DIARY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN

- John Copeland -


Friday 29th January - Thursday 4th February, 2016.


Avenue

The avenue of oaks on the 1st day of February. It would not surprise me if an anonymous letter is sent to the Highways Department saying that they are dangerous, and they will all be felled. Such is life in a village where urban refugees hate yew hedges and trees.


"Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking."

Lord Keynes


FRIDAY 29 JANUARY

With my two sons-in-law and an elderly neighbour, I watched the DVD of "Mr. Holmes", and what a charming cameo it was, so gentle and so restrained in the delightful English mode. Maybe it's because I'm an English that I love English films, preferring them to the Hollywooden productions.

The saga of the village yew hedges, which has become a national and even an international issue, was discussed this morning on our local Radio Station, BBC Radio Lincolnshire, involving one of those nauseating phone-ins during which not an educated voice is to be heard. These are those dreadful sessions in which contributors speak in terms of "you know", "know what I mean?" mouthing their extreme and unthinking views, not knowing the slightest thing about the subject - democracy at its worst. It is frightening to think that these people will have a vote in the Referendum, probably not being able to spell the word, mostly taking their cue from Mr. Murdoch's "Sun".

Amazingly, nobody from the Parish Council and no villagers were interviewed during the programme, which might possibly be seen as being somewhat one-sided and hardly very comprehensive in the presentation. As it is, though, I have never much cared for local radio, believing that it was not a vehicle for serious and reasoned discussion. Now, having heard this dreadful programme, I dislike it even more, never wanting to listen to the pop and pap station ever again, not wanting to hear all those dreadful jingles and the horrible music.

On the other hand, it "has to be said" that Mrs. Copeland likes the station, listening to it mainly for local news, telling me that she learns about matters that she would not otherwise have heard about. I suppose my trouble is that in my old age I have not adapted to the modern media, loathing all those jingles, endless giggling and pop music. Consequently I am far too serious, having completely lost my sense of humour, seldom laughing, except when hearing the Chancellor speaking about our economic growth. Alas, there is no medical help for this sad affliction, not there is much medical help for anything.

As a further episode in the hedge saga, I attended a meeting at 2 o'clock with our local county councillor and some parish councillors in the hope that "a way forward" could be implemented. The meeting, held at the extensive house of one of the parish councillors, was attended by a cameraman from "Look North", who filmed part of the proceedings. At one stage the household cat jumped onto my lap, and I sat stroking the delightful animal. Although most people dislike me, cats seem to be very fond of me, which is some consolation, something for the good.

During the dreary proceedings I suggested that I should hold the cat towards the camera and mouth the words "Leave the hedge alone", which would have gone down well with the people who watch television, but the assembly did not think this was at all funny, and we moved on to discuss the early Scandinavians approach to yew hedge growing. The scientific name is "Taxus baccata", and myth has it that the Yew was the tree in the Garden of Eden "In man's ancient history it was the go-to wood for both weapons and musical instruments the tree for war and peace". We are certainly having a bit of a war now.

I suggested that it was largely because of a media campaign that a splendid lady in the village had mounted that we were sitting here today with the county councillor and a cameraman, but this was denied. Even so I still take the view that if the Parish Council had on its own made objections to the Highways Department of the County Council, not the slightest notice would have been taken of any representations. Indeed, one of my correspondents later wrote: "Yes, it was 100% the media campaign - it's the only thing governments and local councils worry about it." Having been a local government officer, I fully endorse that comment.

The rejection of the influence of the media reminded me of the incident that occurred during the Second World War in which a leading Nazi was in an air-raid shelter in Berlin with a foreign reporter while an intensive RAF bombing raid was taking place. The Nazi told the reporter that Germany had almost won the war, whereupon the reporter asked: "Then why are we in this shelter?"

Later in the day I had an e-mail saying that: "Martin Hill (Leader of the County Council) has made a statement to say that the County Council has halted the enforcement notice on Mr Dowson [one of the owners of the yew hedge] until a sensible way forward (compromise) can be agreed."

Maybe, therefore, there is some hope after all to save the ruthless destruction of our hedge. So thanks to all those thousands of people who signed the petition to save the hedge. Their help is greatly appreciated.

Mrs. Copeland went this morning with some big shears to cut back a hedge in the garden at granddaughter Chloe's house, Mrs. C. having been requested to do some trimming. I said to her as she set off: "Do be careful, dear. You could find all the television cameras round there, waiting at the gate."

