A Budget to Forget

Friday 10th March

That’s it.  Forgotten instantly and I bet in even a few days no-one else will be able to remember it either.  More of the same, no real change.  No money for the NHS while waiting lists get longer and longer (and people suffer).  A pittance for Social Care, but not all at once – this 2 billion is over 3 years – and let us not forget that the reason we are in this state is a direct result of Austerity.  At least Phillip Hammond didn’t try to pull any magic rabbits out of the hat like his predecessor; everything was well trailed and leaked to the press for a few days.

And yet we need to do something.  We cannot simply carry on cutting Corporation Tax and Benefits and expecting that somehow Growth will close the huge gap that is the deficit.  We are still borrowing 60 billion a year and the National Debt is increasing to 90% of our GDP.  The Tories have signally failed to eliminate the Deficit – all that suffering for nothing, or very little.  And yet when the solution is perfectly clear it is almost impossible for any political party to even hint at it.

Taxes must go up.  Income tax is at a historic low, especially for the rich.  At some point, things will absolutely reach a breaking point.  It may be a rise in interest rates which forces the Government to stop borrowing or it may be Hospitals closing or some other crisis.  At some point Labour will sort itself out and offer a credible alternative.  At some point the Brexit negotiations will expose the lunacy at the heart of this administration, maybe factories will close and business itself wake from the torpor it has settled into and demand a change.

But meanwhile the ship of state sails gloriously on, oblivious to winds from the East and Icebergs on the Starboard bow.  We will make Britain great again…but it may take a few decades longer with budgets like the one we have just forgotten.

What an Existence

Thursday 9th March

Standing in line, slowly shuffling forwards one pathetic stumbling step at a time.  Those still disgorging themselves from the crammed tube carriages pushing us on to those in front being funneled onto the narrow escalator, a few brave souls struggled up the long fixed stairway.  It took several minutes to get from the train to the escalator, all of us frustrated penguins waiting patiently, some pushing in, most just standing in line.   And I thought, what an existence.  I had had to wait for the second train, the first was simply far too full though one or two more athletic souls forced themselves onto the already crammed train.  As the second came in we were all scanning the carriages, and yes this one looked a little less crowded, just room for two or three of us to squeeze on.  No need to reach up for the handrails (I pity short people) as we were jammed solid with no danger of falling.  As we passed Canary Wharf the melee thinned out a bit, still no seat but a bit more room.  I was surprised by how many young Chinese women there were on the train.  When I first came to London it was almost exclusively white then we seemed to have an influx of black faces and then brown ones  then more white people but speaking Polish or some other Eastern European languages. But now all I seem to see are young immaculately dressed and remarkably beautiful Chinese women.  I assume that most are here studying, or maybe working in the City.  I really don’t think that immigration policy, however stringent or lax it may be perceived has much effect at all on the numbers of people flooding into London.  People seem to come here anyway, attracted by and adding to the economic hub that is London.

The DLR, which I came in on is only a few years old.  It was created to service the regeneration of Docklands and, just like the Jubilee line before it, has rapidly filled up.  It seems an unwritten law that the more you improve the transport, build new tube lines (and Crossrail will open soon) improve roads and so on, it simply drags more and more people into our Capital City.  HS2 (if it is ever built) will do nothing for Birmingham and the North, it will simply allow even more people to commute to work in London, especially as housing is now so expensive in London and the SouthEast.

And they are even commuting from Walton and Norwich and even further afield.  People spending in excess of two hours commuting each way just to earn a living.  What an existence I thought as I shuffled forward.  But I did this every day for over forty years.  My dad used to bike to work when I was a boy, hardly anyone even worked in Ipswich, only twelve miles away.  What an existence, and all just to keep standing still, just to pay the mortgage, just to put food on the table, just to try and raise your kids and maybe one day to stop this nonsense and be able to retire with anything like a decent income and relax.  It is no use asking if it is worth it, we are all trapped in the system like flies on a strip of flypaper twisting and turning in the gentle breeze until possibly the weight of the whole thing becomes too much – and then someone will undoubtedly hang up another strip of flypaper for even more to cling on to.


