Sunday, 29 September 2019

Psychoanalysis with the tarot

loneliness hits her face
with a hornet sting
she picks up the phone
and tries to ring
a friend
to hear a sugared voice -
but darkness brings fear
and ghostly shadows
cast silhouettes
onto an empty wall
awakening haunting dreams
of how things might have been

Every day Ann writes a poem, always concise, insightful, sometimes of her frustrations with a life subject to fate's whims rather than her choices. Sometimes they are nostalgic; sometimes filled with anger at the stupidity in the world, in politics, in neighbours, in family; often about the annoyances of living with me. She has the powerful ability of complete empathy, able to enter the hurt and anguish or disturbing anxieties of others, and many people share their inner pain with her, like a priest in the confessional but without the guilt. I long ago gave up any pretence at a private, inner life, for she could read me before I knew my own thoughts, and there could be no secrets from her.

Using the tarot, she does not claim to read the future, but uses the revealed cards to explore the person's inner feelings and troubles, often leading them to insight of themselves that might take them forward over difficult choices or anxieties. In the olden days it might have been called witchcraft; now it is a form of psychotherapy and if she ever chose to take paying clients, she could be very rich from it. But it remains a private thing, for a few confiding friends and family.

Ann is not widowed yet, and still has full contact with her children and most of mine, yet today's poem looks at loneliness in total bereavement, seeing in the lines a woman cut off from her past, her memories, her family, with no one to share photos or common chat of her children's young lives, nor her own childhood. I do not think in Ann's case it is prophetic, for she is someone who will always have friends and family support, yet she can enter the heartache and unbearable loneliness of others who do suffer, and cry at their pain and yearn to give comfort. It is a deep and lonely gift in its own right, and even in the midst of companionship and a life shared, it reflects the aloneness we all experience from time to time, for her poem has that wonderful quality of all great poetry, of being specific yet universal.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Strange gestures

fuck parliament
On so it goes on
round and round
like a bloody carousel
until we are all dizzy
or insane
or both
I can't remember now
which way I voted
not that it matters anyhow
democracy is dying
throat garrotted
heart ripped out
parliament a ship of fools
prancing wildly about
while we watch
wringing hands in despair
until our knuckles disappear
into the cold night air.
I wonder how many misunderstandings in life are caused by the right sentiment being misinterpreted. Coming home from Bury, I accidentally over-ran some "Keep Clear" road markings approaching the traffic lights. Sod's Law decreed that as I stopped, another driver stopped who wanted to turn right, but couldn't. They glared at me till I moved off, and in an attempted gesture of reconciliation I tried to give a "sorry" combined with "it wasn't deliberate", but somehow ended up blowing her a kiss. Ann thought it funny, but I was glad I couldn't see the driver's face as I did it.

Effectively having no government, the vacuum is filled with screaming, baying monsters, and the country has fallen to the rule of cold lawyers, lacking direction, inspiration, or the power to enact new laws. It used to be that, when a government lost the power to control parliament, they could call an election and let the people decide. Now Cameron has removed even that ability with his "fixed term parliament act", and only paralysis and pandemonium are left.

Sunrise over Hundon

With the Autumnal Equinox, the dawn sun rises directly before my room before making its way across to hide behind the neighbouring house in midwinter. Walking with the dogs in Clare by the silent river, on a sunlit autumnal carpet of brown and gold, calmness and peace keep the screaming world beyond the edge of consciousness.
Oh would that the world could walk in such peace; but we must enjoy each tranquil minute whilst we can, and be glad that we can still sample it if but for a moment.

Now I am having to prepare slides for our Japanese colleagues before they attend three presentations by CROs (Clinical Research Organisations) vying for business. They ask what experience the CROs have had with adverse events in clinical trials, which is a bit like asking what experience fish have with water. Running trials and handling AEs is their bread and butter, and all three we will be interviewing are among the biggest global companies, with decades of experience. Still, they seem happy to pay me for this, so I will add it to the slides.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Upward path

upward path
I did not know
the path to heaven
was paved with so many
wicked intentions,
Had I but guessed -
heard a warning bell -
I might have picked
the road to hell.
Ann's poem sums up much of what we all feel. It is so tempting  just to jump ship and leave behind the expectations of conformity and common sense. So often the 'right' path is filled with obstructive people making life miserable, and I sometimes wish I had given myself over to the teachings of Epicurus and pursued pleasure and self-indulgence. But we are where we are, and go on day by day taking what is thrown at us by uncaring fate.

