DIARY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN
- John Copeland -
Friday 10th October - Thursday 16th October, 2014
In my old age, sitting by a log-burning open fire with a good book and a bottle of wine, the Cameroons and the return of the recession seeming far away, is my greatest pleasure in life. I have decided not to have a wood-burning stove, fearing it would lessen the present delight.
"A room without books is as a body without a soul."
FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER
Yesterday evening I showed the DVD of the film "Blue Ruin" - a "Revenge Thriller" that received great acclaim from the reviewers, to one of my sons-in-law and an elderly male neighbour. The other son-in-law who joins us was unwell, and accordingly had to stay at home. We all greatly enjoyed a well-crafted and serious, violent film, whereas two neighbouring females who saw the film at the Lincoln Film Society thought that it was unbelievable to the extent of being laughable - in parts they laughed out loud.
I found this differing assessments of the fine film very interesting, for it showed the essential difference between the respective male and female appreciation of a film. Whereas the female, as the creator of life, seems to enjoy films dealing with personal relationships, especially romance, always wanting a happy ending, the male as the destructor of life enjoys more violent films, especially war films. This is not to say that one assessment is better than the other; instead, it is to emphasise the extensive differing characteristics of the male and female, and long may these differences remain.
I suppose why I particularly liked the film was because there were no women in it, and therefore none of those dreadful and dreary romantic episodes that seem to be included in every Hollywooden film. As I realised from my early days when I would go to the cinema on a Saturday morning to see Westerns, the presence of a woman would always slow down the action, and we would shout out: "Get her off! Get on with the shooting." In those films the hero would ride off into the sunset with the woman he had saved from the baddies, presumably when the real trouble would start.
I was overcome with joy, the happiest I have felt for a very long time, on hearing on the news this morning that the Ukip candidate had won the by-election at Clacton-on-Sea with a commanding majority, having secured 60% of the votes, while the Tories, having previously had a safe seat, received only 24.4% of the votes - and there was a surprisingly large turnout. If only the Labour Party can wake up its timid leader, trying to stop him making such funny faces and forcing him to concentrate on actually formulating polices instead of leaving important items out of a Conference speech, there is a real chance that the Cameroons will be finished at the general election in May of next year, thereby preventing rioting and revolution in the streets.
Knowing that the result is not to be branded as the traditional mid-term "protest vote", I was so excited that I felt like dancing in the street or lighting a celebratory bonfire to mark such a significant even in the political life of the nation, but in the end, having bad arthritis and it being a bit windy. I settled for an extra bottle of wine, as no doubt thousands of other people will be so doing to mark such a significant and joyful event. As might be expected, the Lib-Dims lost their deposit. That party is as dead as old Marley.
I am still unsure about how I will vote, especially as our Parliamentary constituency is a true-blue area with a massive Tory majority that even Ukip could hardly dent. It is a farming community, and the farmers are all Tory voters, obviously knowing on which side their turnips are buttered. The result, even with a Ukip standing, is a forgone conclusion.
Essentially, I am a Conservative at heart, but as I have indicated I could not vote for the present Government that has done hardly anything, other than artificially promoting a massive housing bubble, believing it to represent economic growth, which is now about to burst. Nothing has been done about immigration, posing the question why the immigrants all want to come over here, rather than to France and Germany. The answer is probably we are far too generous with the welfare benefits. Furthermore, the Cameroons have done nothing about stopping the immoral bonuses of the bankers, while the ripping-off power companies have been allowed to continue with their massive profits. Not surprisingly, as the cost of living has raced ahead, the gulf between rich and poor has become increasingly greater.
There are manifest worries about the dreadful Ebola plague coming to this country, but for reasons best known to himself our Prime Minister, who has an inclination to do nothing about anything, has rejected wise precautionary suggestions that incomers to the country should be medically vetted. Certainly one wise precaution if the dreadful disease comes to our shores would be to shut down those gyms, health clubs and leisure centres for the duration, at least until the risk has passed, for they are terribly fetid places, ridden with germs, the swimming pools full of wee wee, and are a source of dreadful contagion. Maybe communions in churches up and down the country should also be stopped, just having the wafer instead. Drinking the communal cup of wine has never seemed to me to be a very healthy practice at the best of times.
I was not surprised to read in today's "Times" that George Osborne, the Chancellor, has warned that the UK economy will be affected by the slowdown in the eurozone economy. Well I never did, as my old granny would have said; who would ever have thought of that. Still, at a time when our so-called recovery has stalled, it is helpful to blame somebody else for our follies, and what better than the eurozone? Alas, it is the recovery that never was - as I have pointed out so many times over the past six or seven months when there was not the slightest evidence of any genuine recovery in this indebted and divided kingdom.