I heard that the Lincolnshire County Council's computers had been hacked, the entire system having to be closed down. It is an indication of the immense harm that these hackers, obviously very clever people, can cause to public and private computers. All very worrying, though an e-mail was sent to me: "I notice Lincoln appears to be running rather well despite the County Council being in paralysis having had its computer system hacked." Sometimes I think life would be so much easier, certainly more pleasant, if we did not have computers, but then I would not now be writing these words.

Yew

The threatened yew hedge in the village has had a stay of execution following the Leader of the County Council having halted the enforcement notice served on an owner so that "a sensible way forward (compromise) can be agreed."


I made the mistake of buying an item "on-line" today - a telescopic window cleaning appliance that I wanted to use for cleaning the green mould on the conservatory roof. Alas, the product delivered this morning was only 5 feet in length, and would not reach the roofing panels, so it has to go back, being collected next Tuesday. Some time ago I resolved not to buy anything on the Internet (not even books from Amazon) or from mail-order catalogues, but I have not kept this wise resolution. As from today I will most certainly keep to this resolve: if the item cannot be purchased locally, do without - that's the motto.

On occasions I have mentioned in this diary that one of my hobbies is to keep a scrapbook of predictions, checking some months later on the accuracy of the soothsaying. Among the many entries that I have collected over the past few months is one from the "i" dated 5th November, 2015, in which, under the heading of "Strengthening economy boosts interest rate hawks", it was reported that a "trio of surveys indicates overall growth could pick up to 0.6 % in the final three months of the year, improving on the disappointing 0.5% seen between July and September". Clang, the 4th quarter having come out at the lowly 0.5%, and in all probability likely to be downgraded in a revision that will take fuller account of the troubles last December in China and which are still continuing.

It was said yesterday that the UK has "the fastest growing economy in the world", which presumably does not say much for the rest of the globe. The essential point is that there is "no way" that this country can buck the trend in an international economy, especially the present manufacturing woes in China. To that extent I still cannot believe the latest 0.5% figure is correct, especially as it makes a nonsense of the collapse of our manufacturing sector and the setback in the construction industries, meaning that our sick economy has become almost entirely dependent upon the service sector, which is very vulnerable to international developments. Whatever our dreadful Chancellor may say, the UK economy remains in an unhealthy and unbalanced, vulnerable condition.

Later in the afternoon I took wine with a neighbouring couple whose wife had demonstrated that she could wheel her husband in his wheelchair all along the path by the yew hedges without any impediment, so it really does make me wonder what these neurotic silly-Billies are on about. These cowardly protesters have remained anonymous, presumably not having the courage or the decency to mention their names in the complaints to the Highways Department. Maybe this is as well, for they would have been pilloried by the media and by the natives if they had been known.

I also went to see the lady who had mounted the media campaign to protect old Taxus. This was the same lady who, with other lasses in the village, successfully mounted a media campaign to stop the two massive solar farms proposed for the village that would have totally destroyed the environment. It was these splendid ladies (not any men) who can be praised for their campaign, whereas the wishy-washy Parish Council at the time did hardly anything to prevent the intrusion.

An evening at home by the fireside, reading some more of the 800-page book on the terrible treatment of the Jews between 1933-1949 - "Final Solution." A harrowing, yet fascinating book, extremely well written. Sadly, the author died before publication of his splendid, definitive work on the subject.

SATURDAY 30 JANUARY

Last week in the diary I quoted Bernard Shaw's view "That if you were a Conservative at the age of 20, you needed your heart examined; if you voted for Labour at 40 you needed your head examined." A correspondent commented in an e-mail: "That's a bit rich coming from a man who visited the Soviet Union during Stalin's purges and returned claiming that the stories of millions dying in a famine were propaganda, saying. 'I have seen the future and it works.' I liked the story of Shaw inviting Winston Churchill to the first night of his new play, sending him two tickets so "you can bring a friend if you have one." Churchill replied that he was unable to come to the first night but "I'll come to the second, if there is one."

Oh, that we could have such splendid politicians today, instead of those pygmies who will come back waving a paper from the European Union saying: "A settlement in our time", when there is nothing of the sort, this being a last chance saloon attempt to make the Union look more acceptable before the referendum.

Amazingly, the FTSE rose by 150 points yesterday on the news that Japan has put interest rates into negative territory, meaning that if you invest money in the bank you have to pay the bank for keeping it for you, possibly suggesting that Japan has gone barking mad, dragging down rest of the world with it. The negative rate action is tantamount to taking an aspirin for a headache. It may take the pain away, but will not prevent another headache coming on in the future. The real trouble is that Japan is having problems with the cheaper products of China, unable to compete, yet China is also in a muddle because of overproduction.

