DIARY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN
- John Copeland -
Friday 15th August - Thursday 21st August, 2014
Swans on the River Witham in Lincoln
""He is a self-made man and worships his creator."
FRIDAY 15 AUGUST
Yesterday evening I started reading the First World War diaries of Margot Asquith, the Prime Minister's wife, finishing the 145-page introduction before starting on the actual diary. To all accounts, certainly the ones presented here, she was a difficult and demanding woman: arrogant, spendthrift, concerned only with herself, and often a deep embarrassment to her husband with her pro-German views. During the war she made no attempt to cut down her lavish expenditure, taking no heed of the critical press reports.
As behoves geriatric gentlemen, born of an age that had better manners, I wrote a letter of thanks yesterday for the splendid meal we had on Wednesday at a restaurant to celebrate a friend's 65th birthday, marking for him the beginning of the entry into the season of superannuation. Nowadays, because people have difficulty in putting more than two sentences together, especially those under 40 years of age, there are cards available in which you presumably delete the item that does not apply - "Thank you for the present/Your condolences are appreciated/Thanks for the good wishes for my separation." Times change, and we have to accept the consequent loss of dignity and decorum, there being no point in raging against the dying of the light and the departure of good manners.
I heard on the news that a well-known pop star has had his house searched on account of an alleged historical sex offence that occurred in 1986 with an under-age boy. Dear, oh, dear. It makes me wonder why we are seeing so many of these sex charges, some of them dating back 50 years or more. Is there some financial gain on the part of the accusers, or is there an element of spitefulness, or have we, in our relentless economic and social decline, become a thoroughly nasty Puritanical society, a land of tale-tellers and informers who would have delighted the Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennkl del?
Apparently the accusation, which has been strongly denied, was splashed across the front pages of the gutter press today, this being the most important news item of the day, even being the main headline in "The Daily Telegraph". The item was at least restrained to the inside pages of today's "Times", which mentioned that there were eight plain clothes policemen who spent five hours at the entertainer's residence. It would seem that we pay a high price for the freedom of the press, its main aim apparently being to create mayhem and muckraking.
Nasty stuff, but then there is nothing that the narrow-minded prurient British populace loves more than sexual misdemeanours, especially if it means bringing down a celebrity or a politician. Maybe there ought to be legislation introduced that will prevent any accusations being made of any incidents that occurred before 2000, there surely being no evidence beyond that date. Why, it might be asked, were the charges not brought at the time of the alleged incidents, and why are they being made now as people seem to be jumping on the bandwaggon?
In yesterday's "Times2", the supplement for women, the front-page told us that, "We check our phones 150 times every 24 hours" (presumably mobile telephones); "We spend nearly 9 hours a day on our devices (longer than we sleep)"; and "1 in 5 of us even checks them while having sex." In addition to becoming an increasingly puritanical society we also seem to be a sad and sick society, nowadays conversing with one another by mobiles and those hateful iPads that destroy all face-to-face conversation. In pubs and restaurants you see couples using their mobiles all the time, hardly speaking to one another, making you wonder why they ever bother to go out together. Alas, we seem to be losing the art of conversation and writing, not even keeping diaries other than those nebulous entries in .
It makes me so thankful that I am old, not having much longer to live. Somehow I do not think I could tolerate another 40 years of all this nonsense, especially when I read in the newspaper today that "The number of Eastern European immigrants working in the UK has topped one million for the first time on record." I also read that the EU has allowed prisoners to have the vote, no doubt all part of their human rights. The sooner we leave the circus of the European Union the better we will be, for it has only hastened our decline, giving us few benefits for the enormous sum we pay each year to retain our worthless membership..
According to an economist at one of the Banks, "We expect the prospect of further unemployment falls to prompt a majority of rate settlers to vote for a rate rise in November." I cut out such predictions, putting them in a Predictions Scrapbook, looking at them later to see if the soothsaying was correct. In 90% of cases the predictions are hopelessly wrong, being far too optimistic. Bearing in mind that an interest rate rise would further strengthen the £, adding more problems for our exports on which we depend for our recovery, and that mortgagees would have their monthly repayments increased at a time of the ever rising cost of living, I cannot see rates being raised before the general election next May. For the Cameroons, now under increasing pressure from Ukip, to allow the Bank of England to bring about a rate rise would be political suicide.
I was seeing today that yet another tree had been mutilated in the village, though thankfully it has not shared the fate of many of the others that have been felled, even when there are TPOs (Tree Protection Order) on them - Orders that nowadays appear not to be worth the paper they are printed on. Soon, as more and more urban refugees come to live in the village, we will have hardly any trees left, except possibly the avenue of oaks at the bottom of our garden. However, as I mentioned last week, these will probably be gone within the next ten years as Lincoln expands into our village, probably having an "Oaklands" estate for the immigrants, the local church becoming a mosque. That's the way things are looking these days.
Summertime clouds, but there is a touch of Autumn in the air.
