Friday, 31st May, 2024 [Day 1537]

Last night, I was just preparing to get myself to bed when news started to filter through of the conviction of Donald Trump on each of the 34 counts for which he had been charged. The American court system always seems to make this a long and prolonged affair and there was no ‘live’ feed from the courtroom but the news was tremendous when it broke. Sentencing is not due to take place until July 11th, some days before the Republican national congress and no doubt there will appeals to a higher court and ultimately, perhaps, to the Supreme Court stuffed as it is with Trump nominees. The media have gone mad with the this news and evidently there is a lot of speculation as to what happens next but in the short term it looks as though he verdict will help in Trump’s fundraising activities. Yesterday, I had purchased a single duvet from my local supermarket and had also ordered some single duvet covers from the web but I thought it would be a shame to deprive myself of the duvet last night, So I hunted a double duvet cover that we had and I thought that this would serve until the actual single duvet covers arrived. But the duvet cover stayed on me all night and was neither too hot nor too cold so I was delighted to be able to make use of this last night. This morning dawned as a bright and cheerful summer day and so after our Eucharistic minister has called around from church, I thought that Meg and I would venture out down the hill. I texted our University of Birmingham friend to inform him that we would be down in the cafeteria in the late morning and I am delighted that he would be able to meet us then. What with one thing or another, we have not managed to meet for a couple of weeks so this makes our eventual meeting so much more pleasant. Incidentally, my son is due to meet later on today one of his life-long friends who was his best man at his wedding and they have not managed to meet for the last five years so I know that he too is looking forward to his lunch date.The carers were scheduled to arrive at 8.40am this morning so the start to our day was somewhat delayed compared with our normal rising time.

After we had the weekly visit from our Eucharistic minister this morning, we got ourselves ready to make the trip down the road to our Waitrose cafeteria. It was a beautiful day and we bumped briefly into our Irish friend from down the road as we progressed down the hill. Then we met with our University of Birmingham friend and spent well over an hour and a quarter in the kinds of conversations (often with ex university staff experience in mind) that we enjoy so much. Then it was time to get up the hill once again and we managed to make it with just five minutes to spare before our late morning carers were due to call. After they had made Meg comfortable and helped to get her into her comfortable armchair, I then started to prepare our Friday lunch which was a (bought) haddock pie eaten with some broccoli. After lunch, Meg did not feel particularly sleepy so we decided to watch the BBC catch-up of last night’s ‘Question Time‘ which we found particularly entertaining. Nigel Farage and Piers Morgan, each incredibly self opinionated were striking sparks of each other together with a Tory minister, the Labour shadow health minister and the Bishop of Dover. There is apparently an organisation called ‘’ which is an independent fact checking organisation and has taken last night’s ‘Question Time‘ as well as presumably lots of other broadcasts and subjected the claims made in them by independent fact-checking. This was news to me but I think I must certainly put it on my list of ‘sites that must be regularly viewed’. As I am writing, I am half listening to a Donald Trump post trial news conference which would keep an army of fact checkers busy for weeks. For example, one claim was that the population of all of Venezuela’s gaols had been emptied and their previous inmates ‘dumped’ or had made their way into the United States. When I consulted the web I discovered the following. Apparently as Trump started reeling off lies, many US channels cut away. A number of lies were told by Donald Trump throughout the news conference, prompting some US networks to cut away before it ended US correspondent Mark Stone notes lies such as a claim that criminals have been released from jail in the Republic of Congo and sent to the US. While TV networks in the US are partial, and some always repeat his statements, others threw back to the studio on this occasion.’The likes of CNN and others came off his speech before the end. They have got to be able to present what he is saying but also counter the lies.’ This is actually quite interesting because if the media channels as a whole start to tire of the Trump tirades and refuse the ‘oxygen of publicity’ in a phrase beloved of Margaret Thatcher, then this might be the start of a gradual disillusion with the Trump agenda. The USA is such a divided society at the moment that the Trump message is received avidly by his own supporters almost whatever he had to say. But the bit that remains pf ‘middle’ America is not convinced by the Trump message even though Trump appears to be marginally ahead in several key battle ground states. How this is to be played out by the Democrats is an interesting dilemma of political strategy. Evidently, the Democrats will wish to capitalise on the fact that Trump is now a convicted felon but too overt and concentrated an attack might actually drive some of the uncommitted into the Trump camp and the Trump agenda if it looks as though he is a political martyr.

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Thursday, 30th May, 2024 [Day 1536]

Today being a Thursday, we put out our green bins (paper) and brown bins (garden waste) last night for collection very early on Thursday morning. I was delighted whilst I was getting the bins out to remove several large growing but easily removable weeds from the kerb verges to our roadways which were rapidly becoming an eyesore. I did most of the job whilst the bins were being put out and, fortunately, Meg seemed to fall asleep fairly readily last night which gave me a further opportunity to pop outside the to finish off the job. I have to seize my moments to do this if Meg is not having a nap but it was a source of some satisfaction to get this little job done. This morning was one when a care agency sitter comes round to sit with Meg giving me some space to shoot off and do my shopping. This all went to plan and I was delighted to see that my little Aldi store was stocking some single size duvets which is exactly what I felt I had in mind to have as a bed covering under my newly revised sleeping arrangements. I did feel, though, that I had better not use the duvet straight away tempted as I was so I got onto Amazon and ordered a couple of single duvet covers (one to be used, another for the wash) which all being well should arrive tomorrow. So this might mean that after tonight, I do not have to endure waking up in the middle of the night with blankets on the floor. The fairly young carer detailed to sit with Meg is a pleasant Psychology graduate with a very easy and engaging personality so once I got back from my shopping, she was a source of great assistance in getting my shopping unpacked and put away. Before she left, the District nurse called around and had a look at the dressing on Meg’s leg. After a combined effort, we eventually got the wound dressing removed and we were both delighted that the small blister type wound on Meg’s leg had completely healed and no further dressings were required. This was good news and the nurse gave me a telephone number so that I could contact the nurses directly instead of a web-based form going to the surgery which was very useful to have. I prepared one of those types of lunches where I cook together some onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and cubed meat remains supplemented by some diced apple, sultanas and a spoonful of demarara sugar served on a microwaved rice and with a topping of yogurt. Sometimes I add some curry powder to the mixture but I neglected to do this today as the mixture I had prepared was quite tasty enough as it was.

