DIARY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN
- John Copeland -
Friday 8th August - Thursday 14th August, 2014
Heifers in the avenue of oaks. The day will come when Lincoln takes in our village, the trees becoming "Oaklands" estate. Enjoy things that are today, for tomorrow they will be gone.
"As they say, when the age is in, the wit is out."
Shakespeare. A fitting comment on this diary.
FRIDAY 8 AUGUST
I was pleased that several correspondents agreed with my comments on the Israeli/Palestinian issue that I wrote about last week, one saying: "What does an individual with some compassion do about the Israeli massacres in Gaza? If there were boycotts of Israeli food or other products I would take part." He added: "Obama sending small arms is appalling and Cameron doesn't do anything. Maybe Boris will" Another corespondent, commenting on the style of the diary wrote: "Keep it long and keep it up, as the actress said to the
bishop. I dare you to put that in your next entry. I applaud the remarks made by a correspondent of yours about Israel".
I have an annual subscription to the excellent "Literary Review, having paid for issues up to December of this year. However, I have not received the August 2014 issue, each month's issue usually coming on the 1st of the month. Presumably the subscription service had either been reorganised, or management consultants have been employed, which would explain the delivery failure.
I therefore telephoned the subscription department this morning, being told by a very helpful lady that there must have been some mistake, but I was assured that the August issue will be sent on to me without further delay. We will see! Oh, dear oh bloody dear! Why is it that everything goes wrong these days? Last week a plumber brought the wrong fittings when replacing a kitchen tap, and a book delivery went to the wrong address.
The failure to receive the August issue made mw wonder whether there had been a reorganisation, or possibly the employment of management consultants who would screw everything up. I suppose I will eventually receive the issue, possibly after sending another couple of e-mails to ask what has happened.
The delivery failure could, of course, be seen as one of those blessings that come in disguise, for there is no doubt that, as the cost of living soars, whatever the Office for National Statistics may tell us about inflation, I am having to cut down on the monthly purchase of books from 4 to 2. Like most people in the season of superannuation, I am finding it increasingly difficult to balance the housekeeping books, more and more economies having to be made, even though I have a reasonable pension.
Recently, our excellent vicar - a young man who is a credit to the Church of England - took as the theme of his sermon the nonsense of firms these days wanting people who "hit the ground running." He made the point that it would be far better if everybody slowed down and thought what they were doing, I readily agree with this, for I am sure that productivity would shoot up if everybody had an hour-and-a-half for lunch, instead of rushing through the day, getting everything in a fine mess.
It made me laugh to read on the BBC news website that "The first female commander of a major Royal Navy warship is removed from her post following allegations of an affair with an officer." Not a very good recommendation for women in leading positions in the services, it could be said by people with sexist views, not that I have any, let it be firmly said.
Elsewhere, I read that the new Education Secretary, a woman, (and I wonder how long she will last against the fierce and irresponsible opposition of the teaching unions?) is proposing that 3-year-old toddlers "should be taught fundamental British values as an age-appropriate way as part of a drive to protect children from religious radicals." Presumably the toddlers will be told about constitutional monarchy and that the Queen is the Defender of the Faith, and the value of democracy in the British system of Cabinet Government.
As a correspondent asked last week when commenting on the proposal of a "Teacher Support Network and Recourse Officer in London N5" for "teaching children as young as three and four about gay rights is a radical and welcome step to nurturing a non-discriminative society from the outset": "I wonder if we have gone completely mad in this country." I think we all know the answer, possibly characteristic of our relentless economic and social decline.
A Lancaster bomber, based in Canada and one of the few survivors of the best bomber of the Second World War, was due to fly over Lincoln Cathedral at 1.15 p.m. today with one based in this country, but unfortunately I missed it as we were out to lunch. However, there was an excellent photograph of the aircraft on the BBC news website yesterday.
There was an interesting letter in today's "Times" supporting Israel, signed by a group of Conservative Members of Parliament, including Sir Richard Ottaway, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, James Arbuthnot, Dr. Liam Fox, Mark Hoban and Bob Neil, describing themselves as "Conservative Friends of Israel." So Israel obviously has a few supporters in this country.
