DIARY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN

- John Copeland -


Friday 23rd January - Thursday 29th January, 2015


Snowdrop

"Half of London will be foreign-born in 16 years".

Item in "The Times", 26th January, 2015. Once we had an empire upon which the sun never set. Now the empire is over here.


FRIDAY 23 JANUARY

After a great deal of indecision, I have decided to go back to the former format of the diary. As with all reorganisations, the changes to the diary made it even worse. I obviously realise that I should have left everything alone, accepting Voltaire's advice to "be content with things that work moderately well." Not surprisingly, Mrs. Copeland said that it was all very pathetic that I kept chopping and changing the diary, but then I am at a pathetic age. Nevertheless, I guarantee that there will be no more changes, no more messing about with the diary.

Part of my excuse is that we have some major worries at the moment, causing a degree of distress, and at one stage I thought I would have to give up the diary and concentrate on other matters. I then changed my mind, believing that a weekly account rather than day-by-day entries would be quicker, only to find that the revised set-up took longer, being more difficult to compile, especially putting in the accompanying photographs. So I have gone full circle, like life generally, and have reverted to the original arrangement, still hoping that I will manage to reach the 1,000th entry, now at 885.

Much will depend on the continuation of the diary in terms of the computer, for if it breaks down before I do, which is a matter of touch and go, I will not bother to buy a new one, taking the view that with only a few years to live before I have eternal peace means that it is hardly worth the expenditure. The other problem is that I am finding in my old age that it is becoming more and more difficult to type, and there is the additional worry about the increasing restrictions on freedom of speech in this country, indicating that I do not dare to mention immigration or anything that could be construed as being sexist and politically incorrect.

Perhaps it is even unwise to comment on a news item in yesterday's "Times" that our weird Home Secretary is substantially cutting police forces throughout the country, seeing a major reduction here in Lincolnshire, and at a time when violent crimes have increased significantly over the past year, making it increasingly unsafe to go out at night in our towns and cities Additionally, the number of rapes logged by the police has risen by more than 30% in a year, reaching a record level, though this could be because more are nowadays reported. We also face the danger from militant Muslims in our midst, especially those who are allowed to march in our streets carrying placards saying "Death to the Infidel". No wonder we oldies cannot understand modern times, becoming more and more worried as we are left to defend ourselves - not that we must ever hurt a burglar.

Much to my disappointment, I received an e-mail today saying: "A couple of times you've quoted that bit about training 'from Petronius'. It isn't, in fact. The paragraph was written in 1957 by Charlton Ogburn in a Harper's Magazine article titled 'Merrill's Marauders' That article, incidentally, lead to his book contract for 'The Marauders', for which he was known, and that in turn was filmed as 'Merrill's Marauders' in 1962. It's about the Burma conflict."

Oh, dear! The shattering of illusions. Even so, I suppose it does not matter who said it, for the theme is even more evident and realistic today when everything is being buggered up and made worse by all manner of reorganisations, loyal and hardworking, efficient staff being the first to go, while the bullshitters stay on. I must admit that the language didn't sound much like Roman times, though there is no doubt that there was a Gius Petronius, who was a well known troublemaker. Perhaps he got booted out and said some nasty things about the Emperor.

The cold weather continues, or rather what we consider to be chilly times in this little island, the temperature at 8.30 a.m. being -2.4 C, but there is a forecast that it is going to become warmer during the next few days, possibly reaching the giddy height of 8 C. At least we have not had any more snow, so my theory that if there are no substantial falls of snow between the 1st - 10th January, there will be no significant falls for the rest of the winter - though I hasten to add that the theory only relates to Lincolnshire, where we never have much snow anyway, the land being very flat.

As I mentioned last week, Mrs. Copeland and I are going through a rather difficult time at the moment, fortunately having received a great deal of comfort from friends. Today friends in the village, the husband a retired rocket scientist, suggested that we went out to lunch together to take our mind off the troubles, and we readily agreed to this. We therefore had lunch at "The Duke William" in Lincoln, having a first-rate meal. It was a most pleasant time, the fish and chips that I had being excellent, and the young waitress was extremely courteous and efficient.