In the latest "Update" received from BT , enclosed with my latest quarterly telephone bill, there was the announcement that from the 1st December the company "Will stop charging a separate Payment Processing fee to customers who don't pay by direct debit" - the charge now being £6 a quarter. Just why this charge is being waived is a mystery, though I will obviously benefit as I will never have a direct debit, not wanting to lose control of my banking account by allowing firms to take out as much money as the want when they like from my account. So that, like the Ukip victory, is another Good Thing. As we go back into recession, some things seem to be getting better.
In today's "Daily Telegraph" I saw in an article that, "Historically, the IMF has proved to be a quite reliable indicator - when it is upbeat, you can be sure that disaster is just around the corner, and when downbeat things are about to look up." Although the Foundation has bet both ways on the future of the UK economy, predicting a 3.5% growth rate next year, but warning about the housing bubble and personal debt at 140% of GDP, there is nevertheless an optimistic review, so we need to expect a very bad year in 2015 - just as I have forecast in this diary.
"The Bull" at Blackmore End in Essex, recently tastefully and extensively refurbished. We had supper there this evening with Mrs. Copeland's elder brother and his wife.
I had an e-mail in which the correspondent complained about a very aggressive female on the panel of a programme on the idiot's lantern called "Question Time", asking me; "I cannot stand women who think they know better. Do you think that women have been allowed too much freedom?" Oh, dear, a difficult question to answer, possibly raising accusations of sexism if I say YES. However, I replied: "I'm not sure I dare answer your question about the ladies. What I can say, though, is that I do not think women are any good in the political arena. They are splendid in the caring professions, but too emotional to take part in politics."
After a light lunch, Mrs. Copeland and I set off for Essex in the Peugeot for the 135-mile journey to mother-in-law's apartment. I Ioathe having to leave home, but once I get down to overcrowded Essex, where driving on the roads is tantamount to being in the Dodgems, so different to the old-fashioned courtesy in Lincolnshire, I soon settle down. North Essex, where mother-in-law lives, is far more attractive than Lincolnshire, though the density of population and 30 mph limits throughout the county make it seem an unpleasant place to live.
The A1 was very busy, and as nearly always I had trouble with two BMW motorists, both of whom "tailgated" me, driving a few feet away from our rear bumper, itching to overtake. I regularly find that BMW drivers are some of the nastiest people on the road, even worse than white van drivers. Could it be that they are Johnny-Come-Lately drivers, aggressive and acquisitive, yet not quite managing to afford to buy a Mercedes? Admittedly the BMWs are fine cars, but their drivers seem to take absolutely no notice of the speed limits, showing no consideration for other people. Perhaps not surprisingly I have yet to meet a BMW owner I like.
Mother-in-law, now in her 98th year, seemed fit and well. She used to come out for a meal on one of the evenings when were down in Essex, but now, old age having caught up with her, she prefers to stay at home. We therefore went out to supper with Mrs. C's elder brother Andrew and his wife Pat to the recently attractively refurbished "The Bull" at Blackmore End, a very fine job having been made of the alterations.
I was rather disappointed, though, that there was no steak on the menu, so instead I had fish and chips. The fish was excellent, but the chips were not all that good. Nevertheless it was a pleasant evening, when I talked to Andrew about the deteriorating state of the UK economy. Andrew, who works as a surveyor in the property market, was saying without any prompting from me that the country was going back into recession, joining the rest of the world, especially the eurozone.
The housing market is on the way down; our exports have fallen sharply, and construction, manufacturing and service industries are all falling, along with sharp falls in the FTSE (it fell 99 points today). What is so worrying is that the recession could be even worse than the recent one, seeing extensive austerity cuts, the like of which we have never seen before. The year 2015 is therefore, without any doubt, going to be a grim year, there even being worries among economists that we could experience deflation.
At the pub I saw that the Christmas Day menu was £75 for three courses, though there was free coffee and a mince pie at the end. We will be spending Christmas Day at home, having the family with us this year again. I prefer it that way, and would never want to go out to a restaurant for a meal even if I could afford such extravagance. Fortunately, Mrs. Copeland is able to cook, unlike today's young housewives are often too stressed out from their full-time job to do any cooking.
SATURDAY 11 OCTOBER
Over breakfast, mother-in-law, who seems to have an incredible understanding of economics and politics, presumably having experienced so much of these issues in her long life, not having to invent the wheel again, was saying without any prompting from me that we had never really come out of recession in this country, and naturally I fully agreed with her.
We were wondering how the recession would affect us in our old age. Probably not much, for there is every possibility that there could be deflation, which would, to some extent, benefit us with the lower prices. However, the winter fuel allowance and the free television licence, together worth £347 for me, would obviously be taken away. The other worry is that there could be another Geddes Axe, cutting back old age pensions, along with further cuts in welfare benefits if the Cameroons are returned to office.
For younger people, the main worry will be rising unemployment, which in turn leads to lower consumer expenditure, and more and more firms going out of business. Keynes, in writing about boosting an ailing economy by way of extensive Government expenditure, referred to the "multiplier effect". Conversely, mention could be made of a "negatising effect", seeing everything collapsing. Unfortunately, low interest rates do nothing to help a deflationary spiral.
