DIARY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN

- John Copeland -


Friday 27th February - Thursday 5th March, 2015


Home

Home sweet home. Another two months and we will be back in the conservatory.


"Decline of the stay at home mother: Just one woman in ten is a full time mum ".

Frightening and sad headline in "The Daily Mail" 3rd March, empasising the decline of the UK family as a caring and supportive unit for children. No wonder there is so much disruption and disobedience in schools.


I saw yesterday in "Times" that "Universities told to double the intake of poor students". Presumably this is yet another example of the unbelievable nonsense of social engineering. Universities in my days long ago, were centres of excellence and elitism, based entirely on intelligence. Any intake above 10% is totally unrealistic, probably resulting in degrees in jazz and other such nonsense. It makes me truly thankful that I went to university when a degree meant and was worth something.

Another nonsense is that Mr. Miliband has promised to reduce university fees from £9,000 to £6,000, paying for the shortfall by taxing wealthy pensioners. There is no way, though, that he can meet the shortfall, the result being that universities will be denuded of funds leading to a smaller annual intake. Alas, this is yet another of Labour's proposals that just hasn't been thought through. Indeed, it begins to look as if the party has started to realise that it stands no chance of winning the general election next May, thereby giving up hope and therefore coming up with these crazy proposals.

The main problem with Labour is that it does not have any realistic economic policies to challenge the unbalanced, unsustainable and unbelievable recovery, all smoke and mirrors, promulgated by the Cameroons. Accordingly, it is not too difficult to foresee the Tory election posters proclaiming: "Don't let Labour spoil the recovery". The fact that there is no real recovery, and that everything will be crashing down within a few months of the election, is irrelevant, most of the people being fooled most of the time.

Already there are signs of this fallout. In today's "Times" there was a headline in the Business section, which I mainly read, saying: "Consumers left to drive recovery as oil sends business investment falling, representing the biggest slump in investment for six years." This is the "scenario" that any Chancellor dreads, seeing a shuffling around of existing money internally instead of diverting resources for export, thereby creating real wealth. In other words, with the main stimulus being consumer expenditure based on credit, we are going along the same path that led to the recent credit crunch, though next time it will be far worse.

Meanwhile, the chart below shows the dreadful condition this country is in, predicted to be in an even bigger mess than Spain in terms of general Government net debt as a percentage of GDP.

FRIDAY 27 FEBRUARY

Chart

Chart indicating projected general Government net debt as a percentage of GDP, showing that we are worse off than Spain. Japan's poor placing is a consequence of a decade of harmful deflation.


One of my friends sent me an e-mail with two attachments. One showed a recording of Mr. Miliband pontificating on his policies for the forthcoming election. Oh, dear! How sad it is that he has no charisma, no charm, no gravitas, no kind of character, and, as mentioned above, no realistic policies for dealing with the forthcoming financial crash. It makes me feel ashamed that I had thought of voting Labour, but I now realise that I could not vote for that hopeless mob, especially when I also see Mr Balls and the hapless Harriet Harman, that fierce feminist.

Maybe I cannot vote for the Cameroons either, for it seems that there is a choice between a party ruining the social framework of the country, and the other ruining the economy. It is such a shame that the Lib-Dims are so useless, so leaderless, their days being well and truly done. They could have provided a balance between the unpleasant excesses of the Cameroons and Miliband's mob.

The other attachment showed a woman from the Green Party being interviewed on a radio programme, making an incredibly hopeless mess of the interview, being totally wrapped up and discredited by the polite interviewer, obviously not having a clue what she was talking about in the provision of extra housing in the country. As it is, I have never thought that the Greens were all that bright. Although well intentioned people, obviously concerned about the environment, they seem to live in a world of dreams where reality never enters their thinking. They would probably have us all living in mud huts with candles.

Being a great fan of Laurel & Hardy, I have been wanting to obtain the scene in which they are dragging a piano up a long flight of stairs, with the predictable disastrous results. A member of the Club who has the official complete boxed series lent me them so that I could find the particular scene, but the DVDs only had titles with no indication of what was in them. I therefore put a message on the L & H forum - something I should probably have done in the first place, quickly being told it was "The Music Box".

I went in to HMV in Lincoln in the hope of purchasing the required DVD, but although they had some of the Laurel & Hardy series there was no "Music Box". Fortunately, it was available on Amazon at a cost of £19.99, so I have duly ordered it.

I find it rather surprising that I have yet to meet a woman who enjoys Laurel and Hardy, not finding them in the least bit funny, regarding them as being just "silly", whereas I have yet to meet a man who does not enjoy the films. As might be expected, Mrs. Copeland does not like the films at all, wondering how on earth I can ever laugh so much at the ridiculous antics. I suppose it is because women are wired up differently, probably not having a sense of the ridiculous, possibly explaining why there are very few female comedians, and that even the few that do exist are not all that amusing.

Yesterday I ordered a small hand-held vacuum cleaner - a Duronic bagless upright, our previous cleaner one having given up the ghost. Although we have a very efficient "Henry" machine, we wanted to have an appliance that was not quite so heavy in taking upstairs. To my amazement it was delivered today - a first rate service by courier.

