Tuesday, 30th April, 2024 [Day 1506]

Our day did not start off particularly well as our two carers were quite delayed by the traffic and so were 20 minutes late- this only matters because Meg is left half undressed in the bathroom whilst I am waiting for them. They were not particularly happy with the company that employs them because various timings had been messed up and the spreadsheet with which I am supplied for the week ahead often has changes on it from one day to the next. For example, the timetabled slot for today so that Meg had a sitter whilst I go off and do my Pilates session was inaccurate and the carer in question could not extend her hours at all because she herself needed to go off to the local hospital for a blood test. I was bit concerned whether Meg would be in a good enough shape to attend our normal coffee event in Waitrose this morning and my fears were justified. As I was transferring Meg from her chair to her transit chair, she slid off which is not at all surprising as she does not have the ability to sit properly in a chair any more. So Meg finished up on the floor and there was no alternative but to call the Falls team out who, as they have to come from Kidderminster, took about 35 minutes to arrive. Of course, they were very good and have a large inflatable pillow arrangement which raises the fallen body to an approximately sitting position. Even so, it took the two personnel to get Meg sitting in her normal chair. As I am not feeling too hot today (after the COVID booster yesterday?) I have decided to forgo the Pilates session for later on today as I do not feel in the right frame of mind, either physically or psychologically, to leave Meg after she has fallen yet again. The realisation is gradually dawning upon me that the days when I used to just about get Meg into the car are probably to all extent and purposes over – which means that I am confined to the house every day just as much as Meg is. I needed to get onto the care agency to sort out some of the scheduling anomalies and get through to the manager, which was helpful. When I explained that I had asked Social Services for additional help but got no response despite a variety of messages, he volunteered to phone social services directly for me as, in his opinion, the social services departments respond more readily to the care agencies than they do to their actual clients (which is a bit of an eye-opener)

Later in the day, a care worker called around so that, in theory, I could go off and do my Pilates but in practice, I was not really up to anything like that today. So whilst the care worker sat with Meg, I went down to Waitrose to pick up our newspaper and to buy one or two things of which we may be running short. Then I returned home and set about preparing the dinner, whilst the care worker left. Then, after I had served up the dinner in the kitchen, I needed to get Meg to get out of the chair and into the transit chair. But this was beyond her and she slithered to the floor again. I had no alternative but to call the falls team for the second time today and they turned up in about 40 minutes, whilst I left Meg on the floor and ate my own dinner. I phoned the community OT team to ask if I could speak with the OT worker who has been so helpful to us in the past. So I had to explain Meg’s dilemmas and incapacities to the duty receptionist who said they would pass the details onto the Falls team for a response. A report goes from the Falls Response team (who get people off the floor using inflatable devices) to the doctor, who then in theory should make a forward reference to the community OT team but whether this ever happens is problematic. However, one of the workers who had already got Meg off the floor twice today and she said that she would contact the OT team directly to add a note of urgency. I explained that Meg was badly in need of another home visit and assessment and the response was they would put the request ‘into the system’ so nothing will happen for a day or so. I then texted the care agency to see if he had any luck persuading social services to authorise another visit but no response as yet. So I am in the situation where I have sent off please for help in three or four directions but can do nothing in the meantime until there is some kind of response. The care worker is due to call at 8.00pm to help to put Meg to bed and I am afraid that there is no alternative, however uncomfortable Meg happens to be, until they turn up in about four hours time. Tonight, I am going to Skype my University of Winchester friend so that we can swop notes and update each other.

Of course, the Trump story continues to fascinate us. Today he has fined $9,000 for violation of anti-gagging orders designed to prevent the intimidation of witnesses. But what is exercising some judicial minds in the United States, even on the far right, is Trump’s claim for presidential immunity currently before the Supreme Court and which, although they have delayed judgement for some time, may well uphold Trump’s claim for immunity at least in part. But if this doctrine is established then there is nothing to stop Jo Biden, were he to be reelected, to launch a pre-emptive strike against Trump and his entourage in a totally illegal abuse of presidential power. But if the Supreme Court allows for even some degree of presidential immunity from prosecution, then the consequences for the Republican party could be catastrophic in the years ahead. So far, as expected, the Supreme Court stuffed full of Trump nominees have been relatively well disposed towards Trump by allowing certain legal actions to be delayed – which is all part of the Trump ‘play’ But there are quite a lot of legal actions to work through the system in the weeks ahead so we will have to hold our breath to see how these work out.

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Monday, 29th April, 2024 [Day 1505]

Today was the scheduled day when Meg and I were due to receive our COVID booster jabs. As this was just before midday, it rather messed up what we intended to do. So Meg and I spent a quiet morning, listening to some Beethoven piano sonatas in the kitchen whilst I prepared the vegetables for the midday meal. Earlier I had sent some messages (answering machine and then a text) to our social worker who, as she is newly allocated, we have not actually met asking if we can have a bit more assistance from carers in the middle of the day on account of Meg’s reduced mobility. Earlier this morning, we were delighted to see back again a carer who we had not seen for weeks) as she had had a bad car crash, writing off the car and not being able yet to afford another one. But she was very, very good with Meg and was so kindly and supportive so I was delighted to see her once again. Once we had spent most of the morning quietly at home, it was time for us to go down to the doctor’s surgery to receive our COVID booster jabs – I must admit, I was not looking forward to the four transitions of getting Meg into and out of the car, once to go down to the surgery and once to come back. In practice, the journey down proved to be not too problematic and we both received our jabs, completely on time and such that we could scarcely feel the jab so fine are the needles these days. On the way back home, we needed to dive into Waitrose to pick up our daily newspaper and as the visit to the store should only take a couple of minutes, I pop inside without bothering to get a car parking technique. Today, though, I notice a couple of enforcement officers so thought I had better get a ticket which I did. On my way into the store, I notice one young woman with child who are arguing against her fine as she had the wheels of her car over the line designating the parking space – to be fair, quite a way over. On the way back into the car, I noticed another person being booked and photographed so, for once, I was really pleased to have made myself ‘legal’ as it were. Getting Meg out of the car was proving to be a bit problematic but very fortunately, our son was working in the office he has retained in this house and, seeing my plight, could come to our assistance. After that, we had a lunch of beef, fine beans, jacket potato and baked tomato although I think Meg’s appetite is not as healthy as it was a week or so ago. After lunch, Meg had a good doze as did I and we both felt the better for it, with (so far) no adverse consequences from our booster jabs.

