Thursday, 30 June 2016

As the dust settles

If you know me, you’ll know that I am the embodiment of the eternal optimist. My son planned to have “There’s some blue sky over there” engraved on the back of the watch that my family bought me for my sixtieth birthday and my glass is usually not only half full, it’s full to overflowing.

Unfortunately, since Thursday night, my glass has been empty and I have been under a deep and very dark cloud of depression; a cloud that seems to be taking a very long time to lift. 

“You lost, get over it.” I hear my critics say. “You, sir, don’t respect democracy” someone said to me on Twitter. Nothing could be further than the truth. Of course I respect democracy and, had the public been given the truth before the referendum, I would simply congratulate them (albeit begrudgingly) and get on with my life.

But as the days go on, and the Labour party disintegrates before our eyes and the country loses a prime minister who spoke truthfully whatever your opinion of him, we are seeing politics at its very ugliest and a Leave leadership with not a clue of what the hell they are going to do and showing clearly that there was simply no cohesive plan. 

I’ve already written about the lies that were the foundation of the Leave campaign and my outrage at allowing such falsehoods to be peddled as truth. When I put the £350m lie to my own MP Dan Poulter this is how he responded 

This implies that the £350m claim was not gross misinformation, just “silly and inaccurate”. Well hah hah hah. The country has made the most important decision of the past forty years on “silly and inaccurate” information. You really could not make it up.

Okay you might say that this was not the main argument. Perhaps it was not. BUT, if it was the main argument for just 4% of Leave voters the result would have been a tie. 4%. Think about it.

I won’t touch on many of the other negatives that have come in the aftermath of the vote – just one.

This man stood up in the European Parliament and made the most jaw dropping, artless, arrogant and puerile speech I have heard in my life. Had he thumbed his nose and said “nah nah nee nah nah” he would not have been more embarrassing. This was done with a union jack on his desk and shamed everyone in the country - this from a man who called the result a victory for “decent” people. If 52% of the country was happy to let this person speak for them, the country has declined immeasurably in my estimation.

I don’t think the EU is perfect – far from it. There are migration issues - which David Cameron had gone some way to easing (concessions that have now been withdrawn) but for me the EU is about far more than money, immigration and trade. It is about togetherness and unity. Our country has become so much more interesting, vibrant, exciting and cosmopolitan since we joined. We started to travel to Europe and feel part of it. Now we are back to being as welcome as a nasty smell.

As all this unravels over the next few months, I want things to go well for Britain. I want things to go well for Scotland too. I’m not going to make any outlandish forecasts of doom and gloom but after years of feeling part of a big European community, European first, British second and English third, I now feel part of a country that is small in size, small in outlook and small in mind – not Great Britain but Little England.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Nobody Likes A Bad Loser. I Don't Care.

Nobody likes a bad loser. 'Play up play up and play the game' and 'it's not cricket' are just a couple of sayings that sum up our attitude to sportsmanship.

So, as a very good loser, I should be saying "Well done chaps. I strongly disagreed with you over the referendum but more of you voted leave than remain so, fair do's."

But hang on. Sometimes our anger (and grief) in losing is more than just bad  sportsmanship. Remember this.

Were we wrong to be furious of being cheated out of a place in the World Cup Semi Finals? Of course not. And this?

No wonder the Irish were bloody furious and justifiably so.

But these two incidents were simply sporting events. Totally trivial in comparison to what we are facing today.

On Wednesday I joined in an amicable debate on Facebook with a guy who I like and respect. He stated that, on balance, because of the £350m, he was voting Leave. I asked him where the thread had gone today and he told me that he had deleted it as others were getting very personal. But I assure you that it was there.

So one person was swayed by that £350m claim. So what. Over a million people more voted Leave than Remain. But hang on a minute. I only have a few friends on Facebook - 77 to be precise. If just one of them was influenced by that claim, how many more were similarly influenced?

And don't tell me that it was nothing.

This is not just politics. The Leave side have admitted that this claim was unjustified and drove around in this bus throughout the campaign. Legal, decent honest and truthful? I don't think so.

So. Am I a bad loser? Bloody right I am. And I feel completely justified in being one.

Call me a whinger but these ads would have brought a rebuke from the advertising standards people. This wasn't a football match. This was a life changing political event and one that people deserved to be correctly informed upon. Not a football match.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Busy Times For Marion

We've had another three days babysitting in Kent so we've been pretty busy again this week but we've had a weekend free and Marion has used it to get on top of the garden.

We bought this house because of its sunny south facing garden that overlooks open farmland. Marion has always been a very keen gardener so it gave her the opportunity to stamp her mark on a fairly large but somewhat uninspiring plot.

This is how it looked when we bought the house in 2012.

Note the slope and the large Leylandi

Before Marion got to work on the garden we had my office built and the large Leylandi Cyprus removed.

With the office in place, it was time for the landscape gardeners to start work.

And here's how it looked when the landscapers had finished in spring 2013. I don't seem to have taken any photos in 2014 - it was a very hectic year for us.

