Sunday, 30th June, 2024 [Day 1567]

Today being a Sunday, we enter into ‘Sunday’ routines which means watching the politics programmes from about 8.30 onwards. In theory, today being the last Sunday before the election, Laura Kuenssberg was interviewing the Prime Minister and although she kept pressing him about the hurt felt after years of falling living standards, we got the familiar litany of dire warnings about what would happen were a Labour government to be elected. I really do feel that the Tories whole mindset seems to be that they have a God-given right to be elected and anything else is regarded as an abomination of nature rather than a normal ‘cycle’ of politics. When I was first employed o the scientific civil service, my then boss seemed to have the most ‘non-politically’ partisan view of politics because he seemed to regard each ‘side’ as though they were football teams. I can now almost hear him now saying ‘Well that lot have had a go for a number of years so let the other lot have a go for a change’ Having said that, I do feel that the British populace as a whole is less knowledgable about the political process than many of our continental neighbours. In one of the community studies which was required reading when I was a student, there was a sign in a pub mentioned with great approbation declaiming ‘No Politics, No Religion – no good friends all!’ Although this is a gross generalisation, I do have impression that with a more developed cafe culture, our continental neighbours can and do have more sophisticated political discussion without falling out with each other. I think that part of the problem is that the British electorate are kept quite ill-informed about the political process and are quite frankly bored with the very mention of politics. In days gone by, there used to be an element of the school curriculum called ‘Civics’ but this has long since disappeared. I think that successive governments have strongly discouraged any kind of political education in schools and colleges whatsoever fearing that the young might be subject to ‘political indoctrination’ by idealistic young teachers. As part of the Business Studies curriculum in my academic career, we often had a subject called something like ‘British Political Landscape’ in which we would teach subjects like how Parliament works in passing legislation, what is meant by the ‘separation of powers’ and so on. I found the reaction of my students to be interesting. At first, they argued that they knew hardly anything and cared even less and they were not looking forward to this part of he curriculum. But once exposed to some elementary facets of the British Constitution, their eyes were opened (at least a little) and they did start to tell me that they quite enjoyed the subject if only because something that was a totally closed book to them was gradually opened and they used to tell me that the more they knew, the more they felt that they wanted to know. But of course, we have the best part of four more days to live through before voting starts next Thursday. The critical moment in the forthcoming week is going to be a few seconds after 10.00pm next Thursday night when voting is officially closed and, by tradition, the very first exit polls about the forthcoming result can be published. These exit polls are pretty accurate as a whole because the sample is large and the question asked is not how do you intend to vote but rather how did you actually vote (or not vote) in today’s election.

Tomorrow, I am looking forward to the delivery of a wheelchair for Meg and naturally I am hoping that it may make the journey down into town somewhat smoother for Meg. Of course, it is always possible that whatever is delivered is less suited for this purpose than the very basic wheelchair that we purchased months ago and have been using ever since. We have to make ourselves stay in all morning until it is delivered some time in the morning between 9.30 and 12.30. I have also been thinking about what a potential solution might be to the absence of a pavement linking the road where we live to the main Kidderminster Road. Nothing is going to happen for quite some time because the relevant County Counsellor is on holiday for the next two weeks and even if she were to take action immediately upon her return (which I doubt) then she would probably request that the equivalent of the Borough Engineer’s department make an assessment of the situation. In the meantime, though, I think I may have come up with a solution to the problem which would not involve narrowing the road or taking land from neighbour’s fronting the roadway, each of which is not practicable. In the carpark adjacent to our local Waitrose, there are dedicated ‘walking zones’ in which once one has parked one’s car one can walk to the store presumably in relevant safety. Borrowing from this idea, I wonder whether a pedestrian or cycle ‘pathway’ could be marked out on the road so that we could walk in this area when necessary and passing motorists could intuit that they were meant to give us a wide berth. As a kind of thought experiment, I wondered that if we had brought the problem of a lack of safe walking space to the relevant authorities and we were injured by a passing motorist, whether the local authority could be fined a massive amount for failing to ensure our safety – particularly as Meg is a wheelchair user. We will have to see what happens and I do not intend to bring this solution to the attention of the pavement/road authorities immediately as I want to see what their solution might happen to be.

For lunch today, we had a slightly experimental meal which turned out fine. I had bought some chicken breast pieces and these I seared off and then immersed in a korma sauce before serving with a baked potato and some broccoli. This made for a very nice meal but it would have been improved if I had not left the korma sauce on a little too long and it was in danger of burning and sticking onto the pan.

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Saturday, 29th June, 2024 [Day 1566]

The day dawned bright and clear but the carers were a little delayed this morning which meant that we had to get breakfast over in a bit of a rush before we started our journey down into Waitrose where we met up with our normal ‘gang’ of three old ladies making five of us altogether. Rather cheekily, I asked one of the three who I know is a fairly keen gardener if she had any mint growing in her garden and could she possible let me a small root of it. Although mint is meant to grow absolutely prolifically, it never seems to do so in my garden so I was hopeful that if I had a root of mint it would spread. Our friend not only brought me quite a large root of mint in a pot but she also made a present (to all three of us) of some strawberries grown in her garden as she did last year. These gifts were gratefully received and we will certainly have the strawberries for our tea this evening.