Scottish politics does not normally absorb much of our attention span but today is an exception. The SNP party leader and First Minister, Humza Yousaf, has been forced into a resignation since he threw the Greens out of the coalition that was supporting the SNP in power – if they had only two more seats, they would have had a majority in the Scottish Assembly. Yousaf had lost so much of the trust of the Greens and the one representative of the Alba party that to carry on in government alone was now impossible so a resignation was the only way out for him. Having said that, his resignation statement was, to my mind, dignified and appropriate. In his statement, he did point out that with all of the first ministers of England, Scotland and Wales were from ethnic minority backgrounds, this bodes well for the future of equal opportunities in our political system writ large. But it has been evident for a day or so that Yousaf would lose a vote of confidence in himself as First Minister and it is thought that Yousaf had made a massive miscalculation for which he has had to pay the ultimate political price. The Labour party in Scotland must be rubbing their hands in glee because if the SNP were to lose a lot of the support they have had over the years, then the Labour party in Scotland could be the ultimate beneficiaries. And, of course, if Labour does well in Scotland, this might add to the overall majority of any forthcoming Labour government. And the collapse of the Labour vote in Scotland has helped to sustain a Conservative party in power in Westminster.

Today, the government is introducing what is called a Disability and Welfare reform bill. The BBC website is reporting that disabled people could face major changes to how the personal independence payments (PIP) benefit works, as the government tries to tackle the rising number of claimants with a mental health condition. Reforms to PIP could include stopping regular cash payments, and instead offering claimants one-off grants for things like home adaptations. The number of people claiming PIP in relation to anxiety and depression has soared in recent years, leading Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to say on Monday: ‘We need to do something about that.’ The disability charity Scope described the plans as a ‘reckless assault on disabled people’.The plans are subject to a 12-week consultation, ending on 23 July. I watched the first few minutes of the announcement made to the House of Commons by the relevant minister and the phrase that was used first and repeated ‘ad nauseam’ was that the government had to ensure that the taxpayer received value for money. On a similar theme, I read an account recently that indicated that Tory MPs were resisting any payments being made to those who had been made ill or even lost their lives following the administration of contaminated blood products (to counteract haemophilia) in past decades. The view of the Tory MPs was that the more Treasury money that was spent on compensation would reduce the amount available for distribution as a tax cut. When one considers the morality of all of this – that tax cuts that would disproportionately put money into the pockets of the already wealthy at the expense of those made ill (or even losing their lives) as a result of past government attempts to cut costs – one has to wonder whether morality has completely disappeared from British politics.

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Sunday, 28th April, 2024 [Day 1504]

Meg and I had a fairly restful night last night without undue interruptions which was good thing. After getting myself showered, I set about the task of getting Meg out of bed and to the bathroom but she showed a complete unwillingness to get out of bed. The two carers were both marvellous youngish women, and they were absolutely marvellous with Meg. They showed a lot of patience in getting Meg and then washed and dressed, in which I helped where I could. By the time, we had got Meg downstairs via the stairlift, she was quite a lot more ready to face the day so I gave my profuse thanks to the two carers (who had known each other since their teenage days) and we ended up showing each photographs of their children. One had three young children and the other two and we reciprocated by showing them photographs of our wedding day in September, 1967. I always take the opportunity to explain to them that Meg’s wedding dress was a ‘Mary Quant’ design but not an original Mary Quant which would have been way above our income level. Meg’s mother was a superb couturier and at one stage had been a partner in her own dressmaker’s shop. I explained how Meg sketched out the designs and then Meg’s mother and Meg bought the relevant material which Meg’s mother than made up. The carers were quite intrigued by the Mary Quant story – of course beyond a certain age, most women will have heard of Mary Quant and she was credited with popularising if not actually inventing the mini-skirt. In 1967. Meg’s wedding dress was just above the knee and after half a century, one would not know this was not a Mary Quant original. We will not see these couple of carers until next weekend which is a bit of a shame but I thought the three of us made a great team together. Being a Sunday morning, we first tuned into the Trevor Phillips Politics program where Rishi Sunak was being interviewed before tuning in to Lorna Kuenssberg where the recent ex junior Health Minister had in the last day or so resigned from the Conservative party (who he accused of now becoming an English Nationalist party although they are almost indistinguishable from what might have been a UKIP -now Brexit) governing party. The MP decided not to stand at the forthcoming general election but as a practising psychiatrist intended to act as an adviser to presumably an incoming Labour Government on mental health issues. This sounds a much more sensible role than putting himself for election where he may have been rejected in any case. After lunch today, I just managed to squeeze in the cutting of the front lawn which is always a bit problematic. I had only left Meg for 10 minutes after which she had slipped off the settee and was calling for help so I had to put her straight before carrying on with two further ten minute absences. By a cruel irony, by the time I was inside and calming reading the Sunday newspapers, Meg went into the sort of deep doze in which state I had wanted to leave her whilst the grass was cut.

