DIARY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN
- John Copeland -
Friday 22nd April - Thursday 28th April, 2016
St. George's Day. Our patron saint came from Turkey, and never set foot in this country. He was a soldier who protested against the Romans' torture of Christians, being first adopted during the Crusades - and a rough lot they were. The photograph shows the flag flying at our local Club today.
"Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats."
Voltaire. On his deathbed he was told to renounce the Devil, to which he replied that this was no time to be making enemies.
FRIDAY 22 APRIL
With a male neighbour, I yesterday evening watched a DVD of "D-Day Survivor" that I had purchased from the HMV store in Lincoln, thinking that it would be an interesting war film. Alas, it was unbelievably awful, so wooden, so badly acted. After about 15 minutes we could endure no more, so it was switched off. Instead, we watched "Last Orders". Although I had seen it before, it was good seeing Graham Swift's splendid story again, and my neighbour enjoyed it.
Usually these DVDs have review comments on the cover, mainly from the national newspapers, but "D-Day Survivor" not surprisingly had no such recommendations, except from an outfit calling itself "Thatmovieswelovesite.com" that had two items, one of them saying "Truly terrifying". The part we saw was about as terrifying as a children's tea party. I should have known better at my age than to buy such rubbish.
This week's food frightener is that alcohol and bacon cause cancer. What utter nonsense, the real issue being that the medicine men do not know what causes cancer, hence they have to pluck all manner of things from the air. If all the proclaimed causes of the dreaded disease were added together, there would not be much to eat without any danger. Why don't they just admit that they haven't a clue what causes cancer? At least we would understand and forgive them for that honesty.
What seems so absurd is that food is regarded as the single cause of cancer, whereas there are probably also the considerations of genes, environment, working conditions, age and general health. It might be an idea to have a weekly competition to predict future frighteners, possibly including rhubarb and maybe even Chinese take-aways.
In yesterday's "i" I read that "The government borrowed £74bn in the year to March, £1.8bn more than George Osborne's borrowing target. The Office for Budget Responsibility had forecast government borrowing of £72.2bn for the 2015-16 financial year." In our ever worsening economy, well on the road to recession, it was also reported that "Retail sales volumes dropped 1.3% in March, compared with February, a bigger fall than was expected." The next casualty will be the housing market, due for an almighty tumble within the next few months - and none of this has anything to do with the referendum on the European Union.
One of the manifold advantages of leaving the European Union will be that Cameron and the Chancellor, having lost all political credibility, will obviously have to depart. We can but hope therefore that the new Chancellor will have a rather better idea and understanding of managing the nation's housekeeping, not overshooting by nearly £2 billion. It might also be an opportunity to get rid of the Office for Budget Responsibility that is persistently wrong in all its predictions, being almost as bad as the IMF in its forecasts.
It is because of this present political instability, the Cameroons recognising that they will have lost the battle if we leave the Unholy Alliance against their nannying advice, that we are now hearing all these absurd frighteners from them, probably soon being told that if we leave we will have no more decent summers, not that we have many now. But if the Government collapses, who will take its place,? Presumably it could mean that Mr. Corbyn and his Michael Foot-style gang could take over. We're doomed!
Last week I included a photograph of the Taktsang ("Tiger's Nest") Buddhist monastery in Bhutan, high up on the edge of a mountain in the Himalaya. A correspondent has sent me this e-mail: "On April 19, 1998, a fire broke out in the main building of the monastery complex, which contained valuable paintings, artifacts and statues. The fire is believed to have been caused by electrical short-circuiting or flickering butter lamps lighting the hanging tapestries. A monk also died during the fire. The restoration works were undertaken at an estimated cost of 135 million ngultrums. [There are currently 0.010 ngultrums to the £]. The Government and the then King of Bhutan oversaw the restoration work that was completed in 2015."
Having a fire in such an inaccessible mountain retreat must have been a terrible problem. Mind you, fire control is becoming increasingly difficult in our backwater county as the brain-dead county councillors are proposing to reorganise the service, combining it with the police forces, no doubt meaning extensive cuts in manpower. In all probability, in future we will have to make an appointment to have the brigade come out when we have a fire, all very redolent of that splendid sketch by Rob Wilton long ago.
I find it difficult to understand how President Obama can have been so stupid during his visit to the UK today to support the In campaign in the referendum, saying that: "The UK's ability to fight terrorism would be more effective if it sticks together with its European allies", presumably indicating that he has not been told about the recent carnage in Brussels. Maybe we can express the hope that Mr. Trump will have a better understanding of international relations when he becomes President in November. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has pointed out that Obama's comments were a "a breathtaking example of the principle do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do".
Our Boris also suggested that " Mr Obama had an ancestral dislike of the British Empire because of his own heritage" - a remark, referring to his part-Kenyan ancestry. We all know, of course, what our Boris was really meaning - a somewhat cruel and ungracious remark, though the colourful mayor is renowned, possibly notoriously, for calling a shovel a shovel.. Nevertheless, he is the only impressive politician we have left in this country.
