"It is during the worst times of your life that you will see the true colors of the people who say they care for you."
So here is the diary in a new format, hoping that it will not be as repetitive and tedious as it has been in the past. Following this reorganisation - and let it be said that everybody and everything has to have a reorganisation sometime these days by way of pretending there has been progress, even if this is another term for cost-cutting and making everything worse.
On numerous occasions I have been criticised for having too much emphasis on economics, especially on the deteriorating economy of the UK, and I will try to reduce this, even though there will have to be references to the subject as the country goes into deflation, which is a Very Bad Thing for any economy, as Japan has experienced over the past decade.
I originally planned to put the new 'n' improved diary in each Sunday, but on second thoughts I think that I will keep to the Thursday slot after all. Rather annoyingly, the web counter seems to have gone wrong, only showing four digits instead of six. 42 needs to be put in front of each figure.
One of the many problems of this diary, however reorganised, is that it continues to represent a somewhat unexciting and undemanding life. Shunted up a side-turning in my retirement, no use to anybody any more, a mere observer of the world passing by, there is nothing salacious, no sexual episodes, to mark the dreary days. As Dr. Johnson said in one of his dog-days: "One day contains the whole of my life." As one of my friends has remarked: "You are very lucky, John. Nobody cares a bugger what you think."
This apart, what I find so surprising with the general election only a few months away, is that the Labour Party, seemingly dead from the neck up, makes no comment about our false economic boom, not even having much to say about the Cameroons ruthlessly dismantling the National Health Service that they have always hated, almost as much as free speech and the BBC. Why doesn't Miliband point out that it is only a few spivs in London who have benefited from this false economic dawn, and why doesn't he make overtures about the risk of the Conservatives allowing the NHS to gall apart?
What's the matter with Miliband? Can it be that, knowing the fine financial mess the country is in, up to its eyeballs in debt, he does not want to preside over the chaos, the country falling apart? That certainly seems to be the only explanation. Sadly, he is a leader with no charisma, no gravitas, and no kind of character, not even having any policies, other than a timid mansion tax that will no doubt be avoided by clever accountants.
I was not surprised to read in the newspaper on Monday that "almost 400,00 people have dropped their private health cover over the past five years, with experts claiming that the figure reflects a high level of patient satisfaction and confidence in the NHS". In this diary I have always pointed to the inadequacy of private medicine with its poor staffing levels and inadequate equipment. Indeed, I would not want to risk going into a private hospital to have so much as an ingrowing toenail removed. Dreadful places that have no aftercare - unless you pay an enormous amount for the extra provision, and no resident doctor.
I had to drive Mrs. Copeland on Monday morning to the Eye Clinic at the County Hospital, where she was having laser treatment to remedy her eyesight that had somewhat deteriorated after having two cataracts removed. The visit was a reminder of the first-rate treatment under the NHS. We had to set off at 8.45 a.m. for an appointment at 9.15 a.m., and I was amazed at the amount of traffic. In the days when I was working in Lincoln there would be no hold-ups at all, going straight to the office within 10 minutes with a clear run - days when I had an hour-and-a-half for lunch. I really did live in the best of times for the major part of my life, and in those days we were lucky not having the misery of computers.
The treatment, which Mrs. C. said was very uncomfortable rather than painful, involved a technician - a Scandinavian lady (what would we do without immigrants in the NHS?) - who shone a very bright light into her eyes, and then had to zap red particles, rather like those games children play when they zap baddies. Immediately afterwards she said her eyesight had improved, so that was all very consoling, another hurdle over. Back home she never stopped dusting, realising how shabby the house had become.
It seems incredible that surgery has made such enormous strides in recent years, whereas dentistry does not seem to have advanced all that much during the past decade. The main skill of private dentists seems to be to rip off their patients with outrageous fees, as one of my relatives discovered to her cost.
