Autumn and Winter 2022/23 in UK

Autumn & Winter 2022/3 in the UK


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Autumn in Stour Head gardens by Moish Sokal

The adjacent water colour is entitled Autumn in Stour Head Gardens and is by artist Moish Sokal who lives in Norton-sub-Hamdon, near where I used to live for many years.
You can find out more about Moish and his work on his web site.

I began this new page at the end of September which was an eventful month. There was the death of Queen Elizabeth II which involved a week of mourning and the installation of a new prime minister, Liz Truss, which involved a week of chaos in the financial markets.

The new chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, who Labour MP Rupa Huq described as being 'superficially black' and was booted out of the party for being racist, introduced a mini budget which upset the financial markets.
Liz had warned the world she was going to cut taxes and reduce everyones energy bills which Kwasi did but he forgot to tell us how he would fund the expenditure. The market thought that any increase in borrowing would be unsustainable and the pound lost 7% against the US$ while the Bank of England raised interest rate and sold gilts so mortgage interest rates were predicted to rise to 6%.

When I were a lad, interest rates of 6% were considered normal and as a saver I have been punished since 2008 by almost zero interest on my savings. Todays house owners have been spoilt for years with very low mortgage interest rates and are not happy so Labour suddenly had a 33% lead over the Tories and Liz and Kwasi were facing insurrection from MP's who might lose their seats.

A week later the BoE spent 65 billion buying back gilts to save pension funds who were investing in some mysterious financial hedge, something called Liability Driven Investments. Because of the Bond sales and volatility, pension funds found themselve in negative equity and would not have had sufficiant funds to make up the difference so the BoE had to step in.
Miraculously the pound then made up for all it's losses and I expect those city traders made a killing shorting the pound and then buying back as its value rose.

Bristol Exploration Club Dinner

The venue was catered by Wookey Hole Caves who did an excellent job. Before the dinner we all went caving as far as Wookey 20.
I should explain that the extent of the original show cave was limited. The river Axe flows through the cave and its source at Priddy flows into Swildons Hole. Cave divers explored the submerged cave discovering a succession of chambers which has currently reached Wookey 25.

Wookey Hole Survey

Nigel Taylor who died recently was a long standing member of the BEC. Amongst his many talents was expertise in the use of explosives and his company was employed by Wookey Hole Caves to blast a tunnel through to Wookey 20, formally only accessable by cave divers, which had some unique rock formations.

Wookey Hole 20 fluted rocks

So a couple of hundred people walked up to Nigels tunnel entrance and so to Wookey 20 chamber where a barrel of beer was set up and where we toasted Nigel and sang the BEC song.

The Guest speaker at the dinner was Alan "Goon" Jeffreys from the Grampian Speleological Group in Edinburgh who features in various years on this web site and I was invited to lead the singing of the club song. Altogether an excellent occasion.

Mendip Cavers Reunion Singsong

Below are some links to videos of the singing. They are located on Google Drive and can be downloaded.

The BEC song
A Local Bloke
Down Below
Violate Me
The Boatswine
The MCG Song
The tale of Percy Pound performed by Alan Kennett
The tale of Dennis Drain performed by James Cobbett
The Vicar of a dockside church
The Wessex Cave Club song
The Winnipeg Whore Mary in the Garden

My Health Update 31/10/22

The new chemo is working and the latest blood tests show that my free light chain lambda cells had decreased from over 600mg/l to 400. The side effects are much the same but so far not as severe as previously.

Macmillan Charity Walk Final Tally

Following the walk which was completed in August and described on the previous page, the Macmillan organiser wrote to me as follows:

I hope you've been keeping well. I just wanted to email you to thank you again for your amazing fundraising success! I can see you've gone well over your fundraising target now and there's over £5436 on your record, which is absolutely incredible!

So a big thank you to all who participated in the walk and those who donated to this worthy charity.

Bath Rugby

After some time in the wilderness and following big changes in the coaching staff, Barf have finally begun to win matches again.

PosTeam PlW D L Pts
1 Saracens 8 8 0 0 38
2 Sale Sharks 8 6 0 2 28
3 Harlequins 7 4 0 3 22
4 Northampton Saints 8 4 0 4 22
5 Gloucester Rugby 6 40 220
6 Exeter Chiefs 7 3 0 4 16
7 Leicester Tigers 6 3 0 3 16
8 Bath Rugby 7 2 0 5 13
9 Bristol Bears 7 2 0 5 13
10 London Irish 6 1 0 5 9
11 Newcastle Falcons 6 1 0 5 9

It took until round seven to win our first game this season and it was at the rec in front of their faithfull delirious supporters against Northampton Saints.
At orange sucking we were 14 nil up after tries from Miles Reid and Tom Dunn. In the second half Tom Collins scored for Saints before Cameron Redpath went over to keep the margin and we finished with a good 27-14 win.

