DIARY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN
- John Copeland -
Friday 5th December - Thursday 11th December, 2014
Wheel at the Lincoln Christmas Market. Photograph by granddaughter Chloe.
"The exquisit art of idleness, one of the most important things that an university can teach".
FRIDAY 5 DECEMBER
For several months I have been saying in this diary that there will have to be massive cuts in public expenditure, representing an austerity programme in 2015 the like of which we have never seen before in this ailing little island. Now all my warnings are coming to fruition, indicating that you really do read it here first, even if the entries are far too long. Yesterday, for instance, the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that "The plans set out by George Osborne in the Autumn Statement on Wednesday will require government spending cuts on a colossal scale after the election". The Institute indicated that "just £35bn of cuts had already happened, with £55bn yet to come."
The front page of the "i", which I have now started taking instead of "The Times", having found the "Times" columnists so infuriating and ridiculous (thereby saving 90 pence a day), has the front-page headings: "Credit card nation" - "Revealed: public must go on £360 billion borrowing binge to make Chancellor's deficit sums add up" - "Osborne's economic plan is reliant on big rise in household debt to boost growth" - "Colossal cuts will be needed to balance Britain's books." Inside there was the statement: "If the public fails to spend then growth would collapse and the Government's deficit would likely to start increasing again."
In other words, we are going along the same path that led to the recent credit crunch. In terms of economics the present policy is disastrous, for cutting thousands of public sector jobs will mean a reduction in consumer expenditure and an increased welfare bill; in terms of politics it is dishonest, especially as it will, as part of the Conservative catechism of benefiting the rich and hurting the poor and the sick, more than likely hit the poorest sections of the country far more than the wealthy.
The danger is that this unfairness could have serious repercussions; indeed, I worry that we could see extensive civil disturbances in the country in 2015, especially in the larger cities, if the Cameroons win the election, as now seems likely. The fair way to deal with this necessary austerity programme is to raise taxes, possibly bringing in a 50% tax, or even 60%, on salaries over £200,000, with a similar tax on bonuses above that level. Raising VAT is a regressive tax, hitting the poorer who have to spend all their income. Additionally, as part of the austerity, all foreign aid could be cut out completely, and we could stop interfering in the affairs of other nations.
The real worry for the present Chancellor is that the housing market, on which the so-called economic growth has almost entirely depended, along with rising consumer expenditure, is well on the way down. Two properties in our village had to be withdrawn after several months as there were no offers, and apart from London there are similar downward market trends all around the country, suggesting that the deceitful and disastrous policy of the of this calamitous Chancellor in believing rising house prices represent economic growth is going to end in tears.
It made me laugh to read in the press that the Chancellor had "lashed out" at the BBC for one of its political editors having dared to present the Autumn Statement as an economic and political shambles. Apparently, Mr. Norman Smith, the BBC's assistant political editor, had said that while there was a lot of enthusiasm on the Conservative Front Bench for the Statement, "It reads like a book of doom. It is utterly terrifying, suggesting that spending will have to be hacked back to the levels of the 1930s as a proportion of GDP. That is an extraordinary concept, you're back to the land of 'Road to Wigan Pier'". Naughty old BBC for telling the truth! Mr. Smith should become the political writer of the year for having had the courage to bell such a very nasty and vicious cat.
Over the years I have kept in contact, albeit somewhat intermittently, with a schoolfriend. school. Sadly, he told me earlier this year that he was suffering from Parkinson's Disease, now necessitating having to move to a bungalow. In a Christmas card that I received today he wrote in a rather shaky hand: "I expect you are delighted to be 80. I never expected to be so old." It saddened me to read these comments, making me realise that the medicine men with their pills and potions try to keep us old buggers alive, yet most of us end up with some serious malady, having to move to a retirement home, watching the idiot's lantern all day.
It was Dylan Thomas who advised us that we should fight against the dying of the light, but it is all to no purpose, for as Shakespeare more realistically said: "The bright days are done and we are for the dark." It makes me feel very depressed, especially when so many of my dear friends have departed this life, and that, as a consequence, I find myself increasingly on my own. It was the late Widow Nell, whom I miss so much, who told me that the world closes in on you when you are old, and I am now beginning to appreciate the wisdom of her words. And rather like Housman's observation in "A Shropshire Lad", I am aware that "Now of my three score years and ten/Twenty will not come again."