But in 2015 it was beginning to take shape.

The local blacksmith made us this archway and fitted it last spring.

Today Marion has spent all day in the garden and here are photos of how it is looking now. I think she's done a fantastic job and, before long, we'll have a well established and (hopefully) very pretty garden. I think you'll agree it's quite a change from when we bought it.

We're off to Scotland later this week so hope that the gardener can keep on top of the garden for us while we are away and that when we get back it will look even more established.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Where's The Blog

That's the question that a number of readers have asked me recently (or at least that's what they would ask me if I had any readers). In response I would have to say that we've just been too busy to blog. I know we're retired and, technically, we should have hours and hours to spare but, as I've said so many times before and it is a retirement cliche, we don't seem to have any time at all. Life's so hectic that we're not even going to an opera we bought tickets for tonight as we don't feel like getting dressed up and think that a night at home with a paella and a bottle of wine will be more relaxing.

So what's all the stuff that's making life so hectic? Well, firstly there's my novel. My editor sent me his review and edits two weeks ago and I've been mad busy revising the book and making the changes he suggested. I'm very pleased with the results and I am hoping to have finished the changes by Monday.

But that's no the only thing that's keeping us busy.

After Paul came to Framlingham with Catherine for the Bank Holiday we went back to Rochester for the week to babysit while Paul's wife Josephine was working away. We had a great week with our granddaughter and, before we left for home on Friday we took her to the Rochester Dickens Festival.

Her other granny had made her this wonderful Dickensian costume for the event. Although it was far and away the nicest costume on display, Catherine didn't win a prize. I suspect that the judges couldn't believe that somebody's gran could have made such a spectacular outfit. It was quite incredible.

After a funfair outside Framlingham castle two weekends ago, it was time for a funfair outside Rochester castle.

Dickens' characters were roaming the High St and we bumped into Fagin, Bill Sykes, Nancy and Miss Haversham.

When we got home we had a busy few days in Framlingham tidying up and getting on top of the garden. We got the chance to catch up on the exercise classes at the college too before heading down to Gloucestershire on Thursday. Our dear and longtime friends Dave and Jane Haworth treated us to an overnight stay at the beautiful Cowley Manor Hotel and Spa near Cheltenham as an early Ruby Wedding Anniversary present. It was a fabulous gift and we were blessed with glorious weather for our short stay.

Dave, Jane and Marion on the hotel terrace.

I tried using some of the tips from the talk by fashion photographer Tom Murray at FramSoc a few weeks ago

The hotel has fabulous Grade 2 listed landscaped gardens

Marion and Jane don't look much different from when they met over thirty years ago

We got home yesterday and were looking forward to seeing how the house looked after we'd arranged to have some more work carried out.

This is how it was when we bought the house four years ago.

And this is how it was when we finished working on it three years ago.

Unfortunately the rendering on the front began to crack and was susceptible to algal growth so it was looking unsightly and we decided to have it clad in common with other properties in the road.

And this is how it looked when we got back from Cowley Manor. We're very pleased. It should put and end to unsightly cracks and algae.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Welcome Visitors To Framlingham And Some Babysitting Duties in Kent

After writing about Marion's hair loss ( an after-effect of her swine flu) on my last blog, I was hoping to report a slowdown this time but I'm afraid that it's still carrying on. The specialist we saw last month said that it could be three months before the loss stops completely and her hair returns to its normal growth cycle so I suppose it's not really a surprise but it is getting her down. Although her hair still looks great to me and I don't think anyone would notice it without being told, I hope that there's an improvement for her in the near future.

I got my new novel back from my editor about ten days ago and I'm doing my best to work on his very constructive criticism. His comments are extremely helpful and make a lot of sense but making the changes is hard work and taking a lot of time. I'm hoping to have rewritten it by the middle of the month and then I'll be ready for the next step. When I've not been busy rewriting we've had plenty to do at home and not much time to get out but we did find the time to visit a local landmark (Leiston Abbey - above) last week. It's a very interesting and quite atmospheric site.

We had visitors for the Bank Holiday weekend when son Paul and his daughter Catherine joined us in Framlingham. Catherine enjoyed a visit to the castle where she took part in the Tudor dancing class.

She also enjoyed the funfair outside the castle - a slightly less genteel event. 

Before we returned to Rochester, where we are staying for the week to babysit ,we also watched the Annual Framlingham Gala parade. It was a fairly short parade this year which was a good job in view of the very unseasonal temperatures.

Back in Rochester I soon came into contact with the local wildlife (or not so wild life in the case of foxes). This one hardly budged while I had time to take out my phone and switch it on before taking a photo.

It's been lovely looking after Catherine. We've kept her busy. Yesterday we went to a dinosaur workshop in Maidstone museum where she made this great dinosaur head hat. The decoration was entirely her own work - not a bad effort for a three-year-old.Tomorrow we're taking her into London and on Friday it's the Rochester Sweeps Festival.