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Showing posts from April, 2020

Local Matters

I start my day at about 0600 most mornings. Porridge, fruit and a cup of black tea are prepared and sit on my study desk. Alternating between their having my attention and my reading the world's media. That extends from the four local papers which target areas in my constituency to some of our national papers, London-based dailies and a few international titles. A good and honest media are a vital part of a fair society. That doesn't mean that I object to papers having an editorial view of the political world which is not my own as long as they are honest about the view they hold or even advocate for. If I had my way, and I don't expect to any time soon, I would require a statement of their political philosophy to be carried on the front page immediately below their mastheads. But, you might say, surely most readers know how their daily reading materials align with their views. Perhaps, perhaps not. I have this recollection, one of many things I can't immediately

Early starts

Today I rose early at 0500. It's one of these mornings that rewards you for doing so—a gentle sun shining through a modest, moist haze and the grass glistening with dew.  Blue sky above and a crisp one degree outside providing a wake-up jolt as I open my study window to let the fresh air in and a cat out. She decides that heading off to the bedroom to join a somnolent spouse is a better bet for now. But the early rise is not for the "joy of the morning". That's a short poem written by Edwin Markham more than a century ago. "I hear you, little bird, Shouting a-swing above the broken wall. Shout louder yet: no song can tell it all. Sing to my soul in the deep, still wood : ‘Tis wonderful beyond the wildest word: I'd tell it, too, if I could. Oft when the white, still dawn Lifted the skies and pushed the hills apart, I’ve felt it like a glory in my heart (The world's mysterious stir) But had no throat

Eyjafjallajökull and other words

Every new discipline, every new crisis brings new vocabulary. Words, phrases or meanings for existing words that simply did not exist in common language on the 1st of January are now batted around. Politicians, in particular, will use them with confidence so as to suggest mastery of the underlying concepts. If only. It's not a new oratorical device. When I was the Government's Transport Minister, one of the challenges, there were many, was when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull blew up. It ejected immense amounts of material into our skies and essentially shut down commercial flights across a fifth of the globe. Sound familiar? A clip from Icelandic TV showed that many natives in that country found it challenging to correctly pronounce its name. Perhaps like not every Scot can get their tongue around Acharachle. It's a bonny village in the, also challenging for some to say, Ardnamurchan area of Argyll. So I memorised the correct Icelandic pronunciatio

Singing in the Rain

First proper precipitation in over 40 days. Who would have thought that the sound of drips falling off the edge of the sun parasol outside the backdoor would sound so good? But this morning's welcome wetting of the garden and the fields will, the Met Office predicts, cease in time for my walk later today. I think I have now walked almost all the new paths at nearby Auchanderrin. And enjoyed them all. It being Sunday yesterday, there were quite a lot of people about. But in our rural setting, that never meant that I could see more than three others at any time. All of us enjoying exercise. No signs at all of any cars that people had been using. Tomorrow we shall be on the road as we travel to fill up our fridge. Because we live in the country, and the previous normal meant my driving away from home on a Monday and leaving my car at the station, my spouse also has a car. The plan has always been to come down to one when I retire, hopefully in Spring 2021. For the moment, they a

Day 41

Today is day 41 of lockdown for me. And with my cumulative my total walking exercise at 197.34 miles, it will as I suggested yesterday, be the day I cross the 200-mile "barrier". But it is also the first day, if memory serves me correctly, where we have 8 octas of cloud cover. No blue anywhere but a scrap of brightness to the east suggesting that as the sun rises in the sky, it may burn some holes in the overcast. More importantly, the garden is showing early signs of produce of value. The mint and chives are rising from the ground. There is nothing lifts a plate of food more than the addition of herbs fresh from the garden. A pot of shop herbs is fine but does not come covered with morning dew. Later the fennel will rise to the point where I can routinely nip a mouthful off as I pass and feel no guilt as I will barely affect its normally luxurious growth. The new rhubarb planted last year shows early signs of growth and the six new gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes ca

Expert computers? Perhaps

There's a significant balance to be struck between structure and novelty in one's life. Nevermore so, when social distancing means that the provocation to action that might come from the remarks of a colleague, friend or opponent is virtually absent. I have previously written about my having populated my calendar with regular activities that get me started each day and set me on the path to a productive day. The target for writing my diary is for publication at 1000. But first comes breakfast and reading the day's media stories. That's scheduled for 0600 to 0700. Fits with my natural wake time and requires no alarm. However, with Parliament now adopting a new pattern and method of working, two days next week already have a new start time of 0500. And the need to set the alarm on my phone. Done. Domestic issues arise too. We go shopping about every ten days. And a quick look in the fridge shows the need. Still some cheese, the last of the milk and a few well-depl