I had a trial run of the appliance after putting it together, finding that it was excellent, obviously representing a good buy, especially as it was reduced from £49 to £29. The only snag was that it was "Made in China" - oh, those fearful words! Recently I seem to have had to replace quite a lot of appliances, including a fireguard, a toaster, a fireside set, and this cleaner. I also had to have a new speedometer cable on the scooter. An expensive time.

Mrs. C had to go to the County Hospital again at 1 p.m. for yet another review. As I remarked last week, the National health Service is wonderful, the best in the world, so why on earth do people pay immense monthly payments for a markedly inferior private service. Mind you, there won't be much of the NHS left if the Cameroons are returned to power, the Party hating the NHS almost as much as the BBC, single mothers and the European Union.

Although we had our chimney swept last September, I have been noticing falls of soot during recent days, which is not a good sign, likely to lead to a chimney fire. I therefore telephoned the chimney sweep that we use, asking him when he could come out. "What about 2 o'clock this afternoon?" he replied, and he duly arrived, albeit somewhat earlier. He told me that there was a large amount of soot, due mainly to my extensive use of logs and "dirty coal". The coal should have a shine on it, which my supply seems to lack, even though it comes form Yorkshire.

I mentioned that I had been advised by friends to have a log-burning stove in place of the living fire, but he strongly advised against this, saying that it would cost me a lot of money to install, especially with the lining of the chimney, and expensive to run, having to use only dried logs. "Stay as you are", he advised. "You will enjoy the fire more than any log-burning stove."

In the evening the family gathered at granddaughter's new rented house for a house-warming party, having a Thai take-away which I enjoyed, much to my surprise. A most pleasant occasion, especially as I was able to drink, son-in-law Phil and his wife providing the transport. During the evening I had a wager with son-in-law Steve for a good bottle of white wine (not French) that Labour will win in Lincoln in May. The present incumbent - a Conservative - only has a majority of 1,058 last time, so with such a slender majority he cannot possibly win, especially if Ukip presents a candidate, splitting the Tory vote.

Chloe's house has a gas-fired flame-effect fire, which looked splendid and gave out an excellent heat, involving no work at all. That is the kind of fire that I would like to have if I have to give up the living fire in our parlour, but alas we have no gas in the village, and it was only last year that we went onto mains drainage. Additionally in this backwater, broadband at the best of times in our part of the village is only 0.8 mbps on a good day. Still, at least we managed to stop the proposal to have broadband in the local Club, so that is a real blessing.

SATURDAY 28 FEBRUARY

I woke up this morning in real agony with the painful mixture of arthritis, sciatica and the torn muscle in my left arm, finding that I had difficulty in getting out of bed. I just cannot believe that I managed to tear the muscle, adding substantially to my miseries, one woe treading upon another's heel. I have been advised to see a physiotherapist at £33.50 time, but I do not have a lot of faith in such treatment, having found that the physiotherapy I had at the County Hospital several years ago when I tore a tendon in my right shoulder did very little good. An American correspondent told me that it would heal on its own, taking about a year, and he was spot on.

A day at home. Mrs. Copeland went in to town to withdraw money from a cashpoint for the week's household provisions, and purchase an "i". I just cannot abide by all those awful supplements in the other weekend papers, most of which offer wrong advice on health, plus where to go on holiday to unspoilt locations, thereby completely ruining them.

On the BBC news website I saw that "Boris Nemtsov, a leading Russian opposition politician and ex-deputy PM, is shot dead in Moscow ahead of a march against the war in Ukraine." There was also an item saying: "Russia has become a danger to Britain and the country must be prepared to take steps to defend itself and its allies, the former head of MI6 says." So faced with such threats, as well as from the crazy militant Islamists, what does this country do? It severely cuts back on its armed forces, making the same mistake that we made during the disarmament days of the 1930s, indicating that history never teaches us anything.

In fairness, I suppose it has to be admitted that we cannot afford an adequate defence of the country, just as we cannot properly finance our schools, hospitals and pensions, the country being deeply in debt. Decline and fall indeed. For our defence we therefore have to rely on the Americans who can easily sort out Putin, crippling him financially with sanctions and the fall of the currency, just as the Americans instigated the fall of Communist Russia that was unable to keep up with defence expenditure.

I was alarmed and disappointed to read that, although watching the idiot's lantern has recently fallen by 10 minutes a day, the "average family" (whatever that is) still watches for 3 hours 44 minutes a day, which seems an incredible amount of totally wasted time watching so much rubbish. I suppose, though, it is argued that after a hard day's work (not that there is a lot of evidence of any pronounced productivity in this country) the partners just want to watch all the dreadful rubbish on the lantern, not having the energy or the inclination to spent a better evening reading. It makes me so truly thankful that the television never goes on in our house, except for showing DVDs, and we haven't shown many of those recently.