Pub

The "Duke William" in Lincoln, where we had an excellent lunch with friends today.


The Tree Officer from the local District Council, who called yesterday afternoon to examine a beech tree in our garden that I was worried could fall on our property, said that there was no indication that there was anything wrong with the massively tall tree. He suggested, however, that I should clear the ground several feet away from the trunk to see if there were any roots appearing above the ground, apparently a sign that the tree could be moving. I therefore did as instructed and cleared the required area this morning, having to endure the noise of "The Red Arrows Flying Circus" going round and round all the time. What a waste, but then I must not go on about that yet again.

Although I receive criticism for my continual emphasis on the state of the country's economy, many readers, especially some of the ladies, finding this immensely boring, I nevertheless have to mention the subject occasionally, especially as it is a fascinating and most unusual "scenario" here in Britain, seeing the country going even further into debt and into deflation which is not at all good for any country, as Japan found to its bitter cost during the past decade, still not having dragged itself out of the mire.

Today there was news that the UK National Debt had risen to a record £1.5 trillion, representing 81% of GDP, the most indebted country among the G7 nations, indicating that our dreadfully smug Chancellor has made an even bigger mess of the nation's housekeeping than Gordon Brown. Yet the FTSE soars ahead most days, even though exports are tumbling faster than Mr. Miliband's popularity.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank (ECB) will inject at least €1.1 trillion (£834bn) into the ailing eurozone economy, buying €60bn bonds each month from banks until the end of September 2016, or even longer, in what is called quantitative easing (QE). Today's "Times" describes it as a "tonic", whereas it is no such thing. Instead, it is an aspirin that does not in any way solve the underlying debt difficulties; indeed, as we have seen in this country with earlier quantitative easing, it is money down the drain, leading to further indebtedness.

Not surprisingly, there have been further complaints about Ofsted, the Schools Inspectorate Service, that appears to concentrate more on social engineering than educational provision when reviewing schools. One of the latest incidents relates to asking schoolchildren "hostile" and "inappropriate" questions, the school's headteacher claiming that pupils were asked leading questions about homosexuality, race and religious faiths. Accordingly, bearing in mind all this nonsense, it is as well to completely ignore the reports of this shameful authority that seems to have lost its way in the educational world.

The evening was spent sitting by the fireside after a bitterly cold day, reading some more of the 700-page book on the Battle of the Bulge, in which most of the American defenders were caught complete unaware by Hitler's last military fling. Even so, the German attackers were short of fuel, and had no prospect of winning, as most of Hitler's generals realised at the time, none of them daring to contradict the Fuhrer.

SATURDAY 24 JANUARY

I become increasingly concerned about my complete loss of any sense of humour, always supposing I ever had any. I was reminded of this when I thought that the current edition of "Private Eye", depicting cartoons relating to the recent troubles of the French satirical magazine, was not in the least bit amusing or clever;. It seemed to me that it was wrong to mock another religion, however ruthless and unpleasant that religion might be. Not that we have a religious history to be proud of, especially when you think of the Crusaders raping and pillaging, and that our missionaries in Africa made life difficult for primitive tribes., often bringing diseases in their wake.

Nowadays I do not even find Mr. Clegg at all funny. I suppose this lack of humour is all part of the characteristics of old age, finding life more difficult with all the changes and the very different values, especially mothers no longer staying at home to look after their young children. In the novel "The Gift of Rain" by Tan Twan Eng that I have now started reading as my "Morning Book", the author tells us: "The young have hopes and dreams, while the old hold the remains of them in their hands and wonder what has happened to their lives....If one steps out of time what does one have? Why, the past of course, gradually being worn away by the years as a pebble halted on a riverbed is eroded by the passage of water".

The other characteristic of old age is that you tend to worry more, whereas it might be thought that the experience of the years would bring a better understanding of life, enabling a more measured approach, yet this is not the case. And to a large extent, far from becoming more mellow as is often believed, we become more intolerant, angry with those who reinvent the wheel, knowing that we have seen and heard it all before. Still, as an old fellow, alas no longer with us, once told me:" Old age is better than the alternative."

