DIARY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN
- John Copeland -
Friday 12th December - Thursday 18th December, 2014
"What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer?"
Scrooge in "Christmas Carol". I continue to believe that Scrooge should have kept to his excellent initial contention that Christmas was a humbug, and that he should not have listened to those meddling ghosts, forerunners of today's social workers.
FRIDAY 12 DECEMBER
We had a most enjoyable gathering to celebrate a neighbour's 76th birthday yesterday evening. As always, the group dynamics saw the women at one end of the room and the men at the other, each group being able to discuss the different subjects that interested them, few of the ladies being interested in the future movement of interest rates or American foreign policy. I still feel that the former idea of the women retiring at the end of the dinner was a most sensible arrangement, but political correctness would never allow such a pleasant idea today.
However, there was one general issue that was discussed - namely an unpleasant e-mail that one of our neighbours had received, addressed to her as "Hi Joan." As with so many disagreeable communications, there was the usual poor punctuation, and the use of "I shall" instead of "I will" for an intention. Oh, dear: poor education and grammar are really beginning to show in our ever declining educational standards.
I now take the "i" each day instead of "The Times", paying 30p a day (40p on Saturdays. No Sunday paper) rather than £1.20, a saving of £18 a month for a much better newspaper. I find that the columnists in the "i" are a great improvement on those in "The Times", presenting more balanced views instead of the bigoted and somewhat juvenile offerings of "The Times", though I must admit that I miss the splendid cartoons of Edward Brookes.
In today's issue of the "i" there was an excellent article by Andrew Whitham Smith under the heading of "Shame on Ian Duncan Smith - He has presided over a system which has led to widespread hunger." Duncan Smith, the failed political leader who is now the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, seems to believe that his job specification means putting more and more people out of work, and reducing their welfare benefits when they end up on the dole, showing, as Mr. Witham Smith says, little compassion for the poor and the sick.
While hurting the poor by reducing and taking away their welfare benefits, nothing is ever done about the immoral bonuses of bankers; indeed, the Cameroons even went cap-in-hand to the European Union recently to protect the bonuses, mercifully being unsuccessful, presumably meaning that salaries will be increased to take up the lost largesse. It is nasty, unfair politics, obviously explaining why a lot of moderate and intelligent people turn towards Socialism in the pursuit of a fairer society.
Unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition nevertheless seems to be as lost as ever, having yesterday promised to reduce public expenditure to balance the Budget, yet failing to say where those cuts will be made - in other words, in voting for Labour we would be voting for a blank cheque. Sadly, Miliband, although a very decent and caring chap, is not a leader, lacking the charisma and the gravitas in a media-driven age. I cannot therefore see how Labour can ever return to power with such a hopeless leader. The party should have had the genial Alan Johnson - a politician who even has a sense of humour, and who presents a decent approach to politics.
With a most unflattering and unkind photograph of Mrs. May, the "i" had front-page headlines saying: "May fails citizenship test - Scathing report reveals passport application tests flawed - 200,000 approved without full criminal record checks - Home Secretary accused of trying to bury findings."
I was rather surprised, not to say disappointed, that the excessively right-wing "Daily Mail" has unfairly condemned the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as being a "terrible disappointment", saying that they were "dull, dull, dull, as Windsor moat water."
I do not think that is true of the Duchess, who obviously has a very difficult role to fulfil. If she dares to make any political pronouncement she will immediately be accused of bias, while if she makes Royalty look more glamorous and interesting she is accused of extravagance. A no-win situation, you might say. Presumably it is easy to criticise somebody who cannot answer back. Such are the bullying and cowardly tactics of our press, particularly those newspapers for the culturally-challenged.
As I find leaf clearance hurts my arthritis, I employed the paid services of a friend to clear up the remaining leaves from the lawn today, afterwards having a little something in the conservatory with him. This latest clearance should see the last of the fallen leaves, thank heavens. Unfortunately, my ever worsening arthritis in my knees and spine is even making it difficult for me to go up the household stairs. Come the new year, I am hoping to ask a friend to put up a stair rail, which should help considerably, the next stage being a stair-lift. Oh, the agonies of growing old, especially having lived ten years in extra Biblical time, long after the design-life of the body.
