Covid -Fools rush in where angels fear to tread (where you exert personal choice). Or are obliged to take risks and return to work with inadequate safeguards?

It’s a great advantage being very near to the Emmaus Cambridge community, a charity which accommodates homeless men and women and runs a substantial social enterprise accepting donated goods and selling them in their large store. I picked up this wonky glass flute, just right for this peperomia. Perhaps it’s too near. More than half our furniture came from Emmaus. It’s a good source of eveything including books.

I’m running along Mere Way, a Roman Road near my village. This continues to be my current running route and is so much more enjoyable than pavements. Access to it is from a long farm road cul de sac with few cars and occasional large farm machinery. Fairly well used by runners, cyclists and walkers, it’s currently under threat by proposed A10 rerouting plans which would go right through it and the surrounding farm land.. Possibly this might call for militant environmental protest in the future. We’ll see!

My knee injury seems to have improved. I gave cycling up because it was too time consuming and running feels so much more time efficient and natural. I was doing 12k every other day but I found this knocked me out a bit. I am now doing 9k every other day with a 12k occasionally and this seems to work well. My problematic right knee remains a little swollen, and feels stiff initially when I get up but causes no problems when running. So, good result. If I put too much pace in, I do feel it aching at night but not enough to wake me. Additionally, with this running regime I have lost weight, around nine pounds and this has helped my knee.

Of course, the temptation when running is going well is to do more and I have revived an interest in fell running. I have never done this before but the urge to travel to a suitable fell is almost irristable. The nearest would be the Peak District national park, about two hours drive away or the Lake District, about four hours. It goes without saying I would need fell running shoes like Inov8s. At least I would be seen to have the right kit when I break my ankle or my knee snaps in half. For the moment I’ll just watch those very seductive fell race you tube videos.

Indoor plants have taken over the model making at the moment and I like to customise my teraccotta pots.

 

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We visited the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens in Hertfordshire recently and it was wonderful to see the monumental sculptures in an open grassland setting. The house was shut but most of the outside studio spaces were open and there was plenty of room to socially distance. A beautiful, creative place for thinking and relaxing.

Do say : What a phenomenally talented, innovative man that Henry Moore was.

Don’t say : What the bloody hell does it all mean? He’s an odd fish and no mistake!

Right wingers, Conservatives, Republicans white supremacists, fascists. Oh, and throw in the Christian Right evangelicals (a genuine oxymoron} They are all characterised by xenophobia, homophobia, racism, a fear of loss, anger, a huge sense of their own entitlement being under threat and an overwhelming concern with their class welfare alongside an absence of empathy for society at large, other cultures and vulnerable minorities. It’s a long sentence but could be longer. These people and some groups share these characteristics to a greater or lesser extent. For examples, see any of Trump’s outbursts/tantrums/tweets. For the the UK Tory goverment take the example of how the elderly in the care homes were abandoned by the goverment during the Covid pandemic and died in their thousands. See how the government was forced into a U turn by footballer Marcus Rashford after they were shamed into continuing food vouchers for the poorest families during the school holidays. Or how a Syrian asylum seeker, working in a hospital in East London, made an impassioned plea, on behalf of immigrant NHS workers shockingly excluded from the government’s bereavement compensation scheme and forced to pay a premium to use the hospitals they were risking their lives to keep going. Boris Johnson U turned the next day. Just everyday cruelty courtesy of the Tory party if they can get away with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Covid for the credulous? Take your pick: Tory daily media briefing or Johnson speaking at the Select Committee on the Impact and Science of Coronavirus

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This handsome fellow wanders about in the fields behind our cottage, in nearby gardens and recently into the road, luckily depleted of traffic. He’s very self composed, curious and doesn’t alarm easily. You can come across him anywhere. I’m thinking of dressing up as a pea hen so he fans his tail feathers.

And so to running. I’ve managed to consistently run 8.3k every other day for five weeks. My dodgy knee has held up (just). It remains swollen and stiff and unfortunately this really hasn’t changed much in the last year. I had an video assessment by the musculo-skeletal clinic and the physiotherapist took me through my knee x-ray. He showed me areas of mild to moderate age related arthritic changes which would account for the problems I’m experiencing. He suggested strengthening exercises, rest, cross training, cycling and perhaps a steroid injection in the future. I’m still hopeful the swelling and weakness will subside and I will try to expand my excercise regime as suggested. Update: I’ve had a rest from running and did a bit of cycling instead, one 18k and one 31k. I could still feel my knee but less so. I went for an 8.4k run this morning and it felt much better. Who could possibly have guessed that a rest and some cross training might be helpful?