Today was the birthday of my elder sister, Ann, who died of cancer in 2010. By way of marking the event I went to the Cathedral during the morning to light a candle for her. Even though six years have passed, I still miss her so much. Ann lived back in the homeland of Essex, but most weeks we would speak on the telephone about the things that had happened, good and bad.

Now, like so many geriatrics, I find myself more alone in the world, having lost my parents, Sister Ann, and so many dear friends including a neighbour last week. Meanwhile, I find the modern world with its emphasis on sex, health, food, and holidays so unpleasant and confusing, especially when youngsters spend so much time using their telephone toys or are glued to a computer.

Ann

My elder sister Ann whose birthday it was today. She died of cancer back in 2010, and I still miss her enormously.

Because of all the wine I have been drinking lately - one of the problems in being an active parish councillor in visiting constituents - I tried at lunchtime drinking some bottled water as a restorative measure instead of the half bottle of wine I usually have at this meal. Alas, it was horrible, and I quickly put it aside, having read on the label that it had been flowing for centuries - best before 18 July 2016. I therefore reached for the wine bottle, the stupid restorative measure abandoned. I continue to believe that water is bad for you.

I was hearing belatedly today that a gardening chappie who appears on the idiot's lantern has come trotting into the yew hedge act by saying on a programme that yew hedges soon recover. This might possibly be regarded as a superficial comment, typical of the lantern, taking no account that for four or five years the hedge, cutback throughout its length, would look so awful, always supposing that it ever recovers at its age of 148 years. Rather like old people taking a long time to recover after an operation, maybe this is also true of elderly hedges.

One of the problems with the yew hedges is that in recent years we have had several urban refugees coming into the village who find it difficult to accept the limitations of a rural environment, most of them hating trees and wanting them all down. They want the full facilities of the town, complete with shops and a doctor round the corner, along with street lights and clearly defined wide paths and pavements. If they see a mouse they are immediately on the telephone to the Environmental Health department of the district council, pleading for help.

Inevitably, and possibly not for the best, the village has changed immensely in recent years, so different from the social composition that I knew when we arrived in 1970. Gone are the professional classes who were cultured and refined, now being replaced by a people of a very different hue, most of whom take no part in the social life of the community. Subsequently, whereas Mrs. Copeland and I knew most of the villagers in the past, we know hardly any of the newcomers who keep to themselves - thank heavens it might be said in some instances.

At least there was the amusing news in today's "i" that our warships keep breaking down, presumably only managing a few nautical miles off the Isle of Wight before going plop, plop, plut. Apparently, they are all going to have new engines, which will probably enable them to go farther out to sea. The real trouble, of course, is that we cannot to afford to maintain the armed forces, hence their breaking down condition.

After a fairly relaxed day following all the stress that I have been having over the past few days in dealing with the hedge, Mrs. Copeland and I went to the fish 'n' chips evening at the local Club, having a pleasant time, the food and beer excellent. Although the Club no longer has a stewardess or a Chairman because of an "on-going" dispute, the members of the Management Committee seem to be doing a reasonable job in the meantime in keeping the Club going, so that is commendable. We enjoyed the evening with a retired couple whose husband is a retired rocket scientist - and what a delight it is to converse with highly intelligent people.

As we went into the Club about 7.30 p.m., a few members were in evening dress, and I learnt later that they were going to the annual Hunt Ball. I was rather surprised that this event for country bumpkins is still being held now that there is only drag-hunting, no longer any tally-ho'ing and blowing little bugles whilst chasing a fox. Perhaps they drag the dinners to the tables and the guests pounce upon the food. How you have to laugh, but then it is not so funny that this huntin' and shootin' fraternity believes that it is a divine right to be cruel to defenceless animals, delighting in seeing a fox being torn apart by their doggies after being chased for miles.

Among the enactments of the previous Labour administration was the legislation banning hunting, and preventing smoking in public places - for which all civilised people will be eternally grateful. The only commendable measure of former Conservative administrations was the requirement for electrical appliances to be fitted with a plug at the time of purchase.

During the evening I was hearing that some trolls were on a Facebook commenting on the yew hedge saga, saying some very uncomplimentary things, even libellous. I had contributions from these morons during the early years of my on-line diary, nearly all badly written, indicating a severe lack of education. I used to send them back correcting the grammar, which I thought would be helpful, but I never received any thanks, never hearing from them again.