Wednesday 8th March

June used to leave the girls alone mostly, and rarely went into their bedrooms at all, their own private sanctums.   After all they were growing up and she could remember when she was sixteen being furious with her own mother when she had ‘just been tidying up’ in her room.  Snooping was what she was really up to, and though she never found anything – that didn’t stop her.  But one time when Harriet must only have been sixteen, June was looking for her hairbrush and thought that maybe Harriet had borrowed it.  And though she knew she was out, even so she cautiously pushed open the door, and was quite amazed.  Every wall and even a bit of the ceiling was covered with faces, all different sizes, some in colour, some in black and white, all cut out of magazines and pasted overlapping each other, so that it was a vast crowd, a sea of faces.  It must have taken Harriet ages and was really quite artistic, whereas June had always thought Jane was the artistic one, she was the child who would bring drawings and paintings home from school.  Harriet wasn’t the sort to seek or need her mother’s approval, and would even laugh at Jane’s efforts sometimes.

And there right in the middle of each wall was a large photo of Harriet.  June couldn’t think where she had had the photos taken, and they were blown-up too, about life size.  So, each wall was a crowd of faces, all smaller than and surrounding, the quite serious and intense face of Harriet.  Talk about standing out in the middle of a crowd.   She learnt from Jane that evening that Harriet had cajoled her father into letting her get her photo taken in a professional studio in Ipswich, and that he had paid for the pictures.

June had no idea, they hadn’t told her a thing about it, and hadn’t shown her the pictures either.  Apparently it was over a month ago, and no-one had bothered to mention it.  For the first time she began to realise that she was becoming a stranger in her own home.  Jane still chatted to her, but Harriet would ignore her mother more often than not, or make some sarky comment in passing, not real conversation anyway.  Phil seemed more and more engrossed in work, or he would fall asleep in his armchair soon after ten, and June would go up to bed and leave him sleeping.  She knew that she had Ted, but that was scant compensation for this feeling that none of her family really needed her.  For the first time in her life, she began to really worry about the future, her own future she meant, and of course without Ted it looked pretty bleak..

*  * *

Harriet was so bright that Phil was certain she was going to be a success. A real success he meant; not like him – a stupid plodding workhorse. She would make something of her life, not get bogged down in a small town, doing a mundane job she hated.  He really had high hopes for her.  She said that she wanted to be some sort of a model, or a ‘face’ as she put it, and asked him to let her have her photo taken, professionally.  There was nowhere in Stowmarket, so one Saturday Phil drove her into Ipswich, and a photographers’ studio she had arranged and she had the pictures taken.  They had to go back a week later and pick them up. Twenty five pounds it cost him, he realized he was in the wrong business alright.  She showed him in the car on the way home, and she was right, she looked amazing, much older than fifteen.  They were mostly head and shoulder shots and a couple of full length pictures.  She was staring straight at the camera, very serious and so beautiful too.

Harriet made him promise not to tell June, “It will be our little secret, hey dad.” and she snuggled up to him in the car.  What could he say, he felt bad about not telling June, they weren’t the sort of couple to have secrets, except of course, all that dodgy business he was involved with.  Phil never told her about that to protect her if he ever got into trouble, besides she would never have understood how he had got involved in the first place.  But Harriet was quite insistent, she said she was going to send them off to model agencies in London, and her mother was sure to disapprove.  He reluctantly agreed, and just decided that he would say it slipped his mind if June asked about it. It was only a small lie, and besides, he wasn’t sure if lies by omission counted anyway.  Secretly he was very proud of his daughter, and her ambition.  And quite comforted that she had confided in him; the thing about Harriet was that she really was much older than her years, and her mother never really understood what was driving her; she wanted to be someone, to do something with her life.  Phil understood that alright, and though it was too late for him, he would help her in every way he could.  He was determined not to be like his own father and try to persuade her to do something she hated.  And anyway, it was only a few photo’s, what harm was there in that.

*  * *

“Phil, why didn’t you tell me about the photos?”  June asked him that evening when the girls had gone to bed.

“What photos?” he said, acting all innocent.

“You know, the ones you took your daughter to get taken, all the way to Ipswich, about a month ago I think it will have been.”  June smiled at him, “surely you haven’t forgotten, has it slipped your mind?”

“Oh, those photos, of course.  Didn’t I tell you,” he lied straight-faced, “I must have told you, surely.”

“You mean you should have told me Phil, don’t you.  You do know you should have told me. Anyway I was bound to find out sooner or later, the girl has them plastered all over her walls.”