A rather expensive day as I had to renew the insurance for the Ford Scorpio (£270 including legal cover and AA membership) and the household contents insurance, coming to a combined total of £436. I had obtained a £50 cheaper quotation from another insurance company for the car, but I decided to stay with Saga, a company I have found over many years to provide an excellent service, one that can certainly be trusted, and in the world of insurance that means a lot. As an additional expense I will have to order a further supply of oil within the next few days, but that cost has gone down significantly, probably saving me about £75 on a supply.
A day at home, while Mrs. C. made more arrangements for Christmas, writing most of the cards. What is so upsetting is that several of the cards we have received so far have those fearful words "Made in China" on the back, making me wonder whether we now make anything in this country. Mrs. Copeland was even telling me yesterday that apricot jam and fruit jellies she bought recently were made in Poland, and I am seeing more and more books being printed abroad, some in Germany. Bearing in mind this appalling amount of imported goods, the trade deficit becoming ever larger if taxes are lowered, how can the Budget ever be balanced? The answer, of course, is that it never will.
I was horrified to read that the European Union has made more measures to make our lives ever more difficult. The latest nonsense is that restaurants and takeaways across Europe will be required by law to tell customers if their food contains ingredients known to trigger allergies. Staff must therefore provide information on 14 everyday allergens including nuts, milk, celery, gluten, soya and wheat. Dear, oh blood dear: what a neurotic nation we have become.
A further news item in the "i" mentioned the comments of the Pubic Affair Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, saying: "By the end of 2016, 1000 people a day will be diagnosed with cancer. But in the UK the chances of surviving the disease are among the worst in Europe. This is completely unacceptable." In fairness to the NHS, it has to be said that the service is no longer able to manage as a result of an ageing population, and at a time when immigrants flood in unchecked by Mrs. May at the Home Office.
The FTSE fell a further -161 points today, taking it down to 6,300, whereas at the start of the year it was at 6,747 - a massive drop. Can the OBS genuinely continue to believe that the UK will be seeing 3% growth in 2015 when the world seems already to be in a meltdown "situation"? Oh, the nonsense and the porkies we are told, some people, including the readers of "The Daily Telegraph" actually believing the falsehood of economic growth of the Cameroons. It will be interesting to see how the market moves next week, possibly having a recovery.
The evening was spent reading some more of the enjoyable novel "The Fires of Autumn", sitting by a log fire that was blazingly merrily away in the dog-grate. There is no doubt that I would miss a living fire if I opted for a log-burning stove, but that day may have to come as I become older and more infirm with my arthritis. Meanwhile, it was wonderful not to have to go out on a Friday evening when all the hoi-polloi are about. In this ailing land it is becoming increasingly dangerous to venture out onto our streets on a dark winter's evening, especially at the weekend. Yet at a time of rising crime and violence, our Home Secretary is cutting police forces. I suppose it makes some kind of sense to her, but certainly not to anybody else.
SATURDAY 13 DECEMBER
Each day seems to bring more bad news about the troubled British economy. Today there was the announcement that "Output in the UK construction industry suffered a sharp fall in October, official figures have shown. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said output dropped by 2.2% in October from the month before." I have forecast that this country will return to recession towards the end of next year or early in 2016, but it begins to look as if my timing is going to be well out, all the signs now being that it could be the Spring of next year. Meanwhile, the price of oil continues to fall, bringing added revenue worries for the Government, making the balancing of the Budget quite impossible.