Last week we were invited to dinner with Edwin and his friend in Cambridge. He is from Brazil and a vivacious, intelligent person with a magnificent command of English, and who cooked some traditional food which was among the best we have tasted! They will now come to us at the weekend for a traditional vegetarian English Sunday dinner. Meanwhile, Edwin started his first day as a lecturer at UEA in Norwich, having to get up before dawn to catch the train there. Among his students is a Professor of Geography who has chosen to take an additional degree in English Lit for a bit of relaxation!

North Sea Observatory
We spent the weekend driving to the Motorhome exhibition in Lincolnshire, but were disappointed that there were only a few second-hand vans, all pricey and in uncertain condition. We sat in one for a quiet rest, but another visitor joined us and began telling us how she was widowed suddenly ten years ago. Her husband left no money, but then her mother died leaving her an inheritance that she spent on a camper van, and has been travelling in them ever since. She gave some practical advice too, telling us how one van she had bought had a leaking radiator, another a bald tyre, and a third had the engine blow up. "You have to be careful to get them checked properly," was her concluding advice.

We stayed at the smart  Petwood Hotel. It was used by the 617 Dambusters squadren during the war, and the officers' mess is still intact as a museum filled with mementos and pieces of equipment from that time, with several paintings of the raids.

Ann at the Romany Museum
On Sunday we visited Chapel-St-Leonards, to follow the footsteps of  "On Chapel Sands: My Mother and Other Missing Persons" by Laura Cumming. A remarkable biography that is both mystery and detective story. The area is much changed since her mother's childhood time, with many caravan and chalet parks, and the North Sea Observatory which puzzled me, as I wondered how anyone could construct an observatory in such a low-lying and misty area. It turned out to be just a tearoom with a view, but a magnificent modern design for all of that. We then turned for Anderby Creek, a quiet unspoilt stretch of coast with a Cloud Bar - a type of Cloud Observatory, with concrete sculptures of clouds and a few mirrors to view the sky without craning ones neck. Finally home via the Romany Museum at Spalding, a real eye-opener to a way of life usually unseen with many finely restored Gypsy caravans and photographs. The founder's daughter even made us coffee and brought it to us while we watched the video by her father.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Wine and cheese

Our friends let Ann know that they had something to bring round next time they came, so Ann texted: "Please come round on Wednesday for a wine-and-cheese evening, and you can bring it then." She then proceeded to invite several other couples for the embryonic evening, before Rae and Malcolm texted back to say they couldn't do Wednesday, as they had friends coming to stay! Ann did say they could invite their friends too, but they declined,so in the event, we just had Robin and Yvonne, MA's inlaws.

Robin told a good story about their friend who has a new dog, a bulldog called Boris. It is brown and white, and very friendly, rolling on its back when it sees them. Robin commented about how clean it was, with its white coat gleaming. His friend replied, "Yes, I always take him in the shower with me."
Robin said that must traumatise the dog. "Oh no," his friend replied. "I always keep my trunks on."

Edwin only uses his phone for air and train tickets, but I refuse to trust it in case I delete it, or my battery runs out, so I always print out a paper ticket.  Robin then told a cautionary tale about his daughter and her pertener, Grant. He is a music softwear engineer and does everything on laptops and smart phones, including ticketing. He had two flight tickets on his phone, and when they went through security they scanned her code my mistake and let him through. Juliet followed, but they insisted she'd already boarded and wouldn't let her go through the gate, so she was stuck until someone fetched Grant back from the plane to sort it out. I will stick to paper!

Edwin didn't stay for the wine and cheese, but left to stay with his friend in Cambridge again. They have invited us over for a meal tomorrow, and are preparing dishes already, so that is something we look forward to, plus the chance to meet him for the first time having heard so much about him.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

A day at the sea

On the Broads with First Venture, 2007
A quiet night away in the Wherry Hotel on Oulton Broad. We were last here when we brought our boat First Venture up to the Broads 12 years ago, and it doesn't seem to have changed one scrap. It still looks as far behind the times as it did then, a perpetual twenty years lagging anywhere else in decor and menu. Waiting for the lift back to our room, an old man and his wife were waiting ahead of us. The man entered the lift, the door closed, and he disappeared, leaving the three of us standing. "Where's he going?" asked the woman, "he's sure to get lost." Ann asked if she'd been enjoying her stay. "We came to bury my step-mother-in-law," she answered enigmatically, so we weren't sure if it had been a good day or a bad day for her.

