Friday, 23rd February, 2024

[Day 1439]

Friday is the day when our domestic help calls around and she arrived bright and early today as she had to dash off for another domestic commitment in the middle of the day. We had one of Meg’s regular carers rather than the two which is customary as the agency’s short term staffing crisis is still working its way through their system but the single carer and myself got Meg up and ready to face the world. We then made our way to Waitrose hoping that we might bump into someone we knew but perhaps we have to wait until tomorrow morning for that to happen. We got a communication during the week that Meg’s eye-test was now due so we made a trip along the High Street to call in at the opticians to ensure that we could have an eye test with the optician who has been seeing us for years. Whilst we were on the High Street, we took the opportunity to visit a cut-price cosmetics store where we bought a few useful items. Then we could resist popping into one or two of the adjacent charity shops and I bought some books and other items that I hoped would help to provide Meg with some diversions this afternoon. Once we arrived home, we tuned into the Politics programme which, on a Friday, is a resume of the political events of the past week – normally, they would have one or two MPs airing their views but Friday is typically a day when they are in their constituencies where the conscientious MPs will give ‘surgeries’ (the analogy being with a doctor’s waiting room)so that their constituents can bring problems to them or make other representations. We had our traditional Friday afternoon lunch which was a bought haddock pie and very nice it was too, supplemented by a few fine beans and some microwaved tomatoes. After lunch, we thought we would avail ourselves of the episodes of ‘Breathless‘ which was a hard-hitting docu-drama broadcast on three consecutive nights last week (but which I missed) The book on which the programmes were based and the programmes themselves show, in graphic and harrowing details, the working life and dilemmas of a palliative care doctor who was working in Oxfordshire when patients with Covid started arriving at her hospital. What followed was catastrophic she says: ‘a lack of beds, a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), colleagues working under hideous pressure, colleagues dying.’ Just to make matters worse, the first episode looked at official government statements in the days immediately preceding the first lockdown in March 2021 when the government and the health authorities appeared to be in a state of denial or to be arguing that the problem of COVID was being ‘contained’ when it is was plainly obvious to those working on the front line that it was not and that came to be termed ‘community transmission’ was rampant. Included in the first episode was the now famous (or should one say infamous) clip of Boris Johnson claiming that he had been in a hospital ward with other COVID patients and had shaken the hand of all of them. This bizarre episode rather reminded one of the incident in which at the height of the BSE crisis, the then Minister of Agriculture, one John Selwyn Gummer was show to be practically ‘force feeding’ a beef burger down the throat on one of his grandchildren in a desperate (and ultimately misguided) attempt to show that the eating of beef was absolutely safe.

I find it interesting, or should one say depressing, that innovative and hard-hitting programmes such as ‘Breathless‘ and the dramatic series on ‘Mr Bates vs. the Post Office‘ should have emerged out of the ITV stable. One could not imagine in a month of Sundays that the BBC would have dared to have made and broadcast so hard-hitting and indirectly critical of the government as these two series. One is forced to conclude that the BBC has been absolutely emasculated by the constant attacks upon it that have been made by the present government, not to mention most of the right-wing press. If the BBC had commissioned such programmes, there would have been, no doubt, howls of protest and accusations that the BBC was pursuing a radical left (or perhaps just an anti-Conservative) agenda. This is a sorry state of affairs when it is felt that only the commercial sector can supply any critical programmes. On a similar theme, it is quite instructive to follow up what the news media has been saying about Henry Staunton, ex-chief of the Post Office recently sacked and accused of lying by the Business Secretary, Kemi Badenoch. It appears that Staunton has had an impeccable business career and has always manifested the utmost integrity whereas Kemi Badenoch has only in the last day or so been accused of lying by the Canadian government. Kemi Badenoch has said publicly that we are pursuing a trade deal with the Canadians who have flatly denied that this is, in fact, the case. So who does one believe in these circumstances? I am looking forward to the evidence that Staunton gives when he appears before a Select Committee of the House of Commons as early, I believe, as next week. The trouble is that politicians are used to giving equivocal and evasive answers as this is their stock-in-trade but businessman have less skills in this regard as they are not so often in the public eye and hence subject to media scrutiny.