“Oh, has she?” he said defensively, “I thought she wanted to send them off to see if she had what it takes to be in magazines, modeling, you know, that sort of thing.”

“Whatever she wanted them for you should have told me, you know that, don’t you?”

“I suppose so,” he admitted, “but honestly I didn’t think it really mattered June.”

“I am so disappointed in you Phil, it isn’t the photos or the cost I mind, it’s just the being excluded.  What did you think you were doing, not telling me?  Did you think I would scream and shout or something?  I might have thought and said that she was a bit too young, but really Phil, we should have discussed this.”

“Sorry love,” and he reached out and rubbed her fore-arm, almost the first sign of affection he had shown in months, “it won’t happen again.  If she asks me for anything else like that I’ll come and talk to you straight away, I promise I will.”

And he took up his paper again, shook it, and pretended to be engrossed in some stupid article about farm prices of all things.  June knew he thought it was a lot of fuss over nothing, and it wasn’t about the damned pictures at all, she couldn’t care less about them, it was the collusion between the two of them that she hated.

*  * *

Harriet got the photos taken when she was fifteen, nearly sixteen to be precise.  She was going to send them off to model agencies in London, she had this big idea she could be a model or something, but when she really looked at them later she saw that they weren’t half good enough.  She had forgotten to smile, or even look anything but terrified.  Her mother found out and had a moan about them, but Harriet just told her she was jealous, and anyway it hadn’t cost that much really.

“It’s not the money Harriet, I just think you are a bit young to think about modeling or acting or anything like that, don’t you?”  She said in that holier-than-thou voice which Harriet suspected she kept just for her,

“Not really mother, I am nearly sixteen, and everything is changing now anyway.  But don’t worry I have decided not to send them off, I don’t want to be a model now.” she said half to reassure her and half in justification.  “I am going to go to University first; then I’ll decide later what I want to do.”

“Well, at least promise me that you won’t go behind my back like this again, won’t you?” she half pleaded, worried she was appearing to prudish..

“I never went behind your back, as you put it.”  Harriet insisted. “You just weren’t around, and it was sort of a spur of the moment thing, and anyway Dad was cool about it.  It wasn’t anything sleazy you know, it was just some photos for Christ’s sake.”

And that was that really, a lot of fuss over nothing, and Harriet breezed out of the kitchen, leaving June more confused than ever..

Everything is Becoming Disposable

Tuesday 7th March

Everything is becoming disposable.  I will give you just four examples.  Music – when I was growing up music was a rarity, very little of our generation’s music on the radio and even less on telly.  Hardly anyone I knew had a record player even, I can remember a couple of Upper sixth formers (when I was in the Lower Sixth) sauntering in with Bob Dylan albums under their arms, nothing to play them on at school of course, but these were exotic artifacts.  We devoured the sleeve notes and gazed in awe at the cover photos.  When I started collecting records, it was one album a week at the most – I would slip them into clear plastic covers to protect them, handle them with care and treasure the very few records I had.  Then came cassette tapes, and I started taping and selling my albums and using the money to buy even more second-hand records, building up my collection at a faster pace. Then CDs came in, supposedly indestructible and I would haunt second hand record shops and buy CDs and CD singles – but I still treasured everyone.  My collection is now pretty big and I still love to look at the rows of CDs….but now there is Spotify and Youtube and downloading and music has no value at all, it is so disposable that you can even have access to almost everything but only while it is playing.  Ownership of music is old-fashioned and actually a waste of money.

Photographs – I used to enjoy taking photo’s.  I had a small Leica which took excellent photo’s, but you had to think about it, working out distances and estimating light exposure before taking a photo.  I have a few albums of pictures I have taken, mostly of my young children – and I treasure them, they are real artifacts.  I can remember collecting the developed films from the photography shop and rejecting a few failures and mounting the others in albums.  Then came autofocus and digital and now every phone and computer can take photo’s, Facebook is inundated with images and nobody values any of it at all.  I have hundreds of photos on this laptop and rarely ever look at them; it is as though I don’t even own them, they have no value, if I lost them I wouldn’t even be upset, they have become completely disposable.

Stuff in general – we all have far too much stuff in our homes, and can’t quite stop ourselves from buying more; we replace furniture and ornaments and pictures on the wall and quickly forget what we once had.  But I can remember lugging a sofa and a few chairs and a table from flat to flat, never dreaming I would be without them – but I had very little back then and things meant something.  Now almost everything is disposable; when we die our kids won’t want them, their houses are cluttered already, and even the second hand shops will give you a pittance to clear your home.