I have had an e-mail from an organisation calling itself "'arutz_7'", headed: "With rockets flying, Israel needs your help again", asking me to send a donation. I quickly unsubscribed from the organisation. If I send any donation it will be to the Palestinians, not to a ruthless and brutal country that has caused such immense suffering, principally by taking over and grabbing and building houses on ever more land.
The AVG anti-virus 2014 programme failed yet again today, coming up with the usual message "You are not fully protected." Fortunately, it lasted all of three weeks before crashing this time, so that is good for this troublesome programme. I will be thankful when the subscription expires on 29th October, when I will delete the programme and put in Atavast, which has been recommended to me. To rectify the failure of AGV, I have to put in the disk and go through all the options, including the "Repair" item, all of which wastes about 10 minutes.
All very annoying. Indeed, I am beginning to wish that I had kept to my original resolution to give up computing altogether on my 80th birthday. Life would be so much easier without these infernal machines going wrong so much of the time, causing me a great deal of stress.
I wanted to make an enquiry about my electricity bill, so I telephoned E-On this morning, but although I waited 8 minutes, hearing a repeated recorded message: "We are sorry to keep you waiting. We will be with you as soon as possible", I could not get through, having to listen to ghastly pop music all the time. (why do firms always believe that their customers are culturally- challenged by offering such moronic music?). I therefore gave up, as I have to give up with most things in this broken down country, this Uncaring Kingdom. I suppose staffing has been cut back so that it is no longer possible to offer a decent service, or is it that we are too overpopulated?
In addition to a visit to town to purchase numerous stationery items, including some 3.5 floppy discs which I much prefer to the CD modern version, it was quite a busy day, doing some furniture shifting; vacuum cleaning; and even cleaning one of the refuse bins that had started to smell. After lunch, enjoyed with a half bottle of wine that I finish at night, I had a siesta, and the evening was spent reading some more of the Margot Asquith diaries, which I am enjoying, reading about her meddling in the political affairs of her Prime Minister husband.
Another of the diary entries again emphasises her liking the Germans as opposed the French: "Take the best German and the best Frenchman, and I know which of the two I would like to go tiger-hunting with!" A further item - a footnote reads: " Kitchener's critical remark to Rosebery - that the Cabinet deserved the Victoria Cross for declaring war in a state of such unpreparedness." Looking back it does seem incredible that we entered the fray, having such a small army that was poorly trained and equipped and led by donkeys. The folly was soon displayed during the early months of the war when the Germans forced our pitiful army into an embarrassing retreat.
The diary makes very clear that the Germans with their crazy Kaiser were wholly responsible for starting the war - something that historians continue to argue about.
Because I have recently been criticised for condemning television, not ever seeing any of the offerings, I switched on the set at 9.55 p.m. today, seeing trailers for the most awful programmes that could be imagined, convincing me that television, seeming to be a worn out institution with no artistry and hardly anything new, is no longer intended for a middle class audience with higher education. Sheer rubbish, the term "the idiot's lantern" being highly suitable. It makes me thankful that I no longer have to pay the £145.50 annual licence as I am over 75 years of age.
If the Cameroons take away this free licence when they introduce their savage austerity measures after winning the general election next May, I will give the set to charity, and put in a home cinema arrangement instead. No way will I ever pay the licence for all that rubbish.
SATURDAY 16 AUGUST
Mrs. Copeland went off to Essex in the early morning, where she will be staying overnight with her elder brother and his wife, and then going with them to a gathering of family cousins in Buckinghamshire for a luncheon tomorrow. This assembly was not my cup of tea, so I stayed at home, going out on the scooter later to purchase some sandpaper for a table I am proposing to paint in what we graciously call the "office".
At noon today the temperature was 16 C, and next week there is a forecast of the thermometer going down to 15 C, suggesting that the summer is over. I was reminded of this on hearing the ghastly news that the football season starts today. Whenever I think of football I recall the appalling and pathetic display of the England team in the World Cup, not making it beyond the first round, suggesting that football in this country is of a very poor standard, despite the enormous and immoral salaries that are paid. Thugby will also be starting, with scenes of players jumping on one another in a game that has about as much skill as Snakes & Ladders - a ghastly, brutal, barbaric game that causes the most serious injuries of any sport. Gordon Brown lost as eye.
I liked the e-mail I received yesterday: "A prosecution counsel asked a defendant, 'Is it true you were seen on the afternoon of February 3rd riding through Taunton at 100 mph in a blinding snowstorm having sex on top of the car with a one-legged dwarf waving a Union Jack?' (LONG PAUSE) 'What was the date again?' asked the defendant."
On the other hand, I was saddened to see that the front page of today's "Daily Express" was dominated by the headline "Sir Cliff shock new calls to police", the entire page being taken up by the allegations. I find this quite horrible, for as I asked earlier, is it really such fantastic news that makes it the main news of the day? Even if the pop star is proved to be innocent, a certain amount of mud always sticks, ruining a good name. Apparently, the police raid on the pop star's apartment was televised, one of the television companies hiring a helicopter. Dear oh dear.