I was up a bit in the middle of the night and engaged in a couple of things that I would not really have time to do during the day. The first thing was to update my ‘potteries-and-chairs’ website which has photographs of our furniture acquisitions that we have used to populate our Music lounge. This needed some images adding to it and some editing of the content but at the end of the day I have a gallery of the eleven pieces of furniture we have bought and restored over the past few months. I also have a brief description of the ‘provenance’ of each piece so that I am reminded from whence it was bought and some details of its history, if I know it. So this website is now complete as is the complement of furniture to which it relates. The second thing that I did during the night was to do a quick internet search to see who has responsibility for the maintenance of footpaths throughout the borough. I then ascertained the name of our local councillor and wrote him an email complaining that I needed to push Meg in her wheelchair down the roadway of a local road where there is no pavement but which road is heavily populated with traffic as it is a ‘de facto’ ring road. I requested that the local authority take some action to remedy the danger to myself, not to mention other motorists, when they are faced with the obstruction of a wheelchair being pushed down the road. To my amazement, I got a very sympathetic and almost immediate response to my email, sympathising with my current difficulties. But despite what I have read on the internet, I was informed that both the pavements as well as the roadways are the responsibility of the County Council and therefore of the County Counsellor who would be away for the next two weeks. Nonetheless, my email was being forwarded on to her and I shall be fascinated to see what action, if any, will be taken. I have a fair idea that I already know the answer. Because no pavement was provided some twenty years ago when the houses were built, then the only solution would be to narrow the road (which is not going to happen) or to take a slice off the front of other people’s gardens (which is also not going to happen). So my best guess is that the County highways engineering staff may make an on-site assessment and will conclude that there is nothing that we can do and we have to grin and bear it. But, on the other hand, if a disabled person is pushed down the centre of a busy highway because the local authority cannot or has not provided a pavement, will they be liable for massive damages in the event of a subsequent accident or injury? I have no great hopes in this direction but it is still quite a fascinating exercise to see what excuses the county council will provide to excuse their own deficiencies. But the county counsellor involved also has responsibility for ‘welfare issues’ as well as being a cabinet member, so i wonder what will emerge (but I am not holding my breath)

Once we had returned from our trip out this morning, I contemplated what should be prepared to accompany the quiche I had scheduled for our lunch today. In the end, I boiled a large potato cut into small pieces and then made a salad which turned out to be quite a wise choice given that I did not really want to have a cooked meal today. After we had our lunch and done the washing up, I took Meg outside and I busied myself planting out the root of mint which our friend had so kindly donated to me. I am resolved to water it daily until it establishes itself- to encourage it to get established, I cut the shrub down to two thirds of its original size and hope that this and a bit of TLC will suffice to get it going.

After lunch today, Meg and I listened to ‘Any Questions‘ and its companion programme ‘Any Answers‘ on BBC Radio4 and, of course, this is the last edition before voting day next Thursday. There seemed to be a view shared by the audience members and also by many of the panellists that a six weeks election campaign was too long given that in the past, we have managed a General Election quite happily after a three week campaign. But this time around , there still seem a very large number of undecideds who do not feel inclined to vote for either of the two major political parties. I think that the proportion intending to vote for the two large parties is at an all time low and of I had to make some predictions for next Thursday, it would be that turnout will be down (on there might seem to be little point in voting if the outcome already seems clear) and/or that the smaller parties like the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Reform might receive more votes than they anticipated at the start of the campaign.

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Friday, 28th June, 2024 [Day 1565]

Today being a Friday, we had no particular commitments or engagements in mind. Last night, after Meg had been put to bed we decided to put our little TV into position so that Meg and I could both view the last ‘Question Time‘ before the election. To make myself comfortable, instead of sitting on the chair by Meg’s bedside, I lay on the ‘Z’ bed I have besides Meg’s bed but then I promptly fell asleep whilst Meg stayed awake for the whole of the broadcast which was not quite what I had either intended or desired. Then I was up in the middle of the night making Meg comfortable but at least we got off to a proper sleep by about 12.30 I think it was. This morning, our son called around and knew of my computer problems with the laptop in our Music Lounge. Instead of looking for a non-existent WiFi switch on the externals of the machine, he decided to go down a very different diagnostic route. By going through the Settings and then the Device Manager, he determined that the WiFi had been turned off for some obscure reason – but by turning it on, the whole laptop and the WiFi was made operative and thus was restored to rude health. After breakfast, I made a quick phone call to the Wheelchair service to check whether the model being delivered next Monday will be ‘fit for the purpose’ of conveying Meg over the bumpy pavements in our locality and received a rather ambiguous response so we shall just have to be patient and wait and see what turns up after the weekend. I sent a quick text to our University of Birmingham friend to ascertain whether we might meet for coffee this morning. We decided after a quick telephone call to meet in the park so I left a few minutes early to go down the hill in order to get supplied with our copy of the daily newspaper before we turned back up the hill to occupy our normal park bench before we had a rendez-vous with our friend. Although I had judged that Meg might be warm enough with a gilet to go down to the park, a cool wind got up in the middle of the morning and Meg was getting a little cold so I had to resolve to make sure that Meg always had enough warm clothing to cope with exigencies of this kind. When we returned home, I revived Meg with some chicken soup and the carers made their late morning call. Then I set about getting the lunch prepared which was a (bought) fish pie and some spring greens to accompany it. After lunch and having consulted the television schedules, I noticed that Lawrence of Arabia was being broadcast, seemingly for hours on end. The interesting thing about the film was there seemed to a shot of Lawrence on his camel in the desert after which I dozed for a few minutes but when I made myself fully conscious again, the film was still showing Lawrence on his camel in the desert – I have a shrewd suspicion that if I were to doze even more, the scene would be absolutely the same when I woke up.

