Comfort…

No, not as in “and Joy.” We are certainly not saying the “C” word yet, even though Marks and Spencer have Percy Pig Advent Calendars in already. I wouldn’t get too worked up about Christmas anyway. It may get canceled yet.

I just wondered what people were doing for comfort in these interesting times. The answer may well be “sleep” or the telly (this evening, we are trying to decide between Casablanca and a documentary about Dennis Neilson, the serial killer). Or maybe a good book. I am splitting my time between a Tony Curtis autobiography (I like my movie stars to be the kind of people who spill the beans with no thought for privacy or propriety) and a book about how our phones are actually changing the way our brains work. I will report back but it is very sobering reading.

I am working towards getting one of these Lindor Pick and Mix stands installed in our entrance hall. I am sure this will provide the kind of comfort level I am aiming for at the moment.

This week has seen the 400 anniversary of the Mayflower setting sail from Plymouth. The story of the Pilgrims’ voyage is complicated involving as it does, a race of indigenous people who were already in the “New World” and, despite them hunting through all the places where they usually keep the papers that need filing, they couldn’t find any evidence that they had invited these people over to take over their country. It is a big picture but Plymouth, to its credit, is trying to make sure that this is not just some jingo stuffed nonsense.

I can say this because I have met some of the people involved. As part of our charity’s work, we had quite a few meetings with the team who began to plan celebrations years ago. I remember thinking how fantastic it was going to be. There were history trails around Plymouth, works of art, performances, and events. Then COVID happened. Suddenly, there would be no crowds of Americans coming over, no theatre performances, no dancing on Plymouth Hoe. In the end, there was a low key event with the American and Dutch ambassadors launching an autonomous boat called the Mayflower 2. It is an excellent boat that will collect marine samples and actually be useful, which is good. There will be more things to follow, including the opening of a new museum – The Box – which I have visited and will be excellent. But, in the list of things that COVID has kicked the legs out from under, something like this, despite no lives being lost, is still such a shame. However, although I’m not from around here, I was very proud of Plymouth. It looked beautiful and it is trying to tell a complicated story around rights and responsibilities whether it’s the undoubtedly brave souls who set off to pursue religious freedom, the Wampanoag people who suffered so much as a result of the colonists’ actions or the things we can learn about the future of our planet and how we care for it.

It may not have gone as Plymouth expected things to go but there is more to come on this story so watch this City. I don’t think it is finished with this yet.

Night Terrors

So tonight is the night before our esteemed government is bringing in the Rule of 6. This means that only 6 people can meet together (I think) rather than the however many hundreds can do it now. I think Boris’s advisors/svengali/whatever think that it is a snappy phrase – Rule of 6 – that everyone will remember. Unfortunately, Aged Parent thinks she has seen the phrase in Revelation and seems to be taking it as a sign of the Great Tribulation to come. This may or may not be true – I make no comment about the physical manifestation of something that I was always taught was a mainly allegorical lesson. All I will say is that, when you have spent a morning trying to arrange Aged Parent’s wardrobe while she discusses her problems with the lady in the flat next door, you might be tempted to think that you were living through the Tribulation already.

AP It’s awful. She has blood in her bowels

Me Don’t you mean stools?

AP (snappish) She wasn’t on a stool – she was on the toilet! Don’t throw that out! It’s Bonne Marche!

Anyway, I think the Plymouth Constabulary are expecting gangs of marauding teenagers running about in groups of 30, partaking of strong drink and pushing over old women tonight. We shall see.

I, much like yourselves probably, have watched the COVID infection numbers creeping up again and also seen the news evaluation that said it is mainly to do with young people this time who are just soooo desperate to get out that they just can’t take it anymore and must run to a nightclub and secretly dance the night away while passing on invisible infections.

The thing is, I am old but I am quite desperate to get out myself. I miss seeing family and friends. I miss a crowded restaurant (not so much pubs, I’ll be honest) and a buzzing city street. And obviously, church. However, I drag my sorry soul home most evenings, and apart from the occasional cinema/restaurant visit, I tend to stay in, because I am trying not to bring the flamin’ thing back like a roaring lion and throw the few people who still have jobs out of them because we have to shut everything again. And I don’t see why young people get a free pass here – because they are young – bless ’em. People say “Well they are being punished for a disease they don’t even suffer from really” That’s hardly my fault, is it? Just go home, kids. I think young people are mad at governments with good reason and the time for activism will come. But, sit this out kids, like the rest of us. It will be over soon and you can come out into the light – refreshed and full of righteous anger rather than lager.

I love the young people, really I do. They seem lovely, in the main. But, unlike George Benson, I’m not sure that I believe the children are our future. I mean, obviously, they are not my future because I am older than them and will be dead in the future – hopefully before them. I just mean it’s not all about them. It’s a lot of pressure to make them responsible for the future now. I’m all for Greta Thunberg’s message. I’m just not sure this should be her gig quite yet. She looks quite tired sometimes. Older people who are equally despairing at the moment, still have a responsibility to DO stuff. Also – while we are on the subject – the same song “Learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all.” In the words of the great Terry Wogan – “It isn’t.”

