19 March 2017

What a splendid weekend we had last weekend – Bubble came for an overnighter which is always a blast, albeit somewhat exhausting for those of us who are not used to the continual presence and energy of young children. We played games, we read stories, we drew pictures, we played the supreme pie face challenge and then, after lunch, we did more of the same! On Sunday we ventured out to the chaos and cacophony that is the Spiceball Leisure Centre’s swimming pool – my goodness, can young children shriek! and in the echoing confines of the tiled surfaces it wasn’t long before my ears were bleeding.

Of course, she is an angel and so well-behaved – naturally, she has us completely organised.

Monday was a glorious day – bright, sunny and reasonably warm considering the time of year. It was so nice that I was tempted out of doors and out into the back garden where Ms Playchute had instructed me to move a pile of rubble and dirt from the edge of her vegetable patch to a place far away behind a mound at the top of the garden. So, I plugged in my music and spent a merry couple of hours shovelling and wheel-barrowing. Shovelling and wheel-barrowing rubble from one spot to another is exactly the sort of task I can be trusted to complete without causing too much peripheral damage. Thankfully, now that I’ve done that, I guess that’s me finished with my gardening tasks for the year.

Tuesday was supposed to be another glorious day so, on the strength of the forecast, Penelope suggested that we venture out to Stowe Gardens near Buckingham to see if we could find some spring flowers to brighten our day. Regrettably, the day turned out to not be as bright and sunny as had been anticipated but it was still grand to get out and have a tromp around the lovely parkland surrounding Stowe House. There was, however, not an abundance of flowers, I regret to report. The snowdrops were just on their way over and many of the others were just emerging but at least there was a fine selection of daffodils to admire.


Wednesday was, again, a glorious day with bright, clear skies and lots of warm sunshine and, you’ll be surprised to know, that I was out in the garden again! This time it was to perform the first lawn mow of the new season, which was both a pleasure and a great disappointment to me. A pleasure that the worst of winter is (probably) behind us, a disappointment that the mowing season has been brought forward by about three to four weeks. Isn’t climate change marvellous?

I am of the view that you shouldn’t start mowing your lawns in the UK until at least the end of April. If you mow too early all you do is encourage the grass to grow! In previous years I have certainly been able to hold out until the beginning of April at least, but not this year – it’s been so mild.

So, while those of you in the great Northeast have been shovelling snow, I was out in the back garden in shirtsleeves pushing the mower around the orchard. It does look fresh and revitalised when it’s just been mowed – I guess the first mow of the season is one of the final harbingers of Spring along with daffodils and spring lambs in the fields.

I have to confess, I probably would have held out for another week or two but I was “shamed” into mowing it so early to keep pace with our neighbour, Roger, who was out mowing his lawn on Tuesday afternoon – you know what it’s like, you don’t want to let the neighbourhood down.

We had two significant political events this week – the Chancellor produced his budget for the year(s) ahead and the bill to initiate the UK’s withdrawal from Europe passed its final hurdle in Parliament allowing the Prime Minister to fire the starting gun for the s**tstorm that will be Brexit. Interestingly, the Chancellor squirreled away something in the region of £60 billion as a contingency in case/when the whole Brexit fiasco goes pear-shaped. So, the funding crises in the NHS, education, social care, infrastructure, etc. as a result of the government’s self-imposed austerity regime, will have to wait for a brighter day. Perhaps my grandchildren will still be around when that brighter day finally arrives because there is little doubt that the UK will be picking up the pieces from the Brexit fallout for generations to come.

It’s probably no bad thing that the Chancellor is building a contingency fund for dealing with Brexit. This week in testimony to the parliamentary committee on exiting the EU, David Davis, one of the three jolly Brexiteer ministers, conceded that the government had made no assessment of the potential economic impact of leaving the EU without a trade deal. Thus the government carries on with its casual delusion that the EU will roll over and allow the UK to have its cake and eat it, i.e., negotiate a free trade agreement without allowing any of those nasty foreigners to live or work in the UK. Any fule can see that’s not going to happen so a prudent approach might be to put some thought into that particular scenario but, “Nope. No one has made any sort of contingency plan.” Honestly, you couldn’t make it up! As John Crace (always a good read) put it in his column in the Guardian:

A parish council wouldn’t get away with that level of unaccountability.

And, speaking as we were of Parliament and Parliamentary events, how do you fancy a virtual tour of the Houses of Parliament where all this nonsense takes place?

And finally, I guess we all know how easy it is to get “distracted” by what one can find on the Internet. Yesterday I spent many a happy hours perusing old Census Returns containing details of various of my ancestors. Just one example . . .

The 1930 census return for 1940 Bay View Drive, Hermosa Beach, California which includes the listing for one Elizabeth Toll, aged 4 6/12. It was interesting to me to see the information which was collected. It can be a bit difficult to decipher the text without some practice so here’s a quick transcription of the line for my grandfather, Charles H Toll:

House Number: 1940
Number of dwelling house in order of visitation: 285
Number of family in order of visitation: 314
Name of person: Toll, Charles H
Relationship to the Head of the family: Head
Home owned or rented: O[wned]
Value of home: $13,000
Radio set: R [Yes, they owned a radio!]
Does this family live on a farm: No
Sex: M
Color or race: W
Age at last birthday: 27
Marital condition: M
Age at first marriage: 21
Attended school or college any time since Sept. 1, 1929: No
Whether able to read and write: Yes
Place of birth: California
Place of birth of father: Idaho [this is wrong – it should be Iowa]
Place of birth of mother: United States
Language spoken in home before coming to the United States: Blank
The next three columns are for a code 
Whether able to speak English: Yes
Occupation: Travelling salesman
Industry: Pipe and steel
Another code: 4290
Class of worker: W
Whether actually at work yesterday: Yes
Whether a veteran of US military or naval force: No


Love to you all,



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