A Lancaster bomber from Canada. Together with another surviving Lancaster, the planes were due to fly over Lincoln Cathedral at 1.15 p.m. today. Later I learnt that the flight had been cancelled because of bad weather.
To town after breakfast to purchase Lincolnshire sausages, which we will be having when with mother-in-law in Essex over the weekend. Back home I read some more of the 600-page book "Capital", now up to page 490, finding it as dull and dreary as ever, far too long. A great shame, for it is a subject I am interested in as part of my renewed learning curve in economics.
I was reading in a newspaper that a major firm producing numerous local newspapers had made a loss of £6.3 million, advertising being down by 9%, the problem being that people were now using on-line facilities rather than buying a local newspaper. In this relentless decline, our local paper has gone from a daily to a weekly publication, now costing £1, almost completely dominated by advertisements, colourful though they may be.
It seems that, within the next five years, there will be few local newspapers left, yet another change in our way of life, going the same way as roll film cameras as technology steadily advances. There is the suggestion that the local news presentation on the BBC website should be curbed, but this would be ridiculous, trying to put the clock back. As the old saying has it, "the little dogs bark but the caravan moves on."
Today's "Times" reported a survey having shown that, "Older people should arrange their days so that any mentally demanding tasks such as filling out tax returns, are carried out early. A psychological study found that older people have 'morning brains', sharpest earlier in the day, with brain function deteriorating in the afternoons." As my old granny would have said: "Well I never did! Who would have thought of that?" I suppose it is yet another example of the utter nonsense of psychology, stating the obvious, usually with "situation" after every noun in incomprehensible and meaningless sentences. Most of the practitioners I have known were completely mad.
In last week's diary I wondered how the Germans would be feeling about the commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War on the 4th August 1914. A correspondent replied: "Presumably they'll wonder why they expended so much blood and treasure over 75 years to try to dominate Europe now that they have done it more quickly by other means." Yes, indeed. Instead of going on to invade Poland and then France, Hitler should have concentrated on economic warfare, soon becoming the wealthiest country in Europe, as Germany is today.
At 12.30 p.m. we went with friends - a retired banker and his wife - to have lunch at "Marino's" on the village estate, where we had been with Mrs. C's relations last Sunday. As usual, I had a steak, which was delicious, as was the Italian wine. We sat outside, despite the massive great dark clouds that were gathering. It was not until we were departing, making our way to the vehicle, that the heavens opened, the rain belting down with thunder and lightening. We adjourned to our house for coffee. A most pleasant occasion.
The rest of the day was spent at home, reading some more of "Capital", finding it as dull as ever,
The FTSE continues its relentless fall, going down a further 33 points today, presumably on account of problems all around the world - in Ukraine; Libya; and Iraq, all as unsettled as ever. As our banker friend said at lunchtime today, "the world is in a mess". There is no doubt that there be dragons ahead for this country, the so-called recovery having come to an abrupt end.
As if to reinforce this point, it made me laugh to read that the UK's trade gap "unexpectedly" widened in June, the deficit increasing to £9.4 billion from £9,2 billion, whereas economists had forecast a deficit of £8.8 bn. Presumably these surprised economists are the ones who have been saying that we have the fastest growing economy in Europe, if not the world. There will be no recovery while this trade deficit continues to widen, The problem for the Bank of England is that there needs to be an interest rate rise to curb inflation, yet a rise will further strengthen the £, making exports even more uncompetitive. Alas, an economy that knows no solution.
At 4.30 p.m. I found that I had run out of the black printer cartridge, having so spares. I therefore unwisely went in on the scooter to Staples in Lincoln, finding that the roads were almost completely gridlocked as a result of the rush-hour, which is worse on a Friday as our lazy British workers finish early for the weekend. Had I not been on the scooter I would have had to abandon the journey. Thank heavens for two wheels. Buying a new scooter in March of last year, replacing a 3-year-old one, was one of the best things I have done for a long time.