All elections campaigns have their moments and one of them arose today. Without making a politically partisan point, I think that the government rather rushed through the election arrangements and had to abandon several important pieces of legislation (one of the most important measures to be lost was the loss of the bill to prevent no-fault evictions) This meant that all the political parties had to have a massive scramble to get all of their candidates in place to fight the forthcoming election. Given this mad rush, which was quite avoidable if the whole timing of the election had been handled in a more sensible way, then it was almost inevitable that some candidates would be selected without the necessary prior checking and therefore some manifestly unsuitable candidates would find their way through onto the party lists. This happened in both the Labour and the Tory party but in the case of the Reform (ex-UKIP) party with no proper party machinery in place then the selection of candidates was anything but thorough. Nigel Farage tried to claim that the firm hired to do the vetting of prospective parliamentary candidates had not done their job with due diligence but I am not sure that this explanation will really wash. So yesterday and today, we have a videoclip emerging that shows a Reform party activist suggesting that the British army be issued with rifles who could then use any incoming asylum seekers as ‘target practice’ whilst they were coming ashore. The same activist also used a vile racist slur aimed at the Indian parentage of the prime minister who has actually responded in the strongest terms. The prime minister said he hated repeating the bigoted insult directed at him by a supporter of Nigel Farage’s party, but said as a father of two daughters it was important to challenge ‘corrosive and divisive behaviour’. The comments were so evidently racist that the Essex police are now investigating the whole episode to see if a criminal offence has been committed. On the other side of the Atlantic, we have seen the first televised debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, called at Jo Biden’s request. Jo Biden apparently performed so disastrously in this televised debate that the Democrats are in absolute despair and are wondering whether it is possible, even at this very late stage, for Jo Biden to be persuaded to withdraw. Actually, neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump have been officially endorsed as their respective party candidates and so the Democrats are urgently considering the options that they have to make sure that Joe Biden does not actually become their candidate. Because of their party rules, it may be impossible to replace Joe Biden but one pollster has argued that the Democrats have five candidates each one of whom was capable to defeating Donald Trump. This particular story will certain run and run in the days ahead.

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Thursday, 27th June, 2024 [Day 1564]

Today seemed to be one of those action packed days what with one thing or another. Last night, both Meg and I enjoyed a good night’s sleep – as Meg was naturally tired when the carers put her to bed last night, there was no need to deploy the ‘TV’ solution of keeping her entertained for an hour or so before she eventually settled down. Tonight, though, is the last ‘Question Time’ before the election next Thursday and so this might be particularly valuable to listen to, if only to hear the audience reaction to the nostrums of the politicians. Today, though, after Meg was up and breakfasted, we enjoyed a ‘sit’ session with a carer she knows quite well, whilst I went off to do our weekly shopping. The carer and I helped to unpack things and put them away at the end of her shift and then it was time to think about lunch, I fried up some onions, peppers, petit pois and fragments of beef, before putting them into some onion gravy that I had already prepared and served on a bed of rice. Whilst I was preparing the meal and as we were eating it afterwards, Meg and I stumbled across the second half of the film ‘Sink the Bismarck’ which was a classic black and white war film made in 1960. I would have seen this film for the first time soon after it was made as the boarding school I attended typically had a film each Sunday evening. The interesting thing about this film was it was advertised as a ‘fact based’ film and it did seem more like a documentary than a classic war film. What I found particularly poignant, was the reaction of the English crew when the Bismarck was first located, then attacked and then sunk. When the ship sank, there was no great celebration but a feeling of sadness – after all, in a conflict of this nature, it could have them that perished. I suppose that as the film was made only fifteen years after the end of the war, there were all kinds of details from people’s memories of the event that could be incorporated into the film. So there was no great celebration and one has to contrast this with the sinking of the ‘Belgrano’ in the Falklands conflict which was greeted with the one lone headline in one of the redtop newspapers of ‘Gotcha!’ Around lunchtime, I received two phone calls, each one of them welcome. The first was from the Wheelchair service who had informed us by letter that our request for a wheelchair had been submitted on a form filled in by one of the GPs and was receiving consideration. So a wheelchair should be arriving some time on Monday morning and although it seems churlish to look a gift horse in the mouth, I need to check with the service that the wheelchair will be sufficiently robust to cope with the now notorious Bromsgrove pavements.The second phone call was from the specialist nurse who looks after Meg and I and who is always available for consultation in the event of an emergency. This nurse is both kindly and incredibly supportive and tends to act as an advocate for us when we need to navigate some of the intricacies of the care system. She is due to pay us a visit on 1st August and although this is some time away, she will try if she can to give us a phone call either once a week or once a fortnight. So I kept her up-to-date with various developments and pleased to report that we are currently on a type of plateau as we meet with and try to resolve little niggling problems.

This afternoon, as the weather was fair but a little windy, I managed to locate Meg in the back garden whilst I spread five bags of forest bark type weed suppressing mulch on the principal flower bed outside our kitchen window. I woke up a little ‘achy’ this morning after the gardening exertions of yesterday and the same thing may happen this evening but it is nice to get these little jobs done and to improve our immediate environment whilst we can. Just before we went out, I got an email from the firm who supplied my laptop and to whom I had explained the absence of wifi and internet. I received the advice just to press the ‘WiFi’ button back on again except there isn’t one to be seen. Just to make sure, i consulted the manual for the machine and no wifi button is specified for this particular model although it is quite a common feature on most laptops. So when I get time, I suspect that I need to write another email to the laptop supplier, sending him a pdf of the manual to convince him there is no wifi switch to be turned on and so I am still at a loss to know what to do.