Yesterday, Meg and I actually watched some enthralling daytime TV which was the examination of another witness in the Post Office scandal public enquiry. The live stream today was examining a Post Office employee who had responsibility and oversight of Post Office branches and seemed to be the nearest thing to a ‘smoking gun’ of damning evidence that we have seen in the live streams so far. In the case of presumed malfeasance, this senior manager prepared an audit report which contained within it a collection of items in a ‘tick box’ detailing some failings which might have been discovered e.g. the safe being left unlocked, travellers cheques not properly stored and so on. When a postmaster was suspended, this took place very quickly and the full audit was often completed at a later date. But this audit report noted that one of the accused postmasters had detailed the observation that the postmaster himself expressed delight at seeing an auditor and indicated that he had been in contact with help desks and other agencies to help to resolve some balancing issues. The senior manager then had to complete a witness statement which was presented as Post Office evidence to the High Court when the sub postmaster came to trial. The witness statement, though, actually contained the complete checklist of presumed malfeasance as though every item had been ticked (although in practice none of them were) as was a largely a cut-and-paste copy of the audit report. The upshot of all of this was that information helpful to the defence of the sub postmaster (delight in seeing the auditors) was left out of the witness statement whereas the complete list of presumed deficiencies actually was included. In other words, the High Court had been presented with evidence by the Post Office which was either demonstrably untrue or severely lacking in evidence that might exonerate the sub postmaster. It is no wonder that a conviction followed in the face of this evidence which must have constituted a perjury. The senior manager when subjected to detailed questioning by the KC for the Enquiry and asked to explain the discrepancies could only lamely say that she could not remember why there should be this discrepancy. When the Counsel for the enquiry asked the witness if she had felt under pressure from the Post Office to produce a witness statement in any particular way, she replied that she had not felt any pressure from which one can only draw the inference that the decision to produce the witness statement in the form that it took was her responsibility alone and this must therefore be considered as an outright perjury. Whether this Post Office manager will ever be charged will be a long way down the line as the Enquiry needs to complete and then to report before the police can consider whether any individuals should be prosecuted. All of the omens from similar cases when it is shown that persons have been convicted on the evidence of clear perjury (Hillsborough, Miners dispute) is that such individuals never get prosecuted despite their perjury and I would expect that exactly the same would happen in this case.

The Labour Party is busy shooting itself in the foot as I write as the leader seems desperate to avoid Dianne Abbott, the UK’s first black woman MP to be allowed as a candidate in the forthcoming election despite having the Labour Whip restored. Dianne Abbott has apologised, undergoing an ‘Anti-Semitic training programme’ and showed signs of repentance but Keir Starmer seems determined to get rid of every single trace of Corbinism. But the sensible thing to do is to let Dianne Abbott stand for Parliament and let the campaign roll on instead of this issue dogging every single news conference from now on until the end of the election.

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Wednesday, 29th May, 2024 [Day 1535]

Today being a Wednesday is always a day to which we look forward as it is the day when our domestic help calls around and it is always good to have a chat. We had no real plans to go out today because it was the day when our hairdresser was scheduled to call around. Yesterday morning, we had ensured that Meg’s hair was washed and this was to make life easier for our hairdresser when she called. She arrived late morning and did Meg’s hair in a slightly different style which we think will make it easier to keep tidy in the future and after Meg has been processed, then it is my turn as well. We have had the same hairdresser for at least fifteen years by now and we started talking to her about some of her oldest clients. One old lady whose hair she still attended to was aged about 104 and I asked our hairdresser whether she chatted to her to her about things long past. There was one occasion where they were talking about wartime reminiscences and our hairdresser slowly realised that her client was talking about the WW1 rather than WW2. I wonder whether people of such a very great age such as this, provided they are still ‘compos mentis’ should be regarded by society at large as a huge cultural resource because they will have first hand knowledge of all kinds of things which memories will pass away with them upon their demise. I wondered aloud whether there were any local or oral history projects attached to universities or other historical societies who might be interested in these very aged people as a massive data resource. On a similar but related theme, I seem to remember that there were a couple called, I believe Iona and Peter Opie who went around the country children’s rhymes (e.g. skipping rhymes) To refresh my memory, I popped some search terms and discovered the following very informative publisher’s blurb from a book which is still available on Amazon:’In the 1960s, Iona and Peter Opie observed that although many books had been written about how children should play, none had been written about how they actually played. To fill the gap they carried out an exhaustive survey, through the decade, of the games that children in fact play when aged roughly between six and twelve years of age, and when outdoors — and usually when out of sight. The result was their classic work <i>Childrens Games in Street and Playground</i>. It records games played in streets, parks, playgrounds and wastelands by more than 10,000 children from the Shetland Isles to the Channel Islands, although the majority of the information comes from children living in big cities such as London, Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow.’ This sounded to me so interesting that I almost wondered whether the book was worth purchasing but unfortunately, I would not have the time available to read it. But the whole point is that the Opies sensed, quite rightly, that such traditional games and past-times were in great danger of being swept away. Electronic games were only to appear a decade later so the Opies correctly judged that they had better collect what data they could before these traditional games, chants and songs disappeared for ever. There is one game that I remember playing which was really, really simple. It required you to have two sticks, one sharpened to a point or ‘nose’ and the game was called ‘piggy’. All one had to do was to hit the ‘piggy’ stick on its nose so that it flew up into the air, hit it as far as one could with the other stick and then hop on one leg to the point where the piggy landed. The other game which I think all boys and girls loved playing was hopscotch. This was quite an easy game for me to play because at the age of ten the family moved to a small village in Yorkshire called Beckwithshaw and we were granted the tenancy of the one-bedroomed school mistress’s flat adjacent to the school. Hence there was always a school playground in which we could play at the weekends and hence we could chalk out the hopscotch figure on the school playground. Later on, these squares got painted permanently into the playgrounds of some schools but in our day, we had to draw the figures themselves. The rules were essentially very simple – ‘Toss the marker into the first square. The marker has to land and stay in the square. If you miss the square, you lose your turn. If you get it in the square, you move on to the next step. Hop on all the squares that dont have the marker in them. For single squares (1,2,3,6,9), use one foot.’ Not having grandchildren, I do not know if this game still exists or is played but essentially the game has been around a very long and in a great variety of cultures.