Due to the covid lockdown the roads are relatively traffic free and a lot more people are running and, particularly, cycling and walking. Being required to essentially stay at home except to exercise and forgo work and a social and cultural life forces a change of perspective. The sudden  drop in pace has given an opportunity to think about how we conduct our lives and prompts us to think more critically. It can help us to appreciate what we hitherto took for granted or take up activities to express our creative potential. That’s on the positive side, of course.

Unfortunately the pandemic has shown  how precarious our lives and livelihoods can be, how quickly we can fall into a financial crisis and how dependent we are on economic stability and on strong government to plan for and manage in a time of crisis.

This Tory government, brought to us by Brexit supporters, is truly the government they deserve. Inept, short sighted, mean spirited, intoxicated by spin and slick presentation. The daily Covid updates are a masterclass in political embroidery, designed to give a confident presentation of the government response to the crisis followed by an equally confident question and answer session wherein the right questions are posed only to receive answers to a soft questions the politician wish they had been asked.

These briefings are clearly intended to convince the credulous and the critically unthinking, that is, the Brexit demographic. The litany of statistics is not particularly enlightening to most people and the emphasis on so many millions of personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by government, in the face of so many reports of shortages, in the early weeks, was shocking.

The government clearly left the care homes to their own devices. They received little assistance with PPE and hospitals discharged care home residents back without testing for covid infection or didn’t admit them in the first place. For weeks the daily number of covid deaths did not include those from care homes or outside hospitals.

The government was recently shamed into dropping the National Health Immigration Health Care surcharge, currently at £400 per person annually, rising to £624 in October. Boris Johnson defended this surcharge at Prime Minister’s Question Time, despite the thousands of frontline health workers working in the NHS and dying in their work.

The goverment dropped testing and tracking in March. They failed to heed the findings of the Operation Cygnus simulation exercise carried out in October 2016 which showed a pandemic would cause the health system to collapse from lack of resources.

They delayed a comprehensive lockdown.

Their emphasis on “following the scientific advice” has more resonance if we read it as “following the political science”.

As for Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s chief adviser, and  high profile breaker of lockdown rules, I can’t really get too incensed. What else would you expect from this amoral, self serving government.

Johnson at the Select Committee. More waffle, more bromides.

And to top it all, my good crop of gooseberries have got powdery mildew.

 

Covid 19 has changed everything

The Cambridge half marathon took place on the cusp of more Draconian measures to combat the corona virus, on March 8th. So quickly have we been conditioned to self distance to protect ourselves, it feels unsettling to see these images.


Cambridge and Coleridge come in first and second (middle and right side C and C’er respectively). There should be a law to ensure they are putting in maximum effort and suffering at all times. I know this is the start of the race but they still looked composed at the end of it.

 No family member took part this year. I’ve still got a dodgy knee and my eldest son was unwell and had to forgo his place

In the UK, at present time of writing, we are allowed to exercise once daily, outside our homes, and appropriately observing social distancing requirements. My knee is still problematic, and my referral to the muscular-skeletal clinic has probably fallen into a black hole but I’m able to run short distances each day. The roads are very quiet and lots of people are walking around who wouldn’t normally be on the streets. Plenty of us are running. Personally, I feel the fitter I am, the greater resilience I will have if I contract the virus. I’m in one of the vulnerable categories because of heart disease so I am particularly careful. I feel fit and my lung capacity must be good. I don’t feel at risk but, of course, I risk others’ health if I become ill.

