DAY 99: Sat 20 June

Does Rishi Sunak walk like Norman Wisdom? And will this be my penultimate diary entry?

Nothing like a fish and chip supper to remind you to do some early morning exercises. And nothing like some early morning exercise to remind you that you pulled a muscle the other day and it is not quite sorted yet.

Before even having any breakfast, I set about removing the sodden MDF panel that prevented caps being screwed on the leaking pipes behind the cooker. It took far longer than anyone could have predicted and I did not get my bowl of muesli until gone 11am. But at least we should have no more flooding problems, from that source at least. My house guest took advantage of the situation to give the cooker a really thorough cleaning, so now it gleams – but for how long? 

It is a moody-looking day out there, which could go either way. In normal circumstances this would have been the Fishponds Party in the Park day, a fun community event which really caught people’s imagination. It began about five year’s ago during the Say No to McDonald’s in Fishponds campaign which truly galvanised the local community. #NoMacInF also led to the creation of the Fishponds Planning Group (FPG), and around the same time the People’s University of Fishponds got under way.

Much of our organising was centred around The Star pub – so named after one of the many coal seams beneath our feet.  Run by a most accommodating landlord it is sited right next door to what is now a huge McDonald’s drive-through ‘restaurant’. At the time the site was a derelict tile warehouse that had once been a garage. We won the council over and they turned down the multi-national’s original plans, but McDonald’s appealed at the last moment and the governments’s Planning Inspectorate ignored the valid concerns of some 2,000 local residents, including those whose homes and gardens abut the site, on health, traffic, noise, air quality and other pollution issues. We managed to delay them with challenges over failures to abide by planning conditions but, of course, money talks. No doubt they will make a tidy packet from the school children who have to pass it daily (when schools are open) and those for whom cheap fast food is an easy solution when money is tight. Not to mention those who don’t think twice of driving from miles around to feed their advertising-induced obsession. Yuck.

Apologies if I have flagged this up before, but this little doggerel celebrated one of our mini-successes

Today I was copied in on an email to the boss of the local McD’s from someone who lives within yards of it. It is a polite request that he do something about the motorists who have their music blaring out while waiting to be served. She says, not unreasonably, that ‘the noise levels of stereos in cars and beeping appear to have escalated on site to a continuous party level. Please could you possibly look to remind the people in the queue to turn their stereos down. I don’t want to sound like a moaning neighbour but a mix of ABBA and Hardcore rap with intermittent engine fan noise and beeping isn’t amazing for any of the neighbours.’ We shall see what response she gets.

Judging from the party in the adjoining student house across the road from mine, and the inordinate levels of hilarity from a garden party at the end of the Back Lane this afternoon, I get the impression that folk think lockdown is all over bar the shouting, so they’re getting some of that in early. I don’t want to  to sound like a moaning neighbour either, but Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of the World Health Organisation has reminded everyone today that the coronavirus has most definitely not gone away. Yet here in the UK, while deaths and levels of infection may appear to be diminishing, the Test, Track and Trace system is not functioning properly, with the government conveniently changes its mind about what constitutes ‘success’ and plays fast and loose with statistics – better expressed as people’s lives. We have been down-graded to Level 3 of its 5-step move towards normality, even though we are clearly still at level 4, and everyone is acting as if we are now at Level 2. Long live the economy. 

If we get a ‘second spike’ the ineptitude of the government will be the crucial factor leading to even more deaths. Yet it would appear that as many as a third of all care home residents and staff have still not been tested despite official assurances that this has all been done. And just one other example – my son received his test kit yesterday, minus the swab! So he had to drive out to Bristol airport to get a test.

For the moment Johnson is allowing Rishi Sunak, his Chancellor, to be the front man, probably because he is the only person the general public is still willing to trust. Watching him loping about this Yorkshire constituency today, especially for the TV cameras, I tried to work out why has gait seemed so familiar – it’s a throwback to Norman Wisdom. Look for yourself. It got me to wondering if he is popular in Albania too.

My house guest asked me to explain the meaning of ‘irony’ today – not the easiest of tasks. I offered the fact that Zimbabwe, so often considered a corrupt administration, is imprisoning a minister for improperly awarding coronavirus contracts; meanwhile in the UK government, which considered itself beyond reproach, ministers are doing it with impunity. Keep asking your MP which coronavirus contacts have been awarded to which firms, and without normal due process (eg tender-less)? What are the contracts worth? And how may have gone to companies in some way associated with Dominic Cummings? There is no harm in asking…

Feeling a bit miserable today, I could not be doing with being indoors, so I escaped to the garden. Unbeknownst to the chicken, who waddled hopefully around me much of the time, I constructed the first part of the fence which will define their new walkabout area, once the potatoes have been lifted. Very satisfying. Not so the time spent rescuing my house guest’s washing when the winds blew the rotating washing line down. A heavy-duty duvet cover, inelegantly hung, was the undoing of the line. One strong gust and the pole snapped. It had been quietly rusting beneath the ground. It is back up now, but only because I managed, by dint of brute strength and ignorance, to remove the broken base and wedge what remained of the pole into what remained of the spike. The line is much lower now, but it saved me buying a new one. 

Had the first French beans ready for a planned beef casserole this evening, only to discover is was almost 9pm and far too late to start. I opted for a nut roast instead, while I updated this entry – only to find that the potatoes had burned because I was not paying attention. So I shall stop now, and eat.

After my supper I watched a lovely little film from Ireland called Dating Amber, and about a schoolboy and a girl coming to terms with their sexuality in 1990s Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Tough times for youngsters who were gay, but this poignant little parable was promoted as a comedy.

Now, if I am to be believed, there is only one more diary entry to do before I am released to do other things. Will I keep my word? Who knows…

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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