Granddaughter has moved into a rented flat. Amongst the junk mail at the premises were the 14 letters from TV licensing demanding payment, saying that as no response had been received: there was an "Official warning: we have opened an investigation." the letters presumably being sent within the past month when the flat was being refurbished. Last week I read in "The Times" that 100,000 notices for non-payment were sent out each day, and seeing the pile at the flat I can well believe this to be true. As yet, Chloe does not have a television set. If she takes my advice, she will not bother to have one.
Amongst the other junk mail were 6 items from Virgin Media, offering a "Big Kahuna Bundle" at £60.99 a month, £731.88 a year. To this, presumably, has to be added the £145.50, making a total of £877.38 a year. That is about the sum of money I spend on books each year.
A flood of television licensing notices to one house.
Mrs. Copeland sent me a text message shortly after 1 p.m. saying that she had arrived in Essex, so that was a relief. Travelling down the A1 at the height of the holiday season is not the easiest and safest of journeys.
At 4.30 p.m. I had my toenails cut by a peripatetic "Foot Health Practitioner", paying £20. I find it impossible to cut the nails myself, hence this professional visit, the lady being excellent and very thorough. In former years I used the services of a male chiropodist but he was very rough, causing me a lot of pain. There is no doubt that women are better in this area.
The magazine supplement of today's "Times" had a photograph of Caitlin Moran with a chef. Ms. Moran was making a funny face, and the chef was, for some unknown reason, saluting. Oh what jolly times we live in, and what fun there is, at lest for the younger generation of readers. I suppose it could be argued that my generation was a bit stuffy, taking ourselves too seriously, "The Times" in our day being a dignified and serious newspaper, a newspaper of record, not having any of the immature and silly stuff we see today. Times change, but thanks heavens we do not have to accept the lower standards.
The only reasonable supplement on a Saturday is the "Saturday Review", which has some excellent book reviews, making up for the "Literary Review" whose August issue I have still not received, despite three telephone calls and two e-mails. Among today's reviews was "Disobeying Hitler: German resistance in the last year of WW11", which I duly ordered from Amazon. In my library of 2,169 hardback books, at least one third are devoted to the Second World War, especially to biographies of Hitler. I nevertheless find it amazing that books continue to be published on the WW2, presumably expressing a keen interest on the part of the public, especially among those of us who lived during that terrible time.
I belatedly saw that I had won a £25 Premium Bonds this month, though so far this year I am £65 worse off than the highest rate of a Building Society. Still, there are four more months to go, so I may strike it lucky. I doubt it, though. I just wish I could win £10,000, for that would enable us to replace several elderly household appliances, as well as putting down some new carpeting.
A siesta after lunch, and in the evening I read some more of the Margot Asquith diaries. The house seemed strangely quiet without Mrs. C. here, a reminder of how unpleasant life would be if I am permanently left on my own. I just hope that I go first, Mrs. C. being 7 years younger than I am. It seems that women manage far better on their own, possibly as a result of being housewives for much of their lives.
The diarist records that Winston Churchill was generally disliked by everybody in the Government. Although she was fond of him, she describes him by saying that his judgement was consistently wrong (e.g. the fiasco of the Dardanelles campaign that he advocated and oversaw) and was often very childish, especially when not getting his own way. Appallingly, he is quoted as saying on the outbreak of the First World War: "I would not want to be out of this glorious, delicious war for anything the world could give me." On the other hand, Mrs. Asquith assures us that he could be commended for his courage and relentless energy.
The diarist also records Churchill believing that striking workers should be shot, hardly endearing him to the lower orders. I suppose history regards him as a fine Second World War leader, certainly in the early years of the war when he stood up against the Establishment's wish to appease and come to terms with Hitler, but later he lost the plot when sidelined by the Americans and Russians. It is not too difficult to understand why the electorate rejected him in 1945, not wanting to go back to his ideal of empire days and rule by the aristocracy.
Despite thankfully being courageously banned by the Labour Government, and yet now continually being fanned by the Countryside Alliance that seems to represent the last element of feudalism in this country, the debate about fox hunting never seems to go away. Today there was a polemic in "The Times" in which the columnist tells us "There never has been convincing evidence that foxes suffer abnormally from being hunted, at least no more than do the animals they themselves hunt." Oh, dear oh bloody dear! I am surprised that we weren't told that the foxes just love a brisk run for an hour or more, ending up being torn to pieces by the doggies. Oh, what fun!
Mercifully, a recent Ipos/Mori poll showed that 80% wanted to keep the ban on hunting, indicating that the country is moving away from its cruel feudal past and becoming more civilised. Thankfully the days of the redcoated rascals have therefore gone for ever, and the Countryside Alliance would be better employed trying to stop the proliferation of solar farms on good farming land instead of trying to support a hateful pastime.
