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20/22 May 2009

Posted by DMC on 22 May 2009 in Diary |

Al and I went to stay with Chloe and family overnight in preparation for Al’s 70th birthday celebrations.

On Thursday morning we boarded the river bus at Westminster pier and enjoyed a 40 minute journey, with commentary, to Kew Gardens (Al’s Choice). At lunchtime I took the whole family out for a decent lunch and then with me having a snooze in the sun, outside the Orangery Restaurant, and the rest of the family tramping about the gardens, we called it a day. I wasn’t sorry as I had really enjoyed myself but I did notice my legs were feeling rather leaden and I was not able to walk as freely, and as far, as I might have done in the past.

On Friday I took Chloe and the birthday girl (along with little Lara) to the Dulwich Art Gallery to see the Sickert Exhibition. Frankly, it was not to my taste and I much preferred the free permanent exhibition. Lunch, in the street near Chloe’s home and then back to Clavering. A happy time.

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21 – 25 July 2009

Posted by DMC on 25 July 2009 in Diary |

Off to Bwlch Uchaf, our Welsh cottage for a week. We stopped en route, in Church Streeton with my mother and Richard, we fed and watered them and left after breakfast on the Tuesday morning. I must say apart from my mother’s early onset of Alzheimer’s, which is barely noticeable, for a couple of nonagenarian’s they both seemed in remarkably good form.

Wales greeted us with its usual mixture of rain, wind and sun – with more of the former than the latter – ensuring that my bathing costume stayed firmly in the drawer. Chloe and the grandchildren were staying at Granny’s house in Aberdovey, so there were many excursions to and fro. The joy of being a grandparent, however, is that one can always call it a day when things become too frenetic.

The highlights of this holiday were those intermittent periods with the family, walks, beach and games with for the children; an evening dinner excursion up the beautiful valley to the Tal-y-Lyn hotel, nestling alongside that large dark sinister lake, beloved of a local fisherman and the visitor alike.

Yesterday, ‘my lovely’ and I spent the day in Machynellth (having originally intended to go to the art exhibition, the National Library of Wales, in Aberystwyth but due to the car playing up prudently opted somewhere nearer home). We had a jolly time visiting the antique shops, where we bought a beautiful piece of Welsh porcelain; had lunch in the Wynnstay Arms Hotel (gone slightly downmarket since the Colonel used to take the family there for lunch, admittedly over 50 years ago, but then things tend to change rather slowly in Wales) and ended up viewing the latest art exhibition, at an offshoot of The Museum of Modern Art of Wales, next to the Tabernacle. Contemporary art generally is not to my taste but there were one or two exhibits I could have lived with.

After a week of relatively ‘nice’ weather, by Welsh standards, we set off back to Clavering, staying with the old folk in Church Streeton, on the way, following the now ‘ cast in concrete’ procedure. Champagne at six (I always arrive with two bottles — one for the upward journey and one for the return) and an early meal at a local pub.

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9 August 2009

Posted by DMC on 9 August 2009 in Diary |

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.  So much more relaxing than that long drive.

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18 August 2009

Posted by DMC on 18 August 2009 in Diary |

My 75th birthday today.  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.

‘The girls’, 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.  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 for  supper which rounded off a very happy day.

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28 August 2009

Posted by DMC on 28 August 2009 in Diary |

Last Tuesday we drove up to Shropshire to spend the night with my parents. We took them out supper and left early the following morning for Bwlch Uchaf where we stayed until returning to Nan and Richard on Friday and home on Saturday.

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20 September 2009

Posted by DMC on 20 September 2009 in Diary |

To East Dulwich for lunch with Chloe, Karl and the grandchildren.  Managed to walk the mile or so from London Bridge to Liverpool Street station without too much effort.

England managed to scrape an unconvincing win in the seventh of the one-day series against Australia, mainly due to Swann’s 5  for  28 – one win out of seven does not auger well for the World Series in South Africa next year.

