Tuesday, 6th February, 2024

[Day 1422]

Tuesdays are always the days to which we generally look forward and today is no exception. That is because after meeting with our Waitrose friends, Mike goes off and does his weekly Pilates session whilst Meg communes with her (Peruvian-born) carer whilst Mike is out of the house. Today was no exception and we got down into town where we made contact with one of our usual crowd. Tomorrow is going to be quite an event-filled day as her husband who was several years her senior and in his 90’s had died recently and tomorrow was going to be the day of his funeral. So tonight and tomorrow night there was going to be a gathering of surviving relatives and evidently these had to be entertained and fed. But in some ways I felt that our friend would be keen to get the whole funeral business over and done with so that she could get on with more living of her own as she has own pattern of disabilities with which to cope. I was telling our friend what a deep impact the Channel4 series on the Miners’ dispute of 1984 had had upon Meg and myself and recounted some of the salient points from the TV program recorded in last night’s blog. The conversation then moved onto the Birmingham Six which was another miscarriage of British justice. After the Birmingham pub bombings, six local Irish men were rounded up and charged with the murder of the innocent civilians drinking within the pub. The Irish men were convicted on what was turned out to be the flimsiest of evidence. A Home Office pathologist who did not have a good reputation for competence used the traces of a cellulose type substance, found in the most minute quantities on the hands of those accused, had argued that this was evidence of bombmaking activity. The accused Irishmen argued that the cellulose type substance had been transferred onto their hands because they had all been playing cards on a train journey but they were not believed at the time and the Irish were convicted. Several years later, it transpired that the Irishmen’s explanation was quite valid and the Home Office pathologist’s evidence was fundamentally flawed. At the time, there was a huge outcry and there was a massive public demand that those guilty should be caught and convicted. And so the ‘Birmingham Six’ were put behind bars and I believe that at least one of them died in prison protesting his innocence. Now I have gathered that the substantial Irish community in Birmingham was put under severe pressure and felt the real weight of public anger directed against them. We can see parallels in the way in which the Jewish community is feeling such pressure today as anger is directed against them as a result of the Israel/Gaza conflict. All of this is, of course, history but our friend managed to convey a bit of oral history to us. This was that in the Longbridge car factory, often known locally as ‘The Rover’ there were groups of Irish workers on the assembly line but the management felt constrained to shut the whole of the plant (for how long I do not know) until public anger had subsided and the Irish workers were no longer deemed to be at risk of battery and assault by the rest of the workforce. I am reminded of the phrase which I encountered when I was a sociology undergraduate that the individual can be regarded as the point at which ‘biography and history intersect’

The email client that I have used also gives its users an allocation of filespace and the opportunity to create some webpages and I have taken this opportunity in the past but not consulted the websites recently which I had originally created. So I browsed one of these websites and was quite amazed at what I had re-discovered. On the website there were some snaps taken of my sister and brother-in-law who had helped us to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary celebrations in Spain some 16 years ago. But there were some gems of other family ‘heirlooms’ which must have been scanned in some time ago but I am not sure where the originals are now. I discovered three photographs of my mother, one resting up half way up ‘Catbells’ overlooking Derwent water in the Lake District, on on her Open University graduation day in Sheffield and one holding the hand of our son when he was about six years old. In the same collection I also discovered two photographs taken of our son when he was about two, one on his own and the other sitting in a push chair being pushed by a mini-skirted Meg. These last two photographs are now over half a century old but the oldest was a photo of myself at the age of about 14 taken in the school playground at my school in Bolton, Lancashire and the original of this would have been about 1959 or 1960 which makes it over 60 years old. So quite a find after all.

The news media is dominated by the news today of the cancer from which King Charles is suffering, discovered during another routine operation. Our close Spanish friend send me a quick email message expressing some surprise (or even shock) at the news. In my reply, I said that we had scarcely noticed the news announcement despite the fact that it had been mentioned in the news media outlooks as least 87 times before breakfast this morning. The ‘Sky News‘ commentator announced, somewhat gleefully I thought, that this may well be a topic of news for months to come and my heart did sink at the prospect. As my son and wife have have drily remarked ‘So an old man has cancer – where’s the news?’ with which sentiment I feel I must concur.