DAY 81: Tues 2 June

Civil war looms in the States, the sound has gone off my TV, but there’s a Smiley Face in the sky

Compelling images from the USA this morning where something cataclysmic is happening with Trump ramping things up almost as if he relishes the idea of fomenting civil war. He seems to show no understanding of the raw emotion that the killing of another black man has evoked throughout not only the nation but also the world. Thanks to global media we were all witnesses, just as we can all see Trump making ‘tough guy’ speeches then having the roads cleared of protestors so he can parade across a road for a photo-opp with a Bible. Even that melodramatic moment might have had more significance if he had entered the church and/or got down on his knees and said a prayer for George Floyd. But no. Outside the White House he makes a militaristic speech with special mention of American’s Second Amendment rights. This is tantamount to encouraging armed vigilantes out onto the streets. Some have been there already. He wants civil war (and then perhaps he will suspend the November elections). These are dangerous times.  

Little old Britain is not doing so well in terms of international opinion, Greece and Spain won’t accept UK tourists this summer because of the high levels of coronavirus infection and deaths here; a very old friend from Germany texts me to express his shock and anxiety about the ‘the big amount of people who died in the GB’. And now we learn that the government is fearful of publishing the report they promised about the disproportionate impact  of coronavirus on Black and Asian people, given the sensitivity of ‘race’ issues in the States at the moment! Black Lives Matter. (Apparently there are different reasons why it has not yet punished its long-awaited report on Russian influence in the body politic).

Brexit Britain believes it is something special – it is. It has become a laughing stock around the world, not just for inflicting economic self-harm by withdrawing from the European Union, but also for so messing up its handling of the pandemic that as many at 60,000 citizens may already have lost their lives, And then there is Johnson’s craven efforts to snuggle up to one of the most reviled politicians in the world, the tyrant Trump.

A pox on all their houses. I am going to do some baking. I set out to make a mocha cake with coffee icing, some white bread, and a fruit crumble, but found I was out of castor sugar and butter, so the cake had to wait. Bread and fruit crumble done, I sourced ingredients for another salmon corbonara which my house guests likes.

He tells me he was woken yesterday by what he thought was the sound of birds try to get in through his bedroom window. When he pulled back the curtains he witnessed a battle royal between a pigeon and a crow. The pigeon won – no doubt protecting its young in the adjacent apple tree – and the crow flew off. Nature raw in tooth and claw (or should that be caw?)

Cooking done I headed for the garden, but a call comes – my daughter is other way over to do some shopping – what do I need? Castor sugar and butter (obs) but the cake can still wait. Grandsons 1 and 2 are left, safely distant, in my front garden while I empty a water butt into the pond as so much has evaporated in the heat. I discover the old man’s joy of telling old men’s tales of days gone by which can fascinate the young! I have bought them some brand new inflatable garden furniture, from a neighbour, and they are instantly keen to get home and try them out.

I make a mental note to finish sawing up the gnarled trunk of a dead hawthorn tree which has been parked in the front garden for a while, as another call comes. Please could I check a lengthy article for our local investigative magazine The Bristol Cable for whom I act as an editorial consultant. That takes quite a while by which time my academic friend is back on the line and we take a look at her presentations which are now embedded in a very smart website.  Talking through English language and design issues isa fiddly business, especially when the site does not perform quite as it should. I am learning a lot from this assignment.

By now it is almost tea-time and I manage to saw half a dozen logs before ti tis time to catch the No 10 Briefing, It will be interesting to see how they get out of the controversy about the way they have been massaging the figures. I am glad they have been called out over it by a leading statistician; I have been yelling at the TV screen about it for weeks. 

But I am nor to get any such satisfaction. Despite working perfectly this morning, the TV is issuing no sound now on any channel. I try everything, Twice. Nightmare. I call BT with a sinking feeling. I have had soooo much hassle with them over the years that I dread being in touch with them. As it happens I am quickly through to helpful engineer in Newcastle. He takes me back through the procedures I have already completed but to no avail. He says the fault is almost certainly with the BT ‘box’ which he suggest we reset. It is done, at the costs of any recordings I have been storing for a rainy day. But it makes no difference – no sound on any channel. He tells me we may have to replace the box. At which points a FaceTime call from my son comes through. It’s our bedtime chat with grandkids 3 and 4. I explain what’s going and he hangs up, but so does BT. So I call my son back and we go through our day while his lovely little daughter grins and gurgles and wriggles about. 

Then I brave BT again, and to my surprise quickly reach another engineer in Newcastle, who sighs when he hears my story. Then tells me to switch two cables – which have been in their present locations since the BT box was installed – and, lo and behold, we have sound! He assures me things can move minutely of their own accord, and while I must ow remember that my HDMI 1 is now my HDMI 2 and vice versa, who cares – the sound is back on. It is more than 90 minutes since I first discovered the fault. 

Time to mow the lawn. In the able blue sky above East Bristol some clever character has drawn a Smiley Face with vapour trails, that will cheer a lot of people up. But suddenly my throat is constricted and I am couching like a good ‘un. It must be the grass pollen we were warned about this morning. Luckily my house guest enjoys cutting the grass, so he takes over and I prepare the salmon carbonara, which I wash down with an ice cold Sauvignan Blanc.

We reconnect to Netflix so I can catch the last two episodes of Shtisel – just intimate to discuss them with my coffee guest tomorrow morning which had originally recommended the series.

I sneak in an episode of Black Mirror so I can now discus that with those who have been urging me to catch up on this iconic series. Then it is up the apples and pears for a good night’s sleep. The only problem is my feet are filthy and I shall have to wash them. And I know that will wake me up!

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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