Mrs. Copeland went to Waitrose quite early this morning for the week's provisions, fearing that there would be an almighty scrum as we are nearing the season of goodwill (must end 6th January), but it was not too bad, much to her surprise. Nevertheless, at Christmas people seem to go utterly mad, far more than usual, buying up items as if there was not going to be a tomorrow. Mrs. C. usually brings back the Saturday "Times", which is free when you spend over £10, which is not difficult these days as the cost of living races ahead. Today, though, I asked her to bring back the "i" instead, for which she had to pay 40p, the newspaper not being among the free papers.
The "i" had a report of demonstrations outside the Houses of Parliament against legislation that came into force on the 1st December, imposing more restrictions on pornography emanating from this ailing land. Whilst it is obviously necessary to curb all this rubbish, most of it totally crude and artless, the real fear is that the legislation represents a further restriction on freedom of expression, the Cameroons loathing free speech almost as much as they hate the National Health Service and the BBC. It would not surprise me in the least if an incoming ultra-Conservative Government next May bans all discussion on immigration and any condemnation of Israel, lenghty prison sentences being imposed on those who did not recognise that we no longer have free speech.
Although I do not depict any pornography on this site, and never express any sexist remarks at any time, . I am nevertheless becoming ever more fearful as our latterday Stasi is charged with monitoring all entries on Facebook, Twitter and on-line diaries, even telephone calls. Already I am becoming more and more frightened about expressing controversial views, not wanting another visit from the local constabulary. Not the nicest of countries these days, you might say in its relentless decline.
I have a Facebook, which granddaughter jokingly put on for me, but I begin to think that I will close it down for fear of reprisals, never having been all that keen on it. The problem is that some joker could put all manner of salacious photographs on the site, for which I would get into trouble. At least nobody can put anything on this diary, not that they would probably want to.
According to the "i", whose politics seem to be a welcome middle-of-the-road, the proprietor of the "Daily Express" has given a donation of £300,000 to Ukip. The likelihood is that such donations, giving Ukip ever more influence in the country, could bring in Labour by default. Maybe, when all is considered, perhaps that would be no bad thing, thereby preventing taking public expenditure back to the 1930s. Just how Labour will deal with an intensive recession remains to be seen. I suppose they can always blame the Cameroons for getting us into even more debt, the most indebted country in Europe.
The buds of Spring.
In the evening Mrs. Copeland and I went to see the film "Nightcrawler" at "The Venue" in Lincoln, where there is free parking and where we can have a drink before the showing of the film - a most civilised place, not having popcorn eaters , as we invariably see and hear at the Odeon. The cost of a ticket for geriatrics is £4 at The Venue, whereas at the Odeon the cost is £6.50, and car parking nearby costs £3. We both thoroughly enjoyed the film, finding it most exciting. The best films I have seen this year are "71"; "Fury" and Effie Gray", all outstanding films. The worst films were "American Hustle" and "A Most Wanted Man", the latter probably ranking as one of the worst films I have ever seen, so incredibly dull and boring with a ridiculous plot.
SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER
It is pleasing to think that in a week's time it will be the shortest day, after which the sun will be coming back, although the day represents the official start to winter. There was also the welcome appearance of snowdrop shoots in the garden, just visible above the ground. The good times are therefore coming, though as I have mentioned many times earlier, I believe 2015 is going to be an utterly terrible year for this country, seeing a very nasty general election, followed by a recession, probably also seeing disturbances in the street.
I was dismayed to read that "Hundreds of British troops will be sent to Iraq in the New Year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon says." Alas, despite having made the country nearly bankrupt, the Cameroons can never avoid a foreign punch-up, trying so hard to kid themselves that we are still a world power. Scores of our men will be losing their lives, and for what purpose in a country that will never know any peace? It means that within a few months the Prime Minister will be shedding crocodile tears at Question Time, praising a brave serviceman who was killed by a cowardly IED. when what he really means is that the politicians sent the soldier needlessly to his death.
