Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Contracts made and broken

Charlie, the salesman at Marshalls who drove to Lincoln to bring back a car without telling us, phoned again this morning, again to see if there was any chance of us being interested. This time he told us, the guy who had paid a deposit on a car we liked even while we were test-driving it, had dropped out. It seems he couldn't get finance for the deal, so from none, Marshalls now have two cars that might have been suitable. No wonder Charlie was keen to get us to walk away from the one we've signed up to.

Otherwise, it's been a quiet day. Just the agency I work for who rang to say, "you know that three-month extension you've agreed to and signed the contract for? Well, the company now say they only have funding for two months." So they're sending a new contract. I can understand one individual dreaming of a new car beyond his means, to be brought down to reality by a harsh bank, but it seems that even large multinational companies employing tens of thousands of people worldwide can't work out their finances two months in advance! Perhaps I should have waited before I splashed out on a new(er) car after all - but I trusted them to honour a signed contract.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The trials of buying a car

Saturday was our granddaughter's 13th birthday. We toasted her with bubbly, and sang happy birthday as the cake was brought in. Sam then produced a super roman candle to celebrate, put it in the cake, and spent half-a-dozen matches trying to light the thing, before the children pointed out he'd pushed it in upside down. Finally it went off with a brilliant fizz of sparks, and she was truly 13.
The new car waits in the rain

Yesterday we continued our search for a car with a return visit to Marshalls of Cambridge, but could find nothing we liked. They showed us details of another car that looked perfect, but it was in Lincoln and they would only bring it down for us to view if we paid a deposit of £1000, which we declined. We then went on to Milton Keynes which had a better selection and agreed to buy one.  We stopped at St. Neots for dinner, only to find the pub we usually use had a notice in the door stating it would be closed from 5.30pm at night until the next morning. They must have seen us coming, but we got something in the pub next door.

Ann waves to her fans
We had the dogs with us, so I walked them round the carpark while Ann looked for a shop to get them some nibbles. I got back to the car and watched as Ann walked back towards me. Suddenly she stopped and started waving like crazy to a man on the pavement across the street. He had a camera and started taking photos of her, and she continued waving until she abruptly saw me and stopped in shock - she had thought the guy over the road was me, and said "he had two dogs with him, and I was so pleased when I thought you were photographing me."  We left quickly, and agreed it was as well we were changing the car before we went back there.

We finally got back late in the evening to find a recorded message from the salesman saying, because the company would not authorise bringing the other car down from Lincoln, he had driven up of his own initiative to bring it down for us! I felt badly about it, but he didn't tell us he was going to go, so I had to phone him and say we'd got one now.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

It's time to change

I am not an elegant eater. In fact, I'm a bit of a slob. Whatever and wherever I eat, the food seems to wander in directions other than where it's aimed. I attempted a scientific analysis of this strange effect, but the answer was too simple: I do not concentrate. I eat whilst reading the newspaper or watching television. I have dinner in my chair reading a book, and food falls from my fork. I was reminded of how bad I am when the dog began licking my jersey; it is time to put it in the wash and rethink my strategy at the trough.

My car has now travelled near on 90,000 miles. It is not old, but well-used and developing the clunks and squeaks of an old man's joints, so I suspect the suspension is protesting at our Suffolk lanes. Ann says it's the rough way I drive, but it's not – it's the rotten roads and potholes.
My XF navigates the Suffolk Lanes
Either way, yesterday we visited Marshalls in Cambridge to look at a replacement. The salesman had only been there for three days, so Ann knew far more than he about the cars; but he made up for it with knowledge about how to hold a customer all afternoon so they can't go and look at any other showrooms. We were there so long it had grown dark, and Edwin and his partner came to join us to see the cars. They had only just returned from Sheffield where Edwin had delivered a paper to the Brontë society. In the end, we came down to one model that we liked; we were on the test drive, and the salesman said three people had already test-driven it, so it was in demand. We thought, "Oh yes, typical sales pressure," only for the manager to come through and say they'd now sold it while we were out on the test drive! Then, to our surprise, Edwin invited us to eat with them, and – unbelievably – Andre offered to treat us! We ended up having a wonderful Thai meal in some hidden back-street pub they knew. But even there, eating with great care, I saw bits of noodle had somehow littered the chair under me and the floor round my space when I left.