Mrs. Copeland and her mother went out shopping in the morning while I stayed at the apartment, not being all that keen on such expeditions. Shortly after noon we went by car to "The Bell" at Castle Hedingham, the village probably being the most attractive place in Essex, ,as yet totally unspoilt by the planners. A really splendid village, and the pub is also a delight, beer being served directly from the barrels. I had some Adnams in excellent condition, but of course it had no "head" on it. Somehow I prefer to have a "head" on a pint, not that it improves the taste, presumably just prejudice on my part.
About 3.30 p.m. Mrs. C's younger brother, Jonathan, and his wife Carol came to have afternoon tea with us. Inevitably we mentioned the coming recession; indeed, this seems to be one of the main items of conversation, along with the fears of the terrible Ebola plague coming to this country, as it surely will. As a precautionary measure, it has bee suggested that instead of shaking hands, we should each put our right hand over our heart. That seems to be a good idea.
There was a ridiculous item in today's "Times" saying: "The smarter we get, the fewer books we read. Try to find five minutes for a novel and your iPhone will chirp, a text will ping in and inevitably, there will be an urgent need to check Twitter. In an age of such digital dexterity, there is no time left to bother with a long read." What absolute nonsense!
Whoever wrote that silly nonsense was really referring only to the generation in their teens and twenties, not mature adults. My mobile telephone remains switched off when I am at home, and I do not own one of those cursed iPads, and have never referred to Twitter, which might be better named "Twaddle". I go onto the Internet twice a day - once on getting up, and on going to bed, principally to pick up e-mails.
The sadness is that today's young generation who use all these ghastly appliances will never know the delights of reading, preferring instead to exchange all manner of nonsense amongst themselves in this vicarious manner. All very sad, but there is nothing to be done about it, other than to buy more books and keep the infernal gadgets firmly switched off along with the idiot's lantern that now seems to have had its day.
A water leak in our shared drive was repaired, but the hole not filled in for ten days. After two telephone calls to Anglian Water it was filled in on Friday, and all is now well.
By way of emphasising that television has had its day, the BBC2 executives, lacking any modern comedy programmes, replayed yet another episode of "Dad's Army" at 8.30 p.m - peak viewing time. It really does seem as if the idiot's lantern lost its way, now being a dead medium except for sport and cookery programmes, plus a few programmes about the upper classes in bygone days. We watched "Dad's Army" this evening - the first time I have seen a television programme for a very long time.
We had a meal in the apartment of sausage, egg, chips and baked beans - my favourite dish. Not for me those ghastly recipe concoctions that make me feel sick to even look at them.
SUNDAY 12 OCTOBER
We left mother-in-law about 11.15 a.m., setting off for the 135-mile journey back to Lincolnshire. Although there were a lot of private cars on the road, there were not so many lorries, most of them being foreign-owned that were bringing in imports and going home empty. Such is the state of the UK economy.
As always, when back home it takes us about an hour or so to unpack and set everything up again. One of our neighbours brought round a package from Amazon that he had "taken in" - two books and a DVD of "Till Death Us Do Part." It is a great shame that the BBC in its endless repeats does not show that splendid comedy series, though I suppose it would be too politically incorrect and sexist for our present intolerant times.
The excellent display unit on Mrs. Copeland's Peugeot 208, showing the return journey from Essex to home . One of the best cars we have had. It was a choice between the Peugeot and the Ford Fiesta. I didn't like the dashboard layout on the Ford.
While down in Essex I finished reading the biography of Queen Victoria by A.N. Wilson - a fine book. The impression was given that she was a very unhappy woman after the death of her husband, having trouble with some of her 9 children, some of whom died before her. However. towards her closing years she cheered up a bit and even met the public from time to time, taking part in official proceedings. Not surprisingly, she had an intense hatred for W.E.Gladstone, having as little to do with him as possible during his years as Prime Minister. I can well understand such a dislike, for he was an intensely religious man, very prim and proper. Such men are never very loveable even though he saved prostitutes from sin.
The Queen's reign saw the apogee of British supremacy around the world, having an Empire that was the greatest the world had ever seen, on which the sun never set. Yet towards the end of her reign, with the growing power of Germany, there were all the so-called seeds of destruction that were to lead to the terrible tragedy of the First World War.
I have made a start on "Diary of the Dark Years - Collaboration, Resistance and Daily Life in Occupied Paris, " by Jean Guehenno, published in 2014 by Oxford University Press (price not stated in sterling). History shows that the French, who ran away from the advancing Germans, were a perfidious lot, and latterday historians suggest that the members of the Resistance often spent as much time fighting amongst themselves, principally in terms of politics, as they did in fighting the Germans. Vichy France was a disgrace, even willingly allowing the Germans to remove the Jews and send them to their death in the concentration camps.