There was also the news that a Ukip candidate has had to apologise for making unflattering remarks about homosexuals (I refuse to use that hateful appellation "gay" that debases a former pleasant word). According to a news item, "The Mail on Sunday" apparently obtained a recording of the candidate's telephone conversation. Obviously one must deplore any such references to those people, yet it seems very nasty that telephone calls are being recorded and used by the muckraking press. It really does seem as if we have a latter-day Stasi in this country, it becoming increasingly dangerous to express any controversial opinion.
Mrs. Copeland was telling me that somebody else made an unflattering remark about a Labour transgender candidate who was blind, subsequently having to make profuse apologies. Amazingly he did not suffer a prison sentence. Why is it, I wonder, that so many people are apologising for remarks they make these days? Presumably the answer is that we are living in an overcrowded little island, barely able to move in some parts, especially the south-east where they live like battery hens, pecking one another all the time. Accordingly, we have become an increasingly intolerant and humourless nation, informers everywhere, while women remember having had their bottom pinched back in the 1960s, all with a fully-fledged Stasi to keep an eye on us.
After a quiet morning, updating my finances on the computer and setting up the web editor for this week, we went to the local Club at 3.30 p.m. for the usual alcoholic intake. Although the Club is going through one of its periodical difficult periods, there is the great advantage that there is no reception for mobile telephones and those ghastly iPads, Some months ago there was a proposal for a broadband connection to be installed, but mercifully this appalling proposal was heavily defeated. We attend the Club to speak to one another, not to play on those loathsome appliances.
During discussions with a male group (the men and women in their separate groups), one of the members was saying that he thought that there would be widespread civil unrest with fighting in the streets if the Conservatives get back next May - the very point I have repeatedly made in this diary, suggesting that the police should start making adequate measures to deal with the extensive unrest.
In the present Parliament the Lib-Dims, although a hopeless party with a leader almost as bad as Miliband, did at least moderate some of the right-wing excesses of the Cameroons. We must therefore hope that there is another hung Parliament, thereby taking the sting out of the Cameroons wanting to hurt the poor and the sick for the benefit of the rich. A 10 seat majority for the Cameroons with 12 seats for Ukip would be a good result. Even better would be 12 seats for the Lib-Dims, but that sad party is off to the political desert, as dead as old Marley.
The evening was spent by the fireside, finishing reading "The Fires of Autumn" - a novel that I enjoyed with its interesting observations on life, though in parts it was somewhat sloppy, men being involved with women. In one chapter the author, who ended her life in Auschwitz, wrote: "Mankind can only easily get used to happiness and success. When it comes to failure, human nature puts up insurmountable barriers of help. The sense of despair has to remove those barriers one by one, and only then does despair penetrate to the heart of man who gradually recognises the evil, calls it by name, and is horrified."
I made a start on "Taking Command - the autobiography of General David Richards.", published this year by Headline at £20. One of the interesting issues about military books is the extent to which politicians should interfere with the conduct of a military campaign. Politicians obviously institute wars, but to what extent should they be involved in the actual battles? Initially, Hitler was way ahead of his generals in his blitzkrieg concepts, but in the war against Russia he interfered disastrously, diverting his forces instead of going straight to Moscow. Had the Germans succeeded in taking Moscow they would probably have won, especially if Stalin was captured. What a slender thread history depends upon!
I usually prefer biographies to autobiographies, for the latter always think of themselves as jolly good chaps. To read any politician's memoirs you would think they saved the country from disaster, when the reality is that they made a complete cock-up of things, especially the late Tony Benn. Then there were the e Beast of Bolsover's memoirs that were unbelievably awful, totally humourless and self-centred, an incredibly boring book.
MONDAY 15 DECEMBER
I mentioned last week and again this week that I had changed from taking the "i" each day instead of "The Times", finding that the columnists in the latter were so awful. Commenting on this, a correspondent wrote: "I really can't feel any empathy with any one newspaper. Until thirty years ago, 'The Times' was an outstanding newspaper. Even the 'Guardian' had its usefulness. I feel that newspapers have had their day. For news, I listen to the BBC World Service, where the news is presented in an unbiased way".