However. Reasons to be cheeful –

BBC

One – a new Simon Schama documentary on The Romantics. I love Simon Schama. He manages to explain things to me in a way that doesn’t make me feel that I am a knowledge wasteland when it comes to say…William Blake, even though both of us know that I have started watching this without the faintest idea where it will be going. Just brilliant. BBC 2 Fridays, I think.

Two – FOW2 came to stay and brought me the Tony Curtis Biography from her extensive film book library. She says I will love it and he was the walking talking embodiment of the word incorrigible. Hurrah! Does anyone remember him in The Persuaders? I loved him in Persuaders – with Roger Moore. I was always Team Danny rather than Team Brett myself which is a bit disloyal to the Motherland but there you are.

Three – Orange Twirl. See it with your own eyes people! Very nice. Not quite a Chocolate Orange but these are straitened times are they not.

Anyway, have to go now. Back to work tomorrow and I have to clean my pencil case out.

She Fell Over

Just a quick call in. I am, as you know, on leave and had lots of things to catch up on. Like most people, I haven’t had any time off since March and this was my catch up week. Ha! Marching into the City to return trousers to Marks and Spencer’s. (I mean, when it says short – I didn’t think for a minute it meant “Just William” short) I managed to catch my foot on some cobbles and went flying – face first.

A nice young man came running to my aid and sat on the floor with me. That was a bit awkward because I felt well enough to get up straight away and felt it would be a bit rude. When I staggered to my feet, he was very solicitous and said he would watch me walk up the road (more pressure). Anyway, today I find that I have a fat lip, I can’t lift my hands above my head and my ribs are killing but I’m more annoyed at my carelessness than anything else. I have therefore had to cross off sorting out winter clothes from under my bed – that may be a good thing though because we are predicted 22 degrees here next week and, much as I like a polo neck it may be inappropriate at the moment

It’s not all bad news though. I fitted this blog in, made some adult-type lists – things to do etc. and finished this book. I have been waiting for this for ages. I really like Richard Osman – he seems funny and self-deprecating (considering he owns EVERY decent game show in the universe) and I also love what is called “Gentle Murder Mysteries.” Actually, this isn’t all that gentle – the bodies do rack up but it is excellent. It is set in an upmarket retirement complex, with apartments, etc and a place for people with very active social lives. One of the clubs is “The Thursday Murder Club” where some of the residents look into cold cases. Then, there is a murder. A new one. What sets the book apart is his perfectly attuned ear for the way older people live and the things they say. Osman has described himself as determinedly “Middle Brow” and it leads to the most brilliant descriptions of older people’s lives. I know how this sounds, but it made me sad and it made me snigger and slightly concerned that I sometimes talk like that as well. Also, I didn’t get whodunnit either and I am usually in the ballpark so that’s another good sign.

At the moment, it is only in hardback. I rarely buy a hardback and then I try to do it from a local bookshop so you may be able to order it from a library. It’s clever and yet it is cosy and as I keep yelling – that is absolutely possible.

Our daughter is coming to see us for a couple of days. Unfortunately, because of the rules, she will have to leave 29 of her closest friends behind but we are looking forward to seeing her just the same. Also, FOW1 (our son) passed his driving test on Monday. Just as well, apparently the re-test list is 38, 000 people long now.

We’re all doing very well in the queuing department here in the UK, aren’t we?

Holiday – What? Again?

I know. I live the life of Princess Grace – I disguise it well though. Anyway, this is not a holiday where you scamper abroad, only to find you have to hotfoot it home tout-suite because the government is going to lock you up for a fortnight because your destination of choice is packed to the drawstrings with the old COVID. Anyway, it’s not that sort of holiday – it’s the one where you don’t go to work for a week and that is very nice.

By the way, can I just apologise for the absence on Thursday. I had a migraine that would fell a shire horse so I decided to give screens a miss. Only sensible really when you think about it. Except, I did go back to the cinema this week. It all seemed very safe – lots of masks and distancing etc. It was just so good to see a film on a screen again. For the record – it was Tenet – which is a spy caper with traveling backwards and forwards in time in it as well. I enjoyed it a lot but I would be lying if I said I understood it all. However, as a bonus, it did have Kenneth Brannah chewing the scenery as a wicked Russian which is totally worth the money of any cinema ticket.

I just wanted to share something with you about God’s Long Game playing. This week, my charity was awarded a grant that will help us over some of the problems caused by COVID. I don’t want you to think that everyone involved didn’t work really hard (including me to be fair – because as I have told you multiple times before – I am always fair to me) because we all did. It just struck me that the roots of this grant were in a mistake or a wrong turn that I took months ago. I was trying to sort out leases for new vehicles and I misunderstood the lease terms and we couldn’t really afford it so we pulled out. A lot of nice people said that the leases (Leasi?) were badly worded to kind of reel you in, but that is by the by. Anyway, because these agreements had fallen through, I was ringing round to people I would not normally need to be involved with and ended up speaking to someone from the Charities Aid Foundation who was really nice and said she was impressed by me (Thank-you – I’ve had a wash) and my team. This led to us working together on some financial modeling which she helped me to get a grant for and then I applied for another grant that I would only get if certain organisations recommend you for it – including hers. And that’s what she did – recommend us for it.

