DIARY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN
- John Copeland -
Friday 20th March - Thursday 26th March, 2015
Sunset, or modern art
"Ways for England to avoid sporting humiliation: Don't take part in any event that includes the following words - 1. Cup
3. Er..That's it.
Private Eye 20 March - 2 April, 2015. It is wise advice, thereby avoiding the humiliation we have in every sport on an international stage.
FRIDAY 20 MARCH - First day of Spring
With some of the neighbours I watched the eclipse of the sun at 9.30 a.m., but it was hardly noticeable here in Lincolnshire. Come to think of it, though, there is an eclipse of the sun nearly every day in these parts, seldom seeing it. The ladies used a colander and a white sheet of paper to mark the eclipse, and though this could be seen to some extent it was hardly all that impressive. There will not be another eclipse of the sun until 2026, by which time we will all be dead. It must have been very frightening in Medieval times with such eclipses, the populace probably feeling that it was the end of the world.
Rather naively, I thought that the Government had recently brought in legislation to stop scam telephone calls, yet so far this week we have received at least six, all from callers with an Indian sounding voice. Each one has come up with "International" on the caller display unit, or has given a false number that is easily recognisable as being a fraud, so it is an easy matter to lift up the receiver and then quickly put it down again. Nevertheless, it is annoying to have these nuisance calls, most of them scams.
What I should have realised is that the legislation only referred to these ghastly calls from firms in this country, there apparently being no way to stop those coming from abroad. In the past I have on several occasions had calls purporting to come from Windows, saying that a virus had been discovered on my computer. The unsuspecting person then has a virus put on the computer, being charged £56 for taking it off. Nasty stuff. Most of the unwanted calls are aimed at swindling the recipient, and must be particularly unpleasant and worrying for old folk living on their own.
I was pleased to read that nearly all the major economists are agreed that the Budget did absolutely nothing to benefit the UK economy, the dreadful Chancellor's emphasis having been on the demand side for political purposes, whereas the measures, if they were to have any meaningful purpose, needed to be concentrated on the supply side. What is so worrying is that the Cameroons have said that they will slash public expenditure by £30 billion if they are re-elected, God help us, though they have not said where the cuts will be made.
Nevertheless, we all know that they will involve crippling the National Health Service that the Cameroons have always hated, as well as hitting the poor and the sick, the worry being that the ever increasing divide between the rich and the poor could spark off a social revolution in this country - something that I really believe could happen during the summer months, seeing extensive fighting in the streets.
Under the give-away provisions of the Budget, I will be £24 better off a month after tax, but I would far rather have had no tax reduction, seeing that the money instead went to improving the National Health Service. However, in this country the populace wants a first-rate National Health Service, but does not want to pay for it, in the same way that there is a reluctance to spend money on defence, the present cuts making us increasingly vulnerable to an Isis attack.
Each year on the vernal equinox I put in the delightful photograph of a lass holding a very cheerful lamb, and nearly every year I am reproached for bad taste in a supposedly respectable diary. I just cannot believe, though, that the photograph is in any way offensive, though I am aware that we are becoming an increasingly narrow-minded and bitter, humourless society, almost as if we are going back to the terrible days of that evil dictator Cromwell, especially with the seemingly endless sexual witch-hunts. Maybe it is a characteristic of a nation in terminal decline, repression often being associated with the extreme politics that we are now experiencing, and which were seen in Germany between the wars.
A delightful photograph I put in each year to mark the vernal equinox, illustrating a very happy lamb. Invariably I receive complaints in our narrow-minded and humourless society.
On the BBC News website I saw that two Ukip election candidates were suspended and that a third stood down. Presumably, this is going to mean meltdown for the party, which was always a one-man band, Farage leading a weird bunch of odds and sods. There is no doubt in my mind that the party will be fortunate to win more than 2 seats in the forthcoming election. There was also the news that this Government has cut mental health provision by 8%, yet there has been plenty of money to finance wars, and the money that the Ministry of Defence wastes each year could probably give us new motorways throughout the land. Meanwhile, the FTSE reached a record high today, rising to 7,022. I wonder where it will be at Christmas? 5,500?
I was hearing today of an elderly fellow in his mid-80s who was suffering acute pain from sciatica and arthritis, the doctor having recommended that he should go to the Pain Clinic at the County Hospital, only to be told that he cannot have an appointment until May. What kind of nonsense is that?