The treatment made me realise what a splendid service we have with the NHS, yet the Cameroons would gladly see it fall apart after hiving off profitable parts to chums in the City. Throughout my life I have been a Conservative supporter, but I will be voting Labour for the first time next May. In many ways I loathe Labour, especially when I see the likes of Harriet Harman, but although I agree with the Conservatives cutting back our massive National Debt (which is very different to the minor matter of balancing the Budget), I fear that the extensive cuts will harm the sick and the poor, leaving the wealthy untouched, possibly promoting violence in the streets.
It has been a rather difficult time lately on the home front, involving rather nasty maladies, a grim reminder that we are both getting very old. Still, together I am sure that we will muddle through, which is one of the huge advantages of a loving marriage and a supportive family living nearby. There are times, especially with my arthritis becoming so bad, when I think that we may have to move to a bungalow in the city. As the old saying has it: "When you have one foot in the grave, it is as well to have the other foot on a 'bus stop."
I continue to believe that the Biblical saying that our lives are three-score-year-and-ten represents the real life of the body. Up until the age of 70 years I seem to have been going quite well, free from any pain, but then the arthritis in my knees and spine developed, and there were problems with teeth loss. They keep us old blighters alive, propped up with pills and potions at enormous cost, yet there are times when I wonder whether it is worth all the pain in living beyond 70 years of age.
These maladies constitute one of the reasons why I wanted to shorten the diary, for I am finding it increasingly difficult to type. I suppose I am also aware that I do not go out all that much these days, not presenting a very exotic or interesting life, other than grumbling relentlessly about the decline of the country, watching it descending into deflation, just as I had forecast. I was reminded of the days long ago when I was working in York as a head of department in the College of Further Education.
As a bachelor in those far-off days, I rented a bungalow in a dreary little village called Hessay, whose only redeeming feature was a splendid old Victorian farmhouse. I used to visit the elderly farmer most Fridays, seeing him sitting by the fireside, hardly ever going out. He seemed like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and now I know what the Ghost of Christmas Present is like.
I read that there are proposals to put "stealth speed cameras" on several of the motorways. Whenever I go down to Essex to see mother-in-law with Mrs. Copeland, we never exceed the speed limit, especially as I am an upright citizen, never having had so much as a parking fine or any speeding offence in the 60 years I have been driving. Yet all manner of vehicles overtake us, including white vans and those BMWs whose drivers never seem to face any penalty, believing that they can travel at whatever speed they like.
It is obviously a good sign that the motoring associations have opposed the introduction of the cameras, rather like it is a good sign when the teaching unions oppose a new Government measure. I therefore welcome the cameras with pleasure, especially as they could save lives from the J. Clarkson boy-racers.
I was interested to read that the Pope, referring to the recent problems with the French satirical magazine, has said that if you mock a religion you can expect to receive a punch. I am not sure what I think about that issue. On the one hand I support free speech, which seems to be diminishing steadily in this country, though on the other hand I agree with his Holiness in suggesting that it you stir up a hornet's nest - and a particularly nasty one in this instance, you can expect to be badly stung. Perhaps the offensive satirical magazine cover was very unnecessary, a reminder that free speech requires a degree of responsibility and restraint.
During the week, the Prime Minister sent a letter to all the mosques in the country - and we are even about to have one here in Lincoln, "urging Muslim leaders to explain how Islam can be part of British identity", emphasising that they ought to sort out the militants within their ranks. It is a pity our politicians did not have the courage of John Howard, the former Australian Prime Minister, who courageously and rightly told Muslims in no uncertain terms that if they did not accept Australian mores and manners, they could bugger off home from whence they came. Surely, it has been a terrible mistake to allow so many Muslims into this country, knowing that they will never accept our values or integrate, and that some of them are bent on killing the infidel.
Last weekend we had a pleasant time in Essex with mother-in-law, now in her 98th year. It is amazing that she still has all her marbles about her, able to do difficult crosswords quite easily, having an extraordinary memory. Whilst down in Essex, Mrs, C's younger brother, Jonathan, drove us to Castle Hedingham, probably the most attractive village in Essex, to have morning coffee and tea in a delightful tea-room called "Buckley's", the premises dating back to 1550.
