Friday, 20 October 2017

A Russian Brexit conundrum

I have stayed away from commenting on what has been happening in the US, because quite frankly, with the clusterfuck that is Brexit going on here, we have no kudos to be able to point an accusing finger at another country trying to screw things up the the extent that we are. However, clearly there has been collusion between Trump's team and the Russian government, evidence is out there already, from e mails to links and all this is under several investigations.

But did Russia help with the Brexiteers for the referendum?

Well, a lot of money was thrown at the various leave campaigns, and quite where it came from remains a mystery. One of the more interesting cases is where did the DUP get the half million quid they spunked in the last few weeks of the campaign? Where did Aaron Banks get his money from, and where does Cambridge Analitica fit in to Brexit and the Trump presidency? Also, leaking of mails, how come Wikileaks only targeted the Dems, who was the link man between Trump and Wikileaks? Well, none other than arch Brexiteer, Nigel Farrage, who was photographed leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy back door, where Assange is holed up trying to evade a rape rap, and when asked why he had been there, Farrage stated he could not remember. This was as he was leaving the building. Man of the people, Nigel, was the first person to be photographed with the triumphant Trump after the election last November, gloating with Trump outside his gold plated lift.

Splitting the EU would benefit Russia, as would a weakened US, which let us not forget Trump has failed to nominate the vast number of positions in Government nine months after taking office; there is no amassador to North Korea of Secretary of State. But the EU trading block, weakened would make it easier for Russia to push its weight around.

Anyway, on Thursday night May spoke at a dinner for EU Ministers begging them for help in trying to sell a deal to the UK for her. This is what strong and stable leadership looks like, and at the same time is taking back control. Today, Friday, the EU is expected to issue the obvious rejection that "sufficient progress" has been made in talks so a second front on trade cannot begin.

May has steered her Government through the difficult months of September and October; through the Florence speech and then through the Party conference season, and is still in power. Or still PM, as the Government now whips its own MPs into not voting on any motion in the Commons that it stands a chance of losing, but at the same time will not engage when such votes are lost. Her government is only kept in power by the "supply and confidence" deal with the DUP, brokered by the £1 billion payment made to Northern Ireland. And a payment that might not actually be legal, and a hearing is taking place in the next few weeks on that legality.

The DUP themselves are as mixed up as the Tories, in wanting both no border with the Republic and also wanting to leave all of the EU institutions. Meaning not having a border and having one. This is issue is still to be addressed and solved, which would make talks on trade possible.

Saying all of that, having May as PM is probably the best the Conservative Party can do, as waiting in the wings are a number of candidates, Johnson, Rees-Mogg, etc, who would happily sell out their own country's future economic stability for some short term personal political ambition. As most of these are Eton educated and ex Oxbridge monied folks, whether the economy tanks is neither here nor there to them, as their families will have money stashed away around the world. They will always be rich, it is those who are just about managing now that will suffer the most. Bank rates will rise next month, as the pound slumps further and inflation rises to over 3%, it has to. But with wage stagnation, people's incomes will be squeezed. May is introducing a cap on energy prices, a policy derided at the last but one election for being socialist, but with all energy priced in US$, the exchange rate means that all energy is getting more expensive to buy. The cap will only be temporary.

It is not too hard to look down the line 18 months hence with mortgage rates climbing, grocery prices rising too, cost of energy climbing, and massive job losses beginning to kick in, and there being no deal with the EU in place, a real depression setting in, with no chance of an improvement for a decade or more. It has been estimated that the cost of a no deal Brexit would cost the British economy £400 billion by 2030.

Think of that huge number, and what that would mean spread out between every man, woman and child. Or only those of working age.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Wednesday 18th October 2017

I could lie in until, well, whenever I wanted. The alarm clock in the bedroom has batteries that are nearly flat, so once it is light, I try to see what the time is, then try to guess by how much the clock has lost in the 8 hours since I had but it right. The clock said just gone six, meaning it could be any time from then to eight, or even later. But before seven it would be light, or getting light. So, I have no idea.

So I get up and find it is twenty to eight, time for coffee and put the radio on. Some lively banter is called for.

There is the rest of the kitchen to clean up, MUm who no longer cooks to any degree, and certainly does not bake anymore, has five pots of spooks, stirrers, corers and other stuff I have no idea what they are for. Mixed in are some tools that are either good quality plastic of carbon fibre, so keep those and all the rest is put in the bin. Or would have if there was any room, as it is still full of cuddly toys.

Anyway, I am not done yet, I clear the cupboard where the hot water boiler is, but it is covered in pots and pans and old over dishes. They are all gone out too, leaving the best few to use, if needed.

I go to the tip, taking another hour once there, but the traffic through town means it takes two. I kid you not, and next week one of the lanes to Oulton Broad bridge is to be closed southbound for three weeks, it will be a standstill.

It is lunchtime, so I go to Tesco for a roll, some crisps and a twin pack of egg custards. I would not starve.

I then consult the list of people to call, and inform all those I had not yet called of Mum's condition, and a barely concealed plea for them to visit her.

I had told her neighbours they could go, so had decided not to visit her in the afternoon, only to find later that she had no visitors at all until I turned up at half six, after I had spent an afternoon in her garden, deadheading and the usual stuff that needs doing.

I am now convinced that the house is ready for her return, not that she will be too happy with what I have done, but hey.

I leave at six, going to Tesco to pick up a pot of soup for dinner, before driving to the hospital, finding a space and being walking to the ward door at dead on half six. Behind me, people who had been waiting for ages just follow in my wake.

Two hundred and ninety one Mum is the same, she feels drained, but the nurses assure me there is yet more progress. I tell her I am off home in the morning and she should be deluged with visitors with the amount of calls I have made.

I bid her farewell, and she is honest in saying the past four weeks have been hard and more painful than she had ever imagined it would be. So, I had to say that she must remember that when she is tempted to smoke. And with that I am gone, and she will now being looked after by the nurses and other health professionals who will decide when she is to be released and what she needs at home, equipment and carers. Not much else I can do, nor her friends, really.

I am home just gone eight, so I warm up the soup, cut some fresh bread and butter it. I am shattered again.

More footy on the radio again, so I sit in the armchair and listen.

Tuesday 17th October 2017

I suppose, before we go on with the great Mum chase, as it will be forever known, here are some updates:

1. Tony/Dad/Jen and the family: As I said on Sunday, Jen has come to terms with Tony's death. I mean, you can't ignore it, and no amount of tears and swear words will bring him back. Doesn't mean she don't miss him, we all do, but there is a stack of things to do. Starting with clearing out what of his possessions she does not want to keep. Of course there are reminders of him all over the house, from packs of rolling tobacco, his glasses, his medicines, photographs and on and on and on. Cath has been helping, and Jools goes round each evening. Jools is still working, she says it is best to work through it. She is pragmatic about it, so, has told people at work so they know things may not seem to be as normal.

Jen is waiting to hear from the coroner as to the cause of death and then for the body to be released and only then can the funeral be arranged and the certificate be issued and finally the death be registered. She has her best friend from Bolton coming down on Friday, so Jen is going to meet her off the train in London. A day out for her and John, who lost his wife last year. It has been that kind of year, really.

2. Mum is much better. For a while she was disconnected from all machines, but as you will see from below, she now has a new box of electronic tricks to help with her healing process by gathering the fluid that should not be in her body. I mean it is easy to forget that she had such a major operation, and recovery is so fragile. But the doctors and nurses will not commit to a timeframe of how long she is going to be in hospital. How long is a piece of string was the only straight answer I got. All depends on how well she heals, the work needed to be done at her home and whether she does the exercises she is told she needs to. And then in the long term is her life choices, she changes. Or doesn't. If she doesn't she loses her son, some of her friends and will not be able to have any more medical care like she has just had.

3. And finally, allergies. Despite having couple of close shaves with sneezing fits and stuff, but as I am two months into my allergy season and not to have suffered a poor nights sleep, so poor it needs me to take a day off. There is no real reason for this, I can't say I have been more careful with shower gel and deodorant that in previous years, but I have been largely free of anything resembling an allergy attack. And long may that continue of course. And on top of that, my egg intolerance is over too. Might be connected one might think, only the allergy attacks have been going on for at least six years, and the intolerance only began two years ago. But all in all, pretty positive stuff.

And so onto the great Mum chase.