Oaks

Winter sunshine on the avenue of oaks. I am hoping that my weather theory that if there is no appreciable snow during the first 10 days of January (and we didn't have much) will mean that there will be no appreciable falls for the rest of the winter. Today was sunny, and it had turned slightly milder.


One of my friends, a retired banker, sends me articles from various financial journals, the latest contribution being one in which the renowned Bill Bonner, one of the few economists who saw the recent recession developing, heads his article: "2015 is going to be a hoot. Boom… bust… lies and claptrap… we're going to have it all!" adding: "I'm staking my money – and my reputation – on a monumental crash!"

Referring to the quantitative easing he asks: "Where does this money come from? Corporations are really not worth a penny more than they were on Wednesday. Why would they be? All that has happened is that the European Central Bank has pledged to use money it doesn't have to buy assets that are already extraordinarily expensive. Bonds from Italy, Spain and France are already priced at levels never before seen in human history".

Another economist, Tim Price, predicts that the quantitative easing is unlikely to work, arguing that Europe has been in deflation for more than two weeks now, and therefore quantitative easing will do nothing to change the fundamental problems in the Eurozone - the point I have made earlier. In fact, Mr. Price is predicting all sorts of calamities. He even reckons things could get as bad for Europe as they were for the US during the Great Depression. And, naturally, this will have a knock-on effect on Britain. "This is the kind of economic catastrophe that could define the world economy for the next 5 years," Mr. Price has said.

Meanwhile, we have had to endure a lot of nonsense about the QE, which effectively means that the European Central Bank is buying bonds from various countries, paying for them with printed money, deceitfully referred to as "electronic money" to fool the unwary and ignorant. In yesterday's "Times", for example, there was a front-page headline proclaiming: "Bonanza for Britain as cash floods into Europe." The sub-editor who wrote that headline would appear to have about as much understanding of economics as a dead rabbit, for the QE has raised the level of the £ against the euro, making our exports - the very items we depend upon to get us out of recession - far more expensive.

The idea behind this QE is that the money poured into an economy will get the eurozone out of its current deflation, the theory being that the purchasers of the bonds will start spending money, thereby increasing consumer expenditure and promoting inflation. In other words, it is the very essence of Keynesian economics which was used especially in America to beat the deflation of the 1930s with the New Deal. It could be pointed out though that the real measure that cured the deflation, rather than the New Deal, was the massive expenditure of the advent of the Second World War.

According to "The Times" today, which Mrs. C. obtains free from her weekly expenditure at Waitrose (today she was complaining that the shelves had been moved around, presumably by way of thoroughly confusing customers), it was reported that as a result of the QE venture: "The euro tumbled against all leading currencies yesterday and sovereign bond yields continued to slide to record lows as the European Central Bank's €11 trillion stimulus package began". The chief economist of Markit, obviously realising the severe consequences of the foolish action, commented: "The price falls will be a boon to households, but will inevitably fuel growing concerns about the threat of deflation" - the very thing the QE input was designed to cure.

I realise that a lot of people find these entries on economics tedious, yet it has to be recognised that for those of us who take an interest in the "dismal science" it is a fascinating time, watching this country going into deflation, the economy about to come crashing down. The main question is when the crash predicted by Mr. Bonner will come, my own view being in December of this year or the Spring of next. The first indication of trouble will be the collapse of the property market, which has been the mainstay of our unbalanced, unsustainable and unbelievable recovery.

There has been a great deal of criticism of flags being lowered in this country to half-mast to mark the demise of the King of Saudi Arabia - a nation notorious for having supplied arms to Syrian rebels, cracking down hard on bloggers, and the appalling treatment of women. However, Saudi Arabia is one of our important export markets, no doubt for armaments, so we must not upset the country, especially as our exports are in such a parlous way. As Marx said, economics determines everything.

A quiet day at home, except for a brief visit to town late afternoon to take some photographs for the diary. Now that I do not go very far from home, apart from the monthly visit to mother-in-law down in Essex, I have difficulty in providing the eight photographs each week, there obviously being too much reliance on the avenue of oak trees at the bottom of the garden, nevertheless a magnificent scene that gives me happiness throughout the seasons of the year.