The middle class are about to discover the cruelty of Britain’s benefits system

The coronavirus crisis ignites a bonfire of Conservative party orthodoxies

Coronavirus exposes society’s fragility. Let’s find solutions that endure once it’s over

It takes a whole world to create a new virus, not just China

The above links are to Guardian or Observer articles and offer analysis to these drastically changing times. It’s ironic that the Labour Party’s manifesto, before the last Uk election in December 2019, was roundly criticised for its profligacy on spending plans to transform British society. We are in a crisis now and there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of financial help. This may be vital to maintain confidence in our economic system and prevent societal unrest and civil disorder. But the same Tories have presided over swingeing cuts to the NHS, education, social services, children’s services and local goverment for well over a decade  I had an argument with an idiot in a hospital outpatient clinic who kept on repeating “Where’s the money coming from?” The right wing have done such a good job in subverting the concept of public good and replacing it with fear and condemnation and personal threat, a large number of people can’t see the wood for the trees.

So galling seeing the Tories and their scientific and medical friends, standing at lecterns which proclain” Protect the NHS”, during the daily press briefings. As if they believe that.

I believe there will be a reckoning when this present emergency subsides and hopefully the evil Tories won’t succeed in spinning their own version of events.

Pity the poor Americans. Trump living on another planet and unable to string a coherent sentence together and suffering  wholly inadequate health care and social benefit systems. Where’s the humanity?

The Loneliness of the Long Injured Runner Assuaged Only By House Plants

Running marathons could help you live longer – but how do you start?

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2020/jan/07/running-marathons-help-live-longer-how-do-you-start?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WordPress

The call of the marathon! Seductive or easily dismissed? There have been lots of articles recently on how running is beneficial to your health. It joggles the brain nicely to ward off dementia, creates new brain cells and neurone pathways, strengthens joints and aids mental health. You don’t have to do marathons or even run. Exercise and activity are the fundamental components. Since my knee injury has stopped me running more than 5k, and at a more relaxed pace, I’ve been walking more and very enjoyable it is, too.

But it’s running I want to get back to. No Cambridge half marathon this year and no 10k race entries (yet). My knee remains weak and puffy but I think there is a slow improvement. My running fitness has appreciably declined, unfortunately. It will return, hopefully, when my knee is stronger.

Hold the front page! I’ve just returned from a five mile run and my knee held up. Not sure what it will be like overnight, but that’s hours away. At the moment it’s okay. New plan: register for 10k races immediately. What can go wrong?


I appear to have become obsessed with house plants (note that I am implying that this has been imposed on me  from above. I am just a helpless plaything manipulated by a higher intelligence to enact their whims). Someone or something has pressured me into setting up nearly forty plants and it’s a real headache trying to provide the right amount of light they require in a cottage that’s on the dark side. These first world problems are really under appreciated. Additionally, it’s very easy to overwater, one of the main causes for plant death or terminal decline, and, conversely, to under water. I’m still feeling my way forward. It’s not too difficult as long as you consider the individual plant’s needs on a DAILY basis. Like having children, really, except they don’t talk back.

Politically, we’ve fallen into the Dark Ages again.  Boris Johnson has a cabinet of poodles and absolute power. Like Trump he is able to sidestep integrity, truthfulness, consistency and any authentic concern for the needs of people outside his own elitist class. Like Trump, he has a large number of angry, prejudiced, uneducated and disillusioned voters who succumb to hard line, nationalistic policies which identify culprits and demonise minorities. Their styles are very different. One is a bullying white supremacist, the other a stand up comedian. But their nasty, viscious,cruel outlook is shared.

 

 

 

UK renamed Mordor by Johnson government as Tory-orcs run rampant

This is a pic from the top of the Tor at Glastonbury, overlooking the Somerset Levels and taken last summer when the evil Tories weren’t so blatantly evil.

The Bridge of Sighs, St. John’s College, Cambridge, taken just before the UK General Election, and prior to the onset of Perpetual Shadow Tory Rule.

With the self destruction of the Labour Party, I should be running frantically and often to contain my fear and anxiety concerning an extreme right goverment. Unfortunately I remain injured, not seriously, but sufficient to impair speed, distance and frequency. I have been doing parkrun consistently but my knee still feels uncomfortable and weak. On New Year’s Day I did two parkruns, ninety minutes apart, 5k each run. On the last kilometre of the second race my right knee felt very odd and my left calf started to hurt. For the rest of the day I could only walk stiffly and gingerly. Nevertheless, I’ll do parkrun again tomorrow and probably walk most of it.

