Wednesday, 8th December, 2021

[Day 632]

Today has been quite a momentous day, one way or another. After the release of a video by Downing Street staff showing a rehearsal of how the press team would respond if informed there had been a party in Downing Street (held against the regulations), there has been a lot of interest into exactly how the Prime Minister would respond in Prime Minister’s Questions at 12.00 today. What made the video especially obnoxious was the fact that that Boris Johnson’s then adviser and press spokesman, Alexa Stratton, was giggling throughout her rehearsed answers which were, in themselves, a quasi-admission that the party had actually taken place. To the thousands of relatives who could not be present at the death of their parents and loved ones, let along hold their hand whilst they were dying, they were confronted not only with the fact that the Downing Street were not only having a party but were giggling about the possible consequences of their illegality. This has been like a red rag to a bull and has absolutely enfuriated bereaved relatives all over the country.

Meg and I tuned into Prime Minister’s Questions where Boris Johnson apologised abjectly for the fact of the release of the video (and therefore its contents) but also promised an enquiry by the Cabinet Secretary as to whether or not there had been a party. According to an opinion poll in Sky News, 64% people believe that there actually had been a party. Only about 7% think that Johnson is telling the truth but as I have indicated in previous blogs some ‘vox pop’interviews have tarred Labour politicians with the same brush assuming that all politicians lie.

No sooner was Prime Minister’s Questions over, then I received a telephone call from my sister with the incredibly sad news that her husband of 55 years had died in hospital in Harrogate. He had taken a dramatic turn for the worse a few days ago and members of the family had been in a constant vigil. He died peacefully holding the hands of his two daughters and my sister arrived within minutes of his death to bid her farewell. One of my nieces who was sharing the telephone call with my sister giving us the sad news left me with a poignant comment that ‘Although people might have thought that (my father) was a funny old thing at least he was OUR funny old thing’ The most immediate questions that arise is whether there will be new COVID rules which will hamper the holding a full funeral and Meg and I are holding ourselves in readiness so that we can immediately make a booking in a local hotel (if that is possible) for the funeral wenever that might be.

I remember particularly clearly my sister’s wedding day on a very cold day in February, 1966. I was in my first year at university and was not the possessor of a lounge suit so I hired one from Messrs. Moss Bros (as one did in those days) Although they had measured me up for a suit the one that was supplied was extraordinarily ill-fitting so I felt the need for some braces to keep the trousers up. I raced into town (Leeds) early that morning and dashed round Woolworths but all I could find was ‘suspenders’. Cursing the Americans for replacing a perfectly good English word (braces) with one of their one I bought the suspenders only to find when I got them home that I had bought a pair of sock suspenders. To make the best of a bad job, I took the pair of suspenders and twisted them together to form a type of elastic rope which I then tied together under my armpits to keep the trousers in more or less the right position – the ‘suspenders’ were hidden from view by the waistcoat. I was ‘giving’ my sister away as my sister and I were part of a one parent family and I recall that we had a taxi to take us to the church. To give ourselves a little Dutch courage, we swigged from a hip flask of whisky but as the taxi arrived early, we had to keep ‘going round the houses’ to use up a bit of time, swigging constantly as the taxi circulated around. The rest of the wedding went off without any hitches. My brother-in-law as well as running his coal and haulage business was equally deducated to snooker in his earlier days (when he won the prize at his local Conservative club quite regularly, fishing (into which he inducted his two sons) and last, but not least, cricket. He was an avid follower of Yorkshire cricket and would have been saddened in the extreme to see what has happened to his beloved in recent weeks – he could be that he was too ill to fully appreciate the most recent event when most of the committee members of Yorkshire cricket club have resigned in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq revelations about rampant racism within the club.