Unfortunately, after reading 35 pages I have found the diary to be utterly boring and tiresome, the diarist, a teacher and writer, tediously expressing his pathetic concern about his glorious nation, some of the diary entries extending over three pages in expressions of self-pity, saying that although defeated, France remains a great country, which is obviously sheer nonsense. In one extended entry he writes: "Our country is only an idea. It is a country that cannot be invaded." warming to this turgid theme, he even writes an article headed: "The France that cannot be invaded", presumably having forgotten to look out of the window to see the goose-stepping Germans marching by.
Somewhat ironically, the didactic diarist seems to exhibit all that was wrong with France (and still is) - too sophisticated, too arrogant, and not enough reality, certainly lacking any discipline. That unbelievably awful General de Gaulle, who believed he single-handedly rescued Paris, presumably having chosen to forget that he had received a little bit of help from us and the Americans, probably sums up a frightened France that had to be twice rescued because its troops, despite having overwhelming arms, ran away from the Germans.
Indeed, in reading this dreary diary with its endless and largely irrelevant quotations from philosophers from Socrates to Montaigne, there is the danger that the reader comes to wish, albeit quite shamefully, that the Germans had stayed on somewhat longer to impose a degree of discipline and order and structure to an effete nation with its old womanly and whining language. Maybe, though, this is the prejudice of Englishmen who cannot stand the French, much preferring the Germans with whom we have far more in common. Possibly this is why I agree with everything the Chief executive of the first-rate John Lewis Partnership recently said about France, saying that it was a nation that was finished.
In one entry the dreary diarist quotes Montaigne as saying: "I know this with ever increasing clarity and certainty: all dignity consists in seeking one's order inside oneself and in trying to sort out what is true." What on earth does that mean? Surely it can be argued that mankind, other than barmy philosophers, is not governed by such impulses, forever wondering "what is true". instead, we are motivated and determined by the events that happen to us, often saying to hell with dignity when there is a little salacious activity that arises.
The book is published by Oxford University Press, and over the years I have found that I have never enjoyed their publications, obviously because I am not intelligent and cultured enough to understand them, presumably explaining why I never managed to go to Oxbridge, thereby never having had a very successful career. Even so, it was a wonderful being in London as a student, regularly visiting the House of Commons to listen to the debates (there was not the extensive scrutiny in those days), going to the theatres; and visiting Soho, albeit as an impoverished observer. How much better than being in backwaters like Oxford and Cambridge where nothing ever happens.
During my working days I attended a management course in Cambridge, and was bored to tears with the lack of facilities, pubs being the only options. However, if I had been in the Bullingdon Club I would presumably have enjoyed going round smashing up pubs, as some of the present Cabinet members are reputed to have done. Of course, if the lower orders caused such wilful damage they would be severely punished, but for the upper classes it was jolly good fun, what ho, sending a cheque the next day for the repairs. One rule for the rich, another for the poor - that's British justice, don't you know.
One of my friends who served on the local District Council with me back in the 1990s, when we referred to these little authorities as "Toy Town" councils, is now having a battle with the authority relating to hundreds of houses being planned for greenfield sites in his village. He has been keeping me informed of developments, including a missive from the "Governance and Civic Officer, Democratic Services." This was the female officer who, when conducting long Inquisition against me, was referred to as the "Senior Democratic Officer", now obviously having a far grander title. Presumably "Public Services Officer" is actually meant.
How these little authorities love to give themselves high-sounding and impressive titles, whereas in my days when working in local government as a Divisional Education Officer, the chief officer of the County Council was referred to as "The Chief Clerk", which was a far more reasonable and realistic address, However, I suppose we all love to think of ourselves as important, so no harm is done with these silly modern titles.
Before going to bed I heard on the midnight news that Ebola has now been found in America, which will understandably sound alarm bells throughout the country. It can therefore only be a matter of weeks before the plague hits this country. As it says in Psalm 32: "Great plagues remain for the ungodly", many of us coming within that category with our greed, selfishness and wickedness. Fortunately the psalm goes on to say that for those who putteth their trust in the Lord , mercy embraces him on every side", so some of us may stand a chance of salvation.
MONDAY 13 OCTOBER
Today's "Daily Mirror" had a front-page headline: "Ukip reveals election bribe". quoting the victorious Mr. Farage as saying: "I'll keep Tories in power to get EU poll next year". In other words, he will keep out Red Ed and his gang if the Tories agree to have a referendum to take us out of Europe. That arrangement would surely be the best of all possible worlds, taking us out of the circus of a Union that is now in total disarray, unlikely to ever recover.
One of my elderly neighbours went off in the pouring rain to spend the day fly fishing, and Mrs. Copeland had thought of venturing out in the downpour to go to the village Ladies' Walking group. Fortunately, at the last minute they decided to call off the expedition. It nevertheless always amazes me what people do in the name of pleasure, but I suppose others think that reading a book in the conservatory while the rain comfortingly beats down on the perpex roof is very dull indeed.
