holiday in the Lakes yesterday and wanted to catch up with all of our news of the last week. We had quite a lot to catch up actually and the video call proved particularly useful as an update. Earlier in the afternoon, Meg and I had spent a pleasant and relaxing hour in our Music Room listening to Fauré and I busied myself with a fairly soul-destroying task of removing labels from a large and stout cardboard box in which Meg’s wheelchair was delivered and for which I have some plans.

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Thursday, 17th August, 2023 [Day 1249]

Today being my shopping day, I was in the vicinity of the supermarket with some time in hand so I decided to go and top up with petrol at the nearby supermarket filling station. But since the last time I used it only a couple of weeks ago, they have installed new technology the function of which, I suspect, is to make everybody pay by card. But the two pumps at which I drew up had not been zero-ised but I was urged to present my card. Fearful of doing this lest I charged for someone else’s petrol, I made the attempt at two different pumps and then abandoned it altogether. As Meg and I were having our breakfast, I noticed on my phone that I had a text from my sister who was putting two and two together and was getting concerned how I was managing as I am Meg’s ‘de facto’ carer all day long. We had a long FaceTime videochat in which we were updating each other of news (more on my side than my sister’s) and we were offering each other mutual advice as how we should both cope wih the circumstances in which we find ourselves. This was much appreciated but we had a fairly delayed start to our morning once the shopping had been unpacked and put away, breakfast cooked and the washing up done and finally getting Meg washed and dressed and ready to meet the world. At my son’s suggestion, we decided to try out the Morrison’s café and this turned out as we expected. Whilst Meg was finishing off her cookie, I shot round the store picking up items that do not seem to be sold in our local Aldi/Waitrose shopping haunts.

Last night, we received a telephone call from a close friend of ours (and former colleague) from the University of Winchester who has very kindly offered us the free use of accommodation of a flat he owns on the South coast. This is an extraordinarily generous offer and Meg and I are considering how we might make use of it. Initially, we were contemplating staying there for several days and nights but that may just be a stretch too far considering Meg’s fragile state of health but there are other options that we are now actively considering. As soon as we got back into the house, we treated ourselves to a glass of cordial and then started to think of our lunch which was a quiche shared between us and some mange-tout. This afternoon was a gloriously sunny afternoon so I took the opportunity to get the lawns cut front and rear. The grass seemed to be extraordinarily thick this afternoon, so much so I wonder if the events of last week, we forgot about the weekly cut and we now have two weeks of growth to contend with. Generally speaking by the middle of August, the growth has started to moderate but this was not the case today. I now mow the front lawns, come inside and have some tea and biscuits with Meg, and then I pop outside and do the back lawns that only takes half the time. I took the opportunity to clear our lavendar bush of some bindweed that was growing madly over it but I think that I have rescued it just in time.

The nation is getting itself into a state of steady excitement over the fact that on Sunday we shall see the final of the women’s world cup between Spain and England. I am quite surprised that the England team have got to the final and I believe that they have had their share of luck along the way. In particular, there were two very tight matches against both Colombia and Nigeria each of which were won by a whisker and could well have gone the other way. But here we are and I am allowing myself to believe that the Spanish are just about beatable. England, after some admittedly poor performances, played with great aplomb and were worthy winners which even the Australians admitted. It does say something to beat a country like Australia on their home turf and without sounding too chauvinistic, I thought that the English girls coped well with the occasion and an extremely partisan crowd. It will be interesting to see which way the ‘neutrals’ break when Spain and England meet at 1l.00am on Sunday – making a huge guess, I guess that the crowd will break 60:40 in favour of Spain. Tonight, there is a showing of ‘Sense and Sensibility‘ and although we have seen this production fairly recently, it has such a quality cast list that it well be well worth watching all over again.