With Worcester and Wasps going into administration and being demoted to the championship many games have been cancelled and so was our game the following week.
The next game was away at Kingston Park against Newcastle Falcons and it was not a pretty game. Adam Radwan went over for the Falcons first and that was where the score stayed until just before half time Ted Hill went over for Barf.

Ollie Lawrence, a refugee from Worcester who has been instrumental in showing Barf how to get on the front foot, went over in the corner after Max Ojomoh's little grubber kick through the Falcons's defence and it was a Barf defensive game after that to win 10-17.

It is a relief to be off the bottom of the premiership table after so long but we meet Leicester Tigers at the rec next so a real test of our new found winning ways.

UK Politics

Since the start of this page the new PM Liz Truss has resigned and Rishi Sunak has been crowned by the MP's without a vote from the Tory party members.
Jeremy Hunt who was appointed chancellor after Kwasi Kwarteng was sacked has been retained by the new PM and we await our fate from his first budget on November 17th. We have been warned that the economic situation is dire and to expect tax rises and spending cuts.

Brexit and Liz Truss are being blamed for a £50 billion hole in our economy. I have no doubt that both of these events contibuted but to only blame those is to ignore two years of covid where we spent £344 billion and the war in Ukraine which has sent food and energy prices soaring.

Any Questions?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with UK Radio 4 programmes, Any Questions? is a political debate that has been running for donkey's years. I just happened to tune in to it in the car the other day and they were visiting Bath City Football Club, the first ever visit to such a club.

The members of the panel answer questions from the audience so if the Beeb expected erudite comment from bunch of football supporters they were sadly mistaken.

John Selwyn Gummer, now Lord Deben

The panel included Bristolian actress Adjoa Andoh, Caroline Flint who was a long standing Labour MP until she lost her seat in 2019, Sir Howard Davies a product of the LSE and the Chairman of NatWest Bank and John Selwyn Gummer the ex Tory environment minister and EU remaniac!

When the debate came to the current NHS shortage of clinicians, Gummer could not resist partly blaming Brexit for the problem which is probably true to some extent but in the same breath he also called those who voted for Brexit stupid to wild whoops of joy from the audience.

The selection of a panel all with left of centre political views and an audience of football supporters is a good example of political bias by the Beeb's producers. The presenter did point out that a majority (17,410,742) of the electorate did vote for Brexit so Gummer was calling all those people stupid which was a bit stupid!

In my view, the principal reason for the NHS shortage of clinicians is that we have not been training enough and we have been employing them from abroad to the detriment of the countries they are from. Almost all EU countries have a shortage of healthcare workers.

The Mini Budget of 17/11/2022

It had no real surprises but seemed to protect us pensioners from the worse aspects apart from an increase of tax of dividends and an increase of capital gains tax.
Many pensioners like me will have invested in shares as with the low interest rates it was the only way to get some sort of return on our savings.
Protecting pensioners may save the Tories a few votes but at the expense of the younger voters who increasingly feel hard done by at having to pay the price. As we all get older the problem is only going to get worse.

Bath Pantomime

My Christmas treat for the family this year was a visit to a Panto at the Theatre Royal in Bath followed by a meal and a visit to the Christmas market. Unfortunately the weather turned very cold with sub zero temperatures and the traffic was horrendous but we allowed plenty of time although only just made the last places in the Lansdown Park and Ride car park which was almost full when we arrived.

Henry the goat and Matilda

As you can see from the adjacent photo, Henry was suitably dressed as a goat and Matilda played with her smart phone continuously so apart from the temperature the situation was normal.

The Panto was Alladin which has lately gone woke when a village-hall staging of Aladdin got axed, reportedly because of a local complaint about the names of Chinese launderette workers Chop Chop and Wishy-Washy.

Considering the Bath production included known "stars" I thought it very poor with lots of very loud taped music (if you could call it that) and much repetitious dancing with an unimaginative storyline. Comparing it to the amateur production we last saw in Cheltenham the amateurs won hands down.

Everyone except Tilly, who didn't eat and played with her phone, enjoyed their pizza at Dough's in The Corridor. We then toured the Christmas market and enjoyed mulled wine but Becky, who is an expert on these functions having been to several German ones, declared it was not up to Germanic standards but complained she did not have enough time there when I insisted we leave as I was freezing!

The following Monday I reached the grand old age of 82 and celebrated by cooking a beef stew with pickled walnuts which I actually enjoyed despite the side effects from the current chemo.
The consultant gave me a nice present when he announced that since starting the current drug regime the Lambda free light chains have reduced from over 600mg/l to 80mg/l and there is no trace of paraprotein which means I am almost once again in remission.

Happy New Year

Christmas was spent on my own having declined to join my daughters family after she told me that she was entertaining my eldest grandson William and partner, all five great grandchildren and a lady from Barbados. Much too stressful for a grumpy old bastard like me!

I bought in all the usual Christmas goodies but after dinner on Boxing Day followed by the last dram of Auchtermuchty from last Christmas I suffered sharp indigestion like pains which kept me sleepless.
After two days of pain, nothing to eat and sleepless I contacted Musgrove hospital who referred me to my GP who I was unable to see until the new year due to the holiday period. After eight days of not eating and a swollen stomach the GP gave me medication which cured things but I had lost 4kg in weight and reverted to the previous eating disorder and nausea.