In today's "i" I was amazed to see an advertisement for an iPhone that costs "from £43.49 a month." It makes me thankful that I only pay £14.37 a month for my mobile telephone that can receive e-mails and do almost as much as these newfangled devices. Why, then, do some people pay such exorbitant charges? Is it because they are attracted by something being "new 'n' improved" always wanting the latest toy? There is no doubt that these hateful iPhones are a form of comforter to many people. Go into any public place and at least half of the contingent will be on those damned appliances.
My surviving sister who lives down in Essex will be having her 67th birthday next Monday. As we have to allow three days for first-class post to reach Essex, I had to post the birthday card today - a dreadful service, but presumably the Royal Mail will soon be sold off to DeuschMail for a song, the excellent Angela Merkel subsequently appearing on the stamps. Oh that we had such an astute politician instead of the pygmies we have to endure. The service will then be far more expensive, but a good deal more efficient.
I cut the grass after lunch, seeing whether my acute arthritis in my spine and knees would enable me to complete the cutting. I managed to cut just half of the lawn, and then had to rest before continuing with the other half . Unfortunately the work made my arthritis even worse later on, and there is no doubt that I will to employ a gardener to do the work in the months ahead, probably once a fortnight, meaning more expense. There goes my Budget benefit of £24 a month!
The evening was spent by the fireside, reading some more of the book on the disastrous expedition to the North Pole. At times the rather flowery style makes me wince, but it is obviously a scholarly account of a voyage that ended is disaster, many of the crew dying. These days books are the great love of my life. Even holding a virgin hardback book gives me so much pleasure. The only problem is that I am a compulsive book-buyer, meaning that they accumulate. I now have about 15 waiting to be read.
As we had not been able to see the solar eclipse this morning, I switched on the television at 10 p.m. for the first time this year, hoping that it would be the main item on the BBC news bulletin. Alas, in the headlines it was the last scene of all, the business about the "Sun" reporters being the main and dominating item. I watched the programme for a few minutes, but eventually I could stand no more of a bulletin that seemed to be aimed at viewers with a mental age of about ten-and-a-half years, which I suppose is about right for about 75% of the population, especially now that educational provision is becoming so much worse.
I therefore switched off, thereby not seeing the eclipse item. At least it confirmed my view that the idiot's lantern is aimed principally at the working classes. Before the news bulletin there were clips of programmes coming shortly, all of them so trite and awful, complete rubbish. Thank heavens I do not have to pay the licence fee for all that rubbish. It would break my heart to have to pay £145 a year, which I believe is the current fee.
Were it not for watching DVDs, I would throw out the set into the street, delighting in seeing it smashing into scores of pieces. I am often told that I miss some very good programmes, which can only mean some very low tastes indeed. It will therefore be a long time before the lantern goes on again for a television programme.
SATURDAY 21 MARCH
Although I realise that it sounds arrogant and snobbish, I cannot face going in to Lincoln on a Saturday, not wanting to see the unbelievably awful gathering in the High Street during the weekend. Scruffy, uncouth and poorly educated, the Saturday shopping throngs give you a good idea of the extent to which this country has fallen apart, lacking any decent cultural standards, most of the populace looking as if they have been out of work for a decade.
At least the immigrants bring some higher standards, being better educated, more motivated and hard working, so perhaps we should welcome them into our midst. Indeed, were it not for their presence we would not have a National Health Service, not that we are likely to have one if the Conservatives are victorious in May.
A morning and afternoon therefore spent at home, far away from the madding crowd. They say that an Englishman's home is his castle, and it is obvious that such a defence is highly necessary in this rundown country with its miserable climate. No wonder ambassadors from other countries dread a posting to rain-soaked London.
I cut the grass for the first time this year, finding it too much for my arthritis. I will have to employ a gardener in future - more expense.
Mrs. Copeland went to Waitrose for the week's provisions during the afternoon. She had to go in the afternoon instead of the morning as many roads into Lincoln were closed because of a damn-fool running race. Why these people cannot run round a field, thereby causing no disruption, remains unclear. Mrs. C brought back a free copy of "The Times", which had a fascinating article by Philip Aldrick in the Business section, pointing out that the markets were heading for armageddon and that the figures and predictions presented in the Budget were pure fantasy.
Mr. Aldrick quotes the highly respected Claudi Borio, head of economics at the Bank of International Settlement, saying that "the current era of ultra-cheap money would test legal and political boundaries to the limit. The repercussions are bound to be significant." The article continues: "The problem is the big economic picture makes no sense. Markets are priced for armageddon, yet most economic forecasts point to robust growth....it's fantasy" - the very point that I made last Wednesday.