Last night, I dreamt of Judah. His face was clear, and he invited me to join him in a room full of people. He was a friend of mine from 30+ years ago, until his wife threw him out. He then lived in a one-room rented flat somewhere in the back-end of Middlesbrough, where he went into a decline and was found dead in his bath. To my shame I never made the effort to find out where he lived or visited him. I ended up as a pallbearer at his funeral. There were six of us, for he was a big man, and we struggled under the weight of his coffin with the undertaker fussing around as we shuffled along, nervous that we might drop it and telling us not to hold the handles – they were only cheap plastic for decorative effect. I believe in a universal spirituality, where our souls merge with the Universe after death, but I don't accept the literal interpretation that we all meet up in a great heavenly party. So thank you Judah – but I don't want to join you just yet.

Ann loves to play tricks on me. Once, she hid under my desk for ages until I came in, just so she could jump out at me and make me jump, as she knows I always do. Sometimes she hides things so I think I'm losing my memory. Yesterday she hid one of my slippers, to see me search for it. Today, she had hidden a pair of frilly panties in the sleeve of my jersey. The annoying thing is, I can never catch her out – she see's my tricks coming before I've finished thinking about them.

Friday, 22 November 2019

On hypertension and strokes

Looking through my window I see over next door's garden their washing line again hanging with sheets and underwear, and I know without seeing him our neighbour has returned home. He was admitted to hospital in a dramatic ambulance call following a second stroke. Happily, it was not a full stroke, but some form of secondary seizure, from which he has recovered, but it must be a warning that he remains at risk of further damage. His wife had just bought a specially adapted car, with the front passenger seat removed and a rear ramp up which she can push the wheelchair, so he can sit in state beside her.

Ann is planning a wine and cheese evening, and we are discussing whom to invite. Some years ago, our parties were lively affairs, for we were younger with more energy, there would always be children, and we could fill the house with relatives and friends, often in fancy dress. Now no children come, and we are all old and sober. More distant relatives don't travel far, or are no longer on speaking terms. Many neighbours have moved or died and we are debating about inviting new ones whom we don't know, or our immediate neighbour who may not be able to come in his wheelchair. The music now is Alexa, commanded to play 60's music, but nobody dances. However, our friends are good friends, and these get-togethers are a great chance to meet, for there are few casual or chance meetings, and we always have plenty to chat about.

My blood pressure has been consistently alarming recently. We only have four houses on our road, in three of which the man has suffered a stroke. I do not want to be the fourth, so yesterday, I saw Dr Bone who reminded me of my own abrupt manner as a young GP. Asking what he could do for me, I said "I've got blood pressure". "Yes," he said, "everyone has." He then looked at my charts over the past few weeks. "It's going up and down more often than a newly-wed's nightie," he concluded, but this is modern PC; we used to say, "Like a prostitute's panties." Like all doctors these days, there was no examination. They seem to rely completely on the hospital reports. We had only the skills we were taught; but no one seems to listen to the heart anymore, or check the ankles for oedema, or the pulse for character. Even the respiratory consultant didn't listen to my chest. Dr Bone did however review my prescription, and suggested some increases to the doses, so hopefully we can hold sudden death at bay for a little while longer.

Monday, 18 November 2019

All men are oversexed

My three-month cystoscopy check up at West Suffolk Hospital was clear – no recurrence thus far of the bladder cancer, and they won’t need to see me again for six months. The whole thing was so quick we escaped without even incurring a parking charge! We celebrated with a whisky (me) and wine (Ann) in the Dragonfly Inn, and this time I remembered to sign my car reg at the bar so should escape a fine, unlike the last hotel where I parked (see Hospital chit chat). But the sad little limp stub that the girls gripped to push up the cystoscope has fallen a long way from its former glory. But my lost virility did bring to mind some ugly thoughts about male sexuality.

