Thursday, 18 April 2013
Andrew Marr's illness has concentrated wonderfully the minds of those of us whose failing hearts are constantly a-flutter.
In a rose bed by our front door there is an under-planting of celandine which at this time of the year is a Milky Way of golden stars. Beyond, in all the borders, spendthrift daffodils are hurling their gold at the unseeing heads of passers-by. In the Japanese garden the camellias are shyly budding and the bonsai cherry blossom is adding its tiny treasure to the garden. Any day now its big sisters by the Buddha pond will add their flowers.
Now I wonder whether I will see them next year or if this is my last spring. It is a poignant thought which only comes with the spring when the natural world flaunts its immortality.
So it was very reassuring when a not unattractive neighbour told me how young I was looking. The reason I do not look 84 is because my body is my temple and the subject of a strict regimen. Every Monday morning I watch my gardener working, sometimes for as long as an hour.
The single malt counter is at the far end of the supermarket. Nevertheless, I insist on getting there by myself to see what offers they may have. And I limit myself to a three Martini lunch - each one vigorously stirred by hand - and a couple of nourishing drams at bedtime. I have locked away my digital watches and every night I spend a vigorous two minutes winding my own pocket watch. Sadly I can no longer prune my bonsai trees because of height issues.
Years ago in Chester I was one of a group of young bloods who had a wager that a coal man called "Cloggie" couldn't run round the racecourse with a bag of coal on his back. He could, and did. Recently it struck me that I have been carrying his weight plus coal for upwards of twenty years. No wonder I am so fit.
None of this takes into consideration my Wandering Leg Syndrome. You may recall that the moment I go to sleep my leg leaps out of bed with a glad cry and heads for the open road. How many miles it travels in the night watches I know not but the calorie reduction must be considerable.
You may also recall that the rest of me had been retired for some years. That is no longer true. I have become a full time seeker after an owner's manual for an Acer tablet computer. This form of intense exercise continues apace. This morning I rang back the company's customer support. The last time I rang I was told that no such manual exists. According to Google, it not only exists: it has gone forth and multiplied. This time, having been informed it exists, I was told how to download one.
I downloaded one and sure enough it appeared on my tablet. What also appeared was a notice saying the file could not be opened. Happily by this time I knew the customer support number by heart. I had also committed to memory the 11 digit SYM number without possession of which the operators are unable to speak. So I was quickly able to reconnect with Acer. This time the operator told me I had been given the wrong number. I should have rung their software assistance department. I did and was told I could not be helped because I did not have a contract with them. It was going to cost me £80 to discover how to open the file. I pointed out that I did have a three month warranty on the refurbished machine I bought on April Fool's Day. In that case, they said, I should ring back the original number and tell them I had been given the wrong number...
At this point my nerve broke...In desperation I appealed for help on the Acer Community Board. Within minutes a guide book appeared. Tiring of criticism of my grammar, I downloaded Grammarly.com, a programme which corrects grammar in a trice. Naturally I could not understand a word of it so at 11.30 pm I emailed a plea for explanation. The answer, plus an owner's manual, was emailed in return by midnight.
MOST OF THE NEWS IS UNFIT TO PRINT
I was listening with mounting impatience to a debate on the importance of news by a group of Mouths for Hire on R4. News is not important except for the people who make it. In truth, as an evil it breasts the tapes with religion and television. Without it there would be no acts of terror like the Boston Bombing. Insulting the dead would be pointless if no one else could see the demo. There would be no point in exploding a bomb if no one could hear it. It took a week for news of the great battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo to reach the British public. To circumvent the law Dr Johnson wrote wholly fictional accounts of parliamentary debates for the newspapers of the eighteenth century and the little I have read of them is a mile ahead of Prime Minister's Question Time. I doubt if the public felt inconvenienced. Stuff happens. The massive film and TV empires began life as magic lantern shows. Even the industrial revolution is not what it was. The railways bought up the canal system and the canals fell into disuse; the road replaced the railways which were Beechinged. But we are coming to realise the canal system was cheaper and more efficient as a method of transport.
I used to live in a Gothic nightmare of a house, Picton Hall, which was so deep in the countryside no newsagent would deliver and I had to get my newspapers delivered by post which took days to arrive. In those happy days rural postman were primarily poachers who only delivered mail on days when there was no game about. The consequence was when I got to hear about a crisis it was over. My circle of friends were from the rainbow world of racing. The Cuban crisis clashed with Woore races. I was taking wine with a chum Natty Davidson who had begun his career as a tic-tac man at Blaydon Races.
"Oh Natty," I said. "Do you think there will be a war?"
"Oh aye, bonny lad," he said, "but the going will be very soft. I walked the course the other day and it was a sea of mud."
BBC IN HOT WATER
BBC staff have won a victory after they were banned from making their own toast - but they are still barred from picking up hot sausages. A new contractor, BBC Club, had changed the rules at the corporation's canteen at the Media Centre at White City in west London, sparking complaints from staff. It has now installed a special toaster at a "remote point" of the cafe. One BBC worker told the Mirror: "I resent the fact that someone in a pinny can tell me I can't take care of myself. I'm perfectly capable of making a meal at home, so can easily manage a bit of self-service." The BBC told the Telegraph that the changes were due to "space limitations and not any health and safety rules". Trust the BBC to make a meal of it.
MEMO TO PANORAMA
"I have been a reporter on radio, TV and newspapers of all kinds for sixty-five years and this is the first time I have felt ashamed of my trade. A so-called reporter gets his wife, who organises student tours, to create a fake programme in North Korea. Of course the students agreed. The young think they are fireproof. Those kids could be in a Gulag now. And the result. He could have made that programme in Archives. We learned very little new; he took no risks; discovered nothing. Then he appeared on that Sunday news programme, talked over and argued with the presenter. Doesn't the BBC give its reporters any training anymore? I took over John Ebden's archive programme. I was there when the new controller issued the fatwah that news programmes should "get rid of all those northern newspapermen and employ graduates". Thought at the time that was a load of bollocks which would have prevented the recruitment of non graduate John Humphrys. It was much worse. It unleashed Sweeney."
The reply came: Thank you for e-mailing Panorama. Because of the number of e-mails we receive we are unable to reply to all of them, although they are all read.