Policemen at the Christmas Market, dealing with the traffic.
With much of "Uphill" Lincoln a no-go area as a result of the Christmas Market, I was at least able to go to the outskirts of the city to purchase an "i" this morning and to post Christmas cards to friends abroad. Much to my surprise the post office within the Market area was completely empty, the pleasant young female behind the counter telling me that they lose money when the Market is on, the locals staying away. I have heard other retailers making similar comments, and as most of the stallholders are from out of the county, the City probably makes very little money; indeed, I understand that the City Council has made a financial loss of several thousands in previous years.
The rest of the day was mercifully spent at home. Unfortunately, the arthritis in my legs and spine is becoming worse than ever, making it difficult for me to move around. My mother ended up in a wheelchair because of arthritis, and my paternal grandmother was bedridden with the malady during the closing years of her life. Alas, it begins to look as if I am going the same way. The "Flexiseq" gel that I have been using for the past fortnight brings some relief when applied early morning and late at night, though the relief only last for a few hours. I gather that there is no real cure, other than a knee replacement, which would be far too dangerous at my age. Moral: Keep away from surgeons when you are over 70 years of age.
Sitting reading by the blazing log fire, I thought of all those sad souls who were miserably tramping round the Christmas Market in the bitter cold, buying up all the tat and trinkets. Those who came by coach and omnibus from far away, stuck for hours before the transport returned them home, probably end up drowning their sorrows in one of the pubs, no doubt resolving never to come back. At least the publicans do well, if nobody else, and I suppose it has to be admitted that women and children enjoy the Market, most men wisely staying at home.
SATURDAY 6 DECEMBER
Mrs. Copeland bought at copy of our local newspaper , costing £1. I briefly looked at the paper today, ploughing my way through the advertisement-dominated jumble of pages, eventually seeing that a county Member of Parliament had experienced some trouble with his Twittering account. I have to admit that I am not at all conversant with this Twitter arrangement, but from what I gathered a photograph of a woman tied to a chair had somehow appeared on his account, obviously causing him considerable embarrassment.
I have never taken part in any Twitter facility, and will never do so, believing that it is far too dangerous for respectable law-loving geriatrics, bearing in mind that in all my days I have never had a speeding fine, not even a parking ticket. Nevertheless, I occasionally put on contributions to my Facebook, not enjoying the facility all that much, far preferring this diary on which it is not possible for anybody to put on women tied to chairs or any other such salacious photographs.
Mrs. Copeland also brought home a copy of today's "Times" from Waitrose, free when you spend over £10. This is the time of year when reviewers present their "Books of the Year", selecting all manner of esoteric books that nobody has ever heard of by way of indicating how incredibly clever they are. Today's very clever selections included: "In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette"; "The Impossible Exile -: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World"; and "The Smile Revolution: In 18th Century Paris". Oh, what clever blighters! Perhaps I ought to say I greatly enjoyed something along the lines of "Early Washing Machines in Watford", and "Manchester Mechanics' Institutes 1970-80".
There are times when I fear that I must have a masochistic streak, for although I am incensed about everything Matthew Parris, writes, one of the few survivors of the dreadful days of Thatcher the Terrible, I continue to read his polemics each Saturday in "The Times", the right-wing writing making me realise why people turn to Labour to get away from the callousness, greed and selfishness of the Nasty Party. Today the headlines in his column read: "A small state should be celebrated, not feared," adding: "The Tories shouldn't have to scare voters into accepting cuts. They need to argue the virtues of self-reliance."
Presumably he has been reading Samuel Smiles' "Self Help", wanting to take us back to the 1930s. It would seem, though, that he has absolutely no understanding of economics, for how will the thousands of public sector workers thrown out of their jobs, having little hope of getting alternative employment, ever manage self-reliance? It reminded me of the saying of an ardent feminist: "They taught me to fly, then took away the sky." Perhaps we can hope that there will be a big fall in newspaper circulation that sees our Matt losing his job, thereby seeing how he gets on with self-reliance on the dole with his Conservatives views.
By way of making myself even more annoyed after reading this Parris polemic, I unwisely looked at Caitlin Moran's column in the Magazine section in which she mentions "9 places where lost things are", one of the places being: "Outside, in your recycling box, in the rain. Right at the bottom. Hurry! Here comes the bin lorry! Go out there in your too-short nightdress and scrabble through it in an ungainly crouch, against the clock. Oh look - a fox has done its business on top of your recycling. Now you smell like the drains of Mordor, Enjoy your day."