What with this inclement weather and a fearsome recession just around the corner, one that will be far worse than the previous one - namely, the one we never really came out of, this is not the happiest of times, making it difficult to be cheerful, my day not being helped by reading some more of that unbelievably dreary diary during the morning, all outside activities having been postponed on account of the inclement weather. I think I will have to give up reading the diary, for it is so full of self pity that the reader never actually learns about what it was like to live under a brutal occupation - something the Palestinians no doubt understand today.
Possibly a stocking filler for Christmas for Mrs. C
There is to be a free vote in the Commons today for the recognition by this country of the Palestinian state, one of the Labour Members saying so wisely and rightly that, "Recognising the state of Palestine was the 'right thing to do', and that there was a 'huge feeling in Britain that this is the time" - and so say all of us who believe in any fairness in the world. Ideally, the motion should have additionally insisted that the Israelis must return to the boundaries that were established for them during the great mistake made in 1948 to create a separate state for the Jews, forcing Palestinians off their land. However, one step at a time. I just hope that there is an overwhelming Yes vote, which will inspire some faith in our Parliamentary proceedings that have been sadly lacking in recent times.
In the post we had the usual charity appeals, including one from Cancer Research. We normally throw all these appeals straight into the recycling bin, but today I opened the large envelope of the Cancer appeal, seeing free stickers that could be put on Christmas presents, one looking distinctly like a bomb. Additionally, there was a book of five raffle tickets offering a prize of £15,500, which could either be spent on a "dream holiday" or a Ford Focus motor car. I would most certainly choose the car, for my idea of a dream holiday is to spend the time at home with a good book and a bottle of wine, thereby escaping the miseries that al-Qaeda have made for us at the airports.
I am fully aware of the goodness that the Cancer charity undoubtedly achieves, yet I wonder why, instead of the multiplicity of individual cancer research units, there is not a European Union, or even a world-wide arrangement for dealing with all the research. Even Lincoln County Hospital has a research cancer unit, yet what can this achieve when a more integrated and co-ordinated approach would surely be much better? I merely ask the question, not wishing to make any comment or criticism.
As I am a supporter of Lincoln Cathedral, undoubtedly the finest cathedral in Europe (as John Ruskin so wisely proclaimed - and I agree with him) I received in the post today the Autumn edition of "Cathedral Times", which included a page on "Staff Re-Structure", everything having to be restructured and re-organised these days to give the impression of managerial efficiency. Accordingly, there were four administrative posts detailed - "Grants and Donations Manager"; "Events Manager"; "Marketing Manager"; and "Public Relations Officer", all four posts being held by women, not that I make any comment on that either. On the other hand, there was not a female to be seen amidst the religious hierarchy. Says something, you might say.
Not the most active day. I had intended making a start on clearing the leaves that are now beginning to form a carpet on the lawn, but it was far too wet and windy for any such action. The morning was therefore spent on the computer; a siesta in the afternoon; and in he evening, after skimming through some of the incredibly tedious pages, I gave up reading "Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944".
Mistakenly, I naively thought the diary represented reflections on life of a Parisian under the occupying brutality of the Germans, but in the 60 or so pages I read before giving up the dreary entries there was hardly any mention of the cruelty and barbarity of the Germans. Instead the diary seems to be more of a treatise on philosophy and art by an intellectual who does not seem to be in this world, ceretainly not streetwise.
For example, the two-and-a-half page entry for July 11th, 1941, reads: "The other evening, Callard, was talking about Van Gogh, his master, and he was marvellously attached to THINGS. I could feel that the world, and the world in its slightest object, had a reality for him that I will never know, perhaps, but it is precisely that reality which is all I want to know and all that is worth knowing, a reality that seems eternal, and for that very reason, scandalous."
It therefore seems that the diarist's head was so full of philosophy and culture that he hardly seems to notice the disciplined men in grey uniforms marching past his house. No doubt the fault is with me, being far too ignorant to understand and have sympathy with his sentient sentiments and the endless self-pity of the diarist. The fact remains, though, that I cannot take such stuff that is so obscure, so lacking in worldly reality, there being no genuine understanding of life - a characteristic presumably of all academics who live in their isolated ivory towers. It is always disappointing to have to abandon a dull book, especially when it deals with a subject that interests me, though this is something I have to accept when I take heed of the reviews.
Having abandoned the book, I made a start on "Philip Larkin - Life, Art and Love", by James Booth, published this year by Bloomsbury at £25. Larkin has always been regarded as a miserable bugger, a solitary librarian known for his pessimism, but this biographer seeks to show that there was a more pleasant side to his outwardly morose character. At the start of the book there is a quotation from Larkin: "The ultimate joy is to be alive in the flesh." Yes, indeed, even if you are 80 years of age and long past your best before date and over the hill.
On the other hand, I find some of his poems difficult to understand, as for example:
"Who whistled for the wind, that it should break
We are told by the biographer that the verse refers to a fart, but who would ever have guessed that?