The evening was spent beside a roaring living fire, having finally decided that I do not yet want a log burner installed, more efficient and less troublesome and messy though they are. I continued reading the 700-page book on the Battle of the Bulge, learning about the wise and decisive action of Eisenhower in quickly sending reinforcements to the embattled American forces trapped by the invading German Army. He even called upon the services of Montgomery, whom he loathed, as did most of the American and British officers.

Eisnehower is often criticised for his lack of military experience, yet he was superb in dealing with the prima donnas among his own forces, especially the tiresome and arrogant and tactless Montgomery - the nasty little man who made such a fine mess of the "Market Garden" fiasco, and who only managed to win in the Middle East because of having overwhelming forces against Rommel. If Rommel had received additional supplies from Hitler, he would have gone through the 8th Army, to quote Patton, "like shit through a goose."

SUNDAY 25 JANUARY

After a fairly late start to the day as Mrs. Copeland and I had sat drinking a glass or two of wine until 1.40 this morning - fireside chats that I greatly enjoy, it was a fairly relaxed and uneventful morning, my productivity being lower than that of a British worker - well, nearly. Then at 2.30 p.m. we went to the Annual General Meeting of the local Club, seeing in the published accounts for the year ending 31st December, 2014 that the Club had an operating loss of -£3,300, which seems rather alarming, though the loss somewhat confusingly included various items of refurbishment and new equipment.

There was one very unpleasant session in which it was alleged that one of the trustees had been deposed in a very inelegant and possibly illegal manner for having criticised the financial running of the Club. On the other hand there is no denying that considerable improvements have been made to the premises over the past year, making the Club a much happier and a more pleasant place. The management is also to be congratulated for publishing a newsletter, in which forthcoming social events are advertised, as well as village news.

I had put forward a resolution on the agenda saying: "That this Club does not want the installation of a broadband facility. The Club is a social institution, where members speak to one another, not for members playing on their mobile telephone, iPads or other associated unwelcome facilities." Several members somewhat angrily opposed the resolution, one fellow pointing out that "this was the 21st century", followed by a woman who also reminded me of the century, adding that she wanted the facility when bringing her grandchildren into the Club. Presumably the answer is that the Club is a social institution for adults, not a toy shop.

Does this mean that we have to accept everything associated with this troubled century - the appalling educational standards, the bad manners of youth; the nonsense of political correctness, or the dumbed-down programmes on the idiot's lantern? Much to my joy the resolution was carried by 18 - 15, so we will not have to endure and suffer from those antisocial toys. I therefore take the view that I have done an immense amount of good for the Club, stopping younger people tapping away on their toys throughout the sessions. As for grandchildren wanting the facility, I do not believe that they should be in licensed premises under the age of 14 years. In any event, they should be reading books.

Life in pubs and clubs changed dramatically when women started going to them, thereby destroying what for many years had been regarded as safe houses for husbands wanting a break from domesticity. Thereafter, not surprisingly the women wanted to bring in their children, so we end up having young children running around while we are discoursing and drinking. I therefore agree with the old rule that children were not allowed in pubs and licensed clubs under the age of 14 years. In the early years of the Club the Rule Book said that women had to be accompanied by their husbands, and were not allowed to vote. How things have changed over the years.

Buds

The buds of Spring.


As a result of having to make cutbacks to balance my own accounts, I have now restricted my hardback book purchases to 2 a month instead of 4. Today, having seen a review of "In the Kingdom of Ice: The grand and terrible polar voyage of the USS Jeannette", I decided to purchase it as one of my two February selections. The book retails at £20, whereas on Amazon there is surprisingly only a £2 discount. I therefore decided to order it from the local branch of Waterstones in Lincoln, where the staff and service are excellent. In future I think I will buy all the books each month from Waterstones, for I like to support local traders.

I read to my amazement, and by way of furthering my belief that this country has gone completely barking mad, that the Lincolnshire County Council has asked schoolchildren for their views on council spending as part of a consultation into which services should be protected in the next budget, some of the children being under the age of 11 years.

I liked the e-mail that I received today:-

Count every "F" in the following text:
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTI
FIC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS.....

