Friday, 20th October, 2023

[Day 1313]

Today was the day marked on our calendar when we were due to travel up north, mainly along the M6 to attend the funeral of Meg’s cousin, Gywneth, who died recently. Last night, Meg and I aimed to have a nice quiet evening so that we we were well prepared our today. But events rather conspired against us. Meg had a rather disturbed night last night which did not give us the sound cushion of sleep that we needed in order to prepare ourselves for the day ahead. But much more seriously, there was a huge storm sweeping northwards across the country and the Met office had issued an amber alert. Looking at the map, there was a huge bump in the weather map which just seemed to coincide with the Manchester and Bolton area that was our destination today. So on the advice of both our son and other friends with whom we were in contact, we had to conclude very reluctantly that it was probably foolhardy to make a journey today however important the occasion and we had better call off our planned journey. We texted the daughter of Meg’s cousin who sent us a sympathetic response as she was concerned even about the travel arrangements of her own brother. So this makes two funerals recently that we have ideally have wished to attend but the distances involved and other events conspired against us. Meg and I consoled each other by going to Waitrose where we treated ourselves to a good serving of porridge served with blueberries, which were quite delicious.

This afternoon, Meg and I enjoyed a quiet but very pleasant afternoon in our Music Room. The afternoon was started off by a daily ration of the ‘Outnumbered’ series on the TV (liberal minded Mum and Dad being outnumbered by their diverse and precocious children) which we always find agonisingly amusing. After that we played a selection of classical music, courtesy of Youtube but with the output from Meg’s iPhone ‘bluetoothed’ over onto the little CD player we acquired recently and which acts as a ‘de facto’ speaker system. The large box in which our new Toshiba TV was delivered had been covered in some white lining a paper (of which I always have a supply for occasions such as this) and then covered in butterfly illustrations canibalised from a colouring book I had bought months ago. I have now created a screen which sits in front of the TV cabinet donated by our son and which houses the broadband router. My new butterfly screen now hides some sunsightly cables and is a joy to behold from a distance. Finally, when we were university students and furnishing our first house, we acquired what I think is called a ‘Captain’s chair’ for either 15 shillings or 25 shillings and I had reupholstered it with some red velvet decades ago. I do not care for this colour scheme these days but we have now adorned it with two quilted cushions that Meg’s talented cousin, Margot, had made for us some years back and they go beautifully on the Captain’s chair, now made available in the Music Room for occasional visitors. Finally I rigged up a little desk lamp on an adjacent bookcase so that when Meg is sitting in her favourite, comfortable armchair, she has a much better source of light with which to read. These appear to be simple pleasures but all help to enhance our little environment.

As might be imagined, the political airwaves today have been dominated by the Labour Party’s success in the two by-elections, one held in Tamworth and the other in Mid-Bedfordshire. I suspect that many analysts thought that Tamworth, which has returned a Labour MP in the past might do so again but true blue Mid-Bedfordshire was another matter. I think that most analysts thought that mid-Bedfordshire was too close to call as there may well have been a three way split btween Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat. But he Liberal Democrat vote did not live up to expectations so this seat, and Tamworth were both won with majorities of over 1,000 and a swing that was 25.9 in the case of Tamworth (the second biggest swing in history) and 20.5% in mid Bedfordshire. Of course, it is not a sensible exercise to predict General Election results from by elections in which normally loyal supporters do not come out and vote. It has often been noted that there is a large ‘secret’ Conservative vote that does not reveal itself to pollsters but who in the context of a general election, do come out of the woodwork as it were and vote Conservative. The interesting theoretical question is how large this ‘secret Conservative but stay-at-home’ vote actually is and how many might actually be persuded to vote for other parties, Liberal Democrat being more typical but sometimes a direct swich to the Labour Party itself. Of course, it must be remembered that both of these by elections were caused by the malfeasance of the incumbent Tory MPs. In one case (Chris Pincher) there was a history of sexual antics involved, whereas in he other, Nadine Dorries, a fervent supporter of Boris Johnson absented herself from the Commons and her constituency peeved that she was not offered a place in the House of Lords by the outgoing Johnson administration. Is it any wonder that the electorates take their revenge at the earliest opportunity?