People are disposable too.  Friends we once thought would be inseparable are now just one among many on Facebook, some we remember and some we don’t even know, friends of friends or maybe they say they were in your class at school – but really…. Like almost everything, even friend are becoming disposable – if you don’t hear from an old friend, well there are plenty more on Facebook.

And I am not really complaining about all of this; it is just the world we live in.  Our only role is to be consumers, and the more disposable everything is the more we will consume.  Got to keep the wheels of Industry turning…

Journeys By Train

Monday 6th March

Famously I do not drive – but that’s another story – so I get around mostly by train.  Or hope to.  But more and more I seem to be frustrated.  And I am a great believer in train travel; ecologically it is far better than lots of individuals polluting the planet in their own cars.  And I have been stuck in plenty of traffic jams as a frustrated passenger to know that car travel is not in any way perfect.  In fact in the past I have often been offered a lift by car drivers and realised afterwards that I could have completed my journey far faster in a train – and with the added bonus of reading on my kindle and listening on my Walkman to some music, arriving relaxed and mostly on time.

So, this weekend.  No problem on Thursday, both trains from Stansted and to Walton were on time and the journeys unspectacularly okay; and this is part of the problem; we don’t remember all these ordinary and often slightly boring journeys when the trains are perfect, the ones we remember are the bad journeys….and so to Saturday.

I was heading off to see Mum and Dad and my sister and her partner for (a week early) a birthday lunch.  Train from Walton on time, as was the change to a faster one to Colchester.  No problem there either as the train to Ipswich was on time.  But it was at Ipswich itself that the chaos started.  Now, I could have got a direct train from Colchester to Stowmarket, the Norwich train, but it left Colchester twenty-five minutes later and I could save a quarter of an hour by catching a train to Cambridge at Ipswich.  Still with me?  Okay, I get in the Cambridge train on time; it was a short four carriage hopper and the engine was running.  I sat there and after a few minutes I realized we had passed our departure time and still hadn’t moved.  Another five minutes and an announcement that the train was cancelled and we were all ordered off.  So, I decided to get the Norwich train instead due in ten minutes, but on a different platform.  I lugged my case up the steps and onto platform 2 only to hear that the Cambridge train was now running and about to depart.  Back over the bridge and onto the original train.  Five minutes later and it was again cancelled.  Back over the bridge for the Norwich train, which to add that sweet dollop of icing, was five minutes late.

Well, of course I got to Stowmarket, half an hour late, but we had a nice day.  I was training it back to London in the evening, and already knew that buses were replacing trains between Ingatestone and Newbury park Central Line.  But I had done this several times and though adding about half an hour onto the journey it wasn’t too bad.  I caught the 17.29 at Stowmarket and we decamped onto buses in wet and windy weather at Ingatestone.  The bus journey was tedious (stuck in traffic again…hahaha) but eventually we pulled into Newbury Park and onto the Central Line.  I got out at Stratford for the DLR, only to find that there was only half a service and no trains past Poplar for my stop, Island Gardens.  Dilemma; should I try to get a cab at Stratford, take Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf and a bus or cab from there or try to get a cab at Poplar.  I took the last option as I was already on the DLR platform.

Well, at Poplar there was an announcement that buses were available at the next stop Westferry.  Thank goodness for that at least.  But at Westferry there were no staff and no notices as to where or if there were indeed buses.  Lots of people milling around and no ideas.  Eventually out of the gloom a rail replacement bus loomed into view, and we took our lives in our hands and scurried across the road and piled on.  This bus wound its slow way to island Gardens, stuck in traffic yet again.  Got in just before nine; four hours since I left my parents.

I know that maintenance has to be done, and obviously it is better to do at the weekends, but what a wretched journey home.   And I am seeing one of my daughters today (Sunday) and by train again.

Politics in Northern Ireland

Sunday 5th March

For most people in the UK this is the ultimate turn-off; we are either uninterested or cannot be bothered to even begin to understand the tribal hatreds in this small corner of the island of Ireland.  But we are, I believe, entering the final chapter of the break-up of the British Empire; or to be more correct – the English Empire.  England has always dominated the political entity known as the United Kingdom.  Formed in 1706 as a political necessity at the time, the amalgamation of Scotland shortly followed by Ireland into England was mostly achieved by armed conquest.  But just as in the Twentieth Century when almost all those huge pink blotches on the World map were given (or demanded or had to fight for) independence, so now we are seeing the breakup of the only remaining bits of the English Empire.