Curse

The curse of mobile telephones is now gradually being recognised. I was so thankful that we managed at the AGM of our local Club to prevent the introduction of broadband - one of the few good things I have done recently, having put forward a resolution at the AGM to ban the installation. The resolution was carried 18-15.


One of my neighbours has a fault on his computer, as we all have every week. The computer repair firm he has used in the past has given up trading, so he asked me for the name and telephone number of the firm that I use. I duly gave him the firm's name and number, and he made an appointment for the proprietor to come out to the house yesterday between 4 and 5 o'clock, but he did not turn up.

So much for recommending a firm, but then this failure is typical of this broken down country. There are times, these being one of them, when I feel that I just cannot understand anything any more, the values of my day all having been jettisoned. Maybe I have the early stages of dementia. Indeed, I can imagine going to the doctor, the interview going something along the following lines:

ME: "Doctor, I find that I cannot remember anything any more, and am unable understand things, not even the Chancellor's economic policy"
DOCTOR: "When did this trouble first start coming on?"
ME: "What trouble?"

I was hearing today, much to my shame and naivetι, that the consumer satisfaction surveys that so many firms send out these days, are merely a device for getting the customer's personal details - address, telephone number, age etc, so that junk mail and spam can be sent out, as well as the information being sold on to other companies. Admittedly, I could never quite understand why firms should be so concerned about their products, not usually showing much interest. Belatedly now I know the reason, and will never again fill in one of the surveys. As they say, there's no fool like an old fool. I suppose I just do not realise how disastrous and deceitful the modern business world has become.

In the evening, after a day at home, Mrs. C. and I went to the local Club to see a film of "The Vicar of Dibley", being a stage version that had been filmed whilst being performed in Australia recently. Never having watched the series on television, I have not seen any of the episodes. The film was about the goings on of a parish council, though "I have to say" that the council depicted was not nearly as funny as the one we have in our village, whose chairman, a farmer, had recently put in a planning application for a massive solar farm on his fields around the village, the application being rejected by the excellent and caring Planning Committee of the District Council..

Unfortunately, with my limited cultural aspirations, I did not enjoy the film all that much, especially as it was yet another reminder that I have completely lost my sense of humour. Other people in the audience this evening were laughing their heads off, but I barely smiled throughout the film. Part of the trouble is that I have a great loathing of the theatre, finding people gabbling away on stage all the time immensely tiresome, while musicals are to be avoided like the plague or a woman politician. Give me a film any day.

In my old age I even find that I no longer enjoy classical music so much. Whereas I so greatly enjoyed Bruckner, Mahler and Shostakovitch in the past, I now prefer folk music, especially Irish music. For me the worst music is a woman screeching, sounding as if she has caught her mammary glands in the mangle - a horrible sound.

SUNDAY 1 MARCH

With my arthritis, sciatica and torn muscle in my left arm, I am in so much pain, the worst that I have ever endured, finding that it is really beginning to get me down. It really is a most depressing period. They keep us old blighters alive with pills and potions, even though most of them do not work, but what is the point when we end up in pain in the last scene of all. I remain convinced that the design life of the body, as stated in the Bible, is threescore years and ten.

It is nevertheless good that we have got over January and February, those two dark and depressing months of the year, now being able to look forward to March and the lengthening of the days and the advent of Spring on the 20th, British Summer Time coming in on the 29th. By the end of the month, the heating season over (at least, we hope so), we will be able to give up the living fire, no longer having to hump in a hundredweight of coal a week, and move into the conservatory.

Maybe it is not quite so enjoyable in the conservatory as sitting by a blazing log fire, reading and drinking wine, the idiot's lantern switched off, but at least it is an easier life, hearing the comforting sound of the rain beating down on the perspex roof during the summer days.

When Mrs. C went to Waitrose yesterday for the week's provisions, she brought back a packet of Brue Valley Farm butter, salted with Maldon crystal salt (80% fat, 1.5% salt). I had the butter on toast for breakfast this morning, finding that it was delightful - a splendid butter, which I will have from now on. I still find it sad that a whole generation was prevented from eating butter because of the food frighteners emanating from a bunch of quacks and charlatans, last week having been shown, along with most of the other frighteners, to have no medical or scientific basis for the rejection.

At least, albeit belatedly, everybody will now be able to enjoy butter, never buying those ghastly butter substitutes that an extensive survey last year showed had no benefits whatsoever in lowering cholesterol or helping the heart, such claims, along with others, being without any foundation. I cannot imagine that anybody in his right senses would now buy the rubbish, though it takes a long time for fears to die down, even if totally unfounded.

I enjoyed the e-mail that I received under the title of "Greek Economics", though it would equally apply to the present appalling state of the indebted UK economy, perhaps even more so in the event of quantitative easing:-

It is a slow day in a little Greek Village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.
On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.
The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.
The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer.
The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.
The guy at the Farmers' Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna.
The tavern owner slips the money along to the local hooker drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him "services" on credit.
The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note.
The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything.
At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.
No one produced anything. No one earned anything.
However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism.
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how a bailout package works.