There is now quite a weight of judicial building up to find what what went wrong with Britain’s judicial system when a man can be imprisoned for seventeen years for a rape that he did not commit and where it was known to various judicial bodies that DNA evidence had been found to show that the discovered sample of DNA did not belong to the convicted person. The key body seems to have been the Critical Cases Review Commission which had been so starved of resources that they could not do the job properly which was their remit and, as a result, a huge miscarriage of justice has occurred. How many more cases are there, one asks oneself?

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Wednesday, 16th August, 2023 [Day 1248]

What an interesting day it has been today with lots of ups and downs. With Meg’s health a little frail, we are seeking suitable care packages and we are not getting off to a very good start with some initial hiccups. But after some phone calls and a bit of consultation with family and friends, we are resolving some of these initial difficulties and trust that things might run a little more smoothly from now on. Today we had a calendared appointmment with a technology firm that had been recommended to us by the Worcestershire Association of Carers and I was a little disconcerted when we got a telephone call from their representative – he was hardly a salesman. The system that we are being offered is on a 6 weeks free trial. It basically consists of a electronic box which is installed in our hall and goes by the generic name of the ‘New Lifeline’ service and, as their blurb says, they ‘support independent living providing peace of mind to service users and their families 24 hours a day’ The user has the choice of either wearing a device on their wrist or, as most users prefer, the device is put into a lanyard which is worn around the neck. In the event that the user gets into real difficulties and requires some help, then a call is automatically routed to a monitoring centre which is manned 24 hours a day. From there, a call is put through to whoever is on the system which in this case would be myself (via my mobile) which would alert me to the fact that Meg needed some assistance. Should the button be pressed but no response is made to the monitoring team, then one of the designated contacts will be activated and one way or another assistance will be provided. There is also the possibility of several ‘add ons’ of which the most useful is probably an external key-safe system so that an emergency service given the code number to unlock the safe by the monitoring centre can gain access to the property to offer assistance where needed. There is also a ‘falls’ detector which would be activated in the case of a ‘hard fall’ but not a ‘slither to the ground’ but we are not progressing with this at the moment, although it is a possibility, of course. The technology firm has a long and well established local reputation and the monitoring centre is provided in or by the neighbouring local authority and, after a trial period, there is a monthly charge but it does not seem excessive for the service offered and the peace of mind that is bought. So all of this was happening whilst the Australia vs England women’s semi finals was underway but once the ‘technology’ man had left us we tuned in to the TV and got to the later stages of the first half and just in time to see the first well-taken English goal. Then we shot out of the house in order to pick up our daily newspaper and then we got back in time, to watch the thrilling second half. The Australians equalised with a stunning equaliser, equal in quality with the English first goal. But then the Australians made a bad defensive eror and the English team scrambled a second goal. Finally, whilst the Australians were pressing forward there was an English breakaway and a very well taken third goal so that the English ‘lionnesses’ won the match, and deservedly so, with 3-1 victory.

Meg and I lunched on gammon,baked potato, broccoli and tomato and we tried to scale down our portions so that neiter of us were tempted to overeat. I was expecting a telephone call at 3.00pm in the afternoon so Meg and I seized the opportunity to make a quick trip to the park and get some fresh air. We are now using the wheelchair for Meg and I think it is fair to say that we make progress at least twice the speed as if we were shufflng along. The thing about going to the park in the afternoon is there are evidently ‘morning’ and ‘afternoon’ flows of people and although we might have see some of the regulars when we visit in the morning, the same is not true of the afternoon. Our major activity in the afternoon, though, was to engage in a Skype call with one of my erstwhile colleagues from the University of Winchester. We always seem to have a lot to talk about, not least because we share some common problems in trying to ensure that our respective spouses get the necessary services to support them. This is easier said than done but we aim to share information with each other to our mutual benefit.

There seems to be some kind of ‘Roman’ season available on our screens in the next few days. Tonight, Mary Beard the classicist is strutting her stuff, followed by a series of the history of the Roman Empire seen through the prism of the Coliseum. Then the famous TV. series ‘I, Claudius‘ in which Derek Jacobi played Claudius is due for some repeated showings. Both Meg and I belong to the generation who did Latin at school (and Scolarship Latin in Meg’s case)so we are quite happy to be immersed in these bits of Roman history.