The question now is "When will the crash come?" The answer is that it will probably be after the election, possibly towards the end of the year or the early Spring of 2016. Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics has admitted that it underestimated the public debt by £5.5 billion. Public sector net debt was in fact £1,4685.5 billion at the end of February, equivalent to 79.6% of national income. How you have to laugh, but then mistakes are bound to be made at election times in this other Greece.
In my old age, having studied the dismal science at the London School of Economics way back in the mid 1950s, there are times when I worry that I may have lost an understanding of the various issues, especially when I hear the ridiculous optimism of the Chancellor. So I therefore find it very encouraging that all the points I have made in this diary about the appalling state of the UK economy are subsequently shown to be correct by leading economists. That is not arrogance on my part; instead, it is a regaining of confidence that can be badly dented in old age.
Today's newspaper had some photographs of thugby players. Do they look thick! All brawn and no brains in a brutal game that has about as much skill as Snakes & Ladders. Bearing in mind all the regard for health & safety, I am amazed that this dreadful game is not banned, more serious injuries being incurred than in any other sport.
I also saw in the newspaper that "Britain gives more taxpayer money to international aid agencies than any other country in the world, despite having virtually no control over how the cash is spent." What an utter nonsense this, wasting all this money when our public services are in such a poor array, most of them under-funded. I agree with Ukip that all foreign aid should be stopped, especially as so much of it ends up in the pockets of corrupt politicians and bandits. Charity, especially in these difficult times, should begin and end at home.
Incredibly, an editorial in the paper was headed: "Despite cuts, people seem generally content with public services." In what kind of world do these people live, totally divorced from reality, but then it is election time, when we not only have financial fantasies but all manner of distorted information on nearly everything. Thank heavens when May 7th is over so that we can get back to the world of reality.
In his column in "The Times" Mr. Matthew Parris predicts that "the Tories are going to win, and win well. By 'well' I mean leaving Labour trailing so badly that the election is seen on all sides as having given only the Conservative Party any right to govern." On this occasion Mr. Parris may be right for once, his terrible fears possibly being well founded, principally because Labour seems to be as dead as Monty Python's parrot, having an utterly hopeless leader who does not even look like one - an important consideration in a media age.
In the evening we went to see the film "Trash". Alas, a terrible film about a group of boys in Brazil who find a leather case on a massive rubbish tip, the documents inside suggesting clues to hidden wealth. The film has them being chased all round the streets by the police in an attempt to find the money. It was utterly boring, a terrible film, almost as bad as the utterly awful "Birdman" that we saw recently at The Venue. In future I think I will keep to watching British films, for they are clearly the best in the world.
SUNDAY 22 MARCH
As mentioned earlier, cutting the grass on Friday has really worsened my arthritis. Last night I was in awful pain with the arthritis and the torn muscle in my left arm that shows little improvement after a month. Unfortunately, the fellow who does an excellent job on gardening is having a further hernia operation next month, so he is going to be out of action for several weeks. Trying to find somebody else who wants to do some work is a nightmare. It is a pity there are not more immigrants in the village, for they could be depended upon to work hard for a reasonable wage.
According to my rough estimate, there are about 70 houses in the old part of the village, whereas the massive housing estate on the western boundary probably has at least 400 properties, the estate increasing every year. There should have been two separate parishes set up when the estate was built - one for the old part of the village, and the other for the estate, there being little fraternising or interests between the two very separate and distinct parts. One of the problems is that the estate dwellers dominate the Parish Council, which is not helpful as there are these strikingly different beliefs and interests.
At least I greatly enjoyed the Brue Valley Farm butter with Maldon salt for breakfast. Available at Waitrose, it is a splendid rolled butter, made at a farm in Somerset, being the best butter I have ever tasted. It is such a relief that it was shown last month that nearly all the food frighteners were totally without any medical or scientific foundation. Full-cream milk was found to be far better than the horrible semi-skimmed stuff that taste like ditch water, and red meat is good for us twice a week. It has even been shown that the butter substitutes are actually harmful, yet they are still being sold in the supermarkets, so I understand. I suppose that when fears are deeply rooted among neurotic people, it is difficult to shift the nonsense.