I knew, and said to Mum that this is what would happen, that she would get 5 minutes notice that the ambulance would be waiting and she would be away back to James Paget. And as I never got an answer from the early morning shit at Papworth, I had given up on calling until the afternoon shift began after midday, which meant that if I did that, I would not get to the hospital until three or so. Monday, I did not call the hospital at all, just set off for the hospital in the hope that she would still be there. If not she would be well enough to be moved. So good news either way, really.

I go for another walk to Fisher Row and along Oulton Dyke. It was another glorious morning, all clear blue skies and the promise of many fallen leaves after the wind the night before. So I park at the church and make my way down the lane to the edge of the marshes, checking my time to ensure I arrive at the foot crossing at the same time as the train to Norwich passed by. Would it be a pair of 37s? Two hundred and ninety In a word, no. I could hear the sound of overworked DMU engines long before I saw the 156 round the bend under the bridge with carried Prospect Road over the line. Another walk to Fisher Row I walk on, seeing more dragonflies and butterflies, even on a breezy day. I meet a couple of people, pass the time of day with them, and remark how lucky we were to be out on a day like this. At the other crossing, also carefully times, I wait for the service from Norwich, and as two weeks before, I was rewarded with a single car 153 rattling along which would have been uncomfortable for any passengers on board. Another walk to Fisher Row THere is always another church or two, and Simon had recommended another handful in the Diss area that I should visit. So I set off at eleven once again, sighing as I drove out through Somerleyton to St Olaves before picking up our old friend, the 143, then plodding along behind a series of truck and tractors until I reach Diss, and then a few miles further along I turn off and drive out towards Redgrave.

Another walk to Fisher Row Redgrave church could be seen as the lane meandered through the farmland and fields. I knew we would get there, at some point. The church stood on a slight rise, about ten feet above the level of the lane which lazily passed by. Inside the churchyard were two cars which partly spoiled the view of the church, but once inside I saw that there was a stage either being built or taken down, and there were two chaps doing the work. After a bad experience in deepest Suffolk a couple of years back under similar circumstances, but this was to be different. The two chaps were wardens, or guardians under the ownership of the CCT, and one of them was very keen to point out to me the points of interest of the church. Turns out we have a mutual friend, John Vigar, so we swapped news, then when I said I live in Kent, the other gentleman was from Shepherdswell, and so we discussed the church there and at Waldershare.

Another walk to Fisher Row But time was pressing, and I was off to see another nearby church which I was told was good if you liked the unusual. Burgate was again at the edge of the village, and I saw it about half a mile off. Outside had been largely rendered, so making any blocked doors of arches hard to see. And inside it had the most glorious roof, the same width even into the chancel, with what looked like carved medallions where the rood would once have been. There was a war memorial with candle holders made out of old shell casing, and various nooks and crannies around the walls, with figures making it seem higher than it probably was.

As ever, time had beaten me, so I left after signing the visitor's book and got back on the 143 and carried on towards Bury. I stopped at Tesco for some lunch and to get change for the parking at the hospital. That there is such a thing is effectively a tax on the sick and their families. Two pounds fifty gets you a couple of hours no matter how little your actual stay is, which was to become an issue this day. As again there were parking spaces, driving round and round until there was a tricky space in which I could squeeze the Corsa into. I get the ticket, put it in the car and walk to the private building, up the stairs and along the corridor to room 10.

It was empty, the bed bare of bedding and the floor washed. Either Mum had transferred or had taken a turn for the very worse. I go to the nurse station, and they check their notes, yes she left at half two, some half an hour ago, meaning I had passed her on the Cambridge by-pass I suppose. There was nothing to stay for, so I say thanks and go back to the car for the drive home.

Much the same as before, I make good time to get past Cambridge, then to Newmarket and to Bury. From then on it is always a lottery as to whether you could drive like the wind for an hour or get stuck behind tractors and truck thus more than doubling the journey time. The night before was better, as half of it was undertaken as it was getting dark, and farmers would be at their tables having ham and eggs or something. Tuesday was not a day like that, lots of tractors about in the late afternoon light, going hither and thither. The trip took two and a half hour in all, getting back just before six.

I have time to have a coffee and clear up the last of the custard creams before driving over to Gorleston to see Mum and give her the dressing gowns I had washed the night before. I find her on ward 2, connected to a box that would speed up her recovery, but she was disoriented, and unsteady on her feet. She is down, really quite down indeed. Although she is well on the road to recovery. I think it is having a box plumbed back in, after thinking she was past all of that. But for me it has been a long day, six hours driving, then to Gorleston, and I have yet to eat, so I promise a long stay in tomorrow, saying I will tell her friends that she is close to home and they can visit her, and I will come in the evening, as I had a day of yet more cleaning planned, the final parts before I can bid the old family home goodbye.

I call into Fir Lane chippy for Skate and Chips, and freshly cooked they were too, so when I got home and had made a brew, the battler on the skate was still crispy. And so much of it. So many chips. I tried but could not eat them all. I was beaten.

For the rest of the evening I sat in the armchair, all puffed out listening to the football on the radio. More European games. So ended yet another day, but I had come to the conclusion that one more day and I would go back to Chez Jelltex.

Monday 16th October 2017

Monday morning, and here I am in the faintly nicotine tinged bedding at Mum’s. I have tried to make it better, but there is only so much a young fella can do.

I get up, have a coffee, then breakfast and ponder the day. I know from past experience, there is no point in calling the hospital before I leave, therefore as a friend I know on the way was back from his travels, I thought I would call in on him on the way, as Mendlesham is a short diversion.

There was one more church beside the 143 I was aware of, as there was a brown sign pointing to an “historic” church. Aren’t they all in EA? It is under the care of the CCT which usually means it would be unlocked, but after parking, I go to try the door, and it is locked. On the notice board there was details of a key holder, so as I tried to orientate the map with the road, the door opened.

I thought you were a ghost said the lady the other side of the door.

She lets me in and I begin to snap away. Do you know anything of the history of the church she asks. I say I don’t, but point out some of the features that allows me to see how the chuch has changed; there is a clear and good set of Rood Stairs, and clearly there was a side chapel, but no sign of a squint that would probably have been there. I talk about the glass, and say which I think was old, most of it was Victorian, and pretty poor if truth be told.

I advised them to go to Whenaston and then to Blythburgh to see more wonders. They were taking notes, so maybe they did go there afterwards.

Time was getting on, so I go to see Rob, and we have a great chat and they ply me with tea, which was very nice. It is good to have talks with people, rather than me arguing with my inner monologue.

I leave theirs at half twelve, and press on to Bury, stopping of at Tesco for lunch of sandwiches, crisps, a Twix and a bottle of Coke; all four food groups. And I then eat as I drive up the A14, probably breaking a couple of laws at the time too.

I arrive at Papworth to find all of East Anglia was visiting too, meaning there were no free parking spaces. I mean no free spaces at all. A train of cars goes round and round for half an hour until each one of us find a space. I get a small one next to a building that just about manage to get the car into.

Up to see Mum on the ward, and as usual, not much to say, and she has no news of a transfer.

When I get back into the car, RadMac are talking about a red sky seen in Manchester, and in time the clouds roll over, and the sun which was bright and yellow earlier was now red and angry. A hurricane, a real hurricane not one two weeks past its sell by date, but a genuine hurricane was tracking up the west coast of Ireland, and it was dragging air from North Africa, meaning the air was full of sand particles, causing the light to be shifted down the spectrum; hence, red sun, pink and yellow clouds.

Two hundred and eighty nine Once on the 143 I stop to take a snap at the odd light, but the sun was long since gone. And the low and sand laden clouds brought dusk 90 minutes early, although many drivers apparently failed to notice and were driving without any lights, and so barely able to be seen.

I get home at half six; long since dark and just glad to be home safe and sound. If not home, then at Mum’s. I had stopped at the butcher on Gorleston Road to buy a huge lamb steak, so fry that and cook mashed potatoes and make both disappear along with the last of the 2007 vintage wine in the living room.

Oh well.

Football on the radio, and me writing blogs at the same time. Usual evening for here.

Some Brexit realities

In order to debunk some claims and statements that have been made on potential delays and/or cancelling of the Article 50 process. Those who read these words regularly will already know this, but needs restating from time to time.

1. As said many times, the final part of Brexit Britain had control over was if and when the notification under Article 50 was made.