Next week there are several appointments on our calendar. The first one of these is for Meg and I to turn up just before midday to get our COVID booster jabs. As Meg has been so wobbly for the last couple of days, I am slightly concerned that I will not be able to get Meg into the car as I have been used to over the last three months. It means that I have to think incredibly carefully about the logistics of every single move as I transfer Meg from our house-based transit wheelchair onto the front car seat. If I can do this without Meg falling, all well and good but if she were to fall outside, there would be no alternative but to send for the Falls team again and have Meg lying on the driveway for quite a period of time. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Occasionally, I come across a story which I regard as jaw-dropping and one of these occurred during the week. I occasionally looked at ‘Twitter‘ and its ‘X’ reincarnation and came across the following exchange last Tuesday night. TalkTV presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer talked to Ben Habib – the Reform UK party’s ‘co-deputy leader’ on the correct tactics to follow to dissuade would be migrants from taking evidently unseaworthy and overloaded rubber dinghies across the English Channel. Ben Habib expressed the view that people should be left to drown, even including victims such as the seven year old girl who lost her life last week. Julia Hartley-Brewer was duly shocked and a mass of correspondence was generated to come to her defence and to condemn the views of the Reform UK co-deputy leader. The actual leader, Richard Tice, has refused to endorse these views but some are arguing that it is a signal of how far British values have been subject to a rightwards drift in recent years that a prominent political leader can contemplate drowning in the Channel as a just reward for would be asylum seekers. This week is the week of the local elections in which three Conservatives are widely predicated to take a drubbing, perhaps losing as many as one half of the council seats that they are defending. But there are several mayoral contests which are hard to predict. Andy Street, the mayor for the West Midlands. may just about be able to hang on by a strategy of never unknowingly failing to appear in a photograph and also by the expedient of never mentioning the Conservative Party. Andy Street had a massive argument with Westminster Conservatives over the axing of the Northerly links of HS2 which would have been a fast connection between Birmingham and Manchester. Although the elections themselves take place on Thursday, it may be that to save money councils do not start counting the vote until Friday morning so it may be Friday afternoon before any really significant results are announced. There is a possibility that if the results are even worse than predicted, then a movement might take place to get rid of Rishi Sunak and install a new leader (Penny Mordant?) before a possible snap election perhaps as early as July. So the consequences of these local elections may be quite far reaching but no doubt next weekend will be one of all kinds of machinations within the Tory party.

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Saturday, 27th April, 2024 [Day 1503]

Today did not get off to the best of starts. The carers were due around at about 7.55 and so 15 minutes beforehand, I started to the process of getting Meg out of bed and into the bathroom. But Meg was in a very deep sleep and took some arousing which did not bode well for the transfer into the bathroom. I managed to get Meg into the transit chair but once in the bathroom she could not really stand unaided and slithered to the floor. In the past, I have managed to get Meg off the floor unaided by using well tried and tested techniques but Meg’s body strength has declined to the point where I considered such efforts to be futile. So I had no alternative but to call for the assistance of the Falls team who are used to dealing with situations of this type and have the equipment (inflatable mattresses placed under the body of the patient) to assist. So I left Meg on the floor with a blanket and a pillow and just had to sit and wait. The carers came around about 25 minutes late and they were very good and solicitous but between us, all we could do was to await the arrival of the Falls team who arrived after 45 minutes. Once we had got Meg onto the transit wheelchair, the Falls team departed having sone their bit and the carers and myself got Meg back into bed as this was judged the easiest place in which to get Meg changed, washed and dressed. The care workers, both of whom I know, worked really well and evidently I assisted. When she was up and ready, we got Meg downstairs using the stairlift and into her armchair in the Music Lounge. From this point onwards, I was able to care for Meg for myself (just about) and I gave her some breakfast most of which she ate. We evidently needed a quiet morning so Meg listened to Beethoven’s ‘Missa Solemnis‘ and after we had done the extensive washing up, it was practically elevenses time. Our next neighbour had very kindly called out with some pastries from the place where she works and so this morning, I treated Meg to a Danish pastry and I had my usual coffee. Quite unusually, I have started this blog in the late morning because Meg has fallen fast asleep and I always have a policy of ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ – so far, she has fallen asleep without consuming any of her grub.

Late yesterday afternoon, I received a most welcome telephone call from one of my ex-University of Winchester colleagues. I gave her details of how I was caring for |Meg, all of which she quite understood as she has to adopt a caring role in relation to her own sister who experienced a stroke in the last year. My friend was phoning to ascertain whether Meg and I would be able to attend an ‘Old Fogies’ dinner probably in Winchester or nearby. I had to give her the rather unpleasant news that I think this is probably a stretch too far for Meg and I to attend. In view of this morning’s news, if I had thought that a Winchester trip was just about do-able, I am now pretty sure that it is not. As it stands at the moment, I hope that in the few days ahead Meg recovers some of her strength and balance such that I can just about manage, by hook or by crook to get her to her much loved cousin’s funeral which is now about a fortnight away. I am minded to get into contact with the exceptionally helpful OT (Occupational Therapist) who has been such a source of help to us in the past. I am wondering if there is some relatively simple devices to help ease the transfer from Meg’s wheelchair to her normal armchair or even to assist in getting her onto her feet after a ‘simple’ fall to the floor. A consultation of the web reveals a bewildering array of devices available for sale at a price. Although I am certainly not averse to spending some money to assist with Meg’s condition, I would want the money to be well spent in a direction that would undoubtedly help and not just be a white elephant and even more clutter in the room.

