Thursday, 20th June, 2024 [Day 1557]

Last night was not a very restful evening for the pair of us. Although Meg was put to bed some time after 7.00pm, she did not finally settle off to sleep until 12.45 the following morning. I also had to remake the bed with Meg in it which is not an easy task so despite being Meg being in bed for over five hours, she did not fall asleep as is sometimes the case. This in turn meant there were several things that could not get done whilst I was attending to Meg during the course of the evening and consequently, I was pretty tired from the moment I was woken this morning which was just after 5.00am in the morning. But now that we have the garden tidied up somewhat and the weather seems to be set fair for a few days, I am going to experiment a little later on today with wheeling Meg out of the front door and down the passageway which houses the rubbish wheelie bins down the side of the house. I have done some detailed measurements and I think that with a centimetre or two to spare, I may be able to negotiate a way through so that Meg can access the back. If this proves possible, and I shall find out later on today, then it is possible that Meg can get nice fresh air and enjoy the garden whilst I can do a little bit of edging and other tidying up within a short distance from the house. This morning is my shopping morning and the sitter that we normally have to enable me to do my shopping is a very amiable psychology graduate so I was happy to leave Meg with the sitter who was reading to her one of the two books I bought for Meg yesterday. One of the pleasures of shopping at Aldi, which I do, is the famous ‘middle aisle’ which contains all kinds of hardware items often sold at quite a considerable discount. This aisle will house a whole range of non food items which, to use an Aldi phrase, will be subject of taw principle of ‘Once it’s gone, it’s gone’ and I enjoy a little saunter up and down it once the food shopping is effectively completed. In the aisle today, though, I discovered some of the quite familiar plastic clogs which go by the grade name of Crocs but at a price of slightly more than a fifth what I paid for recently. The Crocs I bought yesterday seem to be of a reasonable quality but I think that although they are a standard size 8, they may be ever so slightly too small and have a slight tendency to pinch my toes. But the Aldi version, also a standard size 8, seems to be the best part of an inch longer and so subsequently fit me that much better. I don’t really mind having two of these sets of clogs because one set I can keep exclusively for garden and outside use whilst the others will act as slippers. I have started wearing this new footwear because our chiropodist who called round recently found and treated some quite deep cracks on my heels and urged me to get some new footwear to keep my feet in a reasonable state.

Whilst being quite politically engaged, I am finding that the current election seems to be carrying for weeks too long. Apparently Margaret Thatcher always kept her campaigns to about 4-5 weeks and not six weeks as we are enjoying at the moment. And Harold Wilson, the one time Labour PM called and won an election which was only three weeks long. It looks as though Rishi Sunak had reasoned to himself that a six week champaign would enable the Tories to catch up with and perhaps overhaul the Labour lead which has been constant for many months now. So it does look as though Rishi Sunak has badly miscalculated and only confirms the impression that whilst being accomplished at the level of manipulating spreadsheets and the like, he has a poor ‘political’ brain and miscalculates on some key issues as we observed in the D-Day fiasco. There are some more sophisticated political polls published overnight which are suggesting that we might have a Labour majority of over 200 which would be the biggest ever for them whilst the Tories might be reduced to about 100 or less which, in turn, would be their lowest ever. We are not talking here about mass conversions to the ranks of the Labour Party. Rather, it is how the vote will break at constituency level which is critical. It looks as the Reform party may take away sufficient votes from former Tory voters to allow either the Labour party or the Liberal Democrats to benefit. The Liberal Democrats themselves may be extremely successful in the South of England in former Tory strongholds whilst a SNP collapse in Scotland will add to the tally of Labour MPs. To this we can also add in the factor of tactical voting – it really does appear that the electorate as a whole are heartily fed up with the present government and will do almost anything to ensure that Tory candidates are defeated. Another scandal is brewing this afternoon and this is the news that high ranking Tory officials and protection officers, including their Director of Campaigns are being investigated by the Gambling Commission for apparently having bet on the date of the forthcoming general election perhaps being in possession of the actual date so that they knew the result of the bet before it was placed. Michael Gove when confronted with this news apparently said that he was ‘lost for words’ and it all adds up to the terrible smell of corruption and sleaze surrounding the modern Tory party. Maps have been published today which purport to show that the predominantly ‘blue’ i.e. Conservative constituencies of the last general election won by Boris Johnson with a majority of 80+ will be replaced by a red and orange patchwork where the swathes of ‘blue’ have all but disappeared. The election campaign now has less than two weeks to run (I am pleased to say) and whilst the absolute result is almost a foregone conclusion, I suspect that three important factors will come into play. One of these factors is the numbers of people turned away at the polling booth because of the lack of Voter ID. Another is a general apathy which may affect the turnout particularly if it looks as though the result is a bit too predictable. And finally, the Tories can always rely upon a swathe of ‘secret’ Tories who will never declare their allegiance to the Tory party but still will vote that way on election day itself.

