I wonder if I can get through this post without mentioning Brexit? Oops. I just did. Oh well, I virtually wrote a post in itself on the subject over on Shawn's blog and got it off my chest that way. Sorry Shawn, but you did ask.
Cro opted for Black Pudding, but I am going to palm you off with these new booties of mine, bought yesterday for a number of different reasons.
I recently spent a week walking around Venice in a pair of Crockett and Jones boots (£450), which was the only footwear I took. Normally, C&J boots are extremely comfortable straight off the shelf and onto your feet, but the arthritis in my left foot is getting worse and I have been in quite a lot of pain since coming home.
I have been wearing work boots rather than good shoes for the last week or so and found that my foot had improved as a result, so I decided to buy something similar but not so shabby. I found these fur-lined (sigh) boots in a discount shop near here in my size (12) so I brought them home (£55). They are quietly soaking up Dubbin (young people have never heard of it) whilst waiting to be taken for a walk at the weekend.
Winter has only just begun, and I heard a hint that snow is a possibility. I like snow. I like the way everything stops in this country when it snows. I like the idea of enforced indolence. A friend of mine owns a Land Rover so he feels obliged to got out in all weather conditions to justify his choice of car. I could have bought a 4WD Volvo but I would have had no excuse to sit around in the warm doing nothing if I had. I intend to walk through the snow to the pub in those boots.
I once spent a whole Winter working in the outskirts of Shaftesbury. To get there from here means driving up a high, bleak, isolated stretch of road which runs through an uninhabited bit of downland for about five miles. There are gates either end of this road stop prevent any idiots from trying to drive on it in snowy conditions. At the first Friday snowflake we would down tools and drive back to Bath. The thought of being stuck in Shaftesbury for an entire weekend was more than any of us could bear.
If you have never been to Shaftesbury you probably have an image of that beautiful, steep hill with picturesque houses staggered either side, and a young boy from the beginning of the 20th century walking up it, from the Hovis adverts on T.V. in the 70s and 80s (if you are English and of a certain age). It is called Gold Hill and is famous for its beauty, not least because of Hovis. Google it up and you will see what I mean.
The rest of Shaftesbury is a complete dump, thanks to planners and the fact that it takes all the continental lorry traffic from the ferries of Poole. There are no decent pubs, cafes or restaurants and the locals give the impression that they would like the town to revert to its original purpose as a strongly defended siege camp.
You would not want to be snowed-in in Shaftesbury.
Bath still has a large number of tourists wandering around in the post Christmas chilly streets, taking advantage of the weak pound.
This ought to be very good news for the retailers, but a lethal combination of high business rent and rates plus online competition from global companies that pay taxes outside of the U.K. means that what should have been a windfall has been downgraded to life support in most cases. This Christmas, Amazon claimed 33% of all online purchases made in Britain.
One of the few things which central government have managed to put through in between shouting at each other about Brexit is to force local governments to radically improve the air quality of their cities by 2020 on pain of undisclosed fines after failure to meet their targets.
Bath's reaction to this was an immediate decision (after a short period of 'consultation') to charge all cars £9 per day to enter the outskirts of town, including taxis. Trucks and lorries will pay £100 per visit. As yet there are no concessions for residents like me who have to use their cars to get home from work.
Where I go most days is not on any bus route, and even if it was I would not be allowed to take a large block of marble on board - even if I could carry it. The biggest private bus company around here is First Bus, and despite the subsides received from Bath City Council, they are continually cutting services to and from areas which don't make enough revenue for them (such as the ones which may have one or two elderly and isolated old ladies with bus passes), and putting up prices well over the inflation rate.
Like most city centre residents, I cannot afford to buy a new or nearly new car, let alone an electric one. Bath Council said that they will introduce a scrappage scheme for older cars and give out grants to help the owners buy a newer replacement. When asked (by a prominent business and retail representative) how much this grant would be, the councillor said, "Oh, I don't know - a couple of hundred pounds I suppose". That's not far off what I would get for my car if I voluntarily scrapped it.