Societies through the ages have accepted that men in general are oversexed. Many men will shag anyone on two legs who moves, and sometimes things that can’t move, or even things that move on four. Yet too often it seems, the sexual proclivities of men are their own nemesis. They range from the vicious Rotherham sexual abusers and the cunning of Jimmy Savile, Jeffrey Epstein, or Harvey Weinstein, to the relative minor misdemeanours of a duke, a Jeffrey Archer, or numerous others in the public eye. Reading the news, we often hear as a plea of defence, “I am oversexed”. No, all men are oversexed, but most are well-constrained by the societies they live in, for all societies historically have enshrined strict rules with severe penalties for straying from their norms. This may be against men who might be stoned for homosexuality, but – more often – is against women, with enforced modesty to protect tempting weak males, to death for adultery or sickeningly, even for being the victims of rape.

When the rules break down, there is wild anarchy or war, with rape high on the list of crimes. In times of peace, rules are broken by criminal groups working outside the law to run prostitutes or sexual slaves, often smuggled from poor countries on promises of dreams. Prostitutes have been part of society since recorded time, and probably existed in communities even earlier, plying for food or flints. The oversexed male has always demanded ready access for their demands. In ancient times, and more recently in western society, male partners have been legally obtainable. Prostitution will not disappear. I cannot speak for the female perspective, but it certainly makes sense to legalise it rather than drive it into criminality and the evil it engenders. In the meantime, one can only be glad the law goes after those who exploit women for male gratification, and hope for the maximum penalty it can inflict.  We still have so far to go even in advanced modern societies.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Some famous (near) contacts

Much has happened in Hundon recently. The Hundon Facebook Page posted a comment by Brian Bolland who wrote: "I don't usually promote myself among fellow inhabitants of Hundon but, the other day, a Hundon friend asked me if I'm still doing my cartoons. I realised he and most Hundonites don't know what sort of thing I do - but they might be curious. This hefty 145 page magazine of my work is soon coming out (note the price) and I thought I'd put its cover up here. Not all of it is suitable for showing to the very young or to the vicar." Ann asked Ben if he'd heard of him, and Ben said he was his favourite comic artist and his hero! So Ann has sent for his new book for him to enjoy. He did the artwork for Judge Dredd, some of the Batman Joker comics, and Superman among much else, and is a top illustrator.

Thinking yesterday about the last time I had a parking fine (see Hospital chit chat) was maybe nine years ago when I went to see a play by Dan, "Another Biafra" about an ethnic war in which he played a white consular official. I was working with GSK near Heathrow and had to drive across London in heavy evening traffic, so was tired and running late. Near the pub-theatre, the streets looked quiet and I found a street parking place with no yellow lines, and where the only signs were "No parking on match days."  I naturally had no idea who was playing where, let alone if it was a match day, but it was, so I came out of the play to be greeted by a big yellow parking ticket, which explained why no one else was parking in those streets. Hitherto Ann and I had made an effort to see all his plays, but I think that was the last play I saw before he stopped speaking to me, so I guess it was a portent.

We successfully escape
Yesterday too, we visited Matts (who has never stopped talking to me) and Rosie in King's Lynn, where we tackled a superb escape room. A mad scientist (aren't they all) had released a deadly virus, and we had one hour to find the antidote. Escape rooms are a bit like life itself - some are more fun than others, but they all require different sets of skills with everyone working together to succeed. One of the tasks required knowing Morse code (the crib was hidden in one of the locked boxes). Only two other people had done it without that: a scout leader, and someone who worked out the sequences by logic, which showed my age for I could decipher it from memory having learnt it in the Air Cadets in my youth. I can only surmise that no one anywhere learns Morse code now.