A houseplant that was given to us by friend nearly a half century ago has become very poorly, and today it had to have major surgery. Alas, though, I fear its days are done, for as the photograph below shows the plant looks so sorry for itself, rather like the British economy. As an unfortunate coincidence, the friend who gave us the plant all those years ago died in January. To all things there is a season......

Ron

A houseplant that we have had for 44 years, given to us all those years ago by a friend who died last week. We have transplanted the plant, but it looks a bit like the British economy, very sorry for itself and unlikely to recover.


As always, we went to the local Club at 3.30 p.m. for the traditional Sabbath Day alcoholic refreshments, having an enjoyable time when I discuss politics and economics with male members. Today one of the members was saying that President Putin has become another Hitler, trying to grab more and more territory.

Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, America and the European Union can cause - indeed, have caused, immense financial troubles to Russia through sanctions and currency manipulation, the Russian ruble (sometimes written as rouble) having fallen to a very low level, especially with the fall in the price of petroleum. At the same time, the country is facing massive inflation. Long may that financial distress continue. Perhaps Putin will eventually be thrown out for all the misery he is causing the country.

After dinner I sat by the fireside reading some more of the highly complicated "Hall of Mirrors" contrasting and comparing the Great Depression of the 1930s with the recent Great Recession. In one of the chapters, the author makes the comment:

"There are good reasons for recovery from a slump caused by financial crisis [i.e. the Credit Crunch] to be slower than a normal recovery. Financial crisis follow when households, in their exuberance, incur heavy debts. The subsequent process of deleveraging, in which those same households, now face-to-face with reality, seek to work down those debts, persists into the recovery, limiting their spending. Banks, still in the process of rebuilding their capital and repairing their balance sheets, are meanwhile limiting their lending."

This is the process we are now seeing, consumer expenditure having fallen last week, and the banks still refusing to lend much money to industry and commerce. It is a fascinating time, seeing the country about to go into deflation as the short-lived recovery, now propped up with political smoke and mirrors, comes crashing down after the election.

The book emphasises that nearly all the financial problems are caused by over-spending Governments and the greed and irresponsibility of the banks. As might be expected, the de-regulation of the banks by Thatcher the Terrible ultimately led to the Great Recession. Today, despite all the troubles, there seems to be an almost total lack of control, which will no doubt lead to further troubles.

Although written by an American, and the emphasis thereby being on the US, I found it strange that Britain was only rarely mentioned, apparently being of little consequence, despite being the leading financial centre in the Western world. Alas, it seems we only have a walking-on part these days.

MONDAY 2 MARCH

It made me laugh to read in today's "Times" that, as Mr Cameron has not been able to keep to his promised limit on immigration, party chiefs have advised him to abandon the limit altogether. What a clever ruse! You really have to give it to the Cameroons, for they can cheat and lie their way out of any fine mess, though I suppose all politicians of whatever party are of a similar nature, most of them feathering their own nests.

Even so, the Cameroons must without any doubt be one of the worst Governments since 1945, a Government that has landed us in even more debt than Gordon Brown managed; has reduced spending on defence at a time when we are facing more and more difficulties around the world, especially from Russia and ISIS; has reduced police forces throughout the country at a time of rising violent crime; and has widened the gulf between rich and poor to an unacceptable level.

Even worse, it is pretending that we have economic growth, albeit on the Never-Never. The impression is therefore given that the Cabinet has not a clue what it is doing, getting into one muddle after another. I suppose, though, it could be argued that the sad state of this country has overshot a political solution.

One of my neighbours, having had Virgin broadband as his Internet Service Supplier, has been told that the company has been sold off and that he will therefore need a different e-mail address with the new company. This means an awful amount of tiresome work, having to notify friends, banks, doctor and all manner of firms of the change. To make matters worse he finds he can receive e-mails but not send them, having the expense of calling in a computer engineer as the help line is understandably always engaged.

I just hope that I do not have to change Claranet, my ISP, which is an excellent firm providing a first-rate service, having a helpline that is answered immediately on the telephone. If Claranet changes, I think I will give up the Internet, not wanting to go to any of the other companies.

Crocus

Crocus in the garden. Spring will soon be here.



There was the splendid news today that a small pub is aiming to bring back the art of conversation – by banning mobile phones. Anyone wanting to check their smartphones at the "Firkin Shed" micro-pub in Bournemouth has to go outside with the cigarette smokers. People found using a mobile in the pub are fined £1, the proceeds going to the Air Ambulance.

We can but hope that other pubs and restaurants will impose a similar ban, thereby enabling us to talk to one another again, face to face. Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, a resolution I put to the AGM at our Club last month, rejecting the proposal to install broadband was approved, albeit by only 18-15, so we at least have a whole year clear of all that nonsense. In my old age I can do some things right.

During the evening I finished reading "Hall of Mirrors", which I enjoyed, even though I found it hard going at times. The author takes the view that the euro has been a disaster. Throughout the book, explaining the similarities between the Great Depression and the Great Recession, the main theme is the need to control the greedy and irresponsible banks, but how? If they are nationalised all incentives are reduced; if they are left in their present unregulated state they go wild. Even when partially nationalised, they still seem to be irresponsible.