Last night was the last of the debates between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer and as might be imagined, Rishi Sunak felt that he had nothing to lose. So he came out fighting, using his normal attack lines which was taxation on the one hand and immigration on the other. The absolute perfect irony about all of this is that immigration and levels of tax are at an all time high under the present government so one is tempted to utilise the expression of ‘pot calling the kettle black’. The vultures are already circulating over not, as yet, politically dead career of Rishi Sunak. Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker will launch a bid to become leader of the Conservatives should they lose the election on 4 July as expected, it is understood. Steve Baker was the well known vociferous supporter of Brexit and achieved some prominence in helping to engineer the downfall of Theresa May as Prime Minister. But there are several other ‘big Tories’ who are covertly campaigning already to replace Sunak – provided, of course, that they do not lose their seats in the first place.

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Wednesday, 26th June, 2024 [Day 1563]

We knew that today was going to be quite a full day as our social worker and the care agency manager were scheduled to call around in the late morning to give another formal assessment. But first of all it was our time to connect with our domestic help who was as cheerful and helpful as always. We will not see her now for a couple of weeks because she is going with her husband and some friends for a week’s holiday in Valencia. We have visited this city on one or two occasions when we took a train journey just to see it when we were on holiday in Southern Spain. We tend to know these towns by their railway stations and by their cathedrals which are the things that stick in our mind. We also visited near Valencia a development called, I think, the City of Arts and Sciences built neat Valencia after a tremendous flood some time in the 1950’s. The City of Arts and Sciences is replete with what look like the modernistic buildings you might expect if (in the style of 1950’s comics) you were a visitor to Mars. In the complex there is an opera house as well as a science museum and much more besides but, all in all, well worth a while whilst in then vicinity of Valencia. So in the late morning, we had a visitor from the social worker and the care agency manager and everything went off with no surprises but in order to cope with Meg’s needs, there was a need for a tweak here and there.

Two technological things to report from yesterday, beginning with the positive. When the carer came to sit for Meg, this released me to go into town where I popped into our local audio dealers where I purchased a ‘signal splitter’ (which enables you to run two TV aerial cables from the same wall point) and a couple of little connectors with which to connect together some lengths of aerial cable. This being done, I brought into use a little portable bedside TV inherited from my son but now utilised for when Meg is been put to bed. The TV is installed on a little table and brought close to the bed and the bedside chair which means that both Meg and I can now watch TV close to her bedside. So last night, Meg and I finished off watching what remained of the Sky Politics hub which was shortly followed by the football. Whereas the night before, Meg had fallen asleep whilst playing programmes off the laptop, tonight she stayed awake until the end of the football, although to be honest it was the kind of match best forgotten rather than remembered. So it was not far short of 10.00pm when Meg set herself down to sleep and I think she slept fairly soundly throughout most of the night. Shortly before the evening shift of carers had arrived, the second pair of blackout curtains arrived so that now coverage of the relevant lounge windows is complete. I had a bit of a struggle with the ‘finials’ (ball decorations for the ends of the curtain pole) but managed to get them on just in time. And now for the negative bit of technological news. For a reason I cannot understand, the Wifi and consequent internet access has completely disappeared from the Lenovo laptop I purchased last January and which I use every day both to blog whilst Meg is otherwise occupied but also to read emails and the like. But without internet access I can do nothing of any value as Emails and FTP are also impossible. As the machine although refurbished is on a 12 month warranty, I wrote off to the firm which supplied it asking for a repair and/or replacement under the terms of the warranty. So far, I have not received a reply (which is perhaps not surprising – firms are always willing to sell you new stuff but returns and warranties just represent a cost to their business) so we shall have to wait and see what happens. As always, I will have to adapt my working day to the circumstances in which I find myself.

In the election coverage, the story about betting on the predicted date is gathering apace.The BBC Newsnight programme reported last night that up to 15 Tories have been implicated in this venture and at least one Labour Party candidate is being drawn into the mire, having bet that he would lose his own seat. The trouble about all of this as one respondent in a ‘vox pop’ opined the other day ‘they are all the same’ which of course they are not. I think the Labour party should mount a counter offensive to deny that they are all the same but it does seem that the sleaze infecting the modern Tory party is now being associated with all political activists. Tonight is the final head-to-head between the two contestants for Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer and I really do feel that voters remember the last encounter that they say so I think tonight’s debate is going to take on a particular significance. But Rishi Sunak is having to defend the actions of the members of his own party who have engaged on questionable betting exercises which means he has less time to bang on the drum of his traditional themes which is that electing a Labour government inevitable results in higher taxes.

As we are still in the middle of a warm spell of warm weather, I had Meg outside in the garden whilst I engaged in the last of what I call ‘heavy’ gardening. This involved clearing out a gully which represents the border between lawn and flower bed. I then lined the gully with folded black plastic (sacks), weighted it down with a variety of smooth pebbles used for a similar purpose in the past and now reclaimed and then finally gave it a topping of cream coloured stone of which I just happened to have one spare bag. Tomorrow, I can engage in the much less heavy task of spreading some of my weed control (formerly forest bark) to give the bed immediately outside our kitchen window a more finished appearance.

