3 December 2023

Well, that transitioned in a heartbeat – we’re no longer “unseasonably warm” and have gone straight into “unseasonably cold” according to the weather people. Cold, frosty mornings with below-zero temperatures under occasionally clear, bright blue skies. The frosty mornings do mean less mud and grime on the dog when she returns from a stroll but it also means that the hose is frozen so washing up afterwards is a bit of a challenge.

I wanted to fill you in on details of my current training regime in my ambition of eating for England at the next Olympics. The Moreton Pinkney Garden Club annual dinner last Friday evening was a great success, even if the food was underwhelming mediocre. Again. Once again, the committee took the decision to have local caterer Danny Webster cater for the event, I am guessing because there are so few alternatives. We’ve always been moderately underwhelmed by his efforts and our view hasn’t changed as a result of this latest offering. Penny and I both had the Salmon en Croute with a lemon and caper sauce – the salmon was dry and the en croute had a distinct resemblance to cardboard. I gather that the beef eaters were slightly more pleased with their offerings – tasty but cold, it seems. Still, no one had to do the cooking or washing up and the occasion is more of a social gathering than a banquet. Good thing, I guess.

And, to make the evening even more enjoyable, I won the raffle prize – a nice pair of Wilkinson hand-held grass sheers which Ms Playchute will put to good use, I am sure. Very nice.

Dinner on Saturday evening at the Plough Inn in Everdon was, in contrast, outstanding. The pub had been closed for 3½ years and has only recently reopened after an extensive renovation. And, it has become instantly popular – it was packed! Penny and I kept thinking this is what our local village pub (still closed) could be. The chicken I had was excellent, perfectly seasoned with a lovely slightly salty (think little strips of bacon) sauce. Penny had a whole Cornish Brill (no, we had to look it up as well) which she also described as excellent. I suspect we shall be going there again but perhaps not on a Saturday night – too loud for our sensitive dispositions.

And, continuing the “eating” theme, I have to share with you a photo of one of the best sourdough loafs I’ve ever made. Let me tell you, it’s increasingly difficult to maintain the façade of an award-winning sourdough baker – some people in the village actually think I must know something. How misguided they are. It’s still largely blind luck and I still produce an Olympic-standard discus from time to time.

I know it’s boring and tedious to keep going on about Brexit. It’s also boring and tedious for the government to keep trotting out these “flagship” trade deals which allegedly is what Brexit was all about – giving the UK the ability to negotiate better trade deals now that we are no long restrained by the dismal European Union.

In contrast to the government’s perennial announcements of the discovery of the sunlight hills and uplands of a post-Brexit Britain, the Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted that the “latest and greatest” trade deal negotiated will add something in the region of 0.04% to GDP “in the long run” which the OBR defines as after 15 years.

The UK’s flagship trans-Pacific trade deal, which was presented as a cornerstone of post-Brexit “global Britain”, will deliver even less benefit to the economy than the tiny uplift that was previously predicted, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

If the facts don’t suit your narrative, just make at all up!

Want another YCNMIU? Matt Hancock, former Health Secretary, testifying at the Covid Inquiry this week. Apparently, everyone else was useless and Hancock was the only one in government who had any sense. There are two fatal problems with this approach, according to John Crace.

The first is that Mr Hancock’s self-belief makes him overclaim. He puts a uniformly positive gloss on everything, leaving himself no room to retreat or compromise with dignity. His infamous claim to be putting a ring around care homes will haunt his reputation forever. His arbitrary promise of 100,000 tests a day left him with a target only achievable by creative counting. His claim, repeated on Thursday, that Britain was better prepared for Covid than other comparable countries is manifestly untrue. His insistence, again repeated, that Britain had a pre-pandemic plan is misleading, since it was not the right one to deal with Covid.

The second problem is that Mr Hancock’s accounts are directly contradicted by too many others.

John Crace, The Guardian

One of the things that continues to astonish me – and it is especially apparent with Hancock – these simpletons have the awe-inspiring self-confidence that they are actually capable and competent. Nothing could be further from the truth.

And finally, I received a random text this week offering me a refund on my recent vehicle tax payment. Excellent! I have to confess to being a bit surprised – since Penny’s car is a hybrid she doesn’t, in fact, pay any road tax. I was also a bit surprised that they wanted to know my mother’s maiden name, my first pet’s name and the password for our online bank accounts but I’m sure this is all in order.

And finally, finally – we’re so proud of Nick who selflessly decided not to shave his upper lip for a month to raise money for Movember, a prostate cancer charity. It’s more than ten years ago I dealt with my own prostate cancer and grew a “Mo” for Movember – many of you made generous donations for which I was and am grateful. Here’s your chance to make a similar contribution to a very worthwhile cause.

Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, keep exercising, be good, be careful, and keep safe. And be gentle to wasps and bees.

Lots of love to you all,


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