During my working days in the last century I could travel the 2-and-a-half miles to work without any hold-ups, coming home for a one-and-a-half lunchbreak, Mrs. Copeland waiting with a cooked meal. What wonderful days they were, before everything fell apart and the country went into terminal recession. It makes me realise what a charmed life I have led. Although it is now falling apart, almost as quickly as the country falls apart, weighed down with immigrants and nobody wanting to work, I still have the glorious memories of a far better age when we worked so much harder and more efficiently, even staying with our wives - or partners as we should say today.
During the early days of my career we even worked on Saturday mornings. Why on earth don't they bring that back, thereby improving today's appalling productivity? Most men would gladly welcome the opportunity to go to the office to get away from the horrors of what remains of family life today, not having to push the trolley at the supermarket. Not only that: we didn't have "stress" the moment we encountered any difficulty at work or in our marriage.
The evening was spent reading the book on London during the First World War, when there was panic about the arrival of the Zeppelins. It was a grim foretaste of what was to come two decades later.
SATURDAY 9 AUGUST
I saw on the BBC local news website that, "A first flight by the last two airworthy Lancaster bombers has been postponed due to bad weather. The Canadian Warplane Heritage's aircraft was due to meet the UK-based Lancaster and then pass over Lincoln Cathedral, escorted by the Red Arrows. However, due to bad weather in the area, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's aircraft was grounded." Thank heavens I did not postpone the luncheon meeting to watch the scheduled flight. I get some things right.
Mrs. Copeland went off for the week's provisions at Waitrose. I am so thankful that we can still afford to go to Waitrose, for it is by far the most civilised of the supermarkets, and despite current belief its prices are no higher for most products than the ailing Tesco. As we are going down to Essex after lunch to spend the weekend with mother-in-law by way of an early celebration of her 97th birthday, I had to pack the suitcase, having to take almost as many items as when we went for a week at Mijas.
Afterwards, relaxing before the 136-mile journey, I read some more of "Capital". The title reminds me of Mrs. Marx supposedly saying that she wished Karl had made rather more capital than always writing about it. In some ways I wish that I also had more capital, especially for those unexpected rainy days, but then there is no point in saving at my time of life, having it steadily whittled away by inflation and an ever rising cost of living.
At least it was encouraging to read that the author explains that the West has nothing to worry about China becoming the dominant economy in the world - that myth perpetrated by newspaper columnists who have not a clue about economics: "In particular, it is important to stress that the currently prevalent fears of growing Chinese ownership [around the world] are a pure fantasy. The wealthy countries are in fact much wealthier than they sometimes think. The total real estate and financial assets net of debt owned by European households today amount to 70 trillion euros. By comparison, the total assets of Chinese sovereign wealth funds plus the reserves of the Bank of China represent around 3 trillion euros, or less than one twentieth of the former amount."
The author might have added that China is a politically unstable country, dependent almost entirely on American technology. Not surprisingly, the rocket that was supposed to land on the moon failed a few miles up. Take away American technology , and China would quickly revert to a peasant economy, going the similar way to Russia in bankrupting itself in trying to keep up with American armaments.
I remain convinced that America will, certainly for the rest of this century, remain the predominant country in the world, and thank heavens for that. Meanwhile, we have to put up with all the badly made Chinese manufactured products, seeing those fearful words on each crudely made item: "Made in China", or sometimes "Made in PRC" by way of trying to hide the shoddiness of the product's origin,
Another splendid photograph of a Lancaster bomber
We departed from the village in Mrs. Copeland's Peugeot 208 about 2.15 p.m. Much to my amazement we had an easy journey, there being hardly any traffic on the road. I suppose a lot of people are abroad.
In the evening we had a supper of Lincolshire sausages, which we had brought down with us together with home-grown runner beans. Mrs. C's sister, Fiona, joined us brining some home-grown spinach, and how different to the variety sold in the shops. A most pleasant evening, which passed very quickly.