I certainly feel that the days of newspapers are coming to an end, for I am sure that the younger generation will have all the news on their iPads, always supposing that they are the slightest bit interested in knowing what is going on in the world, other than who won the "X Factor" There is no doubt local papers are really on the wane now that most of the advertising for property, cars, etc, is mostly done on the Internet, reaching a far wider audience and at much cheaper rates.
I begin to despair of Red Ed, for he does not seem to have a clue about politics. Apparently, a leaked document instructs Labour MPs" not to campaign on immigration because it risks undermining support for the party." In other words, dodge the issue, trying to switch the discussion to protecting immigrants from unscrupulous employers. Yet immigration is without any doubt the main issue in the forthcoming election. It really does make you despair at such an inadequate and hopeless leader. Cameron is often said to be the most indecisive leader we have had, yet at least he does nothing, not making such a fool of himself.
I ordered some more oil today, finding that on the usual 750 litre load that I purchase it was £59 cheaper than a similar supply in August, so that was a Good Thing, as Pooh would say. House prices are also thankfully starting to fall, and quite substantially beyond London, and even London has seen the peak. The worry now is that this country could be heading for deflation, as is now happening in the European Union, still in one hell of a mess.
Economists are politicians are terrified of deflation, which is a grave condition with near fatal consequences for an economy. Because money gains in value under deflation, individual and Government debts grow in value, slowing down the economy. As John Lancaster says in his latest book "How to Speak Money": "A pall of gloom and stasis settle over the entire economy." This explains why politicians are so keen on inflation, lowering the value of indebtedness.
A correspondent was telling me that there was evidence that 35% of knee replacements were unsuccessful. I know of three people who have had these replacement, 2 having been unsuccessful, and 1 very successful, so you takes your pick. However, the major consideration seems to be age. If you are over 70 years of age, put up with the pain and keep away from the surgeons.
First signs of the snowdrop shoots, about on time for this month.
On the BBC news site I saw later in the day that the "Suspect in Sydney cafe siege identified as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian granted asylum in Australia". Obviously, it would seem that Australia has the same problems that we have, though I was always under the impression that the country has a much stricter control on immigration.
After an optimistic start, the FTSE went down again today, falling by another -117 points, making me wonder when and where the index is going to end up. There is no doubt that 2015 is going to be a fascinating year for those of us interested in economics, possibly seeing the country going into an ever deepening recession, with fighting in the streets if the Cameroons return with a reasonable overall majority. I just hope that in my old age I live long enough to see a remarkably fascinating year - a year in which recession could be associated with deflation - an unusual concept in economics. I find it all very exciting.
Apart from a brief visit to town in the morning, it was a day spent at home, generally pottering around. In the evening, sitting by a blazing log fire, I read some more of "Taking Command", which I am quite enjoying. What is so obvious is that our hopeless politicians - Blair , Brown and now Cameron, depleted our Armed Forces as part of the defence cuts, and then sent our troops off on further foreign forays poorly equipped, thereby suffering extensive casualties in a guerrilla warfare.
Although I find the somewhat congratulatory personality profile a little tiresome at times - "Like all good soldiers, I......", there is a very interesting chapter on leadership qualities, in which we are told: "I had a lot of friends who were soldiers but I always called them by their rank and they always called me 'Sir'" Getting the balance right in leadership, being friendly but not too friendly, is a problem that any manager has to face, and few people manage to get it right, especially in these days of Christian name-calling.
I continue to believe that leadership is an in-built quality, based on character and personality, even looking the part, and having the necessary gravitas and charisma. Essentially, there is the need to earn respect, and that has to be earned, not being God given. Accordingly, I do not believe, therefore, that you can be turned into a leader, which is one of the reasons I so deplore the public schools in their emphasis on leadership training.
Leadership is inherent, and no amount of training can induce it when the essential ingredients are missing. It could be said, even if it is somewhat unkind to say so, that neither Clegg nor Miliband have the necessary leadership qualities, not even having the right physiognomy, whereas Cameron does at least look the part. Perhaps breeding helps a lot, good breeding and intelligence being a formidable combination, whatever the Levellers in the Labour Party may say to the contrary.
