7 April 2024

Wow! What a week – lots of entertainment activities and lots of rain. Penny and Daisy positively squelch across the landscape these days. And no sign of it stopping anytime soon – Storm Kathryn is blowing in from the east. Also, I’m still having good days, bad days with my sciatica afliction but on the whole I am very, very much improved over those miserable first few weeks. Epidural injection this Friday so I’ll be running the London Marathon after all! Keep your fingers crossed.

We’ve enjoyed some great entertainment opportunities this week. Firstly, we’ve just finished watching The Dropout starring Amanda Seyfried. It’s the story of Elizabeth Holmes and the Theranos scandal. I think it’s a Hulu production in the States; here it was broadcast on the BBC so our English reader can find it on iPlayer.

It’s a fascinating story of a woman with a great idea losing sight of what she originally set out to achieve, i.e., transforming health care by developing a machine which could perform a multitude of tests on a single drop of blood. The only problem was, as she was repeatedly told, the technology simply didn’t work and was unlikely to ever work. Nevertheless, she became so enamoured of her facade and reputation as a highly successful (and wealthy) business woman and entrepreneur, that she lied and committed fraud in efforts to keep the company going. She harassed whistle-blowers who tried to highlight the failures of her technology and the fraudulent use of consumer data even though she knew they were right and that the continued operation of the company put patients’ health at risk. Eventually, she was brought down and is currently serving jail time for her crimes.

As an aside, this is all the more interesting for us as we had a personal “encounter” with Elizabeth Holmes when she was at the height of her fame and fortune. Her father and I attended the same high school in California. He was a few years before me and our incarcerations never overlapped. At an alumni day in 2014 he was being recognised for his general benevolence to the school and several other institutions and activities. Our very dear friend Miles was similarly being recognised for his continuing support of the school at the same event. This was at the height of Theranos’ success and Elizabeth Holmes was there to support her father. She was dressed in what was her trademark apparel, a black turtleneck outfit which mimicked that of her “hero” Steve Jobs of Apple fame. She was constantly surrounded by three or four large and intimidating body guards as she projected her seeming invincibility. This was just about a year or so before her empire came crashing down. Even though we knew the outcome it was still a fascinating series.

On Wednesday evening we set off to the Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton to enjoy a Christmas present which Nick and Lucy had kindly given us – tickets to a production of The Life of Pi which was absolutely astonishing.

I have to confess, I was really interested to see how they would stage it. Penny and I were both blown away with the imaginative manner in which they did so – lots of very clever lighting and film projection on what was a very simple stage. Starting with just a hospital bed in which Pi was recovering following his ordeal, being interviewed by an agent of the shipping line whose cargo ship had sunk, the stage morphed into the zoo in India, the cargo ship on which they travelled and, ultimately, the life raft which Pi shared with the Bengal tiger, Richard Parker. The animals were “puppets” of the sort we first saw in War Horse – life size representations controlled by two or three people. The animals had very realistic movement and, as with War Horse, you quickly come to see the animals and the humans controlling them simply disappear.

The staging of the sinking of the cargo ship in particular was fabulous – a very realistic projection of rain thundering down while the animals and Pi’s mother, father, brother and the crew members circled the lifeboat in “slow motion” as if bobbing up and down on a violent sea. The whole production was absolutely fantastic and at the end we both sat with our mouths open for a few moments while we just said, “Wow!”

If you get the chance or see it streaming anywhere do give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

As if that wasn’t enough entertainment for one week, on Thursday evening we were across the road in the Village Hall for the last of this season’s Moreton Pinkney Film Nights. The production on offer this time was One Life starring Anthony Hopkins which, of course, we saw in the cinema only a few weeks ago. Never mind, Moreton Pinkney Film Nights are as much about the comradery of a village function and the fish and chips supper delivered in the interval as they are about the film itself. And it’s still a very moving and poignant film with a powerful message about our own current lack of action when so many are at such serious risk.

And finally, whilst on an entertainment roll, I will be sorry to see the last of Curb Your Enthusiasm this week. Penny, not so much – she finds it simply too excruciating. I had not realised that it’s been around for 12 seasons spread over 25 years! I probably haven’t watched even a quarter of the episodes – in its early days I’m not sure we even had access to whichever channel it was broadcast on in the UK. Very helpfully, the Guardian listed what it considers the five best episodes. So, I’m looking forward to a lot of catching up in the weeks to come. After all, Larry David is going to play me in the movie of my life.

A couple for you this week – the senior Tory MP who was snared in a “spear-phising” attack and Thames Water defaulting on some of its massive debt repayments. You couldn’t make either of these stories up!

William Wragg is a “senior” Conservative MP who apparently shared “intimate and explicit” images of himself on a gay dating site. When pressed by the recipient he shared the phone numbers of other like-minded MPs who then received similarly explicit images and “flirtatious” messages on WhatsApp until one of them finally alerted the police. I have no problem with Mr Wragg enjoying himself on a gay dating site but who in their right mind shares intimate and explicit images of themselves with someone they’re never actually met in real life? Or am I just out of touch and this sort of thing happens all the time? Certainly it appears to be a popular pastime amongst Conservative MPs.

Thames Water failed to pay a £400 million interest payment which was due this week. It seems they have accured a debt of £14.7 billion which has been used almost exclusively to pay their shareholders dividends while failing to invest in the infrastructure. Thus, they regularly pump sewerage into the sea and rivers and have consistently failed to fix water leaks within their system. Having taken huge quantities of money out of the company, it looks like the shareholders are now hoping to get the taxpayer to bail them out of a mess of their own creation. Who would have thought that selling the water companies off to private investors at a fraction of their value and giving them, in return, privitised monopolies from which they could happily extract large sums of money would turn out to be a pretty stupid idea?

Finally, a bonus round from Have I Got News for You: Which is the odd one out:

Rishi Sunak (UK PM), Humza Yousaf (First Minister of Scotland), Vaughan Gething (First Minister of Wales) and Vladimir Putin (President of Russia)?

The answer, obviously, is Putin as he is the only one who has actually “won” a general election in his country. The others have all been annointed to their positions having won selection by the members of their respective parties after their previous leaders had resigned (two of the three – Liz Truss and Nicola Sturgeon – having resigned in disgrace).

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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