SUNDAY 31 JANUARY

A dreadful night with so much pain in my spine and knees resulting from the ever worsening arthritis. Sadly, there is not much I can do about this, except keep taking the tablets, for I might as well put a note at the bottom of the garden addressed to the fairies, rather than consulting the doctor, not having much faith in that profession with its limited knowledge of the body. I frequently cry out in pain during the night, almost as if I have seen the country's latest trading figures.

At least we are proposing to have a stairlift put in, which will enable me to negotiate the stairs that I now have to crawl up. The malady is not life-threatening, so I suppose I must grin and bear it, accepting that I am over the hill, not much time left, probably not seeing the final collapse of the country.

During the night I had an awful dream that I was back in the days of teaching. During my early career after leaving University, I taught Economics and English in a London Grammar school and later in two colleges of further education - and how I hated teaching, eventually moving in to administrations, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Teaching today is far, far worse, a recent survey showing that 90% of teachers had at some time been subjected to violence and severe abuse from their students.

Teaching in a comprehensive school in an inner city school must be a close approximation of hell, matters not being helped by so many schools being dominated by immigrants, most of whom cannot speak English, obviously making life impossible for the teachers. However, one headteacher was telling me recently that the many immigrants in her school were better behaved than the natives, which did not surprise me.

I was reading in yesterday's "Times", brought home free from Waitrose during Mrs. C's. visit for the week's provisions (not meat or milk) that in America "Economic growth came to a near-halt in the final quarter of last year and weak global demand and recent turbulence in financial markets suggests a further slowdown in the early part of this year." When additionally taking into account the economic woes in China that appear to be getting worse, how on earth can the Office for National Statistics say that the UK's economic growth for that last quarter of 2015 came to an incredible 0.5%, the Chancellor having incredibly said that we have the fastest growing economy in the world..

There must surely be a subsequent revision, showing that the real figure was 3%, at best 4%, not that I have much faith in the ONS, believing that there are lies, damned lies and the Office for National Statistics.

I also read in "The Times" that "Eight republicans who were found guilty of being part of the IRA kidnap gang have been awarded 1.6 million by the Government after their convictions were quashed because of the role of a British secret agent". There are times, especially when I read this utterly disgraceful award to these unpleasant, murderous fraternity, that I believe this country and the world generally have gone barking mad.

Fortunately, there are some occasions, albeit not many, when sweetness and light prevail, as when the university authorities recently disregarded demands from bird-brained students who wanted the statue of Cecil Rhodes, a great man who helped to secure the British Empire, taken down. These thick students, who should never be at university, wanted the statue removed because of their distorted and ignorant understanding of history. All praise, therefore, to the university authorities for rejecting the silly demands of these dimwits who also want to ban speakers whose views they disagree with, thereby negating the whole purpose of higher education.

Part of the trouble seems to be that we are becoming a more intolerant society, probably because we are so grossly overpopulated in a country in terminal decline. Rather like battery chickens pecking one another in their grim confinement, we are increasingly pecking one another, especially when local authorities set themselves up as a latterday Stasi, and when all manner of Health & Safety edicts, many of them emanating from Brussels, make it almost too dangerous to get out of bed in the morning All the time we have to endure all the nonsense of political correctness, and we must not make any remarks that might be regarded as sexist or racist.

Of course, there is a historical precedent, seen in Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", which bears a remarkable and frightening comparison with our own ailing economic and social structure. Towards the end of their days, the Romans found that they could no longer afford to keep their troops in occupied countries, and with the threat of barbarians at the gate (presumably meaning immigrants), increasingly severe legal measures were imposed upon the populace before everything fell apart. This is what is happening in our ailing land.

Candles

I went to Lincoln Cathedral yesterday to light a candle in memory of my sister Ann, whose birthday it was yesterday


During the early part of the morning I braved the rain and cold and went in to Lincoln on the scooter to purchase a novel from Waterstone's, our excellent bookseller in the city - "The Noise of Time" by Julian Barnes. As frequently mentioned, I no longer buy any books from Amazon, much preferring to see a book before I purchase it. In view of the high costs of living, everything seeming to rise in price despite the ONS saying inflation is only 0.2%, I have resolved not to spend so much money on books this year, having spent 1,249 last year, which is far too much.

Unfortunately, though, I see I have already spent 109.45 on books this year, suggesting that I have got as much idea on financial resolution as the Chancellor. February and March must therefore be cut back severely in an age of austerity.

At 1.30 p.m. we set off to have lunch with daughter Caroline and her husband Phil at their house some 8 miles from our village, granddaughter Chloe joining us. As always, it was a delightful occasion. Phil was pointing out that the pavement opposite the Club in our village was probably not the specified 1.5 metres that the Highways Department is demanding by the threatened yew hedge. He said he would therefore come to the village tomorrow to take measurements, and I would take photographs.