SUNDAY 17 AUGUST
It made me laugh to read that "Islamic State militants in Iraq could grow strong enough to target people on the streets of Britain unless action is taken, warns David Cameron." Does anybody really believe that the militants in Iraq are going to be bothered about this country, presumably believing that it is broken down enough already, and that the resident politicians can do far more damage than they could ever cause? Still, at least these warnings help to take the mind of the electorate off the appalling state of an economy that is getting into ever more debt and with falling exports, incredibly believing this is economic growth. You can fool a lot of people all the time.
I was saddened to hear yesterday that another of my former work colleagues - a kindly giant of a man whom I greatly liked and respected - had passed away. Only a handful of us out of about 80 are now left. What surprises me - well, come to think about it, it doesn't really - is that the food freaks and fitness fanatics always seem to be the first to go, making me so thankful that I do not eat vegetables (other than home-grown runner beans) and never take any exercise. As long as I live I will believe vegetables with all their pesticides on them are the cause of many serious illnesses, and that exercising after the age of 65 years is like trying to race an old car.
As mentioned earlier, Mrs. Copeland is staying with her elder brother and his wife down in Essex, and will be attending a jamboree of cousins in Buckinghamshire today where the assembled relatives will be having a luncheon. I am thankful I am not going for I know that I would feel very out of place, hardly knowing most of the fraternity Instead, I stayed at home undertaking various items of household maintenance and internal window cleaning.
High Street, Lincoln
I had slices of ham and bread rolls for lunch, together with a bottle of Thwaites dark ale, and a banana afterwards. Not the most substantial of meals, but at least I did not have to do any cooking that I loathe so much. It is not advisable to go to a restaurant for Sunday lunch, the day being a family occasion when uncontrolled and undisciplined children run all over the place while their parents play on their iPhones and iPads.
With Mrs. Copeland away I decided not to go to the Club, so I stayed at home, having a siesta, which at least saved me £20. The evening was spent on my own in the conservatory, reading some more of the excellent Mrs. Asquith diaries. As mentioned earlier, she was a difficult and arrogant woman, certainly not one of nature' beauties, but she was a keen observer, even if somewhat wrong on occasions. She worshipped her Prime Minister husband, congratulating him on his wonderful speeches, but sadly he was out of his depth in conducting the war - a gentle, kindly man, who looked backwards, never wanting to face the future, and who could blame him. Eventually Lloyd George took over, having a far better grasp of conducting the war, being highly critical of Haigh.
Mrs. Asquith has further entries saying how Churchill was loathed and despised by everybody, Cabinet members rejoicing when he had to resign after the abject failure of his Dardannelss campaign, for which he was wholly responsible. She records: "His mind cannot move quietly from thought to thought: it leaps like a Kangaroo. In consequence his thoughts are astray, he has no mental bump of locality." I liked the reference to her servants: "Our second chauffeur, McNicoll, third footman Charles, and butler Yeo are, I suppose, as stupid a trio as were ever made. I can't describe what I've suffered from servants in these last years."
The diary records how utterly useless were many of our Cabinet politicians, as well as the donkey generals conducting the First World War. The great irony, still perpetuated today, is that a public school education trains boys for leadership, whereas the reality is that leadership is a matter of character, in-built. It can be improved, but not instituted. It could even be argued that the cacooned nature of a public school education, detaching the pupils from the street scene, makes it subsequently difficult for them to understand and deal with the working classes.
The Asquiths slept in sperate bedrooms, which seems to be a civilised arrangement after the early years of passion. Mr. Asquith would come into his wife's bedroom first thing in the morning and late at night, usually talking about the political events of the day, which presumably did not do much to arouse sexual passion, but then you can have had enough of that in late middle age.
I am rather alarmed at having bought so many books this year, already having bought 55 - all hardbacks, of course, for I dislike paperbacks and will never read them. The problem is that there are so many splendid books being published, meaning that in my enthusiasm for buying them I currently have a great pile waiting to be read, sadly finding that in my old age I cannot read so quickly. I really must cut back, for the cost of living continues to shoot ahead. whatever the Office for National Statistics may say with its inflation index. One of the newspapers today said that energy bills had risen by 21% over the past three years. So much for falling inflation!
Mrs. Copeland sent me a text late this evening saying: "The time is 9.50 p.m and everybody has gone to bed. I have gone up with a large brandy and the crossword." The thought of going to bed at 10 p.m. appals me, the evening hardly having started, but perhaps the world is very different for those of us in retirement.
During the evening I tested my blood pressure with the upper arm blood pressure monitor, which gave a reading of 148/76, pulse 80. Normal blood pressure at my age should be around 140/90, so the systolic is a bit on the high side, but nothing to worry about. Thank heavens I never take any exercise! As Billy Butlin, who lived to a ripe old age, said: "When I feel in need of exercise I go and lie down until the feeling passes." Wise advice indeed.