Gently, on this air?
On what ground was it gathered, where
For the carrying, for its own sake
Is night so gifted?"
Apparently, although Larkin liked women, he nevertheless fought shy of marriage, saying of the fair sex: "Women don't just sit still and back you up. They want children: they like scenes: they want a chance of parading all the emotional haberdashery they are stocked with. Above all they like feeling they 'own' you - or that you 'own' them - a thing I hate.
TUESDAY 14 OCTOBER
Unable to sleep, having had a completely sleepless night, making me think I ought to go to bed on alternate nights, I got up at 2 a.m. and switched on the computer to see the latest news, seeing on the BBC that " MPs have voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state alongside Israel. The House of Commons backed the move as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution - although less than half of MPs took part in the vote. The result, 274 to 12, is symbolic but could have international implications."
It was splendid news, as was the news that Sweden has also recognised the rights of the Palestinians. We can therefore hope that other European countries will follow this splendid lead, not that we can expect America to follow suit, even if President Obama would like to do so, especially as he does not seem to care much for the likes of Mr. Netanyahu.
As might be expected, Israel has warned against sending a "troubling message", after learning of the vote, saying that it "could undermine the chances of peace by letting Palestinian leaders think they could evade the 'tough choices' needed." What nonsense. At least the Rt. Nasty Benjamin Netanyahu now officially knows that Britain fully supports the Palestinians against a cruel occupying oppressor that continues to build settlements on Palestinian land. About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law. Not surprisingly, I have yet to meet an Englishman who supports Israel. Perhaps I mix with quite the wrong sort of people.
The parlour, now completely surrounded by books.
Having rained all day long yesterday, still poring down when I went to bed at midnight, it had not stopped this morning, taking the rainfall so far this month to 38.5 mm. Although we had a wonderful summer, especially a fine September, it seems that the weather is back to its default setting of rain and miserably cold. Mrs. Copeland had a text message from an elderly neighbouring couple who have driven all the way down to the Dordogne, saying that they were enjoying wonderful sunny weather and the wine. I suppose it could be said that France has some benefits.
The Office for National Statistics announced today that inflation measured by the CPI had fallen in September from 1.5% to 1.2%. In other words, as we are about to return to recession, we are likely to see deflation. This, not surprisingly, was predicted in an article in yesterday's "Times" under the heading of "Gloom deepens for British manufacturers", saying that this sorry state of affairs is bringing "The British economy closer to the threat of deflation that has spooked European policymakers." The deficit on our balance of trade fell in the latest reckoning, but this was not due to any increase in exports - exports actually continuing to fall. The improvement was therefore due to a marked decline in imports, reflecting the reduced home demand as the economy staggers back into recession.
In accordance with the deteriorating state of the economy, there was a report in today's "Times" that "Retail sales fell by 2.1% according to figures from the British Retail Consortium and KCMG, which will stoke concern of further profit downgrades from high street chains". Against this background, the Governor of the Bank of England has announced that he will not be influenced by political considerations when deciding whether to raise interest rates. However, there is no fear that interest rates will be raised, not when everything in the UK economy is looking decidedly unhealthy.
Each September the inflation index for the month is used to upgrade pension and welfare benefits, so we will only be receiving 1.2% next April. However, with the falling prices under deflation, those of us in retirement will benefit from the fall, not having to worry about losing our jobs. Deflation with its lower prices might seem to be a good thing, though it is far from being beneficial for most people. Deflation arises when there is a reduction in the money supply or credit availability. Reduced investment spending by government or individuals may also lead to this situation, resulting in the problem of increased unemployment due to slackening demand, causing many firms to go out of business.
Meanwhile, the Chancellor is proposing to sell off the country's stake in the Channel tunnel by way of helping the repayments to the massive National Debt. In all probability the shares will be bought up either by France or Germany, everything in this country being sold off to foreigners. It cannot be long before the recently privatised Royal Mail becomes DeuschMail, with no deliveries on a Saturday. Just you wait and see.
As might be expected amidst this grim economic background, the FTSE continues to fall sharply each day, though there was a brief interlude yesterday when there was a slight rebound, subsequently falling back sharply again today. When we think back to all those proud announcements not so long ago that the UK had the fastest economic growth of any country, it now seems to have been a very nasty sick joke, presumably having been motivated entirely by political interests and based almost entirely on a rampant housing market
Braving the rain, I went in to Lincoln on the scooter, wearing my scruffy-looking Barbour to keep out the inclement weather. Fortunately, the rain at last started to ease off about 10.45 a.m., so that was a relief.