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Tuesday, 15th August, 2023 [Day 1247]

Today was quite a full day. We got up a little late this morning having slept in a little so we had a minimal breakfast because we knew it was the day to meet up with friends in the Waitrose cafe. We met up with a couple of them and I regaled them with a story from our honeymoon. The basic elements were a large German lady with a very décolleté (= low cut) dress in the centre of the restaurant, with a waiter advancing towards them balancing a huge tureen of hot tomato soup on one hand and then, like a cartoon, the way in which the tureen slid off but performed a perfect parabola before depositing its contents right down the German lady’s cleavage. Tje screams were heard around the restaurant and the waitor hovered around with a large serviette with the dilemma of whether to dab or not to dab the lady’s torso. Eventually, a table cloth was thrown around her shoulders and she was led off into the kitchen here no doubt there was a copious supply of acriflavine (if that existed in 1967). So we parted, each intent on doing a little bit of shopping before we indicated to each other that we would meet up again on Saturday morning. Then, as it is my Pilates day, I knew that I was about to have an experimental session whereby I do my exercises at home but using ‘Zoom’ to join with the rest of my regular class mates. At first, I didn’t think the technology was going to work as my Applie iPad kept informing me that the ‘zoom’ link was not recognised by the system. Eventually, I downloaded a copy of the Zoom app (I think) because suddenly the credentials that my Pilates teacher had sent to me by email worked as intended and so I joined the class. I had taken the precaution of acquiring a little foam tablet rest and I experimented with both vertical and horizontal positionings so that my teacher and I could see each other. I hit on the obvious techniques of ‘portrait’ mode for the standing exercises and landscape mode for when we were doing the lying down exercises and so the class proceeded. Meg was not absolutely ‘au fait’ with my entering a class remotely so I spent an interesting hour with half an ear cocked to hear sounds coming around the house indicating that Meg was making some active peregrinations around the house.

We had known for some time that I was due to have a ‘Diabetic Retinopathy’ clinic at 3.00pm. This procedure is part of the routine annual diabetes monitoring offered by our practice and I have had at least a couple of them before with negative (i.e. nothing to fear)results. Basically drops are put into each eye which massively expand the pupils and then, after a wait of some twenty minutes, photographs are taken of the back of the eye with a very sensitive camera. The subsequent results are then interpreted largely by hand by trained specialists but after discussion with the technician operforming the test, this is one of those routine monitoring procedures where AI will make its presence felt over the years. The results wlll be available in some weeks and are sent to the doctor’s surgery and, in theory, to the individual although I do not remember getting my results last year. This procedure is fairly straightforward in itself but the problem is that with impaired vision whilst the pupils are dilated and one’s vision is affected in the short term, then there is no alternative but to be taken there and back by car. So we ordered a texi for the journey down into town and. although the taxi was delayed by 5 minutes, it was good to get to the clinic 5 minutes before our appointment slot. Everything went smoothly and after 35 minutes I had had the back-of-the-eye examination and Meg and I walked slowly to the taxi rank which is not too far away from the surgery. Then it was a case of getting home and a very welcome cup of tea. I had taken the precaution of taking with me a pair of ‘wrap around’ sun glasses hich I only wear on occasions like this and this helped to shield my eyes from the bright sunshine. Our meals were all made a little topsy turvey because of the commitments that we had today. So at lunchtime, we just had a really quick repast of biscuits and cheese whist this evening, we are going to have the fishcakes that we generally have at lunchtime on Tuesdays.