MONDAY 18 AUGUST
I heard on the news this morning that this country is becoming further involved in the Iraq struggle, though our Prime Minister, presumably having seen the Defence Budget, has given the assurance that there will be "no boots on the ground", which is some comfort. Even so, the Conservatives can never keep out of a scrap, still apparently believing we are a great world power, wanting to join in and waste billions more of our money, despite everything falling apart at home. It is, as I have mentioned before, what the psychologists call a "Displacement Activity Situation" - taking the mind off the horrors of home, and it can be quite effective. Nevertheless, I find it all very depressing, for there will never be peace in Iraq, just as there will never be any in Afghanistan or Palestine.
After breakfast I rode in to Lincoln to purchase some paint from B & Q in order to undertake the annual task of re-painting the metal oil tank, work that I loathe, but it has to be done to prevent rust. I rather fear that the day is not so very far away when we will have to have a new tank, probably costing about £600. I have been advised not to have a plastic one. Fortunately the sun was shining, and although not very warm - the temperature on 18 C at noon, I was able to undertake and complete the work.
Flowers in front of the oil tank, the tank being repainted today - a job I loathe. The paint is supposed to last 8 years, but I am lucky if it lasts 8 months.
After three telephone calls and two e-mails, I have at last received my copy of the August edition of "The Literary Review." They say that patience is a virtue; in this falling apart country it is essential.
There were several letters in today's "Times" emphasising the need for us to be involved again in Iraq, as if we have not already learnt in that faction-torn country and in Afghanistan that our efforts will again waste money and men in an attempt to stop the spread of Islam. Unless the West has massive peace-keeping forces in Iraq, all our efforts will come to nothing, just as they have been in the past, especially in Afghanistan where the Russians failed and our two involvements duly had to be aborted. When will we ever learn that religious and tribal factions will never bring peace?
There was also a report in the newspaper that some wealthy titled landowner is arguing that it is important for the Cameroons to repeal the ban on hunting if they want to be re-elected. What utter nonsense, as the poll quoted earlier clearly showed. Mercifully, Mr. Farage of Ukip is firmly opposed to this bloodsport, and with the likelihood of a greatly reduced majority following the general election next May, Mr. Cameron would not have enough support for the repeal of the hateful activity, not daring to bow to the landowning interest. .
I find it amazing that fox hunting forms such an important issue in this country, some of the barmy bumpkins being completely obsessed with chasing after a fox and delighting in seeing it being torn apart, suggesting that we could quite easily form a latter-day SS in this country among people who delight in cruelty. It is, of course, essentially a class issue, involving the interests of a powerful landowning body plus hangers-on. Fortunately, they will never succeed in repealing a ban that was courageously and rightly introduced by Labour - one of its great achievements, along with the banning of smoking.
Mrs. Copeland arrived home safely just before 1 p.m., so that was a relief. The luncheon with the cousins was considered to be a success, but there was a great deal of noise from other diners during the meal, which is always unpleasant. I gather that Buckinghamshire is a county of Johnny-come-latielies, which probably explained the unacceptable noise. I was saddened to hear that yet another member of the family is seeking a divorce, not that is any way surprising these days, modern man and woman seeming to be totally unable to get on with one another. Why they have so much to do with one, invariably ending in conflict, remains a mystery.
Shortly after a light lunch as we are going out to eat this evening, Mrs. Copeland went with an elderly female neighbour to deliver notices about the local Club having a 4-day festival over the Bank Holiday weekend. They were, of course, wasting their time, as most of the villagers, especially the wealthy contingent we call "The Quality", along with most of the urban refugee newcomers, have nothing to do with the social life of the community, and will not come to the event. Why these people come to live in a village, subsequently hiding behind their hedges, is a mystery.
At about 7 p.m. Mrs. Copeland and I went to have a meal at our local pub/restaurant - Woodcocks, which I always enjoy, except for the ghastly youth club-style relayed music, though it was not so bad this evening. I had a steak, which was excellent, as was the beer. A most pleasant occasion to celebrate Mrs. C's return home. She is off again at the end of the month with a female neighbour to spend a week in - or rather on - Lake Garda, meaning that I will be going out to lunch each day. It is a good idea for couples to have a break from one another, but it should not be overdone.
When travelling along the road - "Fen Lane" - to "Woodcocks", I had to take evasive action, pulling into the side of the road, as a BMW (it is always one of those cars!) came hurtling towards us, travelling at a ridiculously high speed along a very narrow road. As I swerved , the front nearside wheel went into an enormous pothole, probably at least 7 inches in depth, making an enormous clanking sound on the suspension. In a pathetic attempt to fill in these deep and dangerous potholes that extend in varying degrees all along the highway, the County Council's Highways Department used a cheap mixture that resembles sand, merely concealing rather than filling in the potholes.