As might be expected, Boris's insolent remarks have brought angry criticisms from Mr. Corbyn's gang who have always hated our Empire, upon which the sun never set. Still, at least Obama's out-of-place remarks will probably have added 5 points to the Out campaign, there being no love in this country for that weak President, and even less in his own land. He started out so well, a breath of fresh political air in America, trying to improve health provision, yet somewhere along the line he showed he was out of his depth, lost in the world of international politics.
A proper English luncheon
I am greatly enjoying my "Morning Book" - "Anatomy of a Solder", dealing with the hopeless conflict in Afghanistan that has subsequently seen the Taliban emerging as the victors, now bent on destruction and intimidation. In one chapter, an elderly Afghan, complaining about the occupation, asks: "Why are they here?" I doubt whether Mr. Cameron or our Foreign Secretary, certainly not Mr. Blair, could provide an answer, other than saying we are doing as the Americans tell us to do.
As it is, the Cameroons love a fight, joining in any war that is going, now about to re-enter the fray in Libya, a country that that hopeless woman Clinton buggered up, backing the wrong horse after the removal of al-Gaddafi. Fighting wars is what the psychologists call a "displacement activity", taking the minds of the electorate off the hopelessness of an ailing economy at home.
When you think of all the deaths among our troops and terrible injuries, leaving some of them without legs after being blown up by an I.E.D, it might be suggested that Blair & Co. should be regarded as war criminals, their hopeless policies making life even worse and harder for the invaded countries.
The national newspapers today are dominated by the early death of a pop star whom I have never heard of, presumably meaning that I live in a world that is far too sheltered and cacooned. It seems that these pop stars have become the modern icons whom we must worship and look up to, presumably because there are no politicians or other leaders who aspire any confidence or hope as role models, our politicians seen as tax dodgers and nest-featherers who have little interest in running a government.
Another current major issue is that Prince William is alleged to be "work-shy", preferring the good life at the expense of the taxpayers to accepting his public responsibilities. However, it is not a subject that interests me all that much, especially as I take the view that the Royal Family is an expensive irrelevance, the younger contingent hardly serving as role models, yet nobody should criticise Her Majesty the Queen, 90 yesterday. Even the most committed Republicans must recognise that she has been a splendid monarch, not exactly cheerful but clearly and cogently devoted to duty.
There was the news today that the junior doctors, battling against the imposition of a revised contract that makes them work harder and accept their responsibilities in terms of the Hippocratic Oath, are going on permanent strike. This should lower the death rate considerably, and it is to be hoped that the Health Secretary will have the courage to sack the lot of them, bringing in medicine men from abroad. I do not have much faith in doctors, and certainly not in these irresponsible young doctors now on a shameful and appalling strike because they might have to do some hard work. They discredit the profession.
In one of the supplements of "The Times" I glanced at the juvenile "Celebrity Watch" by Caitlin Moran, in which she comments on so-called celebrities who have gone up during the week, and those who have gone down in her odd estimation. I just cannot believe that a once great national newspaper, a newspaper of record, can print this utter rubbish, but then I suppose it is all part of the dumbing down of the paper, appealing to younger readers.
I had fish and chips for lunch, this being Friday, bought from an excellent chippy in Lincoln. It is a meal that I greatly enjoy. After an afternoon undertaking various household tasks, the evening was spent with Mrs. C. reading by the fireside, the troubles of the world and those of this ailing country in particular seeming far away. Two of our neighbours had gone to see a Bulgarian film at the Lincoln Film Society, making me feel so sorry for them, having to watch one of those dreadful subtitled films - and how I hate subtitles!
I suppose it is all part of culture, though in my old age I tend to think that much of culture is one big pretence by the pseuds, a competitive league table of I'm better educated than you. Why is it, for instance, deemed cultured to know about ancient Rome, when surely it would be far more relevant and useful to discuss the social and economic structure of Rome today? And why is it thought to be well educated to know about Greek mythology, having learnt about a lot of silly, far-fetched fairy stories?
Then there is all that nonsense about modern music, mainly consisting of the banging of drums and squeaky violins, and all the rubbish of modern art with its blobs of disorientated paint, looking like something a child of 5 has drawn, or that the paintbox has been randomly turned upside down.
I finished reading "The Devil's Diary" in the evening, having thoroughly enjoyed the book, and then made a start on "Chaos & Caliphate - Jihadis and the West in the struggle for the Middle East", by the war reporter Patrick Cockburn, published this year by OR Books. The book deals with the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, and in the early chapters on the chaos in Iraq after the successful invasion, the author is highly critical of the Americans, saying that they had no defined policy in dealing with the supposed peace, having dismissed all the civil servants and the Iraqi Army.
It is no doubt a justifiable criticism, especially as Mr. George Bush Jnr had not a clue about governing a defeated enemy, yet the author seems to be somewhat anti-American, which seems to cloud his better judgement. At least he shows that there was a hopeless and bitter conflict between the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions, all at one another' throats, making a peaceful settlement impossible. There was also a failure on the part of the Western forces to realise that the Iraqis had about as much enthusiasm for democracy as they have for hygiene and clean streets.
SATURDAY 23 APRIL - St. George's Day and Shakespeare's 400th anniversary.