Presumably this is meant to be funny, whereas I find it about as humorous as a Methodist meeting. Maybe it is because I am old and past it, having totally lost my sense of humour, as happens to many geriatrics, not even finding the statements of the Chancellor funny any more. Even so, despite this caveat, I find it very difficult to believe that "The Times", once a serious "newspaper of record", can resort to having something that I consider to be absolute rubbish, the sort of thing you might expect to see in a journal for teenagers. But then other people seem to like the nonsense, suggesting that I have not moved with the times, now devoid of any appreciation of modern humour. It is all very sad.
On the way to the Christmas Market.
In the post yesterday there was a Christmas card from one of Mrs, Copeland's friends, saying: "We have stopped sending Christmas letters because now we are so far into retirement and one year is much like the previous one." I found this to be very sad, for it is certainly not true that my years are "like the previous one," every day bringing some new challenge There is no doubt, though, that the season of superannuation can be very boring for some people, especially if they do not have an absorbing interests. Those people for whom work was their entire life are the ones who suffer most in retirement.
Repeatedly in this diary I have warned that we are becoming a police state, complete with Thought Police. Today I read that one of the Chief Constables has warned that we are in fact becoming a police state, complete with the Thought Police, all under the guise of defending us against the t*****ts. Once again you read it here first. If there is anything the Cameroons hate more than the NHS, which they will substantially reduce if returned to power in May of next year, it is freedom of speech. The Tories also dislike the BBC for telling political truths, and the Nasty Party has contempt and loathing for pensioners, dearly wanting to take away the winter fuel allowance and the free idiot lantern licence from us.
There was another warning, this time about immigration, from Frank Field, a former first-rate Labour Minister and an excellent chap, who is quoted as saying that it "could turn very nasty", commenting that "If you look at the rate of increase of the population, then every two-and-a-half years with people coming in for the first time and with children of the new immigrant community, we are actually increasing our population faster than the whole size of Birmingham.
"And yet there is no plan to increase housing, or places in schools, or places in the NHS at a time when we will in the next Parliament, have to make cuts greater than the cuts actually made in this Parliament". In other words, in a country that is grossly overpopulated, already unable to finance its public services properly, we just cannot take in this massive number of immigrants every year - the very point I have also been making in this diary, warning that 2015 could see racial rioting in our streets.
I was certainly so thankful and grateful that I did not have to go onto the streets in Lincoln today, thereby not having to battle against the maddening Christmas shoppers spending money on their credit cards, going nowhere near that circus of a Christmas Market. With other neighbours, Mrs. C. and I were invited to lunch at the house of a neighbouring couple, having a splendid time. The gathering went on until 8.30 p.m..
SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER
As my last book purchase this year I bought from Waterstone's in Lincoln a biography of Nye Bevan, the splendid Health Minister in the Attlee Government, undoubtedly the finest Government this country has ever seen and will probably ever see again, bearing in mind the political lightweights we see today. What seems so surprising is that all history shows that politicians from working class backgrounds (I assume we are still allowed to use that designation) have made far better politicians than those from the upper classes. Indeed, the more upper class, the more stupid are the politicians.
I suppose the difference can be explained that the upper classes, educated in the rarefied and cacooned environment in of one of those nauseating public schools, lack any understanding of life, especially so far as the great mass of men are concerned. Sadly, female politicians are never any good, as we saw with Thatcher the Terrible, from whose disastrous administration we are still suffering as a result of her little shopkeeper economics. The ladies are wonderful in the caring industries, but seem to be far too strident and humourless in any political chamber, presumably trying far too hard to prove that they are the equal of men.
I now have a female chiropodist, barber and dentist, and they are excellent, far better than men I have had during my retirement. The trouble with women politicians is that, having to exist in what has always been essentially a male club, they are in direct competition with men, trying to prove themselves by being more strident and aggressive, totally lacking in any sense of humour. I suppose the only instance of a successful female politician is Angela Merkel of Germany but even she has been a bit nasty to our Mr. Cameron about immigration.
A neighbour's Christmas tree, known as a "Testing Tree". You ask friends and visitors what they think of the tree, and if they say it is nice you know their judgement is faulty and they are not reliable.