Meanwhile, I still contend that vegetables, other than the produce grown in the garden (I will soon be setting the runner beans and spinach seeds), are harmful, especially as so much of our food nowadays comes from abroad. However, not to be deterred, the food frightening people are still insisting that salt is bad for us. Yet I can recall my father having great quantities of salt, as they did in those days, and he lived to 95. I also have liberal quantities of salt at lunchtimes, and I am nearly 81. Yesterday I took my blood pressure, which came out at 148/88. The systolic is a bit on the high side, but the diastolic is all right, certainly at my advanced age.
I am due for the annual eye test this coming week, something that I always dread, fearing that something will be found to be wrong. At the moment I do not have to wear glasses either for distance or reading, but I was told last year that there were signs of a cataract forming in my right eye. I can put up with the awful pain of arthritis, but problems with eyesight would be really serious. So I have started to worry. As Mrs. Copeland says, somewhat unkindly: "You love to worry about something. You'd be worried if you had nothing to worry about."
It seems that the politicians are going down like ninepins before the election. As mentioned earlier, three Ukip candidates hit the dust yesterday, and today it was reported that "A Conservative candidate in the general election is suspended from the party over allegations he schemed with the English Defence League to win votes." What a bunch of pigmy politicians we have these days, not one of them worth their salt. That is another reason why I am not going to bother to vote at the general election in May.
I suppose the other factor is that, as Mr. Parris indicated yesterday, the Tories are going to win handsomely, for as each week passes it seems that Labour does not want to be elected, not wanting to inherit the incredible financial mess, far, far worse than in the appalling days of Gordon Brown, Labour subsequently being blamed for the chaos.
It has to be admitted that the Cameroons are clever, albeit thoroughly deceitful politicians, for they are now trying to hide our alarming and ever increasing National Debt in which we are barely able to pay the interest, by concentrating on the Budget deficit, saying it will soon be balanced. This is rather like somebody saying his current account is improving, while he is steadily drawing on capital to correct the deficit, getting into ever more debt.
Brayford Pool, Lincoln, in the old days. The area has now been ruined by the planners with horrible office blocks and ugly hotels - all very sad, for it could have been a little Venice under inspired architects.
I ordered two more books today: "Skyfaring: A journey with a pilot", and "A Higher Form of Killing", dealing with the use of gas during the First World War. I had resolved to make economies by reducing the number of books bought each month, restricting the purchases to 2, though I have not abided by this resolution, but what the hell. With only a few more years to live and with the prospect of the UK economy crashing down later this year, I might as well enjoy myself while there is still time. Carpe Diem, as the wise people say.
I had planned to go in to Staples in Lincoln to purchase some stationery in the morning, only to discover that the roads were closed yet again for that damned running race. What an utter nuisance these people are. As I said yesterday, they could surely run round a field, possibly the one that is used for the Agricultural Show. Later in the year we will have to endure a cycling race through the village, being unable to get out for several hours while puffing and panting cyclists race through, accompanied by scores of cars and police on motor-cycles.
Instead, unable to go out, I sat in the conservatory enjoying the wonderfully rare sunshine, the peace only disturbed by barking dogs owned by nearby couples who give the impression of not having a clue how to control the hateful animals. Dogs are certainly not my best friend, for given my way I would have every one of the useless creatures put down, having cats in their place. There cannot be worse noise than a dog barking incessantly, even worse than "The Red Arrows" thundering over our chimneypots all day.
Later on, at 3.30 p.m., we went to the local Club for the usual Sabbath Day alcoholic refreshment, thoroughly enjoying the proceedings. It really is a splendid Club, having become far more relaxed and enjoyable in recent times, quite a lot of money having been spent on improving the facilities. Recently the Chairman has bought two settees, and a member of the Club has bought a splendid table to go with them, making a delightful area for the elderly unable to stand up at the bar.
Another member, one from Lincoln, gave me the election leaflet of the incumbent Conservative Member of Parliament for the City, from whom you might believe that Lincoln was the most flourishing city in the kingdom, instead of an ailing backwater. Significantly, there is nothing about support for the National Health Service that the Tories hate so much, even more than the BBC, the EU and single mothers,
It could be argued that Lincoln is going to be the bellwether that decides the general election in May, for the present Conservative Member of Parliament only had a 1,058 majority at the last election. If Labour does not regain this seat, having a female candidate, then it stands no chance of winning the election. My guess is that Labour will win by a slender majority in Lincoln, giving the party some hope nationally.