Back home, I read some more of "Final Solution - The Fate of the Jews 1933-49". In one passage the author writes about the terrible treatment of the Jews when Germany, assisted by Romania, invaded Russia: "....ripped the babies in half or grabbed them by the feet and smashed their heads on stones. The women had their breasts chopped off, and many whole families were either buried alive or burned alive in the bonfires."

It seems amazing that a supposedly civilised nation can behave in this appalling manner - and there were thousands of Germans who were inflicting the barbaric cruelty, making us wonder how we can ever forgive that nation, the bitter irony being that Germany is now the undisputed leader in the European Union.

The book is 800-pages, making it rather hard going in parts, especially when there are endless details of murder, rape and pillaging, all of which become a bit tedious after a while. Even so, it is a splendidly written book, detailing the terrible treatment of the Jews.

I was so saddened to hear that Sir Terry Wogan had died, cancer, as so often happens, having been the killer. He is almost the last great man of broadcasting, there being none to follow in his steps amongst the ragtag and bobtail bunch these days, smut rather than skill being supposed humour.

MONDAY 1 FEBRUARY

Thank heavens that January is over, usually the most miserable month of the year in this country. Although February can also be rather unpleasant, at least the nights are drawing out and thoughts can be turned to Spring, which, if fine, can be a splendid time. We had 15 days in January when it rained, but thankfully there was only one day - the 17th January, when there was a very slight snowfall, hardly covering the ground. It therefore seems that the old country folklore that if there hasn't been much snow before the 15th January, the rest of the winter will be clear of snow, at least to any appreciable extent.

Son-in-law Phil duly arrived at 11 a.m., and together we went to measure the width of the pavement opposite the Club to see whether it was the required l 1.5 metres - as mentioned, the width the Highways Department is insisting for the footpath by the threatened yew hedge. It came out at 1 metre only, narrowing to 94 cm at the top of the hill. Presumably to be consistent, the Highways Department will either have the path widened along this section, or the hedge and wall will have to be cut back in terms of consistency. There cannot be one rule for one hedge, and another completely different for another.

The petition to protect the hedge from the threatened environmental vandalism has now reached an incredible 6,399 signatories. That really is magnificent, the hope being that the figure of 7,000 can be reached. and thanks to all the people who have supported us. We are now hoping that the County Council will listen and accept our compromise suggestion that the hedge should only be cut back in one or two parts, especially on the corner, leaving the rest alone, the Parish Council monitoring the hedge over the next few months. That, surely, is a reasonable compromise.

The splendid watch that one of my daughters bought me for Christmas records the number of steps that I have taken during the day, usually about 4,500. It makes me wonder, though, whether "steps" are recorded when I jolt into potholes in our dreadful roads when riding on the scooter. This could somewhat distort the figure.

It seems incredible that National Savings will today be telling two Premium Bond winners that they each have won a million pounds. I could do with that kind of money, though I would not give any to charity. Indeed, I liked the comment of a fellow who long ago won 75,000 on the football pools. Asked what he would so with all the begging letters, he replied: "I'll still write them.".

Pathway

Within the village, there is another footpath, including a section on a blind corner, that measures only 1 metre in width, yet the Highways Department is insisting that we must cut back the yew hedge to 1.5 metres from the path. If this is to be implemented, presumably the Highways Dapartment will be widening this other footpath in terms of consistency.


Mrs. Copeland has been telling me that I need new pyjamas, so I bought some today from Marks & Spencer, seeing that they were made in Vietnam. Do we make anything these days in this country? I ask, presumably explaining why our manufacturing industries are now in recession, and that we have such an appalling trade deficit, getting larger every month. Not so long ago Vietnam was engaged in a brutal war, now we are buying pyjamas from them. As Mr. Thatcher said as she weepingly left Downing Street for the last time: "It's a funny old world, " getting funnier all the time, if you ask me.

Mrs. C. showed me an item in the latest Waitrose Newsletter, in which it was advised: "Carry a flask or bottle everywhere to aim for 2 litres a day, equivalent to eight glasses. Not sure you're getting enough? The iDrated hydration monitor (from iTues) allows you to set an alarm for daily consumption said that, and reminders to glug!" I would rather have a warning system that said it was time for some more wine, which would do me far more good.

Not so long ago there was a survey showing that this amount of water taken into the body during a day could be harmful digestion, damaging the nutrients and salts in the body, so it looks as if once again the values have changed, as indeed they change every ten or more full moons. I suppose there are some neurotic morons will purchase these monitors. Create a fear and neurosis and commercial interests will do the rest.