In the United States, Donald Trump has been indicted of attemts to rig the prsidential election in 2020. The evidence against Trump seems to be irrefutable- for example a telephone call which lasted for more than an hour in which he harangued a state official to ‘find’ him 11,780 votes in order to be declared winner in the state election. But interesting in this case is that Geogia is a state, not a federal indictment. This means that Trump, if elected president, could not put aside the convictions as would be the case in a federal conviction. The evidence is not only strong, not to say overwhelming and if convicted Trump could find himself in gaol for five years – and he would be powerless to prevent it. I suspect that this is the case that actually ‘does’ for Trump eventually (and Al Capone was brought to book evenually for income tax evasion)

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Monday, 14th August, 2023 [Day 1246]

Today was a day of telephone calls but most of them turned out to have beneficial consequences as we shall see. During the night, when I had some spare time, I composed quite a long and detailed email which was trasnmitted to a group of nurses who can provide specialist help for Meg as I feel that some of her medication needs to be reviewed. At the same time, I utilised the system which allows one to fill a form online and then on the basis of quite a lot of information to request a GP appointmemt. In the meanwhile, we got Meg up, washed including her hair and then breakfasted so we made a good start to the day, Then one of the specialist nurses responded to the email sent during the night and I found a very empathetic and proactive nurse on the other end of the line. We had a fruitful discussion where she was going to liaise both with our family doctor and with the relevant department of social services. After this phone call, we received a very welcome call from our Irish friends just down the road who invited us in for coffee later on that morning. So we picked up our newspapers and then made our way to our friends, who we were delighted to see.In the course of our chat, I received a phone call from one of the practice doctors who thought that Meg might benefit from having some blood tests. Very fortunately, a slot opened up in the afternoon which we jumped at – appointments with a live doctor are not to be spurned these days. We discuss the implications of all of this with our friends and then we shortly received yet another phone call, this time from the relevant department of social services to see if they could call around for an assessment call later on in the afternoon. Our friends had very kindly prepared some sandwiches, coffee and cake which I must say that Meg and I very gratefully snaffled. We had quite a tight turn around but we did not mind under the circumstances and managed to get ourselves sitting in the clinic’s waiting room with just one minute to spare. Meg gave her blood sample and the doctor called us in slightly afterwards to give Meg a quick physical check to complement the bood tests which had just been taken.If certain things get ruled out, then Meg will be referred on to more specialists which is what we want at the end of the day.

Now we began the afternoon ‘shift’ as it were. The roadworks around Bromsgrove which are extensive at the moment made a quick and easy journey home problematic and we had to take us rather a long way round which delayed us somewhat. We got back to our house some 5 minutes later than our appointment time but we were relieved to see the person assessing Meg who again seemed both empathetic and competent. The net result of all these comings and goings is to ascertain what degree of support Meg needs and calibrated against what is available.So far now that pieces of the jgsaw are starting to appear, we feel that some support for Meg may well start to materialise but it is early days yet.

The government is still on the back foot in the story about the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge and the outbreak of the legionella virus. I suspected that there would be some contention about who knew about the virus and who told who and when and this is proving to be the case. If the Sunday Times is to be believed, then the government is claiming that it was not told about the virus until two days after the results were known to Dorset County Council. An asylum seeker taken off the Bibby Stockholm barge following the discovery of Legionella bacteria says the government is endangering migrants and treating them like ‘less than animals’. The latest news about this affair is that it may be several weeks before the accommodation barge is thoroughly disinfected and I wonder whether the vessel will ever truly be safe. A similar state of affairs is often to be found when Norovirus is found on board holiday cruise ships and cruises have to be abandoned once several groups of passengers are taken ill. I have often suspected that once a virus is lodged into all the crevices of anything the size and complexity of an ocean going liner, then it must be almost impossible to eradicate it completely and hence further infections flare up from time to time. One line of thought, though, is that now the government has been in power for so many years and the problem of migrants deemed illegal has been with them ever since they took office, then it would have been possible to have designed and built a purpose facility somewhere on our shores that would have housed whatever numbers were required in decent accommodation. Instead, we have government ministers assessing a series of options in little used military facilities where central government already owns both the land the the buildings. This is being done under conditions of utmost secrecy as local opposition (including any local Tory MPs) can always be guaranteed.