The answer is at the foot of today's entries.
On the BBC News website, which makes me wonder why on earth I bother to purchase a newspaper at a cost of £1.20 Monday to Fridays, there was an entry saying: "A cruise ship with more than 1,000 people on board was left temporarily without power off the coast of Morocco after a fire in the engine room." Some of these ships have about 15 decks, carrying thousands of passengers and crew, making it seem like a hell on earth to me. I would not want to go on one of those massive ships if I were to offered a free place.

An excellent dinner of rump steak from our superb butcher, and afterwards we sat by the fire. I spent the evening reading some more of the Battle of the Bulge, a book that I am enjoying, even though at 700 pages of text I feel it is far too long. I began to wonder if the battle would ever end.
The answer is that there are 6 Fs. The normal score is 3, which I got, while 6, which Mrs. C. managed, is regarded as genius.

MONDAY 26 JANUARY

A reader has sent me an e-mail saying: "New format? it seems just as long as the previous one!" That is not strictly true; the former format often amounted to 7,500 words, whereas the new and not improved version was only 5,040. Presumably it just seems longer, the diary tediously gong on and on about the ever deteriorating economy of this grossly indebted little island.

I mentioned earlier that I had made a start on clearing the leaves out of the ha-ha at the bottom of the garden, only to find that the work hurt the arthritis in my knees and spine. Today, finding it all too much for me, I decided to employ the paid services of a friend in the village who now undertakes gardening work for a reasonable rate, having retired from his job at the age of 54 - the same age that I finished. Afterwards, the work completed, we sat in the conservatory drinking a bottle of wine between us. A pleasant interlude.

Mother-in-law

An e-mail this week read: "I have always been so impressed by your mother-in-law. She negates so much of your unhappiness with old age. Can she have a guest appearance on your blog?" Well, here is the required photograph of this splendid lady now in her 98th year, taken in August of last year.


Although I hardly dare mention economics again , there is no doubt that the world of economics becomes more interesting every day, the latest development being the election of an anti-austerity party in Greece, Syriza, that is likely to renege on the massive debts, possibly even having the good sense to come out of the euro. The eurozone, let alone Greece, is in an utter shambles, the massive injection of quantitative easing likely to achieve nothing at all, just as QE achieved nothing in this country. In terms of economics, presumably QE can be regarded as the "last chance saloon", after which, if it fails, everything comes tumbling down.

The experts had predicted that the £ would rise against the euro, whereas it went down, and that the FTSE would go down whereas it went up. Clang.

A siesta after lunch, and in the evening I at last finished reading the 700-page book on the Battle of the Bulge - a fascinating and well-written history in which the last military throw of the Germans would have succeeded, were it not for the prompt action of Eisenhower. During the battle 8,607 Allied troops were killed; 21,144 were missing, with 47,139 battle casualties from frostbite, trench foot and the like.

In the book the author repeatedly mentions the appalling behaviour of Montgomery in fouling up relations with the Americans. Eisenhower and all the American generals loathed the nasty, arrogant little man who had about as much tact as a wounded buffalo. There is the overall impression that he was not nearly as good a military commander as he believed himself to be, being far too hesitant, lacking the cut and thrust of Patton.

In the closing chapter the author writes of Hitler's forces: "They had their moment of dazzling bravura, but were to shine briefly only with the effect of a solo instrument among a mediocre ensemble, which looked better than it was, led by an ill-tempered bandmaster".

TUESDAY 27 JANUARY

As mentioned earlier. one of my friends, a retired banker, sends me cuttings by e-mail from various financial journals, all of which are insisting that this country is in a very parlous financial state, heading towards an almighty crash. In one of the latest cuttings it is argued that Britain could go the same way as ailing Greece, one economist saying. "I find it absolutely amazing to see that under the current government public debt has more or less doubled during the last four years. Isn't it astonishing to think that a few years ago, our public debt pile hovered around 40% of GDP? Yet now we're at 90%+. At this rate, it won't be long before we are in the same boat as Greece, now at 175% of GDP.". In other words, the present Chancellor has got us into an even bigger financial mess than Gordon Brown, which is saying something.

There was the news today that "The UK's economy grew by 2.6% last year, the fastest pace since 2007, but there was a slowdown in the last three month", due largely to weaker construction, manufacturing and energy production, the fall in petrol having severe consequences for a weakening economy. Matters are not helped by the property market having stalled, except in London where there is still gazumping.

