DAY 53: Tues 5 May

Books, bunting, disappointment and noisy chickens

Today is Saturday, isn’t it. Isn’t it?

Whichever day, I did manage to get 45 minutes exercise in this morning on my ‘home gym’ while listening to some harrowing COVID19 stories on the radio.

I was going through my books looking for the next one to read to my grandsons, and found some forgotten gems. There is The Dog Crusoe by R.M. Ballantyne in a 1901 edition my father read to me. I wonder how they would take to tales of adventures across America’s western plains in the mids 1800s. It’s a rollicking adventure story about a young lad and his dog as they face the wilds and and try to make peace with the native American tribes, then known only as ’Red Indians’. 

I can’t find my father’s and my other childhood favourite, Bevis: The Story of a Boy by Wiltshire writer Richard Jefferies, another Victorian writer. But I did turn up two copies of the Arabian Nights – Richard Burton’s so-called ‘original, unexpurgated‘ edition, and Hussaun Haddawy’s translation of the 14th century Syrian manuscript. Both are fascinating in their own way but neither really suitable for my current purposes.

Nor is a very slim pamphlet that slips off the bookshelf. Herbal Highs by Mary Anne Superweed, dates back to the 1960s, surprise, surprise.  

I come across two wondrous books by Leon Garfield and Edwatd Blishen – The God Beneath The Sea and The Golden Shadow,, with with amazing illustrations by Charles Keeping. Grandson No1 will devour these, I am sure, so I shall let him have them next time we meet.

Two more books of Irish legends present themselves. A tattered, yellowing copy of Andrew Greeley’s The Magic Cup, from 1979. I looks a little dense and long, and anyway may not survive in its present condition. But Culann and the Leprechans by Paul Murray looks promising. I seem to recall reading it to my youngest son, 20 odd years ago. 

I didn’t want to force it on Grandsons 1 & 2, so I selected a range of age appropriate books from the Letterbox Library catalogue so they can choose one each. I had also lined up a couple of shorter Irish legends to whet their appetites. Perhaps the story of Oisin and Tir Na Nog. 

Story time is delayed by the arrival of my son and his two youngsters for ‘elevenses’ and another bout of magic wands. They sit on the bench outside the garden and I squat on the steps. But it is too chilly to spend too much time outside. It is so lovely to see them and their smiling faces.

But when I Skype grandsons 1 & 2 they quickly lose interest in what I have to say, and lark around with their ipad, which is not just distracting but makes it impossible to concentrate. I go silent, and they direct the screen at the ceiling, and it freezes. So the session ends early, but they have chosen their books, and I order them. As I do so I realise I have suddenly become despondent. It is as if I have been rejected, I had been so looking forward to chatting about books and a fun session, but it never happened. It made me realise how important these ‘distant meetings are for me. In fact story time is probably at least as important for me as it is for them. It is human contact but it is also a nice way of feeling that you can be useful when so many normal options are not open to you.

Luckily my spirits are boosted by a message from a colleague in Belarus asking if I can do some Skype talks for young members of the Belarus Association of Journalists <https://baj.by/en>, and maybe follow it up with a session in Lithuania when lockdown ends. There is no lockdown in Belarus where people are living in dread of COVID19 since the great leader Lukashenko has no interest in following the paths trodden by every other nation. There is not even a mention of the pandemic on his website http://president.gov.by/en/\

Speaking of politicians, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock made fool of himself in Parliament with his egregious response to dismissal of the ‘tone’ of Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, a Shadow Health Minister. He objected to the ‘tone’ of her perfectly valid request that he acknowledge the belief of ‘front line’ health workers, like her, that lives have been lost because of lack of testing for the coronavirus. And when he claimed that what she said was “untrue” did he mean that front line workers did not feel like that, that lives had not been lost, or that testing had been done? Either way he owes her, and ‘front line’ workers, an apology. Quite apart from the fact that he has not had to work on the front line, this is the thin-skinned man who has objected to equally valid criticism of government policies by the BBC’s Panorama programme, simply because some of the contributors did not share his political views.

Britain now has the unenviable record of the highest official number of deaths from COVID19 in Europe. No doubt Mr Johnson regards this an another triumph. he has absented himself form scrutiny at every turn, and now insists that he will not make a statement in the House of Commons about government plans but give an ex cathedra in Downing Street, from from the trammels of accountability. When will the media call his bluff?

Meanwhile a hundred people, we learn, under the leadership of free enterprise freak Elizabeth Truss MP the International Trade Minister, have opened up trade negotiation with the Trump administration, as a way of trying not gain some leverage in the simultaneous Brexit negotiations going on with the European Union. Ice day soon Britain will realise how weak its positions is in the world. Its handling of the COVID19 crisis inspires convince in no-one.

The chickens have been noisy today startled by squirrels and cats, demanding more water, and at one point Mother Hen went apoplectic just because the smallest newcomer had occupied the hutch when she wanted it all to herself. But I think they are also jumpy about the rats which have dug a new hole to make it easier get at the scrumptious poison I have laid for them. Hopefully it will all be over in a week (if they have not become immune to this batch of the stuff). For the time being there will be no food left in the coop overnight, which mean I shall need to get up early as the brood will be loud with their hunger pangs in the morning. They may not be able to see at night, but they will know there is no breakfast as soon as dawn breaks.

A note came through the door announcing Friday’s Street Party to be posted on the Back Lane Community Noticeboard, and later, when most people at home (sic), I snuck out for a ride on my bike, for only the second time in nearly 8 weeks, to collect some bunting for the neighbours who want to decorate the street. It allows me to have quick chat at a safe distance with a couple of friends I have not seen for months. Like a breathe of fresh air. 

Iftar tonight is vegetable soup, and a slice of salmon with a curried mushroom sauce and mashed potato.

Came across a comforting piece this evening explaining away procrastination. <https://humanparts.medium.com/laziness-does-not-exist-3af27e312d01> I always knew there was a good reason for it! (BTW I still haven’t cleaned up the living room.)

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