I greatly enjoy the Sunday sessions at the Club, having discussions about economic and politics with a group of highly intelligent men, amongst them a retired rocket scientist. The women usually form their own little group, so we are able to talk about serious subjects, having yet to meet a village lady who is interested in the state of the UK economy.
I was interested to see on the BBC News website that a bunch of thugs, anti-UKIP protesters, invaded a pub in south London where party leader Nigel Farage was having lunch. According to the account, the hooligans "chased the family out of the pub and jumped on the politician's car bonnet as he drove away. Mr Farage later branded them 'scum'".
Presumably this unpleasant incident represents the fears that Ukip has for the Cameroons, not that I think they need to worry, Ukip having had its day. Even so, there is no doubt that it is going to be a very nasty election, one that will decide the fate of the National Health Service amongst other cutback issues. I just wish that Labour would wake up to the importance of the election.
Maybe it has to be recognised that all improvements in life come from scientists and engineers, especially engineers, whereas politicians only make things worse. Taking bias away and trying to be fair to the Cameroons, what have they ever done for us during their five years? The country is more in debt; the Institute of Fiscal Studies reckons that the average person is £900 a year worse off since the Cameroons came into office; and our productivity, investment and exports are all falling, even the housing market now starting to go down.
Yet what has any Government ever achieved? Looking at the earlier years of Conservative Governments, the only significant benefit was forcing manufacturers to put plugs on their electrical appliances, while Labour can be credited with the splendid achievements of abolishing hunting and stopping smoking in public places. Er - that's it!
In an international economy, all a Chancellor can do is to fiddle around with interest rates and taxation, and as the arrogant George Osborne has cogently shown, these measures have been totally ineffective in controlling the economy. Essentially, the measures in the Budget are a shuffling around of money, from the poor to the rich in the Tory mantra, and from the rich to the poor in Labour's terms.
The evening was spent in reading some more of the book on the expedition to the North Pole. It is a tremendous book, and I have to avoid the temptation to see what happened in the end.
MONDAY 23 MARCH
I was not surprised to read that the Confederation of What's Left of British Industry is opposed to Labour's plan to reduce the price of energy, the dreadful "Daily Torygraph" saying that "The CBI is neutral in party political terms". How you have to laugh. A more right-wing organisation would be difficult to imagine, almost as bad as the Countryside Alliance that represents the last bastion of feudalism in this country.
I also read that the PwC accountancy organisation has said that "the average UK household is on track to owe nearly £10,000 in unsecured debt [not mortgages] including personal loans, credit cards and overdrafts by the end of 2016." In other words, we are heading towards another credit crunch and a recession that will be far worse than the Great Recession that we have recently endured. Individually and nationally we are living well beyond our means, having too much enthusiasm for the Never-Never, meaning that it is all going to end in tears.
As I mentioned earlier, it is going to be a fascinating time for those of us interested in economics, seeing the stages towards an almighty crash that several economists are now warning about. Indeed, I find it quite exciting, though perhaps I would not be so cheerful if I were about to lose my job, though there could be another Geddes Act that would obviously affect my pension, seeing it reduced by some 6%. Watch this space.
Although I pride myself in correctly forecasting about the UK economy, I have to admit that I am invariably wrong on political forecasts. Having predicted that the Cameroons would win by a slight overall majority, I see that the latest opinion polls show Labour moving ahead again, the main worries of the electorate apparently being that the Conservatives will wreck the National Health Service; allow the energy companies to continue ripping us off; and increase the divide between rich and poor.
These are certainly the measures Labour needs to hammer home, for there is no doubt that the £30 billion cutbacks will enable the Tories to slash the NHS and welfare budgets under the guise of a necessary austerity programme. Among the items if the Tories have a further five years in office will probably be free eye tests for those over 60, and the introduction of a payment to see the doctor.
In today's "i" I read that it had been shown that a weedkiller used in a pesticide to spray crops had been found to cause cancer, which is an alarming discovery. Obviously a lot more research will have to be done, but meanwhile I am so thankful that I have avoided vegetables like the plague and a female politician for the past 20 years, only eating potatoes and homegrown runner beans. In this diary I have repeatedly warned about pesticides and the dangers of vegetables, and it begins to look as if my fears have been well founded,
Today's "Times" had the usual grim news about the UK economy, saying that "manufacturing orders unexpectedly stagnated in March as new business from abroad collapsed at the fastest rate in more than two years." There is no doubt that something is soon going to snap in this unhealthy UK economy, though the smoke and mirrors being used by the Chancellor will probably conceal the chaos until after the election.