I went in to Lincoln during the morning to collect a book I had ordered from Waterstones on Sunday - an excellent service, which I will continue to use rather than Amazon, especially as it seems that the latter are not discounting their books as much as in the past. Times are hard.

Back home I did some more leaf clearance, concentrating around the edges of the garden where the leaves had accumulated following the gales we have had recently. I begin to wonder whether I will ever manage to clear up all of the leaves, but at least I do a section each day, which is excellent exercise, certainly far better than going on a tread-mill in one of those fetid health clubs.
There are warnings that we are in for some more snow, but I do not believe it will amount to much, not likely to interfere with my leaf clearing programme.

Brayford

Sunset over the Brayford Pool in Lincoln. Sadly, the area is being ruined by the City Council that allows more resaturants to be built, A new restaurant opens, and another closes, which the City councillors believe represents prosperity. Oh the damage unimaginative and ignorant people can do!


With only a 100 days to go before the general election in May, the political parties are now limbering up with their manifestos. The Conservatives are going to slash welfare benefits for the sick and the poor, possibly taking away the winter fuel allowance and the free idiot lantern licence for those over 75 years of age, while Mr. Miliband and his gang are planning to protect the National Health Service from the ravages of the Cameroons, employing thousands more nurses. Just where these nurses are coming from and who is going to pay for them is not stated.

As I have mentioned in earlier entries in this diary, I will be voting Labour for the first time in my life, principally because I fear there will be rioting in the streets if the ultra-right Cameroons continue to harass the poor and the sick, while allowing the bankers to continue with their immoral bonuses. Welfare benefits under the Tory proposals would be capped at £23,500. Perhaps the bankers' bonuses should have a similar capping.

Unfortunately, my voting for Labour will make not make the slightest difference in our rural constituency, where the present Conservative incumbent has a massive majority. My voting intention will nevertheless show that I care for the poorer members of the community, wanting to see the NHS continue without its profitable parts being sold off to chums in the City. My guess is that Ukip has peaked, and will not be all that significant in the general election, other than taking a few votes off the Conservatives. It seems that Ukip is now regarded as a one-man band in charge of a band of clowns, at least having earlier woken up the main parties about the problems of uncontrolled immigration.

Daughter Caroline has to go to London on occasions in her job, telling me in an e-mail today: "On the train down to London again this morning and it's full of salesmen reading the Daily Mail and shouting into their mobiles. The joy of commuting!" Yes indeed, for there is no doubt that those mobile telephones make everybody's life a misery. Thank heavens we managed to avoid having broadband in the Club, where mercifully there is no reception for mobiles. Long may it remain that way so that we can continue talking to one another.

Apart from the morning leaf clearance it was not a very busy day, having no social engagements. By the fireside in the evening I continued reading "The Gift of Rain", a novel by Tan Twan Eng. The book was recommended to me by a neighbour, and I was fortunate enough in buying the hardback version. I loathe paperbacks, and would rather not read a book if it is only in that form. The novel is a bit long-wnded in parts, but I am enjoying it.

WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY

At least there was the undertaking from the Prime Minister that if the Conservatives win the next election they will retain the benefits for us old people, namely the winter fuel allowance and the free idiot's lantern licence for those over 75 years of age. These benefits are worth £445 a year to me, £37 a month, and that is not to be sneezed at. Not that any promises made by any political party are worth the paper they are printed on.

Some more coal delivered this morning, there being forecasts of heavy snowfalls, not that I believe they will arrive in these parts, but maybe it is better to be safe than sorry. Today we had strong winds and driving rain, which is obviously a good deal better than a half inch of snow that brings the country to a stop. Rather unwisely, I went in to Lincoln on the scooter, nearly being blown across the road by the gale force wind. All very frightening; I should have taken the car.

Today's coal came from Yorkshire, but I am told that the mine will be closed at the end of the year, supplies henceforth coming from Cambodia - coal that is inferior in quality and which will cost £1 more a cwt. I suppose closing our mines and importing coal, making whole communities dependent upon welfare benefits and increasing our trade deficit, makes some sense to our politicians with their single column book-keeping. This practice was started by Thatcher the Terrible with her little shopkeeper version of economics, and has been carried on ever since by subsequent governments.