Having had a sharp frost yesterday, whereas today it was much milder and quite breezy, the remaining leaves on the trees were falling in large numbers, and soon they will be bare until April. As Shakespeare said: "Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang." According to the press we are going to have severe weather during the coming week, probably having gales of up to 70 mph, possibly with heavy snowfalls. Fortunately, these accounts are usually exaggerated, and in any event in Lincolnshire we usually escape the worst of the weather, which is some comfort.
As always on the Sabbath day we went to have drinks at the local Club at 3.30 p.m. Still feeling a bit hung over from yesterday, I drank orange juice initially, before switching to a pint-and-a-half of beer. In a group of men, the woman having fled when we started talking about economics, we were talking about the outrageous proposal of the Cameroons to take public expenditure back to the level of the 1930s, effectively destroying the National Health Service that the Party has always loathed. One of our contingent was saying that the public were not going to accept this massive cutback, and that he was going to vote Labour for the first time in many years. I begin to think that I will follow suite.
On the other hand I think of the kind of world the extreme Socialists would have us live in, , presumably one that was ruled and dominated by irresponsible trade unions; where any form of enterprise and excellence would be severely punished; and where the poor would inherit the earth, sponging off the few people who managed to make a success of their lives. Everything would be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, complete with comprehensive schools where, in an example of Gresham's Law, the bad drives out the good. Not the kind of world I would like to live in. I suppose I just do not like political extremes, which are with us during days of economic and social turmoil, now being experienced in this country.
After dinner I sat by the fireside reading some more of "Ashes in the Wind", in which a former Chairman of the BBC records the history of his Anglo-Irish family. The first 150 pages, describing the Irish conflict in the years 1908-1924, were excellent, dealing with two friends who were on opposing forces, one a Republican, the other a Nationalist. Unfortunately, the story moves on to describe later generations, including a retired Treasury official who spends his time playing golf, resulting in all manner of tedious golfing issues. I have often found keen golfers very boring people, usually middle class with not much culture. After 200 pages I gave up as the story completely "lost the plot", becoming immensely tedious.
Although disappointed with this failure, I made a start on "Leaving Berlin" by Joseph Kanon, which was even worse, if that can be imagined, despite having had a note on it in Waterstone's saying it was the most exciting thriller of the year. The novel consists almost entirely of dialogue with hardly any descriptive passages, resembling the script for a play at the theatre. After 35 pages, finding it so unbelievably dull, I gave up. I begin to think that even I could write a better novel than all that tedious stuff.
I therefore went to bed, feeling somewhat depressed at having bought two dud books. I really must be more careful in my book selection in future. Perhaps I ought to give up book-buying next year, building model aeroplane kits or doing jigsaw puzzles instead. It would save a lot of money at a time when living costs are shooting ahead every month, causing immense hardship in parts of the country.
MONDAY 8 DECEMBER
I found that I had run out of the black printer cartridge, necessitating a visit to Staples in Lincoln. I reckon I spend about £30 a month on these printer cartridges, my HP Photosmart 5510 having four of them, costing about £46 in all, though there is a £1 allowance on every returned empty cartridge. I also bought a "Times" and an "i".
The front-page headline in "The Times" told us that, "Middle classes facing catastrophe of rate rise", it being pointed out that many people had unwisely bought at the peak of the market, likely to be faced with a £16 increase a month on their mortgage payments for every 0.5% increase in interest rates. Many of these householders will end up with the misery of negative equity, possibly for many years. The problem for the Government is that it has an utterly confused and complicating economic policy. On the one hand, as I mentioned last week, it wants to encourage consumer indebtedness to lessen the deficit, yet those who spend hundreds of pounds on credit will suffer if interest rates have to be increased to check the bonanza.
The other problem that the present Government faces is the increasing disparity between the rich and poor. The Church of England has entered into the affray by saying that more must be done to help the growing ranks of the poor, more and more "food banks" having to be provided around the country, though a Government Minister has responded by saying that "Work rather than food banks is the answer to poverty."
It seems amazing that it has been left to a Church leader to point out this suffering, whereas Miliband makes hardly any comment at all; indeed, you hardly hear about him nowadays. Alas, he seems hopelessly lost and politically adrift, not knowing how to respond to the Government's porky that we are booming. Come the election next May, the Cameroons will be saying "Don't let Labour spoil our recovery", while poor little Red Ed. will be as quiet as the Tar Baby.