I always look ahead in the TV schedules to see if anything grabs my attention and this afternoon, we are treated to England vs. France in the Women’s Six Nations competition. Kick off is scheduled for 4.45 this afternoon and, other things being equal, I would have wished for an earlier start to this match. However, there is a film on this afternoon which although it was shot in 1940 is meant to be a classic of its genre we shall perhaps suck it and see. Of course the classic ‘Casablanca‘ was shot in black and white but is no less enjoyable for all of that. Sky Arts is due to be a Charlie Chaplin season starting this weekend and although some people are enamoured of the Chaplin performances, I am not one of them.

The Trump saga rumbles on and Trump has had some mixed fortunes. On the negative side, it looks as though one of his demands for a retrial in one of the cases brought by a woman against him has been denied. The judge in his present trial still has to rule whether Trump should be fined for attempting to adversely influence the jury. On the more positive side for Trump, it looks as though the Supreme Court (now dominated by nominees of his own choosing and therefore sympathetic towards him) may now be inclined to offer some partial immunity for crimes committed whilst in office. The Supreme Court is arguing that without some limited immunity, all presidents would be liable to prosecution. But the attack on the Capital building after Trump last the election was so outlandish that one would think that no Supreme Court could afford to almost condone such an attack on American democracy. As with so many things with Trump at the moment, all lot appears to be in the balance at the moment. Most Americans are of the belief that Trump is being unfairly pursued by legal actions all which are all assumed to be politically motivated. If Trump manages to escape unscathed from the legal actions in which he is engaged at the moment, one must despair for the future of America’s democracy, not to mention its legal systems.

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Friday, 26th April, 2024 [Day 1502]

At long last the weather seems to have made a turn for the better because the day seemed bright and cheerful when we awoke. the carer was timed for a time that was early for us at 7.00am in the morning, so I really had to get up and get my skates on so that Meg was up and ready for when the (sole) carer arrived. Yesterday afternoon, I received a text from the picture framing service in the centre of town informing me that my newly framed tapestry was ready for collection. So after breakfast, I trundled Meg to inside the car and we went to pick up the tapestry, just parking outside with our flashers on which seems to be ‘de rigeur’ for this particular shop. They seem to have made a good job of it so I got it safely home. Later on in the evening, when Meg was hopefully fast asleep, I could not resist the temptation of hanging it in its intended position as with its new frame on, it was lighter than the heavy gilt frame in which I first saw it. I needed a slight rearrangement of the furniture to ensure that the picture was duly centred over our two seater settee and it was fairly easy job to extract the old picture hanging hook and to locate it about 4″ to the right of its previous position. Although I measured the distances with a tape measure, often the eye is a better judge of what looks and feels right than a purely mathematical precision. After we had returned from town, we awaited the arrival of our University of Birmingham friend. We had made an arrangement to visit Alcester, a delightful little Georgian town with a good range of charity shops not too far distant. We were very, very fortunate to secure the last available disabled parking spot when we arrived and then we made haste for the other end of the High Street to avail ourselves of a mid morning coffee. When we got there, all of the tables outside were occupied and most of them inside as well but nonetheless. we made our way inside and hunted for a non-reserved table. Not finding one, we were just on the point of departure to hunt for another coffee shop when a couple took pity on us and vacated their table which was a bit like manna from heaven for us. We enjoyed a coffee and a toasted teacake and then decided to hit one or two of the charity shops. I finished off buying quite a nice floral top for Meg, an ‘adult’ Ladybird book for myself (on the ‘Mid Life Crisis’) and finally a capacious coffee mug, suitably labelled ‘Dad’ on the side. We then made our way to the old fashioned inn where lunch was booked and where they know us quite well. It was somewhat arkward to get Meg inside but two of the staff, one already known to us, was kindness itself and between the two staff, my friend and myself we managed to get Meg in her wheelchair conveyed up some shallow steps into the seating area. We all had a pensioner’s meal on sale for less than £10.00 and my friend and I indulged in a little beer to wash it down. Then Meg was getting tired and it was evidently time to go home. But a certain amount of drama was to attend our departure. I was completely blocked in by one police car, another was in attendance and a fleet of three ambulances. I needed one of the policemen to move their car so that we could exit and one of the ambulance drivers told me to seek out the police from inside the pub. As I opened the door, there was at least one body lying on the floor (well, I presume that a shape on the floor covered with a white sheet was actually a body) but I was not allowed any further into the premises and I wondered how many more bodies lay inside. Surely, I reasoned, it doesn’t take two police cars and three ambulances to shift one dead body so I had to leave it to my imagination to speculate whether we had had a shoot-out at the OK Corale and how many more dead and wounded were within. Anyway, we soon got on our way and got home in a fairly brisk time – coming home from Alcester always seems to be a much faster procedure than the journey out in the first place.

Evidently, we had already lunched so whilst Meg dozed, I indulged myself in a little of the Post Office Enquiry where a long serving executive was being subject to a detailed grilling by a KC representing the sub postmasters. Her answers were vague and evasive but she would accept no responsibility for any of her actions. Her responses varied between ‘I did not appreciate at the time’ to ‘I cannot now recall’ but despite the determined efforts of the KC, there was no evidently smoking gun to be found. The sub postmasters who were present in the enquiry were uniformly of the view that she was just lying through her teeth. As the weather was quite fine, I thought I would seize the opportunity to get the back lawn cut, which I did in two ten minute tranches. This I always find to be a relief because if the grass runs away with you in April and May, the rest of the season can become incredibly difficult. Meg’s mobility seems to have deteriorated somewhat in the last day or so and I am finding it quite difficult to get her just to stand, even when aided and turning to sit in a chair is becoming problematic. Perhaps because she was tired, it was difficult to get Meg onto her transit chair this evening but we managed it (via the floor!) Although the carer was early at 7.00pm I was glad to see her because I felt that the sooner I could get Meg into bed and fast asleep the better.