On the BBC News website I saw that another entertainer was being charged with sexual offences many years ago. This has really become a witch-hunt, every day bringing some new revelation. I suppose, though, that the fashion will eventually fade away, to be replaced by something different. In the same way that all nations need to have a bogeyman, there needs to be some salacious news to entertain the populace.
Photograph of Whisby Nature Reserve, Lincoln, by granddaughter Chloe.
Last Saturday I mentioned that I had had a letter from the opticians I have been with for the past 20 years, telling me that my annual eye examination was due. I therefore telephoned this morning to make an appointment, and was given for 4 p.m. today - and you cannot get better service than that. Much to my great joy and relief I was told that there had been no change in me eyesight, which means that I do not have to wear glasses either for reading or distance, which must be quite rare at my great age.
I dread something going wrong with my eyesight. I can put up with sans teeth, but the thought of sans eyes in the last scene of all fills me with horror. So I was so relieved, and whilst in town bought myself a book from Waterstone's to celebrate the occasion - "Gone to Ground - One woman's extraordinary account of survival in the heart of Nazi Germany".
The evening was spent by the fireside finishing reading "In the Kingdom of the Ice", relating to an American attempt to reach the North Pole for the first time. Alas, the ship was crumbled in the ice, having to be abandoned, meaning a long walk and rowing to an inhabited place, knowing that there was very little chance of being rescued. In a way it is quite an exciting book, making the reader wonder whether they managed to survive. Sadly, many of the crew perished, along with the leader of the expedition, de Long.
I have now made a start on "Grey Wolves - the U-Boat War 1939-45" by Philip Kaplan. Of the 39,000 men who went to sea in the U-boats during the Second World War, 27,491 died in action and a further 5,000 became prisoners of war. Of the 863 German U-boats that sailed on operational patrols in the war, 754 were lost. Nevertheless, a great deal of UK shipping went to the bottom of the ocean in the initial stages.
Unfortunately, I had a sudden and extremely unpleasant attack of sciatica during the evening, the pain starting in my right thigh and going down my leg, the pain being so awful that I could barely walk. I cannot help feeling that Psalm 90 has it right in proclaiming: "The days of our age are threescore years and ten, and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow; so soon passeth it away, and we are gone."
The medicine men keep us old blighters alive with their pills and potions, only to have the development of all manner of infirmities, many of us ending up in a retirement home, watching the idiot's lantern all day and believing that Mrs. Thatcher is coming back to rescue us. I was all right until I reached 70 years; after that all the troubles set in, few days now being without some kind of pain.
TUESDAY 24 MARCH
I went to have my hair cut at 10.15 a.m., going to the barber's shop run by an attractive lady proprietor who makes an excellent job of the cutting. In previous years I went to a male barber whose premises were extremely dirty and unkempt, offering only short back and sides, and I became so disgusted that I decided to move to somewhere else, being recommended to this first-rate establishment.
In our discussions during the 15-minute cutting, the lass told me, when complaining about the excessively high business rates, for which she received absolutely nothing in return, that the Labour-controlled City Council had lost £63,000 on last year's Christmas Market. Only an inept Labour Council could lose so much money, the problem being that in such politically controlled councils up and down the country there are usually no elected members who have any business experience or managerial expertise ,the members instead being made up of a bunch of odds and sods, some of them not very bright
One real improvement in the dreadful condition of local authorities throughout the land, even Conservative-controlled ones, would be to abolish all remuneration except for expenses, as was the rule before the disastrous reorganisation of local government on April Fool's Day in 1970. This would lead to a much better quality of elected members - men and women who were giving their services for the benefit of the community, rather than in some instances for a nice little earner with very little work. However, with so many vested interests, that is not likely to happen. Parish councillors receive no remuneration for their services, so why should County and District/City councillors?
Meanwhile, the Leader of the Lincolnshire County Council receives £32,704 a year, and his deputy £21,462, while the basic allowance for a councillor amounts to £10,322 for a few hours work a week. (Details from the worthless Spring 2015 edition of the" County News"). If the County Council were to be swept away tomorrow, it would probably be six months or more before we realised it had gone. The highways are badly maintained, full of potholes; we seldom see the police; and the library service seems to be falling apart.