2. From then on, all other steps in “Brexit”, was under the control of the EU27

3. Although there has been suggestion that the word “intention” in clause 1 of A50 means that under Britain’s constitution, we could reverse the process.

4. Clause 3 makes it clear that by the unanimous agreement of the EU27 or the UCJ, the A50 process will end either with or without a deal after exactly 2 years.

5. There is nothing May, the Cabinet, Government of Parliament can do to change this. We can ask the EU27 or the UCJ to either pause of reverse the notification, but agreement is not given, and such agreement would only depend on it being in the EU27’s interests. Appeal to the UCJ is possible, but A50 is part of the highest level of EU law, and is unlikely to be reversed.

6. Even if Parliament has a vote on the final deal or no deal, and it is rejected, this would make no difference, as pausing or revoking A50 would still require agreement of the EU27.

7. There is no chance that anyone in Parliament, the Commons or Lords could “sabotage” Brexit, it will happen unless the EU27 r the UCJ says otherwise.

8. Talks on trade can only begn when the EU27 agree that “sufficient progress” has been made on the three key issues: the Irish border, financial settlement and EU/UK citizen’s rights. It is likely that progress on two of the three would not be enough, especially if the Irish Border is not agreed.

9. It is Britain that decided to leave the EU, so it should have identified issues and have solutions to these. May and the Brexiteers were told of the issues, but ignored

10. And the A50 notification sent before any issues were identified and what the ultimate goal of the talks were to be.

11. The EU27 has managed the task of being united from the first policy document in April to date. Ultimately, they have concluded that the preservation of the Single Market by protecting the four freedoms more important that trade with the UK.

12. Britain has failed to address most of the policy papers that the EU has published, instead publishing its own weeks later, that already the EU27 have rejected in their earlier paper.

13. Any deal that might be agreed has to be ratified by all EU27 and probably up to a dozen regional Parliaments, as well as the EU itself and the ECJ.

14. Any deal that is agreed has to be in compliance with EU law, hence ratification from the UCJ

15. It would not matter who was Prime Minister, May, Johnson, Leadsome, Gove, Corbyn, the above conditions and issues would still be there.

16. There is no deal that would be “better” than being part of the largest Free Trade Area in the world. There are only degrees of damage that other deals or a no deal would do to the economy, wages, jobs and inflation. 17. Brexiteers will try to blame the failure of Brexit on anything other than either themselves or Brexit itself. The EU, judges, the press, other MPs, Remoaners, “foreigners. And so on. Failure of Brexit, and its potential success depends on replacement of those who do not believe with “evangelical Brexiteers”. Say no more.

18. If Britain wanted to leave the EU, it could stop paying into the EU budget now and refusing to comply with UCJ judgements. However, under WTO rules, Britain would still be part of the EU until 29th March 2019 and so unable to even talk about the possibility of a trade deal with any other country.

19. All the above also applies to any Transition Agreement too. EU27 would all have to agree, it be in the EU’s interest and clear as to what the transition was towards. Also sufficient progress on the 3 basic issues would be needed too.

20. Britain understood the A50 process and the time limit, yet entered into it anyway, knowing that with each week that passed, it ramped up the pressure on Britain not the EU.

21. Any deal will be what the EU27 decides to offer Britain. The choice will be whether to accept this or not. A genuine Hobson’s choice.

22. Finally, there is no escaping reality. What will happen, will happen. Regardless how many times it is said that “Brexit means Brexit”, and that either German car makers of Italian Prosecco producers would push for a deal.

Sunday 15th October 2017

Sunday dawns, we have no idea what the day will bring. Wherever I will end up in the evening depends how Jen has recovered after the shock of Saturday.

There is coffee, there is MOTD and there is bacon. To all intents and purposes, a normal Sunday. After clearing up, I help Jools in the garden until half ten, at which point we both have a shower, then drive to Whitfield to see the remainder of the old folks.

Jen had talked until half five, at which point the whisky and vodka finally kicked in, and slept for four hours; poor Cath had just an hour and looked grey and tired when we arrived.

Jen is fine, however. She has accepted what had happened, and as the day went on chased both Jools and Cath out, leaving her to the house with her Mother. She is still upset, obviously, and as each of the neighbours come in after finding out, the tears begin again. But Jen is made of strong stuff, and is a marvel really.

I volunteer to feed the chickens, and so treat them to lettuce and sweetcorn, the sight of which has them so excited.

Cath goes home to grab some sleep, and once more of Jen’s neighbours drop round, Jools and I go home to have lunch and for me to prepare to drive back to Suffolk. Still no news of a transfer for Mum, so with things having settled down with Jen and Jools being OK, I say I will go up for three more days. But this will be the last days of my sojourn in Suffolk.

After loading the car, I set off at one, dropping Jools off at Jen’s, and then driving out along the Alkham Valley to the start of the motorway.

Although it is much further driving from Dover to Papworth, if the roads allow it can be done in about two hours, the same as the shorter run from Lowestoft. Just depends on the traffic.

Two hundred and eight eight And after some slow traffic at the tunnel, along the M25 and up the M11 through Harlow and past Stanstead to Cambridge was an easy run, arriving at the hospital at quarter past four.

Mum is bored. Very bored. I have little news other than the flesh out the details of what happened to Tony and how everyone was. I leave again at five fifteen as dinner was about to be served.

An easy cruise down the A14, and then up the 143, with darkness falling, I have a clear run, driving at the speed limit and getting back just after seven, but it being dark means that I can’t see the numbers on the key safe, so have to ask Madge next door to borrow a torch to be able to let myself in the house.

I had bought a small lasagne when I filled up the car, so warmed that up and some garlic bread as well as raiding what is left of mum’s wine cellar. And as I had emptied to its current state, it seems fair to me to complete the job, there being on last 2007 vintage bottle. I mean if it is left any longer it might become undrinkable, and wouldn’t that be bad?

I call home, then listen to the radio, surf the net and finish the wine, trying to stay awake until MOTD and the day’s football. Not sure much of it made much sense, but hey.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Saturday 14th October 2017

This will be the day forever remembered for what happened from half ten onwards. But there you go, shows you can get up in the morning, unaware that how shitty the day will end up turning.

With Mum still in Papworth, it was obvious that I would be going back to Suffolk at the end of the weekend, and with Sunday afternoon the best for traveling, already the time was running out, and I was barely out of bed. We went to Tesco, got a few things for Jools to have whilst I was away, and we were back again warming through croissants and making a second coffee before nine.

I then went to B&Q to get a spade. We were both going to work in the garden, so we both needed one. That was about half nine, Jools was working at the bottom of the garden well out of hearing range of the phones in the house.

I get back, put on some shots and boots and begin to dig. We were clearing one of the beds in the garden to plant the new fritillaries we had bought. I had been working for about half an hour when I heard Jools' mobile go. By the time I worked out what the noise was it had stopped, but then the landline began to ring. I went into the house, trailing muddy footprints, but I felt I should answer the call.

It was Cath, Jools' sister, and I could tell right away that something was wrong. Let me speak to Julie she said. Wen I called Jools she said she would call back, but I said I think you need to take this one. So, Jools came up, sat down on the wooden bench and Cath told Jools that their Dad, Tony, had died. No easy way to say this, no way to butter it up.

So, after the tears, we wash our hands and jump in the car to drive to Whitfield. When we arrived there was a police car outside, there was no mistake.

Jen was in bits, of course, and in denial. As we all would be. Tony was still in the bedroom where he fell. We were waiting for the ambulance to take him. We were all numb really. Jen was jabbering away, stuck in a lopp of saying the same things, asking the same questions, saying its all a nightmare and he wasn't even ill. 5 minutes later it repeated.

I have heard about shock, and seen in when there is an accident, but not seen it through grief. All we could do was be there and to support and make cuppas laced with Jack Daniels as asked for.

The police were still there, and they were able to confirm some of the details, but not speculate on what had happened. The ambulance came and took Tony away. I took Jen in to see him once last time. There was no doubt he was dead, his colour said that. This was my father-in-law.

Jen continued the repeat cycle of questions and answers. And drinking tea laced with bourbon. It didn't slow her down much, nor the denial. Then came the anger.

Cath stayed and Jools and I came home. Still trying to come to terms with it. He had been ill, and so maybe not a surprise, but still, still a shock.