Our domestic help very kindly provided Meg and I with a portion of ‘Boeuf à la Bourguignonne’ which has always remained one of our favourites and one that we used to cook for honoured guests when we had the time and it was a special occasion. This was absolutely delicious and after we had lunched I took the opportunity to dash out and get the front lawns cut. I think it was about ten days ago since the days were last cut and I did not want the grass to run away with me so I was delighted to get this done but I would have ideally liked Meg to have had a nap whilst I was busy doing this but, sadly, this was not to be. This means that I generally have to cut the lawns in 10 minute stretches and then have to pop into see Meg to check she is not becoming agitated which is often the case if I am not physically present in the room. In the background I am passively listening to the witnesses giving evidence to the Post Office scandal enquiry and whilst I am appalled by the absence of memory or recall of witness to events of 10 years or longer ago, I have to wonder how i would fare if I had to cope with detailed questioning from a QC about events in my professional life that occurred a decade or so ago. The Post Office itself seems to be in the habit of suddenly finding caches of documents that might be relevant to the enquiry but very often at the very last moment and when the enquiry team have not had time to trawl through them for relevant information

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Tuesday, 28th May, 2024 [Day 1534]

Today started off fairly gloomy and overcast with the promise of rain to come but at least Meg and I had spent a fairly quiet night last night as opposed to the night before. I had a note on the calendar to ask the carers to wash Meg’s hair as our hairdresser is due to visit tomorrow and the last time she called, we worked out between us what would make life easier all around if Meg had her hair washed the day before. The carers were scheduled for a little later time this morning so as soon as they had Meg installed, it was time for us to make a trip down the road. Admittedly the weather was not particularly good but I decided under the circumstances that a walk in the slight drizzle would not do us any harm and there was always the prospect that the showers might blow over. But first thing this morning, as soon as our GP practice website opened, I made an urgent request for more blood thinners medication for Meg because we had been eking out supplies and we were down to our very last pill with more needed today. The community pharmacist phoned back an hour or so later and understood the situation perfectly, making sure that a prescription (which is due to change slightly) would be on the electronic system and ready for collection later on in the day. So this seemed very good news and I thought that I would utilise a period when one of the carers was doing a sit with Meg to get hold of the prescription. We arrived at Waitrose through the drizzle rather than out and out rain but because of the weather, no doubt, none of our usual friends were there. We started back up the hill and I have to rather navigate the rougher areas of tarmac is this possible and seeking out the smooth so that Meg does not get jolted around too much. I espied on the pavement something that looked familiar and it was one of the stretch ties that I use to ‘tape’ Meg’s ankles to the uprights of the footsteps so that her feet do not slip off and onto the ground. This particular tie must have dropped off on the way down the hill and all the time we were having our coffee, I had not noticed its absence. So I felt incredibly fortunate that I had indeed found it again (even though I did not know it was lost) as the ties are worth their weight in gold in terms of their usefulness. When the carer called in the middle of the day, I shot off down into town and because I found a convenient parking place made a quick trip into Asda to pick up a pair of those specialist batteries that fit inside smoke alarms. The smoke alarm in our kitchen has started to make those irritating chirping sounds that emanate from it when the battery is nearing exhaustion but at least I now have a battery ready for replacement plus a spare. Then I made my way to the pharmacy only to discover to my considerable annoyance that as the pharmacy has changed hands. It now has a policy of being closed for lunch each day between 1.00pm-2.00pm. So I returned home, chatted a little bit with the carer who we know well and had been with us first thing this morning and arrived at the pharmacy one minute before the re-opening time. I was in a queue of five and the pharmacy was late in opening but I was delighted to get Meg’s medication and then get back before the end of the carer’s shift.

In the General Election campaign, the shadow chancellor is at pains to show that any forthcoming Labour government would be a model of financial probity. But this creates all kinds of problems for any new Labour government. The dilemma is that if they get into power, do they squeeze public services for five years using the plans developed by Jeremy Hunt – and risk disappointing voters and an expectation the party will fund public services more – or do they borrow more, and risk breaking newly announced and eye wateringly severe fiscal rules? Or do they do what voters have long associated with Labour, and turn to tax rises? In the past Tory governments have been known, as Ken Clarke did as Chancellor, lay down a series of financial policies which they know that they themselves cannot possibly implement but which they know that an incoming Labour government may well have to follow if only to establish the confidence of the markets. But today, theLabour Party has received a fillip in that Greater Manchester police have decided not to proceed with a prosecution against Angela Raynor, the Deputy Leader of the Labour party for financial irregularities concerning the correct amount of capital gains to be paid on the sale of a house. Reading through the facts of the case, I think that in all probability Raynor was probably somewhat culpable for the financial transactions that took place before she was even elected to Parliament. but the total amount on money involved (possibly £1,000 or so) pales into insignificance compared with the millions that were squirrelled away fraudulently by firms who made money out of COVID contracts when the Tories were splashing out all kinds of cash to to their friends and associates when the country was desperate for supplies of PPE (Personal and protective Equipment).