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Thursday, 25th April, 2024 [Day 1501]

Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night, I am persuaded to go onto the web and to buy things that I need. So last night, I purchased six pairs of socks that actually arrived via Amazon ‘Prime‘ this afternoon. The socks have a toe and heel in distinct colours which is rather handy as it means that I can match pairs of socks up with each when they emerge from the washer and/or dryer. At the same time, I ordered myself a pair of new pyjamas which I felt I needed. I tried to ensure that these were not of the thin cotton variety but were advertised as ‘warm’ because in the middle of the night, one needs warm pyjamas whatever the season. Our friend who called round yesterday sent me a quick email to tell me of the time of the family concert which is due to be performed on the afternoon of my birthday and which Meg and I felt that we might attend. I did know about this concert but had temporarily forgotten about it but I was told about it by one of the lead violinists in a regional orchestra who had come along to the AgeUK club the session before last. Then I remembered that Meg and I had had our photos taken which ought to appear on the orchestra’s website. So, although it was late, I located the website and did actually find three photos in which Meg and I appear. So this was quite a delight to see so I proceeded to download them – at this point, I email myself with them with the photos appended as attachments. Then I open my email in my iPhone and I find that this is the easiest and quickest way of getting the photos that I want added to the main collection of photos on my iPhone. So after Meg had been brought downstairs, I showed the photos to Meg and the two carers who had called around on cue this morning. The carer who comes from Poland is called ‘Aliciya’ (in Polish) and she always seemed determinedly cheerful at whatever hour it is in the morning. So I made an imaginative leap and told her that if she had lived in Roman times, she might have been called ‘Felicia’ which may (or may not) be the Latin for a ‘happy or cheerful one’ As Thursday is my shopping day, one of the carers was due to return to sit with Meg whilst I went to do the shopping. Meg was feeling a little wobbly as I was on my way out so I was determined to be as fast as I possibly could. But this involves negotiating the roadworks, then getting some money out of the ATM, securing my copy of the newspaper and then whizzing round the (smaller) supermarket where I know where everything is. This week seemed to be a heavier week than usual as there were some bulky things of which I knew we had run out, principally ice-cream, but all in all I was absent from the house for about an hour. When I returned, I had eight bags of shopping to process and I felt absolutely shattered but I had a cup of coffee to revive myself and then afterwards, started on the process of a slow unpack whilst I was throwing together the kind of lunch in which I cook together various bits and pieces and serve it on pasta (for Meg) So lunch was a little delayed but after lunch, Meg had a doze and I started to watch some of the evidence from the Post Office ‘Horizon’ enquiry and promptly fell asleep myself. I had hoped for a period in which Meg was asleep and I was awake so that I could the back lawn cut but it was not to be so I will have to seize another opportunity when it presents itself.

After we had our fill of the Post Office enquiry, in which a senior executive who had worked at the Post Office for thirty years, is giving evidence, we are wondering what further revelations will occur tomorrow morning. Thinking about the organisational processes upon which the Enquiry is taking evidence, one is left to wonder how decisions about anything are made by anyone. This particular witness had previously testified to the High Court that the Horizon system was absolutely robust but today was presented with email evidence that she had been informed of some its shortcomings some years before. So this appears to be a clear case of a perjury having been committed. But under questioning from the King’s Counsel (KC), the executive seemed unable to recall or to realise the import of what she was being told in the emails. To my mind, it appeared that all of the various executives had been in a darkened room and were desperately trying to make contact with other with failing torches. Of course, memories are fallible but it does seem to be highly convenient for a plethora of excuses to be deployed such as ‘I was not present at all of the meeting’ or ‘I only attend some of the meetings’ or ‘I believe that someone else had responsibility for X’ and so on and so forth.

This afternoon, Meg started to watch a YouTube concert which was ‘Mozarts Great Mass in C’ held in a stunning modern concert hall I know not where. Sometimes the venue is flashed up at the start of the transmission but I am never sure of the nationality of the performers or indeed the actual venue itself. But I love watching the intensity of emotion and the concentration on the faces of the singers as they perform. The camera work takes in views of the orchestra and sometimes one gets a glimpse of an instrument such as what might appear to be a modern harpsichord as the performance progresses. Although I learned to play the violin which I had to give up at the age of about fourteen when I changed schools (to one with no musical tradition), I sometime speculate what kind of instrument I wish I had learned how to play. The way I feel at the moment, I suspect that I would settle on the oboe because there are stunning little pieces composed for this particularly by Mozart and, if I had mastered the oboe I think I would have liked to have gone on to play the bassoon.

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Wednesday, 24th April, 2024 [Day 1500]