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Tuesday, 25th June, 2024 [Day 1562]

Meg and I had a good night’s sleep last night, which was very good news for the two of us. Yesterday, I had a rather inconclusive consultation with one of the GPs from our practice because I wondered whether there might be some medication to help Meg sleep better given that she is awake all of the day and is tending to have rather broken nights of sleep. The GPs seem reluctant in the extreme to prescribe any kind of sleeping tablet and made the suggestion, that I considered a little fatuous, that I try to keep Meg entertained for an hour after she had been put to bed at 7.30. Nonetheless, I tried to follow the advice of the doctors and after Meg had been put to bed, I rigged up a little bedside table upon which I placed one of my laptops within an easy viewing distance. Sitting also by the side of the bed, I managed to get the Sky News Politics Hub programme that runs from 7.00pm-8.00pm running via the internet. When this was concluded, I followed it up with the repeat of Channel 4 news which is broadcast an hour later 9 from 8.00pm-9.00pm (on Channel 4+1) So I followed the doctor’s advice and managed to access these two programmes which would be normal viewing for us in any case. By the most supreme of ironies, Meg fell asleep within minutes of my accessing the first programme and stayed asleep all during the night as well. But as a ‘proof of concept’ I was pretty pleased that I got this ‘diversionary tactic’ in place and tonight will be even more critical as England are due to play their final group stage match this evening, the broadcast kickoff being from 8.00pm.

This morning, Meg and I trundled down the hill to meet up with our usual Tuesday crowd. We knew that we had to get back in time to coincide with our carers which we did with about half a minute to spare. One of the carers was due to stay on for a two ‘sit’ stay with Meg whilst in theory, I go off and do Pilates. But I got Meg and the carer installed outside the back of the house as the weather was so beautiful together with some soothing cold drinks before I departed for town. There were two things I needed of which I managed to avail myself of the first whilst the second was ‘out of stock’ – these things are always annoying when I have made a special journey to obtain the same and access to the shops is so limited for me. But I got home to find Meg and the carer engaged in reading some children’s books and they seem to have had a reasonable time together. As the weather was so warm this morning, cooking was the last thing on my mind so I had already taken some frozen mackerel out of the freezer and then threw together a mackerel salad which Meg and I ate outside. The carers made their mid afternoon call ridiculously early which extend the time that Meg as to spend between now and bedtime but we got Meg comfortable in front of the TV and we are watching a bit of a Mozart piano concerto this afternoon. I am expecting a delivery of certain items from Amazon which I could do with this evening but they are indicating a delivery time between 5.30 and 7.30 which may be a bit too late for me to bring them into use. One of the anticipated deliveries is an extra pair of blackout curtains which I could really do with this evening but I suspect will arrive a little too late. Tomorrow we need to prepare ourselves for an early start (vagaries of the scheduling of the care company) but we are also anticipating a review visit by the Social Worker who has not seen us for several months now and the manager of the care agency. There are a few things to be discussed but I trust nothing too contentious at this point of time.

Tonight, England are playing in the final in their final group game against Slovenia. After the pedestrian and somewhat faltering start that England have made so far, the English fans and the English public are hoping that England play with a bit more fire in their bellies. It is only when you observe the approaches of other countries to their football do you realise how cautious and indeed boring the current English game happens to be. The Scots were beaten with only 20 seconds to spare the other evening after ten minutes of injury time. A very similar occurrence happened last night when Croatia were playing Italy. Although the two sides seemed fairly evenly matched, it is probable that the Croatians had the edge. But then there was an Italian break away in the eighth minutes of injury time and a stunning Italian goal was scored which resulted in a rather unlikely Italy win. Croatia now come bottom of their group and are eliminated but of they had managed to hang on for a few seconds more and not have a crucial lapse of concentration, they they might still be in the competition as part of the last 16.

The Tory High Command have finally decided that will disown their two candidates caught on trying to bet on the timing of the General Election before its announcement where they are arguing an ‘error of judgement’ rather than a malfeasance. But it looks as though this latest revelation of Tory sleaze might be finally being reflected in the opinion polls although we may have to wait for a day or so before we can be a bit more definitive about this. One of the dropped Tory candidates is vowing to fight on and to clear his name but a dog fight between a local candidate and the Central HQ must be music to the ears of the opposition parties. We have today received a manifesto from the Labour Party which is a bit late as it is only nine days before the election and the postal votes were sent out about a week ago. But this is part of a pattern – as long as I can remember, the Tories have got their manifesto out first and the Labour party manifesto is always on the late side.

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Monday, 24th June, 2024 [Day 1561]

Today very much feels like the morning after the night before. Yesterday evening, I semi-assembled the blackout curtains which I have bought for our downstairs living room/bedroom hoping that by cutting out the dying rays of the sun, it might induce Meg to get to sleep when the carers put her to bed at 7.30pm. I had ordered some blackout curtains at a reasonable enough price but found that they were not quite wide enough so have promptly had to order some more. Then I ordered an expanding metal pole upon which to hang the curtains but as the whole of this arrangement has to be at least 10′ long, it is cumbersome in the extreme to get it into position even lodging on our existing curtain supports. Last night, though, should have blocked out 80% of the bright sunlight and I have now decided to keep the whole caboodle in place rather than carrying on with my original plan which was to erect and dismantle it each day. Although Meg seemed to fall asleep reasonably quickly, I got to bed at shortly before 11.00pm (after watching Scotland lose by a single goal to Hungary with a breakaway goal scored in the 40th second of the tenth minute of injury time) But Meg was awake at this time and stayed awake for the next hour and a half until she had been made comfortable which procedure takes the best part of three quarters of an hour. Eventually, I crawled into my pit only to be awoken by Meg at 4.40 in the morning thus cutting my available sleep time considerably. I was very relieved to see the care workers when they did turn up at 8.00 and I was thoroughly relieved to have them take over, being a bit like a bear with a sore head. I contacted our GP surgery to see if I could request some medication to help me to get to get to sleep and even more to stay asleep and have to fill in a form to get a telephone appointment. When the call did come through in the late morning, the response was as I expected but not what I wanted to hear. The doctors seem extremely reluctant to prescribe any sleeping aids and argue that when they work they serve to get people off to sleep but will not necessarily keep them asleep. So basically, I have to think of my own solution to the problem. The only thing that the doctor did suggest was that although the care workers should put Meg to bed at about 7.30 I should endeavour to keep her awake so that when she does go to sleep, it will be for longer. the doctor’s ‘solution’ was to entertain Meg with a TV or something similar to divert here for some hours. This sounds very simple but given the layout of our room is not at all practicable as the TV is un-viewable from the angle of the hospital bed in the other half of our ‘L’-shaped lounge. I have today ordered an extra 15m length of coaxial cable to see if I can bring into use a small portable TV that Meg could view whilst propped up in bed but this will not arrive until probably late tomorrow so we may have two more nights in which I am going to have to induce Meg to sleep throughout the night.