One of the surprising things is that young children can sum up a new teacher within a few minutes, whereas we seem to somewhat lose that assessment in later life A strong teacher is one who can maintain discipline at all times, and that is no easy assignment, as many probationary teachers have found to their cost. Having a powerful voice is no doubt a great help in frightening miscreants. Maybe it can be said that discipline is easier in the armed services as offenders can be put on a charge, but it is ultimately the goodwill and respect of the squaddies who determine an officer's career.
TUESDAY 16 DECEMBER
The stock market rallied somewhat today, going up by 150 points. However, the Russian rouble is in serious trouble, the Russians having had to put interest rates up to a crippling 17% to protect the currency. It seems that the European sanctions and the falling price of petrol are largely responsible for the failure, presumably indicating that the West can at any time cripple Russia financially, just as the Americans did when the Russians could not keep pace with the cost of rearmament during the Cold War.
I recently purchased a paperback of "Helmand - Diaries of front-line soldiers" from Amazon. I loathe buying paperbacks at the best of times, but as I was interested in the subject, and as there was no hardback version, I purchased the book, only to find that the print was incredibly tiny, almost impossible to read, even though I have good eyesight, not having to wear glasses at all. To make matters worse, the book was printed in China. Fortunately, Amazon agreed to take the book back as I could not read such minuscule print. I wrote to the publishers to express my disappointment. When there are so many good printers in this country, why is it necessary to have a book printed in China? Presumably the answer is cheapness - and it shows.
Today's "i", which I continue to enjoy, finding the columnists far more balanced in their political views than the extreme right-wing contingent in "The Times", had a poll showing that Labour had increased its lead over the Conservatives by 3%, having earlier been level-pegging. The point was made that 66% of voters rejected Ostborne's plan to take public expenditure back to the 1930s in order to balance the Budget, presumably an excuse to hammer the poor and reduce the National Health Service. Ukip has gone down 2%, which does not surprise me.
I certainly have moved towards Labour because of these unfair cuts, and because there is an inherent fault in Osborne's policy - namely that making thousands of public sector workers redundant will mean an ever greater welfare bill. The fair way to balance would be to raise taxes, bringing in a 60% tax, and eliminating all foreign aid, along with leaving the internal affairs of other countries alone.
There was also a report in the paper that "Clegg joins chorus against new pornography laws, rightly arguing that "it is not the role of politicians to cast moral judgements". The problem is that most of the public-school educated Noddies, having attended single-sex schools, have an awful hang-up about sex, never knowing quite what to make of it, except for a love of spanking.
Arthur - my talisman who protects me from unpleasant people - and there are some not very pleasant ones not so far away.
There are times when I think this country is going barking mad. Today, for instance, I read a report on the BBC news website that "A six-foot mechanical polar bear that dances and sings Christmas carols is being investigated after a council received a noise complaint." Apparently, an Enforcement Officer is carrying out an "ongoing investigation." I suppose the poor old bear is upsetting the Muslims in the community, as well as other people who have to refer to Christmas as "Winter Holiday." I suppose it will not be long before carol singers are banned in loony Labour councils.
Another BBC news item reported that, "At least 126 people, most of them children, have been killed in a Taliban assault on an army-run school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, officials say." What on earth is the point of this senseless slaughter?
Yet another report said that inflation as measured by the CPI had fallen to 1%, suggesting that we will soon be heading the same way as the eurozone towards deflation - an economic situation that is far worse than inflation, leading to massive unemployment, as was shown during the slump in the 1930s. There is no doubt, as I keep mentioning in this diary, that 2015 is going to be a truly fascinating year for those of us interested in economics.
