DAY 93: Sun 14 June

Politics, poisonings and repairs in The Gulch

A leisurely start to the day; all fine until Jane Moore of The Sun suggests, with unconscious irony on The Marr Show, that the police should crack down on extremist protestors who have taken the focus off the original purpose of the Black Lives Matter protests which was police brutality. Does she even think about what she is saying? And how can she offer an opinion about what has been happening on the streets of Britain’s cities and across the world without mentioning racism? I suppose that’s The Sun for you – happy to turn over its front page to a domestic abuser who has no regrets about hitting his partner. And that’s just the latest appalling thing Murdoch’s pop tabloid has done over the years, to individuals, to whole classes of people, and to the people of Liverpool following the Hillsborough disaster. Books have been written about its pernicious racist content over many years (I even ghosted-edited one in 1987: ‘Your Daily Dose: Racism and The Sun’)

True to BBC form Davd Lammy, the Black Shadow Justice Minister, was plied with questions about racism, but he always gives as good as he gets. He is an admirable politician. And the Chancellor Rishi Sunak proved again to be a very cool customer, performing well whenever he’s in front of a camera. Whether that inspires genuine confidence in the business and financial communities is another matter, but it certainly makes a change from the run-of-the-mill ignoramuses, arrogant toffs, and devious characters the Tory Party usually serves up to the masses.

The chickens were expressing their continued resentment at being relocated, or so I thought until I went down to collect today’s (four) eggs. They had been moaning all along because they had run out of water. Chickens need access to water at all times, so I owed them an apology for my oversight. Their new home is largely under a polycarbonate cover so it can get quite warm although there is always a breeze from the open end.

I spent part of the morning finessing yesterday’s diary, then most of the middle of the day, in between showers, dismantling and readjusting the chickens’ hutch with my house guest. My original construction left much to be desired in terms of levels. It really needed two pairs of hands to get it right, especially because it is precariously balanced on top of the rough old rocks which run beneath the house. 

The brood were glad to get out and stretch their legs in the garden and lolled about in the sun, when it appeared. But they actually made attempts to come back into The Gulch while we were working, and it was not difficult to get them back in once we had finished. The Speckled Devon Blue held out yet again, so she and I had another merry chase around the garden as she decided to head back to their old home. Eventually I triumphed, but it took some doing.

Then it was time to head down the road for the Sunday teatime gathering. My contribution this week were some rather glutinous coffee brownies which seemed to go down rather well. There was much hilarity with jokes being told, shared shopping intelligence about where to get the best quality at the best prices, reminiscences of pubs visited in BC (Before Coronavirus) and hopes that they will still be there when it’s all over. One person declared that she had resolved to buy no new clothes for a year, another women brought out a rather striking metal ‘bullrush’ sculpture she had welded during lockdown, using the discarded nitrous oxide canisters that litter the streets.

There was discussion of holidays lost during lockdown and those still to come, and which were the best Chinese and Indian takeaways locally. And we discussed allotments – the houses on one side of the road back onto allotments. I had to give mine up after a bout of ill-health but most of those who attend these gatherings seem to have one.

And the exchange system was in full flow. I was able to supply a couple of devilish jigsaws to those running out of new challenges, redundant pallets were exchanged, and then we were all presented with neat little brand new pans for making brownies which someone had to spare from a promotion at work. We were lucky that the rain held off for almost two hours.  It really has become a part of everyone’s lives. Those who could not make it sent apologies, and afterwards there were WhatsApp messages of appreciation. 

This evening I dined late on a chicken curry made by my house guest, while I watched the whole of The Salisbury Poisonings on the BBC app. Although tangential to the telling of the story, journalists did not come out of it well, though news broadcasts acted as punctuation to the unfolding saga. It was a helpful device to tell the story from the differing viewpoints of the Wiltshire health chief, the poisoned policeman’s family, and the family of the one fatal victim of Novichok, hapless Dawn Sturgess, to whom the three-part drama was dedicated. Considering what a major event the assassination attempt on the Skripals turned out to be, it was good to represent it through what were a series of intimate family tragedies, keeping the politics largely out of it.

And so, once again, I am late to bed. 

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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