Jools goes back to see Jen and I stay at home. Life goes on and football returns of course. It seems so wrong to say I spent the afternoon editing and listening to footy, but it is life and life does go on. I also carry on working in the garden, removing more "grass" in preparation for planting and the building work that is to come.

Two hundred and eighty seven Jools came back at about six, and I was halfway through cooking chorizo hash. Back to normal, and yet surreal too. I had put a bottle of pink fizz in the fridge, so we toast Dad once dinner was cooked, and we eat, once again to the sound of a Radio 4 comedy. I was good to laugh.

Jools went to bed at eight, worn out by the day. I stay up to watch football; City drew 1-1, with our goal in the last minute of injury time.

All in all, and odd kind of day.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Friday 13th October 2017

Groundhog Day.

Awake at just gone seven and then wait for the phone call from the hospital.

I call at nine and find that the doctor had not done his round as yet, but again she takes my number and says she will let me know if there is news or not about a transfer. So, I wait by the telephone until midday, packing the rest of my stuff and piling it by the back door.

Come midday I call again and was told, by a different nurse that the doctor had again done his rounds by nine, and that Mum was still waiting for a bed, and that beds at James Paget were like hen's teeth. So, no change.

At all.

I load the car up and check the house but still manage to leave my coffee pot behind, but that fact I would not discover until I got back to Kent.

And at one, I am ready to go, all loaded up and the route so well know. But it is a Friday, and traffic would be heavy, probably until I got back into Suffolk.

At least at first the roads would be quiet, across to St Olaves and then down the 143 to Beccles, Bungay and so on. Man, I know every bend in this road now! The radio is on, and it is fairly bright, there are worse things to be doing. Until I turn onto the A14 of course.

And it is mental, as usual on a Friday, nose to tail all the way to Newmarket and then crawling to Cambridge, past the top of the motorway and out through the other side, and finally a half hour wait to get round the roundabout to Papworth. This is the spot where the dual carriageway ends, so Friday rush hour traffic trying to funnel from two lanes into one.

I arrive at four, giving me 90 minutes with Mum. Which with all being talked out is 75 too many.

But with dinner being served at quarter past five, that gives me the excuse to make a move, saying I will be back on Sunday. I am back at the car, in theory just two hours from home, but that could easily be doubled on a Friday. There is Steve Lamacq on the radio, playing some fine tunes and interesting chat, then Iggy Pop, amen.

Sure enough it is mad on the motorway down past Stanstead, three lanes of nose to nose traffic, all leading to join the M25, then jostling for position for the off ramp, filtering to the eastward direction. And then wait to join the motorway, and crawl eastwards towards the bridge.

It is eight when I cross into Kent, and the traffic just melts away. Of course it is dark now, but with the roads quiet, I put my foot down as I headed south.

Two hundred and eighty six In Folkestone I stop off at Burger King for dinner, zipping home with burgers, fries and drinks, as I know Jools would be waiting. Arriving home just before nine, in time to see Monty and for us to have supper.

I am home, if only for a few days.

Friday, 13 October 2017

On Brexit Treason and being at war

Some talk show host called on the Chancellor to be tried for treason in not backing full scale preparations for a no deal Brexit. In the past I have suggested that some of the leading Brexiteers should be tried for this in selling the country to the media barons they work part time for, or putting their self-interest above what is best for the country. That a radio show host should make such statements on social media because a Minister of the Crown decided what was best was to take this course of action shows what a mess we're in currently.

Late, Hammond himself in a newspaper interview called the EU the enemy. Then tried to backtrack when it was reported on the news. I meant in a sense that "we're " united he blabbered. Quite who "we" are is unclear, can't be the cabinet, government of Parliament that's for sure.

On top of this, yesterday it came as no surprise to learn that after the 5th round of talks between Britain and the EU, the EU have decided that there has not been sufficient progress to allow trade talks to start, and is likely to be the case until December And if that is the case then where talks are going will have to be looked at. David Davis had a more upbeat assessment, but then its not his call as to whether progress has been made. This is because he caved in on the timetable back at the start of the first round of talks in June.

And the rabid brexiteers are calling on Britain to walk out of talks if this continues. Like they know the consequences if they do, or maybe they do, but are not saying.

So, in summary: the Chancellor is a traitor who also seems to think Britain is at war with Europe.

Thursday 12th October 2017

And here we are again, after calling the hospital for news, being told I will call you back. I wait and wait, and of course, there is no call back. At midday, there is a shift change so I can get some news from the head nurse, as the one who is supposed to be looking after Mum lets me down. Again.

IN the meantime, I pack and tidy up the house, although not straying too far from the phone, just in case. The final act is to remove two decades of plush toy collecting, all now stained brown and good for nothing other than the bin. So, its into the bin they go.

By midday it is clear the call is not coming, so I call the ward and am told there is no bed at James Paget again for Mum, so she is staying. And this was known at nine, before I called the first time, meaning it was a morning wasted. I am beyond angry, maybe that is what happens when institutions become inefficient? That is hard, Mum is no longer an urgent case, just needs somewhere to go to recuperate, she already has a bed and support, just out of reach for all her friends as I am the only one prepared to travel the five plus hour return trip even just one day.

THe night before I had seen a couple of churches near to Diss, just a few minutes off the road, so I will stop off at them on the way down to do some snapping and to stop my head from going bang.

It is a fine day, but I spend the first 45 minutes driving to Diss, then following the sat nav nearly into the town centre, then off up a farm track, through a wood and ending up in the yard of an abandoned farm, but clearly the farmhouse was still being lived in. And in the corner of the yard is the gate with the church of Frenze beyond. Even better, as it is in the care of the Church Conservation Trust, I was fairly sure it would be open.

Two hundred and eighty five And it was. A simple building, little changed from around the 15th century, peppered with memorial brasses and ancient pews looking at a simple altar. There is also remains of some very old glass in the east window, which with the compact I could get some shots of those.

But in such a small church, there is only so many shots one can take. But saying that I seem to have missed a couple of monkeys carved into a pew end. So, seems that you always need to take more.

With Harry Hill on RadMac on the wireless, I drive the eight miles to the other side of Diss to Shimpling. It appears there is a village in Suffolk with the same name, and a church with the same dedication; just to confuse things.

But Shimpling in Norfolk has a round tower and a spire on top, looking like some kind of medieval rocket about to launch. You reach it down a farm track, then along a muddy/grassy lane to the edge of the churchyard and the simple gates. St Peter is another under the care of the CCT, and I saw a sign for it at Frenze, making me only then realise it was so close. It also has a timeless quality, very rural, church to a place that is more of a street than a village.

But time was getting on, Harry Hill had finished on the radio meaning it was three, and with over an hour to go, I set the sat nav for Papworth and drove to the nearby A140 then back along the familiar 143, getting stuck behind tractors and slow moving lorries. At Bury I stop to fill up and get some late lunch, turns out a sandwich and a Coke is three forty, but add a pack of crisps and its three pounds. So a pack of crisps is minus forty pence?

From Bury it is just half an hour through Newmarket and Cambridge and out the other side, away from the heavy traffic queuing up to join the A14 towards the A1(M).

Anyway, I arrive at the hospital at twenty past four, and so have 70 minutes with Mum. I am all talked out with her, just nothing much to say, so Jools have brought up her scrapbooks from Japan, and a book made for the completion of the last project I worked on. So, Mum looked at those, asked questions and so passed half an hour.

Half five is when visiting hours end, so I have to leave. I could return in an hour, but I have to go back to Lowestoft again, and deal with rush hour through Cambridge. And it was pretty bad, but traffic kept moving, and I made Bury in an hour, and home in an hour and a half later. Nearly eight o'clock.

I make a sandwich and crack open a bottle of wine. Home tomorrow I thing to myself.

Wednesday 11th October 2017

Whatever happens, I am going back to Kent this weekend. I hope that when Mum is transferred, her friends will take up the slack with visiting duties, so I won’t have to come back, and I can pick up my old life, working from home and all that stuff. If not, then I will have to return next week. I know that it is a very real possibility.

The doctors do their rounds at nine in the morning, anyway, they have sad since Saturday that Mum can be transferred, and with day by day, fewer and fewer leads and pipes and lies are attached to her, so that is not a reason for her still being in Papworth.

No, the reason is that she is not now an urgent case, so has to wait in line for a bed. And anyone who is in a more serious condition jumps ahead. Just the way it is, really. I call the hospital at nine, hoping to find that I would not have to drive to Papworth; the nurse said there is no news, but not to travel until she calls back.