A siesta in the afternoon in an attempt to ward off the stress, and in the evening I sat by the fireside reading "Final Solution." In one chapter, dealing with the Warsaw ghetto, the author quotes one of the leaders as saying: "During these days of hunger the inhumanity of the Jewish upper classes has clearly shown itself. The entire work of the Jewish Council is an evil perpetrated against the poor....The finance politics of the Council are one great scandal..."

I suppose this is a natural characteristic of mankind, self-interest always being dominant. We see it in our own times in which the Cameroons have no sympathy for the poor, hammering them by withdrawing benefits while allowing their big business chums to get away with tax evasion. 'Twas ever thus.

TUESDAY 2 FEBRUARY

Each morning I listen to the 3-minute news bulletin on Radio 3 - an excellent summary without all the verbiage of Radio 4. Sometimes the programme overruns, and this morning before the news I heard an extract from an opera, involving a woman wailing, sounding as if she had caught her mammary glands in the mangle - a horrible noise. How can anybody like opera? - wonderful music ruined by the human voice.

Somehow I seem to have "gone off" classical music completely, no longer listening to concerts in the evening on Radio 3, and last year I did not even bother to listen to any of the Promenade concerts. Perhaps it is one of the changes associated with old age - another being the loss of humour. All very sad.

I took my scooter for servicing this morning, which cost me 80, but I was told on collecting the vehicle that there is the additional cost of a rear disc brake having to be fitted next week, bringing the total to 100. Nevertheless, I have always believed in the proper servicing of vehicles and equipment. I collected the vehicle at 2 p.m.

During the morning I met a ladyfriend for coffee - or rather, wine in my case as I am not all that keen on coffee. She is my only remaining long-term friend, all the others having died, usually of cancer, around the age of 75 years, which seems in so many cases the high tide mark. If you survive that age, you are likely to go on for a further ten years. The discussion today included the view that the younger generation these days never laughs, though I suppose there is not a lot to laugh about these days when you do not know from one week to the next whether you will still be in employment.

I suppose it is the realisation that my generation "never had it so good." We had security of employment (most of the time); our wives stayed at home to look after our children; we were not in debt, except for the payment of the mortgage, living within our means and not putting everything on credit cards; we had holidays at the seaside instead of dragging our young ones abroad; and we ended up with excellent pensions. Even the summers were better, or so we remember. Alas, today's generation will never have such benefits.

On arriving home, a reporter from our local newspaper was visiting the neighbours following the letter I had sent to the newspaper saying how bitterly disappointed we were that the eco house that we call "The Shed", had totally ruined our community. This was the flat-roofed, wooden building that had been allowed on appeal against the united opposition of the house-owners, the Parish Council, and the unanimous rejection by the Planning Committee of the local district council. The issue was subsequently featured on the on-line setup of "The Lincolnshire Echo,"

It is too later to do anything about the monstrosity, but at least we can give the maximum publicity to a shameful appeal that represented a travesty of democracy.

Candle

Today was Candlemas. I lit candles in the parlour to celebrate the event. I am told that I should not put photographs of my house on the Internet, but if my books start to get stolen I will know the educational reforms are working.


Today is Candlemas, the day when long ago wax candles and tapers were consecrated, lighted, and distributed. They were then carried in procession to guard against evil spirits and storms. I just hope that the candles I lit this evening in the parlour will protect our yew hedge from those nasty and neurotic people who want the hedge ruthlessly cut back because they cannot walk two-abreast along the pavement on account of a few overhanging branches.

I won a 25 Premium Bond prize in this month's draw. Not much, but at least it is better than having money in a Building Society account, and certainly better than investing in Japan where you have to pay the banks for keeping your money following negative interest rates.

According to press reports, Mr. Cameron arrived back in this country after his visit to Brussels declaring the equivalent of "peace in our time", rather like Neville Chamberlain, having achieved absolutely nothing, not that it was expected that he would achieve anything from that circus. It now looks almost certain, especially on the immigration issue, that we will be leaving the European Union when the referendum takes place this summer. Few of the people I speak to - and they are intelligent people - want us to remain in the Union.

Presumably because of Mr. Cameron's Chamberlain-style failure, especially his failure to prevent thousands of immigrants pouring into this country every month, the FTSE fell -134 points.

The evening was spent by the fireside, reading some more of "Final Solution" dealing with the appalling treatment of the Jews. In parts the book is so horrific, especially the account "SS men threw children alive into the flames for sport, urging the mothers to jump heroically into the fire after their children, mocking them because of their cowardice." Sadly, these sadistic sods (presumably that is what SS stands for) nearly all managed to escape punishment after the war.

