DAY 73: Mon 25 May

I wonder what this Bank Holiday Monday has in store for me

It is my youngest brother’s 63rd birthday today, and I would love to visit him. He is living in splendid isolation much less than 260 miles away, but I shall restrain myself, because we are all seeking to control the virus by staying at home, saving lives and protecting the NHS. I wonder where I got that idea from? The big news of the day is that Dominic Cummings is going to explain himself to the world.

Apart from feeding and watering the chickens, watering the garden and making some more decent brown bread, I spent this morning editing the almost incoherent entry to my yesterday’s diary. I was evidently emotionally charged each time I sat down to write, since everything was in bold and more full of typos than usual. 

I want to spend time the garden as it is a Bank Holiday (allegedly) but I am hovering near the telly as I don’t want to miss the Cummings’ presser.

What a disgrace that he kept everyone waiting for 30 minutes so that the government’s own daily briefing was delayed, clearly a man with an inflated sense of his own worth. And he is using the garden of the Prime Minister’s House to tell his story – all in contravention of rules for special advisors. But we are supposed to make allowances for this well paid iconoclast.

In his statement he offered a half-way reasonable account of the rationale for his family’s  trip to Durham, but he rather over-egged the pudding in trying to explain other sightings of them, in woods and at Barnard Castle. Apparently his 4 year old survived a 260 mile journey without needing the loo, but had to stop for a piddle in the woods during the 26 mile journey back to Durham from a day trip to Barnard Castle on his wife’s birthday.  By the time he admitted this (though he never mentioned it was his wife’s birthday – he said she had wanted him to check his eyesight by prove he could drive ) any slack he may have won had evaporated and incredulity had set in. 

Full marks to Beth Rigby of Sky News for her tough questioning of both Cummings and his boss Johnson later. The Prime Minister ducked her question about his competence without Cummings at his side, and looked thoroughly discommoded throughout a shortened briefing session. Anyone convinced by their performances today should look to the fact that when Cummings got back to London he altered an old blog to make reference to pandemics and then relied on it as evidence of his concern during his presser. There are also damning omissions from his statement, and no explanation as to why neither he or his wife saw fit to mention the Durham trip nor Covid19’s effect on his eyesight in their articles about their experience of the virus for The Spectator.  We have not heard the end of this, especially as Cummings tried to blame the media for hostility towards him and his family, showed no remorse and refuse dot apologies to those he has insulted and angered by doing his own thing while the rest of were told to ‘Stay Home’.

All this was going on as my house guest and I started on the mammoth task of digging out the earth in the chickens’ run in order to line the clay base with chicken wire to keep point the rats. I called over my dog-owning neighbour to show that we were getting on with work, but he was having none of it. Having earlier claimed that the vet said the dog allegedly bitten on the nose by a rat was ok, he now announced that one of his dogs had an ear infection from being bitten by a rat. It was going cost a lot to drain the blood and pus from its ear, so he would-be instructing solicitors to obtain compensation from me. 

He claimed that the man from the council who had advised me to buy a Granpa’s Treadle Feeder last week had bad mouthed me, which I doubted. He said all he was concerned about was his dogs and his only problem was the chickens so he was going to be feeding them rat poison every night until they were all dead!. All very shocking given seemed to have resolved issues last week, and there is now no evidence of rats.

My house guest and I retired from the scene and decided we would create a new home for the chickens at the other end of the garden in a hollow I call The Gulch. This partially covered area falls away beneath the patio and reveals the rocks on which the house is built. The only problems is that I have been cultivating runner beans, tomatoes and courgettes there for the first time this year. We worked out a design and agree to get started in the morning.

At which point we were summoned back by the neighbour. All sweetness and light now he offered to get us some steel girders to lay a reinforced concrete floor to the chicken run. In the course of the conversation he assured me he would never poison the birds, and that his dogs were getting  on for 11 years old and may not be with us for much longer. All utterly bewildering. I let him know with we were going to move the chickens anyway so they would no longer be a problem for him. He said there was no need and again offered to help sort out the coop. I told him it was too late, the chickens would be moved as his two threats to poison the chickens were unsettling and unacceptable. Then we had a perfectly reasonable chat about the health of an elderly neighbour and the recent appearance of a fox in his garden.  All utterly bewildering. 

I finished the evening by transplanting all the vegetables from The Gulch, then collapsed in front of the TV with a vegan pie to watch Mrs Lowry and Son, with bravura performance from Timothy Spall and Vanessa Redgrave. That was followed by a Magnus ice cream while watching Red Joan with Judy Dench. She is always a delight and I have always admired her since I saw her first film Four In the Morning way back in 1965.

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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