It makes me so thankful that I do not live in a snowbound country, for although the snow looks all very pretty, we are unable to cope with here. At least the County Council is quite good at gritting, one of the few services that has not yet been cut or abolished. The gritting men were blessed by the Bishop at the start of the gritting season, so I suppose that helps motivation.

At 1 p.m. Mrs. C. and I went with friends in the village to have lunch at "The Dambusters" pub in the nearby village of Scampton - a pub that celebrates the famous raid that took place from the wartime airfield. A pleasant pub with excellent beer, some of it made on the premises. The service was good and the place warm - a pub that we must go to again.

Fire

The Dambusters Inn, where we had an excellent meal with friends today.


I had hoped to undertake some more leaf clearance in the garden on arriving back home from the pub, but the inclement weather presented a good excuse for abandoning that tiresome work, the concept of manana having been applied. The evening was spent reading some more of "The Gift of Rain", which I am now greatly enjoying.

THURSDAY 29 JANUARY

There has been a lot of comment upon the French satirical magazine offensively mocking Islam. According to one defence of the magazine that I read, it was argued: "So OK, we can have a bit of fun with the Pope, with Buddha, Jesus Christ on the Cross, The Dalai Lama, The Queen, Barack Obama. Want to add to the list? But not anything or anyone associated with Muslims. They're special apparently. And that's where all this free speech talk I'm hearing falls to bits. If you defend free speech then you defend offensive speech as well."

The fault-line in this argument is that the magazine knew very well that there would be a violent reaction from the Islamic extremists, whereas there is not likely to be a similar response from mocking the Pope or the Queen. That is the essential difference, and that is where the rather ridiculous argument falls apart. There is certainly a need for freedom of speech, certainly in this country where it is steadily being eroded, but there is also responsibility of that freedom, especially in the press, which has been sadly lacking in many areas these days, as we have seen to our cost in this country. In my opinion, and certainly that of the Pope, the cartoon was therefore unnecessary and unwise.

There was a report in today's "Guardian" that millions of pounds have been wasted on foreign aid, some of it falling into the hands of corrupt politicians and bandits - the point that I have frequently made in this diary, suggesting that we should cancel all foreign aid, recognising that we are in need of the money in this falling apart country. We even give money to India, where it is spent on rockets.
Not surprisingly, it was also announced today that house prices have fallen for the fifth consecutive month. It is towards the end of the year that we can expect the real collapse, having to start up the "Friends of Distressed Estate Agents" yet again. Deflation here we come.

It was also announced that "The number of state secondary schools in England considered to be underperforming more than doubles in a year." As Ofsted, the discredited Schools Inspectorate service, tends to grade schools more on social engineering than on educational provision, perhaps this does not mean very much.
I - and the neighbours - had the house gutters cleaned today - a job that we have done every year about this time. Blocked gutters can cause a lot of harm.

There was snow overnight, quite heavy at times, but thankfully it did not settle, though more is forecast. Nevertheless, I still believe that we will not have any more substantial falls this winter.

Snow

Snow today. Although quite heavy, it mercifully did not settle on the ground.


There was an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.8 has been recorded in the East Midlands, the British Geological Survey has confirmed. The epicentre was near the town of Oakham, in Rutland, at 22:25 GMT on Wednesday. Fortunately, we did not feel anything here in Lincoln, not noticing it. We did, however, notice and feel an earthquake several years ago when it sounded as if an express train was roaring under the house, pictures on the wall shaking. Fortunately, no structural damage was done to the house.

Yesterday we had rain, sleet, snow, a gale, and an earthquake. A variable climate, you might say.

A morning and afternoon indoors as the weather was so miserably cold. This evening we will be going with friends to the Lincoln Odeon to see the film "The Theory of Everything", afterwards having a pint at a nearby tavern.
Old

E-mail: johncopeland@clara.net
Lincolnshire 29th January, 2015
Comments welcomed.
No 885




Diary of an Octogenarian<BR>



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