As usual I tend to write these things over a few days, or even weeks, so my apologies if I wander a bit.
To our great delight Aleem and his daughter Sarah came over for her exams. Sarah is a Radiologist in Pakistan and wants to be more flexible. With the British qualification she'll be able to work almost anywhere. Aleem was at Edinburgh University with Fiona and we visited them in Pakistan https://www.jimhewlett.com/dubpak.html in 2006. They were only able to stay for a short while as the UK transport was somewhat disrupted by strikes, covid and the odd unnecessary war. However we did manage to see a few sights in Edinburgh, and discovered most things had been moved, rebuilt or hidden. To be fair they were last here some decades ago and from my experience of re-visiting old haunts I was pleased there were at least some traces of yesteryear. Edinburgh botanic gardens were still there and the trees had grown somewhat, but Aleem's encyclopaedic knowledge of them was able to identify those without labels, along with pinpointing their habitat around the world at various altitudes. Edinburgh University seemed to have undergone considerable changes, to the point where although the Darwin building might still be there, the appearance was completely different, the access changed and the purpose indistinct. I guess it had evolved.
The trams proved useful for getting into town and picking up from the railway station, but there is still a vast amount of traffic and millions of tourists combined of course with the fact that railway stations are naturally chaotic and barely understood by the people who operate them. We all survived.
While remaining youthful and vigorous I do note the wear and tear in others, so I guess I may be a bit in denial there, but I'm not that bothered and while I'm aware of some 'maturing' in myself, mostly this is a tidying up process like wiping short term memory which otherwise clutters up my mind. I've also found that random deletion of appointments efficiently clears my calendar. I really don't see the point in remembering which day it is, having invested in a very effective watch that can tell me at a moment's notice. Also, not doing things relieves considerable stress on my body and writing things down helps. Now I just have to remember where the notes are.
So, overall, as 70 approaches, the most noticeable effects are a surge of bureaucracy producing a new driving licence and passport and a small tide of advertising material for retirement plans (too late son), step-in baths (I use a shower), funeral plans (gonnae no do that) and built-in lifts, which I presume are intended to weaken my legs.
I'd say the whole ageing thing is over emphasised, largely by people who would like me to give them money, so it and they are largely ignored. Considering mortality, the white hair is a bit of a give-away and my left shoulder is less good at the moment. (A nod of recognition to Billy Burt, although I don't think it is as bad as his was). So, as a gesture, I recently stopped the heavy lifting, or at least the straight brute force lift, hopefully mitigating the rotator cuff damage and a bit of thought and a wheel barrow often removes the need.
Overall though I can't complain, (well it doesn't do any good anyway) No signs of Covid in Fiona or myself although apparently 95% of the population have the antibodies now, so I'll stay cautious, keep taking the Vitamin D and wear a mask in poorly ventilated and/or crowded areas.
Going back to the ever circling vultures that go with late middle age, (I'm planning to live to 130) I haven't had any 'equity release' offers yet, but I'm looking forward to telling them where to get off. If I was a betting man I'd put money on that being the next popular exercise for under employed solicitors. Ambulance chasing, Time-share, Mortgage short-fall and holiday plans being the previous targets for the 'profession'. Now of course there is the money dragged from Volks-Wagen and more recently Volvo to be paid to drivers of diesel vehicles. I still don't see why the drivers should be compensated. Shouldn't it be the primary school children and the NHS? Obviously it has little to do with right and wrong, but quite a lot to do with lucrative class actions so beloved by the US. I can see that various businesses have been naughty to a level of significant illegality, but the litigious process would be more effective if it was preventative. Governments have often managed to avoid charges of criminality by just changing the laws, they would be of more use if they thought a little further into the repercussions of inaction.
Otherwise, as covid rolls on, little has changed beyond my slightly increased reluctance to scamper around on roofs, working on the premise that I probably wouldn't bounce as well and increased caution on ladders. I was never encouraged to be sporty, although I managed a bit of skiing I never liked competitive contact sports like rugby, football and cricket although they look like fun, too many are carried off on a stretcher. Now I watch my age group work out what sports did which bits of damage and am glad to have avoided most of what I was told was good harmless fun. That philosophy was dreamed up when the average life span was between 30 and 60. There are various words gradually fading from use.
Quaffing was excessive and inaccurate Drinking
Feasting = Eating and drinking
Carousing = Singing eating and drinking
Roistering = Singing drinking fighting and dancing
Swash-buckling = all of the above but dressed as a pirate.
I'm not sure if there's a word for excessive and inaccurate sportsmanship. Early bath perhaps.