Luckily, the planners seem to have left the village alone, and we can but hope that there is not an article about the village in one of the Sunday newspapers, advertising it as a completely unspoilt village. Such an announcement would quickly lead to its ruination as the visiting hordes swarmed in, rather like foreign fishing villages being destroyed by tourist developments. I believe there is a saying that we destroy the things we love.
There was a brief flurry of snow while we were in Castle Hedingham, but mercifully it lasted only a few minutes. The thought of having to travel up the snowbound A1 was too awful to contemplate, though I suppose we could have stayed another night at mother-in-law's apartment. Nevertheless, it remained extremely cold, and overnight on Sunday 18th there was a slight fall, settling on the ground, though not causing any trouble, It is when there is a half inch of settled snow in this country that the nation grinds to a halt, making a good excuse for the lack of economic growth.
Further north there has been quite a lot of snow, but here in Lincolnshire we have mercifully escaped very lightly, only having the occasional short flurries, most of which did not settle on the ground, one of the advantages in living in a flat land, except for the Lincolnshire Wolds. I have a theory that if there is not much snow during the first 10 days of January, there will be no snow of any consequence during the rest of the winter. Maybe, though, this theory only relates to Lincolnshire.
We have a very tall beech tree in the garden that is starting to lean towards our house, making me fearful that the gales of winter could see it being blown down and making a nasty mess of our conservatory. As a precaution, I take the view that the tree should be reduced in height, but in order to do this I need the local District Council Tree Officer, who has to examine the tree to see whether permission can be given to undertake the work. Accordingly, I wrote to the Council at the beginning of last November, but it was not until this week that an officer arrived, saying that he thought that there was no danger of the tree falling.
He suggested, however, that I should clear the base of ivy and groundelder around the base to make sure that there was subsequently no movement, which I have done. Maybe I worry too much in my old age, but at least it was a relief that the tree was not likely to fall during the winter winds.
I gather that our local District Council has had yet another of those infernal reorganisations. that invariably mean a reduction in service and a lowering of staff morale. Apparently, according to information gleaned from a recent meeting of our Parish Council, only 1 of the six middle management people in the Planning Department have been appointed following the reorganisation, while the person responsible for Planning and Communities did not get the job, which must have been a bitter disappointment.
The reorganisation again reminded me of the comments attributed to Guis Petronius in A.D. 66: "We trained hard, but every time we were beginning to form into teams we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while providing inefficiency and demoralisation."
As a result of all this reorganisation, there is said to be an enormous backlog of planning applications to be considered. Consequently, I have been told that if planning applications are not dealt with within six weeks, i.e. processed to a certain stage, then the plans may have to be accepted as the authority will have been seen to have failed in their commitment. This could mean that a most unsuitable house proposed for a dominant site at the entrance to the village, totally spoiling the view of a delightful terrace of old cottages, will be approved by default.
Why, oh why, do firms and authorities have these reorganisation every few years, never letting one settle down before bringing in another, rather like uprooting a recently planted tree every few months to see how the roots are growing. I suppose the answer is that it gives management the impression that they are doing something, yet as Petronius said, it only creates further chaos, no regard whatsoever being paid to loyal and hardworking staff. Indeed, if you are efficient, you are likely to be the first on the redundancy list. It makes me so thankful that I am well out of the horrors of today's workplace, not having to endure those job musical chairs.
At least the Council managed to turn down an application that involved felling a splendid willow tree to make way for a double garage, so a magnificent tree has been saved. There is the fear, though, that the Inspectorate will allow the garages on appeal, everything apparently being approved by that insensitive organisation these days, as we have found to our horror when "Mon Strosity", the modern house soon to be built in our community, was allowed on appeal. despite being opposed by residents, the Parish Council, and unanimously rejected by the Planning Department of the District Council.