Although our Parish Council gives the appearance of being is ineffective and inactive, doing very little to improve the village that is now beginning to look very run down and uncared for, just like the rest of the country, I nevertheless wrote to the Chairman today to say that it was about time that his Council did something for the village by making representations to the County Council to either to fill in the potholes, or at least put up signs saying that the road is in a dangerous condition, warning motorists to take extreme care.
Back home I finished reading Mrs. Asquith's diaries. Unfortunately, the diaries finish in 1916 when Asquith was thrown out of office, being replaced by the treacherous Lloyd George. I greatly enjoyed the entries, the diarist s having "spirit", which I always admire in forceful women. Give me a forceful one any day, rather than those limp girlie creatures who don't drink beer.
Mrs Asquith records the terrible tragedy of losing a son in the war, expressing such a dreadful and shameful waste of life and saying that the loss of a child is the worst fate that any parent could experience.
During the day I made a start on Hillary Clinton's recently published 600-page book "Hard choices. A Memoir" , which is number 3 in the table of best-selling hardback books. Caitlin Moran's offering "How to Build a Girl" (£5 off the £14.99 price at W.H.Smith) is second in the top selling hardback fiction. Until last week, the 600-page £30 "Capital" was also among the top-selling hardback books, suggesting that there has been an improvement in that category, having in the past being dominated by cookery books and the turgid lives of footballers who seem to score more in hotel bedrooms than on the field.
TUESDAY 19 AUGUST
July's inflation figure was announced today, showing a fall to 1.6% from 1.9%. How you have to laugh. Admittedly, petrol has gone down a few pence, but nearly everything else has shown extensive rises during the month. Mrs. Copeland has even found that the renewal of her subscription to the AA has gone up 57%, while food prices continue to rise every month. How is it, then, that the Office for National Statistics can show a fall in the CPI? Presumably the answer is that the 640-item database that is used to calculate the index can show hundreds of items that have not risen in price, thereby concealing the few major items that have seen a substantial price rise during he month. How you can lie with statistics, everything depending on the base that is used.
At noon I went with a neighbour to the luncheon of the local Retired Gentlemen's Club at the excellent "Bottle & Glass" pub in the village of Scothern, some ten miles away from our village. Although we seem to be losing members, only having six present today, it was nevertheless a most enjoyable occasion with highly intelligent men, including a former rocket scientists and a doctor. I suppose it would help if we had an undertaker as a member.
With alcohol, most of us having two glasses of wine or beer, the cost of the meal per person was £15, which represents excellent value. A most pleasant pub.
A luncheon meeting of our Retired Gentlemen's Club today. Only six members were present, but it proved to be a most enjoyable occasion.
I saw on the BBC news website that, "EE has again been ranked top overall in research comparing the performance of the UK's four mobile networks, with Vodafone coming last." As I mentioned last week, I have found that I have hardly any reception wherever I go with my German-owned O2 mobile telephone, so I have decided to join EE when my contract with O2 expires at the end of the year. In recent months the O2 reception seems to have become worse. Last Tuesday I wrote to O2 to complain about the poor service, but I have as yet received no reply. These things take time in this falling apart country where we are told we have the fastest growing economy among the G7 nations. How you have to laugh!
Also on the website there was a report of policemen having trouble using Facebook and other such social media: "Hundreds of police officers have been investigated for breaching social media guidelines, research has revealed. Freedom of Information requests by the Press Association found officers made racist comments online and asked crime victims to become Facebook friends." These seem to cause more trouble than they are worth. Understandably, I have cancelled the Facebook that my granddaughter set up for me. Although I have not had any problems with it, I found that it was not a vehicle for serious discussion, there hardly being any room for a decent discussion on American foreign policy or the subsequent movement of interest rates. A diary or a "blog" is so much better, enabling serious issues to be discussed. nevertheless, women seem to like Facebook - "What do you think of my new dress?" There also those nauseating holiday snaps that are of no interest to anybody except the practitioners - "This is me with Dave by our apartment. Can you see granddad (far left) - he's fallen over having had one too many San Miguel."
Then there are those ghastly holiday snaps that are of no interest to anybody except the practitioners: "Here I am with Dave in front of our apartment. Can you see granddad (bottom left) - he's fallen over having had one too many San Mugeul." Mind you, I have been guilty on occasions of the offence in this diary.
Last night the temperature went down to 8 C, quite low for August, and already we have had 107 mm of rain. I noticed today that the bushes in the garden have an enormous amount of berries. According to the folklore of the Mark 1 countrymen, this plenitude presages a bad winter, which would not surprise me, though my weather forecasting is invariably wrong, just as psephology is not one of my soothsaying successes.
The evening was spent reading some more of "Warsaw Boy - Memoir of a wartime childhood", which I am enjoying, a rather different book about the ravages of the Second World War.