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Sunday, 13th August, 2023 [Day 1245]

Today being a Sunday, I was looking forward to watching some of the political programs that normally take place from 8.30 onwards but as it now the midst of the holiday season and all of the politicians are off in no doubt quite exotic locations, there were none broadcast. We did not mind this too much as we were a little late getting up as we had a somewhat disturbed night but we knew that we were going to have a rendez-vous with our University of Birmingham friend. Our meeting place this Sunday was a venue called the Jinney Ring Craft Centre which is best described as a series of craft workshops around a huge courtyard together with a large and well frequented coffee-shop-cum-restaurant where we had our morning coffee. There are some water features where youngsters can go and feed the ducks and there is some pleasant rolling countryside. I have taken a photograph of what appears in the distance to be a double headed horse – on closer examination, it is a pair of horses that seem to like to stand together but each facing in opposite directions so that from a distance once could assume one is observing one exotic animal. As we had stayed so long, we had a brief tour of some of the workshops without being particularly tempted by anything so we treated ourselves to another cup of coffee before making for home fairly late in the day. When we got home, we had a gammon joint in the slow cooker so I had to race around to make a Sunday lunch in fairly short order. On this occasion, I saved a bit of time by not making onion gravy but ordinary gravy but we were reasonably hungry when we eventually came to dish up.

This afternoon should have been a fairly quiet and peaceful afternoon but it was not to be. Meg expressed the urgent desire to go and see our friends down the road and actually wanted to walk but I judged that this was probably now beyond her. I have recently bitten the bullet and bought a wheelchair which is quite easy to fold up (once you know how) and got into the back of the car. So I put Meg in the wheelchair and we made our progress down the hill in the new conveyance. At this point, I am aware of how unfriendly and unforgiving certain surfaces can be. Our local pavements often have an adverse camber and are extensively patched making life a little difficult on occasions. Also, one has to look out well in advance for dropped kerbs and plan ones trajectory as it were but we made down the hill to see if our friends were at home. One half of the couple was gardening whilst their spouse was out shopping so we had a brief chat and then turned around for home. Getting back was marginally more difficult but it could have been worse. Meg was starting to get increasingly agitated what with one thing or another but when we got home, we found that a cup of tea, some biscuits and a good serving of Fauré in our music room restored a degree of calm.

We are quite looking forward to tonight’s TV showing. To start off we have a program about the life of Mozart and a concert of some of his music including one of the horn concertos. Very much later on, and perhaps we may need to resort to catch-up TV in the next few days, we have some repeats of some of the outstanding documentary programs by the mathematician, Jacob Bronowski, entitled ‘The Ascent of Man’ This series was lavished with praise when it was first shown in the late 70’s. I believe but some TV executive has saved the series from mouldering in the vaults and it is given a repeat viewing so this is well worth a watch.

The government have decided to make the last week theme of ‘Stop the Boats’ week, which they hoped to pepper with announcements designed to appeal to the populace at large. Actually the government may have misjudged the appeal to public opinion because attitudes towards migrants and asylum seekers is by no means as hostile as the government would like to believe and to foster. But this week has shown that a long term solution to the migrant crisis cannot be solved in a week and the last week has seen both the forced rescue of a boat floundering in the channel with about fifty saved but at least half a dozen lives lost. Also, of course, this was the week when the goverment was forced to disembark all of the recent migrants which they had dragooned onto the accommodation barge floating off Portland, once the virus of Legionnaire’s disease had found in the barge’s plumbing system. I heard a brief comment from I believe the deputy editor of the Conservative Home website to the effect that both wings of the Conservative party were unhappy – the ‘left’ or ‘moderate’ wing of the party on the basis that they disliked the whole of the process of operating the migrant policy and the right wing of the party because they not like the outcome i.e. it was not proving effective. To dissatisfy both wings of the party at once takes some doing.