So Brexit, xenophobia, racism and outright stupidity won the day. The Right don’t really think, they feel. They feel anger, resentment, hate contempt, fear, sentimentality and prejudice. They tend not to have any arguments. The emphasis is on keeping what they’ve got, increasing it and making sure there’s minimum sharing or redistribution, particularly to the vulnerable or economically unproductive.

The Left tend to have arguments and explain, often with a historical perspective and with nuance. They employ concepts like inclusiveness, empathy, fairness and a sense of community. They look outwards and are not threatened by all and sundry. I could go on but I’m watching Shrill at the moment.

Hopefully I’ll write a few more blogs before Trump causes a nuclear war.

 

 

 

Would you Adam and Eve It*? UK General Election and I’m still injured (but not quite as much)

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My first attempt at kokedama (moss balls fashioned around a plant and bound to keep the moss and growing medium in place.) I’ve bound it crudely, with thick green garden wire. This will be replaced by less visible finer wire.

My first open top terrarium. My daughter has made a succession of closed terrariums and has give me advice and equipment to make my own. Better get on and do it then!

My relation with house plants has dramatically improved. Like many people I have tended to neglect them and their overall health goes into a slow decline. This is no longer the case. I find I’m much more motivated to care for them properly. I suppose nurture wouldn’t be too strong a word. Why is this? Well, plants enhance the environment. They’re natural, alive and respond to attention, creating a sense of being in control and achievement. Fascinating in themselves and their various forms, they give enjoyment and a feeling that you have a small bit of nature in your own home. Much less demanding than pets but more difficult to take for a walk.

I wasn’t running when I wrote my last blog two months ago. I am running now, tentatively, but my knee is weak and I’ve lost a lot of fitness. The NHS physiotherapy assessment appointment came through eventually, and was thorough. It was established I had a mechanical, not structural, injury and I was given a set of physio exercises. By the time of the assessment, my knee was improving very slowly. Despite being theoretically highly motivated to do physio exercises, in practice I didn’t take them up. I started parkrunning again (5k) but didn’t run during the week. My knee has continued to be problematic. There is continuing slow improvement and I want to run during the week. Strangely I am now motivated to do the prescribed physio exercises. Doh!

Regretfully I’ve missed a number of half marathon and 10k races and I won’t be doing the Cambridge half marathon in March 2020.  I think thirteen miles of hard road won’t be good for my knee. Possibly the following year. I’m pleased my son Dan has got a place so I’ll be able to spectate, cheer him on and hopefully keep my envy in check.

The UK general election is set for December 12th and party electioneering is in full swing. The evil Tories and the Brexit party are in bad tempered alliance, Labour has failed to gain the upper hand ( riven party and too many Brexiteer voters) and the Lib Dems, somewhat in the ascendancy, but probably not enough to make a difference. If Labour and the Lib Dems formed an alliance, there mght be some hope but that is not likely at the moment. Possibly the SNP might help labour keep the Tories out. It’s all up in the air! I don’t feel Jeremy Corbyn has put any effort into being personable and attractive to voters. He’s clearly anti European and the party is dangerously split. A substantial minority of Labour voters are xenophobic, racist and anti semitic. It’s not looking good.

*Cockney rhyming slang. Adam and Eve = believe it.  (American readers might associate the London cockney accent with Dick Van Dyke playing Bertie the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins in the 1964 film. This would be a grave mistake) Of course, Brexit is the modern version of the biblical Adam and Eve creation myth. When the evil Tories agreed to a referendum, the period of debate and day of voting was akin to eating of the Tree of Knowledge. It brought forth all manner of lies, deceit, self advancement, bigotry, xenophobia, nationalism, prejudice and hatred which hitherto had laid dormant. To mix metaphors, the genie was out of the bottle, Pandora’s box was opened. I’m sure you get my drift. On a daily basis we hear ignorance, anger and plain stupidity being voiced by people with the narrowest of interest for society at large but possessing a large range of cliches and jingoism to support their unkind, aggressive views. The Brexit debate has been very revealing and wholly disturbing.

Why do the Europeans seem so much more sensible than us Brits? Probably because they are.

 

 

 

 

Whitby, Cropredy and a persistent running injury. And Brexit?