I mentioned in the diary last week that I had put up on the parlour window the "Daily Express" sticker advising a departure from the EU, saying that we "demand our country back". A correspondent, commenting on this issue, said in an e-mail that the "Daily Express" was wrong about everything: "Perhaps its most famous - or notorious - blunder was its headline in August 1939 "NO WAR THIS YEAR." This was rubbed in by the Second World War film, "In Which We Serve." in a scene in which a British destroyer had been sunk by the Germans and as the sailors were struggling in the sea that newspaper drifted past, with its infamous headline in close-up.
"Since then its record has been; to oppose the formation of the NHS; to promote Empire Free Trade even as the Empire was collapsing; to oppose entry into the Common Market even as it was expanding and prospering (it still is expanding); to predict that commercial television would collapse (we know what happened there); to support the Suez War; to advise that we needed Mrs Thatcher because she would change Britain (well, she did change Britain but not for the better); they supported the Iraq War; now they want us out of the EU."
Similar wrongful comments can be made about "The Daily Mail" that in the 1930s believed that Hitler was a jolly good chap, a fellow to be trusted, while Mussolini was almost as good. I take all these comments about the nefarious press "on board", but I still believe the determining issue is whether the UK can go it alone in a withdrawal from the EU, the worry being that we are about to go into a deep and lasting recession, probably needing a bail-out from the IMF. That is my main concern, and I have to admit that the issue worries me.
The unbelievably stupid remarks made by that "lame duck President on the way out" during his visit to London this week continue to cause annoyance throughout the land, even telling us that "Quit the EU and you're on your own." Perhaps that is what we want to be, escaping from the economic and political chaos of the undemocratic EU, and no longer hanging onto the coattails of the Americans in wars that they always lose. And perhaps we won't hear so much of the utterly horrible American rapper music. It makes me think that Donald Trump would be a great improvement on this spineless little man who has allowed America to be tossed and humiliated around the globe.
The photograph on the front page of today's "Times" showed Obama with Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Although I dislike people criticising the Duke and Duchess, writing of "The Duchess of Drab", I become rather tired of the Royal Couple appearing in every event (and the Duchess did look today as if she had come in her night-dress).
It might be a nice break if we could have a month without her appearing in a photograph. Today's photograph should have shown the President with the Queen and the Prime Minister, but maybe Her Majesty had had enough of the President's silly comments. None of the men is wearing a tie, so I suppose it was a very informal occasion, of no importance.
We have had 13 scam telephone calls this week, the worst assault ever. Fortunately, on seeing "International" or false numbers such as "002036674266" (any number beginning with 002 is a false number) on the caller-display unit it is easy to pick up the receiver and immediately put it down, yet it a nuisance having to go to the telephone, only to find it is a false call.
In the e-mail post I had a communication purporting to come from PayPal, headed: "Required Action From our Thecnical [sic] Support", and saying: "We Want to tell You we recently received From our Servers That somebody Tried to Use Your Account By Different Computer Or You Use Your Account By browser not supported By us To make Sure That You Are behind Those Strange Actions we have suspended Your Account Until You start Verification Identity It's Easy Just Press On link That you will find at End of this letter And Log in To your Account you will Transfer Automatically To page Then put Informations That You will ask to Put Be careful To put Correct Informations that belongs To your Account."
I also had a scam purporting to come from HM Revenue & Customs, telling me: "We would like to notify you that you still have an outstanding tax refund of £198.54 from overpaid tax from year ending 2016, despite our previous letters regarding your refund we are yet to receive your claim. Requests for refunds are time limited please use the link below to complete your claim online also note the following: You have until the 30th of April 2016 to make your claim Reference No: 2014/956324/B We can only process a refund for the tax year we have detailed above ." I obviously ignored it, knowing that the department would never send me an e-mail, always sending a letter in the post. Bad sentence construction always gives the game away. I reckon, though, that many people will fall for the scam.
Oh, dear: these illiterate scammers really ought to take a course in English grammar, paying particular attention to the use of capital letters. No authentic organisation would ever put out such an appalling message, not even a firm in this country. I obviously deleted the message, but it makes me wonder whether other people are caught out. It is nasty stuff.
Put out more flags as Evelyn Waugh would say. However, I am not sure we are allowed to display the national flag for fear of upsetting the Muslims in our happy and harmonious multicutlural society. I will risk it, though, withdrawing the photograph if there are protests from the Thought Police. Maybe I should have ironed the flag before putting it up.
I mentioned earlier that I ordered DVDs from HMV yesterday. Today they arrived in the post - a splendid service.
In the Review section of "The Times" there was an interesting review of "Respectable - The experience of class" by Lynsey Hanley. As its title suggests, the book deals with the bitterness of social class divisions in this country, almost as widely divergent as in the past. The author makes the point that it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to escape from a lowly class, the stigma always being with you. Presumably it can be argued that education, not money, takes you into a higher class. Although I do not usually like books written by women, I think I will nevertheless buy this one as an exception from Waterstone's.
It is perhaps surprising that social class is so apparent in this ailing land. We see the marked divisions at out local Club, not only separated on account of age, which is understandable and possibly desirable, but also on education - that biggest marker of all.
