DAY 75: Wed 27 May

The ratman cometh, and a new home is designed

Another lovely day, made all the better for a good night’s sleep – that is until the chickens reminded me they have needs too.

I retired early last night – which means just before midnight – having watched Bristol’s turn at A House Through Time featuring my friend and former colleague historian Prof. Madge Dresser. It contained some fascinating insights, and took me back to Wapping – site of Execution Dock – and to London’s Foundling Museum, which is well worth a visit. As an amateur social historian myself I am jealous of the resources such programmes enjoy. I am currently writing a history of the private madhouses of Fishponds, run by a single family for 120 years, until they shut down after a public inquiry in 1848 and were effectively replaced by a municipal asylum. 

Much of my research has been conducted in the Glenside Hospital Museum where I would spend half a day a week, when it was open. It is almost all that remains of the psychiatric hospital – most of the buildings now form part of the University of the West of England campus where nursing staff are trained.

When I lived East London I was one of the founders of the History Of Wapping Trust. An exhibition of photos I curated is still on display in the Town of Ramsgate pub on Wapping High Street. A long piece I first produced at the time of the Wapping (print) Dispute can be read here:

After two poached eggs a mug of tea and an injection of news, I was up for reviewing the presentations ent over last night. Job done.  But no sign of the colleague who had asked me for advice…

Noises outside from the neighbour’s dogs suggested that the council’s Pest Control Operative was here again. I went out to jon in the conversation (which has always been about my chicken attracting the rats). He announced his delight that none pf the fresh poison had been disturbed. 

“We have wiped them out, he declares.” “Same is true over here,” I add, “That’s good,” he says, with his back turned to me. There is no further acknowledgement of my presence, and the neighbour asks about contacting the Neighbourhood Enforcement Team (NET). “Have you still got my work number I gave you?” says the PCO, “ “No,” says she. “ Well let’s go inside and sort that,” says he. “I’ll take away the poison first.”

Mention of the NET make it clear that the neighbours want the chicken gone, but nothing was said about the fact thatchy are about to be moved, or that we have complied with the his bosses recommendations. I was given no opportunity to let the PCO know.

That took the edge of the day a bit. I spend most of the afternoon designing and measuring up for the new chicken coop in The Gulch. It will be very different from their current home, known as Guantanamo since it was reinforced after the fox invasion killed my first five. We have enough chicken wire and timber to complete the task, apart from a custom made door, which my carpenter neighbour has offered to make next week, and two 2.5 metre lengths of 2×2. Not sure how I get them with no transport in lockdown.

I also had the idea of fencing off my potato patch once the harvest is over, and the brood can have that as a play pen. it will make it easier to protect the plants in the garden, and make it easier to keep the lawn and patio clean.

A teatime visit from my son and a very tired grandson No 3 cheers me up immensely; they brought chilli plants grown from seed more successfully than mine this year. A brief visit but very much appreciated, except I forgot to give them some eggs. They went instead to one of several neighbours passing by on their constitutional. Why can’t I go on one of them?

By now I was late for our NUJ Branch Zoomeeting. Most of the business was done, but I managed to get a word in about the cowardly way the BBC has publicly reprimanded Emily Maitlis for her forthright remarks about Cimmings and Johnson on yesterday’s Newsnight. It doesn’t help the struggle to save public service broadcasting when the BBC’s senior management seem so craven, kowtowing to the government instead of standing up to them on behalf of the public who pay for their service. I also alerted colleagues to Anna Codea-Rado’s request for freelance issues to raise when she addresses the House of Lords’ inquiry into the future of journalism, next week.

My MP Kerry McCarthy has taken a strong stand on behalf of constituents who have expressed their dismay and disgust at the behaviour of both Dominic Cummings and Prime Minister Johnson. I shall be writing to her again to raise the issue of threats against journalists in Northern Ireland from both dissident Republican and Loyalist paramilitary groups. I am sure she will support the NUJ’s Stand up for Journalism campaign which has won backing across the political spectrum.

A modest supper of sausages in a thick tomato and pepper sauce washed down with a glass of white wine (well, I had to finish the bottle) was consumed while I sampled a French policier La Maman Tort (The Other Mother), which turned out to be quite engrossing. No quite up to Engrenages (Spiral) but that would take some beating. So engrossed was I that I will be late to bed again.

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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