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Wednesday, 19th June, 2024 [Day 1556]

Today has been quite an active day what with one thing or another. Wednesdays are the days when our domestic help calls around so this is always a source of much pleasure for us. Last week she brought along a beautiful soft toy for Meg’s enjoyment which is a female bear complete with a little dress on called ‘Angela’ (as that was the name of the very kindly lady who donated it to us on the understanding that it would ‘go to a good home’) But I also seize the opportunity whilst our domestic help is cleaning our Music Lounge and its environs so that I can leave Meg for some time whilst I do some critical shopping on the High Street. Today there were several things to be done, apart from visiting an ATM, principal amongst which was to call in at our local friendly cobblers who was busy repairing my leather hat for me. This has an ornamental band which gradually becomes unstuck and tends to drift off but our cobbler thought he had the right gear to put a few stitches in strategic locations to hold the band in place. Then I took the opportunity to buy a flower vase from a charity shop, a birthday card for our domestic help and some children’s books for Meg for her perusal. The thing about children’s books is that the illustrations are of equal importance to the actual text so one that I actually bought (about a puppy being lost – and then found – in the snow) is beautifully illustrated. When I consulted the bibliographical details, as I suspected there were two authors, one responsible for the text and the other for the illustrations and I image that the art of the illustrator is so much more demanding than that of the actual author. But the principal activity that engaged me this morning were a couple of ‘gardeners’ who came along to blitz our back garden for us which was getting very overgrown and had not been touched for a year i.e. since the more acute stages of Meg’s illness. Our principal gardener was actually the partner of one of our care staff who had taken a look outside at our garden and recommended her partner to do the job for us. Actually the pair worked like demons starting at about 9.30 and the principal gardener’s assistant was actually a roofer who was acting as second man for the day.They explained how they often worked with each other when a two-man job was needed and I was very impressed by what they managed to achieve. In my mind’s eye, I thought the garden would look pretty terrible after everything had a severe cut back and the bushes might look denuded. Instead, the results were very impressive and I had some 2-3 feet of foliage cut back from all over the garden. We had identified a location near to our compost bin which would act as a repository for the cut vegetation as they would cheapen the cost considerably rather then chopping it all up and then carting it away. I was particularly pleased that they had several pots which I had growing near the house (a bay tree, two lavender trees, a huge ‘Lavatera’ and one or two others) and with a careful eye rearranged them in various locations around our terrace (which was itself prettified somewhat) and the overall effect was better than I dared imagine. Having done such a good job, I was delighted to be able to offer them some more work in the autumn when the garden needs an end-of-summer pruning and a general tidying up before the onset of winter. The last time I was in Waitrose, I had spotted some of my favourite low alcohol beer which has the most excellent flavour despite being low alcohol so I was able to offer each of them a very refreshing drink as it had been very hot and thirsty work for the two of them. I am now in the position that Meg can enjoy the back garden if I can find a way of getting the wheelchair over the thresholds (the patio door surround and a large stone step) But I did manage to get through to the OT service, requesting they they make on onward referral to the’House Adaptations’ scheme which they said they would do. I am wondering whether a ramp or two or some other adaptation might make Meg’s access to the garden so much more feasible and we can then enjoy the garden for the remainder of the summer. For my part, I am resolved to keep the immediate environs – the parts within eyeballing distance- neat and tidy with a little bit of work perhaps even once a day assuming that Meg gets off to sleep and does not require any supervision in the evenings (which is the case sometimes)

All politicians relish (or should it be fear) the photo-opportunity and this is typically done to death. Why the politicians readily accede to the wearing of hard hats, bakers aprons and so on is beyond me but I suspect that they want to show that they are a ‘man/woman of the people’ – but the donning of protective headgear and particularly hard hats seems to be ‘de rigeur’ Rishi Sunak wished to establish his credentials with the farming community and was faced with offering food to a flock of sheep. The Tory publicists no doubt wanted a nice ‘cuddly’ image of Rishi Sunak surrounded by adoring sheep. But the image that they actually got was one sheep seeing what was on offer from the bucket and then refusing it whilst he rest of the flock turned their back on the Prime Minister and promptly run away. The mental image was delightful, the sheep being quite easily taken the place of the electorate who were turning their backs on the Tory. The Tory press corps and publicists put their hands over their eyes in horror as this image can no doubt be used in Labour Party election broadcasts and goodness knows what else. Not really using social media that much, I wonder if this image has gone viral at all?

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Tuesday, 18th June, 2024 [Day 1555]

Today being a Tuesday, Meg and I look forward to meeting with our Waitrose friends. The care workers were scheduled some three quarters of an hour later than usual so Meg and I needed to have a fairly rushed breakfast before we set forth down the hill. Fortunately, the weather was reasonably kind to us but I had clothed Meg in quite a substantial fleece as well as a waterproof in case the weather suddenly turned nasty upon us. When we got to the supermarket, only one of our friends was in evidence but we had a happy and extended chat before it was time to leave. I bought from the store some absolutely excellent low alcohol lager brewed I am not sure where but the brewers have managed to present a beer of tremendous flavour but only 0.4% alcohol so I tend to buy it whenever I see it in stock. Some of this beer will for my own indulgence when there is an interesting football match to peruse but a couple of bottles I will put at the disposition of the gardeners as and when they turn up to blitz the garden. After we had returned from our morning walk, the late morning carers came to perform their duties and then the Tuesday sit carer (ostensibly for me to go off and do Pilates) came along for her session. We chatted for awhile and then I cooked our lunch of fishcakes and the carer, very kindly, gave Meg her lunch whilst I was busy eating my own. This is the same carer who is often here with us on a Tuesday and she is very kindly and understanding if Meg is having a more depressed or agitated experience when she is here.