To town after breakfast, and then at noon I attended a birthday party for a 70-year old female neighbour, being joined by several of the other neighbours for this joyous threescore-years-and-ten celebration. At one stage we were talking about the magnificent victory we had in saving our yew hedges in the village from being vandalised by the Highways Department - a department that has made such a mess of our village road.
It was incredible the support we had from television and the national press, only "Radio Lincolnshire", that local pop & pap station, letting us down by having an ignorant and uncouth "Phone-In" from people who probably did not even know the scientific name for a yew hedge. Those "phone-ins" illustrate the poor quality of education in this country. I would like to see them all closed down, for they serve little purpose with their nauseous pop music.
We were scheduled to go afterwards to the local Club for a "The Bard, The Queen and the Dragon Slayer" event, involving quizzes, food (the roast beef of old England), readings from Shakespeare and a band in the evening. Alas, I didn't make it, obviously having had too much to drink at the party. Mrs, Copeland therefore had to go without me, which meant that I was in trouble. These things happen. I think the problem was that after having several glasses of white wine, I somehow switched to red (possibly having finished all the white), and red wine always gives me a headache, quite a bad one.
When I had recovered I read some more of "Chaos & Caliphate", enjoying a book that spells out the disasters of American foreign policy. A fascinating book, indicating that wherever America and ourselves have interfered in another country, a dreadful mess has resulted, making conditions even worse for the natives.
SUNDAY 24 APRIL
I heard on the news this morning that President Obama has said that it would take ten years for trade agreements to be made with America if we leave the European Union. What utter nonsense, even laughable, almost a sick joke. The lame duck President is now off to Germany, presumably to upset the Germans with his quackery. Still, nobody has to take any heed of his offensive and out-of-place remarks for he will be gone and thankfully forgotten six months from now. Somehow I cannot believe Mr. Trump could be any worse. At least there will be some action, presumably the nuking of North Korea.
It was announced today that firms that put out these unsolicited calls must always include their telephone number. Of course, this measure is worthless, for the main scam problems come from India, that country we send aid to so that they can develop rockets. Apparently there is no way that the useless Ofcom can stop those international calls, but at least, as mentioned earlier, they are easily jettisoned.
The spreading chestnut tree in the garden.
I spent part of the morning trying to remove all the coal-dust from the bunker, which I have to climb into to remove years of accumulation. Fortunately, I seem to be making a good clearance, using the dust on the fire during the evening. The aim is to move into the conservatory on the 1st May, not having a living fire again until late September. It means that in the early morning I will no longer have to spend 17 minutes clearing out and relaying the fire.
Later on in the morning I went in to Waterstone's to purchase the book on social class mentioned yesterday. Unwisely, when there was a bitter N.E.wind, I went in on the scooter, arriving home frozen with cold in this miserable climate. I tend to mock and despise people who go abroad on holiday, but I am so thankful that we are going with the family to Spain in June, meaning that we will have a wonderful week of sunshine, escaping from this cold and rain-swept climate that is so vexatious to the spirit.
Mrs. Copeland and I went to the local Club at 4 o'clock, enjoying a splendid session. The bar is still being run on a voluntary capacity by the members of the Club's Management Committee, and they are doing an excellent job before a steward/ess is appointed, advertisements for the part-time post now having been sent out. The new chairman is first-rate. It is good to see the Club surviving after the recent rumpus that saw the departure of the stewardess and the chairman.
After a dinner of duck, we sat by the fireside. I read some more of "Chaos & Caliphate", reading the chapters on the chaos in Iraq, Mr. Bush having believed that he had won a war that had been hopelessly lost. Reading these chapters there is an awareness that, because of the violent religious factions between Sunni and Shia and the Kurds there can never be any hope for a permanent peace. It is a grim reminder of the endless trouble that religion always causes, almost as much misery as sex. What a wonderful world it would be if there were no religions and no sex. We could then live in peace for ever afterwards, though I suppose there would be something else to fight about.
As I mentioned earlier, I rather fear that the apparent dislike of the author for the Americans somewhat clouds his judgement, the hackneyed point being made that they won the war but lost the peace. It surely has to be reckoned, though, that there can never be any discussion or reasoning with religious groups; as has been said, it is like wheeling along a wheelbarrow full of live frogs, hoping they will all stay still. Presumably the mistake made by the Americans was that they disbanded the Iraqi Army and all the civil servants, leaving a great vacuum that US officials tried to fill. This mistake was not made in 1945 when the Allies sorted out the Nazi members when the war was won, but kept on most of the administrators to govern the country. Surprisingly, I recently read in "The Devil's Diary" that Churchill wanted all the leading Nazis to be shot without trial, whereas Stalin wanted them to face the justice of the courts.
With the wonderful gift of hindsight, it could be argued that Iraq would now be in a better condition if Saddam Hussein was still in power, providing the necessary discipline, albeit as a tyrant, to keep the opposing factions in order, shooting those who did not toe the line.