SUNDAY 10 AUGUST
By way of marking her 97th birthday on the 14th of this month, Mrs. C's mother treated the immediate family to luncheon at "The Mill Hotel"" in Sudbury, an upmarket place that is truly excellent, a hotel suitable for Rotarians to have their meetings. It took us over half an hour before we were served, but then the restaurant was very busy, packed in fact, suggesting that there is no recession in these parts, not that there has ever been one.
I had sirloin steak, which was truly excellent with a shared bottle of white wine. It was certainly an agreeable manner in which to celebrate an elderly birthday, making me wonder if I will ever reach that age. In some ways I hope not, probably ending up in a residential home with carers, hearing that the IMF and Germany were bailing out the UK in its final decline.
The family celebrating Mrs. Copeland's mother's 97th birthday with a luncheon at "The Mill Hotel" in Sudbury today.
A siesta back at the apartment, and then about 7 p.m. some of the members of Mrs. C's family called in for further drinks. All told, a most pleasant day.
MONDAY 11 AUGUST
Mrs. Copeland went out shopping with her mother in the morning, so not having a shopping gene I stayed in the apartment, finishing "Capital", reading to the end of the nearly 600-page book. I found the later chapters far more interesting, in which the author makes the very valid point that increasing the salaries of the supermanagers does not in any way increase productivity, and that there is no likelihood of disgruntled managers fleeing abroad. This is a point we have always known, yet we have to endure the capitalist myth that the supermanagers have to be paid ever increasing salaries to keep them in post and productivity flourishing, and stop them from running away.
The author suggests that, in the interests of world-wide equality, there should be a tax on capital, though the problem is that tax havens can squirrel away genuine wealth. Without such taxes the author argues that inequality will continue to become more pronounced in the capitalist world, returning to the wide gap during the Victorian age, yet no governments are ever likely to impose such taxes.
He also makes the point that public debt is nothing new in the UK, for at the end of the Napoleonic Wars it exceeded two years of national income, just as it was at the end of the Second World War. And he tells us that "the rich world is rich, but the governments of the rich world are poor. Europe is the most extreme case: it has both the highest level of private wealth in the world and the greatest difficulty in resolving its public debt crisis - a strange paradox." I was rather surprised that there was not much mention of China, which I would have thought was an interesting study.
Overall, though, I found the book to be a big disappointment. It was obviously a tremendous work of scholarship, yet like so many academic treatises it seemed to lack reality, almost as if it was written in a an ivory tower. The title of the book is "Capital in the 21st Century", yet much of the book goes back to the 18th century, and a large part relates to France, presumably because the author is French. There is, for example, a chapter on public debt, and I was hoping that this would explain the nature of the national debt. For example, when Greece went bust, who owned the debt, and what happened to it? Presumably the money didn't just disappear. Such questions are never answered in what seems to be an obscure text, even having the nonsense of mathematical formulae, presumably in trying to make economics appear as a science, whereas like medicine it is more of an art subject.
The Mill Hotel, Sudbury, where we had a family luncheon yesterday.
We departed for home about 2.15 p.m., stopping at the delightful Sibson Inn, a charming tavern that has not been spoilt by modernisation, and how rare that is. Unfortunately, in moving my chair I knocked a full glass of white wine over, sending it shattering on the floor, much of the wine going over Mrs. C's white trousers. Thank heavens it was not red wine. The barman was most considerate, not making a fuss at all. I insisted on paying for another glass, but he would not hear of it. Just to cap our misfortune, Mrs. C. left her mobile telephone on the table in the tavern. About 20 miles along the A1 we realised that it was missing, so we had to go all the way back, travelling mile after mile before we could turn off the A1 and go back northwards again. Fortunately the telephone was waiting for her. Not the best of journeys.
I was so thankful that mother-in-law did not have the idiot's lantern on at all whilst we were with her. I cannot find words sufficient to say how much I dislike and despise television, regarding it as a total waste of time, essentially for the culturally-challenged. Fortunately, there are only repeats in the summer months, as I saw for the BBC1 schedule today, programmes beginning at 8.30 p.m., 10.35 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. all being repeats. Presumably television is only worth watching for sport in the summer months, not that I am interested in any sports, certainly not football or thugby.