I have been in email correspondence with an ex-University of Winchester colleague who is going to pay us a quick visit a week on Thursday when he is breaking his journey from Hampshire to the North. I have not seen this friend for over a year or so now but he very kindly offered us the use of his flat on the South Coast, an offer which we needed sadly to decline as we did not think that Meg was quite up to the journey and the upheaval. Nonetheless, we have a lot to catch up on and I sent him a quick update so that he is well appraised of Meg’s condition these days.

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Monday, 27th May, 2024 [Day 1533]

Last night, or rather yesterday evening, was pretty calamitous and one that I would rather forget. Meg had not had a sleep during the day despite my best endeavours to induce her to have a nap after lunch but all of this was to no avail. The carers put her to bed at 7.30pm and then left but Meg failed to settle. I had my newly loaned ‘Z’ bed alongside Meg’s hospital bed but Meg was exceptionally agitated and refused to settle until 10.15 which was two and three quarters of an hour later. I had no particular things that I could do apart from the self-evident to encourage her to sleep and how she kept awake all during the evening having not slept during the day is beyond me. So I was not the happiest of bunnies when the carers called around this morning but at least my new sleeping arrangements meant that the blankets did not fall off me during the night which was a bonus of sorts. This morning, I had the carers use the hoist to put her into her ‘going out’ wheelchair and we ensured that she had ankles well and truly taped to the leg rest uprights before we made a venture out this morning.It was quite a bright and sunny day and I pushed Meg down the hill without difficulty, making a call into Waitrose in order to pick up a copy of my daily newspaper. Then we made our way to a bench in the park where we consumed our coffee and had some biscuits although Meg opined that she did not want to make a journey to the park again. I suspect this is because there are sections of pavements that are rather rough and jolting and I have to hunt out the smoother pieces of tarmac where ever I can which is not always easy. As we were just about to leave the park, we bumped into one of my Pilates class mates who said I was being missed at our regular sessions held each Tuesday. We had a pleasant chat for a few minutes and after she had gone on her way, we encountered a couple more park acquaintances whom we recognised from the days when we used to walk down to the park on a daily basis and I needed to explain how Meg’s deteriorating condition meant that she now had to be pushed to the park in a wheelchair as even getting her into a car was no longer possible. Once we got up the hill and into our home, we thought we would catch up on the last episode of the ‘Pilgrimage’ programme which as following a group of individuals of diverse faiths and callings on an ancient pilgrimage path that wends its way through North Wales with the eventual destination of Bardsey island. En route the group visits many ancient churches and shrines typically devoted to Celtic saints and each member of the group, whatever their original faith (or none) seems to find the whole experience of pilgrimage rewarding. As well as being quite interesting to see how the various group members react to their pilgrimage experience, some of the views across the North Wales countryside are stunning.

The recently announced Tory ‘big idea’ to introduce a form of National Service were they to win the next election is coming under detailed scrutiny, I am pleased to see. One ex-Army chief has already denounced the whole venture as ‘barmy’ and some of the interviews that I have heard this morning are excruciating. For example, one minister was asked where the new recruits were going to be housed given that existing members of the armed services are in the most atrocious accommodation subject recently to a very adverse report about which the government have done nothing. Other questions that have been raised are concerned with the fate of youngsters who are already themselves the carers of other members of their families. Will they be made to abandon their existing role of carer in order to fulfil the new requirement to be part of the new government scheme under the risk of sanctions if they fail to comply? Upon close questioning, it is evident that the details of the scheme have not been thought through at all and the whole idea seems to have been thought up on the back of the proverbial envelope with no detailed thought as to planning, implementation or costings. One Tory vice chairman questioned closely on this and argued that the whole scheme was part of the ‘levelling up’ process which meant that this would supply the necessary funding, thus taking it away from the other communities for which the levelling up funding was intended.

I am personally looking forward to the end of the Bank Holiday as I have all sorts of things that are hanging in the air until the Bank Holiday is over.But one of the madder things to happen on this particular Bank Holiday is the annual cheese-rolling event in which competitors hurl themselves to roll down a steep sided, 180 metre, hill in Gloucestershire. This year the police are worried that there might be mass casualties and certainly last year there were a series of accidents in which some of the participants had to be stretchered away from the event. Of course all of this is in the name of tradition and one wonders whether the police have the powers to prevent people doing silly things, particularly if it is ‘traditional’. But we have other ‘traditional’ events not least in the form of fox-hunting which, in theory, is banned but in which many of the major hunts seem to have found their way around the law. I think I am right in saying that a hunt can pursue a fox if they happen to encounter one by accident whilst out on their traditional meets. I was quite shocked to learn a few years that some hunts even made sure that they had an adequate supply of foxes. One report from as far as 2002 claimed that hunts across the country were breeding foxes in specially made dens to ensure an adequate supply of the animals, undermining claims that they are killed only in the name of pest control. In the great fox hunting debate, it is a little known fact that many in the country people were themselves quite opposed to the hunt, particularly when they smashed down their fences and gates and otherwise made a mess of their land, even though the so-called ‘hunt servants’ were meant to come around and repair the damage in the days afterwards.