Sadly, my espresso coffee making thing, a Gaggia Classic, isn't happy at the moment, so I was pleased to find it was still well inside the guarantee period. Our tendency to store packaging and paperwork at least until the warranty expires, paid off. So that's it off by courier to Elland in West Yorkshire. A business called Coffee Shop Ltd, perhaps not the most imaginative name, but functional. I've been impressed by their website as it had a 'zoom' app built in and the engineer was able to diagnose the problem visually. A rare advantage from technologies boosted by Covid.
The pandemic and the lock-downs have increased my watching of social and political matters. Rather depressing and like anyone half awake I think we need to rearrange a few small laws so that the self styled elite can't manipulate the majority. It’s not new, in fact it is normal and always has been since the Normans turned up. Noticing how cultures learn all the worst habits from their oppressors I wonder if the British got the idea of invading other countries from that. Anyway it really is time we levelled things up a bit here and abroad. It used to be understood that you could only eat so much food, live in so many houses etc and also if you held onto too much sooner or later others would help themselves to what you couldn't defend. Now it is possible to own, hide and hoard virtual money, there's no limit. You'd have thought the population would rise up, but it's a peculiar quality of the UK that we avoid revolution. I’m not sure whether it’s the fear of greater oppression, politeness, or caution. When we do give it a go, apart from the peasant's revolt, it usually works. We did quite well a while ago shortening one King and then reinstating his son after a brief protectorate so that the autocracy, revolution, democracy, autocracy cycle was damped. Come to think of it Henry did much the same with the church. Perhaps we just need to 'reduce' the next and newest elite of supposedly elected politicians imprison (or shorten) the worst as an object lesson and then elect some more. Ideally those who don’t put themselves forward. I guess that's still the problem. People who want power shouldn't be allowed to have it. My readers, hopefully both of them, will no doubt be delighted to hear that I’ve finally managed to get a decent battery bank into the house to store the electricity from the solar panels. Today I woke to find I still had some 3 bars (50% capacity) left over from yesterday’s full 6 bars (100%). I’m still not sure how much that is but I think I have a capacity of 9.5kWh in total, so that should be something like 3kWh. Charging the car and using the heating will drain that quite quickly, but it should reduce my summer requirements from the grid considerably, and although it’ll take a few years to pay off it will reduce our carbon footprint and the money will be working for me, rather than some bank, as inflation whittles it down. In the house I had to do a bit of re-arrangement to put the batteries in an accessible but un-obstructive place, so a cupboard has come out and some shelving gone in. Periodically I do wonder if I should do a major re-fit of the utility area, but I’ve resisted it so far on the principle of not fixing what’s not broken. It would be easier if I hadn’t inherited so many huge bits of family furniture but we are OK for space so far. Any relatives wanting big bits of furniture should bring a flat-bed truck or a big van.
Both cats seem well and currently are enjoying the warm days. Button don’t seem to be bringing in as many bits of chewed or stunned wildlife now, that or she is eating them outside. I kept catching them, rabbits, birds, mice etc and letting the live ones go free outside. I’m fairly sure the cats thought I was eating them myself. They roam around reasonably unhindered and Button has taken to looking under the solar panels for pigeons and similar. That saves me putting up bird guards and keeps her happy. I doubt the pigeons are as sanguine.
The panels continue to generate electricity, generally between 1.5 and 2 mWh per year. The system went up in April 2011 but the monitoring system started in mid 2016 when we replaced the inverter. I guess the efficiency must be dropping off a bit by now, but at the moment, barring the charging of the EV we use very little from the grid between April and September. I'd like a small wind turbine for winter, we get plenty of wind but it looks as though 'buying' part of a full sized one makes more sense and doesn't require me to go and feather the blades in a gale.
In terms of people, it has been a hard year after a couple of similar. Sadly we have lost several friends and relations to age and illness, but I guess that’s normal considering the age of our friends, covid, etc. Covid hasn’t been officially involved much, assuming the analysis is accurate but the lack of socialising, staying inside and getting less exercise won’t have helped. I was hoping the nicer weather would stop that kind of thing. I’ve had to buy new formal / smart trousers as my wardrobe was restricted to one black suit for such occasions, and most people don’t go for gothic gloom nowadays. I’ve avoided being mistaken for a mortician so far by wearing bright waistcoats and, if necessary, loud socks. I did have a nice collection of loud ties, but sadly they are really rarely useful now. I guess collar studs, tie clips and cufflinks are all disappearing unless you are getting knighted. Still, I'm not going the way of shell suits just yet.
Recently we've had a talk by one of our older villagers (Grace K) on the history of the village, and a jumble-sale for the village hall so larger gatherings are re-emerging The picture is of the clothing tables and doesn't really do the sheer volume justice. I was running the electrical (at your own risk) and electronic tables. We made a significant amount of money, but I'd be obliged if anyone knows a market for this, a DRACAST D25 as it seems to be worth $600.
cheers all, Jim.