Whilst in Essex I found that there was no reception at mother-in-law's flat on my O2 mobile telephone - a Samsung Galaxy Ace 2. At home I find there is no reception most days, just occasionally one bar of the reception, and in other towns and places I have found there was also no reception, whereas Mrs. C with her mobile telephone using Vodaphone has full reception in all these places. I have therefore written to O2 to ask what the trouble is - whether there is not nationwide coverage, or whether there is a fault on the telephone. In any event, it is quite useless as it is, not that I use the appliance all that much, but I feel I ought to have some reception for £14.25 a month.
If there is no satisfaction from O2, and my guess is that they will not replace the poor telephone, saying there is nothing wrong with it, I will not renew the contract when it expires at the end of this year, possibly moving to EE of which I hear good reports.
I gather that there was torrential rain in Lincolnshire while we were away. On Sunday night there was a downpour where we were in Essex, but possibly not as bad. At least the rain will have done the runner beans good in the garden.
In today's "Times" I read that a group of Conservative Members of Parliament were pressing the Prime Minister to become involved in Iraq. What nonsense, for we will only be wasting our money, possibly the lives of our service personnel, just as we wasted money and men in Afghanistan and Libya. However much we help these hopeless countries, dominated as they are by cut-throat religious and tribal factions, there will never be any peace or political settlement. Keep well away, and let the combatants get on with their battles, for we can only provide humanitarian help at best.
TUESDAY 12 AUGUST
The plumber duly arrived at 9.15 a.m. to replace the faulty kitchen tap. A most pleasant fellow who was telling me that standards have declined in the trade, nobody caring about good workmanship. When he served his apprenticeship he had to comply with exceedingly high standards, and if something was out of line even slightly it had to be done again. Not today here in the U.K, the abbreviation standing for Uncaring Kingdom.
Afterwards, I went to purchase a new kettle, trying to find one that was not made in China, but I was unsuccessful, every one being made in that loathsome country from whence comes all the badly made products. The amount of manufactured products that come from China must be phenomenal, hardly anything being exported from this country. No wonder on the A1 we see that about 75% of the lorries are of foreign origin. I will have to renew the search tomorrow.
The 12th of August is known as the "Glorious 12th", during which thousands of the grouse are wantonly slaughtered. There was a little fellow writing in last week's "Times" saying that the shooting was essential for the protection of the grouse fraternity, just stopping short of saying that the birds thoroughly enjoy the sport. The Labour Party successfully managed to stop the appalling bloodsport of hunting with hounds, but somehow stopped short of banning shooting birds, presumably because there was so much money involved in the hateful activity that demands about as much skill as a game of Snakes & Ladders, Hooray Henries spending thousands of pounds for a day's so-called sport. Maybe I take this attitude because I am a townie at heart, agreeing with Karl Marx of the awfulness of country life where all creatures great and small are either hunted, shot or snared for fun.
Tuesdays are Mrs. C's social worker day, during which she visits two old ladies, one in the morning who is in a sorry state, having fallen over, as all old people do (how much longer before I fall over, I wonder, especially when I fall about in helpless mirth on hearing that the UK has the fastest economic growth in the world). The poor old lady, about 83 years of age, has a collar round her neck because of the great fall, spending her idle days in a retirement home, never going out, therein having problems as a result of staffing cuts. A sad way to end life.
I saw in today's "Times" that there was further confirmation that the UK was likely to become involved in the Iraqi turmoil, no doubt wasting further millions of our money. When you think of the billions we have wasted earlier in Iraq, in Libya, and Afghanistan, all now in further turmoil, we could have improved our appalling highways; built new schools and hospitals; and even paid back some of the ever mounting National Debt. Instead, it is all wasted on countries that will never be at peace with one another. Why, oh why, do we not let them fight things out amongst themselves, as they will always do in the end. We have enough troubles at home without trying to sort out problems in lands far away.