Afterwards, we had late lunch in a new restaurant in the town. At the bar, Matthew and I were standing in the queue to order behind Jimmy Carr, who's appearing at the Corn Exchange. He ordered then took a table near us. Several people went up to him for selfies, but he was eating alone. I guess a stand-up comic on tour does not meet many friends, and every meal and hotel stay must be lonely, despite the accolades and welcome from the sell-out audiences.

On a sadder note, as we readied to go out, an ambulance drew up next door. David had had a second stroke and was briskly whisked away with his wife Lynda. Another neighbour stopped us as we left to tell us what had happened. She added that Lynda had screamed over the fence for help, hoping I might go round, but alas to my deaf shame, there was no way I heard her with all the doors and windows shut. But another neighbour working in his garden did hear, and he went round.

An ambulance arrives for our neighbour

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Hospital chit chat

Attending West Suffolk Hospital for yet another appointment (this time for respiratory medicine), I went into the consultant's room and took a seat. Ann followed, shut the door, and sat demurely in the corner. "Who's that come in with you?" asked the consultant. "She's my wife," I explained, "did you think she was another patient who'd followed me in?" The consultant smiled, "no," she said, "I know we have a waiting list, but we haven't started holding group consultations yet!"

Later, going in for the blood test she'd ordered, I noticed a bottle of water hanging from a high window by a long string round its neck. Naturally curious, I asked why she hung the water up like that. "The window catch is broken," she explained, "so it's to keep the window closed". "That's a clever idea," I complemented. "Yes," she added, "naturally a woman thought of it." From me, that would have been a sexist comment, but she said it sweetly with a smile. I just said, "Yes. I thought it must be something to keep the water cool, I'd never have thought it was for the window."  I added that I thought the sexual equality war had been won, but why didn't there seem to be any male phlebotomists? She agreed it was a shame, but she didn't know why. "We did have a man once for a few weeks, but he was a doctor in training." We then got onto a discussion about the difficulty of drawing blood from a vein one could not see, but the satisfaction when you succeeded by feel alone, so it was a long and interesting chat while she kept poking me for my own hidden veins.

I believe God has a sense of humour, but sometimes it seems directed squarely between my eyes. Yesterday, I was marveling how long it has been since I got a speeding ticket or a parking fine. Today, an evelope came marked "Important. Not a circular" with a notice inside saying I must pay £100 parking fine, or £60 if I payed within 10 days. It seems that I had triggered a hidden parking camera when I picked Ann up on the train from London. She came into a tiny village station with a pub next to it, and my mistake was to use their carpark which I've used many times before, but not to see the notices now saying there was zero waiting time, and pub users should pay at the bar with their car registration. I was there for barely 10 minutes to attract such a fine, but there is no appeal and no escape. Well thank you, God. I guess you haven't got much else to laugh at in the world at the moment.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Who benefits from Farage's challenge to the Tories?

The intervention of Donald Trump on Nigel Farage's radio show was intriguing. He suddenly popped up to support Farage, stating that the Brexit deal renegotiated by Boris Johnson was "a bad deal", and pleaded for Boris to work with Farage to renegotiate the deal. This has led Farage to take an even harder line on Brexit, and to threaten sabotaging a Conservative victory by placing Brexit candidates in every seat in the country. To everyone except him and his devotees, this risks a Labour victory and the loss of Brexit altogether, with years more wrangling and division in both Britain and the EU. The question therefore is, cui bono? Who benefits? To me, there seems to be a clear answer.