I have now turned to lighter reading - a novel: "The Illuminations" by Andrew O'Hagan, published by faber and faber this year at £17.99.

TUESDAY 3 MARCH

In the present unhappy and neurotic state of this country with its ailing economy, it seems that we are becoming more and more obsessed about sex, there now being a witch hunt to bring alleged sexual offenders to court, sending some of them to prison for up to 16 years for crimes committed many years ago. For example, I read yesterday that a footballer has been charged with having sex with a 15-year-old girl, while today there was the news that "Teachers, councillors and social workers in England and Wales who fail to protect children from sexual exploitation could face up to five years in jail under proposals being unveiled by the PM."

Obviously the press does not help matters by its continued emphasis on sex. In today's "Times2," for example there was a photograph on the front cover showing a man and a woman on a treadmill at a gymnasium, the caption reading: "Are you on the pull? When did gyms become the new pick-up place?"

Additionally, we seem to be going through a period of increasing racism and anti-semitisim, the latter probably not being all that surprising bearing in mind the appalling treatment of the Palestinians by Israel under the beastly Benjamin Netanyahu, a leader who is unfairly giving the Jews a bad name throughout the world. No surprisingly, he has fallen out with President Obama over Iran's nuclear capability, the President rightly refusing to see him during his visit to America. The worry is that this hot-headed and impulsive man may attack Iran unilaterally, which would be a major disaster.

As if this is not enough to worry about in our increasingly neurotic society, the latest health frighteneer according to today's front-page in the "Daily Express" is paracetemol, the cheap painkiller of choice for millions, saying: "new analysis appears to show a link between long-term use of the drug and conditions such as strokes, renal failure and gastrointestinal bleeding."

Hardly a week goes by without some new frightener, yet there is the consolation that further research conclusively shows that the fears were totally unfounded. Still, the frighteners help to sell newspapers, as well as taking our minds off the deteriorating state of the economy. Soon, when the list becomes excessively long, we will hardly be able to eat anything or take any medicines.

What has to be remembered amidst all this nonsense is that the medicine men and the so-called investigating scientists have not a clue what is good and bad for the body, thereby clutching around at straws to single out all manner of dangers. What they do not seem to understand is that it is worthless just selecting food in determining health, for so much depends upon other factors, including hereditary considerations, genes, age, occupation and environment.

What seems surprising is that my parents - my mother living until 80 years and father to 95, were not encumbered by all the health nonsense, yet they both lived into old age, well beyond the Biblical limit. So why have the frighteners become so dominant today? Is it because increasingly affluence breeds this neurosis, or is it because we have all manner of charlatans and quacks today, including psychiatrists, psychologists, dieticians, management consultants, marriage guidance counsellors and a great army of child consultants, all of them earning a nice little living while feeding upon the fears and worries.

One fellow I know even goes to the extent in his neurosis of not eating any food with carbohydrates after 6 o'clock in the evening. This is surely neurosis gone completely mad. My guess is that a lot of starving people around the world would readily risk having carbohydrates after 6 or at any other time. It just goes to show how dieticians and other such quacks can cause so much trouble and fears.

I find it interesting how political fortunes can change so quickly. Consider Ukip, for example. Last year it was riding high, winning some seats in by-elections, but today the nationalistic and racist party is regarded with laughter and contempt, a spent force. Part of the problem was that the party was essentially a one-man band, the other performers being either ridiculous or totally mad. Indeed, many of them in earlier times would have been enthusiastic members of Mosley and his Brownshirt brigade.

It therefore seems that the May general election will be a contest between the Caneroons and a leaderless Labour Party on whom the SNP will cling for support, in all probability resulting in a hung Parliament, which is the best of all possible worlds, putting a brake on Cameroon extreme rightwing excesses. In today's "Times" there was a report that "Charities have been warned that they will be stripped of grants if they campaign against the Government" I worry about the right-wing extremism of the Cameroons. Given an extensive majority next May there is the worry that the Party could almost topple into a form of Fascism.

.
Rocket

Stephenson's "Rocket" - the latest railway model I have purchased.. Unfortunately, Mrs. Copeland does not like these models, saying they clutter up the house, but surely they are more interesting than those nick-nacks that women like.

I mentioned last week that Mrs. C and I were unable to get served when we went to lunch at "The Barge" on the 23rd February to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Having waited 15 minutes without being served, not even with the preliminary drinks, we walked out and went round to the nearby "Horse & Groom", there having an excellent lunch. That evening I wrote to the proprietor of the Barge to express my disappointment, but no response has so far been received. I suppose manners and mores have changed a lot these days, and I cannot therefore expect the efficiency and courtesy of earlier times. Nevertheless I will write another letter tomorrow, saying that inefficiency in this country is easily accepted; discourtesy takes somewhat longer to deal with.