Mrs. Copeland went off walking with the Village Ladies' Rambling group about 9.30 a.m., which has always seemed to me to be a form of punishment, especially on these cold and frosty days when all old people should be wrapped up warmly at home. However, I have always hated walking on any account, much preferring to use wheels on which you can see far more of the countryside. Whenever I see other ramblers going through the village, weighed down with rucksacks and all looking so incredibly miserable, I cannot help feeling sorry for them, along with those demented joggers who will all end up with chronic arthritis in their 50s.
Why is it that robins figure so frequently on Christmas cards, as on this one? Robins are nasty, agggressive little creatures, the Conservatives of the ornithological world.
On the local news on the BBC website I saw that, "People in Lincolnshire have come bottom of a Christmas spending league following a survey of more than 1,200 people across the county and Yorkshire. The BBC survey suggests the average spend in the county is expected to be £433.16 - £30 less than the average across the areas surveyed. The figures suggest 52% of people in Lincolnshire are worried about Christmas spending, the joint highest."
One of the joys that I have in writing this diary is receiving comments on the entries from highly intelligent and cultured people, some of them correcting my mistakes. I recently made a mistake about immigrants and had to be put right, and there have been other occasions when I have been gently chided for my views. Today I had a very interesting e-mail about the population pressures in south-east England, saying: "The triangle roughly based on London, Oxford, and Cambridge is extremely prosperous even by western European standards. It is also horribly overcrowded, expensive, and self-regarding. Even just outside that triangle there's a great deal of endemic poverty and poor employment."
I can fully agree with this as I go down to Essex once a month with Mrs. C to see mother-in-law, the county being not so very far away from the said triangle, seeing the massive population pressures, houses being built on every spare plot of land, and the traffic horrendous. These visits make me so thankful that I moved long ago from Essex, subsequently ending up in Lincolnshire, that oasis of delight for retired people, not unlike north Essex was fifty or more years ago. Here there is not the ruthless greed and there is time to stop and stare, unlike the mad rush in the Home Counties.
My correspondent is now based in Scotland, where: "There's no sign of overcrowding. Quite the reverse: land area not that much smaller than England, population less than five million. One and a half million live in and around Glasgow; half a million in Edinburgh. So huge parts of Scotland are very lightly peopled" Unfortunately, though, there is "a very serious problem of unemployment in much of the country where once-busy manufacturing towns were de-industrialised by Thatcher and there's nothing to provide jobs.
"Kirkcaldy, a dismal town along the coast, is a case in point. It had a very flourishing colliery (I went down it in the early 1970s and it was state of the art), the biggest linoleum manufacturer in the world, an aluminium plant… all gone and nothing to replace them apart from "retail parks", Kwik Fit and the like. The once-prosperous High Street now has many betting shops, greasy spoon cafes, and pawnbrokers."
It is against this background that it is a nonsense to talk of the UK having a growth rate of 3% next year, a total myth that bears no relation to reality. If we have the greatest increase in economic growth in the world, why has there been such a massive increase in food banks, as had been pointed out by the Archbishop of Canterbury? Presumably the answer is that only the rich and those living in London have benefited.
There were two items in the "i" that interested me today - 1. A letter indicating the distortion of the inflation index: "The Government's inflation figures are a total distortion of the facts, as the real cost of living, which is determined by essential items such as food, transport, housing and energy, has been rising at an average of 6% a year since 1980." This is the very point that I have regularly been making in this diary, pointing out that it is a nonsense to have a 640-item database to determine the CPI, even including items such as iPads.
A true and far more accurate measure of inflation would be to relate the index to essential household items, as the letter-writer suggests, limiting the CPI to food, energy, transport, insurances, council tax, and water, while the RPI could add mortgage costs. However, it is possible to determine the true rate of inflation as measured by the CPI by multiplying the official rate by 3 and adding 2. The CPI is now said to be 1.3%, so we have the realistic figure of 5.9%, in line with what the correspondent was saying.
The second item relates to overseas aid, the "i" quoting an editorial in the "Sunday Express" saying: "Our overseas aid often finds its way into the pockets of corrupt foreign officials, instead of going to help the impoverished people who are supposed to benefit. Furthermore, some of it goes to countries such as India, which is now so rich it even has its own successful space programme." I have also made this point, suggesting charity should begin at home where there are now thousands dependent upon food banks. I tend to agree with Ukip that all foreign aid should be stopped. The motives are to be admired, but how can giving aid to Syria help, and where does the money end up?