So I wait.

At midday, I call and am told by the same person that at nine there was no chance Mum would be moved that day, as there had been no confirmation from the admission’s clerk at James Paget. Meaning I would have to leave for Cambridge ASAP to get to the hospital in time.

I swore under my breath as I pulled my shoes on, and went to the car.

Trees were showing yet more gold and reds as the seasons turn, but on the road I got stuck in lines of traffic as tractors and trailers made their way from farm to field. There was no way past them, as the line of traffic was too long.

Two hundred and eighty four I arrive just before three, Mum is bored. And I have no real new news for her from what I said the days before. I say again that she needs to think seriously whether she can live in the house any more, as she pays various people £60 a week just to do the basic stuff like clean and do the garden; her neighbours take out the bins, whilst she sits and smokes. Or did.

After an hour I leave again, to get on the road and though Cambridge before the rush hour really starts. I just put my foot down to get past the slower traffic, and end up back at Bury in an hour, then from there it should have been 90 minutes from there, if there hadn’t have been any farm traffic.

With tractors and the fading light, getting any kind of speed up was impossible, meaning I got back home at half six with darkness having already fallen. Another day in paradise having almost passed by. I find some things in the freezer to have for dinner, and cook some jacket potatoes for supper too.

I call Jools and we discuss stuff to do at the weekend, and say that with Mum still in Papworth, and if she was still there Friday afternoon I would have to return after the weekend.

Assessing the assessments

The British Government has commissioned at least 50 impact assessments on the UK economy, detailing how the different Brexit scenarios would make and cost. Briilliant work, so we can all make informed judgements on whether hard, sofe or no deal is good and what it would cost the country and us personally.

Only the Government is refusing to publish them, thinks we don’t need to know, and that we should be happy with a “trust us, we know what we’re doing, Guv”. This is enough for the right leaning, Brexit supporting papers, but this morning 210 MPs signed a motion that they should be released.

I mean having facts available so that Britons can make informed decisions is a marvellous idea. News on that as we get it.

Other than that, Donald Tusk said unless there was “sufficient progress” by the end of the year then the whole process will have to be looked at. He has said from March the only realistic choice for Britain was between a “hard” Brexit and a no deal. As ever, he is right.

Meanwhile the Brexiteers have been getting their excuses in early, blaming Remainers, the House of Lords, the BBC, The EU; anyone but their perfect Brexit religion of course. The EU have made their positions clear, and said these were non-negotiable. So every time Britain suggests movement on one of these, the EU says “no”, so time passes and Britain suggests it again.

In this way, six months have passed since the rounds of talks begun, and really very little progress has been made, if any, on the three basic issues. And with each week and month that goes past, there is less time for any potential trade framework talks.

Despite saying Britain is planning for all eventualities, including no deal, only if there was then there would be much building work in Dover for instance. And none is taking place. Recruitment of customs officials, office space, lorry parks are needed. And seeing that it took DHB a year to replace two roundabouts on Townwall Street with traffic lights, building office blocks is going to take more than the 18 months we have left.

John Redwood has bemoaned that the EU is not talking about anything important; I mean the Irish border of the lives of 4 million people are not important! Britain under David Davis agreed this timetable back in June, so no point in complaining now.

In a radio interview, May would not say, knowing what she knows now, would vote to stay in the EU or leave. A cowardly answer, but not as cowardly as not supporting EU nationals stuck in limbo as their lives are used as bargaining chips, something during the referendum campaign it was said would not happen.

I will close by saying that if May wanted to frustrate and wreck Brexit, she would be doing pretty much the same as she has done since being elected as PM last June. She has been that bad, and yet there is no better candidate to lead the country, in wither her party or the opposition.

Sad, isn’t it?

Tuesday 10th October 2017

Tuesday already in my second week here in Suffolk. And I really just want to go home. Really, really bad. I am now in a routine, get up soon after it gets light, about seven or so, make coffee, check the internet then have breakfast. And wait for Mum to call on what the situation is.

Tuesday I was expecting Mum to be transferred, so there was the expectation of a quiet day and then going to see her at James Paget in the evening, but at half nine I get a call saying that the transfer had been postponed again as she had to have more leads removed.

A walk to Lowestoft Ness and a look at the fishing nets drying racks She is as disappointed as I am, as she wants to be nearer home, meaning at least she has more than just me as a visitor, so a better class of conversation. Not only that, but as nice as a private room is, she has no one other than the occasional nurse to talk to; but she has freeview on the TV, so she has the radio on all the time.

A walk to Lowestoft Ness and a look at the fishing nets drying racks All this means yet another trip south to Papworth, although I am feeling stiff with the five hours minimum of driving per day, so after breakfast I drive down to the south beach for a walk along the sea wall to have a stretch.

A walk to Lowestoft Ness and a look at the fishing nets drying racks It is a warm morning, surprisingly so. I have shorts on as I am washing my jeans, but even with my lilywhite legs on display, and no coat on either, it was pleasantly warm, even if other walkers have coats on. Some also have scarves, woolly hats like it is the middle of winter.

A walk to Lowestoft Ness and a look at the fishing nets drying racks To my surprise the beach has gone; this is where Mum used to bring me every day in the summers before I started school, as there were no shops or amusements here, just the beach and sea. Much cheapness for a young family trying to make ends meet with what was then a huge mortgage to pay each month.

A walk to Lowestoft Ness and a look at the fishing nets drying racks I think the same storm that wrecked Shakespeare Beach back in Dover swept much of the beach here too, much of the part I used to play on has gone, and even though it is high tide with the gentle waves lapping at the foot of the sea wall, it was clear even as the tide went down there would be little sand. And the beach itself was closed by the council, with warning signs and barriers blocking access.

A walk to Lowestoft Ness and a look at the fishing nets drying racks I walk to Lowestoft Ness, the most easterly point in mainland Great Britain. There is something there now; a towers and a direction dial sculpture on the prom, where in the past there was just a sea wall and behind a sewerage plant. It is better now, but not much to look at really.

A walk to Lowestoft Ness and a look at the fishing nets drying racks I walk back and get in the car, sigh and set off for Cambridge, making my way back to Oulton Village before turning onto the Somerleyton road and then to the 143 and south.

You know the road by now, so not much to describe it; I just want to get down it to the A11, then to Cambridge and to the hospital so I can have a cuppa before visiting hours begin.

A walk to Lowestoft Ness and a look at the fishing nets drying racks Mum is down, I am tired. Talk is limited, as I do little other than eat, sleep and travel, but the nets are now all washed and I am in the process of hanging them back up the windows. And despite my limited skills in making the rehanging look neat, they are at least clean.

At three I make my farewells and begin the long trip back, before the rush hour starts on the A14 through Cambridge, rushing to get to Bury and the bottom of the 143. And from there it is about a 90 minute or so run back home.

I am back by half five, and it is already getting dark. Another day gone in a flash. I hang some more nets before the light fades, then prepare insalata for dinner, and open a bottle of wine to slurp, making sure I don’t go over the top and get too angry/morose again like last week.

There is football on TV again; Holland needing to beat Sweden by seven clear goals. Was never going to happen, but they play well in the first half and were 2-0 up by half time. There was no belief from the start of the 2nd, so I channel hop hoping to find something diverting. I don’t.

Monday 9th October 2017

No call from either Mother or Papworth on whether she was being transferred today, which meant another long drive to the other side of Cambridge after all.

So my plan to clean the house, what I have not done this far, and wash the net curtains would have to be done around traveling.

At least there is coffee in the mornings now, which means I soon perk up. Before the drive I have to go into town to see a family friend of mum’s heart attack. Stuart is a barber and has a shop in Love Road. He is pleased to see me, but is concerned by Mum’s illness of course.

Two hundred and eighty two That done I decide to go for a walk as I have been sitting in a car for the last four days, so a leg stretcher would be great. The other walk my Granddad used to take me on was a walk along what was called the salt side, the downstream side from Mutford Lock, past all the old ship and boat yards that used to line the river there. There should still be a path there. He used to let me choose which walk to take, either were good as both meant crossing railway lines, this one involved walking through a passageway under the Ipswich line, then over a footbridge when the path got near to Normanston Park. I know this means nothing to you, but there are the details. I parked at the park then walked along the bottom where the swings and slides used to be until the tennis courts were put in, there was also a fine old pavilion here, but that got knocked down too. And finally at the end of the 80s, the new spine road took out a part of the eastern side of the park. I used to run round here in preparation for joining the RAF, I soon switched to road running as it was more enjoyable, and I could measure out the distance easily.