I finished reading "At the Going Down of the Sun" by Graham Bound - a somewhat grim book giving details of our troops who were killed in Afghanistan, most of them from IEDs planted by the Taliban on the highways, and the subsequent reactions of their mourning relatives. In total 452 British men and women were killed in what was described as "Britain's longest war of modern times" - a war in which our troops were inadequately equipped and supported, clearly indicating that we can no longer afford these foreign forays. This inability to pay for foreign wars was one of the many reasons for the decline of the Roman Empire.
Nearly all the relatives interviewed, and most of the surviving soldiers, believed that it was a hopeless guerrilla war to fight, especially as the troops in the front line had to observe the utter nonsense of "Courageous restraint" (what zombie thought up that ridiculous term, I wonder?), in which our troops could only open fire when fired upon, meaning that they had one hand tied behind their back.
One of the relatives made the point: "I'm not optimistic about Afghanistan. I think the country will return to exactly the same state it was in before our intervention. I think of all our lads and lasses that have been lost. It's a total waste... Afghans will go on killing each other. I don't have a very high opinion of politicians generally. My impression is that they will do whatever will get them into the history books. I've not heard of a single politician with a son or daughter who's gone to war. Not a single one."
That, of course, does not stop the politicians shedding crocodile tears in the House of Commons at Prime Minister's Question time, speaking about the great sacrifice of brave men, not for a moment recognising that they, the creepy politicians, are wholly responsible for the deaths by sending men into a hopeless battle inadequately equipped and supported, all because they wanted to prove that the UK was still among the Big Boys, even if we had to hold onto the coattails of the Americans.
I made a start on "The Good War -The battle for Afghanistan 2006-14" by Jack Fairweather, published by Jonathan Cape in 2014 at £20. In the early chapters the author describes the warring tribes fighting one another as Al-Qada and the Taliban joined in the fray, while the President, Hamad Karzai, blew hot and cold, at one time welcoming the American and British troops to shore up his insecure and corrupt powerbase, and at another time wanting them to leave the country. An utterly hopeless muddle that our politicians should have recognised, yet that terrible man Blair sent in our troops with hardly a moment's thought for the consequences.
Unfortunately, the book was so extremely complicated and not all that well written, so incredibly tedious in concentrating on the political background rather than details of the actual battles, that after about 60 pages I found it utterly confusing with the mass of detail, and gave up reading such a turgid account, meaning the wastage of £20. Not to be disheartened, I made a start on the 700-page "Snow and Steel - Battle of the Bulge 1944-45" by Peter Caddick-Adams, published at £25 by Preface Publishing in 2014.
In one of the chapters the author makes the point that German industry did not suffer all that much from the RAF bombing, any damage being quickly repaired, manufacturing outputs being dispersed. On the other hand, the author mentions that the German designers "tended to over-engineer their inventions: for example, the 60-ton Tiger I tank took 300,000 man hours to manufacture, compared to 55,000 for a Panther, 48,000 for a Sherman - and only 10,000 hours for a Russian T-34."
Nevertheless, despite the bombing, monthly Panzer production rose from 1,284 in January 1944, to 1,697 in June and peaked at 1,854 in December." An incredible nation, now the undisputed European leader, while we grovel on the sidelines, pretending we have economic growth. Oh, the porkies they tell us, especially now an election is approaching.
The snowdrops in the garden have not been so good this year, fewer in number and coming out somewhat later than in most years, though neighbouring gardens seem to have the flowers in full bloom. Fortunately, there are some other flowers in bloom, desperately struggling among the cold days and nights.
We went to a birthday party of female neighbour at 2 p.m. Somehow, with all the problems we have had so far this year, I did not feel in much of a party mood, but in the event I enjoyed the occasion, which is often the way. It is when you do not look forward to an event that you subsequently greatly enjoy it, whereas a joyful anticipation is often disappointed. I suppose sex is a bit like that. Unfortunately, the neighbour numbers were somewhat reduced because of grandparents having to perform grandchildren duties as a result of both parents working.