MONDAY 25 APRIL
I was amazed to hear on the news at 8 o'clock that BHS was going into administration with the loss of 11,000 jobs on the closure of scores of stores. Although it can be said that the entire country is in administration, it makes you wonder who in the High Street will be next to go, probably Next and Marks & Spender. I recently bought some pyjamas from M & S and they were utterly awful, feeling like World War II Army issue, made in Vietnam of all places. Some of the shirts are no better, some not even having a top pocket, presumably as a cost-cutting measure.
At least there was the good news that the OUT campaign is now switching from the uncertain issues of trade to the issue of sovereignty and immigration, which is going to be the main battleground for the great majority of the public, especially Mr. Murdoch's readers. In an article in today's "Times", the highly intelligent Michael Gove warns that "five potential new members of the EU - Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania and Turkey - would result in millions more people having the right to move to the UK. Because we cannot control our borders - and because our deal sadly does nothing to change this fact - public services such as the NHS will face an unquantifiable strain as millions more become EU citizens."
Why on earth does the European Union want to include troublesome, politically unstable countries such as Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania and Turkey, all of which will cause endless trouble, undoubtedly requiring subsequent bailing out, which we will have to pay for if we are daft enough to remain in the circus. It is a great shame that the EU did not keep to a trading organisation, serving as a latterday Zollverein, possibly only with the UK, Germany, Italy and France. Alas, it has now become an unelected political organisation with meddling bureaucrats who institute massive crippling legislation, especially in the arena of Health & Safety. The soon we get out the better.
Looking at the opposing campaigners in this referendum battle, it seems that the more intelligent promoters are to be found in the OUT group, including the lively Boris Johnson and the splendid Mr. Gove, whereas the IN contingent includes Cameron, Osborne and now Mrs, May who must be the worst ever Home Secretary, completely out of her depth in dealing with immigration, and even reducing police forces at a time of rising crime and threats from terrorist groups.
Ironically, though no doubt not unexpectedly, Mrs. May, whilst recommending that we should remain in the Union, admitted at the same time that "EU membership made it harder to control immigration." The In campaign must have wished that she stayed at home doing some knitting rather than opening her mouth, but then we also suffer from the clownish Farage in the Out group.
I find it interesting that there seems to be a substantial difference between the two opposing groups in the referendum in terms of character. Politicians I like and respect, and people with whom I am friendly with, all want to leave the Union, seeming to be genuine, interesting and likeable, kindly souls, people you would not mind have a pint or two of an evening. Whereas the In group, including the likes of Hillary Clinton, Obama, Cameron, Osborne and Mrs. May seem a bunch of sour-faced, unpleasant characters. In a way this differentiation partly influences my voting intention to vote most assuredly for Out, no longer at the mercy of immigrants pouring into this country unchecked and uncontrolled by Mrs. May, and freed from the massive nannying legislation from Brussels and domination by Germany.
I still cannot understand why President Obama made himself look so incredibly stupid, committing a political gaffe of the highest order, in forcefully saying that Britain should stay in the European Union. No politician does anything for altruistic reasons, and we must therefore continue to wonder why the President was so daft. What seems so utterly incredible, almost beyond belief, is that his intervention has, according to the pollsters, most of whom are nearly always wrong, strengthened the odds for an In vote. I find this amazing, having thought that the British public were too bright to be influenced by a lame duck President mercifully on the way out.
I was most impressed that the renewed driving licence, for which I applied on the 18th of this month, was delivered in the post this morning - an excellent service. It is a pity that commercial firms in this country are not as efficient. There was an enclosure saying that the counterpart, which gives notifications of any infringement points, is no longer provided, details instead being available on-line (it seems that everything is on-line these days). I looked up the site and saw that I had a clean record, never having had any points. Indeed, in my 62 years of driving, I have not had so much as a parking ticket. Such hubris, which I hope that gods will not hear.
During the morning I went in to collect a book I had ordered from Waterstone's in Lincoln - a splendid service, and the staff are very pleasant, making me so glad that I no longer buy books from Amazon. I now try to avoid buying anything from the Internet, preferring to shop locally, At Amazon I usually had about one-third off the price of a book, but this is something I have to forgo when buying locally.
I had intended cutting down on book-buying, but I see that I will have spent £142 this month. However, there is always a major publication of books in the Spring, and once this season is over I should be able to cut back, having the Government-style austerity.
We had 3 scam telephone calls during the day. I have to admit that I was fooled by one, having come up on the caller display as 101528286109. Alas, I had not noticed the initial 1, whereas I should have realised that it was a false number. The Indian caller asked me if I was "Mr. Salmond" [the false name I put on a product registration card for a purchased electrical appliance some months ago], and I immediately told him to bugger off, being tempted to use some of the appellations that our Boris had inferred about Mr., Obama.
I read on the BBC news website that the junior doctors are having yet another strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, even refusing to cover emergencies, This is shameful, and we can but hope that the Government will stand firm and not give in to these irresponsible doctors who are a disgrace to their profession. I just hope that they are all sacked, being of no use to the NHS, bringing in doctors from abroad who are prepared to accept the hard work that being a medicine man/woman involves. To give into these unreasonable claims, paying the Dangeld, would emphasise all the weakness of this spineless Government.