Meg and I generally look forward to Wednesdays because it is the day when our domestic help calls around and we always enjoy a good chat with her. We had to make do with one carer this morning whilst the agency is having its temporary staffing difficulties but this worked out all right for us. After we had had breakfast, we started watching a YouTube offering and this morning it was the renowned pianist Horovitz giving a piano recital in Vienna. He started by playing approximately five pieces of Mozart which he did without having a score in front of him. Judged by his appearance, he appeared to me to be in his 80’s and so I consulted the web to find a bit more information. I discovered that the 82-year-old pianist Vladimir Horowitz played his first recital in 52 years, and music lovers said his reception was one of the most rousing they have seen in the Austrian capital. Horowitz delighted 1,700 fans who paid up to $250 each with a performance of works by Mozart, Schubert, Liszt, Schumann and Chopin in the Great Hall of the Musikverein. A standing ovation greeted the finale, Chopin’s Polonaise in A flat major (Op. 53). Evidently, Horowitz had escaped persecution at the hands of the Nazis which must explain his long absence from the Austrian capital. No doubt, he has been playing these works for decades but I still marvelled at both his memory by playing so much without so much as a score as an aide-memoire and also at the physical dexterity of his hands, which seemed unaffected by arthritis which must be quite common amongst 80 year olds. Our friend from our local church called around mid morning and we have a mini-service, followed by a chat. Afterwards, as the morning was fairly advanced, Meg and I decided to go down to Waitrose. As I was getting Meg out of the car, I had a slightly awkward moment as the spot where I had parked is on a slight camber and getting Meg into her wheelchair can prove a little problematic on these occasions. But suddenly a helping hand appeared just in the nick of time and apparently out of nowhere and it was our Irish friend from down the road. She explained that she and her husband had been off to Ireland and that explains why we had not bumped each other for a week or so but no doubt we will get together quite soon to exchange bits of news with each other. Once we got home, it was a case of finishing off our ham with a baked potato and some fine green beans. The ham tasted particularly tasty today and I think it must be the onion gravy that I make afresh and in which I heat up the slices of ham before it is all served up. Meg had a little doze this afternoon and then we amused ourselves with a catch-up of ‘Have I Got News for You?‘ followed by a David Attenborough wildlife programme.

This week is a fairly quiet week for Meg and myself with no appointments or other commitments in prospect. But on Friday we intend to pay a visit to Alcester which is a charming Georgian town with an excellent range of charity shops from which we rarely emerge empty handed. There is another attraction, also, because there is a very old fashioned hotel at one end of the High Street that offers a mid-day meal to pensioners at pensioner prices – as it is always home cooking at its best, we tend to always enjoy their offerings, even though the menu is necessarily limited. I managed to make a booking today and we anticipate that our University of Birmingham friend can come with us to enjoy the delights of the town. The highlights of next week for us is going to be the local election results to be held on May 2nd and then the following week is going to be intensely busy for us. We will be attending the funeral of Meg’s cousin in Derby on one day, followed by a family meal in Cheltenham the next, followed by my birthday when, quite fortuitously, there is going to be a concert in one of the local churches that we intend to attend. I suppose social arrangements follow the rules followed by buses i.e. nothing seems to happen and then at least two come along at once.

In the late afternoon, Meg and I casually turned on Sky News only to receive some of the latest news about the Post Office Horizon enquiry. Just when you thought that things could scarcely get any worse, there was revelation in the enquiry today that there were other accounting scandals concerned with other parts of the Post Office business. The news today was that the ATMs in Post Offices were subject to error on occasion and one case was highlighted where the sub postmaster had to fund the Post Office with tens of thousands of his own money. The convictions were always upheld by the Court of Appeal as there was always a presumption that the Post Office system was sound so the sub postmaster must be fraudulent. Because some of the cases are so dated, then some of the people affected have died and their families have had to live with the stigma of having a member of their family convicted and regarded as guilty of a criminal offence. I also read in the last few days that another arm of government, i.e. the Home Office is dragging its feet concerning the payments that it indicated that it would make to the victims of the Windrush scandal. It seems that Suella Braverman had instituted a policy of ‘going slow’ on the Windrush payments so here we have two parallel cases where past wrongs have been admitted but the State is proving to be exceptionally tardy in putting right the wrongs that have been committed.

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Tuesday, 23rd April, 2024 [Day 1499]

Today has been one of those days which I describe as ‘chewy’ We did not get off to the best of starts where the carer, not the one I was expecting, turned up about 20 minutes late but I do understand that there are staffing difficulties. Nonetheless, we had our Tuesday crowd in Waitrose to which to look forward. Only one of our number turned up but as a 90-year old, I never cease to marvel at her energy and mental acuity and I constantly wonder if I can be like that if I ever reach that age. We popped around the store knowing that there were a few things that are only sold in the store and then returned home to wait for our carer before I went off to my Pilates session, which is a norm for a Tuesday. Meg was having a bit of a bad spell this morning and knowing that the allocated carer was the lady from Peru who had recently been taken by her husband to watch ‘La Bohème‘ on YouTube, we watched the first two of the four acts and then waited patiently for the carer to turn up but she did not materialise. So I went ahead and cooked our lunch of fishcakes and microwaved vegetables. We had just about finished eating all of this when the carer turned up, three quarters of an hour late according to the schedule on her phone and an hour and a quarter late by the schedule on our own spreadsheet. I had to (patiently) explain that as the sitting visit was timed in such a way that I could attend my Pilates session, there was really no point in turning up so late when she was not needed. Each carer has to file a report at the conclusion of each visit and so the latecomer duly filed her report but whether any action will ensue from this, I cannot say.

After Meg is put to bed at about 8.00pm, I generally do a few domestic jobs and then look in the TV schedules to see if anything watchable is being broadcast at 9.00pm. Incidentally, I have often speculated that there seem to be rubbish programmes in the schedules between 8.00pm-9.00pm because I suspect that BBC and ITV executives are busy putting their children to bed at these times and so good programmes, as well as the watershed, starts at 9.00pm. I have been watching ‘Pompeii – the new dig’ and today, searching the BBC iPlayer, Meg and I started watching the series from the very beginning. As it was the first programme in the series, several fascinating facts were revealed. The eruption, of course, was in AD79 and was observe first hand by the Roman historian, Pliny, which must be one of the few first hand accounts of an ancient disaster ever recorded. The ruins were discovered in the 1740’s when excavations were first started. Typically, the whole city was covered with five metres of a pumice/ash which descended upon the town and the weight of this ask upon primitive roofs caused them to collapse killing the inhabitants within. But about the third of the original site of the town has never been excavated so after years of planning, this ‘new dig’ has just started. For its time, Pompeii was quite an elite town and the excavations often reveal large villas decorated with frescos, workshops and other commercial buildings. It always amazes me that archaeologists manage to reconstruct the past based upon the most fragmentary of evidence but I wonder sometimes whether tiny bits of evidence are used to construct an elaborate theory or imaginative reconstruction that might turn out to be utterly mistaken. Nonetheless, the programmes are still worth watching again as it is the first time for Meg (but the second time for me). Meg and I went around Pompeii decades ago and even ascended the slopes of Vesuvius and, even then there were occasional fissures in the rock emitting clouds of sulphur dioxide and other volcanic gases. Some of the frescos that have been uncovered are portraits of an almost photograph quality that give the most accurate depiction of the faces and apparel of some of the inhabitants. I think that Meg and I may well watch an episode a day for the next few days and Meg found it especially fascinating – we both enjoyed Latin when we were at school and so Meg has a particular love for, and insight into, things Roman.