Pier Hotel, Gorleston-on-Sea
We went for a walk across the old wooden lifting bridge and watched another old man reversing his boat to his waiting wife and young grand-daughter. The little girl was hugging a soft white toy otter, and pleaded with her grandad to help her onto the boat. He gave her a hand on, and she coyly thanked him, then proceeded to jump on and off the boat with great agility. She clearly knew from an early age how to flatter the old man.

All too often I leave my hat at places, so next day we had to retrace our steps by 30 miles to collect it from where we'd had lunch the previous day. We went via Gorleston-on-Sea, and had coffee at the Pier Hotel, made famous by the recent Beatles tribute film, Yesterday. It has perfect views over sea and sands, and even the gluten-free cheese cake was superb. We just wish we had chosen to stay there instead of the Wherry,

Friday, 13 September 2019

Interesting characters in Cambridge and Hundon

An old colleague from Leiden was visiting UK this week, and asked to meet up in Cambridge. Edwin too is back from Italy but staying with his friend in Cambridge, so as I haven't seen him for over ten days, I suggested we could all meet up at The Eagle for a quick drink in the RAF Bar. Romanus is German, and lives near Nuremberg. He has never been to Cambridge before, so I gave him a quick introduction to The Eagle pub, which was where Crick and Watson rushed into to tell the world they had discovered "the secret of life", after they'd cracked the code of DNA. What I didn't point out, and had forgotten until we were there, was that The Eagle was also a favourite hangout for RAF personnel serving on airfields in East Anglia during the war. The RAF Bar is so named because its walls are covered with signed photographs of aircraft and RAF officers and men who gave them to the pub at that time. Even the ceiling is coloured deep ochre from the cigarette smoke of those days, but can't be cleaned or painted over because it too is covered in old RAF signatures. A typical entry read "Flt Lt Browning. Battle of Britain August 1940".

With Edwin as our guide we walked among the old colleges and backs to end at the Varsity Hotel where we had a classical English afternoon tea at Romanus's request. The day was clear beneath the deep blue sky of a warm autumnal day, and with tea on the 6th floor we overlooked the city in a brilliant light, presenting Cambridge at its very best. However, I couldn't resist mentioning that it had so many old original buildings because Churchill had agreed a pact not to bomb Heidleberg if Hitler didn't bomb Cambridge. Romanus's comment was of surprise – not at the pact, but that Hitler didn't break it.

Going down in the lift we were joined by five women, one of whom was applying some scent. The others immediately wished to try it, spreading it copiously on their necks and wrists. One of them commented, "we'll all smell the same now, like members of some strange olfactory sect".

Back home, Ann had been excercising the dogs by throwing the ball for them. Twice she threw it over the hedge into the road, to the dogs' frustration. On the second time, a little boy brought it back, saying "Is this your ball, missus?" which makes a change from the ball coming into the garden followed by a boy asking to have his ball back! Meanwhile, an old lady was walking up the road talking to herself, then stopped at the gate and tried to give the dogs a biscuit from her pocket, but they refused it and just kept barking at her. She told Ann she was going to walk round the village to find someone to talk to, but the thought of inviting her in to talk was a step too far and Ann didn't rise to that challenge.

Thursday, 12 September 2019


Going down to London for a meeting, the M11 motorway signs had a new message: "Freight destined for the EU may require new paperwork after 1 November". Perhaps they know something the rest of the country doesn't yet? Just when I thought it was safe to go back to the news (see Let my People Go!), the courts have decided the government does not have the right to prorogue parliament and start a new session. Perhaps they would like to use the law to choose when we hold an election? Maybe even change the result if they don't like the incoming political party? No doubt the judges would like to make the laws instead of merely interpreting them! The whole system has entered Never-Never Land, and I now live in hope for Peter Pan to fly through the window and lead us by the hand out of this mess. Nothing else can save us but a magic miracle. M-A has sent a lovely picture of a pub-sign that sums it all up.