Presumably one of the few advantages of the European Union is that it keeps Germany in check, especially now the nation is the undisputed leader. of the circus. It used to be said that "Give the Germans some tins of grey paint, and they'll be on the march again." Presumably we have to forget how badly the country has behaved over the years, though my generation will never forgive or forget Nazi Germany, amazed that a supposedly civilised country could behave in such a barbaric matter - not that the Russians and the Japanese were any better. Perhaps, though, there is an element of cruelty in all of us in terms of bullying the weak - the "Lord of the Flies" theme.

WEDNESDAY 3 FEBRUARY

Apart from a brief visit to town to purchase an "i", it was a day spent quietly at home, polishing the Scorpio and doing some carpet cleaning during the morning. It was one of those quiet days in the season of superannuation when I see nobody, the telephone seldom rings, and most of the post consists of junk mail, principally mail-order catalogues and charity appeals, most of which, certainly all the appeals, go straight into the recycling bin.

There was a report in today's "i" of a survey undertaken by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that the happiest time of life was in our 70s, and 80s, whereas the period between 40-60 was the most miserable time, though 16-19 was also a very happy time. I certainly find that, despite what this diary may infer, I enjoy life now that I am in my 80s, still falling out with some nasty people to indicate that I am alive and kicking, as well as mounting campaigns to prevent environmental vandalism.

My children are now "off my hands"; I am happily married; have no financial worries; and sadly as my parents are both dead, I do not have the agonies of looking after declining aged "Ps". Nevertheless, the vitally important caveat in the years after 70 is that you have to be in good health, yet most of my contemporaries who are still alive (and there are not many of us) all suffer from some malady that means they are not firing on all four cylinders. There is also the importance of having enough money in old age, but so many pensioners do not have enough to live on in this country. Like most of these surveys, it is therefore a lot of hot air.

Age

Chart in tody's "i" saying that we are the happiest in old age. The important caveat is that you have to be in good health, which few people are in their 80s.


In today's post I had a reply to the letter I had written to our local Member of Parliament, Sir Edward Leigh - who has done so much to protect us over so many years, regarding the threat to our yew hedges.. In his reply he said that he had "contacted the Chief Executive Tony McArdle of Lincolnshire County Council to ask that he does whatever it takes to prevent the hedges being cut back/harmed when, as you say only a few sections actually need trimming." At the end of the letter he had written: "You have my full support!" It really is wonderful to have such support, and we are truly grateful in the hope that reason will ultimately prevail.

I asked an American friend whether Mr. Trump's setback in Iowa meant that he stands little chance of winning the Republican nomination. The reply came back: "Goodness, no, John. "The Donald" is still very much alive and running. Personally, I (and most of the media pundits here) think that his support base is soft and that he will falter soon. But Iowa is not the proper harbinger. Polls in New Hampshire make Trump the overwhelming favorite there. If he comes a cropper next Tuesday in New Hampshire, well, then I'd say that the Republicans will likely have to look to Cruz and Rubio."

According to a report in today's "i", it seems that Ted Cruz is even madder than Mr. Trump, having said during the campaign that "he vowed to carpet bomb Isis into oblivion...'I don't know if sand can glow in the dark but we are going to find out." I find it surprising that such a great country can have had so many awful Presidents over the years, though I suppose we cannot boast about the spineless Prime Minister we now have, or those we have had in the past, including Thatcher the Terrible who is still causing us problems.

It is going to be a fascinating election. I just hope that Mrs. Clinton does not win, for as I repeatedly argue in this diary, taking no heed of oppressive political correctness and sexism, I believe that women are no good in politics. They are wonderful in the caring professions, but hopeless in the political world, as indeed we saw with Thatcher the Terrible, from whom we are still recovering from her little shopkeeper version of economics, believing that service industries were more important than manufacturing.

In today's "i" there was a report of some little woman demanding that women Members of Parliament should be allowed to breast-feed their baby during the proceedings in House of Commons. While the woman can be praised for breast-feeding, mothers with these babies should be at home looking after them, not imposing an unpleasant nuisance in the Chamber. The woman, who understandably refers to herself as Ms, makes the point that "those who rejected the move were too consumed with maintaining the tradition of what Parliament should look like." Yes, indeed: we want to see it as a debating chamber, not a glorified nursery with yelling babies.

According to the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, it is almost certain that the Chancellor "will miss his deficit target", not that there was any doubt about this from people who had any understanding of economics. As we all know, this is going to mean even more austerity as the country's finances go into the red.