I was immensely saddened to see that today's "Daily Mail" had a front-page report saying that only one woman in ten stays at home to look after the family, thereby indicating the relentless and unhappy decline of family life in this country. I find it very depressing, especially as it means that babies and infants are dumped in bootie camps all day, while teenagers become latchkey kids, getting up to all manner of mischief and mayhem with no overall parental control. No wonder that teachers have such disciplinary problems with their insecure and family-abandoned pupils.

At least it makes me so thankful that my mother did not abandon my two sisters and me by going out to work, and I am thankful, too, that Mrs. Copeland did not work, and then only part-time, until our daughters were in their teens. There is no doubt that I really did live in the best of times, before everything fell apart in this ailing little island.

The poorly transplanted houseplant mentioned earlier seems to have completely given up the ghost, rather like the Labour Party, showing no signs of recovery. I will give it a few more days, and if there is then no recovery it will obviously have to be thrown out. Fortunately, we still have the original plant from which the cutting was made. It is obviously a reminder that nothing is for ever.

I had the water bill for 2015/6 from Anglian Water today, amounting to £250.38. Last year the cost was £269.45, so there has actually been a reduction. Last year we had mains drainage installed in the village, but we are allowed a full year at the old rate before the new charges are imposed. It seems a very fair arrangement. Amazingly, though, some of the Luddites in the village have refused to go onto the mains, wanting to stay on their polluting soakaway systems instead. I just hope they are subsequently prosecuted for polluting the environment.

Thankfully, I am not on a water meter. Were I to go onto one, a chart I received from Anglian Water showed that I would pay another £38 a year, so I am keeping off a meter, not wanting the additional expense. I also avoid paying by diabolical direct debit, thereby not losing control of my banking account. Anglian Water is an excellent company, one of the best in the country. Sadly, it is foreign owned, but then we do not own any of our public utilities, having sold them all abroad for a song, just as Royal Mail will soon be sold off to the Germans.

There was the good news that the profits of Barclays Bank fell by 21%. Maybe there is yet hope for this country, the banks no longer being able to get us into another fine mess every few years.

Although there has been a slight increase in UK manufacturing, the point was made in today's "Times" that "the positive manufacturing picture overall was marred by evidence that some firms were still struggling to make much export progress and reluctant to invest in plant and machinery. Export performance worsened again with a negative score achieved in four of the past five months as factories struggle with the stronger pound and subdued conditions in many euro-zone markets."

It was the Chancellor's initial policy - and it was the right one - to curb consumer expenditure at home in order to promote exports, but with an election approaching, and consumers not wanting to have a curb on their credit extravagance, the policy has been dropped. It is a classic example of a democracy not being able to cure its economic failures, the people not wanting to take their medicine.

Quite a socialising day. At 11.15 a.m. I met a ladyfriend for coffee - or rather wine for me - at a hotel in Lincoln - our monthly meeting during the first week of each month. A large glass of wine is priced at £8.30, which I thought was a bit steep, especially as it is not very notable wine, but never mind. This is rip-off Britain. .

My friend was insisting that I should see a physiotherapist regarding my poorly muscle-torn arm at £33 a time. However, I gather that the doctors do not recommend this referral, so I continue to wonder what the benefit could be as the treatment seems to be largely a matter of putting an ice-pack on the affected area and not lifting anything heavy.

In the evening we went with friends to the steak evening at the local pub/restaurant "Woodcocks", where a bottle of wine and steak costs a very reasonable £20 per couple. A most pleasant occasion, later going back to their house for further refreshment. They were telling us that they recently went to a posh restaurant for dinner, where the meal for the two of them came to a £100. It would break my heart to pay such money for a meal, the equivalent of buying four or more books. But then I like only simple food, nothing with a recipe, and I never eat vegetables. Apparently, there is now some concern that the packaging of imported food could be harmful. Another frightener, and another reason for not eating vegetables, other than potatoes.

WEDNESDAY 4 MARCH

Having banned the earlier tungsten lightbulbs (though they are mercifully coming back, the energy-saving ones having been found to give such a poor light, as well as being dangerous, meaning that I did not need to stock up on a 100 of 40W, 60W, 100W and 150W) ) the meddlesome European Union Energy-Saving busybodies are now planning to ban halogen bulbs, which are used, amongst other appliances, in security lights. Soon we will not be able to see in the dark at all.

The problem is that if a specialist group is set up, as with this energy saving one and the Food Standards Authority, the well-paid members have to bring in new policies and frighteners every month to justify their existence. Hence we have to endure all this nonsense. I find it difficult to make up my mind about the European Union. If we come out, as the Cameroons want us to withdraw completely, the Tories will abolish all the Union's employment protection legislation, as well as abolishing free eye tests for the over-60s. On the other hand, if we stay in we get all this nonsense, the aim appearing to be to make out lives increasingly difficult.

By way of shameful panic-buying, I went to Wickes to purchase several packs of the tungsten bulbs, fortunately finding that there were still some left, people apparently not being fully aware of the ban that may take four years to implement.