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Christmas Eve 2009

Posted by DMC on 24 December 2009 in Diary |

Sadly, a thaw has set in and much of the snow is disappearing fast from the garden. I had hoped it would remain long enough for the children to revel in it and perhaps make a snowman. The paddock still has a fair covering and snow is forecast for tonight, so who knows we might be in for a white Christmas yet – the first, I believe, us any of the grandchildren will have seen. The Mouse, the donkey, remains firmly in her stable refusing to submit herself to the winter weather.

The family are on their way and should be here shortly in time for tea. In past years we have always held a small party for our village friends but with so many of them now visiting their own children or their other in-laws we decided against it this year.

The Christmas tree lights are on, the log fire is blazing and all it needs now is for the  family to arrive.

Regretfully I can no longer wrap  presents so  ‘my lovely‘ has to wrap her own and indeed write the cards that go with them but using my own words. Although I can no longer write legibly and therefore can no longer jot down notes during  the night, as I have done for more years than I care to remember, I found an excellent substitute in a dictaphone on which I have had glued some pimple material to enable me to operate the switch.

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Christmas Day 2009

Posted by DMC on 25 December 2009 in Diary |

The family arrived in time for tea mid-afternoon. There was still enough snow covering the ground and the thatch to lend some Christmas enchantment. The little ones, and granddaughter Lara, almost 5 years old, particularly being a little overexcited about the prospects of the day to come.

Last year both Lara, and brother Sebastion, then 7 ¾, both climbed into my four-poster with me around 4 a.m. I did my best to keep them from opening their presents before 6.00, but after much wriggling and sighing, I gave in  around 5.30. This year they have strict orders from their Mum – daughter Chloe -  they were not disturb me before 6.00 and then to wait for her to join us before opening their bulging stockings. After that excitement it was down for breakfast before getting ready for church. In the old days we would always stop off at the W-P’s for a glass of champagne after church before returning home — the WP’s house being adjacent to the church. However this year they were away so it was home to our own champagne and  an early lunch (or is it dinner on Christmas day?).

The meal, beautifully cooked by ‘my lovely’ was utterly traditional. The centrepiece a golden turkey, roasted to perfection, with ham. chestnut stuffing, miniature sausages, cranberry sauce and various exotic chutneys – which came with Tom Grant’s generous F & M hamper  – roast potatoes and all the trimmings. The table was a picture with the flames of the tall red candles reflected in the crystal glasses and silver candlesticks. Each grandchild had a dear little papier-mâché gilded angel in its place setting and brightly coloured crackers, scattered between bowls of nuts crystallised fruits, topped off the  festive scene.

This was our 45th Christmas Day, most of which have been  spent here at  home  with the family and have never varied. The end of lunch always heralds the Queen’s speech at three o’clock, most recently on television, which we faithfully watch every year. This is the prelude to the arrival of Father Christmas – this year, as most, more recently since I gave up, son Miles, who then distributed a seemingly gross number of presents to all and sundry. Am I only person to remember when I was young it was usually one ‘big’ present and  two or three smaller ones. Be that as it may, the young today undoubtedly are over indulged, at least, that’s the opinion of a stuffy 75 year old.

By the time the presents had been  distributed, ripped open and scattered around the sitting room floor and sack loads, of hopefully bio-degradable wrapping paper had been collected up,  it was time for tea and Christmas cake. No sooner had this been washed down with some tea we reached the witching hour, when the ‘sun was over the yardarm’ and it was respectable to have a drink. Again, traditionally champagne before a light supper of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, a tropical fruit salad and an excellent cheeseboard. I did open some rather excellent 30-year-old Port to go with the cheese but this was really a special treat. I only have two decent bottles of port left, a ’73 and ’63, the latter being kept to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary – will I make it? Frankly, I have my doubts.