A walk beside Lake Lothing Anyway, from the bottom of the park, there is a footpath that goes beside the railway line then up over the footbridge to the foreshore. As a child, I used to love standing here when a train went past, with just a find iron barred fence separating me from the trains, which seemed huge. The top of the footbridge is also arched, meaning that as a child I used to get disoriented walking over it, but not today. The other memory I have of the bridge is Dad sitting me on the parapet waiting for a train, I was so scared I screamed as I thought I was going to fall onto the tracks.

A walk beside Lake Lothing I wait here to see trains arrive from both Ipswich and Norwich. I soon hear the sound of the automatic barriers in Harbour Road meaning the turbostar from Ipswich was coming. The points were already set to enable it to enter the junction and cross onto the down line to Lowestoft. And soon after I could just hear the bell of the crossing the other side of Oulton Broad North, and the level crossing close.

A walk beside Lake Lothing Another turbostar pulled in, not the 37s I was hoping for. I have heard them all over the weekend, every few hours. I take shots anyway, and then walk down the other side to the side of Lake Lothing.

A walk beside Lake Lothing Even as a child, the boatyards that used to line the waterside had mostly closed, and all that remained were the slipways, and to my child’s eyes, looking like railway lines leading to the bottom of the lake. Some are there now, some still working boatyards; bespoke yards specialising in reparing wooden boats in a traditional way. But where there were no restrictions on where a walker could wander, strong metal fences no line much of path, and where I sued to go and see the wooden skeletons of old wooden boats, not there is no chance of seeing them, even if they were there.

A walk beside Lake Lothing I reach the foot tunnel under the Ipswich line, where I used to run and scream enjoying the echoes, all is now just covered in spray paint. It feels very sad now compared when it was just rotting, now it is that, barricaded and vandalised.

A walk beside Lake Lothing I walk back to the car the way I had come, then drove to Tesco to get lunch before setting off for another trip to Papworth.

A walk beside Lake Lothing No churches visited today, just there and back, bearing the traffic on the A14, seeing Mum for 45 minutes, and then on the way out taken aside by her physio to quiz me on some of the answers Mum had given. Mum getting home might be some time away as she cannot pull herself up, from the toilet especially, as this would rip open her stitches. So, either the seat is raised of the toilet put on a pedestal.

Back to the car to get onto the main road as quick as possible so to get through Cambridge before the rush hour starts then onto the 143 and the hour and a quarter run home through the mist and drizzle of an autumnal afternoon.

A walk beside Lake Lothing I get home at six, just time for a shower before my old friend, Dougie, is due to call to take me out for dinner. Curry.

Dougie comes and collects me at twenty past seven, but we’re not going to Wallers, instead a new restaurant has opened up in the buildings on Oulton Broad North station. We have a table booked, and as usual with a curry house, they have house specialities; I end up having king prawns with ginger, garlic and other spices. It is good, and talking to Dougie is great, catching up on years of news and discussing the finer points of either having children or not having them.

And that is that, we eat up, he pays and drops me off at Mum’s. Evening done. I catch up on the evening’s football, with Wales beaten by Ireland. So it goes, so it goes.

And so to bed.

Brexit malarkey

You may remember a recent post in which I described how the Foreign Secretary on two consecutive weekends had articles in both the Torygraph and Sun setting out his visions and “red lines” for Brexit, and that any transition period should not be a second longer than two years. He said other bollocks too, but that is not the point here, its just that here was a Minister of State, having newspaper articles advocating policies different from the one stated by the Government he serves in.

This week, for Conservative Party Chairman and writer, Grant Shapps, set out a plan to unset the Prime Minister, stating that at 30 other MPS backed the plan. Boris de Piffle Johnson had the brass kahunas to tell Shapps and co to stop with the plotting malarkey and get behind the PM. Yes, this was for real.

Now it turns out that Conservative MPs has a Whatsapp group, in which they have been giving each other a right slagging off. Of course during this, the PM herself has been saying she wants to carry on and lead the party and country to the next election, which could be before Christmas.

Seeing Johnson, Shapps and Leadsome shaping up to take over from May is like the bridge officers on the Titanic fighting as to who takes the wheel of the ship after the iceburg was stuck and the ship was sinking. To the media, and in the Brexit supporting press, you would think that nothing was going on, just a few unhappy MPs. Who were sounding off, but the reality is the party is tearing itself apart, as the Brexit religion bangs against the walls of reality. The lies that were told to win the referendum, will be shown for what they always were, there is no escaping reality of course, but the Brexiteers will do anything to blame anyone except themselves and the pure religion of Brexit. It didn’t work because you didn’t believe in it enough.

Reality is already biting in one sector: agriculture. Planning what to do with this season lambs has to be decided before the end of the year; slaughter for food or keep to produce a new generation of lambs in the spring of 2019. Now wait a minute, is’t there something else important happening in the spring of 2019? Oh yes, Britain is due to leave the EU, and unless there is a trade agreement, British agri-goods will be subject to tariffs and origin checks as happens all other such good from 3rd party countries.

Similar issues surround grains, as they can be stored for a few years, should this year’s grain crop be stored, if the market for it in 2019 will, in effect, vanish when tariffs and non-tariff barriers should come into force? These are real issues that will have to be decided this year, before Britain has decided what it wants from Brexit, what the negotiations are leading towards. Even with a transistion, there has to be a transition to somewhere, not just a holding pattern whilst Britain decides among itself what it really, really wants.

A zinger say ahhhh.

A group of countries including the US and New Zealand have refused Britain’s idea of transferring the tariff schedules Britain currently enjoys as part of the EU, and Britain just keeping those when it leaves the EU. This means that Britain will have to negotiate, from scratch, on all goods with all members of the WTO. At the same time as negotiating with the EU on its leaving deal.

Big, big job.

And then there is the Irish border issue. As you remember, in accordance with the EU rules, there has to be a hard border at the edge of the EU. And in accordance with the Good Friday agreement there has to be no border. Two extremes, and a solution to the EU, Ireland and Northern Ireland will have to be agreed as soon as possible. So far six months have passed and there has been no progress.

The one way round it might be that Northern Ireland leaves the EU with the rump of Britain, but stays inside either or both of the Customs Union or Single Market, but would remain in the United Kingdom, however the hard border would be between the island of Ireland and the rest of Britain. It is unlikely that the Government’s partners, the DUP, would accept anything that messed with Northern Ireland’s status as being part of Britain. And to make matters worse, this weekend the leader of the DUP stated that having no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic was a “red line”.

Finally, the question of whether Article 50 can be withdrawn by Britain alone has reared its head again. It centres on wording in the second clause, about the intention to leave the EU. If it is an intention, then that could be reversed. And as Britain would only leave the EU on 29th March 2019, meaning it would not have to apply using the Article 49 process. It is known the PM has taken legal advice on this, and that judgement will be crucial if a change of mind is needed. It is also likely that the EU will have had enough of Britain now, and just want to get rid of us, and the possibility of both Britain and the EU going to the UCJ to decide on the legality of the Article 50 process. If that happens a pause would be inevitable.

Of course, at some point, an end must come to Brexit; stay or leave, and which it, it is impossible to see how the two wings of the Conservative Party could ever stay in the same party, so a massive change in the political landscape could lie ahead, at the same time as the fall out from Brexit and a collapsing economy rages around their ears.

There is no escaping reality, and it is coming. Soon. And it will be brutal. Reputations will be shattered, careers will lie in ruins. But what of the country, and the people who live in it, how will we cope?

Sunday 8th October 2017

If things had gone differently, I would have been in Sussex this weekend at the Bluebell Railway watching Deltics thunder and growl up and down. But instead, I’m here in Suffolk, driving 15 miles a day to and from Cambridge. It is a life, of a kind. But, the good news is that come what may, Sunday should be my last drive up and down the A143, at least until I go home.

I had thought of getting up early and driving into the centre of Cambridge to have a wander round, take some shots and have lunch. I have not been there since the summer of 1973, and all I can remember is that my grandparents took me to a basement restaurant for lunch, I and I demanded to have sausage and chips, as did the whole week they took me on a railtour of East Anglia.

