The third day of the current test in the Ashes series with England being in a strong position but sadly, as I write, the start of today’s today has been delayed by rain.
My literary executor and good friend, Dr. Julian Critchlow and his partner Lucy, will be here shortly for the weekend. Sadly the chilly un-seasonal inclement weather will probably prevent us from having our champagne in the garden.
After hearing from Michael, I was able to confirm the flights with the travel agent today for the trip to China and Thailand in October. I just hope I don’t deteriorate too much in the meantime as, at my age, it is almost impossible to get travel insurance at anything other than a ludicrously high premium and therefore I am at risk for the not insubstantial airfare, if, for any reason, I am unable to travel.
I very recently finished a fascinating look about China, given to me last Christmas by son Miles – it was a heavy book in both senses of the word, Jonathan Fenbyâ€™s History of Modern China â€“The Fall and Rise of a Great Power 1850 â€“ 2008, published by Penguin. It took me a long time to read the 800 odd pages but it was well worth the effort and has given me an even better understanding of the functioning of modern China than I had even after my 10th visit.
I particularly liked Fenbyâ€™s description, towards the end of the book, of China’s system of government as one â€˜of bureaucratic capitalism, underpinned by force and marked by exploitation, with little time for fostering human happiness in anything other than material terms, as the last major Leninist state, only with Chinese characteristics; as a nation whose impact is changing the world but which remains deeply unfathomable as it’s own rulers grapple with the problems of unprecedented size.â€™
China’s role, and that of India, on the world stage, in the 21st century, has exercised my imagination for some time. Consider this comparison of these two emerging giants:
|Infrastructure (per head off population?)||$7||$1|
Under five-year-olds are twice as likely to die in India than in China.
â€œTo get rich, first build a road” Chinese Proverb.
This information may not be entirely up-to-date but it does give a fascinating insight into these two emerging economies. The socialist market economy of China and the largest democracy in the world.
Unfortunately, for the life of me I cannot remember where I got this information from. Perhaps someone can identify it for me and I will attribute it in a subsequent version of this blog.
I had my weekly exercise walking round with the Tuesday geriatrics today. As usual great fun and a reasonable lunch.
The die is cast. I took the plunge today and booked the flights for me and my good friend, Dr. Long to go to China and then onto Hua Hin, towards the end of October. This, despite my trepidation at the rate that my hands and arms are giving up. Two and a half months is a very long time with such an aggressive disease. However, the good doctor has made it quite clear that he is only too happy to be with me 24/7 on this trip and do whatever is necessary. Sobeit. I had been led to believe that it was virtually impossible for someone of my age and infirmity to get travel insurance at anything other than a ridiculously high premium. However I am pleased to report that I did find a company today to cover my forthcoming visit to China and Thailand for what I consider a very reasonable premium of Â£122 which also includes cover for anything arising from my MND or prostate cancer, which I had 10 years ago.
I spent most of the day preparing my talk for the memorial address in Dublin on the 18th September. The trouble is it cannot be entirely light-hearted and has to have some academic interest which means the preparation of a number of PowerPoint slides. Easy enough in the old days but now with weak hands, a laborious process.
I had to go into Saffron Walden this morning to have my eyes tested as the glasses l bought from Glasses Direct were not satisfactory. I drove myself but I really think my driving days may be coming to an end. I am O.K once I’m on the open road with my automatic, as my hands curl round the steering wheel and I can control the car. However, I struggled for over five minutes trying to plug in the safety belt before eliciting the assistance of a passer-by. I then had trouble turning the key in the ignition. All very frustrating.
I rang the District Nurse today and asked if there was someone who could come and cut my fingernails. I was told that although the NHS provide a free toenail cutting service they do not cut fingernails and that I would have to make a private arrangement. OK I can afford to pay somebody but what about other people on a fixed income who cannot afford to pay?
The District Nurse agreed with me that this was not a satisfactory state of affairs but that was a situation and there was nothing they could do about it. I think this is scandalous for poor people and therefore will raise the matter with my MP, Alan Hazlehurst.
In the meantime, having had this conversation, half an hour later the District Nurse rang to say that she had found someone who would pop in tomorrow to cut my nails for me. However, that does not solve the long-term problem for other people, so the MP will still get my letter.
I rang the Professor at Reading University again today about my bionic gloves. He explained that the problem is, to fund a research student for three years could cost up to half a million pounds, which, of course, is totally out of the question. In any event heaven knows where I shall be in three years time. The alternative is to find a Masters student who would make this the subject of their dissertation but unfortunately this process could not begin until next Easter. Again, an unsatisfactory time frame. In the meantime therefore I am seeking some charity who would fund the R&D for these gloves which undoubtedly would have universal appeal and be a great. benefit to mankind. Any suggestions of a charity, or philanthropists, from my readers would be welcome.
A nice young auxiliary nurse, Kelly, came and cut my fingernails. What is even more encouraging is she has agreed to pop in every 3/4 weeks to repeat the process. However, she accepts that this is not an ‘as of right’ service provided by the NHS, so I have now written to my MP on the subject.
My back scratcher, which I have had bent to a 135Â° angle as my arms are not strong enough to reach behind my back, was returned to me today. However, I can see now that the ideal angle, for someone in my position, would be probably one closer to something like 30Â°. I shall experiment.
Lunch at the Axe & Compasses, Arkestan with John Power and Michael Reynolds, who has recently ended an eight year marathon at LSE to earn his doctorate – well-deserved.
The agony of the fourth Ashes test finished, earlier this afternoon, with an ignominious defeat for England – an innings and 80 runs. England having been all out for 102 in the first inning, Australia’s 445 was clearly an impossible mountain to climb. England’s collapse again in the second innings was ominous until a magnificent partnership of 108 between Broad and Swann saved a modicum of English pride. It now all depends on the final test at the Oval in 10 days time.
Off by train today to spend a couple of days with my sister and brother-in-law in Cornwall.
As it is my brother-in-law’s birthday today, mine on the 18th and my sister-in-law on the 19th, my dear wife offered to take us all to Rick Stein’s restaurant for a celebration lunch. Sadly we were unable to get a booking so we went to the St. Moritz restaurant instead when we had a very pleasant meal.
The train journey went like clockwork.Â So much more relaxing than that long drive.
Spent the last two or three days finalising the memorial address I am to give on the 23 September in Dublin.Â To make it more interesting I have prepared 71 PowerPoint slides.Â Quite an effort with my weak hands but nevertheless, thank heavens,Â the task is now completed.
A last-minute invitation to supper with the W-P’s.Â It was one of those rare beautiful summerâ€™s evenings where we were able to eat outside.Â Delicious food and a lovely way to spend the evening.
My 75th birthday today.Â As it coincided with the Tuesday Geriatrics I did my usual walk round the golf course and bought a kummel or glass of port for those who wanted it.
â€˜The girlsâ€™, at the club, were extremely kind and produced a wedge of chocolate cake with a single candle and a large fluffy singing dog with long floppy ears which flapped amusingly in time to the music. Â I have no idea how they knew, in the advance, that it was my birthday — I was very touched.
Son Miles kindly came down this evening to joined us forÂ supper which rounded off a very happy day.