Annoyingly, we still receive these spam telephone calls, nearly all from India. It nevertheless has to be admitted that the spammers are clever, for it had earlier been possible to block calls that did not have a number. Now a false number is given. This morning at 11.45 a.m., for instance, we had an International call with the number 02035193037, which is obviously a false number. Fortunately I have a large separate caller-display unit on which the number comes up, so I merely lift up the receiver and put it down again. Even so, it is nasty stuff, for it must frighten a lot of old ladies living on their own. It amazes me that Ofcom cannot stop the abuse, but then that regulator is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
The fireguard that we have used for several years has fallen apart, rather like the UK economy, the wire mesh having broken away from the frame, with the consequence that every time I move the guard I cut my fingers. When we went down to stay with mother-in-law in Halstead last weekend, we planned to purchase a new guard at a fire shop in the town, only to find that it had closed down, along with many other shops in the main shopping street, making the area look very sad, no doubt soon to be full of charity shops.
I therefore ordered a replacement fireguard from Amazon, as indeed I have to order most things these days, so many shops also having closed down here in Lincoln. In this sad vein, I read in the paper this week that Waterford Wedgwood, which owns Royal Doulton, is up for sale, probably about to be bought by the Chinese. Soon it seems that we will have hardly anything left that we own, more than half of the country's firms being in foreign hands. Our electricity supplier - E-On, sometimes known as E-Off when we have power cuts - is German; and our water (Anglian Water) is owned by foreign pension companies, all sold off under the rip-off of privatisation. It is as if there are sale boards all around the coast saying: "Gigantic sell-off - everything must go."
There was an announcement during the week that the "Sun" newspaper may no longer have the page 3 photographs of topless women. On the few occasions that I have seen these depictions I have never thought they were very erotic, it being far more exciting to see an attractive woman scantily clothed than showing what are usually massive breasts. Imagination is often better than the reality. Interestingly, we seem to becoming a more prurient society, becoming increasingly intolerant and narrow-minded, possibly a characteristic of a nation in economic and social decline.
Presumably the change has been demanded by those ghastly feminists, those females who seem to be unable to establish relations with any man. To call them feminists is a most inappropriate appellation, for the last thing they are is feminine. Indeed, I believe that they do immense harm to women's liberation with their strident and ugly views, little better than those awful Suffragettes who were so violent and sickening.
The day after the announcement, the "Sun" reverted to putting in another topless model on page 3, presumably by way of cocking a snook at the feminists. Good for the "Sun", say I.
A great mass of leaves have collected in the ha-ha at the bottom of the garden. A ha-ha is defined as a ditch forming a boundary to a park or garden without interrupting the view, its purpose being to stop cattle from progressing beyond it. I have therefore begun clearing them out, loading up two large containers each day. I had thought of employing labour to undertake the clearance, but this labour each day will give me some good exercise, far better and certainly more useful than going on a tread-mill in one of those Health Clubs.
It is recommended that a 15-minute walk each day keeps the heart in order, so I regard this leaf clearance as a more suitable and appropriate arrangement. In any event, the arthritis in my knees and spine prevents me from walking more than a few yards, so this clearance, taking about 15 minutes, seems to be ideal. However, during the week it was announced that researchers regard the current exercise guidelines as being unrealistic and argue that doctors should sometimes advise small increases in activity instead. They warn that the 150-minute weekly target is beyond the reach of some people - particularly older individuals; that it is far better to keep moving during the day rather than having a brisk 15-minute walk. I am much of that opinion, having always loathed walking throughout my life, regarding it as a most unpleasant and tedious activity.
We have to admit that our thoroughly nasty politicians are at least clever in their deceit, the latest example being the delay of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War not reporting until after the general election, presumably because it is highly critical of the involvement of that awful man Blair, making me wonder why he has not been regarded as a war criminal. In that wonderful film "The Life of Brian" it was asked: "What have the Romans ever done for us?"