This council doesn't seem to care about maintaining Bath as a World Heritage site which people are encouraged to visit and maybe do a bit of shopping while they are here.
I wonder how they will clean the air in the immediate vicinity of places like the M25 which often (on calm days) exceed the 'acceptable' pollution levels by hundreds of percent?
Environmental campaigners have been asking governments to get to grips with this problem for over 40 years now, and all of a sudden they think they can solve it in 5. They have spotted another money source to go towards shortages. Us. Who else?
Rachel has just reminded me how much I love spending time in ancient churches, and through my work - and in this case H.I.'s work - I have been lucky enough to have spent a lot of time in them.
Some of you will have seen this before, but the above is the 'Doom Board' of St James the Great in Dauntsey, Wiltshire. It was painted hundreds of years ago to frighten the locals into living a good life, but was taken down and hidden for safety during the Reformation. This is how it survived when so many other ecclesiastical artworks were destroyed.
When they decided to put it up again over the rood screen, H.I. got the dream job of filling in the missing panels with abstract marks in the same colour arrangement as the surrounding painting. This had never been done before or since, and the project won a national award for the architect in charge.
I got the job of preparing the oak boards ready for painting (hot gesso and rabbit skin size) and I also painted the cloud motif on the lime plaster in the space where the old boards did not quite fit a later roof line. More importantly, I got the job of H.I.'s assistant and chauffeur, so I had weeks of spare time just daydreaming in and out of the church on hot, Summer afternoons. Do you know 'A Month in the Country'? Well it was like that except I never got to shag the vicar's wife.
All the other times I have spent prolonged periods in churches, I have had to work too hard for my liking, with no time to daydream or explore. Maybe I should join the National Trust like a real old man, and have the oak leaf sticker on the windscreen of my car.
If ever I get unexpectedly caught leaving the house by the recycling team taking away all our wine bottles on Thursday mornings, I intend to say, "We do a lot of entertaining" by way of explaining the over-full bags. I will emphasise the word 'we' as well, but I doubt if I will be believed.
This week we have actually entertained twice, so this weekend I am planning to spend hours indoors alone (except for Her Indoors) with the only intruders being the BBC. Now that Christmas is over and Gatwick is open for business, Trump and Brexit are back on the menu again, morning noon and night. Oh shit - I am thinking about Trump and Brexit again.
This wall that he is demanding $5 billion to have built (we never believed him when he said Mexico would pay) will be situated deep within U.S. territory. This means that all any potential asylum-seekers will have to do is camp on U.S. land and apply for asylum through the wire. The criminals will always find an alternative way in. They always do. If he puts the federal government on hold for much longer, there will be several hundred thousand more economic migrants and their families heading for Europe. I don't think Canada would take them.
This year, the Christmas lights outside were switched on in November, but were turned off on Christmas Eve and remained out for the whole of the Christmas period. The street was dark for the whole twelve days.
Oh, Brexit. When are we supposed to leave again? March? Does that mean we have to go through all those post-Christmas, dreary, winter months with only that to look forward to?
Today - which is considered to be the most depressing one in the English calendar - I leave the house for reasons of work for the first time since last year.
I have noticed recently that when I am lying in bed half asleep, I often forget to breathe. Maybe I am practicing for the big event.
When I first began driving cars, I would concentrate so hard that I would forget to breathe for quite long periods of time. That probably isn't very good for concentration if kept up too long.
I used to be able to hold my breath for a very long time (in relation to holding your breath). I would have made a good pearl-fisher if only I had learned to swim.
A friend of mine had a medical check-up recently, and they told him that he has abnormally large lungs. He is around 40 years old and is a general builder. He works at weekends blowing up balloons for children's parties.
Actually, I made the very last bit up but everything else is true. Happy Monday.