On the tube in London I saw another poster that gets my vote for the worst advertisement of the year. The heading is completely negative, and takes up so much room there is no room for a strap-line to draw people in, and the descriptive text is so small anyone wanting to read it would have to press against the knees of the person sitting below. I have no idea what the product is, and could not make it out from the width of a tube train. I used to help with writing adverts for pharmaceutical products, and a much better title might be: "This is revolutionary", with a strap line to suggest the target audience or give a hint of what they're selling.
Worst advert of the year?
On a lighter note, at the meeting the big boss has asked me to represent him at a series of bid-defence meetings where three companies are pitching for a multi-million pound contract. His email specified: "Please make your [medical] opinions known to the study team. You have an important voice - don't be shy." At last, someone has recognised I have an important voice - though I had always hoped it would be the voice of my poetry (see Exile Poetry) rather than for pharmaceutical development.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

At the Hairstylist

My regular stylist, Paula, was away when I got to D'Fine this morning for a trim before London, so I ended up with Amber, the youngest stylist, waif-like and the face of a nymph, who still lives with her father in the house in which she was born. On either side sat people talking about the most important things in their lives - themselves. On one side the man boasted of how important he was, and the responsibility of his job (unspecified).  On the other, a woman gave a detailed account of her thyroid, its management and problems. When it was time for her to pay, she said she would have to "wait for my husband to come, as he has the money. Men!" Her hairdresser was Kelly, who has had many misfortunes of her own but didn't broadcast them, "Yeh, who'd have them?" she agreed. The obvious answer was only too clear - the only ones who'd have them were the ones they got, though Kelly is lovely and her husband decorated Edwin's bedroom and is fine. She is forced to make polite conversation by her position, but wouldn't it be great if she could say what she really felt.

During the session, a uniformed man came in waving a technical bit of kit, and saying he'd come to check all the electricals and was surprised no one was expecting him, as he'd made an appointment. He then proceeded to pull out all the plugs one by one and push them into his tester. He pulled out Amber's plug half way through my beard trim, leaving it dead in her hand, then satisfied he attached a green sticker and moved on. Finally, needing his form signing, he asked who was in charge. Paula being away, no one seemed eager to act in her place, but then the eldest stylist said she guessed it must be her and signed his chittie.

Getting home, our neighbours were in the drive, Linda waving a car pressure hose and David watching in his wheelchair. Until his stroke, he always used to maintain the cars and was getting frustrated trying to instruct Linda, with only one arm to wave and limited vocalisation,. But he is certainly improving and I could understand many of his words, though at critical moments one can see him reaching for a word in his mind, yet unable to get it out through his mouth. It must be so frustrating, for he clearly understands what is said to him. In some ways, his position is like the hairstylists, who know what they would like to say but are blocked by societal norms from expressing it.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Meetings and partings

Surely meetings are the bane of business life. Today I had four, of which one could have been done by email questions, and another was just listening, my presence swelling the huge number of participants. This may feed the egos of the organisers, but does nothing to feed the soul. One company I work for even has meetings about meetings - pre-meeting meetings to decide what will be on the agenda, and post-meeting meetings to discuss how the meeting went and if it met its objectives. The only plus is that they are all attended from home, where I can enjoy a cup of tea and a Mars bar, rather than wasting still more time travelling, or walking down endless corridors.

Now the weather has turned toward winter, and the first cold spell has arrived. The swallows have already deserted us early this year – though there did seem many fewer than in previous years even at the height of summer – and the holly is thick with berries, a sure sign of a harsh winter to come. I sit under a thick blanket, a certain sign of my age. When we lived in Saltburn, we used to laugh at soft southerners who wrapped up when they visited, but even Lucy who still lives "up North", and who should be used to such weather, says she is hugging a hot-water-bottle.

The only rays of sunshine through the constant drizzle outside the window are that: Bercow has resigned before he was forced out, and Boris has prorogued parliament, so  for several weeks we shall be spared the constant traumas to the senses of this fractured government. I am currently reading A Confederacy of Dunces, but the characters therein are but shallow shells to the real life dunces claiming to represent us and trying to plot our future by steering us onto the rocks of disaster. Let us trust that Britain will truely be great, and come through this storm to triumph. It is the mast to which I cling to try and survive the mental wreckage.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Peaky Blinders and the lost past

I shall not bore people with an account of the camper-vans we have continued to see. Suffice to say we have travelled many miles but are still looking. They are too old, or too high a mileage, or have a poor layout, or are too expensive, or are too rough and noisy on the road. I never thought a choice could be so hard or protracted, but like so much in life there are pluses and minuses, and they seem to balance each other to the point where, like Buridan’s ass, we can't make up our minds. We must therefore leave it for a while, and let our minds settle.

Next week promises to be busy. Ann's friend Sylvia is coming up, but booked the wrong day when I will be working in London, so Ann will have to meet her alone. On Friday, another friend, a German I worked with in the Netherlands, is coming to London and wants to meet up. I don't think he has visited Cambridge yet, so we may be able to entice him to get the train up rather than me go down to London again.