So here we are two weeks and two days to go before voting day in the General election and the Tories are still languishing in the polls. Evidently, the Tories now realise that something dramatic needs to take place (or be engineered) to save them from oblivion. One strategy is self evident and that is to ‘play the ball and not the man’ i.e. intensify personal attacks upon the character of Keir Starmer to try to convince the electorate that electing this political leader as a Prime Minister would be disastrous for the country. Although this might satisfy the emotional instincts of many Tories, as a strategy it is fraught with dangers. One of these is that attacks of a personal nature do not tend to go down well with the electorate. Another danger is that a tit-for-tat attack upon their own leader might prove counter-productive for the Tories as Rishi Sunak has hardly had a brilliant campaign so far. One is always tempted to repeat the old political adage, previously discussed in this blog and slightly adapted to attacks upon leaders, to echo the line that ‘If they stop telling lies about ‘X’, then I shall stop telling the truth about ‘Y’ But the other major plan that is being worked upon is to persuade Boris Johnson to enter the campaign with a vengeance. It is said that Boris Johnson is being drafted in to woo wavering voters amid a growing threat from Nigel Farage’s Reform UK. The former Prime Minister has signed tens of thousands of letters to people who supported the Conservatives when he led it. Tory strategists are concerned that many of the voters who backed the party for the first time in 2019 will abandon the party for either Reform UK or Labour. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage has claimed his party is ahead of the Conservatives in much of northern England and the Midlands. But the Conservatives have also held discussions about Mr Johnson appearing on the campaign trail to boost the party’s fortunes. Although this story is being given a degree of prominence in at least one of the right-leaning dailies, I do not think myself that Johnson will allow himself to be drafted in. Whatever one thinks of Johnson, it is probably the case that he has quite a shrewd and calculating political brain and realises that embracing a cause which to many appears to be lost is no way to advance one’s own political ambitions. So my reading of the situation is that Johnson will carry on flirting with some of the Tory analysts but not actually agree to a very active campaigning role. After all, he may recognise that memories are long and whilst he may be adored by some, it is probably the case that he is reviled by a much larger number with memories of ‘Partygate’ (alcohol fuelled parties in Downing Street at the height of the pandemic) very much to the fore. At this rate, it’s not impossible that the Conservatives will collapse behind both the Liberal Democrats in seat numbers and Reform UK in the popular vote.nBut the stage may be being set for something neither funny nor implausible: the return of the most self-centred, dishonest and scurrilous politician our country has ever seen (Boris Johnson), according to one commentator.

Today is the last day upon which voters can ensure that they are registered to vote in just over two weeks time. It is acknowledged that the requirements for voter ID (mainly in the form of a photograph) may effectively disenfranchise a very large number of people. As many as eight million people face being disenfranchised at the next election due to an electoral registration system which is neither effective nor efficient, says the cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee in a recently published report. The Tories knew what they were doing when the new rules were brought in as the unregistered tend to be the young, poor, ethnic minority status and so on giving a relative advantage to the old and settled who predominantly vote Tory. Keir Starmer is reported today as possibly instigating a review of the Voter ID rules were he to be elected Prime Minister and in a very tight election, the impact of these missing voters might be critical. In the local elections held recently, we know that at least 13,000 were effectively turned away and in a General Election this figure will be very much higher. The Tories have certainly learnt from the Republicans on the other side of the Atlantic who have practising and refining subtle (and not so subtle) forms of voter disenfranchisement (typically of poor and black voters) for years now. I expect that this issue will assume a lot more prominence as the campaign enters its last two weeks and there is a realisation that it is too late to secure one’s vote in the fortnight that remains to us.

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Monday, 17th June, 2024 [Day 1554]

This morning, we wondered for a moment how we were to spend our time but decided that we would follow the pattern of recent days and make for the park. Last night, I am pleased that Meg seemed to have had a more restful night. This may have been due to a natural tiredness but we also have a couple of bolster type arrangements which are designed to ensure that youngsters (and elderly people for that matter) do not fall out of bed and these seem to helped to prevent Meg’s legs from straying out of the reaches of the bed which is one of our problems nowadays. Buoyed by the success of this, I went onto the net and promptly ordered another couple so what they arrive, that ought to keep Meg fairly secure in her bed. I am reminded in my youth there was a very popular bed called a ‘LiLo’ and many families including our own possessed one. The technology at that time consisted of four long tubular panels arranged side by side. We learned the trick of inflating the outer tubes as hard as they would go but under inflating the two inner most panels. This as I remember keep you enormously snug and secure during the night and I think that when I went on a Scout Camp, everybody possessed one of these (which prevented the cold of the ground hitting you) with a sleeping bag on top. After we had breakfasted I made my customary lightning visit to collect my newspaper but today a car park attendant was conspicuously checking cars for legitimate parking tickets so I needed to comply with my 50p worth so as to avoid a fine. One of the delightful partners in Waitrose who I know every well and is well aware of Meg’s frailties pressed a bunch of roses into my hand which is so very gratefully received. Once we returned home, it was just a case of doing the washing up, preparing the coffee and wheeling Meg down the hill making a journey only about two thirds of the distance that it would be if we to carry on to the Waitrose store itself. It was a beautiful summer day in the park with just the slightest hint of a breeze.On our way, we passed by the house where our Irish friend was busy mowing the lawn so we had a quick word about our various afflictions and promised that we would get together whenever we could to exchange notes. Once home, the late morning carers arrived and did their bit and I then busied myself preparing our midday meal. We had just about got this over when our friendly chiropodist turned up to give attention to our feet. I had developed some cracks in my heels and the chiropodist helped me to provide some remedial treatment. She examined my low slung casual leather shoe I use as slippers and thought that the seam at the back might be causing me some problems. So we gave me some special fabric to alleviate things in the short term but then I need to go onto the web to find an almost exact replacement for the shoes that I want. No sooner had the chiropodist left but our son turned up to see us, bringing us a present of some lemon cheese after he and his wife had taken a quick break in the Lake District to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Our son told us about the new restaurants that had opened since the last time we visited Keswick and it seems that the whole town is gradually becoming a little more cosmopolitan. Meg and I always lodged in and around Keswick in our Lake District walking days and it is certainly a town for the dedicated fell walkers.