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Sunday, 26th My, 2024 [Day 1532]

When we woke up this morning, we were greeted by a generally gloomy day so perhaps it was just as well that we did not intend to make a trip out this morning. The carers arrived at the appointed time and we were just about place for the start of the two politics programmes which are our normal fare of a Sunday morning. Evidently, during an election campaign, these programmes take on a particular significance and sometimes there are big stories that break on a Saturday evening, timed to hit the headlines of the Sunday newspapers. The item to hit the headlines this morning was the Tory idea (wheeze? gimmick?) to re-introduce National Service in either a straightforward military form or a voluntary service equivalent. This idea is bound to ‘fly’ with the older generation and with that section of the electorate who might be tempted to vote ‘Reform’ but I wonder what the younger generation will make of this idea? After we had breakfasted, we were paid a visit by the Eucharistic minister from our local church. The parish is facing a certain degree of turmoil in the coming months as there is going to be a local reorganisation of the local deaneries and there is a suggestion that the number of services might be reduced from three each weekend to one. Were this to occur, then the congregation would fall dramatically and the income of the parish reduced by something approaching a half which, in practical terms might mean the ‘death’ of our local parish. Whether all of this is going to happen or not is not at all clear at this stage but loyal members of the congregation are fearful that they church they have known for decades might be about to crumble before their very eyes. This is an immense source of sadness for all of us. I showed our friend the new sleeping arrangements with Meg’s hospital bed downstairs and she very kindly offered me the loan of one of her two ‘Z’ beds as she thought that one of these would be much better for my back in the long term than the present arrangement of a folding foam mattress on a camp bed.

This afternoon, Meg and I watched ‘The Dam Busters’ shot in back and white and made in 1955. So I was probably aged about 10 or 11 years of age at the time when I was taken to watch the film. Viewing it again, I was particularly struck by two particular practical aids that the pilots needed to deploy to drop the famous bouncing bomb at the precise height and distance from the dam wall. As Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the bouncing bomb discovered in numerous trials across I believe the Ladybower dam in Derbyshire, if the height was too great then the bomb casings would burst on impact so the bombers had to fly at about 50 feet (the height of one and a half houses). At that height, conventional altimeters do not work so the first innovation was to shine a couple of spotlights from the bottom of the aircraft, angled in such a way that when the two pools of light touched, this was the correct height. The next problem was to release the bombs at the precise distance of yards so that the bomb would bounce over the surface of the water, skipping the dam’s defences and then come to rest against the dam wall and then sink to the correct depth for a detonation that would breach the dam wall. To achieve the correct distance, a very single ‘Y’ shaped piece of wood with nails inserted in the two arms. Then this had to be lined up with the precise watchtowers at the side of the dam for the release distance to be correct. I think that the principal dam was weakened but not breached by the very first bomb but I think it was the third bomb that occasioned the catastrophic damage. The film documents as well as the skill of the bomber pilots, the correct mathematics of the bomb’s designer, Barnes Wallis, which eventually turned out to be practically correct. What I rather liked was the way in which two essentially practical solutions were found to the problems in hand, without resorting to high technology or practically any technology at all. Along a similar theme, it is reported that the Americans spend a considerable sum of money developing a pen whose ink would flow normally when astronauts were in space. The Russians are reported to have solved the same problem by providing their astronauts with pencils (which illustrates the point made above)

There is some fascinating political news emanating from the side of ‘the pond’ in other words, the USA. Apparently, Donald Trump’s attempt to reach out to Libertarian voters could hardly have gone worse after he was chased from the stage 34 minutes into his speech, exiting to boos and jeering. That is the opinion of the Guardian’s David Smith, who called the former president’s appearance at the Saturday night gathering at the Washington Hilton a ‘rare humiliation’ for Trump who is used to adoring MAGA crowds. Pointing to the response to Trump as he spoke where he was cursed, booed mercilessly and called a ‘wannabe dictator,’ the analyst suggested the reception was illustrative of the former president’s uphill battle to expand his voting base less than six months before the November election. This is the week in which we may get a decision from the New York court case in which he has forced to attend court eery day rather than campaigning and it is reliably reported that he often fell asleep during the proceedings.

I was rather disappointed that the Leeds-Southampton match was only going to be shown to suscribers of Sky Sports but as I am writing this blog, it looks as though Leeds are heading for a 1-0 defeat. The highlights of this match are going to be shown at 1.00pm on ITV4 which I doubt I will bother to stay up for unless Leeds pull off a miraculous and surprise victory which seems unlikely – in the event, the final score remained at 1-0. One of the treasons I prefer Rugby is that dramatic events do occur in the last few minutes of a rugby match whereas in football, one side tends to get ahead and then play defensively until the end of the match which is not a particularly good spectacle. Mind you, Leeds have a track record of losing important matches, including two Cup Finals against much lower ranked teams as I recall.

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Saturday, 25th May, 2024 [Day 1531]

Meg and I spent a reasonable night last night in our new sleeping arrangements with Meg in her hospital bed and with myself sleeping beside her in my camp bed arrangement. I am actually very comfortable in this new mode although I do tend to wake up in the middle of the night with my blanket on the floor. But after the carers had got Meg up and we had breakfasted, we both felt in a reasonable shape to see if we could venture out in a wheelchair, the first time since the almost calamitous experience of last Tuesday. This time, though, I was determined that we should make some adjustments to ensure that we had a better trip out. Firstly, I decided that we should use the slightly smaller wheelchair that we traditionally used to keep in the boot of the car and to which Meg is well adjusted. I had put the footrests into a position one notch higher so that we had a little more ground clearance than on the other wheelchair. I also ensured that we do not use the support cushion that caused us so many problems on our last trip out when Meg tended to slip forward and fail to maintain a proper seating position within the chair. I also made a type of thigh support which was a small cushion put into a pillow case and used to put under Meg’s thighs in such a way that her body would be inclined towards the back of the chair rather than the front of the chair. But the principal adaptation I made utilised some ankle straps which I had bought on the web. These are elasticated type strappings that are designed to wrap above below either the knee or the ankle to provide additional support for I imagine people playing a sport where they are likely to strain ankles or knees. I utilised these straps to wrap around Meg’s ankles and attach them firmly to the footrest uprights to ensure that her feet stayed in position and did not slip either off or forwards. The combination of all of these factors worked exceptionally well, probably in combination with each other and the net result was that we managed to transport Meg up and down the hill with the minimum of trouble and no untoward incidents. We had coffee with two of our Waitrose friends, one of whom I intended to make a present of the last piece of my birthday chocolate cake which I had promised her but forgot at the last moment to take with us. But it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed our little trip up and down the hill, having been inside for days not least because of the intense rain of the last day or so. We took the opportunity to buy some supplies in store and when we got back Meg’s carers had actually been awaiting our return for a couple of minutes.