Downstairs, Ann is watching Peaky Blinders. I try to avoid these films of violence, having seen as much blood and gore as I ever wish to see in real life, so I have left her in peace over a cup of tea. The series is set in Birmingham, with many of Ann's old haunts from when she lived there, so that's another reason for her to watch. I don't think I have seen any film or television play set in Coventry, the home of my youth, but if there were one I would not want to watch it for that reason. I couldn't wait to leave the place, and have never felt any urge to return. Once, Coventry was the engineering centre of England, with a myriad of different car manufacturers that read like a roll-call of famous vintages: Alvis, Armstrong Siddeley, Daimler, Hillman, Humber, Lanchester, Lea-Francis, Singer, Standard, Sunbeam-Talbot and Triumph.  In the late '50s and early '60s, the UK had the world's second largest car-making industry and was the world's leading car exporter. They used to say that somewhere in those backstreets would be someone who could make anything that anyone could dream up. Even our school had a fully equipped engineering department with professional lathes, milling machines and metal-working equipment the equal of any, where we learnt the skills of technical drawing, welding, riveting and foundry work. Now Jaguar is the only one left, and they are owned by Tata Motors with engines that were built by Ford. Health and safety have long since stopped children using such violent and dangerous equipment, and all those streets could show is a whole string of closed down factories and lost talent.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Let my people go!

I have kept my resolution not to watch any news broadcasts on radio or TV, since the collapse of democracy at the hands of the Brexit saboteurs (see In-memory-of-death), but it has proved impossible to escape it completely, as news headlines flash up on my phone or from the newspaper stands, or Ann mentions that "Now even Boris's brother has stabbed him and left him for dead". So despite my blood pressure rising inexorably with mounting anger and frustration, I will address a few words on it further.

Parliament and the "Lords" (God rot them) have flung all tradition and precedent asunder to crawl from their rocks to challenge the people's will. Boris alone seems to be fighting for us, and it is surely a lonely battle. Now he threatens to ignore this new law - a law made against all popular will - and may refuse to ask for a Brexit extension. However, my tuppenny suggestion is that he should go to Brussels, and give them the message, "I have been told to demand an extension." Then, having followed the unpopular will of the very vocal but unrepresentative rabble, he can add the deeper message:
"If you do grant this extension, we will continue to fight bitterly as we sit in limbo. I and the British MEPs – who mostly support Brexit – shall use every power we have in Brussels as to thwart all legislation and budget planning. We shall be leaving the EU, come hell or high-water, and if I am frustrated this time from doing so, then as soon as I have the power to call a general election I shall work with all the power I can command, along with Nigel Farage, to obtain a commanding majority in parliament. I will return as Prime Minister, and this time there will be no deal. Therefore your wisest act now is to Let My People Go!"

Back in the real world, we had a message from Kate, the sister of my long-standing friend Colin, to tell us that his Alzheimer's has advanced and he has developed Parkinsonian symptoms and become violent towards his wife, Ann. His daughter has flown out to Luxembourg to sort things out with a view to getting him into a care home now. Colin is Edwin's godfather, and Edwin and I visited them earlier this year (see Visit to Luxembourg), though he didn't recognise us then. Ann is only tiny, and must be nearly 80. She has coped well until now, but this becomes too much and we can fully understand why he may have to go into a care home.

Meanwhile, life goes on finding us out again this morning test driving yet another van. One we had wanted to see had placed the ad then they went on holiday so we can't view till they're back – how frustrating is that. But then, Edwin also placed an ad to sell his old Apple computer before promptly leaving for Italy! He has had many inquiries, and a young girl of 14 finally came round this morning with her mother and her elder brother, who's 16, as advisor. We ended up having to phone Edwin in Naples to speak to the brother with technical details, but it worked: Edwin agreed a price, and they handed over the readies and took the beast away.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Huntigton's chorea and other problems

Yesterday as most weeks I parked behind the Swan to walk the dogs while Ann went for her hair dressing. A car followed us in, and one of the waitresses got out as I let the dogs out. Byron raced up to her, barking like crazy, and the poor woman visibly jumped in shock, for she hadn't seen him coming. Byron is not aggressive, but is very loud. I then waited in the Swan over a drink and apologised for frightening her.