Yesterday, our neighbour called around to explain that he was going to be away on holiday for the next two weeks. Apparently he and the two carers had been on the doorstep for a good ten minutes ringing the doorbell but I was so dog tired I had fallen asleep in the chair and the doorbell failed to rouse me. I have relocated the doorbell chime unit into our Music Lounge so this does not happen again. Last night, when Meg was asleep, I dared to watch the first match in which England were playing with Serbia as their opponents. The England team had easily the best of the first half, dominating it completely and scoring a very good goal from the head of the (almost local) hero Jude Bellingham. But in the second half, the Serbs really came alive and stepped up a gear which made the whole of the second half quite a tense affair. One hard shot on goal looked a certain equaliser but the English goalkeeper just managed to deflect the shot over the bar. But the commentators are saying that ‘a win is a win’ but certainly not as convincingly as the Germans and the Spanish.

The political news today is the launch of a type of manifesto by the Reform Party. I actually think they are ought to be called ‘the party for voters who think the Tory party is not sufficiently nasty’ but I am not sure that their policies (reducing immigration to a net zero in which those coming in exactly match in number those emigrating) have been subject to any kind of detailed scrutiny. The kind of comment I have heard so far is that Reform is never going to form a government so we do not need to concern ourselves with their policies. But one has to admit that Farage is a superb publicist or rather self-publicist and has the capacity to make it look as though complex problems can have really simple solutions. His solution to the problems of the NHS is to turn it something like the French, insurance based model which he argues gives much better results for the same amount of money. I am not sure that the experts at the Kings Fund (experts in NHS organisation and functioning) would agree and it would take at least ten years to reorganise the whole of the NHS even if it was considered a good idea.

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Sunday, 16th June, 2024 [Day 1553]

Today being a Sunday, we enter our Sunday routines but today revealed some surprises for us. Our care agency was having some staff difficulties, primarily due, I think, to staff illnesses and so we were informed by text late yesterday evening that we would only expect one carer this morning and could I be called upon to assist? As it turned out, the care staff member who turned up was one of the must reliable and trustworthy ladies with whom I get on well so we formed a good team together but get Meg up, washed, dressed and hoisted into her chair. Then it was the Sunday morning Politics programmes to which I always look forward but which I very often sleep through and today was no exception. Evidently, the programmes today were election oriented but I did get the perception that the Labour Party, being consistently about 20-21 votes ahead and is therefore regarded as a front -runner is subject to more sustained and detailed scrutiny than the Tories and the Reform party seems to get hardly any critical examination at all. As soon as these programmes were over, I made my customary lightning visit in town to get our copy of a Sunday newspaper and then upon my return where I wheeled Meg into the kitchen where she could observe me doing the washing up and preparing our coffee elevenses. Then we made our way to the park, trying but failing to make contact with our University of Birmingham friend. It was quite a nice day down in the park and after we were had been sitting in the park for half an hour, we were approached by a lady and her very friendly dog that we used to meet in the park regularly in our COVID expeditions. This lady is a very friendly and homely type of person and it turns out that we knew her son pretty well who has acted as a general handyman for me repairing gutters and even constructing some steps into a lower area of the garden christened ‘Mog’s Den’ (sadly now, massively overgrown as I have not had the time to get down into it for a year) No sooner had our friend left us and we were preparing to leave than we met up with another acquaintance who has the most incredibly good looking labrapoodle type dog, almost resembling a sheep. This acquaintance had some rather bad news to convey as his partner has advanced and inoperable lung cancer and all kinds of unpleasant sequelae are now developing as consequence of all of this. We would have liked to have stayed and commiserated a little longer but we had to be on our journey so as not to be late for the late morning call of Meg’s carer. Then we ran into the wife of our Irish friends from down the road and learned the sad news that her husband has been diagnosed with a serious illness which helps to explain why we had been in contact for a week or so now. However, we promised each other that we definitely meet to update each other on the various things that had been happening to us but again, we rather had to receive the news and then hurry away up the hill, again to ensure we were back in time for Meg’s carer. We did make it back in time but only with about two minutes to spare and had just about cleaned up the wheels of the wheelchair ready to be wheeled across the carpets within the house. So we had received two instances of unpleasant news about illnesses in our friends and acquaintances but I am afraid that is all too familiar a story in this day and age.

We lunched on some chicken pieces made into a stew with the benefit of a thick chicken and vegetables soup purchased from Aldi and this gave us a very copious meal with plenty left over for tomorrow.This afternoon it seems to be gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon but after a venture out in the morning, we tend to have more relaxing afternoons. The political news this afternoon is best summed up by an analysis that I have recently that the Tories fight with Farage is a fight to the death over the future of UK’s centre-right politics (although perhaps more accurately, the future of the whole of the UK right) The manifestations of this fight are strange to behold. For example, Penny Mordaunt the other day in the seven-way party debate tore into Labour’s tax plans relentlessly but did not have a single word of criticism of Farage or his policies which is surely a massive threat to the Tory Party. This might be because of a realisation that after the inevitable defeat, there may be a regrouping of the right in this country and although Reform might want to absorb remnants of the right wing tendencies in the UK scene, there are some elements of the present Tory party who want to do exactly the same with Reform. We will probably end up with a situation in which Reform has a goodly number of votes but only 1-2 seats in Parliament, helping indirectly to ensure the election of a Labour government by drawing critical votes away from the Tories. The Tories instead of attacking Farage and Reform directly have resorted to the tactic of warning of a potential Armageddon, as they see it, if a Labour government is elected with a landslide majority. This is tantamount to recognising that defeat is inevitable and the election is already lost and won (as Farage is claiming that it is).