A siesta in the afternoon, feeling very tired in not having slept at all last night, and in the evening I finished reading the biography of Philip Larkin. A fascinating account of a man who strung along two women, never wanting to marry them, fearing marriage far too much. He had an interest in pornography, the book including a photograph of a beautiful nude model in a provocative pose, presumably nowadays coming under the classification of "soft porn". He asked for all his daily diaries to be burnt on his death, and sadly this was duly done Whether diaries are the indication of the man is probably another matter,
I made a start on "Six Weeks of a Blenheim Summer - A RAF Officer's memoir of the Battle of France 1940", so it is back to reading about the Second World War.
On the news before going to bed I heard that deaths from the Ebola plague had risen to 4, 447, it being said by one of our Government Ministers that Ebola was every bit as serious as Aids, there being widespread fears that it could spread to this country.
WEDNESDAY 15 OCTOBER
I greatly enjoyed sitting by the open, living fire in the parlour yesterday evening, delighting in the logs burning merrily in the dog-basket - a wonderful warming sight. It made me realise that I would miss a living fire so much if I put in a log-burning stove, no longer having the present delights, so I will continue having the fire for the time being, even though a stove would be far more efficient, being able to keep it "in". Sitting by the fireside with a good book and a bottle of beer, the Cameroons and the returning recession seeming far away and of no account, is my greatest pleasure in my old age.
I was amazed to read in today's "Times" that Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is "set to ban smoking in London's parks and squares. What a nonsense. Another nonsense was a report in the newspaper that "Standing up to use the phone could help cut the risk of cancer," presumably indicating that the medicine men have precious little understanding of what causes cancer, nearly every week bringing in a precaution or a remedy. Why don't they just admit they haven't a clue about the dreaded disease?
This evening our local District Council will be considering the two applications for massive solar farms around the village that have brought widespread opposition and concern from many parishioners. We hear a lot about "power being given to the people", so it is going to be interesting to see the outcome. My guess is that the authority, wanting to take some note of local feeling, will somewhat cowardly approve one application and reject the other, knowing that the rejected application will be upheld on appeal, the Inspectorate giving the impression, leaned on by the Government, that it approves everything related to housing and energy.
According to information that I have been given, our Parish Council will receive from AEE [the companies dealing with the installation of the panels) a sum in the region of £17,000 per annum if the plans are approved. I find this totally unacceptable, for there is the danger that it could be seen as a bribe. Most villagers would prefer not to have the "Sunshine Farms" and forget about the donation.
I was pleased to learn that Australian author Richard Flanagan had won the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for his wartime novel "The Narrow Road to the Deep North." I read the book last month, and thoroughly enjoyed it. For once the judges got the right winner, some of the selections in the past having been very dreary - though they had better not be mentioned.
Mrs. Copeland went off at 12.15 p.m. to attend the monthly meeting of the Village Ladies' Luncheon Club, while I went to visit a friend who used to live in the village, now living on an estate in Lincoln. We had some interesting discussions, including one on what we would do if we had only one day to live. My wishes had not be expressed here.
The Apache helicopters now being used by the Americans to attack Isis in Iraq. An incredible fighting machine.
The FTSE fell by 148 points today, ending down 6,244, whereas at the start of the year the index was at 6,749. According to the latest unemployment figures for the UK, the number out of work fell by 154,000 in the three months to the end of August to 1.97 million, the first time it has been below two million since 2008. This sounds all very well, but subsequent figures will be showing a sharp drop when seasonal factors are taken out.
For the first time in a very long time, Mrs. Copeland and I went to the Lincoln Odeon to see the film "Gone Girl". We went to the 6 o'clock performance, thereby avoiding the riffraff that goes later in the evening, usually chatting though the film, playing with mobile telephones and iPads, the young girls giggling. We much prefer going to the excellent "Venue" cinema at the former Teachers' Training College, where there is free parking; the tickets only £4 instead of £6.50 for pensioners; and where we can have a drink in civilised company.
I was not all that impressed with the film, having believed that the plot was far more complicated than it actually was, Mrs. Copeland having to explain it to me. Bearing in mind I am part of the geriatric generation now on the way out, I find it difficult to shed some of my deep-down prejudices, not always being able to accept being put "right" by modern values. For example, I found it very difficult to accept that a woman police officer was leading the inquiry, having a goofy male assistant by way of emphasising that women were brighter than the male. In my eyes it somehow seemed all very wrong - and the actress playing the part was not all that good, which didn't help my enlightenment. I really ought to have counselling to get rid of such wrong ideas.
At least there were some interesting parts in the film, especially a scene showing the incredible nastiness of the media, particularly a television interview with the husband who had lost his wife - a dreadful, nauseating exchange conducted by an obnoxious not-so-young female interviewer who displayed all the sickening heart-rendering horrors of the media. It was also interesting to see how the mob can be influenced by the media, one moment braying with anger, all sweetness and light in the next.
We went to have a drink at a nearby pub after the film had mercifully ended - and I certainly needed a drink after all that rubbish. I had a pint of "Director's" ale, which was really wonderful, served by a very pleasant little lass.