Today being a Monday but quite a sultry and humid day, we decided to visit the park in the mid morning and this little visit worked out fine but we did not meet (or really expect to meet) any of our normal park acquaintances. We got back in plenty of time for the carers and the (unproductive) telephone consultation with the GP and then proceeded to make a lunch out of yesterday’s beef and some cauliflower I had in the fridge. To avoid the cauliflower smelling out the whole of the kitchen I boiled it with quite a lashing of brown sugar on top of it and then served it with a packet of cheese sauce which I was pleased to find in my stock cupboard. This turned out to be absolutely delicious and much nicer than I anticipated that it would be, the only downside being that I promptly fell asleep after reading my portion of feeding Meg hers.

Earlier on this morning and this afternoon, we have been watching a programme made by Deutsche Welle’ which I have discovered is the German equivalent of the BBC World Service. What was being offered to us today by ‘DW’ was a magnificent hour and a half documentary over the influence and playing of Beethoven’s 9th symphony across the world. In one Asian country, perhaps Japan, it is performed each year with a cast of 10,000 singers and the political impact and use made of this work is stupendous. This is one of those films that one can watch again and again as there are all kinds of facets to this documentary which can be explored over and over again. This afternoon, we anticipate that we may be able to enjoy a spell in the garden now that I know that the weather will be fine. After a fairly humid and close start, the sun is going to break through and there is every indication that today we shall have the highest temperatures of the summer so far, as the country as a whole is ex[experiencing a ‘mini’ heat wave. Again, this is due to the changing position of the jet stream which seems to govern so much of our climate these days.

Politically, we are now in a position where there are now less than ten full campaigning days to go before the General Election on July 4th. Personally, that date cannot come soon enough and I am waiting for the ‘bomb shell’ which is bound to explode in the days before the election is actually held. My son and I have joked with each other that the revelations of further Tory sleaze in which prominent Tories, including their own campaign director, have been accessed of betting on the date of the general Election on the basis of ‘insider knowledge’ – the political equivalent of ‘insider trading’ could have planted by the Labour Party. These revelations are going to keep dripping through for the next few days but I suspect that all kinds of ‘surprises’ e.g incriminating bits of videotape or interviews held years ago that might prove to be useful as a type of hand grenade to be lobbed towards the enemy. The latest attack line of the Tories is to argue that Keir Starmer is associated with the policies of Jeremy Corbin, the left wing Labour leader, on the grounds that they were in the same shadow cabinet together. I am not sure that this will cut much ice with the electorate as a whole but is used as a constant attack line together with the accusation that a Labour government will undoubtedly put up taxes.

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Sunday, 23rd June, 2024 [Day 1560]

So today being a Sunday, we enter into our Sunday morning routines which this morning started 40 minutes earlier than we would have liked because the scheduling of the care workers was timed for 7.20 rather than 8.00am. Nonetheless, with the light mornings, we awoke shortly after 5.00am so entered our morning routines about an hour earlier. Two friendly and jolly care workers, both with families (so it shows they are of a certain age by which I mean they have acquired several years of experience which, to my mind, is very important) turned up this morning and got Meg up and going. Then it was a case of getting our breakfast of porridge and toast down us and then I shot down to our local Waitrose to pick up my copy of the newspaper. Normally, I have a quick glance around to see if I can avoid the predations of the car park attendants who penalise those who have not paid the relevant charge and then see if I can sneak in for is essentially a two minute stay within the store. But as from tomorrow morning, Bromsgrove council are about to change their policy so that people can have a half hour parking without charge which will be excellent for those people like myself who like to pop into and out of the store. Once I had collected the newspaper, it was almost time for the Eucharistic Minister to attend from our local church and as we have not seen her for a couple of weeks, her visit was even more welcome than usual. We got told a horrible hospital story involving the death of a near relative which I will not go into for the moment but entering hospitals these days does not always mean that you will emerge intact. Then it was time for us to prepare our coffee and comestibles ready for a journey down to the local park. We were just on the point of departure when our University of Birmingham friend phoned and we coincided on our ‘normal’ bench and had a very happy hour of discussions, as is our pleasure at the weekend. Then we had to make the journey up the hill and I was conscious of the fact that we did not dare to leave our carers outside and we made it with one minute to spare. In the meantime, I am reflecting that I have about another week left of trundling along with our trusty little wheelchair that has served us so well for the past several months but I am hoping the somewhat bigger wheels on the new chair when it arrives will serve their purpose.