It is in Russia's interest to destabilise Europe, to which end they were already accused of rigging the referendum by subtle media influences, and they are almost certainly supporting the extreme left wing in continuing to protest and plot against Brexit and the government. Now, just when Boris has secured a deal and got it over the first hurdle in parliament, Russia is keen to keep the pot of strife boiling. If Boris wins the election, there will be a relatively clean and rapid Brexit, Europe will sail on untroubled, and Britain will continue to be a thorn in the side of Russia rather than in the EU, with the potential to increase its power, wealth, and prestige in the world. Their only recourse now is to work all out to prevent the Tories from winning, preferably with a Labour win, or failing that with another hung parliament. Donald Trump suddenly intervening to prop up Farage against Johnson and split the Brexit (and hence Tory) vote is having just such an effect. Peter Fleming, in The Sixth Column, portrayed the new warfare by Russia as a continuous undermining of the British character by provoking a constant stream of hidden interference with trust and integrity. This has now been happening for over three years, and it all smacks of another conspiracy – this one based on the original premise that Russia has influence over Trump following their help in rigging his election  and they are now calling in the favour.

It is perfectly plausible that the call from Trump and the things he said live on air to Farage were orchestrated by someone other than Trump; why else would he place a spontaneous call to a British chat show, even one run by his friend Nigel? Why else would he suddenly change his statement that there will be a quick and open trade deal between Britain and the USA into a claim that no trade deal will be possible under the present terms? It is all hugely influential in disrupting both the general election and the ultimate outcome of Brexit, to the detriment of both Britain and Europe. None of this is of any real interest or benefit to the USA, but it is clearly of great benefit to the Russian bear, and I fear they are the culprits behind the present disturbances to what should have been a clear victory run for the Conservatives, but may yet be a road to disaster. I will not accuse Farage of seeking to delay or avert Brexit for the selfish personal gain of continuing on the EU gravy train as an MEP, nor of wrecking the deal to maintain his public position as the popular voice of anti-EU sentiment and the face of Brexit, but I fear that he is so smitten with the glow of being a favourite of President Trump that he cannot sense malign influences. He cannot suspect that Trump's imagination may be a little limited, or that his ideas might be manipulated by an external agent. We can only hope that common sense might prevail, but common sense is always in short supply in politics and entirely absent in an election.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Misfortunes deserved and undeserved

Yesterday, at our friends' for coffee and discussing where we might move to if we downsize, they asked if we would want to stay near Edwin. Ann was just saying, "no, we can go anywhere now because he is so independent", when the phone rang with him saying his car had broken down, and he might need to borrow Ann's!

Edwin has always been lucky in life, but now seems to be plagued by misfortune. He managed to get the car to the garage in Cambridge with its red light glowing menacingly and - to him -meaninglessly. They won't even be able to look at it until next week. Now his bike has been stolen, a beautiful lime green contraption that he used to go all over Cambridge. He had a lock for it - a great beast of a thing that would have taken a determined thief an arc-welding set to dislodge - but it was in the 'secure' bike shed at his friend's flat, so he thought he would not need a lock there. Sometimes we invite misfortune in; he is reluctant to learn from the advice or experience of others, but is certainly getting his own experiences now. We hope he will learn from them.

Ann had a routine appointment at the dentist, and I met her in a pub in Hadleigh, meanwhile enjoying looking at the menu while I waited. She came in at 2:30, so I went to the bar to order. "Sorry, the kitchen's closed now. You're two minutes too late!" the woman said, adding that the chef would not be flexible. Talk about crap service - it's no wonder pubs are shutting at the rate of 18 per week.
Blanche de Bois

Blanche was right
the kindness of strangers
is more dependable
than the kindness of family
or even of friends.
I have found in my life
that those related by blood
are the furthest away
while a hand on my hand
and a kiss on my cheek
from a kindly newcomer
is all that I need
and all that I seek.