This afternoon was the FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Manchester United. When I was at my boarding school in Bolton, in Lancashire the pupils as a whole divided their football loyalties between Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United. In fact, these two teams met each other in the Cup Final in 1958 which Bolton went on to win. This match is regarded as one of the best ten FA Cup Finals of all time and is noteworthy for the fact that Manchester United had fought their way back after many of the team members were killed outright or severely injured in the Munich air disaster of February, 1958 in which the aircraft carrying the Manchester United team crashed on its third attempt to take off from an ice-laden airport in Munich. But when I was at University, the digs that I occupied were within half a mile of the old Manchester City ground of Maine Road. At that time, Manchester United carried all before them and Manchester City were the decided underdogs so I switched allegiance to the team around the corner. We occasionally watched sparsely attended mid-week matches, sometimes in European competitions, as getting to the ground was easy and admittance quite cheap. Today, though, I am supporting Manchester United because Manchester City have won the League and been so successful this season and Manchester United have started very much the underdogs. But they scored two good goals in the first half, conceded a goal to City in the last few minutes but ran out as deserved winners with a score of 2:1. I am not the greatest of football fans but as well as the treat today, tomorrow we shall see Leeds play Southampton to see which team will return to the Premier League next season. I shall certainly be supporting Leeds tomorrow and the match may well be as tense a match as the Cup Final itself.

The interesting news politically in the last 24 hours is to to witness various Tory ‘big beasts’ who have decided not to contest the forthcoming election. In particular Michael Gove who has been one of the more competent performers in the last few governments and held a variety of ministerial positions. Also Andrea Leadsom, one time Leader of the Commons has also decided to quit. One wonders whether these politicians actually have an eye on the House of Lords because retiring ministers who have devoted a lot of their political life to the House of Commons often end their days in the House of Lords. Today, Keir Starmer has indicated that he intends to lower the voting age to 16 from the present 18 so it is possible that this may give the Labour party some slight electoral advantages in the years to come. Having said that, the Tories thought that they were being very smart when they legislated for voter ID to be compulsory for voting in elections and this may well hand the Tories the seats where the contests are particularly tight. It could be that the Tories unintentionally disenfranchised some of their natural and older supporters when they introduced the new voter ID rules. There have also been several boundary changes this year which may make the results of particular electoral contests a little more difficult to predict as the parliamentary constituencies are adjusted to better reflect the geographical spread of the electorate. After Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, announced the election when it was pouring with rain, one particularly amusing newspaper headline has been to call our centre of government ‘Drowning Street’ which seems more than usually appropriate.

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Friday, 24th May, 2024 [Day 1530]

Last night after Meg had been put to bed, I carried on with the assembly of the screen I purchased recently. The assembly requires one to stretch the linen panels and then to loop them over a top bar such they ‘velcro’ together. But as it stands, I think the panels have been cut about a centimetre too short which makes the assembly very difficult. Eventually with panels 2-6 I hit on the expedient of bending the receiving bar in the required direction which is certainly not what the instructions would suggest. Tonight, I will do the final clipping together and, perhaps, some last minute adjustments before the screen gets deployed. My policy of sleeping on a camp bed besides Meg’s hospital bed received a degree of vindication last night. As I was getting myself to bed, Meg woke up in a distress and agitated condition but I am pleased to say that with the aid of our weighted blanket and my hand in a proximate location to hold hers, I managed to get her into a sufficiently calm state to get back to sleep. This morning, though, I was not best pleased as the care agency phoned about three minutes before our carers were due to arrive asking if I could take the place of Carer No. 2 who had not turned up for work. Meg is without doubt a two handed job, particularly first thing in the morning when she receives a body wash so I really was needed to lend a hand which added to my tiredness level. Most of the morning was devoted to our watching the third day of evidence given by Paula Vennells, the CEO of the Post Office who was in charge at the height of the scandal. Today, her last day of evidence, she was being examined by the barristers representing the wronged postmasters themselves and they were ruthless in exposing the CEO’s prevarications, obfuscations and denials. A major thrust of the questioning this morning was trying to establish that surely she must have known about bugs and system instabilities in the Horizon computer system despite which postmasters were prosecuted and some imprisoned. Paula Vennell’s defence typically took the form of ‘well I had knowledge of two computer bugs but I was told that they had been fixed and a third was being addressed’ and so evidence of a smoking gun was hard to find. The barristers were incredulous that the CEO of an organisation did not ask the relevant questions as the scandal came to light and it does appear that as well as failing to take action on addressing the wrongful prosecutions of the sub postmasters, a lot of effort seemed to be directed at minimising any reputational damage to the Post Office. One revelation that crept out at the end of the morning was the fact that she had removed a critical reference to past Horizon problems from the prospectus as the Post Office was being prepared for privatisation. She even boasted that she had ‘earned her corn’ that day when the prospectus had been successfully doctored – if this had been picked up upon, then the whole privatisation could have been blasted out of the water. Paula Vennell’s whole defence was to say that she trusted the advice of experts and other senior managers in the Post Office and perhaps, in retrospect, had been too trusting of the advice received. The barristers could not quite believe that with all kinds of damning evidence building up over the years, she had not as CEO ever really asked the deep questions of what was going on in the organisation of which she was the CEO and asked, perhaps in the dictum of Winston Churchill that we should have ‘action this day’ But to be scrupulously fair to Paula Vennells, I wonder whether in modern organisations there might not be a feeling, particularly with technical computer questions, of not wanting to bother the CEO with problems that are encountered and there might be a desire at managerial level to solve the problems themselves and not to ‘bother’ the CEO with it. Eventually, some of the data coming out of this investigation might provide case studies and insights into how large corporations in both the public and the private sector actually operate and, in particular, deploy all kinds of manoeuvre to avoid reputational damage.