We lunched together on some beef which I had roasting in the slow cooker for several hours this morning. When I cook a joint like this, I take the cooked jaunt and immediately divide it into two halves, one half being for immediate consumption and the other destined for the freezer so that we can have it on a future occasion. To save time, I just did a baked potato, a tomato and some sugar snap peas with the same and it was very tasty, Meg enjoying it pretty as much as myself. Now I am going to report on an exceptional happen chance of good fortune, or the avoidance of misfortune, that has happened to me. When Meg and I started to bring into use the lounge which we now call our Music Lounge, I needed to somehow bring the TV into the end of the room where our armchairs are located. Rather than asking an aerial technician to install a new aerial point, I hit on the expedient of buying an extra long TV cable of some 15 metres in length which effectively transfers our TV viewing from one end of the room to another. So far, so good but I have noticed in the last week or so that we are getting a lot of digital dropout on Sky News which is a channel we actually watch quite a lot these days. I did not know whether the fault in the TV reception on Sky was a TV problem or an aerial problem but I resisted one solution which was to retune the television. To see if the problem lay in the aerial I tried a little experiment on a small portable TV and found that Sky News worked perfectly at the other end of the room. Seeing that it did, I came to put the correct aeriel leads back into place. Then on the floor in the midst of other cabling I noticed what seemed to be a spare aerial lead which, upon connection, worked perfectly. So after all, the cable I must have been using was connected to nothing at all so the TV must have been working without the benefit of an aerial which I find hard to believe. At the end of the day, though, I now have access to Sky News which I thought I would have to forego just before the culminating days of the election campaign. Needless to say, I am now a very happy bunny and am still left a little puzzled how the wrong cable had been connected in the first place.

It seems remarkable that only eleven days out from the General Election that the Tories appear once again to be mired in sleaze. We now have a total of four prominent Tories who appear to have bet on the likely date of the election before it has been officially announced, two of them being candidates in the election. It may be that even more names might come to light in the next day or so and prominent Tories such as Michael Gove are now saying this has the appearance of another ‘partygate’ in which it appears that rules which must be obeyed by the many are ignored by the Tory few. And now another embarrassing snippet of news has come to light. One of the prominent aides to the Home Secretary when addressing a gathering of Young Conservatives in April has been recorded as saying that the Rwanda policy (of deporting asylum seekers there) is a ‘crap’ policy – and even the Home Secretary in his former days used similar disparaging terminology in the past although he now sees fit to deny this. That these allegations are now seeing the light of day must be a nightmare to the organisers of the Tory election campaign – although the chief of the campaign is himself one of the accused.

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Saturday, 22nd June, 2024 [Day 1559]

A few days, whilst idly looking on eBay on the perennial subject of wheelchairs, I came across an exemplar which had had wider and taller wheels specially added to it and I thought this would suit us down to the ground. The wheelchair was being sold in Hagley which is a village about 12 miles distant in which we were interested in buying a house in our house hunting days. I negotiated a discounted price with the seller who seemed a friendly sort but he informed that another buyer might be calling round to view the product but he would inform me whatever happened. I told him I was very interested in this wheelchair as I could collect it quite easily whilst a carer was looking after Meg but then I was informed that it had been sold to the first buyer. Last night, I again perused what was on offer and found another model with larger wheels at the back. A rapid internet search informed me that models like this were easier to push so I decided to make an offer for it. On the eBay system, it gives you a range of offer prices (approximately 15%, 10% and 5% lower than the asking price) So in the middle of the night, I made an offer and wondered what the morning might bring. When I consulted my system, I discovered that this item had 47 people viewing it in the last 24 hours so I thought to myself that when we returned from our morning coffee meeting, if the seller had not replied I would purchase for the full price. But to my considerable surprise and delight, my 15% discounted price was accepted. In addition, a special brand new pressure relief cushion by a well known manufacturer of such products was being offered as part of the deal. Now that my offer had been accepted, I thought I would see how much the specialised pressure cushion was worth and was amazed to see that the full retail price was actually more than the price I eventually paid for the wheelchair. It is as though I had paid full price for the pressure relief cushion and got the wheelchair thrown in gratis. Naturally, I have had to pay postage and packing on top of all of this and the whole caboodle will take about a week to arrive. But it seems a reliable make and I can even download a manual for the model involved which might prove very useful for little adjustments and running repairs. So all in all, I had a great feeling of satisfaction at having secured this product and trust that it will the journey up and down the hill a little less bumpy. Some sections of the pavement are made over in that kind of rougher style rather than smooth tarmac which I think is cheaper to supply and to lay and which provided better grip for pedestrians in icy conditions. But on my journey down and up the Kidderminster Road I am constantly having to negotiate these rough patches of tarmac to avoid too many jolting sections. Today, as an experiment I tried using a pair of gardening gloves to ease the pressure on my fingers which tend to up up white after the pressure of the uphill climb. However, we had a nice friendly chat with our normal Saturday crowd. The cafeteria was quite full today because it is the Saturday of the Court Leet (a mediaeval tradition) when the great and good of the town get dressed up in vaguely academic looking gowns and march to various locations in the town centre. We returned home in just about the right space of time before the late morning carers came to call later which I busied myself preparing a rather different kind of lunch. This was quite an ample Spanish omelette (stuffed with onions, peppers, tomatoes and the remains of the ham from yesterday) complemented by some salad type things bought from Waitrose. As soon as we got lunch prepared, eaten and washed up after, I thought I would try and squeeze in getting the front lawns cut before the earlier than usual mid afternoon carer’s call. I had Meg sitting outside at the edge of the grass so that she would not suffer from separation anxiety and I raced around to get the lawns cut. The two carers – nice young people – turned up 15 minutes earlier but they did not mind sitting on the outside bench whilst I completed my mowing which would have been finished on time if the carers had called at the scheduled time.There are two interesting political stories emerging in the airwaves today. The first of these is Nigel Farage arguing that the western expansion of Nato was tantamount to inviting a Russian retaliation, evidenced by the invasion of Ukraine. Practically all the political parties have condemned Farage in the roundest of terms, opining that Farage is ‘de fact’ condoning the Russian invasion. But whilst many political leaders in the height of an election campaign are seizing upon any stick with which to beat an opponent such as Farage and the Reform party, I wonder whether any political leaders in the West have ever considered the facets of European history in which the USSR was at war with Germany and lost 20 million of its citizens in the process. My comments are not meant to condone the actions of Putin in any sense but I think political leaders in the West need to think how the presence of Nato is seen as so threatening to Russia. The two areas of Ukraine which the Russians ‘de facto’ occupied were populated by Russian speakers who felt that their long term interests were not particularly accommodated within Ukraine when it became independent after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The second interesting story this afternoon is the ‘revelation’,if indeed it is one, that Starmer laid a series of ‘traps’ for Boris Johnson making him deny that COVID transgressions were taking place. Starmer is claiming that he anticipated that Johnson’ first instinct was always to lie and to lie again and it was the very fact of these lies to Parliament that would eventually lead to the downfall of Johnson, as indeed it did.