WHITBY

Four days in Yorkshire. We visited Whitby where Bram Stoker’s Dracula landed on a deserted ship and bounded up the 199 steps, in the form of a large black dog, to the ruined Whitby abbey on the cliff top. Whitby is now a port of call (pun intended) for all Goths, past and present. These two Goth girl were hardly out of place.

 

Very atmospheric. The weather was warm and sunny but on a cold, misty, gloomy day it would be easy to appreciate why Stoker knew Whitby was the appropriate location for Dracula to disembark from his cursed ship.

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Cropredy, Oxfordshire. Fairport Convention hold an annual reunion festival here. They are a folk rock band which originally formed in 1967 and they are still going with original members and old members regularly returning. They have a loyal following which is just as well because the weather conditions were testing for long standing fans. Except we weren’t standing much. Such is our collective advanced age camp chairs is de rigueur even if the weather is good. This time around we endured a chilling wind, low temperatures and bouts of rain. It felt God was attempting to cull us!

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I’m being persecuted by another chicken. She turns up each day waiting to be fed then does giant poo which we duly tread on. She even became violent, pecking Lorna’s unprotected toes. We’re trying to become predominantly vegetarians but she’s trying our patience.

I’m alive but still not running My knee injury is still persisting and I’ve stopped running altogether. Still not sure of the exact nature of the injury. I had assumed it was a tear or bruising to the miniscus but now I’m not so sure. I’ve had a couple of private physiotherapy sessions and still awaiting a NHS referral for physiotherapy for which there is a fourteen week waiting list. This is not a service. Such a timescale for assessment and treatment will ensure that either the average person’s  problem will have resolved over time or will have become chronic. How has the physiotherapy service allowed itself to become so degraded and marginal? My GP, appparently, is not able to refer me for a scan to accurately diagnose my knee injury. That responsibility is now devolved to the physiotherapy servce, who if they feel a diagnostic scan is required, refer me onto another team who then make that decision. This will take forever. It is taking forever. A good example of NHS cuts and resource rationing. or softening up the NHS for private providers. Or simply dropping a treatment option. Is the NHS safe with the evil Tories? If you are credulous, yes, of course.

Brexit! Divisive or what? Remain or leave, your preference strips bare a predictable set of values and beliefs. In general the remainers live in a world with balmy weather and warm breezes where good humour and friendliness, co-operation and fairness are the norms and everyone is accepted without prejudice. The leavers, in general, inhabit a gloomy, sunless world, permanently chilled and inhospitable, where xenophobia, meaness of spirit, absence of empathy, lack of charity and self interest are endemic. Oh dear!

400 parkruns and a lot of long straw

Cottage getting a rethatch

I ran my first Cambridge parkrun in February 2010, six months after a heart attack and now I’ve passed the 400 mark. Two other running chums who are both in their late 60s and have had heart attacks are still running. Moral of the story? Stay fit and prosper after a cardiac event. Unfortunately I saw many people attending cardiac rehab who were overweight, didn’t do any exercise and regarded their heart disease as a considerable handicap. At that point, only just over 4 in 10 were taking up the offer of cardiac rehab and the takeup was lower in other areas. Oh dear! I don’t know if rehab uptake has improved much.

Cambridge half marathon in under two weeks. I’m trying to do a long run of 12 miles every week and , by and large, I’ve managed it. It takes some effort and focus but I feel so much better afterward, a sort of good, healthy tiredness.

Finished

I just read that the British teenager who absconded to to the Islamic State group in Syria when she was 15 (she is now aged 19 and has just given birth to her third child), has now had her UK citizenship revoked. She is currently in a Syrian refugee camp and wants to return to the UK. This is a complicated issue on a number of fronts but it is very disappointing that the Tory Home Secretary has placated the credulous and knee jerk nitwits of the Tory electorate who are unable to objectively evaluate any complicated issue. Compare and contrast with Tony Blair who was determined to go to war with George Bush on the flimsiest of pretences, shared responsiblity for tens of thousands of deaths and destabilised whole regions.

Loving the 12 mile weekly run! At the moment!

It’s been eight weeks since my last blog and summer has turned to autumn. The stark truth is that I’m eight weeks older and more to the point, I’m a first time grandfather. Wonderful! This brings new opportunities to be sensible, patriachal, dignified and generally comport myself in accordance with my new status. I’ll probably work on these aspirations in the New Year or when I get time or possibly never.