The election campaign is really in full swing with the party leaders jetting around the country even the campaign is only a day or so old. It is reported today that a total 75 Tory MP’s are not going to contest their seats which, at a rough guess, is about one fifth of the parliamentary party. It is also being suggested that Boris Johnson might be roped in to campaign for the Tories which, to some, might appear an act of desperation. The role of Nigel Farage, ex-UKIP leader, might prove to be very interesting. After several attempts to capture a Westminster seat he had declined to put himself forward as a candidate but may well be in full campaigning mode, supporting ‘Reform’ (new name for UKIP) candidates in various parts of the country. In this role, might he do even more damage to the Tories than would be the case if he confined himself to a single constituency which he was attempting to win? Interestingly enough, the Tories are going heavily on immigration as they probably think that they can capitalise on the Rwanda flights which have yet to take off but is still their declared policy were they win the election. To my mind, this is the Tories always playing the ‘race’ card when their backs are against the wall. It is ironic that actually the present Tory government have presided over an enormous increase in legal migration i.e. immigration for which a visa has been offered and a job is in prospect. More overseas staff arrived to work across the sector. But more may be needed. Last year, there were around 150,000 vacancies in England, and recruiting British workers remains difficult. Of all of those visas, more than 146,000 went to health and social care workers, another 203,000 went to their defendants. Care home owners are reporting that without recent immigration, their businesses would not be viable and approximately 40% of their staff are recruited from overseas. So the whole issue of migrants arriving by boat at about 40,000 per year is small compared with legal migration which is of the order of 700,000 per year.

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Thursday, 23rd May, 2024 [Day 1529]

Last night was my first night on my newly delivered little camp bed which I put besides Meg’s hospital bed so I am available if Meg were to wake up during the night in a distressed state. I am pleased to say that Meg got off to sleep much more rapidly last night and my own little arrangement with a camp bed and the folding mattress on it seemed to work as I hoped that it would. I woke up just after six this morning and started on my new routine of clearing away all of my bedding and getting things prepared for the care workers when they arrived at 8.00am this morning. Last night, I started to put together the elements of a screen which I had bought on eBay – as you might expect these days, it was basically a collection of metal poles which slot or screw into each other and this provides a type of seating for the fabric panels which constitute the screen itself. I was a little dismayed to get one of those sheets with just 5-6 line drawings on it which is all you get by way of instructions these days. I think I have to construct about five panels and then finally clip them all together. I have only completed the first panel last night and this morning and so far, the fabric panel seems very tight and difficult to stretch onto its mountings but I am hopeful that the remaining four may prove a little easier. I am doing this little job quite slowly because if one were to rush the job, I might end up with an assembly which fails to work as intended.

After we had breakfasted, a carer came to sit with Meg whilst I went off to my weekly shopping. This is the first time that this has worked for weeks because this time last week we were visiting the hospital and the Thursday before that, something else had happened. I went to the smaller Aldi store that I use regularly and as I entered the store, I caught sight of some church friends of ours where I know that the husband is suffering from dementia – but a different pattern of symptoms to those that affect Meg. So our friend and I embraced each other briefly but we had no time to stop and exchange pleasantries because we were both in the same boat of having to dash round the store as fast as we could and then get back to our respective spouses as soon as we could. Fortunately, we both recognised this need in each other and so carried on in our various ways scurrying round the store trying to get the entire shopping trip to less than an hour if this is possible. When I arrive home with multiple bags off shopping, I always marvel how two little people such as Meg and myself consume such volumes of stuff, given that we try to live quite modest lifestyles.

As might be anticipated, the media have gone completely overboard after the news that a general Election has been called for July 4th with is six weeks today. In the very short term, there is all kinds of vital ongoing legislation stuck in the House of Commons and this has to be rushed through, without any proper scrutiny in the next day or so. The whips from the main parties are in close consultation with each other as always happens at the end of a Parliament. It has to be decided which legislation has to go through probably unopposed and with no proper scrutiny, which has to be abandoned and which has to be argued over. As I write, it looks as though the Finance bill giving effect to the budget measures has to be rushed through but the Crime and Justice Bill, as well as a Football Regulation bill will have to be abandoned. There has also been a sort of belated recognition by Rishi Sunak that the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda might not happen before the election. But personally, I would not be surprised if the Tories try to get one flight off to Rwanda even if there is only person on it and the day before electiorate vote to try to sway a few votes. The reaction of the Labour party to a General Election is generally one of a buoyant optimism where many Tories are dismayed and really wanted to hang on to their seats and their salaries as long as possible. After Parliament is prorogued, MP’s as such no longer exist as there are only ‘candidates’. Already two junior ministers have indicated that they will not be contesting their seats in the election. The reasoning is quite straight forward. It is one thing to be an MP when one’s party has been in power as the Tories have been for the past fourteen years. But being an Opposition MP with years of hard grind in front of one and no perks and ‘freebies’ such as overseas trips are not everybody’s cup of tea. Also, I think it is recognised that the Labour Party might just win by a landslide and it takes another landslide in the opposite direction for a party to lose power. So many Tories feel that they may be our of power for two Parliaments or ten years and so many will attempt to leave politics and enjoy lucrative jobs whilst they still have some credibility and marketability. The results of the election is not really in doubt given that the Labour party has had a 20% lead for some years and the country as a while is crying out for a change. What I think is going to be the really interesting part of this election is to see which prominent Tories will lose their seats. One would have thought that a majority of 15.000 would have been quite healthy but judging by the recent opinion polls than any Tory MP with a majority of less than 15,000 might be feeling very vulnerable.The electorate has become a lot more sophisticated and although it is denied at the centre, on the ground there are instances of tactical voting designed to eject sitting, mainly Tory MPs. This is particularly so in the more prosperous parts of the South of England where the Labour party knows it cannot win but is willing to give tacit support to the Liberal Democrat who has a much better chance of beating the incumbent MP. It looks as though Jeremy Hunt, the present Chancellor, might be vulnerable to such a strategy for example.

