Friday, 16th June, 2023

[Day 1187]

Today is the day when our domestic help calls around and I had a special surprise in waiting for her. This was that as soon as she arrived, I called her into what we call our ‘Music Room’ and then, on my newly acquired Casio keyboard, started playing Mpzart’s ‘Turkish March’. Evidently, it was not me actually playing but one of the inbuilt 100 tunes – I hope that by moving my fingers over the keyboard, I could actually convince her that it was me playing. This pretence did not last for a great length of time but enough to give her a pleasant surprise. She also admired the couple of piano stools I had acquired in the last few days, one last Sunday and the other on Tuesday but although of different manufacture, they sit quite well side-by-side and the design is consistent with the Casio stand. I then did play the ‘Largo’ from the Dvorak ‘New World Symphony‘ which is a simple tune for the right hand and which I have almost (but not quite ) memorised so that I can play it straight off. So after this little diversion and much merriment, we made for Waitrose to see if we could coincide with our usual buddies. Although it was a busy morning, we met no-one in particular but we had some last minute shopping to do to for the starter and sweet of Sunday’s lunch. All of this having been bought, we then headed out down the Bromsgrove High Street so that we could make an eye apointment for myself and also pick up some supplies for our domestic help. It is her birthday next week but fortunately Meg and I had made a trip to get an M&S voucher as a birthday prezzy so I was pleased to have got all of this sorted out in plenty of time. Our domestic help has given me instructions how to produce a stunning starter for Sunday, involving smoked salmon and cream cooked in a ‘bain marie’ style in the oven. Obviously, I will be delighted if this works out OK but she gave me a tip, derived from Mary Berry, which is to prepare the boeuf bourbignon the day before to allow the flavours to truly percolate and then heat up again the following day.This I will probably do and it had the advantage of taking some of the pressure off Sunday.

This afternoon, after our lunch and a little rest, I decided to embark on two tranches of gardening. Firstly, I attacked the by now dried off weeds in the cobble stones at the front of the house. These had previously been treated with my own patent strong-vinegar-and- washing-up-liquid recipe which had done its trick of killing off the green tops of the weeds but the whole now needed a more radical tidying up. After that, I turned ny attention to the back garden and, in particular, one border which looks a bit of an eye-sore if we decide to take our coffee in the garden. This afternoon, I managed to get the grossly overgrown bits cut back from this border this afternoon and tomorrow I may well be able to give it all a neater finish with a combination of edging shears and half-mooner implement. Everything does seem to be a bit of a race against time at the moment with fitting in much needed jobs when I can but I am hopeful that a little every day will help.

No sooner has Boris Johnson left one job as an MP but he has landed another as a columnist for the Daily Mail. Apparently, this rapid switch from a political job to another needs to vetted first by ACOBA, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. ACOBA advises ministers and senior officials on whether jobs they take on after leaving government comply with the ‘business appointment rules’. This is meant to ensure that a minister should not be in a position where ministers move immediately to a private sector position when they may be in a position to use some ‘insider knowledge’ ACOBA generally advocates a gap of several months before leaving one position and taking up another to avoid these conflicts of interest. But it is being said that ACOBA was appraised of the the Johnson job some 30 minutes before it was announced. By all accounts, they are absolutely furious about this absence of notice but they have no power to stop or prevent Johnson taking up his new role. An Acoba spokesperson said: ‘The Ministerial Code states that ministers must ensure that no new appointments are announced, or taken up, before the committee has been able to provide its advice. An application received 30 mins before an appointment is announced is a clear breach’ So what a surprise – Boris Johnson is found to be in a clear breach of the rules (where incidentally, Downing Street were trying to prevent Sue Grey, the prominent civil servant who provided a report on ‘partygate’ not to take up an appointment as Keir Starmer’s Chief of Staff for two years) It is also being put about that Johnson may be willing for ‘the dogs to be called off’, presumably before the debate of the Committee of Privileges report debate on Monday next. I would surmise that most Tory MPs will absent themselves and thus effectively abstain – only a small number will be seen to vote in favour of the report which will be easily carried because of the votes of the opposition parties.