Dandelion in my part of the garden - a haven and heaven for wildlife, nature loathing regimentation.
Apart from the brief visit to town it was a day at home, doing various odd jobs in the house. In the evening I sat by the fireside on yet another chilly evening, reading some more of "Chaos & Caliphate", which I am greatly enjoying, despite the war reporter's rather obvious bias against the American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The author makes the claim that the American invasion united the Sunni and Shia warring factions against the invaders, causing more chaos in the country than under Saddam Hussein. The book takes the form of a diary, and on the 14th August 2009 there is the entry: "The American withdrawal stabilises Iraq to a degree never admitted by protagonists of the original invasion." Bearing in mind all the chaos in Ira today, I reckon the author wishes that he had not written that foolish statement, the problem being that he allows his anti-American bias to dominate the entries. I have now moved on to the chapters on the war in Afghanistan, which was an even bigger cock-up
Although it was so miserably cold yet again today, the temperature hovering around 7 C (and only another 8 weeks before the nights start drawing in again), I decided that I had to transplant the runner-bean seedlings outside as they had become so "leggy". In all probability a frost will kill the lot of them in this hateful climate.
Despite the miserably cold weather, making me wish that we could have some of that global warming those crazy climatologists talk and write about, there is a thrush singing his heart out on a nearby tree each evening. His goodnight song reminded me of Thomas Hardy's poem "The Darkling Thrush": "That I could think there trembled though/His happy good-night air/Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew/And I was unaware."
Sadly we have not heard the cuckoo this year, not having heard his sound of summer for many years. Either the hateful farmers have killed him off with their irresponsible pesticides, or he no longer travels so far north. I gather he can be heard now in Essex.
TUESDAY 26 APRIL
I find it incredible, absolutely totally irresponsible, that there is today an all-out strike by junior doctors, not even covering emergencies in A & E. One of the national newspapers today says that many of these doctors plan to leave the NHS, and the sooner they do so the better as they are obviously not suitable for employment.
I just hope that the Health Secretary does not give in, having the courage and strength to resist their unreasonable demands. Bevan had to give in to the BMA, loading the doctors with largesse, in persuading the Association to accept the National Health Service, and it seems we have a similar battle now. And the Tories have the effrontery to talk about the trade unions selling the country short!
Of course, Corbyn and his gang, wanting to restore their declining popularity, would readily give in, but we must hope for a stronger stance from Mr. Hunt, who must know that everybody who can do joined-up writing is right behind him, offering their full support against junior doctors who believe that they should have similar hours to office workers, namely 9-5, no evening work, and weekends free. No medical service can operate on that limited application.
It is going to be a real test of this Government, seeing whether they can stand fast against the unreasonable demands of a very nasty trade union. Let these doctors strike for as long as they like, for eventually they will run out of money and enthusiasm. Even better, sack the lot of them and bring in doctors from abroad, most of whom are prepared to work longer and for reasonable conditions. In any event, you could argue that, during the strikes, a lot of people will not have unnecessary operations, and that the health of the nation will improve somewhat, bearing in mind the limited medical knowledge these day.
I was interested to hear the view that President Obama, never a friend of this country and having shamefully suggested that we should stay in the EU, was actually seeking to punish us for our Empire days in which his ancestors probably suffered, the retribution having us remaining in the EU under the domination of Germany and swamped with immigration. I suppose, though, this is a follow-up from our Boris's worthy comments.
Apparently, the latest opinion polls indicate that the In campaign is racing ahead, now having a lead over the Out by 10 points. We can but hope that these polls are as wrong as ever and that the massive press campaign that the Murdoch pressgang will mount at the beginning of June will see the electorate coming to their senses, realising the harm that we will suffer if we continue in that broken-down assembly that is steadily falling apart in terms of its economy and migration.
The Ford Scorpio engine. The vehicle, still in excellent condition, has only done 35,862 miles since 1997.
Braving the bitter cold , the temperature on 7 C in this miserably bold Spring, I went in to Lincoln on the scooter to purchase another book at Waterstone's that had been saved for me - "With Winston Churchhill at the Front", published at £19.99 (what an absurd price!) by Frontline Books, amazingly printed and bound in Malta. Back home, just managing to avoid a heavy sleet shower, it was obviously too cold to work outside in the garden, so I undertook some cleaning jobs in the house, as well as setting up the web-editor for this week's diary. I am now up to the 948th edition this week, making me wonder whether I will manage to reach to 1,000th mark. It is going to be a tussle between me and the laptop, depending upon which goes first.
There was the monthly meeting of the Village's Retired Gentlemen's Club today, but I decided along with a neighbour not to attend. Initially, the Club had about 12 members, but now there is only a handful who attend, last month's meeting seeing only 4 present. It begins to look as if the Club is about to fold up, having seen better days, like most of the members. To all things there is a season.....
During the day I sought the advice of a friend about holiday medical insurance, having had a quote from Saga for £144.50, which I thought was far too high, even if I am so old, only having osteoarthritis as a medical condition, which is hardly life threatening. He gave me two companies, one of which did not cover geriatrics, but the other quoted me £50.25 for similar cover to Saga, so I accepted that. I am certainly looking forward to our June holiday in Mijas in Spain, seeing wonderful sunshine for an entire week.