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Wednesday, 22nd May, 2024 [Day 1528]

Last night turned out to be a fairly horrendous evening which had some implications for today. The carers put Meg to bed by 7.30, and she should have been ready to sleep not having had a sleep during the day, as I would normally have liked. But Meg got increasingly agitated and I used every trick in my limited armoury to try to make her calm. Trying to climb out of the bed, albeit the bed had been put into lowest position, could still have ended up with Meg on the floor which was an outcome I desired to avoid. Eventually., after two hours and twenty minutes, it looked as though Meg had finally drifted off to sleep. My sister had given me a FaceTime call just at the point where the care workers had arrived so I said I would return her call at 8.00pm which in my mind became 9.00pm and then 10.00pm but, in the event, I thought I would leave it until the following day. Today, I got up rather late being well nigh exhausted what with the shenanigans all day not to mention all evening but the care workers arrived on time and did their job efficiently, even though Meg was still very sleepy when they arrived. Fortunately, today was one of those days when it seemed to be raining most of the day so there was no question that Meg and I would attempt a trip out today. But we knew that our domestic help would arrive to do her stuff as is normal each Wednesday. Together, we had a look at the little systems I had installed and refined them further. In particular, we took a piece of furniture which we had intended to be a tea trolley but instead rather looked like the kind of trolley that gets trundled around hospital wards when the drugs round occurs. On this we have all the toiletries and other requisites required for Meg’s care so this was a useful re-purposing of something we already had in our possession. When the carers called around to make their midday call, I was amazed to suddenly find them in the room. They had turned up and could not get anyone to respond to the doorbell. Our domestic help had let them in but I was so dog tired with what happened yesterday a certain amount of running around to help our domestic help this morning that I had fallen fast asleep on the chair. Just as our domestic help was on the pont of leaving, a parcel turned up via Amazon or eBay which might prove tremendously useful in our new situation. This was a Chinese made camp bed which appears quite sturdy with eight feet but which concertinas together to fold away into a much smaller space when not required. By the time I have put my temporary folding foam mattress on top of this and I have Meg’s hospital bed put to its lowest position, then the two sleeping surfaces are within about an inch of each other. This means that I can continue to get a comfortable nights sleep but if Meg get’s distressed in the middle of the night, then I am only an arm’s length away. There is also the additional and unintended bonus that if Meg were to attempt to get out of bed or even to fall out of bed then one of the sides of the bed will not now be available to her. Of course, tonight’s sleep will be proof of the pudding but so far I think the improvements we have made to Meg’s new sleeping quarters and with a slight rearrangement of some of our furniture, then our new little systems look ready to settle down.

After I made some lunch for myself, Meg was in quite a sleepy state so I took the opportunity to make a lightning visit down to Waitrose to collect our daily newspaper. One of the Asian partners who knows me well and who is well aware of Meg’s frail condition gave me a hug and a kiss and pressed two bunches of flowers into my hands -one for Meg and the other for myself. Then in the mid afternoon, we were rather fixated on the evidence to the Post Office statutory enquiry of Paula Vennels (previous CEO of the Post Office) On one stage in this ‘show’, we had tears as well as the by now customary litany of arguing that they could not remember a relevant email which was now displayed to the rest of us. But then I received a very long and welcome phone call from one of my (female) ex-University of Winchester colleagues who reads this blog daily and is a tremendous source of advice and practical help which she gave to me at the time of my colon cancer episode some six years ago now and is now being repeated for Meg. My friend has very direct experience of nursing both her mother and her sister so she absolutely knows what she is talking about. She is currently experiencing some of the traumas associated with selling her house in Oxfordshire which is going slowly and seems to be generating some of the kinds of problems with estate agents which one could well do without.

Very late on this afternoon, there was very well informed speculation (broken by Beth Rigby on Sky News who often has a fast track on breaking political news) that there will be a general election to be held on July 4th. The microphones are being assembled in front of 10 Downing Street and Rishi Sunak has now condirmed that he is going to make a bold dash for a very thin opportunity to resurrect the fortunes of the Conservative party by going to the country on July 4th. There are one or two smidgeons of comfort for the Tory party (inflation dropping, Rwanda legislation passed) that Rishi Sunak thinks the gamble may be worth. However, the Tories are 20 points behind in the opinion polls but there is always the thought that they think that things might be even worse in a few months time so who not go the country now. Many Tory MPs are nervous of the prospect of a July election but, in general terms, the opposition parties will be delighted. the Labour party in particular is well geared up to an election and the situation in Scotland with the collapse in the SNP) is looking more favourable to them.

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