Replete, and with the two youngest in bed, we rounded off the evening, as we have always done, with some game or other, this time it was Articulate. I think son Miles and I came last, fractionally behind my 11 -year-old grandson and sister-in-law Kimberly; but then who cares. There would have been a time, when my lack of acuity would have worried me, but no longer. And so to bed, a happy bunny after a very lovely unchanging, unchanged Christmas day. (After reading how I had described our Christmas  in such detail, I was very tempted to delete the reference to all the good things that we had to eat and drink, it all sounded so boastful but because that is what  it was, and to say differently would be dishonest, I decided to leave it. However, having done so, I am intensely aware of how very fortunate my family and I am, compared with many other millions of people throughout the world.  It was for this reason that I included the Christmas Blessing to my readers.

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17 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 17 January 2010 in Diary |

Last evening, we received the telephone call that we have dreaded for some time. My mother’s 90 year old husband, Richard, (is he my stepfather once removed!?) was taken to hospital with a minor stroke — the second in two days. Fortunately, we have some very good friends in the area, indeed, I have known John and Anne Prytz since they both got married at 19, some 57 years ago. Anne is kindly holding the fort, looking after my mother and awaiting the outcome of the hospital tests. We will then have to decide what to do from this end.

I’ll say no more about the South African test match other than that it finished a day early with an ignominious defeat for England.

On early Sunday mornings, on Radio 4, Mark Tully frequently broadcasts a thought-provoking programme called Something Understood.This week the topic was Absolutely Honest from the New Unique Broadcasting Company Ltd. In this programme Mark Tully asks if absolute honesty is always the best policy and questions the philosopher, A C Grayling, about his suggestion, that dishonesty can sometimes even be virtuous. I advise my readers to listen to the whole of this broadcasts themselves, if they possibly can, but I reproduce here  a couple of extracts which I found particularly interesting which, of course, should be read in the context of the whole discussion. The topic was particularly interesting to me, in particular, as to how honest you are, or should be, with someone who is diagnosed with perhaps, say, a terminal illness. Let’s make the proposition even more difficult and say it was a very young person who has been diagnosed with an incurable disease and has only months to live.  First of all then, there was Eleanor Brown’s amusing, if somewhat unkind poem, on the subject of honesty, Bitcherel

You ask what I think of your new acquisition;
and since we are now to be ‘friends’,
I’ll strive to the full to cement my position
with honesty. Dear – it depends.

It depends upon taste, which must not be disputed;
for which of us does understand
why some like their furnishings pallid and muted,
their cookery wholesome, but bland?

There isn’t a law that a face should have features,
it’s just that they generally do;
God couldn’t give colour to all of his creatures,
and only gave wit to a few.

I’m sure she has qualities, much underrated,
that compensate amply for this,
along with a charm that is so understated
it’s easy for people to miss.

And if there are some who choose clothing to flatter
what beauties they think they possess,
when what’s underneath has no shape, does it matter
if there is no shape to the dress?

It’s not that I think she is boring, precisely,
that isn’t the word I would choose;
I know there are men who like girls who talk nicely
and always wear sensible shoes.

It’s not that I think she is vapid and silly;
it’s not that her voice makes me wince;
but – chilli con carne without any chilli
is only a plateful of mince…

I do hope that Mark Tully, for whom I have the greatest admiration, and  Prof Grayling, will forgive me for paraphrasing their very interesting discussion and hopefully getting somewhere near the honesty they were trying to demonstrate. If there is any  ambiguity in what I say, I can only plead with the reader to access the actual discussion for themselves.

Two researchers at Brunel University have suggested that there is no consensus in our society about ‘ What honestly is’.  Asked to comment on this,  A C Grayling wrote an article entitled,  Don’t Dismiss  Dishonestly It Can Be Virtuous. Grayling defined honesty ‘as the sincere attempt to stick to the truth, to tell the truth, to act with integrity, to deal with others fairly and justly’. He emphasised the importance of sincerity with the interests of others in mind. Mark Tully suggested there must be times when you honestly feel, you sincerely feel, that it is not right to tell the truth. Prof Grayling said he particularly liked what the Church of Scotland says, that there are times when to tell an untimely truth is a sin and suggested that you can do a great deal of harm to tell someone the truth at an inopportune moment. Take a simple example, suppose you’re halfway through a dinner party and your spouse says to you, ‘ how do I look’ and you think they look absolutely ghastly, this is the right moment not to say that.