Our Spring this year is a write-off, and according to the long-term forecast it is going to be a chilly and wet summer. Thank heavens, therefore, for the conservatory, where today I sheltered out of the sleet shower. As I so frequently mention, the conservatory was the best investment we ever made now that the summers have become colder and wetter, hardly distinguishable from the winters. I can still remember those wonderful warm summer evenings when we used to sit outside drinking wine with the neighbours. Last year we only sat outside on about a couple of occasions.
Mrs. Copeland went out to lunch with an old lady she visits each week, so I had lunch at home on my own, heaving soup and bread rolls and a half bottle of white wine, only having this light lunch as we were going out to have supper at the local pub/restaurant "Woodocks" where the beer is always excellent (pity about the ghastly relayed pop music from which there is no escape).
We had two scam telephone calls during the day, both coming up with false numbers on the caller display unit. I followed Mrs. C's advice, letting the telephone ring without the call, thereby wasting their scammers' time, and this seems to be a much better idea. Thank heavens for caller display - an essential device for all telephone users.
I enjoyed the session at Woodcock's though I had to send back the 10 ozs rump steak. I had asked for it to be cooked medium, but because it was so unpalatably thick, a large portion being gristle , it was quite rare. Fortunately, it was replaced with a fine piece, so all was well. As always, the beer was in wonderful condition. The only thing that spoils the place is the dreadful relayed musak from which there is no escape, much of it involve endless items of women screeching. A wailing Tom farmyard cat sounds better than that.
Why they have to have this utterly horrible tuneless musak is a mystery. On leaving we were given a card inviting suggestions "to make your visit more enjoyable." I sent an e-mail suggesting that they should have some tuneful, relaxing music instead of that raucous rubbish, but it will make not the slightest difference. This musak comes from a central source, and managers have to accept it whether they like it or not. A great shame, for I know of some people who are put off going to the place because of the unpleasant music.
As we made our way to the car it was bitterly cold, showing 4 C on the car's temperature gauge, there being a bitter north-east wind that really cuts through you. In Suffolk they call it a lazy wind as it goes through you rather than round you. Today, in addition to the fierce hailstorm here, there was snow at a cricket match at the Oval. So much for that "Oh to be in England now that April's there." Were Mr. Browning alive today I think he would change his remarks, not wanting to come back to this rotten Spring weather.
Back home I read some more of "Chaos and Caliphate", which I am enjoying, even though I find the author's very obvious anti-American stance unpleasant, such bias tending to destroy reasoned judgement. Admittedly, though, that dreadful woman Clinton made a complete hash with her intervention in Libya. Having welcomed the deposition of Gaddafi, she welcomed the rebel leaders in Benghazi, not for a moment enquiring who or what they represented, subsequently finding that they were a bunch of thugs, many of them representing Islam. She was absolutely hopeless in dealing with foreign policy, not having a clue about the Middle Eastern problems.
I just cannot believe that the Americans, whom I greatly admire, can be so incredibly stupid as to elect that awful and untrustworthy Clinton Woman who will drag the nation down into the mire, having the country loathed all around the world. Do the Americans not realise the terrible trouble we had in electing a woman, still suffering from her little shopkeeper's concept of economics, and who dreadful administrations are still causing us trouble, especially with her belief that service industries were more important than manufacturing concerns? I can see that Mr. Trump might be somewhat frightening, but at least he would be better than an interfering, busybody woman at the helm.
WEDNESDAY 27 APRIL
Good news this morning, suggesting trebles all round, as "Private Eye" would say. To begin with there was the resounding victory of Mr. Trump in five states, now making it almost certain that he will become the Republican candidate, "hopefully" being able to defeat that Clinton woman. Then there was the splendid news that the comments made by the lame duck President Obama, suggesting we should remain in the EU, has resulted in the Out campaign gaining 2 points in the latest opinion polls. So we are now awaiting the massive press campaign from Mr. Murdoch's empire, possibly beginning in June, to take us out of the circus, getting our sovereignty back and no longer being dominated by the Germans.
On the day's worksheet that Mrs. Copeland gives me there was an item to clean the inside of a large window in the parlour, having to take down the heavy secondary double glazing. I was rather dubious about undertaking the mission, having to use a step ladder to get at the window and remove a long row of books, fearful that it would make the arthritis in my knees even worse, but I eventually managed to complete the work, receiving some praise.
In line with my predictions, UK's economic growth in the first quarter of this year fell to a pathetic 0.4%. The second quarter will see a fall to 0.3%, subsequent quarters also falling by 0.1% so that by the Spring of next year the country will be back in recession the housing market having come a right cropper. The question, of course, is how this country will manage in being in an ever deepening recession if we come out of Europe? This is certainly a worry, but it can be argued that the eurozone, already in a dreadful economic mess, will be in an even worse condition, so maybe it will be as well for us to be out of that economic and political muddle, dominated by immigration.
Cow Parsley - Anthriscus sylvestris - in my section of the wildlife garden. Unfortunately, Mrs. Copeland regards it as an ever encroaching weed.