Maybe this was always an Historical Inevitability, but it has been exacerbated by Brexit, which in its turn was brought about by English Nationalism.   One of the greatest achievements of the Blair government was the Northern Ireland Agreement, where the armed conflict was ended and power sharing between the Protestant and Catholic communities achieved.  But it was always a rear-guard action; Sinn Fein’s long-term ambition was a United Ireland, and the latest election results are a major step to achieving that.  The Democratic Unionist Party (itself, a breakaway from the traditional Ulster Unionist Party) has lost seats and Sinn Fein is now only one seat short of them.  We will now have a period of negotiation and, in my view, unless and until Arlene Foster (the particularly belligerent leader of the DUP) steps down there will be no return to power sharing.

Throw Brexit into the mix, and the almost impossible idea that Eire can remain in the EU and the Single Market and the Eurozone while Northern Ireland is out – and still have no hard border, and it will only be a matter of time before Sinn Fein becomes the largest party in Ulster and demands a referendum to leave the UK and join Ireland and the EU.

Especially as Scotland too will at some point almost certainly vote to leave England and not only become independent but will also apply to rejoin Europe.  Another day, another border issue; which makes the promises of controlling our borders even more farcical.  Gibraltar is another irreconcilable issue and will inevitably return to Spain.  And there is no reason why people’s rights cannot be respected, religious and language freedoms can be protected.  This could leave England, with a maybe reluctant Wales on it’s own.  Mind you we will still have the Falklands….oh, they seem to have changed their name to Los Malvinas on my Atlas.

The Forsyte Saga

Saturday 4th March

I can remember watching this as a TV series in the early Seventies, and of course I started to read the books.  There are actually 9 in total, grouped in three sets of three, I seem to recall the TV series only covered the first three.  I decided to start re-reading them recently on Kindle, and have read the first two  – ‘The man of property’ and ‘In Chancery’.  These are mostly about the first and second generation of Forsytes;  The arch Victorian brothers and sisters and their immediate offspring.  The main story is of Soames, whose wife Irene falls in love with an architect Bossiney.  It was notorious in the TV series as Soames forces himself on Irene and essentially ‘rapes’ her.  The amazing thing is that the author John Galsworthy is able to get into the mindset of almost all the main characters.  Even the obnoxious Soames, the man of property; there are times when you can really sympathise with his dilemma.

He also reflects brilliantly the changing morals and ideas between the high Victorian heyday of the 1880’s and the new Century, the death of Victoria and the uncertainties of the Boer War.  Galsworthy actually wrote these books in the war years and going on into the Twenties and Thirties.  I am really enjoying re-reading these novels, this saga of a great family slowly disintegrating and changing.  It make me realise what great writing is, and puts into perspective y own humble efforts.

The Ladder Of Politics

Friday 3rd February

We are all born on a ladder; some were on the bottom rungs and managed by guile and a few helping hands to clamber up a few steps; some were born in the middle, things weren’t too bad but maybe if they were lazy or unlucky they slipped down a few rungs; and some were born near the top and have never had to struggle, private education and a trust fund and a good job beckoned.  And there isn’t much we can do about it.  It is human nature to protect the family, and try to pass on whatever benefits possible to the next generation.  The trouble is that it gets institutionalized and then we get the class system which tries to rigidly keep us all in our place, on our ‘appropriate’ rung on the ladder.

And so it is with Politics.  After the war we had, possibly the greatest Socialist Government ever; there was a feeling, common after wars, that things couldn’t go on like this, that there had to be change; the NHS was created and the Welfare State, and there was a huge surge in opportunity for kids born on the lower rungs of the ladder.  I was one myself, Mum and Dad had nothing when they got married, but they soon had a council house and I received an excellent education and went to the Grammar School.  But there was also the greatest increase in personal wealth during the Sixties and Seventies and even into the Eighties, home ownership boomed, motor cars and foreign holidays – but most important was the understanding that each generation would have a better life than their parents, would live longer, have better jobs, have to struggle less.  And the ladder would be far easier to scale, in fact the whole idea of the ladder would be meaningless as everyone would have a good life.