There was also a report that consumer expenditure in the high streets had fallen by 0.2% in the first three months to June for the first time in two years. With the housing market having stalled (except in London) and exports down, there is no doubt that the Potemkin recovery is coming to an end, much earlier than had been forecast. I have to admit that I had thought the decline would come late in 2015 or early 2016, so I was totally wrong, an occasion when you do not read it here first.
The cover of the current edition of "Private Eye" made me laugh, showing President Obama asking the hateful Natanyahu: "Is there light at the end of the tunnel?" to which Natanyahu replies: "No, we've blown it up." As I have commented earlier, I have yet to meet anybody who supports Israel in the brutal campaign against Gaza, nearly all Englishmen being on the side of the Palestinians - except the "Conservative Friends of Israel" mentioned earlier. The sadness is that Netanyahu has promoted further anti-semitism all around the world, which does nothing to resolve the present crisis.
I met a female friend (my longest surviving friend) at a hotel in Lincoln at 11.15 a.m,, a monthly gathering that I always enjoy, having wine instead of coffee. Inevitably we were having an organ recital, talking about our various infirmities. I was making the point that troubles in life can be divided into two main categories: (1.) Those of a long-term problem, usually health maladies for which there is no cure these days, the medicine men not having a clue about the working of the body; and (2). Those problems that could be solved by finance, and although costly, were nearly always capable of a solution. It was Dr. Johnson who said that if you had a problem, you should ask yourself whether it would still be with you in a year's time. The answer is (1) Possibly. (2) No.
Afterwards, I went on a further search for a replacement kettle not made in China, going to Waitrose and then Tesco, but all of the kettles had those dreaded words "Made in China". I determined to avoid those shoddy products that just last the year's guarantee, if that. Fortunately, I found a kettle at Argos made in the Netherlands, so I immediately snapped that up at a cost of £24.99, somewhat more expensive than the Chinese junk, but no doubt worth every penny.
In the post I had a letter from my electricity supplier, the German-owned E-On, sometimes referred to as E-Off on account of the power failures we have, though to be fair, which is not in my usual nature, we have not had so many this year. I was told that my year's consumption of electricity was £712,49, and that for the next twelve months it was estimated at £729.13. If I switched to a monthly Direct Debit I was told that I could save £35.03 for the year, but I would rather pay that amount, possibly up to £50, to escape a diabolical direct debit, losing control of my banking account.
No doubt many people will tell me that they have had no trouble whatsoever in having diabolical direct debits, but the press is full of accounts of problems, along with the difficulties some of my friends have had. Understandably, I have no DDDs at present, and will never have one so long as I live, whatever the bonuses. This is one of the reasons that I do not want to switch to Broadband, most accounts having to be paid for by DDD.
I was hearing today that the Parish Council has had yet another application for more trees to be cut down in the village. However, I have given up protesting, especially when urban refugees come to the parish and want the trees down, regarding them as messy and dangerous. At least I can still enjoy the avenue of oaks at the bottom of my garden, featured in the first photograph this week, before Lincoln expands into the village and the trees are felled for an "Oaklands" estate". Enjoy things while you can, for tomorrow they will be gone.
On the BBC News website I saw that, "The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the UK has again breached prisoners' rights by failing to give them the vote." What an utter nonsense, reminding us that the sooner we leave that chaotic Union the better we will all will be. It is a pity that the Court does not think of Human Responsibilities, which come before any rights can be considered. However, there is no doubt that they will be a massive vote to leave the Union in 2017, so at least all this nonsense will then be put aside.
After a siesta, I went to take wine with a neighbouring couple, the husband having had a massive stroke several years ago that has left him completely paralysed, unable to walk or talk. It makes me realise that I should not grumble about my lifestyle, but I suppose there is nothing gained in relating to other people's troubles. We are as we are, ourselves being the most important person on earth. Nevertheless, it was an agreeable occasion with plenty of wine.
