Monday, 8th January, 2024

[Day 1393]

Today was the day when we were to attend the funeral of our newsagent from whom I have bought a copy of my newspaper each day for about the last three years or so. We got up in plenty of time, knowing that it was one of the scheduled days when the carers were due to call around. They did do so but two hours late by which time we were all up, washed, dressed and breakfasted. I am not sure what had actually happened this morning but we have to cope with carers turning up at unpredictable times. The weather was bright and cold with quite a strong chill wind factor, so it was not a particularly pleasant day to be outside. Nonetheless, we treated ourselves to a coffee in Waitrose knowing that we needed to SatNav our way towards the crematorium in Redditch for a service scheduled for 12.30. We gave ourselves a certain amount of ‘getting lost’ time but the crematorium was not as far as it could have been and there was fast dual carriage access to it nearly all the way from Bromsgrove. We got there half an hour before our scheduled slot but fortunately there was a warm and comfortable waiting room although we were certainly the first to arrive. Eventually the rest of the crematorium party turned up and I assumed that as our newsagent hailed originally from Bangladesh (although it was still pre-partitioned India at the time of his birth) that many Asian relatives would be in attendance. But most of the attendees seemed to relatives of the newsagent’s wife and I think that I was probably the sole representative of his customers. I recognised a couple of his nearby shopkeepers in attendance and the whole funeral party was about 25-30 all in all. It was quite an emotionally charged experience because his wife was particularly distraught and broke down into floods of tears whenever she embraced her relatives and indeed ourselves. I gained the impression, though, that she was delighted that we had made the effort to attend and we were pleased to have done so. The service had no particular religious elements but a lot of recollections and tributes to a life well lived. I think that his wife was so particularly upset because our newsagent’s wife and the newsagent himself were running their business, six days a week until his death in late November. I think that he may have worked at the age of 80 until only about a couple of weeks before he died (of asbestosis). So he and his wife had no retirement to speak of and of course his wife had been suffered the deprivation of both her husband and her employment within an incredibly short space of time. This did make me recall when we attended a funeral of the wife of our next door neighbour in Hedge End, Hampshire. After the funeral, as Meg and I were having a quick walk around some of the pleasant walkways in the estate where we used to live, we were recognised by a lady who was also at the funeral. She told us a story that she and her husband managed ‘The Hungry Horse’ restaurant (in a converted barn but owned by a brewery) The story that we were told by this lady was that husband died on a Tuesday, I think but the brewery felt that they needed a couple to take over the running of ‘The Hungry Horse‘ so the lady who was talking to us explained how she lost her husband, her job and her accommodation within about four days (which sounded traumatic then and still does today).

This afternoon, Meg and I were going to give ourselves the treat of watching the film of the Thomas Hardy novel ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ and this took up most of the afternoon. This version was the one with Julie Christie and Terence Stamp but I think I have seen a later version which I enjoyed just a little more. The scenes of the Dorset countryside are always stunning of course as well, as well as the evocation of mid 19th century rural life.

As we suspected, now that the House of Commons has reassembled after the Christmas recess, there is a lot more movement on the resolution of the Post Office ‘Horizon’ scandal. It looks as though the Business Minister and the Justice Minister are talking to each other, and to the judiciary, about the ways in which appeals and compensation can be fasttracked across at least 700 sub postmasters and perhaps even more. I feel that the the policians have realised, a little belatedly, that ‘normal’ politics has failed as it has taken a TV program to highlight to the public what has actually been known for years. The Sophie Ridge show this evening on Sky News was almost completely devoted to this issue and I would imagine that MPs of all parties want a resolution to what is being called the greatest miscarriage of British justice of all time. Even the Liberal Democrats (who supplied ministers to oversee the Post Pffice at the time of the coalition government) hardly covered themselves in glory, believing the Post Office but only now claiming (as Ed Davy is doing) that they have been lied to. But this is political naivety of the highest order – big powerful corporations will routinely lie to protect their commercial interests and the politicians should be are of this and be able to ask searching questions.