In similar vein, we might ask what this Government has ever done for us, the answer being sod all. A pretend recovery; no control over immigration; joyfully watching the National Health Service struggling without doing much about it; allowing the bankers and other spivs in suits to continue with their enormous bonuses; and abolishing planning rules and regulations that have enabled developers to build wherever they like, even on Green Belts.
O2, my mobile telephone provider, recently introduced a charge of £1 if I had a monthly invoice posted to me. Last month, when having this additional item on the invoice, I telephoned to say that I no longer wanted the invoices, and I was told that I would not be charged in future. What happens in the latest bill today? - I am charged the extra £1. I therefore telephoned, fortunately getting through quite quickly, and was told that my next bill would be credited with the £1, which would not be charged any more. We will see!
I suppose I made the mistake in telephoning O2, for I should have written - the only sure way of getting things done these days. In the past I have had to write to BT because of an issue, having been unable to go through endless menus on telephoning - "You now have four options", then another four options, then another four, ending up listening to music. People living abroad might think it rather strange that it is necessary to write to a telephone company, but this is not at all unusual in this ailing land. Moral: always put everything in writing, possibly using recorded delivery with a serious issue to prevent a firm from saying they did not receive the communication.
During the week we had to endure further social engineering nonsense from Ofsted, the appalling school inspectorate service, which might be better named Offcourse. According to press reports, the Inspectors asked young schoolchildren totally inappropriate questions about whether they knew anyone trapped in the wrong body, or a child with two mothers or two fathers, subsequently marking down the school's rating as a result of the received answers. These Ofsted reports have now become quite worthless, representing no indication of a school's educational provision, and they should be ignored by all teachers and parents as having no substance or value.
During my days as a Divisional Education Officer there were some splendid men and women known as "Her Majesty's Inspectors", who were cultured and well-educated members of a fine team - men and women whom I looked up to, and who were respected by teachers. Today Ofsted seems to be a muddled, mixed-up bunch, giving the impression that they have little understanding of a child's learning progress, being more concerned about social engineering than any educational provision. It is all very disappointing to read their absurd reports.
Our local Club, which seems to be having a spot of trouble at the moment, has its AGM this coming Sunday. As mentioned in an earlier entry, I have put forward a resolution on the agenda saying that we do not want a Broadband facility. Currently, there is the blessing that there is no reception within the Club, and those of us, mainly the oldies, who believe that the Club is a social institution where we talk to one another, rather than having members playing on their iPad and other such toys, do not want to see the antisocial provision. If members want to play on their mobiles and iPds, let them stay at home.
Much will depend on who turns up to the AGM to vote on the resolution. If there are a lot of young people, then the resolution will be turned down, but an older gathering will have it fully supported. We must hope for a geriatric gathering, for I find it so awful seeing young couples in pubs playing on these toys, never speaking to one another.
I find it very disappointing that the Royal Mail under privatisation seems to become worse and worse, the delivery times becoming later every day. On Wednesday, the post did not arrive until 2 p.m., usually bringing mail-order catalogues and charity appeals. In the past we could expect letters from friends, even bills in the post, but now all this has gone. No doubt it can be argued that that mail-order catalogues and the charity appeals provide work for the printing industry and for Royal Mail, but I just wish we could pay an annual fee, say £25, to have all this rubbish stopped from being delivered.
In ordering items from the Internet, other than books (most of which I now purchase locally from Waterstone's), one or other of us has to stay in all day to sign for the item, which is rather annoying, but at least the delivery service by private courier is very good.
At a time when Chinese manufacturing output is falling, and when the European Central Bank is expected to announce it will inject up to a trillion euros over the next two years into the ailing eurozone economy in a bond-buying programme, that the FTSE here is racing ahead, going up 100 points a day. Not very healthy sign.
Lincolnshire 22nd January, 2015
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