The evening was spent finishing reading the book on London during the First World War - a book that I enjoyed. I had not realised that many people were killed in the capital by the Zeppelins and aircraft, particularly the German "Giant" plane that was able to carry a reasonable bombload at the time.
I have made a start on "Warsaw Boy - a memoir of a wartime childhood" by Andrew Borowiec, published by Penguin Viking this year at £16.99.
WEDNESDAY 13 AUGUST
It made me laugh to read on the BBC News website that, "Head teachers say they will publish their own independent exam school league tables, bypassing any political involvement." Every one a winner, all top the league, not a loser in sight. No doubt parents will take about as much notice of these tables as they do of the long-range weather forecast. What a daft country it is becoming, presumably all part of its terminal decline.
I have finally decided to discontinue the Facebook that granddaughter set up for me, having found that I did not enjoy it, wondering what was its purpose. To be fair, I suppose Facebooks are for the teens and twenties, and for separated families who want to keep in touch with one another, not for curmudgeonly old men who are interested in lengthy discussions by e-mails on politics and economics.
There was a news item today that the BBC sends 100,000 television licence letters day relating to non-payment, 25.1 million having been sent out last year and goodness knows what cost. I am certainly glad that, being over the age of 75 years, I do not have to pay the £147.50 for the rubbish and endless repeats that are now shown by the BBC, but I suppose it can be said that the BBC's programmes are at least better than the commercial presentations that are interrupted every fifteen minutes by dreadful advertisements. By way of saving money, and therefore not having to demand such a massive licence fee, perhaps the BBC could limit its programmes to schedules from 8 a.m. to midnight, forgetting about the wasted time in between.
Another item from the Office for National Statistics told us that the recent recession was not so bad after all. Dear, oh, dear: tell that to the Marines. Perhaps the members of the Office should venture north of Watford, seeing all the shops that have been closed down. The fact remains that the recession was every bit as bad as the 1930s slump, and we are certainly not out of the woods now as nearly every statistic begins to show a slowdown.
Apparently, the Bank of England "has halved its forecast for average wage growth, saying it now expects average salaries to rise by 1.25% this year. The forecast comes as official figures showed average wages excluding bonuses grew by 0.6%. That is the slowest pace of growth since records began in 2001. There was also the news that youth unemployment remains a continuing concern in this country. In other words, as was pointed out in Thomas Picketty's book on "Capital" that I recently finished reading, the gulf between rich and poor is becoming ever greater, taking us back to Victorian days, which is of course the aim of the Cameroons.
Significantly, the Bank also reported that, ""Productivity growth has shown few signs yet of a recovery and is now projected to pick up more slowly than anticipated in May." How then can we say that we have come out of recession, it even being said that we have the fastest economic growth in the world. What a nonsense, and what a nonsense to say that interest rates will rise before the next general election. For the Cameroons, a rate increase adding to the woes of mortgagees, would e political suicide.
Summer flower in the garden.
Despite telephoning the subscription department of the Literary Review on the 7th of this month to say that I had not received the August issue despite my subscription to the end of this year, having confirmed the issue by telephone, I have still not received the copy. I just cannot believe the incredible incompetence, but then I suppose I have to accept that everything s falling apart in this Uncaring Kingdom.
Mrs. Copeland and I had been invited to a luncheon to celebrate a friend's retirement. The event, attended by some 40 or so guests was held at "Marino's", where Mrs. C and I had a splendid meal recently. Without any doubt, it was the most pleasant gathering that I have ever attended, our host being so incredibly generous. I haven't laughed so much for ages, certainly not since hearing that the UK had the fastest economic growth in the world. When we are looking back on the events of 2014, it will be one that I will always remember with a great deal of gratitude.
We adjourned for further alcoholic refreshments on the terrace of one of the neighbours in out small community, other villagers joining us for a further enjoyable time, making me realise what a wonderful community I live in. Sadly, though, the village is beginning to look decidedly tatty and uncared for, possibly because the newcomers take no interest in the bailiwick, preferring to keep to their selfish selves.