The evening was spent by the fireside on a very chilly night, making a start on the novel "The Fires of Autumn" by Irene Nemirovsky - at last a novel that I am enjoying. I made a further attempt at reading "Leaving Berlin" that I gave up on yesterday, but I found it just as tedious with its endless dialogue. It must surely qualify for the "Most Boring Novel of the Year".
If I presented the books I have enjoyed most during the year (all hardbacks, of course - I never buy paperbacks) , I would select the biography of "Victoria" by A.N.Wilson, and the biography of Lord Halifax by Andrew Roberts; "Last Man Off" by Matt Law, describing a trawler tragedy; "Monty's Men" by John Buckley,; and the novels "Black Snow" by the Irishman Paul Lynch, and "Shame of the Captives" by Thomas Keneally
On the 10 o'clock news on Radio 4 - "The World Tonight", I heard the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire saying that if the proposed cuts in the public services, including the police, went ahead he would no longer be able to maintain a front-line service. I can well believe there is no exaggeration as it becomes increasingly apparent that the Cameroons if returned will virtually dismantle the public services, severely cutting back the NHS that they have always loathed and despised. To reduce the police forces at a time of likely social disorder seems to be utter madness.
As I have remarked earlier, it is all very worrying, for the British public, especially the poorer section who will be suffering most, will not accept the magnitude of these cuts, even though burglars will welcome them, having a free hand. The worry is that this country could be pushed in to revolution; indeed, I think this is far more of a threat to the stability of our country than any amount of t****sm", much of which may be exaggerated to frighten the populace. Maybe starting all over again, as Germany did after the Second World War, would be a Good Thing, maybe the only way to go.
There is no doubt that the frightening Autumn Statement, saying that the Tories will take us back to the limited public expenditure of the 1930s, has certainly changed my political outlook, making me realise, albeit rather belatedly, that I could never vote for a Conservative Government, especially one freed of the moderating influence of the Liberal Democrats. Indeed, it could be said that we are now seeing the Conservatives in their really nasty political colours.
I just wish, though, that little Red Ed would wake up and show some signs of life in wanting to win the next election. What on earth has happened to the little man? Can it be that he does not want his party to win, knowing that 2015 is going to be one of the worst years in living memory in this country? That would make some sense.
TUESDAY 9 DECEMBER
There was the truly tremendous news today that the Conservative Party is considering bringing back grammar schools in its election manifesto. How wonderful that would be, enabling bright children to escape from the dumbing down of comprehensive school education, separating the sheep from the goats, on which all excellent educational provision depends. I have never been able to understand why Labour, even with its nauseating social engineering, has always been so opposed to grammar schools, for over the years they enabled many working class children to escape from their turgid backgrounds.
Presumably Labour's condemnation of grammar schools is based largely on their hatred of excellence, anything to do with high standards being regarded as elitism, everything being lowered to the common denominator. As Dr. Johnson said long ago: "Your levelleers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves.". And it is a nonsense, as I found when, as a Divisional Education Officer, I chaired the 11+ selection panels, to say that a child's intelligence cannot be determined at the age of 11 years. In most cases it can be determined at the age of 5 years.
I cringe in fear, though, as I mentioned yesterday, when I think of the Conservatives wanting to take back public sector spending to the 1930s, making me realise that you cannot pick 'n' mix with political parties. A letter in today's "i" put it well when it was said in a "Vision of Tory Britain": "If food banks did not exist there would have been many more million people in this country either dead from starvation or suffering from starvation or suffering as a result. They would have significantly reduced the welfare bill - which is exactly what this government wants.."
The letter goes on rightly to say that "Cameron and his cronies are merely carrying out Thatcher's policies that were halted by her being forced from power. I suggest the next development will be the eviction of all benefit claimants from council houses into work camps.", guarded by troops returning from Afghanistan. At present, this seems like exaggeration, but as mentioned earlier, a Cameroon government free of the modifying Liberal Decorates could see a descent into vicious ultra-conservatism, almost bordering on Fascism, and making the administration of Thatcher the Terrible seem moderate.
For those of us in retirement, not having to face the grim loss of a job, it will be a fascinating and interesting year on both the social and economic fronts, possibly seeing a very nasty election indeed. As it is, I believe there is an old Chinese curse that says "May you live in interesting times."