For the monthly meeting of our local Retired Gentlemen's Club we went to have lunch at the excellent tapas bar called "Olivares" in Lincoln, having a first-rate meal in a most pleasant environment, the waiters being very efficient and courteous. The tapas bar has recently opened, and I certainly wish it well. The problem is that there are so many restaurants in Lincoln now that people eat out all the time, not forgetting the necessary bottle of water. The cost with drinks came to £20 per person. Unfortunately, I was not able to drink as I was driving.
Regrettably we had rather depleted numbers today, only 6 in attendance, whereas the full number is 11. Nevertheless, we all greatly enjoyed the occasion, finding the food and the environment to be superb. What I liked so much was that there were no parties of giggling girls wearing paper hats, usually making an almighty noise. And thankfully there was no special menu for Christmas.
Fortunately, the Spanish and most other countries do not make so much ghastly fuss about Christmas, most nations being back to work on St. Stephen's Day, whereas in this country there is a virtual 10-day shutdown. It always amazed me the lights stay on.
However, there was one of our members who complained, somewhat unfairly I thought, that the meal did not represent "value for money". The red wine at £25 (too cold - though in Spain they do not share the English enthusiasm for warmed up wine) and the white at £17 was a bit on the expensive side, but I am prepared, as were the others, to pay a little extra for a fine meal and in enjoyable company.
The said member also said that we should have kept to the arrangements some years ago in which we invited the women to join us for a Christmas lunch. That arrangement was heavily vetoed subsequently, and I am sure that the women have a far better time in having their own village luncheon club, whereas our group would be changed enormously if we had the women with us, probably not having nearly so much laughter as we would be told we were being silly.
During the evening I continued reading "Taking Command", the memoirs of General Richards. In the book he uses his daily diaries to record the British Army's involvement in Helmand, and it makes depressing reading, being told that if modern generals are going to be constantly second-guessed by distant politicians [i.e. politicians in Whitehall] with their own agenda, so that they cannot use their initiative in the fields, "does this mean the end of generalship as we know it?"
Blair & Co., having absolutely no understanding of warfare, continually interfered with the military action in Afghanistan, constantly changing their mind when having cold feet about battles, and sending in our troops in inadequate numbers and poorly equipped. The general makes the point in one dispirited entry: "I have received no real directives from my country".
No wonder that the Taliban won, the Americans eventually having to take over the Province.. The diaries show the impossibility of fighting against the Taliban, battling with them with one hand tied behind the hands of our troops on account of the absurd Rules of Engagement, not knowing who or where the enemy were, , often hiding behind civilians. History should have taught our bird-brained politicians that we did not win in Afghanistan in the 19th century; the Russians failed in the 20th; and now we have limped home, tail between our legs in the 21st.
It is possibly understandable that the Afghan people, afraid of the Taliban, did not want to co-operate too closely with our soldiers, knowing that they would eventually leave. Our men also had to contend with the endless corruption in the country's political circles, and with an incompetent and not very resolute Afghan Army. As one Taliban leader remarked: "You have the watches, but we have the time." That sums it all up.
Yet we are now becoming involved again in the hopeless country of Iraq, where there is about as much idea of democracy as there is of hygiene, the religious factions endlessly fighting one another for control. Oh, the mess that politicians get us into, invariably having not the slightest understanding of the issues, chopping and changing to protect their backs when things go wrong. Even Churchill, wonderful though he was in protecting us from the British Establishment who wanted appeasement with Hitler, tried to back away from the slaughter of Dresden.
Looking back on his military days, the general comments: "I often tease Caroline [his wife] that my blood pressure at home is much higher than it is n operations because, in my terms, I live a more stressful life at home. On operations, people broadly do as I tell them and I have few, if any, domestic problems to resolve." I suppose most husbands would echo such thoughts.
WEDNESDAY 17 DECEMBER
It would seem that the Americans have a far fairer and more intelligent approach to justice than this country, having yesterday thrown out a case in which a woman had alleged that she had been assaulted by a comedian back in the 1970s. Charges would not be filed, defence lawyers having cited the statute of limitations that restricts the length of time in which legal action can be taken after an alleged crime has been committed. It is a pity that we do not have that statute here, thereby stopping all manner of women jumping onto the bandwaggon.
