Barton and Judith W-P came to tea today .I think it’s about the first time we have seen them this year and it was only last June, on our way down to Cornwall to see my in-laws, that we stopped off, for lunch, at the W-P’s family home, Caddy.. They were sighing with relief at the return of their youngest son Tom, and his family, who had just returned from a stint of teaching in New Zealand. They were, in fact, living between Mt Cook and Christchurch and experienced the first of the two recent earthquakes-the minor one. Fortunately they left a few weeks before the recent massive earthquake.
The W-P’s go back a long way. In fact, they were probably the first of the ‘old faithfuls’ that we came to know in this village. When we returned from Aden, in Southern Arabia, in 1964,. we decided to rent. whilst we looked around the area for a suitable house. We ended up at the Od Police House in Little Hadham, Hertfordshire. At that time we were sent details of a number of houses in our area of search, including some in this village, one of which we were particularly interested in, only to find that the W-P’s had beaten us to it. Those two coincidences forged an early friendship which has continued ever since.
It also helped that our children were of a similar age and went to the same primary school. I recall that none of us were very enamoured with the little primary school in Clavering, at the time, and decided that we would prefer to send our children to a much more avant-garde primary school in a nearby village, Great. Hormead. Gaining consent from the local council, to make this move, meant that we had to jointly complain about the lavatories!. A subterfuge. admittedly, but one that worked. Today, Clavering has a very fine new primary school with an excellent reputation.
Judith is an absolutely smashing cook. Learning early on about my love of rich fruit cake she has generously baked a wonderful traditional Christmas cake for me every year since..
After the WP’sr left. I watched the last episode of the BBC programme, Wonders of the Universe, a programme I thoroughly recommended . my readers to watch, a week or two ago. I have gained a great deal of superficial knowledge about the universe from these four episodes which I found absolutely fascinating. For example, recognising early on that sound travels at a certain speed, which was observable to thr human ear (I think it is 12,000 km/hr, known as Mach one) . Most of us today have observed this for ourselves in hearing the sonic boom, when a supersonic aircraft goes through the sound barrier.
The fact that light also travels at a certain speed throughout the universe and was discovered about 350 years years ago and then subsequently that speed. ultimately calculated.. Prof Cox illustrated this in the simplest of fashions.. He explained that Galileo observed that Jupiter’s innermost moon, Io orbited the planet in exactly 42.5 hours. Sometime later, a Swedish astronomer realised that, depending on the time of year, Io appeared to emerge from behind Jupiter at different times. This, of course, could not be so as it was known that Io orbited at a constant speed. The explanation turned out to be quite simple. Depending on the time of year, the closer earth was to Jupiter, the earlier Io appeared and the converse, the further away the earth was the later Io appeared. This gave a clue that there was a finite time which, light travelled and from this observation. it was eventually possible to calculate that speed close enough to 300,000 metres/sec, or 186,000 mi./s, or put another way, 10,000 million, million kilometres per year, which is near enough, for our purposes, to what’s known as a light year. This clearly can be translated. therefore, into distance – the distance light travels in one yea. From this it has been possible to calculate the distance of any distant star or Galaxy within our observation and using such instruments as the Hubble Radio telescope in space, observe stars at the very end of our known universe.
From these observations, it became clear to the astronomers that the universe was expanding at a constant speed. Therefore< ipso facto if the universe is expanding and has been since time began by reversing the calculation it was possible to ascertain that the”Big Bang’ occurred 13.7 billion years ago from a single speck in a void, or the beginning of time itself. I must not go any deeper into this subject as I know superficially very little about, except I hope to have enthused at least some of my readers to watch this wonderful program. which is essentially about, Who we are and Where did we come from? I do hope that I have not bored too many of my readers with my own enthusiasm and interest in this subject stop I know that’ my lovely’s’ eyes glaze over whenever I get onto that topic!
Known as April Fools’ Day. The day on which traditionally pranks are played upon people.
Even the respected BBC in a programme called Panorama in 1957 played, what has become one of the most famous hoaxes of April Fools’ Day. It concerned, what they described as the spaghetti harvest. The programme announced that due to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the spaghetti weevil Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper crop. It was accompanied by pictures of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti from trees. As a result, a huge number of viewers contacted the BBC wanting to know how to grow these trees. To this the BBC diplomatically replied ‘place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best!