I was to have met a ladyfriend, my only long-time friend, this morning at a hotel in Lincoln - a meeting that we have once a month to recall old times. However, she sent me an e-mail - which luckily I saw in time on my mobile telephone, saying that her gas boiler had broken down for the third time in as many weeks, and an engineer was coming this morning, so we postponed the meeting until Thursday.
I dread anything breaking down, for there nowadays seem to be few people who have the necessary qualifications and experience to mend things - something that will no doubt become worse now that there are no apprenticeships in the skilled trades. My friend will therefore probably end up with a new boiler, which is the usual response these days. We had a boiler engineer last year who was absolutely useless; indeed, I wondered whether he knew how an oil boiler worked. Thankfully, we were recommended somebody else who was excellent.
After the rain
On the BBC news website I saw that, "Tesco shares plunge after the supermarket group warns full-year profits will be substantially below market expectations". It seems amazing that this firm was earlier regarded as the very pinnacle of retailing success, yet it seems to all tumbled down. I am not surprised, though, when I see the massive edifice that has been built in Lincoln - a vast structure that is far too large to offer any reasonable service. It seems that the firm has over-stretched itself, a common fault with businesses.
A corrspondent sent me an e-mail indicating "Daily Torygraph" site, saying that research has found that "Male bonding is more likely to lower a man's stress levels than a night out with his partner, or time spent with the family. The study – bound to be wheeled out as an excuse by men across the country – found males suffer less anxiety when out in a group." I had better not make any comment.
On a chilly evening, when the daytime temperature did not rise above 4.5 C, I read some more of "The Fires of Autumn" in the evening, a novel I am enjoying, unlike that appalling "Leaving Berlin."
There were big falls on the stock markets today, the FTSE falling by -142 points, and the Dow Jones index down -184. There are continuing worries that the euozone is about to go back into recession, and that China is also experiencing trouble. There is "no way" that the UK will continue to have economic growth against an insecure world background.
WEDNESDAY 10 DECEMBER
A correspondent has sent me an e-mail saying: "Did you see the OECD report that claims that Thatcherism in Britain has not only increased inequality but had it not been adopted GDP would be over 20% higher? Putting that in monetary terms it would mean an additional £300 billion on GDP, which with the current level of taxation would give the Treasury an extra £100+billion. In other words, the budget would be in surplus, not deficit. I suppose that Thatcherism was successful in that it achieved what its author intended; it made the rich much richer even if it left the country poorer."
A Christmas card that reminds us of the unweclome modern house soon to be built in our community, having been allowed on appeal, despite the opposition of householders in the area and the Parish Council, and the unanimous rejection by the Planning Committee of the local District Council.
I was not surprised to read that "Ofsted is warning that too many secondary schools in England are not making sufficient progress, with almost a third judged not to be good enough. Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, delivering the education watchdog's annual report, says that secondary schools have stalled. he says there are now 170,000 pupils in inadequate secondary schools, about 70,000 more than two years ago. Sir Michael says these schools need to concentrate on the basics". What a country! No wonder the Continentals refer to us as "Broken Britain".
Neither was I surprised to read that the British Chambers of Commerce have lowered their forecast for economic growth in the UK, no doubt soon to be followed by the OECD and the Confederation of What's Left of British Industry. When the eurozone is sinking back into recession, and when even China has had to lower interest rates to revive growth, there is "no way" that this country could achieve an earlier forecast growth of 3%. More like -3.0% later in 2015 and the Spring of 2016.
A female neighbour was having a luncheon party for some of her "girlie" friends, and as the husband obviously wanted to escape from this menagerie, I took him in my car with two friends to have lunch at "Woococks", an excellent local pub/restaurant. A pleasant occasion. How awful it would have been for him to have heard all that parrot-house chatter, so we really did him a good turn, for which he was exceedingly grateful.
The "i" today, which I now take each day rather than "The Times", had a report that "A shock manufacturing slump hit the pound yesterday." Shock - shome mishtake shurely, as they say in "Private Eye", for don't we all know, except the Chancellor, of course, that "manufacturing output remains 5.5% below its precession peak in the first quarter of 2008." As James Knightley at ING Bank said: "All this goes to show that this rebalancing of the economy isn't happening. It feels like nothing has changed."
There were predictions early today that the stock markets would recover, showing substantial gains. The reality: both the FTSE and the Dow Jones continue to fall.