So it can it be virtuous to be dishonest sometimes, provided the concept of sincerity is always present. So the corollary of this is, there are times when it is not right to be honest, even when you are asked for it or, it can be untimely tell the truth but sincerity can be very helpful too.

This extract from Anne Frank’s diary shows just  what a tangled tale the business of honesty is:

‘Oh my, another thing item has been added to my list of sins. Last night I was lying in bed, waiting for father to tuck me in and say my prayers with me, when mother came into the room, sat on my bed and asked very gently, Anne, Daddy isn’t ready, what if I listen to your prayers tonight? No, mumsie, I replied. Mother got up, stood beside my bed for a moment, and then slowly walked towards the door. Suddenly she turned, her face contorted with pain, and said, I don’t want to be angry with you I can’t make you love me. A few tears slid down her cheeks as she went out of the door. I lay still thinking how mean it was of me to reject her so cruelly but I also knew that I was incapable of answering her any other way. I can’t be a hypocrite and pray with her when I don’t feel like it.  It just doesn’t work that way. She cried half the night and didn’t get any sleep.

Father has avoided looking at me and, if his eyes  do happen to meet mine, I can read his unspoken words .How can you be so unkind? How can you make your mother so sad? Everyone expects me to apologise, but it’s not something I can apologise for because I told the truth and sooner or later mother was bound to find out anyway’.

Mark Tully suggests that there is a niggling feeling within us that makes us feel uncomfortable when we are dishonest. This discomfort is beautifully illustrated by Georgina Blake’s poem The Teacup Storm

When the seed
    of honesty
      fell
        to
          me

I should have walked straight by
Trampled it not heard its cry

The seed
    of honesty
      fell
        to
          me

I kicked it around
For I knew it instantly

I could not bear to hold
        it in
          my hand

For there was
    my tomorrow
    my wish
    my dream
    my sleep
    my scream
    my yesterday

The seed
      of honesty
        fell
          to
            me

As love
I could not eat until it
was planted
safely
    buried
      secretly
        watered

Then as if by torrential tropical
    sudden rain

It sprang to life
Cast a shadow by
    my window
Tempting me to pick its fruit
    a snow white
      rosy red
Once bitten would turn
    black
Trapped as Jack was I
    In the giant’s lair

Its aromatic taste told not
    of what would be
    until it flowered

Gently
    guillotining
      my
        existence

The seed
    of
      honesty
        fell
          to
            me

Then I could see
How…one person’s laughter is despair
      in another’s eyes
How …even with one word a page
      may stain

How … from a tiny drop of rain
      storms rage

Why was this seed not taken by bees
    Driven by seas
      Scattered
        by
          winds

Why fall
    to
      me?

Why?

When the seed
    of honesty
      fell
        to
          me

I should have walked straight by
Trampled it not heard its cry

The seed
    of honesty
      fell
        to
          me

Then I could see
How from a tiny drop of rain
    storms rage.

So there we have it, the moral dilemma of when dishonesty may be virtuous and the guilt that can be associated with it.

Today,  Sunday, was a particularly sociable one as we had arranged for Ali and Graham Mackrell to come and have a drink at lunchtime and Jane and Kit Orde-Powlett in the evening. Despite the potential problems on the home front with Richard, we decided to go ahead in the hope that all would be well, as indeed proved to be the case. Lantern Thatch was looking at its best. The iconic Christmas card thatched cottage with a blazing log fire glowing on the ancient oak timber framed sitting room – a welcoming sight. Much Bollinger was consumed.

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23 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 23 January 2010 in Diary |

Despite slightly panic stricken telephone calls from my sister-in-law in Cornwall concerning my dear mother-in-law’s deteriorating state of health – she will be 99 years old at her next birthday, after all – we decided to go ahead with another arranged social event and had Jill and Tony Griggs, wincing each time the telephone rang, thankfully usually spam call but fortunately no dramas. Again, the house provided a welcoming glow and more Bollinger was consumed.

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