I heard on this morning’s news that a schoolboy had been accused of assault against another classmate with a marshmallow and the police had been called to his school to deal with the complaint. The newscaster went on to say what a dreadful waste of public money, the thingwhich made me believe that it might be true but perhaps, after all, this is yet another April Fools’ Day hoax. What isn’t a hoax is another announcement, I heard where British manufacturers were complaining that the young people. they employed, in effect, as apprentices, were incapable of doing anything with their hands. In my time there were such things as carpentry and metalwork classes for those interested in the subject, but today, apparently, schools are not allowed to teach such handicrafts in case a child gets injured and sues the school. What absolute nonsense.
Now for a bit more nonsense. My readers deserve something a little lighter than the heavy astronomical stuff. I got into yesterday. Here is a sketch, which has shades of the famous one between the two robbers Fork Handles (Four Candles).you can actually see this sketch alongside this, one on U Tube. This one, doctors however,is with Ronnie Corbett & (I believe) Harry Enfield skit. Â Â over 13 million people, have already logged into this.
Another weekend. Most of today will be devoted to watching the final of the World Series Cricket between India and Sri Lanka. (Thank goodness, I hear some of my readers say. Seven weeks, I agree, is a long time for such a series. However, be warned the cricket season starts at Lord’s with the first test against Sri Lanka r on 3 June). What about today’s match? India always started as favourites in my mind. and so it proved. Despite a valiant effort by Sri Lanka, India had a comfortable win. Despite the match being held in Mumbai . I was not aware that the Sri Lankans went on the rampage after the match as a result of losing it has undoubtedly would have happened in this country with opposing supporters even from the same city.
. I suppose one of the most encouraging aspect of this particular series for me, was the semi-final between India and Pakistan and seeing the presidents of those two countries sitting side-by-side in the VIP box. Then watching the two teams going down the line and shaking hands with their opposition. All of this. after many years of hateful accusations thrown backwards and forwards across the border between the two countries. It’s wonderful to think that something like the game of cricket may be the plaster their bridges the years of hatred between these two countries.
The situation in Libya becomes even more convoluted. The Foreign Minister-a long-term friend of Gaddafi’s- has defected and not sought political asylum.
As such he is therefore being deeply ‘debriefed’ by the intelligence service, particularly over the Lockerbie bombing. It seems that he may not be immune from some sort of ‘crimes against humanity’ trial. At the same time, we are told that an envoy from one of Gaddafi son’s has visited London and been involved in secret talks with the British government but no details have been released. The implication is, however, either the Gaddafi is seeking a ceasefire-which would considerably strengthen his own position-or he may be looking for some sort of dignified exit strategy. In the meantime the battle between government troops and the anti-Gaddafi mob goes on with the mob being outgunned 10 â€“ 1, so the odds are stacked against them.
Whenever they make ground they seem to lose it again quite quickly and there seems to be a reluctance, at least from the Western world, to provide these rebels with weapons or armoury. Maybe somebody like Qatar will step into attempt to equalise the firepower.
Mother’s Day. A commercialisation I fear we have imported from our American friends. Anyway, what’s wrong with telling our mother, once a year,. how wonderful she is with, I hope, a strong degree of sincerity. (Indeed, I am told by one or two of my friends that I should be telling my wife how wonderful she is every single day!) We are extremely lucky with our children, in that they are only too aware what a marvellous mother. they have. The card from daughter Chloe was what one has come to expect from her, genuinely loving and thanking her mum for the dedication and devotion. she is showing towards me in these difficult times.
The card from son Smile was no less sincere but as always, being a bit of a wag, he managed to add an amusing twist to it. He found, what I imagine, is a fairly typical American card,’ For my Mum from your Son, with the following message.
“Dear Mum, Sorry I can’t be with you on Mother’s Day but I’ve got no washing needs doing and I’m all right for cashâ€¦”.
We are very fortunate in having two this lovely children who we hope, have been brought up properly, mainly due to their mother’s influence, no doubt, as I was away working. long hours during the week, much of the time, who really seem to appreciate what they have. Contrast this with what I heard this morning on the radio about many of today’s young being ‘benefit socially reliant’. One mother even went so far as to say quite proudly that her son had done very well, “he had managed to get himself on the benefit.”. This is desperately sad and such a waste of our wonderful. youth and something I’m glad to say that is being very seriously tackled by our government. The government announced today that it intends to interview every person who is claiming incapacity benefit and from a trial, they have already conducted have found that at least 50% would be capable of doing some sort of work.. I gather that many university students sign on for unemployment benefit, and also possibly jobseekers allowance during the long summer vacation, most of them having no intention whatsoever of taking a job even if it’s offered to them but using the money to enjoy an extended holiday. I must say I was very proud of my own son nearly, 30 years ago, when he refused to sign on. during the long vacation from Cambridge and instead took a job with a removals firm lumping furniture about all day.