There have been a few people in our lives where each word must be carefully measured, but it makes for a complete lack of honesty or transparency and gradually they have fallen away, perhaps from a moment's unguarded tongue, or the failure to restrain some spontaneous comment. Generally we are better without them, and are glad when they go. Getting home, we found a letter waiting from Ann's sister, Jane, from whom we haven't heard for 18 months since the great falling out (see A-health-bulletin).  We have fallen out and made up on many occasions, usually when she slammed the phone down or sent a note saying she doesn't want any more contact. It was her 65th birthday this week, and she must be getting mawkish; it was filled with self-pity and hidden envy, with no hint of contrition or wish for reconciliation. She and her husband never seemed to make much of their chances, then always blamed it on bad luck. We always had to fill our mouths with cotton wool when speaking to her for fear of upsetting her, for too often we could see where the root of her misfortune lay. She does have a painful and difficult life after losing her daughter and husband in quick succession, and with little money coming in to tackle life's fences, so our feelings towards her are inevitably tinged with sympathy.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Dignitas and caring for people

In the Swan after walking the dogs and waiting for Ann to have her hair cut, the publican from the  Globe, another Clare pub, sat with his Staffy dog. He was talking sadly about a close relative who needed care and was in a home, but still had her mental facilities, saying she just wished to die, because she had lost her independence and didn't want to be a burden. Someone said, "you could take her to Dignitas." The man said, yes, but then you would end up all over the papers, and get prosecuted. "If she were a dog," he concluded, "you'd be prosecuted for cruelty to animals, but because she's a person, you'd be prosecuted for cruelty to people!"

Back home, Edwin phoned to say has car had started loosing power, and a red light had come on.
Ann advised that with a red light, he'd better stop immediately and get the breakdown services out, but he decided to risk it and limp on to the garage in Cambridge. "Is it overheating?" Ann asked. "Oh no," said Edwin putting on his mechanic's hat, "it can't overheat - it's a cold day." We both think he ought to go to motor maintenance classes as a priority.

One of my jobs is to cover for someone who has been absent for three or four months following a mental breakdown. She was managing the safety monitoring for three developmental drugs, which were handed to me in her absence. Now she is back on a part time basis, and being eased slowly back into work, so today they asked me to hand one of the products back to her, with me in a supportive role.  I fully understand how a large company has to support people with mental illness, and cannot be seen to be harassing them in any way. I work 20 hours per week to cover these three products, while she will be working 24 hours per week and will only have one product, with lots of support. But they are hard work, and I'm not surprise she had a breakdown. However, to compensate, they are going to give me three more products to fill up the time gap! They must want me to experience her stress to build up empathy. I have one big advantage, though - I am in the happy position that I don't have to stay if it gets too heavy.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The bells are ringing

Yesterday, I fixed the bell with the broken tab (see I-hear-no-bell) by the simple method of strong glue. I held it for some minutes while it hardened to prevent the top popping off again, as Ann looked out of the window. "What's the matter?" she asked in her accusing voice, doesn't it work if you let go?" That night, getting ready for bed with rain lashing down outside, the bell suddenly started ringing without stopping. I rushed down in my pyjamas, and there at the door was Ann, laughing like a maniacal hyena. "You horror," I said. "I thought the rain must have got in and short-circuited the thing!"

Today I went into London for a 07:30 meeting (they start early with Japan, to match their afternoons". Driving down at 5am, the roads are thankfully quiet and I could park easily at Redbridge. However, the tube was as busy as I've seen it, even at that ungodly hour, with the platform crowded and standing room only in the train. One of the adverts above my head proclaimed, "IT'S TIME TO LEAVE THE SINGLE MARKET". We just can't escape the Brexit propaganda, I thought, then read it more carefully as my nose rocked before it. It was an advert for a dating agency. They could have said, "THE BELLS ARE RINGING".

It had been a frosty night, and towards the centre of the carriage, an early morning couple who had got on much earlier were sitting huddled in anoraks, the fur-lined hoods turned up to keep out the cold. At each stop, more people pushed in forcing me closer till I was standing before them, then at Loverpool Street (they were very affectionate), he left. Another young man, closer than I, swung his rucksack off and moved to sit down, then noticed me, and immediately stood aside to offer me the seat. Ahh - the privilege of age. Who said kindness is dead? He then had to swing his rucksack back up, knocking three people on the shoulders. In the absence of her mate, the girl started playing Candy-Crush, and looked equally contented.