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Saturday, 12th August, 2023 [Day 1244]

Today Meg and I woke up early and so we got going in plenty of time. After we had breakfasted, we knew that we needed to make a trip to the Post Office and to save Meg the walk, I left her in the car whilst I shot off to get my business transacted. Fortunately, I was seen straight away and there was no Post Ofice queue which is quite an experience. Then Meg and I made our way into Waitrose were we thought we might see members of ‘the gang’ In practice, our three regular Tuesday/Saturday ladies all showed up and we chatted away, this week on the wonderful subject of ironing. As you might imagine, we had a three way split between those of who never ironed, those who ironed a lot and those who only ironed certain items. We were anxious to get back in time to see the England vs. Colombia Women’s World Cup match and we got back after they had been playing for only 5 minutes. It was certainly a very tight and ‘physical’ game for which the Colombians are renowed or notorious. I thought that their indiviual skill levels were just a notch ahead of the English women and the Colombians took the lead with a delightful and perfectly pitched goal, shot from outside the penalty area, which just escaped the outstretched grasp of the tall England goalkeeper. This was only a few minutes before the end of the first half but the England team pressed forward and in a goalmouth scramble, a bad error by the Colombian goalkeeper in which the ball was not gathered cleanly but was pushed forwards, allowed the English forwards to pounce and score the equaliser. In the second half, the Colombian team started brightly and, to me, looked dangerous especially when they were taking up positions just outside the penalty area. But a second defensive error not quite as evident as the first, allowed the English centre forward to score a well-deserved winning goal about a third of the way through the half. From then on, it was enough for the England team to make sporadic raids into the opposing half where a third goal would not have been impossible but with some ferocious defending at the rear. So did the best team win? I think that a draw, even after extra time, could have reflected the peformance of the two teams but in the event, I was relieved that we were not forced into a situation of a penalty shootout. England now meet Australia on their home turf and I really cannot see the England team, even ‘on song’ as it were, managing to get passed the Australians. But having said that, funny things can happen and the best teams do not always win.

Sky News reports the makings of a huge scandal surrounding the huge accommodation barge designed to house asylum seekers and moored off Portland. Asylum seekers on board the Bibby Stockholm were not told to stop showering or drinking water during their stay despite Legionella bacteria being discovered in the water supply. ‘Stand Up to Racism’, which has been in contact with asylum seekers who were moved from the barge, heard reports that they were notified about the bacteria at 4.45pm yesterday and then given a letter at 5pm. The campaign group claimed there was no one to ask questions of when they were given the news and that they have not been tested for Legionnaires disease. All the recent transferees to the barge have now been taken off and put into other accommodation, presumably the hotels from which they were extracted. Initial reports when the news first broke yesterday indicated that it was possible that the presence of the Legionnaire’s disease infection of the water supply may well have been known about even before the first ‘inmates’ were housed there. If this proves to be the case, then surely some heads must roll. It does look, initially, as though the Home Office were so desperate to make the accommodation barge story appear to be a successful that they discounted the possibility that the barge was in a dangerous condition. I expect that there will be a massive cover-up,not to say obfuscation, that officials knew of the extent of the infection before the first migrants were located there. There is time enough for some in-depth investigation by the Sunday newspapers before publication later on tonight (ready for consumption the following day). Tomorrow, though, I shall follow the early morning politics programs with particular interest and I do hope that the interviewers do their job and do not pull their punches when they conduct the interviews tomorrow. I wonder who the government spokesperson will happen to be but I would imagine that instead of exposing an important senior minister to scrutiny, the government will put up either a junior minister or a back bencher to try the defend the government. But criticism has already come from within the ranks of the Conservative party itself. Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said he believes the bacteria should have been identified sooner. The MP told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: ‘It is really, really hard to understand how, at all layers, this could not be caught early. The primary thing that has been revealed has been the startling incompetence of the Home Office itself.’ Interesting!

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