Yesterday, I wondered whether to watch some football but just turned on the TV to watch the Spanish score two quick and well deserved goals against Croatia which meant that I was spared the more tentative football at the start of the match. Tonight England are playing Serbia and the German police are assuming that the militant fans on both sides will be out to cause trouble either inside or outside the stadium. It looks as though some well known militants have successfully got over into Germany and I think it will take a lot of good policing to keep the two sets of fans apart. I would be amazed if England were to win because we seem to have a national talent for talking up our football only to discover that we are not a very good footballing nation these days. So I am expecting a defeat tonight and not will gutted if this actually occurs.

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Saturday, 15th June, 2024 [Day 1552]

Today did not get off to a brilliant start and Meg needed quite a lot of care and attention even before the care workers arrived at their appointed time. But then it was two trusted members of the care team and they took over whilst I supplied their various needs and tidied up around them. After breakfast, we really did not know how we were were going to spend the morning because a few minutes before our normal departure time for a venture out, the heavens opened and there was quite a heavy shower. I consulted the weather app on my phone which told me there was a 75% chance of rain in the next hour followed by a 45% chance thereafter. So we stayed our hand for about 20 minutes and then had to make a judgement call whether we were going to go out this morning. The heavy rain had diminished to a light drizzle and it was a 50:50 judgement call whether to go out or stay in. Eventually, I decided that we should go and I made sure that Meg was clothed in a warm gilet with a good rainproof and a waterproof hat before our journey. In the event, we were were not deeply troubled by the drizzle and I was pleased that we had decided to go after all. When we got to the Waitrose cafeteria, we were a little disappointed to see none of our friends there but our despondency soon lifted when two of them turned up. One of them was explaining how she had turned up to some election hustings for local candidates that had taken place in the local Methodist hall. However, both the Labour Party and the Reform candidate had absented themselves and one wonders why – perhaps the only vaguely credible explanation is that they might have feared that the other candidates might have ganged up on them and they had more to lose than they had to gain. Meg and I filled in our ballot papers this morning and got them in the post on our way home. However, I have to say that in the act of filling in our ballot papers, I was somewhat dismayed to see that the candidate for the political party for whom I intended to vote had evidently been ‘jetted in’ by the party HQ and their address was given as ‘Ealing’ whereas all of the other candidates had local addresses. Both of the major political parties jet in candidates that they prefer overriding the wishes of the local party and for me, this left a nasty taste in the mouth so I had to vote for my preferred political party almost through gritted teeth. Our journey home was made in something approaching sunshine which makes a change for us these days. Then the carers called around and I got busy preparing a lunch of mince with fried onions and peppers, a baked potato and some green beans.

I had noticed that a particularly good film was due to be broadcast this afternoon and this was the ‘A Man for All Seasons’ starring Paul Schofield and Orson Wells. The film is ehe story of Sir Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the King rejected the Roman Catholic Church to obtain a divorce and remarry. On the subject of individuals who stand by their principles and refuse to buy to political and organisational pressure, it called to mind the following incident in my occupational life when I was employed at De Montfort University in Leicester. As a group of lecturers we were receiving a briefing on how we should conduct ourselves as invigilators during the course of the examinations. We were given the instruction that if a fire alarm were to sound, this was probably a false alarm and we should ignore it and keep students writing their examination papers until the actual outbreak of a fire was confirmed. Incidentally, it was not entirely unknown for a student who was ill prepared for an examination to somehow get a fire alarm to sound thus having the current exam cancelled giving them extra time to prepare the second time around. But the point of my recollection is that one of our number who we always thought of as being quiet and reserved individual who not would say ‘Boo’ to the proverbial goose evidently took great exception to the instruction to ignore the fire warning. He announced that whatever instructions he had been given, if a fire alarm were to sound he would have no hesitation in marching the students out and he was not going to have on his conscience the harm that could could come to his students were a fire alarm warning to be ignored. Most of us just turned round and stared open-mouthed at our colleagues who we thought was the least likely to disobey an explicit instruction to invigilators. How the dilemma was eventually solved I cannot now remember but the point of ‘obedience to authority’ is an interesting one. One joke often made at the expense of accountants is the answer to the question of 1 + 1 make to which the reply from accountants might be ‘What do you want the answer to be?’ On the subject of jokes about accountants, I rather liked the one that stated that there three types of accountants, the ones that could count and the ones that could not.

Although I am not really that interested in football, late on this afternoon the Spain vs. Croatia match is going to broadcast live on terrestrial TV and this might prove to be quite a cracker. I may indulge a bit in watching some of the second half of I have the time. These days, though, I much prefer Rugby (Union) to football and thank God I was never tempted to be a football referee as any instances of shirt pulling or talking back to the referee would instantly end up with at least a yellow card. I think I would probably end up with two on one side and three on the other which might guarantee a result rather than a boring draw.

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Friday, 14th June, 2024 [Day 1551]