Under this necessary reorganisation, it would be far better if highways and police were transferred to national control, bringing about a better co-ordination, while Social Services could be given to the more efficient district councils. Fortunately, all the better schools have fled from the deadhand of County Council control. I can accept paying for the district council services, principally for household waste collection for which I effectively pay £25 a week, but I begrudge paying for the extravagance and profligacy of the County Council, especially contributing to paying a councillor £32,704 for what probably amounts to a few hours of work a week, most of the time wasted in worthless committees.
There was further grim news about the UK economy today, backing up the issues mentioned yesterday, the "i" reporting that "Weaker exports hit UK manufacturing in March in signs that a strong pound is putting the brakes on overseas sales. The CBI said. Its export orders index - measuring the difference between firms reporting rising and those reporting falling orders - fell to minus 26, its weakest reading in more than two years." Meanwhile, the FTSE reaches a new record every day, as happened before the almighty crash in October of 1929. There really are dragons ahead, suggesting a return to a recession even worse than the recent Great Recession.
Not surprisingly, the UK inflation rate fell to 0% in February, the lowest since records began, indicating that we are about to go into deflation, meaning severe consequences for a country deeply in debt. What seems so amazing is that the present issues bears an incredible resemblance to all the factors that led to the deflationary years of the 1930s following the 1929 crash. The Conservatives have said that they are going to take public expenditure back to the 1930s, which all fits in, a splendid example of history repeating itself. No wonder Henry Ford said that history was bunk; certainly it teaches us nothing.
Another figure announced today was that house prices fell 0.2% in January. It is my reckoning that we will see an almighty fall in house prices during the summer months when the £30 billion cuts begin to take effect. Meanwhile, Mr. Cameron announced today that he does not intend to stand for a third period in office. Bearing in that he has not yet been elected to a second term, and the latest polls suggest he may not do so - this seems like tempting fate, the announcement somewhat premature.
It is right, though, that a leader should not stand for a 3rd term, as in America. Thatcher the Terrible's third term in office saw her going completely off her head, having to be jettisoned by a deeply embarrassed Party. As she left Downing Street, crying her eyes out, she muttered that it was "a funny old world", one of the few remarks she got right.
Charming cottages in the village. One is now for sale.
Apart from the visit to the barber, the day was spent at home, generally pottering around, but like the Government, not achieving very much. The evening was spent by the fireside, reading the book on U-boats. It must have been a hell on earth serving in those cramped and unhealthy boats, most of them having 40 men on board.
WEDNESDAY 25 MARCH
At last some good news on the political front: in the event of a Cameroon hung Parliament, the SNPs have said they will vote against the Conservatives, meaning that the worst excesses of a very right-wing party will have its wings severely clipped, unable to wreck the National Health Service; prevented from causing more anguish to the sick and the poor; and not being able to bring back hunting, one of the main catechisms of the Cameroons. In other words, the politicians would be prevented from buggering everything up. So maybe things will work out well after all our initial fears about a substantial Conservative victory or a Labour Government.
I had to license the Scorpio today. Six months = £126.50, a full year £230. With the insurance at £270, it means a cost of £42 a month before I move the car. The car is still in splendid condition, only having done 35,500 miles.
I renewed the licence for the Scorpio for 6 months today at a cost of £126.50, a full year being £230. With insurance at £270 it means a cost of £42 a month before I move the car, and I only travel about 600 miles in it a year. It is a cost I could obviously avoid on selling the car, but somehow in my sentimentality I cannot even begin to think of selling it, taking the view that you do not get rid of old friends. Even if it subsequently packs up, I think I will keep it.
I was pleased to see that today's "i", when mentioning that inflation had now fallen to zero with the prospects of descending into the deflation seen in the troubled 1930s, mentioned the severe consequences of deflation, pointing out that people would delay purchases of major items in the belief that prices would fall further, while "employers, fearing lower demand, could keep a squeeze on wages, creating a self-reinforcing downward spiral of prices." What was not mentioned was that debt becomes more expensive, which is a major consideration in a country deeply in he red.
In his recent book "How to Speak Money" John Lanchester describes the horrors of deflation, mentioning that "our debts grow in value. The economy slows and then stops. A pall of gloom and stasis settles over the entire economy. Economists and politicians are terrified of deflation, especially the idea that the debts that they run up will automatically be worth more, rather than being reduced by inflation." It is only necessary to consider Japan, which has suffered from deflation from a decade and is still not out of the woods, to see the chaos that can be caused to an economy.
The real issue for this country is how long the deflation will last. The answer may probably be not long, because there are significant inflationary pressures in the economy, especially from rising wages, to return to inflation. Meanwhile, it becomes increasingly apparent that the Governor of the Bank of England does not know which way to turn, but in fairness deflation is a very new issue in our times in this country.