A second painful night in a row. Not only knees, hips and shoulders this time, but also a thigh muscle and buttocks. As it is, I seem to take enough painkillers to tranquilise an elephant, so I’m going to request my GP to refer me to a pain consultant. The problem stems from lying too long in one position and not really being strong enough to turn over. We have ameliorated this to some extent by pinning a medical rubber mat three quarters of the way down the bed onto which I can put my feet and get some sort of purchase. I had thought that we might buy a 1 x 2 m.. Piece of the cheapest rubber backed carpet that we can find, and wrap this around the bottom 3 feet of the mattress but, after moving the rubber mat lower down the bed. I realise that to have it across the entire width would probably mean I could not move my feet at all, so I have abandoned that idea. If I find a perfect solution, I will, of course, reported for the benefit of others in the same position. In the meantime we are about to purchase some saint to make a top sheet, which hopefully will reduce the friction between my nightclothes and my bed covering the making the process of turning them much easier.
I am now well through rereading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and I’m fascinated, this time round, to realise what an incredible piece of pre-revolution Russian social history. this book represents. It goes into the greatest detail of the daily lives of the aristocracy. How they behaved. their customs, habits, dress and lifestyles, even down to the smallest detail of some of the food they ate. For example, the wonderful description of the wedding between Levin and Kitty. What they wore and every detail of the betrothal and the marriage service. In addition, there are similarly detailed accounts of the serfs and peasants. Indeed, the abolition of serfdom and the rise of the peasantry to a position where they began to get some control over the land that they had worked for generations before. purely, for the benefit of their masters, who literally had complete control over virtually every aspect of their lives. In other words, this book can be read as a piece of social history. quite apart from the poignant love story between Vronsky and Anna Karenina.
It is even prophetic in that the state of the Russian nation, almost 100 years ago, has a spine tingling resemblance to the state of Europe today. It recognises the need for agricultural reform (the abolition or reform of EU farming subsidies); the facilities of communication such as railways, leading to the centralisation in towns, (the world wide web; the mobile phone) the development of luxury. (The cavalier spending by the bulk of the population om borrowed money for material goods and holidays, they could otherwise not afford) The development of manufacturing, credit (the explosion of personal borrowing. Particularly the housing at 100 or 125% of the ascribed value) and this accompaniment of speculation (last year’s banking scandal and the speculation in currency, leading to the current credit crunch) Having said that, in today’s fast moving society, how many people, except thw retired. (and the idle rich!) can possibly plough their way through the hundreds of pages of this book. That is probably why Amazon give it away free to their Kindle customers!
Being a Tuesday it is geriatric golf day again. However, the weather forecast was not good, a light drizzle, overcast and a chilly wind was forecast, so I decided to skip it this week. After all it is only the beginning of April and will be plenty more opportunities.
I’ve finalised my invitations to Lord’s today. 14 guests on eight different occasions. I hope I’m not being too optimistic. and that I will be able to cope. Most days that good Barry will be taking me and picking me up but on three of the days, when one of my guests is a big strong lad, I shall go with them and pray they do not drop me!. Without wishing to sound unduly pessimistic, this might well be my last season then I make it, so I intend to try and make the most of it.
The last day of the current financial year. I’ve never quite understood why it falls on 5 April, when most of us, for tax purposes make our year end the 31 March, but there you are. From today on the coalition governments changes in taxation, benefits etc will start to impinge one way or the other. They claim that 80% of the population will be better off and the bulk of the pain will be felt by the higher paid. I can see nothing in the current proposals which assist those prudent people who have saved up all their lives and rely on the interest from their savings to supplement their income in a period when the interest rates are as low as they have been for the last 40 years or so
I have written much over the past year about the big bang and the scientific evidence for the existence and evolution of things made possible without the hand of God. It was therefore interesting to read. The reason for lack of faith by Levin’s dying brother, in Anna Karenina, was that the contemporary scientific interpretation of natural phenomena crashed out the possibility of faith
Lke so many things when I have one ear cocked to the radio in the early morning I heard something which gladdened my heart this morning. The. newscaster mentioning the government’s new policy on social mobility. They were concerned about unpaid internships (short periods of work experience) gained through networking) . but as, The Times acknowledged, ‘Fair work experience could boost social mobility but mentoring could help more‘ Mentoring would be fairer and more effective in giving young people from poorer families a better chance in life. Again, to quote from The Times, ‘Those who find it easiest to secure desirable experience in the workplace are, indeed, invariably those who require it the least. For the children of professional, well-connected parents, horizons are already broad. A week in the offices of, say, a law firm may only serve to point them in the direction of one sort of affluent success rather than another. For a child who knows nobody who works in an office, meanwhile a week in one can change your life. Inevitably, though, such children have little notion of how to secure work experience in a top profession or, very possibly, much real understanding of what one is.