Trying to work out what the weather is going to do these days is quite an art form. This morning as we were getting up, the weather looked a bit cloudy and one was not quite sure how the day was going to pan out. Nonetheless, we made a plan that after we had breakfasted, we would make a trip down to Waitrose in the hope that we might see some of our regular acquaintances. As we were walking down, there was a fairly huge black cloud overhead but it looked as though it might blow over and that better weather would follow on behind. Once we got into the cafeteria, none of our usual friends were there but our University of Birmingham friend phoned up, wondering whether we meet or not as he was suffering from a cold. I told him that I would like us still to meet and we were prepared to risk the small possibility of a cross infection but our friend very thoughtfully turned up with a COVID style face mask in place. So we had a jolly chat about current affairs as well as the current political scene and were deep in conversation when we suddenly realised that we would be late for the next call of the carers who were scheduled for the late morning. So I made a swift call to the telephone agency to get a message to the carers who were probably waiting outside the house to inform them that we would be delayed and then I pushed Meg up the hill as fast as I could (not a particularly easy task) When the carers had checked Meg over, it was time to start to prepare some lunch and, by way of a change, I had put some haddock fillets in tinfoil to bake in the oven and to be served with a baked potato, some broccoli and a microwaved tomato. Whilst lunch was being cooked, though, there was a fascinating press conference being held by the Reform party (previously the Brexit party and previously stiill, UKIP) Some very interesting news had just broken yesterday evening as a reputable opinion poll had actually put Reform ahead of the Tory party by a single percentage point. Last night in the shambles of the ITV multi-party debate (in which there was a lot of talking across each other) Nigel Farage was absolutely full of himself, just having received the poll news. Nigel Farage, forever the self publicist, taunted Penny Mordant that Reform was now the ‘de facto’ opposition party and that a vote for the Conservatives was now actually a vote for the Labour party. This morning, Farage was full of himself, still buoyed up by the same news no doubt and was making the point that the election was effectively over as the Labour Party had won it and the Tories would shortly be reduced to a rump in the new Parliament. Perhaps Farage has in mind that in Canada the then Conservative party suffered an absolutely cataclysmic defeat being reduced to only two MPs. The full story can be told here. Really surprising was the almost entire wipe-out of Canada’s Progressive Conservative (PC) party. It won the previous election in 1988 with 169 seats out of 295 total under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. However, Kim Campbell (Mulroney’s successor and to date Canada’s only female Prime Minister) lost her own seat and saw the party reduced to a rump of just 2 MPs. Now whether this is actually going to happen in the UK we shall have to wait and see, although I think it is very unlikely. But Farage is quite capable of dealing some savage psychological blows to the Tory party in its present mood and it will be fascinating if they turn into an army of Corporal Jones from ‘Dad’s Army’ shouting “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” whilst doing exactly that. Yesterday, Meg and I received our postal ballots and we are going to fill them in in a quiet moment this afternoon. But I noticed as we walked down the hill one or two individuals who had evidently received their postal ballots and were clutching them in their hands ready to post. There is quite a lot of research that indicates that people do actually fill in their postal ballots shortly after receiving them and presumably postal ballots are dropping through letter boxes all over the country. I think this is a really significant moment because if a lot of people in the country vote in the next day or so when the Labour party is 21 points ahead and Reform is probably level pegging with the Conservative party, then these postal votes will be ‘baked into’ the system and it means that a late swing will not have the effect one might imagine when a certain proportion of votes has already been cast.

The weather rather made us alter our plans for this afternoon.There was a very intense cloudburst type of shower at lunchtime and I thought that would probably put paid to any plans that I had to try to get the front lawn cut. But then the clouds rolled away and we had a burst of brilliant sunshine. So we watched the TV for a bit, stumbling cross a biopic of Mae West which was reasonably entertaining but whose double entendres were so outrageous I could not possibly repeat them here (except ‘You must come up and see me sometime’ is one of the most memorable) I just about managed to squeeze in getting the front communal greened area cut before the carers turned up for their late afternoon call. I was desperately hoping that they might be about 5-10 minutes late and, by courtesy of a local traffic jam, they did turn up a little late giving me time to complete the mowing. Tonight, the Euro football competition is starting off with the Germany vs. Scotland game some of which I might be tempted to watch. Scotland must stand as rank outsiders but German football is not quite the force that it was and, of course, anything can happen in the heat of a competition.

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Thursday, 13th June, 2024 [Day 1550]

Last night after Meg had been put to bed, I could not resist watching the special Sky News debate organised between Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak. The ace Sky News reporter Beth Rigby was to question each deeply for 20 minutes after which they would have to answer questions from a live audience for some 25 minutes. Keir Starmer did appear more quietly confident after his last head-to-head with Rishi Sunak whereas the latter appeared much more on the defensive. A opinion poll conducted for Sky News just after the programme made Keir Starmer the winner by some 64% to 36% which was almost a knockout blow. Beth Rigby’s analysis was forensic and devastating. When Sunak tried to argue that a Tory government would cut taxes, Beth Rigby presented the evidence of Ed Conway, the Sky News data analyst that the tax take would rise if the Tories were returned to power even taking into the account the ‘tax cuts’ they are proposing. Sunak’s response from someone supposedly a ‘spreadsheet king’ illustrated the problems he is facing. His first response was to say that he did not know about the Ed Conway analysis (which is unlikely as surely his team would have ‘prepped’ him on this) but when pressed on this opined that the analysis was wrong. So our acting Prime Minister first denied having read of a report and then said that the report which he had not read was wrong. The audience was quick to take notice of fluffs like this and I think it is fair comment to say that many commentators looked at the face and body language of Rishi Sunak and concluded that he looked a beaten man. Perhaps concentrating so much on his disappearance from the D-Day celebrations last weekend had sapped his energy or attention spans but instead of delivering the knock-out below that was required to reverse the fortunes of the Tory Party, instead we got a very lack lustre performance. Keir Starmer did not give a perfect performance even responding to the observation of an audience member that he appeared ‘robotic’ replying in a way that could be considered robotic. What was especially interesting was that whereas Sky News were prepared to trump a winner and a loser after the debate, the BBC account made it appear that it was a much more even contest than was apparent to the rest of us. I suppose this is an indication of the constant emasculation of the BBC who are so frightened of appearing to be in the least bit partisan, then they appearing to be partisan by not following the consensus demonstrated by the majority of journalists reporting the contest.