When I served as chairman of the Parish Council for ten years we had a litter squad that kept the village clear of all the rubbish thrown along the roads, but now there is no clearance, nobody bothered, possibly because they fool themselves into believing that they are too busy. More and more trees are felled; houses are modified by newcomers; and the surface of one of the roads in the bailiwick is an appallingly dangerous condition, nothing being done by the Highways to improve matters. Yet again I appreciate that I have seen the best of times, before the village was spoilt by riffraff.
Having had rather a lot to drink, it had to be an early bath, but what a great day to remember!
THURSDAY 14 AUGUST
There was a report today that both the German and French economies had faltered in the second quarter of this year. German GDP contracted by 0.2% in the three months to the end of June after growing by 0.7% in the first quarter, while the French economy saw no growth in the quarter. So what earthly hope can there be for the UK economy, which is also showing signs of slackening. There be dragons ahead, serving as a reminder that we are not out of recession, merely having a brief period of recovery before falling back again.
Although my Scorpio had passed the MOT annual test, the garage proprietor had recommended that one of the ABS sensors was on the blink, and should be replaced. I therefore agreed to this repair, taking the car to the garage this morning, Mrs. Copeland taking me home as I had to leave the vehicle at the garage, also having an oil and filter change. The bill came to £272 including VAT at the outrageous 20%, but this is the first time I have paid for any repairs, so I cannot grumble, as they say.
Item sent to me by a reader. How true this is in our neurotic society!
Later in the morning I went in to Lincoln on the scooter to collect the photographs of the family gathering I had printed at "Snappy Snaps", which offers a truly splendid service, and how rare such services are these days. Every car is taken to modify any faults on a picture, and the male assistants are extremely helpful and pleasant, quite unlike the Surly Sharons that are to be seen throughout the retail trade, most of them taking not the slightest interest in their work. "Snappy Snaps", despite its dreadful title, is by far the best photographic service in Lincoln.
I also called at the bank to pay in some money - an unusual state of affairs these days, most of the money being withdrawn to meet the ever rising costs. On one of the posters in the Bank there was the comment: "Summers are short. Memories are long". Yes, indeed: our summer is nearly over, the leaves starting to fall in what seems to be an early Autumn, but it could be suggested that there are bad memories, just as there are good ones.
Back home I cut the grass, which at least helped to drown out all the building works now taking place nearby, one 4-bedroomed house having an extension with another four bedrooms, while cladding is being put down in another garden. Soon work will presumably be starting on the modern house that was approved on appeal by the Inspectorate, despite widespread opposition on account of being totally out of keeping and character with the surrounding historic neighbourhood. Such is democracy in this ailing land.
I was pleased to see today from "The Times" and "Sunday Times" University rankings that the London School of Economics was third at the top after Cambridge and Oxford. I attended LSE in the years 1955-58, gaining a degree in economics that has proved to be of great use to me over the years, now enabling me to understand that the so-called recovery is all smoke and mirrors, having no real foundation. Lincoln University has slipped slightly, from 52nd to 57th place, but it is still an achievement for a relatively new university. Bishop Grosstesse in Lincoln, which has recently become a university after being a Teachers' Training College, was nearly at the bottom at 106th out of 121.
Despite having telephoned the subscritpion department of "The Literary Review" a week ago to tell them that the August issue on my annual subscritpion had not arrived, subsequently sending two e-mails, the issue had still not arrived in the post today. I just give up, accepting in my retirement that everything in this country has gone haywire, fallen ompletely apart. If you accept this total state of collapse there is a chance of having some happiness.
A siesta after a busy morning, and then in the afternoon Mrs. C took me in her car to collect the repaired Scorpio. This evening I will be reading about a childhood in wartime Warsaw. Another week in this diary has therefore come to an end. However, I am glad I decided to continue with it following my 80th birthday, for I enjoy the comments and pictures that I receive from correspondents, one cartoon being shown today.
Lincolnshire 14th August , 2014
Diary of a Septuagenarian
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