Instead today, I would drive back up the long and winding road through Beccles, Bungay, Diss and to Bury. And maybe look at a few more churches on the way.

Instead of getting up at the crack of dawn until daylight and the blackbirds in what counts as a back garden at the cradle of Jelltex, aka my parent’s house. There is radio shows to listen to, blogs to write and have breakfast, and now that Jools had brought my coffee pot up, I could have a cup of fresh coffee with breakfast. I like tea, but in the morning, only coffee really works.

There is some tidying up to be done, more junk mail to be returned as not known at this address, then at half eleven, have lunch of toast and marmalade, and then begin the journey back south.

It was warm and damp, a gentle drizzle was falling and trees all along the road were turning to red and gold. The years gets older as the days shorten further. The harvest moon is now waning, last night it was so bright it seemed almost daylight when I went to bed.

On the way down, I stop at a church in Wortham. I say in, but really, I followed the signs to the church out of the village and down a narrow lane to a crossroads, where just visible in a gap in the hedge was the lych gate. I walk up the tree-lined grassy path to the church, and I meet a couple having lunch on a bench beside the porch. The woman says this is the best view in Suffolk, looking back towards the gate and into the sun. It is special for sure.

Two hundred and eighty one It clearly was fairly high, with a few scattered icons, but best of all were some fabulously carved pew ends, finely carved with figures with quotes from the bible underneath. Fabulous.

I got back in the car, meaning to call in at another church on the way, but I missed the turning, so press on. At least being a Sunday, the roads were fairly empty, so I could have put my foot down, but as I had plenty of time, I cruise at 60, listening to Roddy Doyle on Radio 6, about the music that shaped his life. It was a fascinating listen, and he has excellent taste in music.

Mum was in bed, and asleep, or snoozing. She said the chair she had been sitting in was uncomfortable. So I plump up her pillows, and she said that was better.

As this is the fourth day in a row I have visited, she has down nothing other than slowly get better, and most of the time all I have done is eat, sleep and travel back and forth to Papworth. So, talk was difficult, but we soldier on for 45 minutes or so. She is very tired, and by three she was falling asleep, so I say I will go. She is not quite well enough to say whether she was going to be transferred in the morning, that might be postponed until the day after. But we shall see.

I walk back to the car, gird my loins and drive off to the A428 to drive back to Lowestoft.

I have the radio on, Alexi Sayle sitting in for Jervis, so there is a lot of talking between songs, most of it imaginary, but still it is entertaining. And the sun had come out too, traffic was even lighter, so I made very good time indeed.

Back on the 143, there was hardly no traffic beyond Diss so I could cruise along at 60 with the late afternoon sun lit the countryside up.

Once back home, I prepare and cook dinner, chicken goujons and fried potatoes. Not as nice as the ones I make at home, needless to say. England were playing again, beating Lithuania 1-0 whilst playing their B team as qualification had been confirmed on Thursday.

I think another evening of TV and blog writing lay ahead.

Saturday 7th October 2017

I had to set the alarm again this morning, as I wanted to be up in time as Jools was driving up from Kent, and we were meeting up in the town of Godmanchester, as I had seen the name on a road sign and wondered what it would be like. The plan was to meet there at half ten, which meant being on the rad by quarter past eight to be in time.

I have time to have breakfast and get dressed before walking to the car at five to eight. It was a dull kind of day, but bright, but there was supposed to be rain later and no chance of sunshine. But with the roads fairly clear, it was going to be a good drive.

And yet, I was down, just tired. This just being the third day I had done the commute to Papworth, it was taking it out of me, especially yesterday with all the traffic. I was thinking of not going on Sunday, just to have a break, but that would change.

Thatched boathouse on River Great Ouse, Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire Down through Bungay, Diss to Bury and then onto the A14, I made good time, but it was still ten when I turned off the main road towards Papworth, then taking toe first road of the roundabout to Godmanchester. It was a ten minute drive down the road, and turned out it was a fine old town, and I even found a parking place beside the flood meadow.

Two hundred and eighty And then I wait. I get a text from Jools, she is late. So, I settle down to listen to Danny Baker on the radio, and is a riot, especially the story that ended with the punchline: “after the cake incident, Benny Hill carried me over his shoulder to the first aid truck”.

A walk round Godmanchester To my surprise, Jools pulled up beside me and then found a spot just along the road. We meet up and hug. Now, what to do? We go for a wander, looking at the fabulous Council Offices building beside the Chinese Bridge, then wandering into town to the church, which I snap, then around the town some more before going back to the flood meadows to sit and talk.

A walk round Godmanchester Then come midday, we are hungry, so go to the pub opposite, but they don’t do food. But recommended a place down the road called The Exhibition. We both drove there, and they did indeed do food. I have fish and chips and Jools has fish cakes., it was rather good, especially with no washing up.

A walk round Godmanchester We then go to the hospital, have a coffee in the restaurant, then walk into the town to get Mum a paper. Papworth Everard is a very odd place, all new build houses next to the hospital, then further along a huge car park beside the fire station, which is only big enough for one engine, then a couple of shops in the bottom of a modern brick building Anyway, they had a paper, so we were able to walk back to the hospital, and by then visiting hours had started. Now she is on a ward, I can only visit in certain hours.

A walk round Godmanchester Turns out Mum has fallen on her feet again, with a bed in the private, a room of her own, with TV, phone and fan. But there is no one to talk to. At least she is more with it today, but still forgetful sometimes, and so what was said here about lifestyle choices will have to be repeated.

A walk round Godmanchester She has more tubes removed, then a blood test, and the big news is that she should be transferred to James Paget on Monday, which will save the five hour drives to the other side of Cambridge.

A walk round Godmanchester But nearly two hours have passed, and Jools has to drive to St Maggies, and I have to get back to Oulton, so we bid her farewell, walk down to the car park and bid each other farewell too.

Jools follows me back onto the main road, and I direct her to the junction she has to take to head south on the motorway, and I continue on my way back to Bury.

And then the rain starts. Not heavy, but heavy enough to make the drive a challenge, and the dark clouds turn early evening into night. And there is just Jazz in Radio 6. Bah!

But I arrive home, having driven across the marshes to St Olaves and then by the Herringfleet road to Oulton. I stop at the butchers for a pork pie for dinner, then at the corner shop for crisps. Arriving back home just after six.

And relax.

I check the interwebs, then have the pie and a bottle of Wobbly, and while Craig Charles spins some soul and funk on the radio, I relax. And then there is more footy on TV, the dreadful Dutch national side who needs to knock 14 goals against Belarus to have a chance of qualification. I don’t believe they can do it, neither dies the Dutch team.

Friday 6th October 2017

I had decided that as soon as Mum was out of the ICU or maybe back home or at James Paget, I would go home. But then I realised this would mean that the tasks I came up for would fall on others, as mum sees friends as people to get to do jobs and chores. So, I will have to stick with being the dutiful son thing for a few weeks as yet.

But I had set the alarm so I was up bright and early after just five hours sleep, so I could have a shower, go to get Sheila the money she was owed. It was tempting to go into Tesco to get bacon and/or croissants, but after getting the money, I drive back home for breakfast of cereal using the full fat raw milk, and was lovely.

At nine I had to be at St Michael’s, Oulton to meet with Pat, as it emerged she has a key to get in, meaning I could see and photograph inside the church I was christened in. But to get there I had to pass two junior schools, or whatever they’re called now, and it was peak school run time, with people dumping their cars anywhere. Can’t kids walk to school now?

Two hundred and seventy nine Pat is waiting at the church, with key, so we catch up with news on Mum, then go to the church. Of course, I see now it is a big church, and with a tower in the middle of the nave, quite unusual. So, I go round getting shots and looking at the memorials seeing if I recognised any local names. But I do see my great-uncle who died in the Great War listed on the war memorial. I had last seen his name carved on the wall at Tyne Cott.

I was done, and really should be making tracks, so we hug and I climb into the car and take the road through Camps Heath, then onwards to St Olaves, then the rad you know towards Bury.

This time I stopped at a different couple of churches. First call was Brockdish, a church just hidden behind a line of trees, shielding it from the main road, but I had glimpsed the tower yesterday, so, stopped today. You approach the church down a green lane, the sound of poorly rung bells could be heard as I got out of the car. Bell ringing lessons, apparently. The church is splendid, and there is a warden inside making tea for the ringers, and tells me of the history of the church. Visits like this really make church crawling so enjoyable.