So we seem to be on the way to some investment that might dig us out of a horrible COVID shaped hole – at least for the next six months. And I have thought about how we got here. About how useless I felt at the beginning of the process and somehow it has worked out ok. And I have thought about Joseph (I am not comparing myself to Joseph do not call the Biblical Patriarch Police) and how – let’s be honest, he did bring some of his troubles on himself – “OOH look at me in my lovely Coat of Many Colours for I am indeed the Donny Osmond of my family and the most popular and famous” – etc etc. That may have been true but, a little modesty and decorum would not have gone amiss. And I thought about God, looking after us – playing the long game and despite our failings – still being in charge and meaning all these things for good.

I don’t know. It may help you this week. It helped me. It’s not about me and what I achieve. I’m loved by a God that cares – not because of what I achieve but – well he just does. If I ever flippin well get hold of that fact, I can’t tell you how much weight it will lift off my shoulders!

Anyway. Have a great week. Try not to spread anything nasty. Aged Parent is doing ok. She is hiding all her drugs which is driving her carers crazy but welcome to my world is what I say and you are getting paid for it! She is happy as Larry. Enjoy it while it lasts everyone.

Holiday

Hello. Happy Bank Holiday. That is if you have a holiday today. Obviously, you will not if you work in retail as, for most people who work in retail, a Bank Holiday just means longer and more bolshy queues. I think the sector I envy least at this time of year is the shoe shop sector which has horrified looking parents queuing outside from half an hour before the shop opens. All of them are accompanied by children who are giving fair warning of how the visit is going to pan out by shouting – “I don’t want anything in there! I want to go to Primark for pink trainers!” School uniform policy is of no consequence when you are nine.

In fairness, I don’t think proper shoe shops always help themselves here. FOW2 had slightly larger feet than normal and when we gave the assistant her details they would usually come back, admittedly looking shamefaced, with a pair of shoes that Corrie Ten Boom would have worn in her “Tramp for the Lord” days. Ok for an eighty-year-old – not so much for a fashion-conscious schoolgirl. And that is why parents go to these terrible stores because you can get nice shoes that are good for school, in lots of sizes, and usually have the money left over for the pink trainers. And yes, I know how terrible the working conditions are but when you have to be as rich as Lady Docker to afford shoes in an unusual size – normal people will do this.

Anyway, if you have today off, please enjoy it while you can. Someone in the know told me that large supermarkets lobby the government every single year to allow supermarkets to open on Christmas Day. They say they have the staff and there is a demand which I am sure is true but not everything we can do is necessarily something we should do – as a wise man very nearly said.

Anyway, I seem to have started off with a rant which is unfortunate but not unusual. Apologies for the non-appearance of this last night. I have been running late all weekend because we had an unexpected visit from some friends in Dorset which was lovely. Although, doesn’t it take some time to work out what the rules are when someone different turns up? Because no-one was sure, we spent a lot of Saturday afternoon route marching them up and down Devil’s Point to keep everyone in the fresh air, just in case. Fortunately, the weather was as above so it was very nice. Anyway, HOH was watching Strike last night and I kept getting distracted. I kept looking down at my computer screen and it was nonsense so I left it. (I know what you are thinking but please keep your thoughts on the nonsense level under your hat. I am a sensitive soul).

Because I am on my jollies, I started the week with er…Start the Week on Radio 4. I have to admit, I rarely seek this out because I’m not sure I have the brain capacity for it. However, today was really interesting. Some of it was a bit dispiriting. They were talking about how all these post-Brexit trade deals that are being negotiated by TOP people may well have clauses in them that prevent our food from having the country of origin on them. This means we will have no ideas about animal welfare and husbandry etc. and no way to keep an eye on standards. How is that a good thing, Michael Gove? Answer me that! In a slightly better segment, they were talking about how lockdown had affected the natural world. We generally think it was a good thing with sheep popping into the local newsagents and mountain goats setting up homes in the middle of the A38. But it isn’t that simple. Apparently, some areas need strict husbandry to thrive – certain nature reserves, species, and natural areas need human intervention and have struggled in lockdown. Well, who knew? Well, you may well have but I didn’t. I think I always had the impression that the world would be much better if humans just packed their bags and cleared off.

God blessed them:
        “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
    Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
        for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

This is in Genesis. It struck me that we are really good at the taking charge bit – or subduing as older versions say but not as good at realising that following on from that is the fact that these creatures are our responsibility. We are meant to look after them. This is not a call to veganism. I am with Princess Anne on this one. I am not a vegetarian but proper animal and land husbandry is our responsibility.

My question is, how do I help? I’m sorry but I am not prepared to dress up as someone from The Handmaid’s Tale while walking around Tavistock banging a snare drum. There must be a way for people without that level of confidence to have a say. I did the “I am the Devil” sketch on Bolton Precinct once and I am never, ever doing that again. Ever.

Anything I should be reading? Or joining? Any other ideas gratefully received.