In the meeting, my immediate boss, who is a super-efficient woman while still being ultra pleasant, was complaining about not being able to have her breakfast. "It was lovely last week," she said. "I sat in the park in the sun, and a squirrel came up and shared my sandwich. I always have the healthy option: a bacon sandwich in whole meal granary bread and no butter." She said it with such a straight face, I didn't have the heart to laugh.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

I hear no bell

Ask not for whom the bell tolls - it tolls not for thee. About two years ago, I fitted new wireless doorbells to the front and back doors, each with a different tone, and with a shiney white plastic box that plugged into the mains. About two months ago, they both stopped working, so this weekend I decided to treat them to new batteries. There was one problem though. When I searched for the bells, they had disappeared. Someone had taken them out and hidden them - there is no other explanation. Ann and I searched every shelf and cupboard, and behind the books in the hall where the bells had been, but discovered nothing. Neither of us have taken them out, and we can't think of anyone else who might, or any reason for their going, but it did explain the lack of functioning bells in the house.

With the intention of cutting our losses and starting afresh I bought two more bells from B&Q, and fixed the first one to the front door. It didn't work. It works perfectly in my room, but never when it's screwed to the wall, so I gave up and tried the second bell. Again it worked perfectly from anywhere in the house when I carried the bell push about, so I screwed the backplate in place, pressed the bell push home, let go, and it fell off! The little plastic tag that clips it in place was broken off, so there's no way to fix it. So this afternoon, I went back to B&Q to buy some glue and a simpler bell. Now I just have to wait for the rain to stop, and in the meantime hope visitors will use the knocker.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Winning and losing

Ann had a day in London yesterday to meet her friend Sylvia. They meet in the M&S bridge cafe of the Westfield Centre where they can chat for three hours over a cup of coffee. Ann thought they ought perhaps buy a second cup, but Sylvia never wants two, so they make it last. They are not the worse offenders though: some people were on their laptops over a cup of coffee when they arrived, and were still there when they left. It is rather hard on the cafe when it's lunch time, and some people come to eat but can't get a seat. But not so bad as one pair Ann noticed, who bought a cup of coffee then proceeded to eat their own sandwiches from a Gregg's carrier bag.

Sylvia is a tiny woman from the far north of England. She always dresses elegantly and – though in her seventies – is as energetic as a woman of half her age, and always able to cap a story with another. When finally they went shopping (or more accurately, looking at all the clothes that wouldn't suit them), Ann mentioned she has to be careful because of her 'fat legs'. Ann's legs are not fat, but it is something she has always been self-conscious about. Sylvia immediately replied that she's always been self-conscious of her skinny legs ever since a teenager, when a boy told her: "the last time I saw legs that thin was when I was putting rings on my pigeons!" Sylvia has lived in London for most of her life, but quite apart from any debate about leg size, this sets her firmly in the North. What teenager in the South East would keep pigeons?

We rose early to watch England lose the world cup. After their brilliant win against the All Blacks last week, we looked for miracles, but you can only play the best game ever once, and it looked as though everything had been used up with that magnificent win. The Springboks ran rings round them, and certainly deserved their win. What sort of sportsmanship do England show though, when they refuse to wear their silver medals? For most of those players, being second best in the world is likely to be their best ever life experience, and they spurn it! Wales or Scotland would have loved to be second.

 "For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes - not that you won or lost -
But how you played the Game."

Their attitude is diabolical, and a miserable example to the rest of the country, but fully in line with the modern attitude which seems to not accept that life has runners-up, and we can't all win everytime. It used to be enough to take part - play up, play up, and play the game! Now, it is accepted that to lose is to become yet another remoaner.
To add to today's loss, Middlesbrough lost against Derby, their eigth loss in a row! Now there's a loss we can moan about — wouldn't the Boro love to be second in the league right now.