One of the letters in the newspaper mentioned the worries amongst many Jews in having that awful man Netanyahu re-elected in Israel, saying: "Like many people I know, Jewish and non-Jewish , I am bitterly disappointed at the outcome of the Israeli election. This is compounded by Netanyahu's screamingly offensive remarks about Israel's Arab citizens. What is happening is extremely worrying. Many diaspora Jews are dismayed by Netanyahu and his policies and fear this will lead to yet more anti-Semitic attacks". It seems incredible that the Israeli's have again voted for this terrible man who never wants peace, inevitably and possibly even understandingly in some quarters inviting problems with the Iranian nuclear programme.
During the morning I freed a large wooden that was scraping along the ground, spending quite a lot of time using a fretsaw to cut a piece off the bottom. This will obviously do my arthritis no good at all, having to bend down for much of the time.
The washing machine has broken down, so I have had to call out an engineer. More expense. The evening was spent by the fireside, reading some more of the book on U-Boats during the Second World War. The cover of the book shows a U-Boat on the surface, having sunk a British cargo ship, probably all hands going down with the ship. Yet the U-Boat crew are nonchalantly smoking as if they are not the least bit concerned about the extensive loss of life that they have caused. But then they are trained to kill, and that is what they do.
THURSDAY 26 MARCH
I woke up in real agony with the arthritis in my spine and knees, hardly able to walk on getting out of bed. Presumably the work yesterday morning is responsible for the trouble. Mrs. C. and I were to attend a funeral for a departed friend at the Lincoln Crematorium at 10.30 a.m., but as I was in such pain I knew that I would not be able to stand during the long wait before an earlier service finished, as well as probably having to stand, unable to get a seat. Even getting up and down during the prayers and hymns would have caused me agony, so Mrs. C. went on her own while I stayed at home, feeling very sorry for myself.
At the best of times the Lincoln Crematorium is a grim place, almost serving as a conveyor belt as one service follows another. I have left strict instructions in my will that I want to be buried in the local churchyard, not wanting the misery of a crematorium departure. Accordingly, I plan to purchase a burial plot, somewhere in the region of £250, within the next few months, there to enjoy eternal peace.
I am not sure what I think about the BBC having dropped Clarkson for punching a producer. On the one hand, people cannot be allowed to behave in that uncouth manner, yet we seem to be entering a very nasty, narrow-minded and Puritanical society with its present sexual witch-hunts. A few more years and we will be back to the laughter-free days of Cromwell. Perhaps this is a characteristic of a nation in social and economic decline. When you think about the recent disgraceful payoffs at the BBC, the Corporation is not exactly a model of propriety.
In today's "i", which I now take Mondays to Fridays, having the free "Times" from Waitrose on a Saturday, I saw that "The coalition Government will leave office with the NHS in the red for the first time in a decade - and with waiting times at their highest in years, independent experts have said." So much for the Cameroons' record on the health service.
I am basically a Conservative supporter, but it is obvious that the last five years have possibly seen the worst Government since the Second World War - an administration that has managed, despite our stretched finances, to find a great deal of money to fight wars overseas, all with disastrous consequences; has worsened the divide between rich and poor; has encouraged massive bonuses in business for inefficiency, notably amongst the banks; and leaves office with the biggest financial deficit on record. How can anybody want another five years of this incompetence?
As I have remarked earlier, I am not going to bother to vote at the general election on May 7th, taking the view that this ailing and overcrowded little island has long overshot a political solution in its relentless decline, and this decline, seeing an extensive recession within the next year, will continue whatever party is in power.
Because of my infirmities, it was a day at home. not venturing out at all on a miserably wet and chilly day, feeling very sorry for myself.. The evening will be spent by the fireside making a start on reading the novel by James MacManus "Sleep in Peace Tonight", published this year by Duckworth Overlook at £16.99. The idiot's lantern will remain off, as it so remains every night, making me so thankful that Mrs. Copeland loathes television as much as I do, seeing it as a horribly intrusive medium with all its rubbish. This evening we managed to miss "MasterChef on BBC1 between 8 and 9 o'clock, while on ITV there was ""The Triplets Are Coming!" Channel 5 had an hour long programme between 9-10 p.m. called "Holiday Love Rats Exposed". Oh, what I missed!
Lincolnshire 26th March, 2015
Diary of an Octogenarian
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