The restaurant was empty but for one lady sitting alone, who greeted me warmly though I had never seen her before. We began talking, and she explained why she was alone. This was her "respite day", when her husband went for respite care, so to escape the drudgery of cooking she treated herself to lunch out. Her husband used to be an aeronautical engineer and lectured at Cranford, but now has Huntington's chorea, a particularly nasty genetically inherited degeneration of the brain. I knew patients with it in my former career, and just how bad it can be to live with. Now it is possible to predict carriers, but then it was not until it was already manifest in mid-life. One of the medical students I trained with also had a parent with it, and she refused to date anyone or marry in case she too got it and risked passing it on to a child.

The old woman on the table had ordered cod and chips, Unfortunately she flicked a large number of peas onto the carpet, just before the waitress came back in, who promptly trod on them. The woman was clearly embarrased and got down on her knees to clean them up with a napkin.

Today we went chasing across country to see more motor homes. We've not had much luck, but Ann has just seen an advert for another one, so we'll look at that tomorrow and keep hoping.

Edwin called from Naples. He has not had much luck so far. He is on the fifth floor of the apartment block, with a central glass lift to get up to it. There is a charge for the lift, with a slot machine he has to put coins in - surely that must be a first? Then yesterday the toilet lock got stuck (luckily with him outside it, though unlucky if he was desperate), and he had to share with the other occupant. Today he was going to visit the catacombs, but there was a train driver's strike, so he had to visit a church instead. Now we hear that there is to be a BA pilots' strike next week when he is due back, so there may be an enforced extension to his holiday!

Thursday, 5 September 2019

In memory of a death

AAAAAEEEEEIIIII!! When on Tuesday a whole swathe of conservative MPs stood with labour to approve a motion against their own government, I knew democracy had died in this country. The bid for freedom has failed and our country is trapped in the eternal cell of the EU. I can no longer listen to the news, it is too depressing. I continue to work virtually full time, and walk the dogs, and listen to music. Last night we watched all the repeats of Extras to try and cheer ourselves up.

4th September

today she died
her voice muted
as is her smile
buried are her odd sayings
almost lost now
recollections rusty
memories musty
not easy to connect
an hour, day, week
when she was near,
she is dead
and now it is as if
she was never here

Ann's new poem is a tribute to her mother, for yesterday marked the anniversary of her death in 1976, so long ago, yet never forgotten. The poem stands, surely, as a testament to all our parents and the friends we have lost. Though memories fade, the trace of the person exists through Ann and MA, the granddaughter Violet never knew, and beyond them through MA's daughters, and before Ann the ancestors we have traced back on the female side for so many generations.

On a lighter note, Edwin left for Italy yesterday for a week in the sun at Naples. He is going Airbnd to an apartment they have rented with a garden roof terrace, where they plan to have cocktails. Because he and Alice will be self-catering, he took a huge packet of gluten-free spaghetti in his luggage. Surely taking pasta to Italy must be the modern version of taking coals to Newcastle.

Monday, 2 September 2019

I get my crown

Yesterday we saw another three camper vans, and for the first time actually drove them. Two were very rough. The third was in good condition, but has had thirteen owners! We don't know why, but it doesn't sound good that it has had such a rapid turnover by so many people.

Back at work today. Being at work does diminuish my image as Earth Father, but if we can eventually find a camper van,  Ann promises to decorate the van with hippie images, and I will be able to work in remote places, and dress the part. Perhaps then I will wear the laural wreath crown.

I had to break off for a dental appointment to have the crown fitted. It has all been measured up, and Dr Singh had a pretty plaster model of my teeth with the new crown sitting on it to show how it fits and lines up with the other teeth. He lifted it from the model, slapped on some glue, and pushed it onto my stump. Job done. Now I have a brand new spanking white tooth among the old yellowing ones, but it feels very smooth and comfortable. Surely the future is not so far ahead but we will be offered new replacements for all our bits that break or drop off – a wonderful thought indeed, though perhaps it will come too late for me.

Hawk strike
NATURE NOTE: In Florida, cousin Ann has texted to say she's fled to her daughter's in New York to escape Hurricane Dorian. Looking through the window, Edwin saw a large bird of prey swoop suddenly onto our lawn and seize a small bird. After a brief struggle, it flew off with the bird in its talons, leaving but a small circular crown of feathers. Outside the window, Ann spotted a dead mouse in the Ladies' Garden, which had the tell-tale tooth marks of a cat in its neck. Death seems to be closing in round us tonight - a sure sign to batten down the hatches and sit tight through the storm ahead.