Although the idiot's lantern never goes on, I occasionally look at the programme schedules to see all the wonderful programmes that I am missing. Today, between 9 - 10 p.m - presumably the peak period, I saw the entry: "In the Club. Roanna's ex-husband decides to cancel her credit cards, with the baby due any day. She suggests to Simon that they ask his parents for help, but he does not seem keen on the idea." How can anybody watch such rubbish? Thank heaven the set remains off. How awful it would be if Mrs. Copeland liked the lantern, wanting it on in the evening - something too awful to even think about.
WEDNESDAY 20 AUGUST
I heard on the news today that Israeli forces had killed the wife and child of a Hamas leader in yet another aerial bombardment. It seems so terribly and ironically awful, and not only for the dreadful loss of life, that the warlike Netanyahu, who makes any peace proposal impossible, is regarded in some quarters as a little Hitler, bringing shame and discredit to the good name of the Jews. Yet beyond Israel, and no doubt some of them in the country, the Jews are a fine people, cultured and intelligent. It is the appalling leadership in Israel that is promoting the hateful and ugly anti-semitism around the world, reminding us of the dreadful mistake in setting up the state of Israel in 1948, but that is history now and cannot be undone.
The other sadness is that President Obama seems to be quite out of his depth in dealing with the crisis, even recently sending replacement armaments to Israel in an action that is hardly likely to broker any peace settlement. It seems, alas, that he is a weak and spineless President, a do-nothing leader who appears to have no understanding of foreign affairs. The sooner Hillary Clinton, made of much sterner stuff than today's weak men, the better it will be for America, thereby again taking a leading part in the world. I gather that the Republican Party has fallen apart, still threatening to abolish Obama's health reforms.
Although I greatly enjoyed the meeting of the Retired Gentlemen's Club, I seem to become increasingly isolated in my old age, spending more and more time on my own at home. Perhaps not surprisingly, I find that some of my friends seem to be disappearing, some confined to the cocoon of their old age and others being domestically restrained, not to mention so many of my friends who having passed away.
I suppose this is yet another characteristic of old age, representing a gradual retreat from the affairs of the world. It was the late Widow Nell who said that in my advanced old age I would find that I would become more and more isolated, the world closing in on me, and I now realise what she meant. Dr. Johnson would said that "friendship should be kept in a constant state of repair", but this is difficult in old age.
Granddaughter Chloe has moved in to a rented flat. It is on the top floor, and she has been told by delivery men that they are not allowed to carry heavy items upstairs. What a nonsense, presumably all part of the human rights of that European Union circus. Mercifully, we probably only have another 3 years of all that nonsense before we pull out, then being able to do something about stopping the massive inflow of immigrants into an already grossly overpopulated country that is finding it impossibly difficult to finance its public services.
A multitude of berries on a bush in the garden. According to the folklore of the Mark 1 countrymen, this plentitude presages a severe winter.
I went in to town in the morning to purchase a "Times", returning home to undertake some more window cleaning, finding that one of the windows I cleaned earlier was covered in smears, looking awful in the sunlight. Somehow I find it very difficult to clean windows, never managing to get them completely clear, and there are times when the professional window cleaner is not all that good outside.
Mrs. Copeland went to the Village Ladies Luncheon Club, finding that there were only 7 of the full house of ten - a similar reduction in numbers that we faced with our Retired Club yesterday. However, seven is quite a pleasant number for a luncheon club, enabling everybody to talk to one another. Any greater number tends to break up into separate groups. Even so, it seems disappointing that our respective social events are seeing this decline in the dying of the light.
On my own at home, I had soup, bread rolls and a half bottle of wine for lunch, Mrs. C providing a more substantial meal for me this evening. Much to my annoyance, I put the saucepan of soup on the hotplate, switched it fully on, and then went to close down the computer, quite forgetting the cooking. The result was the soup having solidified in the saucepan, taking me ages to clean it, having to make sure every trace was removed before Mrs. C came home. This is why I dislike cooking so much, probably because I lack the preparation patience.
As Mrs. C. will be away for a week from the 30th August, holidaying at Lake Garda with a female neighbour, I have been making out of rota of pubs that I will go to for lunch, which is a far better arrangement, In today's "Times" I saw a headline saying that "Sir Cliff search may have been illegal." It raises the question yet again: "Has this country totally fallen apart, nothing working, nobody seeming to care a damn, everything going wrong?", possibly raising an additional question: "So what went wrong?" There are probably many books providing the answer, possibly even a good Ph.D. thesis.
Perhaps significantly, providing one answer, there was the cover of the "Times2" today saying: "How to raise a tween [?] feminist - Carol Midgley on the new girl power." Feminists are invariably ugly women who cannot establish relationships with a man, but since it seems nowadays impossible for men and women to live together, maybe training young girls to be feminists, having nothing to do with men in adult life, might be an answer to some of our problems.
A siesta after lunch, and then in the early evening I joined the neighbours for wine in the courtyard around which are grouped our four houses, staying out until about 9 o'clock, even though it was not all that warm. It made me realise what a splendid environment I live in - an intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable community in which we all get on well together. This must be quite unique in a land where most people do not know or speak to their neighbours. Not surprisingly, the session meant an early bath, as seems to happen so much these days, but what the hell.
