Jess

Jess in Potatoes 2016_2

…would lie on the warm earth around my growing vegetables

Our black and white cat Jess died today.

Death comes in many guises and for Jess it came neither brutally, in the way in which he caught mice and even small rabbits nor did it creep into the bones and sinews stealthily, but peacefully lying the warm sunshine minutes after his last feed. Mid-afternoon, he had entered through the open patio glass door and whined his usual miouw which said, ‘I want food.’ I fed him and resumed reading outside in the warm spring sun. The grandchildren came home from school to granny’s treat, a Malteasers cookie, and then they ran outside to play. Four-year-old Ivy loved to stroke Jess. His smooth black coat was irresistible to her. Normally, she would stalk the cat and, occasionally, it would yield to her gentle touch as she had learned from an early age to be gentle. ‘Nanny, Jess is not moving.’ Continue reading “Jess”

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Old School

parliament

… disadvantaged politician who might just have wider appeal as Prime Minister than any narrow-based public schoolboy?

Chapter One 

1 February 2016

Pembrokeshire, home to the wild cliffs of west Wales and castles from the time of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn…’ Deirdre Fairbrother snapped the radio button off. She’d heard too many wonderful Pembrokeshire stories, if it was so wonderful, why didn’t more people live there.

Outside, the morning light which could often be fickle was clear and luminous. It shone into her artist’s studio. She liked days like this for she was alone with her oils and canvas with nothing on her agenda except a visit to her aged mother later in the afternoon. Loading her horsehair brush with a mixture of chrome yellow and magenta previously stirred on her palette, she touched the canvas again, and again more strongly, before standing back to observe the subtle change in her summer landscape. The season was well past now, but as usual she worked with care at her rediscovered joy. Bit by bit, she was starting to rekindle her original love of painting which she had foolishly set aside when she and Peter had started their family thirty-six years ago.

The shrill sound of the telephone disturbed her painting. She put the brush on the easel, walked out of the studio down a cold corridor to the hall and picked it up. Half past nine on a Monday was an odd time for a call. The words ‘West Albion Care Home’ were enough. She knew what they were going to say and her knees weakened. As she listened to the caller say, ‘I’m sorry, your mother has died,’ she put her hand behind her onto a chair and lowered herself, still holding the receiver. Mute with shock, she was unable to reply. Her ninety-two-year-old mother had been hanging on for weeks, but nothing could ever prepare one for the actual moment when someone announces that one’s mother is dead. Continue reading “Old School”

The Meaningful Brexit Vote.

Meaningful Brexit Vote

The declaration: Lost by 344 votes to 286, a Majority of 58, the Nos have it.

15 January 2109, Lost by 432 to 202, a Majority of 230; 12 March, Lost by 391 to 242, a Majority of 149; 29 March 2109, Lost by 344 votes to 286, a Majority of 58. What now?

Parliament has today voted down our Government’s proposal to leave the European Union for a third (and probably final time). Watching from the sidelines, it is not pretty. Continue reading “The Meaningful Brexit Vote.”

A View from the Boundary

brexit

The great thing about watching sports, like cricket, is that from the boundary spectators can see the whole panoply of the game develop before their eyes, whereas the players in the middle can only see a limited perspective, just the bowler, or just the batsman, for example. So it is with politics and our problem with leaving the European Union.

We, the great unwashed, are on the boundary seeing the whole picture on our televisions, social media pages, and newspapers whereas the players (or politicians) have their vision limited by party loyalties, constituency considerations and their own innate beliefs. Continue reading “A View from the Boundary”

A Really-Smug Story

a really smug story

Once upon a time, or olim as our scholarly protagonist Jacob Really-Smug was prone to say, there was a young country boy living on one side of a large river. From his countryside home he could dimly see in the distance the Big School across the estuary.

Each day he’d walk to his small country school, only to be bullied by the bigger boys because he was a bright teacher’s pet and he wore glasses. He hated games the most. Fearful of getting his knees dirty and scared of being kicked below the belt, he detested football with a passion which far exceeded that with which his classmates supported Rovers or United or Hotspur, the teams on the other side of the river. Worst of all he had to take off his glasses to play, so he was even more disadvantaged in the game. He hated football. Continue reading “A Really-Smug Story”

Suzhou to Shanghai

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…the observation deck on the 88th floor. The views of the city are wonderful.

In transforming backward agricultural China into an advanced industrialized country, we are confronted with arduous tasks and our experience is far from adequate. So we must be good at learning. Mao Zedong’s opening address at the eighth National Congress of the Communist Party of China. (September 15, 1956).

25 October Pan Pacific Hotel

We awake around 8.00. There’s genteel start today, breakfast lasts till ten.

Made out of large granite blocks, the Pan Pacific hotel has an inclined ramp up to the top, third, floor giving it the feel of a Mayan temple. But inside, it has the complexity of a pharaoh’s pyramid with false passages and little straightforward. We did find our bedroom eventually after visiting a boiler room and confronting a ‘No Entry, Staff’ sign.

However, the hotel does have some elegance and it fits well with low housing all around. Its downfall is the staff who seem at best indolent and at worst downright unhelpful. The evening pianist played more on her mobile phone than the piano during our brief stay, and at breakfast, Amy, our waitress stared into spaced ignoring her guests.

Francis is very quiet this morning, Chris said the hotel had been rather snooty and refused him a room. Finally, they found him a store cupboard at about three in the morning, apparently. Although he looks weary, he is with us doing his duty.

We have round-faced, black-haired Selina (Liu Yu Jia) to lead us to the canal. The red-lipped former schoolteacher in the clearest English tells us the famous Chinese general Sun Tzu, beloved of management consultants and military strategists, was born here two and half thousand years ago. Some things endure. Continue reading “Suzhou to Shanghai”

River Cruise to the Three Gorges Dam

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The gorge becomes more and more spectacular with mountains soaring up on either side.

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills. Chinese Proverb

Chongqing is now a skyscraper city with the feel of Manhattan. In the centre of the city is People’s Liberation Monument, locally called Jiefangbei. It commemorates China’s s victory in the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Francis says it was the highest building the city, which had been heavily bombed in the war. It was built in 1946. Now, it is only a child coming up to the knees of all the adult buildings surrounding it.

Marjorie likes central Chongqing especially the diamond jewellers, CRD, where the diamonds look so cheap, but we don’t purchase any, it is so easy to get carried away.

We board the MV Century Diamond after a quick visit to an old riverside temple-cum-house complex in painted in yellow emulsion and a rushed and disappointing Lazy Susan dinner on the eighth floor of a city centre restaurant. However, our cabin is a delight with red bedsheets and two swans made from towels. Our 42nd wedding anniversary will occur on this boat. Continue reading “River Cruise to the Three Gorges Dam”