The evening was spent reading some more of "The Fires of Autumn". Regrettably, I find that I cannot read for such long periods these days, usually ending up having a doze between reading chapters. It means that it takes me much longer to read a book, which is probably just as well as I will have to cut down on book buying in next year's austerity. Before getting up I have been reading "Slaughter on the Somme 1 July 1916 - The complete war diaries of the British Army's Worst Day" Reading such sentences as: "The assaulting British, though they fought stoutly, were, except for a few prisoners (30) annihilated."
THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER
I was reading that "Four in 10 adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are now eligible for statins, even though many are at low risk of a heart attack or stroke." I have been warned against them by several people, and I have therefore decided not to take the risk in starting a course, presumably one that would have gone on for the rest of my life.
During the week I heard about an elderly lady who had had a knee replacement undertaken at a private hospital, now finding that she cannot bend the leg, having to sit with it outstretched all the time. And there is another person I know of whose knee replacement went wrong. On the other hand, a fellow in the village in his early 60s had a successful replacement, and in a private hospital. The trouble seems to be that there are operational dangers for people over 70, in which bracket I obviously come, so I will keep away from the surgeons, especially as they killed off my father.
I was not surprised to read that the head of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has told Members of Parliament that the UK economy not only faced uncertainty from the eurozone and from other geopolitical pressures, but that the biggest uncertainty was low productivity in this country, the UK workers' productivity having remained weak, well below many other industrialised countries. In other words, we do not work hard enough in this country. Soon the country will be having a virtual ten-day shutdown in a celebration of Christmas, whereas the Germans and the Americans will be back at work on St. Stephen's Day.
The avenue of oaks, the leaves nearly all off.
In a chart headed "Poll of Polls" in yesterday's "i", Conservatives and Labour are placed "neck-and-neck", each on 31%, with Ukip third with 16% of the vote, and the poor little Lib-Dems struggling on 9%, just above the Greens on 7%. These readings were taken before the appalling and alarming Autumn Statement of the Chancellor - a statement that has certainly changed my political allegiance, finding that I could not vote for a party that joyfully wants to take us back to the public expenditure of the 1930s, making life impossible for the NHS and for most other public services.
It is said that Ukip will take away far more votes from the Conservatives than from Labour, which I suppose could put in Labour by default, especially if Red. Ed ever wakes up to the realisation that a general election is not so far away. Admittedly, the problem for Labour is that they know that they will also have to cut back public expenditure - something that they are loathe to do, though I suppose it can be argued that their cuts would be undertaken more fairly, increasing taxation for the wealthy, rather than the Tory hammering of the poor and the sick.
It rather worries me that I tend to agree with nearly everything Ukip propounds, even though I do not like the nationalism and apparent racism of a party that will not win more than about 4 seats next May, never being able to form a government. I agree with bringing back grammar schools; severely limiting immigration; keeping mothers with young children at home to look after them instead of dumping them in a bootie camp; cancelling all foreign aid; and reducing some taxes. I have an inherent dislike of Labour with its dumbing down, though as I have remarked earlier I fear there could be a revolution, seeing fighting in the streets, if the Conservatives get back in office.
Yesterday's "i" also had a report that, "Management consultants hired by the NHS are behaving like racketeers and arms dealers in time of war - making vast spoils from the Government's reorganisation of the health service, a senior NHS adviser warns today." Why, it might be asked, do we need these management consultants, having no experience of running a health service, when we pay enormous salaries to managers in the NHS?
Towards the end of my working days as a Divisional Education Officer, the Education Authority employed management consultants, and I was interviewed for about 10 minutes by a young lad who looked as if he was just out of short trousers, probably having recently come out of a Business School, having learnt about the latest fashionable gimmicks. The authority spent thousands of pounds on a worthless survey, subsequently not implementing any of the recommendations.
At 11.15 a.m. I met a friend for coffee - or rather wine for me - at a hotel in Lincoln. This is a monthly meeting I have with one of my longest standing friends, occasions that I always enjoy, even if we tend to talk too much about the good old days while mourning present manners and mores. This evening I will be going with Mrs. Copeland and other nearby residents to a neighbour's 76th birthday party, which will no doubt be enjoyable with much mirth and alcohol - those two ingredients, along with friendship - of and for the good life.
Lincolnshire 11th December, 2014
Diary of a Septuagenarian
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