Ss. Peter and Paul, Brockdish, Norfolk I stop again at a greasy spoon just before Diss to have lunch; a cheeseburger and a coffee. The first coffee I have had since Sunday. I see another church nearby but decide to leave that for another day, and once I had eaten, I climb in the car and drive on. On the radio, Robert Plant was doing a live session on Radio 6, and listening to someone who is a legend, still being passionate about music, new music, was wonderful and inspiring.

Just before Bury St. Edmunds is Great Barton, and there is a sign pointing to a church, and after passing by many times, I decided that today was the day to go and see it.

Church of the Holy Innocents was about a mile along the road, and inside it is another gothic delight, and the pews filled with knitted prayer kneelers, looking very colourful indeed.

But it seems that I had lost track of time, and I really had to get going to make visiting time, so quickly got in the car and drove back to the main road and onto Bury and the A14. The sun was out, Robert Plant was ripping the studio up with his music, and making the drive, in bright sunshine, very enjoyable indeed.

All was going well until I neared Cambridge when the matrix signs warned of delays. Thinking quick, I turn down the A11, then cut across the 505 to the motorway, then back up re-joining the road beyond the jams, thus saving 25 minutes on the time stated on the signs.

There were then jams at the roundabout at the end of the dual carriageway, meaning that when I got to Papworth, there was twenty minutes remaining of visiting time, and once I got a parking ticket, and got up to the ICU there was just ten minutes left.

I told Mum how disappointed I was that she had badmouthed me to Janet, when all I wanted to do was help. A word of thanks would be nice. So, that off my chest, we talk some more then it was time for me to leave the ward, but I said I would return in an hour.

Two hundred and seventy eight So I sit on a bench outside in the partial shade of a tree, watching people come and go; mostly nurses and doctors, but relatives too. Some looking worried, other laded with bags of things to take to someone on a ward. At three I go back to the ICU, talk some more with Mum and joke with the nurses. I am a card. But in half an hour, it was time to leave, and I was expecting a three hour plus journey back. The line of traffic to the main road was a mile long, but moved quickly.

To my amazement, there were no queues on the road past Cambridge, motoring past Newmarket and turning off at Bury and less than an hour had passed. I was happy now that I had got thus far, so with the radio on and the sun shining, I cruise back home, this time only stopping to fill up the car with fuel and have an ice cream as I drive through the Suffolk countryside in what was light traffic for a Friday afternoon.

The Calf at Foot Dairy, Somerleyton, Suffolk I was back home in just two hours and five minutes, just after half five, and time for dinner, which this evening was cold sausage sandwiches. And a brew. And no wine.

The evening was spent writing, reviewing pictures while the usual Friday night TV shows plays in the background. And in 12 hours, I’m back on the road again.

Sigh.

Thursday 5th October 2017

I was woken at quarter to eight by the phone ringing. There was a phone beside the bed; who knew? I pick it up and it is the nurse again saying Mum was awake and all was going as expected.

Would I like to talk to her? OK. She walks over the ICU and holds phone to Mum. Say hello to your son. And in a croaking voice, hello. How are you Mum. Hello. Can you hear me? Hello.

I gave up and spoke to the nurse again, and agreed with her I would be there at midday, and the good news is that there no closed hours, just between two and three. Finally she said to call again at ten after the doctor had done is rounds, and things would be clearer.

I have breakfast and a cuppa. And think about what I would see; how ill she would be and how many machines would be keeping her alive.

I had to take about a dozen bags of out of date food to the local tip, so come ten I call the ICU, she was still OK and it was OK to visit, I’m on my way, I said.

I take the car to the local tip, the south side of Lowestoft, on the industrial estate where I was a draysman for a few months, oddly the nervous tick didn’t return. *Wink”

There is a queue, as people decide to declutter their lives, or get ride of some garden waste or, as I saw an old woman struggling with, 3 old doors. I get a parking space and begin to take the bags to be dumped. That done, I realise I had lost an hour already.

Wattisfield, Suffolk The sat nav said the trip would take 2 hours and 5 minutes, so with the radio on, I put my foot down, and off I went, down the southern bypass, which bypasses nothing, really, then through to Beccles and turning down onto the Bury road, passing by Bungay, Harleston; the way we usually travel back from Mum’s in other words.

It was glorious day, a day which should have been spent taking pictures of the sunlight on the trees turning to gold. Onto the A14 and from then on, traffic was heavier and quicker.

Still a fine day to be out, but my mind to wonder how I would find Mum. Time would tell, and in little time in fact. I go through Cambridge, and on the road to Bedford, along the road I used to commute to Lyneham down all those years ago, 21 years ago in fact. At least it is a better road now, duelled, at least until I turned off towards Papworth Everard.

The hospital is nothing like I imagined; a cluster of small buildings with car parks inserted where they could be fitted in And spaces were at a premium. But I find one, then discover that I need change for the fee; being sick or being a relative or friend of someone in hospital, parking is like a tax; two pounds fifty for two hours. It adds up if they are in for some time.

The cardiac unit is in a new building, and the ICU is two floors up, no lift, that I could see. Best get the old heart pumping, all things considered.

I have to call from the door to the unit before being admitted. A nurse comes and takes me to see Mum. She is in bed, looking grey and connected by pipes and tubes, including one into her neck. She is barely conscious. But we do talk, a little. She slips into sleep many times, but I do talk to her. Nurses and doctors come to introduce themselves and say they were pleased how things had gone. Mum could hardly swallow, but had to have some water to help take two pills, one another painkiller as she said it hurt when she coughed.

A physiotherapist came, and took her heart beat with a stethoscope, despite there being an expensive machine monitoring that all the time behind the bed. I help Mum answer some questions, then it became clear that they wanted to get Mum out of bed to walk. She became distressed and I came over ill. Yes, I hate hospitals, and do make me feel ill. As it was twenty to one, visiting would stop at two anyway, so having seen Mum, I say I will go, get some air and come back tomorrow.

I had come over in a cold sweat, and so was good to be back out in the warm sunshine, walk back to the car and drive out of the hospital and begin the two hour trip back to Oulton Broad.

It was gone two once I had passed Cambridge, making good time pressing on to Newmarket and Bury. From there it was a two lane road across Suffolk, but the hard part was done, so I could take my time, and maybe stop at a couple of interesting churches I could see from the road, and promised myself I would stop one day That day was today.

All Saints, Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk First up was Wattsfied, and the church could be seen up a narrow lane lined with thatched cottages from the main road. Looked like it should be unlocked, nice village and all that. But was locked. I could have rung for the key, but there would be other times. I take a snap and walk back to the car.

Back onto the main road, I see a sign pointing to the north to Hinderclay, and think I should investigate, so turn off and follow the signs to the village. At the village crossroads, I can’t see the church, but taking the right turn back to the main road, I spy a sign pointing to the church, hidden behind some mature trees.

And this was open, unlocked. But I can’t find the light switch, so it is really gloomy inside, but well worth stopping, the nave and chancel feeling tiny beside the impressive tower.

And now to home, where I thought I would have an early dinner as I hadn’t had lunch. And a drink. Very thirsty.

The road from Haddiscoe over the marshes is always a delight, lined as it is by pollarded trees, and having clear views east and west along the river and New Cut.

Then turn towards the coast at St Olaves, up the long straight road to Herringfleet and Somerleyton.

I did stop once more, at a farm where they sell unpasteurised milk, and I thought I should really try some. Three pounds a litre, so I buy two, served by three ruddy cheeked farmgirls who were very proud of their milk. I could see the milk through the container, golden, the colour of cream. Lovely, if unhealthy.

And then home, where straight away the phone started to ring, people wanting to know how Mum was, so inbetween fielding calls, I cook bangers and mash.

Mum’s friend Janet comes over and tells me that Mum told her when she was in James Paget, that Mum said I was throwing her stuff out. Imagine doing all what I have done and be moaned at behind your back?

I was livid. And remained angry all evening. I was angry watching England play, the fact it was a poor game did not help, but then I had a glass of wine, and another, and I just needed someone to talk to. It was now 11 at night, thankfully a couple of good friends answered a Facebook post so I talked to them for a couple of hours, whilst I had more wine. None of it clever, but thanks for good friends, I went to bed happier and less angry.