Today was our shopping day so after the carers had departed this morning we received a visit form a carer who has taken on the role of rota organiser for the care company. Although being in post for only three weeks or so, she was vastly experienced in many differing social care settings and was getting to know each of her clients by visiting herself each of the clients in turn. My shopping seemed a fairly full week this week and took me a little longer than usual but I took the opportunity to add one or two extra things to our diet so what we have a bit more variety within it. Our lunch consisted of one of those collations of vegetables (onions, peppers, peas, meat remains, apple and sultana) of which I am all too fond. Not all of was dished up so I have left a bit over in case I feel the need for a bit of extra nourishment this evening. The morning was punctuated by a couple of telephone calls. The first of these was from our ex-social worker who happened to be the duty officer, responsible for pulling together bits of information before the next social services review. I needed to remind her of such basic facts that she should have had on file such as the number and timing of visits in a calendar week, the time that Meg was in hospital and so on. It now appears that we will not have a social worker visit for a week or so now, as I suspected and such is the pressure of their workload, they always to be slightly ‘behind the curve’ as they say. Then I received a phone call from one of the GPs from the GP practice who was generally friendly and informative. The important message is still to keep on ‘taking the tablets’ so that Meg’s DVT may eventually disperse itself but this period of time, I learnt today, could be measured in months rather than weeks. Whilst I was on the phone, I enlisted her help on our application to the wheelchair service which I gather is in train. It will be interesting to see whether an application from our doctor actually carries more weight than from an occupational therapist. I am fully prepared for either a rejection or a really long wait (the figure of a wait of 18 weeks has been mentioned) but we shall have to see when and if the application goes forward.

Today is the launch of the Labour manifesto which, as you might expect, is a little on the light side and in which there is pledge that there will be no changes to income tax, national insurance or VAT. As mentioned before, this is a little disingenuous because with fiscal drag (non indexation of allowances) then if politicians of any stripe do nothing, then as things stand at the moment the actual tax take goes up. Amongst all of the various quotes that are made about income tax I particularly like the one about income tax being the price we pay for living in a civilised society. Trying to track down the sentiment behind this idea as well as the exact form of words is not an easy task. But I think I will settle upon the following. On October 21, 1936 President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a speech in Worcester, Massachusetts and multiple newspapers reported excerpts the next day. Roosevelt credited Mr. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who once said: ‘Taxes are the price we pay for civilised society.’ So the origins of the expression may well be American rather than of UK extraction but it is perhaps interesting, given the prominence that tax has in all of our political discourse these days, that no politician sees fit to resurrect and to quote the expression.

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Wednesday, 12th June, 2024 [Day 1549]

Wednesday is the day when our domestic calls around and we are always very pleased to see her. Today, we were particularly pleased because she came along this morning bearing a wonderful gift for Meg. In her ‘normal’ job, our domestic help works in a residential home and one of the residents had acquired a beautiful rabbit, complete with a little dress and bows in her hair and the resident particularly wanted the rabbit to go to a good home. So this was the gift for Meg and as the resident herself was so called, it was quite easy to name the rabbit ‘Angela Rabbit’ Our domestic help took a photo of Meg with her new found friend and this will no doubt gladden the heart of the donor who was concerned that the rabbit should find a ‘good’ home. This morning proved productive in many ways as our domestic help was able to have a chat with Meg whilst she cleaned our Music Lounge and its environs so I took the opportunity to visit the Bromsgrove High Street. I had various successful visits, the most important being to an ATM so that we obtain cash for our shopping and the big gardening clearance job that we are going to have done for us next week. I also took the opportunity to buy some cosmetic items and some cleaning products that our domestic help particularly likes and then made my way home to think about preparing lunch. Lunch today was a fairly standard affair with some of the remains of the ham joint from the weekend, some spring greens and a baked potato. One way or another I had had a fairly busy morning but Meg had not had a ration of fresh air so we thought that this afternoon we should pay a visit to the park. In the afternoons, the park often seems to be populated by schoolgirls in pairs (what happens to schoolboys I cannot say) with the occasional dog walker, jogger and mother of young offspring. On our trips to the park, I try to avoid patches of rough tarmac and even wheel Meg on a side road (a service road running alongside the main Kidderminster Road) where the journey is so much smoother. We got back only about fifteen minutes before the afternoon carers call around to check on Meg and to wheel her to her ‘evening’ location which is our main lounge where we typically relax to ClassicFM before the 6.00pm news.

We are very often tuned to Sky News and they are hosting an important head-to-head debate between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer this evening scheduled for 7.00pm this evening. We are about half way through the campaign as things stand with three more weeks before election day itself and the Labour lead is a fairly constant 21 points as it has been for about months now. The lead seems fairly stable and constant because very often at this point in a campaign there tends to be a narrowing of the gap between the two major parties. The Tories are desperately hoping that today’s debate may turn out to be a decisive turning point because of Sunak performs brilliantly and Starmer performs disastrously, then it is not inconceivable although highly unlikely that the poll gap may start to narrow. Tonight’s debate is going to broadcast from the newly created electoral district of Greater Grimsby and Cleethorpes. The format of the clash tonight seems quite interesting as it will be Beth Rigby as the Sky news interviewer and commentator asking each candidate 20 minutes of detailed questions followed by about 25 minutes of questions from the audience. The electorate itself is a ‘red wall’ seat before the boundary change although it looks as though following the boundary change, the Labour party could take the seat with a swing of about 17%. From some of the ‘vox pop’ that have taken place during the day, it seems as though many portions of the electorate have still to be make up their minds. In fact, the local mood could almost be classified as indifference combined with a distinct lack of enthusiasm for either candidate. One can quote see why. Brexit has failed to deliver the promised benefits although I think that Grimsby itself may be the recipient of some strategically given government largesse in the last year or so. On the other hand, the Labour party hardly looked after the constituency the last time it had been in office so one can almost understand the indifference, complacency and lack pf enthusiastic support for either candidate. So far, I discern that the Tories are worried that despite cutting National Insurance twice (which they are describing as a ‘tax cut’) the polls have not moved in their favour. A further cut in National Insurance is a prominent part of the Tory election manifesto but so far, to use the contemporary political jargon, it has failed to ‘move the dial’. There are also signs that the Tory strategy might itself be shifting slightly, not overtly indicating that the election is already won and lost (which it probably is) but trying now to convince the electorate that a Labour landslide would be a disaster.

