DAY 54: Wed 6 May

Hypocrisy, some natural surprises and enthusiastic grandsons

Up early, as predicted, when the chickens open their lungs to remind me there is no food in the coop. I have a quick check for eggs. Much to my surprise here are two eggs already soon after 7am; mine are normally mid-morning layers. 

Lucky I am up early as there is a delivery just before eight – 15 sweet potato seedlings have arrived. That means I shall forgo in-house exercise this morning and get out the garden where the sun is shining again.

It says a lot about your physical condition when just getting your socks on while standing on one leg is regarded as a personal triumph. However I have promised myself that during the extended lockdown period I am sure Johnson will announce, for us old folks at least, on Sunday, I shall make a serious effort to reduce my waistline.

I am amused by everyone’s anxieties about their hair. I only visit the barber two or three times a year being quite happy with a fulsome head of thick but rapidly thinning hair. My big problem at the  moment is a hole in a tooth – no pain, thank goodness, but it is a bit of a pain to have to keep digging bits of food out of it. It may be a fallen out filling, but my dentists have emailed to say all appointments have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, so my imminent check-up is off the calendar.

Call me cynical, but I am deeply suspicious of all this nostalgia for the original VE Day. All this rebroadcasting material involving Churchill or members of the royal family has a distinctly sinister feel – echoed by the Daily Mail’s impertinent inaccuracy the we are remembering the time of ‘Victory over Europe’. We are living in Brexit Britain where there now have been more COVID19 deaths than anywhere else in Europe. It is a country run by a cynical, untrustworthy narcissistic liar whose acolytes persuaded gullible sections of the electorate and the xenophobes among us, that Little Britain outside the European Union would be a better place for all. I wonder what they think now, when they are unable even to be with loved ones in their last moments, or be present when the dead are buried? Perhaps they are beginning to wonder whether the lies Johnson told about the EU when he was a Brussels correspondent were all part of a cynical ploy to fulfil his personal political ambitions. Who knows? 

l wonder how many people take notice of the way Big Money looks after itself and those who support it – like the political party that now enjoys an almost unassailable 80-seat majority in the Commons? The coronavirus will have bitten deeply into the public consciousness, but I am saddened by the poll results which suggest continuing support for Johnson. Are people foolish, fickle or forgetful? Will they look back on all this and ask themselves – when will we ever learn?

I wonder how many people will know, or care, that the breaches of his own ‘stay at home/social distancing’ advice to the nation by Prof Neil Ferguson happened weeks before the Daily Telegraph (for whom the Prime Minister used to work, at an excessive salary) ran the ‘news’ of his resignation. How long had the paper known? And is it pure coincidence that it leads on the story on the very day that Britain breaks the European record for COVID19 deaths? I think not. Hypocrisy has always had a ready bed in the press; small wonder that public distrust of journalists is so high. Our trade is being traduced by the very organs that should be leading the way as trusted watchdogs for the public.

As I stepped out of the back door around 9am, two rats skedaddled along the passageway and under the sauna cabin. It was a heart stopping moment. I backed inside and composed myself. When I went out again one of them had had the temerity to return to the passage, heading for the plastic barrels containing the chicken feed. Time to put the wellies on. I checked on the storage containers – there is no sign of gnawing or forced entry. But I am straight on to the Council. No luck there. After telephone roulette I am told the rat-catchers, sorry Pest Control Operatives (PCOs) are out on training, so if I’d like to call back… 

I manage to get through to the private firm that helped last time the rats decided to move in with the chickens, They will come tomorrow afternoon, for £200. What with the energy bills, there won’t be much left of my pension this month.

The whole incident has left me slightly discombobulated, and when I see my neighbours are out in their garden I let them know what is happening – as the rats have been visiting their dogs’ enclosure too. Blow me down, if they haven’t got the council PCO coming in the morning – for free (as council tenants). We agree to compare notes when he comes since he is bound to blame the presence of chickens on the infestation (they always do).

A glance out the kitchen window reveals the little sparrow preening itself on the white garden chair again, oblivious to its surrounding. Its companions are drinking from the pond while a pigeon struts around looking for fallen seed from the birdtable. No doubt that is what the front garden rat was after too.

It is lunchtime already and I make myself a cheese bagel and sit out the back in the sun, Distracted for a moment by my phone, Mother Hen leaps up and snatches the last half of my bagel right out of my hand. She seems as surprised as I was that she got the whole thing, and dropped it. Her rival quickly snaffled it and set off at a pace, with the rest of the brood in hit pursuit. She led them a merry chase around the garden. It seemed to me that they were all really chuffed to have got one over on the misery-guts who now refuses to leave food for them overnight. Reader please note, there were two feeders full of layers pellets within two meters of where I was sitting at the time!

Shocked by this behaviour worthy of a seaside gull, I abandoned the brood, prepared another bage, and sat in the sun with Private Eye, in the front garden. Bunting is already up along the length of the street, criss crossing between lamp-posts and telegraph poles. This end of Brook Road has never looked so busy. Everyone getting very excited about the party. Some interesting exchanges about the politics f it all, but when I circuit an image of a sign reading ‘Tory Voters – at the next election: * Stay at Home; * Protect the NHS; * Save Lives’ I am politely asked to keep party politics out of it.

More planting to be done in the afternoon, and more netting erected to protect a small patch of extra potatoes which the chickens have managed to ravage. I begin to catalogue what is planted where in an Economist notebook that came as a freebie. 

Someone send me an entirely believable schedule of the government’s 5-phase plan to lift the lockdown. It is alleged to have emanated from health service sources, and I =ake the risk of further dissemination. There are a couple of odd spellings, but I’ve seen that before in official documents. It will be up to my contacts to check its veracity. Some suggest that it may be the Irish schedule. We shall see if this or something like it is the document that Johnson has flagged up for publication next Monday. All in good time. I do hope it is not entirely ‘fake news’ , even though it does seem more sensible than some of the other statements we have heard from government spokespeople in recent weeks.  

It turns out my anxieties about yesterday’s aborted story time with my grandsons were misplaced. Their iPad had simply run out of juice, and I was not being abandoned. They are really up for a new book today and excited to hear about some of the options. It is a later session than usual as they have been otherwise engaged. We start with a round of silly questions  taken from a 1977 Book of Irish Children’s Jokes, and then settle in for the first chapter of Culann and the Leprechauns. They are hooked at once, and disappointed when Dad let’s them know it’s time for bed.

And so it is for me – when I’ve finished  Clouzot’s 1947 small town chiller Le Courbeau, and found a more recent move to watch.

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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