After the Rwanda bill finally passed through Parliament last night, a crucial concession having been made by the government over the treatment of Afghani asylum seekers who have assisted the British armed forces, the media is speculating about what happens next. It does appear that the Government are going to round up several migrants from wherever they happen to be and will put them in detention centres awaiting the final preparations for the flights to commence. I wonder, though, how many intended ‘deportees’ get wind of their intended fate and just disappear into communities around the country. I am not convinced that the government has got accurate records of exactly who is meant to be where, at this point of time. Meanwhile, it has become clear that in Rwanda itself, some or all of the housing originally built to house those being sent to Rwanda has actually been sold off. And all of this speculation has been overtaken by the very sad news that at least five bodies have been discovered in the Channel after a perilous journey has evidently failed. Journalists have been keen to hunt out would be migrants in the dunes on the coasts of northern France and it does appear that for the vast majority of them, the existence the Rwanda scheme is not going to have a deterrent effect.

Little snippets are starting to appear about the Trump trial in New York at the moment. Although it is early days yet, it appears that the Trump defence team is making a disastrous start to his defence. Meanwhile, Trump is sounding off whenever he possibly can through his own social media channel about the perceived inequity of the proceedings and vituperative attacks upon the judge in the case. As for judge himself, he still has to rule whether all of these outpouring actually constitute a breach of the gagging orders that have already been made but of course the trial has to run for weeks yet.

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Monday, 22nd April, 2024 [Day 1498]

When our carers showed up this morning, we all commiserated with each other as, one way or another, each one of us had a disturbed night’s sleep. I finally get Meg settled into bed after a restless period at about 1.00am and actually got to bed myself at about 1.30 but one of the carers had been up until 2.45 with her one of her children who had a stomach upset after spending the day with his father (it was evidently something that had eaten) Our mood was not particularly improved as it was a grey and drizzly type of day and the bad weather seemed to set in for most of the day. It was a bit difficult to make plans when the weather was as wet as this – nonetheless, we delivered some letters (principally our voting ballots for the forthcoming mayoral elections) and called in to see if our friends happened to be at home down the hill. They were not in so we proceeded to the supermarket where we obtained some much needed supplies of requisites of which the other supermarket had sold out when we shopping last Thursday. Then we collected our newspaper and made our way to the Methodist centre for a coffee. We were quite glad that we did because we made the acquaintance of one of their activities organisers with whom I had previously been in correspondence by email. We had missed the opening session of the club they are starting off on the third Friday of each month so, armed with a leaflet, we will ensure that we make a calendar entry so that we do not miss it next month. We chatted with a ex-nurse and another lady, the topic of conversation being how long we had lived in Bromsgrove and why we had come to live in the town nearly seventeen years ago. Naturally, we availed ourselves of their tea and teacakes and we enjoyed the social chitchat in which we engage when we are sitting on what is termed the ‘Chatty Table’ One lady was trying to persuade us to go to an open afternoon in the local Salvation Army citadel but we declined the invitation, preferring to have lunch at home and then have a quiet and peaceful afternoon at home. After we had had a disturbed night last night, I was hopeful that Meg would have a longer doze after lunch because she (and I) are always so much the better for it. Lunch was the ham we cooked yesterday in which we heat up slices in a thick onion gravy, prepared yesterday, and complemented with broccoli and a baked potato.

The political news is dominated today by Rishi Sunak who gave a press conference this morning in which he stressed how he was unequivocally going to get his Rwanda flights scheme off the ground. It may well be that both the Lords and the Commons will continue to battle it out until the small hours of the morning. The Tories are blaming the Labour peers for prolonging the battle and although this is true to a certain extent, it is not the full story. Some of the opposition is coming from the cross benches (i.e. not party politically aligned members of the House of Lords) as well as some influential Tories. There is no doubt that in terms of ‘realpolitik’ and constitutional conventions, the House of Commons will eventually have its way. Apart from the damage that may be done to Britain’s international standing by breaking some of the tenets of international law, the Lords have other reasons to oppose the legislation. If there had been a clear mandate from the electorate i.e. the boats policy was part of a government manifesto, then the opposition from the Lords would have melted away more quickly. But as it stands, the Lords are saying that they are a revising chamber and this legislation is crying out for revision in the way it has been drafted and will be implemented. Rishi Sunak is saying today that commercial flights are standing by to process a whole stream of migrants but in view of the damage done to their reputation, I doubt this is actually the case. Small boat arrivals in the UK since the beginning of the year have increased by 24% compared with the according to Home Office data published today. Some 6,265 small boats arrived between 1 January and 21 April 2024, compared with 5,049 during the same period the year before. Vietnamese and Afghan arrivals were the main two nationalities, making up 40% of total arrivals during the period. Some 56,744 claims were granted and 36,597 were refused, representing a grant rate of 61%. Some details from the press conference which I have only fleetingly heard are the numbers (in their hundreds) of personnel who have been specially recruited to physically handle the migrants, many of whom will no doubt be dragged kicking and screaming onto the planes and then escorted all the way to Rwanda – one wonders if they will be manacled and/or physically restrained during the flights. All of this will be kept away from the prying eyes of the press and independent observers but I fear that eventually, if the policy works as the government intends, then all kinds of force will be used to implement the policy and I predict that some suicides will occur. One can only speculate whether the government will actually quite enjoy it to take place in order to placate their own right wing and the most illiberal of their supporters in the so called ‘red wall’ seats for whom the forcible removal of migrants is said to be a priority.