During the afternoon we had to endure the "Red Arrow Flying Circus" skimming over our chimneypots, going round and round in circles for hour after hour, making a terrible noise and causing goodness knows how much pollution in our village, totally spoiling our environment. The cost of this flying to the taxpayer is about 20m a year, plus the capital cost of planes written off . Bearing in mind the savage reductions in our armed forces, surely this frivolous , albeit very clever flying, could be stopped as an additional cutback. I take the view that the team is had its day, being regarded as "old hat" as a correspondent to out local newspaper put it.

On the BBC news website, I saw in the Lincolnshire news section that "Lincolnshire County Council has voted to cut next year's budget by 42m and raise council tax by 3.95%.
The decision was made by the authority's executive committee and will go before the full council for final approval later this month. If approved, the plans could see cuts to 160 bus services across the county. The proposals would also see a reduction in the funding for adult social services, children's services and Police Community Support Officers."

This will add 5.25 to my ten monthly payments. There is also the additions relating to the district councils, but we mercifully find that our local one is far better financially managed than the County Council, and is fully supportive of its constituents, a caring authority.

I finished reading "Final Solution" this evening. At the end of the book the author explains how the Jews, who often caused trouble amongst themselves, continued to receive harassment in many countries at the end of the Second World War, many of them confined to sordid camps while awaiting resettlement. Today we have the problems in Palestine where Jews have forced Palestinians off their land, serving as a brutal occupying power that takes no heed of the resolutions of the United Nations, the World Court, or public opinion.

I have made a start on a biography of Charlotte Bronte by Claire Harman whose novels I enjoyed many years ago. The book was given to me by my daughter Kate as a Christmas present, books being among the best presents.

THURSDAY 4 FEBRUARY

I recently wrote to our local newspaper, "The Lincolnshire Echo", to express the disappointment in our historic community that "The Shed" had been built, totally out of character and keeping with the neighbouring stone-built properties dating from 1801. The complaint is featured, complete with photographs I sent in, in today's edition of the newspaper, in which the developers are quoted as saying: "In our opinion, those criticising the design of the building should wait until it is finished and then think again. We think the building will look great in its wooded setting and, like the owners, we are already delighted."

It would probably be unwise to reply to that comment at a time when everybody without exception who sees the house says how unbelievably awful it is, looking like a shed - hence the name we have given to the eco edifice.

There have been some rather frightening developments regarding the yew hedge, but they remain confidential, so I must not report them. Meanwhile, the latest issue of the Church Newsletter gave outdated comments on the yew hedge, which are not very helpful.

Club

Our local Club. Following the departure of the stewardess and the Chairman, the Management Committee seems to be doing a reasonabe job keeping the Club going, committee members serving at the bar.


Today's "i" had a front-page headline: "EU tearing Tories apart" following the minor settlement with the European Union that our pathetic Prime Minister has supposedly achieved (subject to approval by member states) This rumpus is going to mean that it is now almost certain that we will leave the circus on account of the referendum, yet a columnist in the newspaper heads his polemic: "Cameron gave us what he promised. Changes to the EU may seem minor but they'll win the referendum."

This is an entry for my soothsayings scrapbook in which I look later to see how accurate the predictions have turned out - in 95% of instances they are totally and utterly wrong, making astrology seem almost respectable.

Meanwhile, the "Daily Express", which is very anti-Europe, has as its front-page headline today: "EU deal is already falling apart. Poll shows voters reject Cameron's sham reforms."

Surprise, surprise: the Bank of England has lowered its growth forecasts for the UK for this year and 2017, all because of problems abroad, you will understand, nothing to do with the unhealthy and unbalanced economy at home. There is no doubt that something is soon going to snap, for a country with such an unhealthy economy, getting more and more into debt, cannot last long in that dreadful situation.

Meanwhile, it was announced that thousands of jobs are going in the oil industry and in the banks, while 350 managers at Boots the Chemists will be made redundant. Yet we are repeatedly being told by the ONS that more people than ever are being employed in this country. Even in my own restricted circle, I know of 3 people who have lost their jobs within the past year. Something seems not quite right with the statistics that we are given by the ONS.

Another day at home apart from the visit to town to buy the newspapers, generally pottering around and doing some clearance in the garden the sun shining at last. The evening will be spent by the fireside reading the biography of Charlotte Bronte.
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E-mail: johncopeland@clara.net
Comments welcomed
Lincolnshire 4th February, 2016
No. 936




Diary of an Octogenarian<BR>



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