THURSDAY 16 OCTOBER
To town in the morning. For once it was not raining, so the journey was quite pleasant on the scooter. I have arranged to have it serviced on Monday of next week, which will cost me about £70 - another expense when the cost of living is rising so sharply, whatever the Office for National Statistics may say to the contrary.
In setting up the diary to upload it this afternoon, I saw that I was now on the 870th edition. It would be nice (and I continue to use that pleasant word, however wrong) to reach the 1,000th mark, but that means another two-and-a-half years, and I am fearful that I may not make that mark. It makes me wonder what the country will be like nearly half way though 2017, probably seeing the IMF bailing us out with a little bit of help from Germany, and racial rioting in the streets. All very worrying as this country sinks into terminal decline, grossly indebted and overpopulated, and lacking a manufacturing base that would represent genuine economic recovery.
There was the splendid news reported in today's "Times" that the Prime Minister, realising that an election is not so very far away, has at last woken up about immigration, one of his aides presumably having told him that the electorate was a bit upset about all the immigrants flooding in, our dozy Home Secretary doing absolutely nothing to control the influx. According to the report, "David Cameron is considering demanding that Britain be given an 'emergency brake' in the number of European jobseekers [sic - welfare benefit seekers?] after promising M.Ps a 'game-changing' new immigration policy.'"
It was de Toqueville who said that the British were only free at election times, and it seems that there is some truth in this belief, for there is no doubt we get a lot of goodies whenever an election approaches, even something being done about our "concerns." Meanwhile, poor little Red Ed, still fast asleep, dodged the immigration issue by leaving out any mention of the problem in his Conference speech, but since Labour has no policy on immigration, not that the party has much policy on any issue, I suppose this omission is excusable.
By way of making us laugh, there was a report of a survey showing that exercising can ward off depression, researchers having discovered that "those who were physically active three times a week were 16% less likely to be depressed." Oh, what nonsense, and how can it be so accurately measured as 16%? The very thought of exercise makes me feel depressed, and I never take an, believing it is harmful for those over 60 years of age. However, with all the worries about the recession returning in an even greater magnitude than the last one, perhaps I should run round the village three times a week. It could be worth a try. Knowing my luck, I would probably get run over.
I often wish that I had been a researcher, looking into life's little problems. I could, for instance, do a survey on the correlation between sexual input and electoral voting, showing that those who had sex towards the latter part of the week tended to vote Conservative, while those who romped early in the week were more likely to vote Labour. Those who had sex on Sundays nearly always voted Ukip, going against convention.
Jokes from the old days. In today's intolerant and strait-laced, narrow-minded age, such innocent jokes would probably now be seen as sexist and politically incorrect. Significantly, the producer of the splendid "The Life of Brian" recently said he could not show the film these days. What has gone wrong, we might ask. Is it all part of our terminal decline as a nation, allowing the tale-telling, pathetic little People to dominate our lives?
I heard this morning that the Planning Committee of our local District Council, when considering yesterday evening the two planning applications for massive solar farms around the village, had decided that both applications should be deferred to the Planning Committee meeting in November 2014, more information having been requested relating to landscaping proposals and the site selection process.
The impression may be given that a decision has been kicked into touch, the Committee members understandably having difficulty making up their minds. I can understand this dilemma. On the one hand there may not be sufficient reasons for rejecting the plans, especially in terms of the Government wanting more energy supplies, while on the other there is an awareness of the extensive hostility in the village ito the proposals. How, therefore, do you balance Government policy and democracy? There's the rub, as old Hamlet would have said.
It made me laugh to read on the BBC news website that an Australian television channel had apologised for broadcasting a question on the quiz show "Family Feud" that was deemed sexist by many watching. "The show asked contestants to guess what answer 100 people had given when told to name a woman's job. The 'correct' answers included cooking, cleaning and dishes. Answers for a man's job included builder, plumber and mechanic."
Apparently, some viewers called the question "misogynist", "sexist" and "disgraceful" while others said it was "perpetuating gender stereotypes". Alas, with my shamefully deeply imbedded prejudices that I just cannot erase, I would certainly have given similar personality profiles, probably adding for the women "shopping at the supermarket" and "looking after the baby." Oh ,dear! The silly things we get upset about these days, fearfully worried that there could be accusations of sexism, and answers being labelled as politically incorrect. Maybe we ought to be more upset about the spread of ebola.
I recently bought a DVD of an episode of "Till Death Do us Part", which I will be showing to two male neighbours this evening while Mrs. Copeland is at our local Club for a strategy review meeting relating to the arrangements for the "Beaujolais Noveau" evening next month. Sometimes the new wine is excellent; at other times it resembles paint-stipper, so it will be interesting to see what it is like this year. Perhaps not surprisingly, we have always had a very civilised contingent attending the event, so it is possible to talk about American foreign policy and the complex movement of interest rates, not that the Governor of the Bank of England seems to know what to do about them.
Lincolnshire 16th October, 2014
Diary of a Septuagenarian
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