Readers might recall my letter to the Prime Minister concerning mentoring which I initially sent prior to the last election as I thought it would be an excellent boost to the Conservative campaign. I got no reply then, and only the briefest of acknowledgements to my last attempt to promote this idea to the Prime Minister. (See 11 February entry). The Times article acknowledges, quote ‘Mentioning, unlike work experience, is easily targetable at those committees and schools that can benefit the most. It also provides a direct link between underprivileged teenagers and those in a position to grant them the internships that otherwise they might never think to ask for. At present, few professional mentorship programmes exist and those that do are ill documented â€¦â€¦ Still, if there is to be a Big Society answer to a lack of social mobility, it is hard to envisage a better one. I believe the Prime Minister missed a great opportunity. now the idea of mentoring is coming home to roost. I certainly did not expect him personally to read my letter but I would have hoped that one of his aides might have done so and drawn to his attention. ‘Maybe I would have more luck with Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems!
Having written this note I thought I might Google mentoring to see if there was anything current on the subject. I was delighted to come across a web page called Kids. This is an organisation which was set up 40 years ago to assist disabled children, young people and their families to develop personal skills. Precisely what I’ve been banging on about, without success, and something about which the government now appears to be taking some notice.
If any of my readers are interested in finding out more about this organisation they can do so by going on to their website, which they will find under www.kids.org.uk
I was also glad to hear today that the Commons are going to debate the possibility of making St Georges Day ( England’s patron saint’s day) a public holiday. For some reason this year there are two dates, 23 April and 2 May. In any event, if this idea is adopted, it would not come into play during next year-that’s the good news.
The bad news is that Labour Day, the 1 May holiday would be abolished. No bad thing as the very name smacks of the old communist era. As a matter of interest, Scotland has had its patron saint’s day, St Andrew Day as a public holiday since 2006, so again England is lagging behind.
This afternoon, Douglas Gordon, my erstwhile stockbroker- now retired – husband of Cecilia, my erstwhile piano teacher, kindly spent the best part of the afternoon with me. He arrived in a magnificent open top Bristol which he has owned for 25 years. In addition, regular readers might recall he also owns a very beautiful ancient Rolls-Royce, which once belonged to his father that had been sold out of the family Amazingly, some years later, Douglas somehow came across this car when it was on the open market and bought it back. He came here to take me out to lunch on 6 May last year, the day before I fell off the train at Bishops Stortford, and break my leg, and turned up with this fantastic car, but sadly I found it utterly impossible to mount the high running board, so the poor old chap had to go home again and bring back a modern car. In the meantime, I returned to my office and having weakened my legs attempting to mount his car, fell backwards onto the lawn, fortunately, the first of a number of falls when I could have easily broken my neck! No harm was done, on that occasion, and when he returned we went off to the Axe and Compasses, for lunch, in the adjacent village of Arkesden
Douglas very generously bought me a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, 2005, a delightful reminder of the wine he served at the party to celebrate his 70th birthday, a party which I was able to attend. Sadly I missed the 75th but will enjoy drinking the earlier bottle and remembering times past..
Douglas is an amazing man who, for many years has edited the best village magazine in the country, The Newport News. He is fascinated by people and their history, which is what makes his magazine so very readable but, in addition, he commissioned a local writer to write the history of his family from one of his great-grandfathers, born in 1814,. I think he said that they had eight children and five of those married and had children and so. I might not have these numbers absolutely right, but no doubt the book, now published, will be absolutely fascinating, tracing, as it does, the lives of all of these offspring. The book is now published and being distributed amongst the lucky members of the family, most of whom are featured in it
I’m glad to say, we might be cracking the problem of turning over in bed, at least for the time being.’ My lovely’ bought 5 yards of satin material and that good Janet (surname suppressed as she is a treasure. we do not wish to share!) ran it up into a double sheet. This replaced the top cotton sheet and last night we used it for the first time. It was certainly easier to turn over without the friction of the cotton sheet against my nightclothes. All we need to do now is to move the rubber mat, that we have to the lower sheet, a little further down the bed so that I can place my feet on it to gain a purchase before attempting to roll over.