The latest economic news will not have been good news to the Tory party, three weeks before an election. The latest figures indicates that the economy was basically ‘flatlining’ with falls in construction and consumer sales, offset to some extent by an increase in services. Apparently and understandably, as April was one of the wettest in recent years, then this simultaneously depressed both the footfall to local retail outlets as well as halting some construction work. One can never attribute too much significance to one set of figures but it does add to the general feeling that the economy is not delivering benefits for many people and, of course, the absence of any real growth also affects future tax receipts. I suspect that the next week or so might be quite crucial because as soon as postal votes are delivered, then the national mood starts to get ‘baked in’ to the final result and last minute swings of the polls might not achieve as much significance as the pollsters would have us believe.

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Tuesday, 11th June, 2024 [Day 1548]

Today has turned out to be quite a busy day. We made a somewhat slow start to the day as the carers were designated to start three quarters of an hour later than is usual for us so this rather delayed the normal start of the day. No sooner had we breakfasted then two nurses from Admiral (specialist nurses, trained to work with dementia patients) turned up to make a regular monthly visit which is always very welcome. One of the nurses spends some time alone with me so that we can discuss all aspects of Meg’s care including some concerns about myself whilst the other nurse spent some time with Meg, reading to her as it happened some of the many children’s books of which we have a supply. I am always pleased to see this couple of nurses who are incredibly supportive and can sometimes lodge an email with, for example, the GP practice where it seems to have more impact than if I were to make contact myself. It happened to be the eighth wedding anniversary of one of the Admiral nurses so I prevailed upon her to give her just the tiniest smidgeon of some of our damson gin which I keep on hand for occasions such as this. Evidently, I am not in the habit of plying care workers with alcohol but this was a little gesture to tickle the taste buds as it was a special occasion. The care nurses had not long departed when an especially large parcel arrived for me. This was a one-off vintage dining chair in which I secured it at a price of £15.00 plus transport and it came beautifully and carefully packaged. I have already given it a quick wipe to remove showroom dust but later on this afternoon when I have time I am going to apply some of my specialist polishes to it before it will occupy a position in our Music Lounge I have allocated for it. The chair I use in our normal lounge to access my lap top computer is actually one of the dining room set so the newly arrived chair will take its place, releasing the original chair back to the dining room which was its original home.

The carer arrived for her ‘sitting’ duties in the middle of the day, releasing me in theory to attend my Pilates class. But there are much more pressing things to me with this ‘released’ time so I welcomed the opportunity whilst Meg and safe and secure with the sitter she knew well to go to a large store in the centre of town that sells a range of household, cosmetic and medicinal products. I needed something from each of these categories largely to help the carers who are apt to hold out a hand whilst in mid-task (much like surgeon holding out a hand to have a scalpel slapped into it) calling out ‘Mike do you have a ….’ and then I have to act as a runner to hand over whatever supplies are needed at that moment in time. Some of the products of which I was desperately in need seemed to be missing from the shelves but I was relieved beyond all measure to find out they had been relocated to just around the corner to what I believe the supermarket stores call a ‘carousel’. Having located everything for which I was looking and at a price about 70% of the price at which I could have obtained these products on the net, I gratefully accepted the assistance of the store staff to help me to carry things to the car. Then, having for home, it was case of getting my fishcakes into the oven for my typical Tuesday lunch and whilst the dinner was cooking, I always enjoy a chat with the carer. The carer helped me to give Meg her lunch which is always much appreciated and even helped me with a bit of washing up before she had to depart to pick up children from school.

This morning’s session with the Admiral nurse bore some immediate fruit as we received a telephone call from Social Services which revealed that Social Services knew that they had not been in touch and that an awful lot of water has flowed under the bridge since they last saw and in affect assessed Meg. So the telephone call was to give me Social Services number and to inform me that once they had perused all of the available paperwork, I would receive another telephone call from a social worker and would eventually receive a domiciliary visit. But given the pressure that Social Services departments are under, this further visit/assessment may be some weeks further off. But the Admiral nurse had evidently done her bit as our advocate as she had spoken with the GP practice and had arranged an actual telephone conversation (given that the last ‘consultation’ was a one line text message to the effect of keep on taking the tablets) Also, the GP practice should be sending to the Admiral Nurse some indication of how far they were progressing/not progressing in forwarding a referral to the Wheelchair service for us. I expressed my profound thanks to our Admiral nurse contact because I really do feel that she acts as an advocate for us, particularly with the local GP who seem to adopt the most minimal and cursory of approaches whenever I approach them for help.

This week is ‘manifesto week’ where all the major players in the election are revealing their manifestos. Both the BBC and Sky News seem to have taken it upon themselves to fact check the various commitments made in the various manifestos. Many a sleight of hand is at work here because the politicians are apt to say that hey do not intend to take any actions to increase the taxation on the electorate. But what they mean by this is that hey do not intend to alter the rates of taxation as owing to the non-indexation of allowances and the consequent ‘fiscal drag’ then the level of taxation, and higher levels of taxation, is gradually increasing even if the politicians do nothing.

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