I had a reply from the correspondence team of O2, having complained that I could get no reception anywhere I went. The letter, from "Vaishali", told me "As I've checked, it shows that a mast close to your location is experiencing a high level of demand for service. This may be the reason you're experiencing issues to make and receive calls.......If you're facing problems with your phone, I'll request you to take your phone to nearest O2 store and get it checked with any O2 Guru. The network problem may cause in some areas [sic] but if you're facing problems all over, there could be a fault with your handset." So I will take the handset in to O2 in Lincoln tomorrow.
THURSDAY 21 AUGUST
More grim news on the sad state of the UK economy: "The UK's economic recovery is unlikely to be export driven as its biggest trading partner is 'dead in the water', a Bank of England policymaker has said. In a rare interview by a Monetary Policy Committee member, David Miles told the BBC it was 'pretty difficult' to see UK exports growing because of economic problems in the eurozone." An export led recovery is the only real way of getting out of our economic muddles, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this is no longer possible. At least the housing boom is starting to stall, so that is one good thing.
There was also a report that "Retail sales weaken in July"...... The 1.3% fall in spending in food stores in July was the first decline in 25 years." Presumably this reflects the rapid rise in the cost of living, the reality making a nonsense of the latest inflation figure from the Office of National Statistics.
Another sexual misdeamenour has been reported, this one relating to a University's chairman of governors who is to be investigated about "claims of sexual harassment of female staff.". When is this sexual witch-hunt ever going to an end? How sad it is that this country has never really grown up about sex, still not having recovered from the Victorian prurience and smugness. There was also the news today that the "number of sexual offences on British railways leaps by more than a fifth in 12 months, new figures show." No wonder the trains seldom run on time!
A correspondent has sent me this picture of a Chinese aircraft carrier. Is it a spoof? If it is real it looks as if it has broken down or is airborne, there being no ripples on the surface of the sea. A recent Chinese rocket aimed at the moon also failed. In her book "Hard Choices", Hillary Clinton mentions the problems with China, trying to convince the country to play by the rules of the global marketplace "by dropping the discriminatory trade practices, allowing the value of its currency to rise, and preventing tainted food and goods from reaching consumers around the world, such as the toys contaminated by toxic lead paint that had ended up in the hands of American children." A thoroughly rotten, corrupt country, as communist countries have always been everywhere.
As I wanted to update the housekeeping accounts, I needed to know my quarterly electricity bill from E-on, which was due yesterday. I therefore tried telephoning yet again, having to wait 13 minutes during which I heard nauseating pop music and a recorded message every few minutes saying: "We're sorry to keep you waiting. Please continue to hold", but there was no response, so I gave up.
However, not wanting to give up, which is one of the reasons we lost the empire, I telephoned yet again after lunch, eventually managing to get through after a wait of five minutes. Success at last, showing how you have to persevere in this falling apart country. The bill was £159.03, about what I had expected.
Much of my time these days seems to be spent writing letters of complaint, presumably all part of the country falling steadily apart. Obviously this relentless economic and social decline is something I have to accept, abiding by that advice: "Cheer up. The worst is yet to come."
I have had a response to my complaint to the chairman of the Parish Council about the appalling state of the village road, saying that he agreed with my sentiments and would see what could be done. I suppose the problem is that after paying for the enormous level of staffing, some of the officers having incredibly fancy titles, and giving the councillors their recent substantial pay rise, many times above the rate of inflation, there is not much money left for any services.
I had an e-mail this morning regarding my annual subscription to "The Literary Review", a Debbie asking me for the cheque number that I sent for the subscription, presumably to check on the payment that was debited to my banking account on the 20th January. I suppose I have just got to accept all this muddle. Nevertheless, there are times when I think there would be a great improvement in working life and its services if all employees had one-and-a-half hours for lunch, having a relaxing break so they could actually think about what they are doing, going back to work refreshed. That is what we did during my working days, and we didn't have all this trouble.
The cock-up made me so thankful that I had paid the subscription by cheque, therefore having a record, as indeed I pay most of my bills, including the outrageous council tax for which I only receive a dustbin collection each week. There is no doubt that cheques are the safest and most reliable of financial transactions, and which I can now continue to use as the Government has stopped the banks from abolishing them. The other factor is always avoid those diabolical direct debits that mean you lose control of your banking account. I will never have one, so long as I live,
A fairly relaxed day after quite a busy time that could have resulted in stress. Apart from a brief visit to town, the rest of the day was spent at home. This evening I will be watching a DVD of "The Spirit of 1945" with a neighbour - sessions that I always enjoy, though we have seen some poor films in our time, the worst recent one being "Don Jon", which we had to switch off after 15 minutes as it was so diabolically awful. Not far behind in its appalling presentation was "American Hustle" - a film I loathed.
Lincolnshire 21st August, 2014
Diary of a Septuagenarian
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