After lunch I did some more leaf-clearance, so one way and another it was quite a busy day. I had planned to do some more clearance work in the garden, but at about 3.30 p.m. the monsoon arrived again. I have been recording the weather every day since 1970, and looking back there has never been such a persistently cold and wet Spring as this one. Of course, we will be told by the forecasters that this has been one of the warmest weathers ever, which is calculated on a national average, taking no account of the conditions here in Lincolnshire.
The evening was spent by the fireside, reading some more of "Chaos & Caliphate", learning more about the disasters of the Americans and the British when interfering in the affairs of other countries. With all the warring factions, including Sunni against Shia and several other opposing factions, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand all the issues, but at least the author explains that "In Iraq the US was the supporter of the Shia Arabs and Kurds against the Sunni Arabs. In Afghanistan the US supported the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara against the Pashtun communities."
In Syria, the Americans and British are said to be making the mistake of wanting to depose Assad, apparently not understanding that they are supporting the opposing Islamic groups, allowing them to take over, whereas Russia is not making this phenomenal mistake. Indeed, it can be argued that the Americans and British are making the similar mistake that they made in Libya - namely, replacing Gaddifi with a bunch of thugs.
More and more books are being written about the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, but nearly all of them are in paperback - a form I dislike so much. However, as I seem to be moving away from studying the Second World War to these conflicts, and would therefore like to purchase the books, I will obviously have to put aside my prejudice against paperbacks. I suppose the paperbacks are all right if they are the same measurement of most hardback books - Octavo 8vo 9" x 6". It is when they are smaller than that, as with most fiction, that paperbacks are so unpleasant to read with their cramped printface.
THURSDAY 28 APRIL
Three weeks ago I put in an XL printer cartridge in my HP Envy printer, thinking that the XL, costing quite a bit more, would last considerably longer. Alas, it lasted only a week longer, so I might as well go back to using the standard cartridge. This printer has been a big disappointment, so expensive to run, and I plan to scrap it at the end of this month, writing off the expense. Various readers have suggested economies, but this usually means a worsening of the print quality.
It seems that any new product is worse than the previous one, something I find with my upgraded mobile telephone Samsung Galaxy A, which is not nearly as good as my earlier Samsung Galaxy Ace 2. The camera is not as good; it is far more complicated and slower to use, and costs twice as much in operational costs. Moral: Never upgrade, for you will end up with an inferior product. I suppose the trouble with the new mobile telephone is that I received a very poor deal from O2. "Caveat emptor" , as they say.
To add to my woes the swivel chair that I use in our "office" has broken, several of the castors having fallen off and cannot be replaced. I will therefore obviously have to buy a new one from Staples in Lincoln. We seem to have reached the stage in life when everything is falling apart, including ourselves. During the morning I went in to Staples to have a look at the chairs, seeing one at £89 that should be suitable.
Oilseed rape, part of the cabbage family, now in bloom in the village.
Yesterday Mrs. Copeland went with an elderly female neighbour for a walk along the village road that is now closed for further repairs. One of the workmen was telling them that although there had been cones indicating the closure of the road for a week, there were some drivers who took down the cones and drove along the highway, forcing the workmen onto the banks. .It seems utterly incredible that drivers can behave in such a terrible manner, though that it what it is like here in Lax Britannica.
There was an ignorant and offensive letter in our local weekly newspaper in today's edition, saying that Mr. Hunt, the Health Secretary, does not care about the National Health Service and should be sacked. What utter nonsense, the whole point being that the Secretary is rightly ensuring that the NHS is a full seven-day service, not the 9-5, weekends off, that the well-paid junior doctors apparently want. As was reported in yesterday's press, the public is losing support for the strike action, and we must hope that, encouraged by this support, Mr. Hunt will not give in and pay the Danegeld. It is certainly going to be a test of this Government's ability to stand up against unreasonable demands.
On the news this morning I heard that a group of economists have stated that the UK will be far better off, having a greater economic growth and higher incomes, if we have the good sense to leave the Unholy Alliance. On the other hand, Foxtons the estate agency has said that uncertainly about the referendum will "cool the market". This is the very thing that needs to happen, for the grossly over-valued property market is in any event heading for an almighty tumble, whatever the result of the referendum. The property market has now reached the dangerous stage in which first-time buyers are excluded, and this is always a warning that a fall is on the way.
The "hit rate" on this diary continues to fall, faster than the Government's popularity. I suppose it raises the question for whom I write the diary: is it for myself, a form of catharsis, a rant against the worsening of life in this rundown country, making me feel better, or is it because of wanting it publicised on the Internet, knowing that there is no editorial control, therefore of no account? In other words: why do I write this diary that takes me about 17 hours a week to compile? I am not sure I known the answer, though I am becoming increasingly aware that more and more people are not finding it of any interest.
A quiet day at home after going in to Lincoln to purchase an "i" and a black cartridge for my HP Envy printer, costing £24.29 after a 10% discount. During the evening, sitting by the fireside I read some more of "Chaos & Caliphate".
Lincoln 28th April, 2016
Diary of an Octogenarian
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