The first excitement today was a visit from our lovely OT, Lynne. The main purpose of her visit was to practice with us moving me from my chair to the wheelchair and back again, using the stand-up hoist. Up to now, I have used it without the platform attachment, by placing my feet firmly on the ground and straightening my legs. In order to effect this new transfer it is necessary for me to stand on this platform and then move the whole hoist from one chair to the other.
My second, even greater excitement, was going out to lunch with a very old friend, Rowan Planterose, a London solicitor, who kindly drove down from London for the purpose.. We get back a long way and have been involved in a number of joint ventures, including working out the cross-examination which we included in my book, The Sanctuary House Case. Also, Rowan came with us to Budapest to play the part of a Galloo, from Pluto, in The Fission Chip Case,-C 19 July entry) It was a really beautiful spring day, one of the warmest, yet this year. Rowan pushed me around to The Cricketers Pub next door and we were able to take our lunch outside, finishing with coffee and a welcome cigar from which I’ve been deprived most of this current year. In fact I think this is only the fourth outside visit these past 3 Â½. months so the fresh and sunshine was very welcome..
I had intended yesterday to watch the opening of The Masters (Golf Tournament) at Augusta, in the USA but somehow got diverted by Douglas’s visit and then, after he’d left forgot to tune in. I did manage to watch the highlights the first day’s play and it is very encouraging to see the Europeans up there with the leaders.
This glorious weekend continues with yet another beautiful spring day. In fact, it was more like a warm summers day. Chloe, Karl and the children came down from London and we managed to have lunch in the garden- me, in the wheelchair. The children enjoyed tearing around the garden after being restricted by their little patch of grass in London. Never stopping to draw breath, they played cricket, croquet, table tennis and pool. Very few squabbles and a lot of laughing and enjoyment. It was lovely to see them, obviously getting bigger every time I see them and a little more grown-up. I must admit, from my point of view, it was great to be outside in the fresh air. I sat quietly watching them all playing croquet silently wishing I was able to join as I always enjoyed the game in the past.
The evidence of spring and early summer are at last with us. Last weekend was the Oxford and Cambridge boat race (sadly Cambridge were beaten by what seemed to be a far fitter, Oxford crew) and this weekend. it was the Grand National (Watched avidly by my son-in-law, Karl, who is somewhat of an aficionado when it comes to the nags-and true to form to backed the winner! I’m pleased to say I came very close second and made a few bob. All the rest of the family who were also watching and have placed some very modest debts on horses, a new absolutely nothing about other than their names appealed, all lost their money! Never mind, it’s only once a year)
Later in the afternoon son Miles and Kimberly arrived for tea with their friends from Philadelphia, Hilary and Francis. Hilary is Kimberly’s best friend and was her maid of honour at their wedding. Miles and Kimberly had taken their friends to visit Magdelene, his old College at Cambridge and while they were there. they visited a number of the other colleges before coming on to see us.. It was really nice to get to know them both a little better as on the day of the wedding. they were all pretty well occupied and we didn’t have much of a chance to get to know them.. They are a lovely couple. They come from Philadelphia, which holds happy memories for me during the days I was P/A to, the chairman of The English Property Co . I remember being sent to Philadelphia, in the early 60’s, to prepare a feasibility study on a development site that stretched from the bicentennial site, across the rail tracks to the Uris Building, in the middle of town. A massive development in those days, estimated to cost $225 million and I was expected to prepare a feasibility study within three days-sheer lunacy. Of course, I did it but what value it was, heaven knows. Obviously, the chief executive , David Llewellyn, shared my reservation. He took one look at it and dropped it straight in the wastepaper basket. Such were the heady days of the 60s property boom.
It was wonderful to have my whole family around me. on such a beautiful day and in particular to see Kimberly, who doesn’t manage to get down too often and characteristically, generously bought me a wonderful box of Turkish delight, which is one of my favourites. ‘My lovely’went about her business quietly and without fuss, coping wonderfully, as usual.
The Karl and children went home after tea as is the tricky for ‘my lovely’to have so many people to stay these days when she has so much to do for me. However, darling. Chloe stayed overnight to give me a hand with one or two things following morning. So for me the day was an embarrassment of riches.