The other story abounding today is the Jewish activist who has forced an apology from the Met police after he tried to exercise his right to walk (confront?) a march organised by supporters of Palestine. There is a lot more here than meets the eye. One commentator who has seen the whole of the confrontation with the police filmed by Sky News and not just little selected clips from it broadcast has argued then an arrest would have been warranted for trying to break through a police cordon. This area is incredibly fraught for the police and sometimes they may get things wrong (as they may have done on this occasion) by telling the protestor that he is ‘evidently Jewish’ but I, for one, would not like to be on the front of the police lines trying to maintain the rights to demonstrate and also to keep the peace in an arena which is so emotionally and politically charged as this one.

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Sunday, 21st April, 2024 [Day 1497]

We got up in plenty of time this morning aware of the fact that our carers were timed to appear at 8.00am this morning but aware that yesterday they actually turned up one hour earlier. So we we were well prepared this morning and I had Meg up and ready to receive their ministrations by the time that they turned up on time today. Being a Sunday, we normally watch the Lorna Kuennsberg Politics program but were more than happy to see Trevor Phillips on the Sky equivalent which starts half an earlier as the BBC slot was taken over with coverage of the London Marathon. In fact, I found it rather refreshing to hear Trevor Phillips say to a government minister ‘Yeah, yeah, we have heard this all from you and your colleagues lots of times before’ when the spokesman for the Tory party goes into the script which seems to have been prepared for them before they are unleashed on the media. I only wish that more interviewers would do this these days but of course both politicians and interviewers need each other and, almost deliberately, run interviews with an agenda known between the two of them. Too aggressive an interview means that no more interviews will ever be held with that interviewer. I think that the Tory party has a very ‘iffy’ relationship with Channel 4 hardly ever agreeing to be interviewed on that particular channel whose interviewers are judged to be too aggressive – or in other words, to the point. After breakfast, Meg and I mapped out how we thought we would spend the morning. We intended to obtain our newspaper, make a visit to a local Aldi store and then go and have our coffee in the park. Our University of Birmingham friend phoned up so we were delighted to make an assignation a bit later in the park. We were actually a bit later for our meeting in the park than we intended because calling in at Waitrose, we were surprised to see they had no copies of the ‘Sunday Times‘ Assuming that if Waitrose did not have a copy of the newspaper, then no one would would, we bought a copy of the ‘Observer‘. But then armed with this, we decided to call in at the local BP garage not expecting to see any copies of the Sunday Times but secured a copy (for which we already paid, via the voucher system to which we subscribe) Then it was off to the park where it was a beautiful day but a little on the cold side. We occupied our normal bench and our friend was there waiting for us, having brought along his own flask of coffee and we spent the most enjoyable hour of conversation enjoying the spring sunshine. Before we parted, we made some tentative plans to have a day out together in Alcester, a charming little Georgian town, quite accessible for us. When we got home, we had some ham cooking in the slow cooker but quickly rustled up our lunch which I think I made in record time. Then it was time for Meg’s afternoon doze which did not last that long but was better than nothing.

When we awoke from our semi-slumbers, Meg and I tuned into the second half of the film ‘Ladies in Lavender’ which we had actually seen before. ‘Ladies in Lavender’ is a 2004 British drama film directed by Charles Dance and is based on a short story actually written in 1916. It stars Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith as two elderly sisters living in a small Cornish fishing village in 1936 who befriend a young Polish man who I think is washed upon on the beach and turns out to have a prodigious talent for the violin. The film is very emotionally charged and has some wonderful cinematography and although we had missed the first half, a lot of this was scene setting so we did not feel as though we had missed a great deal. On Channel 5, they followed this up with a detailed examination of the life of Maggie Smith who seems to have a penchant for acid one liners and an ability to play women of whatever age even from the earliest age. One of her finest performances was, of course, playing Miss Shepherd playing the part of ‘The Lady in the Van’ in the largely true story of the lady who camped on the property of Alan Bennett but latterly, she is better known for her performances as the dowager in ‘Downton Abbey’

Yet another Tory MP has had to resign in disgrace, after being kicked out of the party (i.e. the Conservative whip was withdrawn) Mark Menzies, the MP accused of misusing campaign funds has quit the Tory Party and will not stand at next election. A Conservative spokesperson says the party will now install a whistleblowing helpline and retrain MPs on how to manage certain financial accounts. This is rather a case of closing the stable door since the horse has bolted since the number of Conservative MPs seem to appear at the rate of one a month. 100 Tory MPs are standing down at the forthcoming general election, knowing that hey will almost certainly be defeated and a life in opposition, perhaps for as much as 10 years, means that their opportunities to take on lucrative second jobs will have diminished sharply. The argument is often made that MPs need to have second jobs in order to keep their current professional links alive and vibrant but this argument would have so much more force if after a modest amount of retained earnings, all of the rest of the money should be devoted to charities (and not a charity of their own choosing, either) Our local MP, Sajiv Javid, who is standing down at the next election has secured a remuneration for about 4 times his parliamentary salary for about a quarter of the work but this is not untypical for ex-Tory ministers.

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