Monday, 26th April, 2021

[Day 406]

We were very pleased that this day had dawned because it was the day,if the weather was helpful, when we were scheduled to entertain our friends in the back garden. In the morning, I busied myself giving the garden chairs and garden table a wash down (with a specially soft car brush so nothing gets damaged) After a rinse, they were left to dry in the sun and I organised the cushions that we utilise on occasions such as these. Then we picked up our newspapers and made an excursion into our local Waitrose to buy some comestibles. Waitrose had a very good selection of sandwiches, cakes, cordials, wines and ‘party things’ so we bought what we need, loaded them to the car and set off for home, giving the park a miss for the day. Once we got home we treated ourselves to a coffee at home and enjoyed some of the goodies we had just bought for the afternoon ‘get-together’. Then we had a light lunch, quickly put some pieces on plates and there we were.

After our friends arrived, we had great pleasure in opening a bottle of champagne and I have to say we had been looking to this moment for a long time. We had intended to have a similar little party, indoors, just around Christmastime but of course the lockdown intervened. On that occasion, we sat around in chairs. socially distancing in our friend’s garage with the door open and imbibed our own damson gin.That only added to the surreal nature of the experiences at the time so we were delighted today to have a more normal ‘get together’ in our own back garden. The weather was reasonably sunny and there was a bit of a cooling breeze but we chatted our way through it. As it turned out, it proved to be an excellent opportunity to appraise our friends of our longer plans in the housing sphere. We had always intended that in the fullness of time we would downsize somewhat and the households of Meg and myself and my son and daughter-in-law would disaggregate. We had always intended that our final resting place would be within walking distance of all essential goods and services including shops and transport links thus making a car unnecessary. However, we are determined to stay in the area and keep up the regular friendships that we have made in the last few years here in Bromsgrove so we are seeing our eyes and ears open for anything suitable that comes up within the next year or so. So it was a useful opporunity to let our lowest friends know what we were thinking and why so that nothing would be a surprise to them. After we had eaten and drunk our fill, we had great pleasure showing people round the gardens both front and back. There is a certain amount of explaining to do as we have bought the green space in front of the house which houses our (discreetly hidden)BioDisk from the builder/developer several years ago and this has helped us to make sure that an access road is not driven past our houses to service the new development which has been built in the last few years immediately next to your plot. Both of our friends are very keen gardeners (even arranging flowers for the church) so they very much appreciated the wild, woodland feel which characterises our garden. There is a certain amount of cutting back yet to be done but it is always very interesting to have your house and garden viewed though the eyes of another as it were. When we looked at our watches it was practically 6.00 and as we started proceedings at 3.00pm the last three hours had absolutely flown by. I have a feeling that if the summer is fine, we may be repeating this very pleasant experience quite a lot.

Today has not been the kind of day when we have watched any TV news. But the evidence of the top senior civil servant, Simon Case, appears to have been underwhelming and uninformative. Amid MPs’ exasperation with the top Whitehall official, former Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Mr Case of delivering a 'badly-scripted version' of 1980s TV sitcom ‘Yes Minister‘. One can understand, I suppose, why senior civil servants do not want it to appear that they ‘betraying’ their political masters. However, it has to be said that there appears to be so much skulduggery, chicanery and pure sleaze surrounding Downing Street at the moment that civil servants run the danger of being drawn into the same sleaze-ridden culture. After all, as master wordsmiths, there is always a way of distancing yourself. One is reminded of Francis Ewan Urquhart,a fictional character created by Michael Dobbs, whose catchphrase became ‘I couldn’t possibly comment‘ said in a certain way and with a certain look that certainly conveyed what the character thought about events swirling around him.