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Friday, 21st June, 2024 [Day 1558]

Last Wednesday, our domestic help had called around and whilst she was cleaning our Music Lounge and bobbling around in the vicinity, she could keep an eye on Meg thus releasing me to wander up and down the High Street in Bromsgrove to buy supplies of cosmetics and the like. As I passed the AgeUK furniture shop, I had a quick pop inside and espied what I think is called a tub chair on sale for less than £10.00. Probably at that price it was a PU (polyurethane leather) which is considerably cheaper than the real thing and so often used in furniture manufacture. But it would serve the use that I had in mind for it which is to access the laptop in our living room whilst having somewhere to rest my arms when I am not actively typing. As I sat down in the chair to test it for comfort and general suitability, an elderly couple approached me and asked if I was all right. They must have discerned a generally exhausted look on my face and my flopping into the chair and wondered if I had been taken ill all of a sudden. I reassured them that I was fine, paid for my purchase and arranged for delivery (at a price) the following day which was yesterday. In the late afternoon, I decided to give the chair a once over as I always do with newly acquired pieces of furniture. I first gave it a thorough wipe with one of those general purpose wet-wipes but was pleasantly surprised to discover that it seemed to bear no surface or shop grime whatsoever. Thereafter, it was a simple job to spray it with a general purpose silicone based leather spray (about which users used to rave on Amazon), pop a couple of cushions into its cavernous seat and then bring it it into use as I intended. The chair released now has taken a place by Meg’s bedside so I can sit and chat whilst having our early morning cup of tea. Last night, I am pleased to be able that Meg slept like a baby in sharp distinction to the night before. I am thinking that perhaps the spell of fresh air that we had in the garden in the late afternoon might have been beneficial. So whilst Meg was abed, I started to watch the football. On the end, I could not believe how lack lustre the England team happened to be after a 1:1 draw with Denmark which the football pundits were predicting would be an easy victory. It was not surprising that the team was booed off the pitch at the end of the match. The lack of enterprise was vividly illustrated when in the last five minutes of the game when every effort should have been made to secure a last minute victory, the England team were engaged in sideways passes to each other whilst in their own third of the pitch – hardly the way to secure a victory. Some commentators have seen a pattern here as in the last Euro football competition, a narrow 1-0 win on the first game was followed by a draw in the second game in the series. It is no wonder that I much prefer to watch Rugby Union these days. The Italy-Spain match, which I dId not watch, was by all accounts the kind of match that one expects in the Euro finals.

This morning I texted our University of Birmingham friend to inform him that we would be in Waitrose cafeteria for about three quarters of an hour. By happy coincidence, he was free for just about this period of time as well so we had our normal pleasant chat together. I bought some of the special low alcohol lager which is sold in the store and which I can occasionally drink without feeling guilty of excessive alcohol consumption, as it is only 0.4% but a superb flavour. Then we got back home just before the carers were due to arrive as I had a cunning plan to shoot off to our local Morrisons supermarket to buy some forest bark substitute which they had on special offer. This material is advertised as ‘Weed Control’ and is similar to forest bark being made with a mixture of wood shavings and bark ‘fines’ No doubt the suppliers of this kind of material need to be ecologically conscious these days but I reckoned that if I got a supply in whilst could, then whilst Meg is enjoying the garden I can be doing some gentle garden maintenance jobs. What I hoped would be a simple transaction turned out to be complicated as it needed a (male) assistant to carry one of the bags into the store to check the bar code (after a wait whilst person after person was buying lottery tickets) but eventually I finished up wit six bags of product loaded into the car. Meg and I had a salad lunch with a tin of ham which I like to keep in stock for occasions such as this and the salad was very tasty. Then, Meg and I enjoyed a spell in the garden as we intend to do when the weather is fair for us these days and I got the forest bark substitute unloaded from the car and ready for use. The very kindly and sympathetic nurse who specialises in Meg’s condition phoned up half way through the afternoon and, as always, she gave me some useful advice and tips how to overcome problems we have been having. After our spell in the garden, I sat Meg in our lounge with a copy of the Dr Michael Mosley book which I had purchased recently (‘Just one thing – how simple changes can transform your life’) which I am pleased to say that Meg is dipping into and seems to be enjoying. I thought I would buy this book as a sort of fitting reminder of how much good work Dr Mosley must have wrought throughout the world and I am still immensely saddened when think about the circumstances of his untimely end, dying of heat stroke and exhaustion on a Greek island.

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