Six weeks ago, I did an undulating half marathon and this went well. I only ran a couple of ninety minute runs and one sixty minute run before the half and this seemed about right for my existing level of fitness. Since then I’ve decided to do a twelve mile run each week and this has felt okay. It seems that when I up the mileage I feel less tired or rather it’s a superior, more satisfying type of tiredness rather than simply feeling sapped.

The extra mileage has pushed my parkrun times down, I think. I recently turned my ankle on a root at Cambridge parkrun the day before I was due to do a local 10k. I finished the run but it swelled up in the afternoon, not substantially, but overnight, it felt stiffer and a little tender. Not wishing to believe the evidence of my own eyes, I went for a little trot before the 10k race and decided, using my new sensible grandad hat, that it was inadvisable to run.

With a few further days of rest, it sorted itself out and I’m currently not injured. Cambridge parkrun at Milton Country Park is mostly woodland paths which are strewn with leaves. Thus the numerous raised tree roots are hidden and it’s easy to come a cropper. Are we brave, courageous, risk takers? Are we heroes? Are we daft?

The Guardian newspaper has recently announced that the reader funding model is successful. They claim a million supporters world wide paying subscription apps or monthly voluntary payments to help keep the journalism afloat and the website open to all and not behind a paywall. Anyone can view Guardian journalism on their website and share it freely, even evil, right wing people who seem to be more in the ascendency these days. Of course right wing leaning people have their own news outlets and it’s educational to compare and contrast. The right wing news tends towards condemnation, mockery, anger, alarmism, fear of change and loss and nostalgia for a perceived golden past. They don’t hesitate to vilify ethnic groups who they blame for loss of their cultural norms. They love jingoism like “We want our country back” and “America first!” Anger is often the predominant emotion which their target group consumes ad nauseum. And often there are objectively legitimate reasons for that anger and resentment. Classically, that discontent is easily exploited and often directed at the wrong cause. Best to read Guardian journalism and not risk it.

Upside : I’m running more frequently. Downside : I’m being stalked by a chicken.

Yes, this is the chicken! A hen, actually. She may not have big brain but she quickly worked out I’m a soft touch. All I did was provide a small handful of wild bird seed on two occasions and now she visits daily, occasionally with a cockerel in tow. Is this a problem? It wasn’t initially but she now contravenes normal social proprieties. If we leave a door open, she struts in brazenly. We’ve found her on a sofa in our front room, in our living room and she’s familiar with our bathroom. And she’s not even our hen! She and her pals are free ranging and belong to a farmer fifty metres away.

 

I rest my case!

I’m pleased to report that my chicken based woes are not adversely affecting my running. I’m back to running consistently and again trying to increase distance. I did the Greater Cambridge 10k a couple of weeks ago and I’ve got an undulating half marathon in two weeks. I’m a regular at Cambridge parkrun. I’ve also done a couple of training sessions at Cambridge and Coleridge running club with a view to rejoining. I miss the Tuesday road training. Of the present Tuesday group I’m the slowest which is not necessarily a problem but the effort involved does mean I have to put in maximum effort. Older running gods, like myself, have to be careful! Alternatively, I could do the track sessions which are probavly more manageable/flexible.

I did a 12 mile run today and this went okay. I have to resist the temptation to do another long run without sufficient recovery time. I feel good after a long distance and I want to repeat it but wiser heads object. Memo to self: enrol on that adult education class titled “How to Behave Sensibly for Advanced Years Citizens”

 

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Lips completed! I’ve made quite a few models now and it’s dawned upon me rather late that the bases are not adequate. So, at the moment I’m using,, or replacing previous bases with, reclaimed hard woods.

I made this sculpture over a year ago. I won’t be replacing this base but I need to upgrade it. This won’t be very easy because I won’t be detaching the statue because that would be a bit of a palaver.

So, how’s Brexit going? Not too well for the evil Tory goverment! Labour is hoping for no agreement and a general election. There’s increased talk of another referendum or at least another complete rethink on how to proceed. For my part, Brexit. as voted or by 52% of the population, reflects a very strong strand of xenophobia and right wing manipulation of racist prejudice. I certainly don’t feel the Tories are capable of making humane and compassionate laws and policies. I’ve got more faith in EU law.