But it hasn’t worked out that way.  The post-war consensus, first challenged by Thatcher has now fallen away and we are in a new era.  Socialism was always about those on the higher and middle rungs of the ladder reaching down and offering a helping hand to the unfortunate ones who had slipped sown to the lower rungs.  This was to be done by encouragement and persuasion and an understanding that we would all benefit.  But now it is presented more and more as somehow punishing those who have done well, and rewarding the lazy, and there is resentment from the ‘haves’ against the ‘have nots’.  Conservatism was always about slowing down the pace of change, of clinging on to the best of the past, of preserving family and institutions from the ravages of Modern life.  Now it is all about the ladder, of stopping those coming up from gaining a foothold and possibly dislodging those already there.  And the far right is all about stamping on the fingers of those on the lower rungs, and when fingers won’t do, then they will stamp on the faces.

We are in danger of slipping back into the pre-war days of the super-rich and a shrinking middle and ‘the rest’; of privilege and private health and education at the expense of public provision.  The very idea of increasing taxation to pay for a better life for everyone is anathema to the Media and mainstream politics.  The ladder is now stretching, the spaces between the rungs widening, always just out of reach and may soon be completely un-scalable.  And one day the ladder may well be pulled away completely…


Thursday 2nd March

How can we begin to explain to the ‘i-pod’ generation what music, our Music, was like back then in 1962.  There was no music anywhere for a start. Can you imagine that?  Nothing at all on the television and precious little on the radio, and the Wireless was another adult-operated machine anyway; Harriet and Jane were never allowed to switch on the Wireless, that was their Dad’s prerogative. Transistor radios were so new and expensive that most homes still had a large wooden family Wireless with incomprehensible dials and stations marked on them like Berlin or London or Hilversum; and a switch where you could have Long or Medium or Short wave.  AM and FM hadn’t been invented back then.  The BBC was the only broadcaster in England, and the Light Programme was the nearest thing to Pop anyone could hear at all, and that was a long way from real Music, believe me.

No-one had record players, though The Wilkinsons did have a hand-wound Gramophone, which was as big as a sideboard with a big horn speaker.  This was hardly ever played and again this was parent’s property.  They did have a few records, but these were mostly old Jazz 78’s from the forties; forty-five rpm discs were the new thing, but hardly anyone had these either, and anyway they wouldn’t play on their old Gramophone.   Phil even had a couple of Elvis records, still on 78, and worth a fortune now of course, but the girls didn’t really get Elvis, or didn’t back then – (and while yes, okay he had a great voice, and Heartbreak Hotel etc: had something,) but Elvis never grabbed them like The Beatles did; besides, he was their parents generation’s sound – beat music was their own.

*  * *

The girls used to go on and on about the Beatles.  It was Beatles this, and Beatles that, and Jane would cut every photo of them out of the papers and stick them in a scrap book.  Harriet went one stage further and started to stick photos all over the walls of her bedroom, and not just the Beatles.  Harriet was far more interested in everything that was around her and would bring home magazines to read all the time and not only the usual pop stuff but even such serious titles as ‘Life’ and ‘Paris Match’; she got her friends at school to give them to her when their parents had finished with them.  June never knew what she was up to, she wasn’t exactly forthcoming and she had learnt early on not to ask.


Wet and Windy Weather

Wednesday 1st March

What has happened to Eymet sunshine?  Gone, disparru…it is raining and wet and cold and feels exactly like England.  It is Tuesday morning and I am in the Café and the electricity has just gone off….wonderful.  Here in France the electricity is remarkably flakey anyway.  At the moment we are having new water and sewers put in, also our road is being redesigned, we have had weeks of bulldozers and JCBs and huge holes appearing right outside the Café.  Remarkably customers have still found us, but looking outside the window it looks a bit like Syria.  But with rain.

Hopefully this is just a passing storm and will be over soon.  Electricity is back on….hooray – but for how long is anyone’s guess.  Internet is barely working either.  This is exactly the sort of day to hunker down on the sofa with a nice eiderdown and drink coffee and watch meaningless but comforting daytime telly.  Instead it was trudging out with the dogs and then walking here with a bag full of supplies.  Marie-Christine has her French class today, and despite the dreek weather we will probably have a few stragglers, who for some bizarre reason are in town and will want coffee.

Hope the weather is better in England, I am back on Thursday.