At the risk of mentioning economics again, thereby offending women readers, I read a fascinating article in today's "Times" by the excellent columnist under the title of "Flog it isn't the best policy for Britain, but what's the alternative". In other words, it is terribly wrong to sell off the family silver, but when the country is in so much debt, the most indebted nation among the G7 members, what is the alternative to getting us out of our massive debt?

Mr. Aldrick makes the valid point that "textbook economics states that a country's current account deficit must be in balance with the financial account surplus. If the financial account shrinks [as is now happening], there is less money to spent [probably explaining why consumer expenditure fell last month]. In that event , the currency is likely to devalue and the economy to slow."

He goes on to make the point that "alluring as it sounds, foreign direct investment [FDI] is not necessarily productive. In fact, much of it is strictly not investment at all. It is simply acquisition of Uk-generated profits...Unfortunately, Britain doesn't really have a choice. As long as we are importing more than we are exporting and sending more income overseas than we are earning from foreign shores, we will need to keep the 'For Sale' sign flying over the UK. This is why Qatar owns half of London now, from Harrods to the Shard to Canary Wharf to parts of the Olympic Park and Heathrow, and why China ploughed $51 billion into the UK in 2014."

Although I can appreciate these points ,understanding then as resembling a man who is deeply in debt selling off his house and car and nearly everything else to pay his debts, I am nevertheless beginning to think that I have lost all understanding of the true state of the UK economy. On the one hand we are told that incomes are now rising rapidly, albeit still 2% below the level when the Cameroons came yet, presumably prompted by low interest rates, while productivity is still falling. Under such circumstances you would expect a rise in inflation, yet it appears that the country is spiralling down into deflation. Admittedly, consumer expenditure fell last month, and the housing market shows considerable falls, which makes some sense, though overall everything seems topsy-turvy.

In earlier tedious entries in this diary I have maintained that the unbalanced and unsustainable state of the UK economy will see a massive austerity programme after the election. Today, on the BBC News website I saw that, "The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said that the worst of the UK's spending cuts are still to come. Its Green Budget, which looks at options and issues ahead of next month's Budget, says the UK's finances still have a long way to go.

"To meet plans announced in last year's Autumn Statement departmental spending cuts of £51.4bn, or 14.1%, are needed in the next parliament, the IFS said. Cuts in the current parliament are expected to reach £38.3bn, or 9.5%. The IFS said that over the next four years the UK is planning the largest fiscal consolidation out of 32 advanced economies. It would mean public spending falling to its lowest share of national income since at least 1948, and fewer people working in the public sector than at any time since at least 1971." Once again you read it here first.

Against this appalling background, how can the Chancellor argue that there has been a substantial economic recovery? Seen in this light, the economy begins to make some sense, the main consideration being that the Cameroons want the economy to rip - hence the continuing low interest rates, to show a recovery in time for the May election. After that the crunch. What should be happening is that taxes should be raised, though this is anathema to the catechism of the Cameroons.

No Premium Bond prizes again this month, the investment proving to be a disaster, not that there is any point in putting any money into a Building Society on account of the abysmal returns. It always amazes me that people invest in those Societies, seeing their money being steadily whittled away by inflation, even though we are down to 0.5% on the CPI, and likely to fall to zero within the next two months as the country descends into the deflation of the 1930s. As the author of "The Hall of Mirrors" points out, austerity (which we will see after the election), only magnifies the deflation.

There was an advertisement in today's "Times" announcing on Saturday "The Men's Issue. Daniel Finkkelstein's diet, David Aaronivitch's detox, Robert Crampton's middle life crisis, Caitlin Moran's perfect men." In other words, all the horrors of modern society. At least it was good to have an early warning so as not to waste £1.50 on this rubbish in the newspaper this coming weekend.

In today's paper there was a splendid photograph showing Messrs Cameron and Clegg roaring with laughter at a joke, while our dreadful Home Secretary looked glum and miserable, as if she had just lost her Parliamentary seat. Presumably the picture indicates the different approaches to humour among men and women.

Brayford

The Brayford Pool in Lincoln. Currently there is a proposal apparently supported by the Brayford Trust Ltd that has a property developer and a leading Lincoln City councillor on its membership, to have another "floating restaurant" that will totally ruin the area. Maybe it could be argued that the Brayford has already been spoilt by insensitive planners. Accordingly, there may be no sense in objecting to the planning propsal as the City Council will mistakenly regard the new restaurant as economic growth. When you live in a backward area, pleasant though it is for old people, you have to accept these limitations.


I had one of those cold calls during the day, the caller display unit showing "International" with the false number 02038391038. These cold calls, usually scams, are about to be banned, and not before it is time, so I was interested to see what the call was all about, duly answering it. I was told that this was the last time my number would be called, my number being erased from their database, but meanwhile could I answer a few questions. I immediately put the phone down. Clever stuff, though, especially as a false number means I cannot report the rotters.

After a siesta in the afternoon, the chiropodist, a very pleasant middle-aged lady, came to cut my toenails, as she does every ten weeks or so, doing a splendid job, the charge being £20. While she was cutting the flying circus of the "Red Arrows" was going round and round the village, making a terrible noise. I explained that we had to put up with this noise and pollution every weekday during the winter training season.