Mrs. Copeland went off with the Village Ladies Luncheon Club to the Pyewipe Inn on the outskirts of Lincoln. I drove Mrs. C and some of the other ladies to the pub, and then went on to have bread and wine with a friend who used to live in the village. Later on I collected the contingent from the inn, hearing that they had had a most enjoyable time, so that was a Good Thing.
The latest model in the excellent "Great British Locomotives Collection", some of which I am collecting. The models remind me of my young days when I would watch the steam trains going by at North Station in Colchester, waving to the driver who would give a hoot on the whistle. What little things made us happy in those innocent days, before we became bothered about the troubles of adulthood.
The advanced thinkers are saying that petroleum could fall to £1 a litre (it is now £1.14 here in Lincolnshire at the pumps). I think this is unlikely, for if we have the severe winter that is forecast (winter officially starts on the 21st December - St, Thomas's Day) the price will very quickly go up. Instability in the Middle East could also see a price rise.
I see that the Church of England has now appointed its first female bishop. For an institution that is in its death throes, I suppose this is of little consequence, yet I continue to admire the Catholic religion for keeping to its Biblical tenets. I could quite easily turn to Catholicism, believing that it has far more to offer than the pick 'n' mix morality of our dear old C.of E. I would have difficulty, though, in its refusal to accept birth contraception and a celibate priesthood. A ban on contraception surely does not help those poor countries where the Catholic religion is often dominant, and it is ridiculous to make a man celibate. No wonder the Church has so much trouble with sex.
I watched a replay of "Prime Minister's Questions" on the BBC news website, seeing the Prime Minister getting the better of poor little Miliband who is just not with it. The Prime Minister still trots out those spurious figures showing we are the fastest growing economy in the world, with inflation and unemployment falling. I wonder what he will be saying this time next year if his party is returned to power, as looks increasingly likely. However (sentences should not begin with 'however'), the Conservatives will not have my vote after that appalling Autumn Statement that, in wanting to take public expenditure back to the 1930s, really frightened me.
After a relaxed afternoon I watched some of the episodes of "Till Death Us Do Part" with an elderly neighbour in the evening. During former sessions, we have thoroughly enjoyed watching several episodes, though sadly they serve as a reminder of more liberal days, long before this country became so mealy-mouthed and intolerant with its political correctness that has made life so unpleasant and so stupid
THURSDAY 18 DECEMBER
Although I am trying very hard to enjoy Christmas, there are still some things that I find immensely irritating. Among these irritations is when people hand me Christmas cards when I am in the Club (I always make a point of leaving them there) and when we are asked to distribute cards to our family, instead of the donor posting them.
I have never quite understood why it is rude to say "Happy Christmas," as the common people write and say, instead of "Merry Christmas". Fortunately, the issue is explained in "The King's English - A Guide to modern usage" by Kingsley Amis, published in 1997: "Never anywhere write Xmas for Christmas, and never print or write 'Happy Christmas' Merry means among other things 'given over to merrymaking or becoming merry....Unlike merry, happy connotes a settled state, one that might well last a whole year." So there you have it.
Christmas card sent to me. Bearing in mind the tree-lined avenue of oaks at the bottom of our garden I thought it was particularly appropriate. As it said on a note on the card: "Plainly suffering from exhaustion and overwork. Who does he sue?"
Only a week now before Christmas is here. How quickly the months go by in old age. Mrs. Copeland has obtained a living Christmas tree, which is delivered to us by a firm, and then taken back after the festivities, having been watered and cared for . That has always seemed to me to be a much better arrangement than cutting trees down, and then throwing them away after goodwill has come to an end on the 6th January. I would like to have an artificial tree, but Mrs. C. will not hear of this idea.
Lincolnshire 18th December, 2014
Diary of a Septuagenarian
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