"I couldn't stick that," she said. "It would drive me mad!" I said it drives me mad, too, especially as I cannot see the point in such frivolous and dangerous flying, costing the taxpayer £20m a year in running costs. Fortunately, the team will soon be going off to Cyprus, where they will be annoying the residents there, giving us a bit of peace so we can hear the Springtime birds singing.

The torn muscle in the top of my left arm is still causing me a great deal of pain, despite the cold packs that I have been putting on the arm, having found that the heated wheat bag, although initially helpful, no longer seems to lessen the pain. I am even finding it painful to type

THURSDAY 5 MARCH

Some weeks ago I mentioned in this diary that I had submitted an objection to a planning application in our village that proposed felling a magnificent weeping willow tree for the erection of a double garage. The application was rejected by the Planning Committee of the District Council, and today I heard that a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) had been placed on the tree with immediate effect, lasting for six months and then being reviewed thereafter to decide whether it should be a permanent protection.

The TPO was made on the grounds that the "large weeping willow tree is prominent along the street scene and provides good visual amenity....This weeping willow contributes to the attractive rural character along the street." Three cheers, therefore, for our excellent District Council. I just wish that the Parish Council showed a similar concern for the environment, not even having made a submission when comments were asked on the Development Plan covering the next 20 years.

Willow

I heard today that this magnificent weeping willow tree in the village that was to have been felled for the erection of a double garage has been granted a Tree Perservation Order following the rejection of the application by the District Council.


I continue to receive complaints that there is far too much emphasis on economics in this diary. Whilst I can accept this criticism, the present appalling economic state of the UK is one of my absorbing interests. I suppose it raises the old question for whom do I write the diary. For my own satisfaction, or with a regard for the hit rate of readership? My main contention is that a diarist has to present his views, however unacceptable, risking the anger of readers. On the other hand, if there is little regard for the readership, why not just write a personal diary at home, not publishing it? A difficult issue.

An e-mail today, headed "First day back at school in Bolton", that is probably too true to be funny in any way.

The teacher began calling out the names of the pupils :
"Mustafa Al Eih Zeri ?" - "Here"
"Achmed El Kabul ?" - "Here"
"Fatima Al Hayek ? " - "Here"
"Ali Abdul Olmi ?" - "Here"
"Mohammed Bin Kadir ?" - "Here"
"Ali Son al En" , silence in the classroom.
"Ali Son al En" - continued silence as everyone looked around the room .

The teacher repeated the call. A girl stood up and said , "Sorry, teacher . I think that's me. It's pronounced Alison Allen."

On the BBC News website I saw that "David Cameron comes under fire from rival parties after saying he will only take part in one TV debate featuring seven party leaders, held before the election campaign." I can understand his reluctance, for his Government has probably been the worst since 1945, getting us into even more debt; failing to check the greed and irresponsibility of the banks; cutting back on defence forces and the police at a time of increasing insecurity; widening the gulf between rich and poor by harassing the sick and those out of work; and keeping interest rates low to stimulate an artificial and unsustainable economic recovery.

Much to my disappointment, I saw that the BBC is proposing to change the format of the News website, excluding the FTSE and currency movements - the very items I always look at first. Why cannot they leave things alone? As Voltaire so wisely remarked: "Be content with things that work moderately well." The old format worked even better than moderately well.

At least there was the good news that house prices fell -0.3% in February, along with a fall in consumer expenditure. Deflation here we come.

Today's "Times" had a nasty banner on the front page: "My toxic divorce. The bra queen and a very messy break-up." It was advertising an article in the Times2 supplement for women, the ladies apparently being interesting in such mucky matters, presumably to convince themselves that there is always somebody worse off than themselves. Even so, I take the view that it is an article you would expect to see in the "Daily Mirror", rather than a newspaper supposedly for people with reasonable intelligence. But then standards have plummeted these days.

When I bought "The Times" in a Lincoln store this morning, I saw that a screen had been placed in front of the cigarette display, hiding it from view. I suppose this is another of those ridiculous pieces of legislation from the European Union.

Another headline on the front page was "Osborne planning tax cuts for workers". Oh, the goodies we all have when there is an election pending, the sweets being handed out as if there is not going to be a tomorrow. Most of them, however, are taken back after the election. There was also the news that growth in the dominant service sector slowed last month. Alas, there be dragons ahead, though they will be kept at bay until after the election, you can depend upon that. What a fascinating time it is.

Meanwhile, the witch hunt about sexual abuse continues unabated, the latest incident being the home of former Conservative MP being searched by police investigating historical allegations of child abuse. The police really have their hands full with all this abuse, some of it going back half a century.

With a neighbour, I will be watching the DVD of the excellent war film "Fury" this evening. I have seen it before, but I am sure I will enjoy a repeat showing, always enjoying these film evenings.
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E-mail: johncopeland@clara.net
Lincolnshire 5 March, 2015
Comments welcomed.
No 890




Diary of an Octogenarian<BR>



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