The whole of January was freezing cold and what with my health problems I just stayed indoors in the warm on a diet of soup and supplements. This might also explain why this blog has not been updated.

Health update 8/02/23

Despite all the increased side effects from the chemo of late the Lambda free light chains have now reduced to 54mg/l so getting back to near normal.

Rugby Union

The premiership is now in the 18th round and Bath Rugby continues to improve under it's new Jarpie head of rugby Johann van Graan. As well as an improved performance on the field they have made some useful signings, principle among them Finn Russell the Scottish fly half will join the club next season.

PosTeam PlW D L Pts
1 Saracens 13 12 0 1 56
2 Sale Sharks 13 10 0 3 48
3 Exeter Chiefs 13 7 0 6 34
4 Northampton Saints 13 6 0 7 33
5 Gloucester Rugby 13 60 732
6 Harlequins 13 6 0 7 32
7 London Irish 13 5 0 8 31
8 Leicester Tigers 13 5 1 7 30
9 Newcastle Falcons 12 5 0 7 26
10 Bath Rugby 12 4 0 8 24
11 Bristol Bears 12 3 1 8 22

As you can see from the adjacent table Barf still languish towards the bottom but, apart from the top two, any of the rest could charge up to join them in the top four play off places with a couple of good wins. The bottom three teams all have a game in hand.
Barfs last game against Sale was a nail biter and they came back from 22-3 down at half time to 22-27 at the close only for Sales to go over for a try in extra time and steal a win.

It is Six Nations time again and the first game in charge for Englands new coach (and ex Barf captain) Steve Borthwick. Nick Evans the Kiwi from Quins was seconded as attack coach and it showed with England showing much more aggressive speed in attack and ruck clearance.
Unfortunately their defence was lax and they allowed Scotland two soft tries who deserved their third Calcutta Cup win in a row 23-29.

In the other games Warren Gatland's return to Wales did not help his penalty prone side against a dominant Irish side who outclassed them 12-34.
France struggled against a pumped up Italian side and could have lost but eventually gained the upper hand to win 24-29.
England play Italy next and Italy have yet to beat them. Could this be the time?

Scottish Politics

We had the sudden resignation of the New Zealand PM the blessed Jacinda Ardern saying that her tank was empty but perhaps jumping before being pushed and now the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon has resigned.
She gave a sudden unexpected press conference and delivered a long self congratulatory speech detailing what she thought were her achievements over the last eight years she has been the first minister, however, she failed to mention most of her failures or what she termed short term matters.

For those readers who do not follow Scottish politics her failures include a NHS in crisis (like in England) for which the Scottish government are wholly responsible, two large ferries which are years late and tens of millions over budget, and a failure to define a transphobic rapist as a man. It is this last issue that has caused much offence from the Scottish public who are mainly against her bill to allow 16 year olds to change their gender without medical approval.

If you are someone who believes in a Scotland independent of the UK and perhaps also a member of the EU then you would regard her inability over eight years to advance that cause to be another failure. She did acknowledge this was one of her reasons to resign.

Meanwhile the Scottish police are investigating the disappearance of Scottish National Party funds of which Sturgeons husband is the CEO.
But as a Scottish friend of mine said "the main thing in my opinion is that she's a C**t".

In my opinion there is more to this resignation than meets the eye. There are some stories circulating among the twitterati concerning the sexual inclinations of the fishy lady which I am inclined to disbelieve but something has precipitated this sudden resignation.

Brexit Politics

There is a substantial minority in the UK known as remainiacs who will never give up their desire to be a member of the EU and blame every misfortune the country experiences on Brexit.
The latest is we are experiencing a shortage of fruit and vegetables in particular salad items like tomatoes and cucumbers which are grown under glass in the UK and in poly tunnels in southern Spain and Morocco.

In the UK the shortage is due to the cost of energy to heat greenhouses being so high and in Spain and Morocco due to unseasonal weather, even snow, rarely if ever seen in North Africa. Remainiacs claim it is due to Brexit disrupting supply chains. British farmers have jumped on the bandwagon seeking government support to make us less reliant on imported produce.

Meanwhile PM Rishi Sunak has negotiated a new deal with the EU to change the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol to be called the Windsor Framework. The protocol was originally negotiated by Theresa May then when she became PM. Boris changed one or two things but Lord Frost who was his chief negotiator has said they were forced to accept the May deal or face the prospect of not leaving the EU.

Yet another reason why the negotaitors hands were tied was that Theresa May, having lost her parliamentary majority, the then pro EU UK parliament prior to the 2019 election passed a law which said that there had to be a deal with the EU before we could leave which gave the EU negotiators a big advantage.

I had no problems yesterday in the supermarket in buying tomatoes although there was not the choice or quantity there is usually and while Brexit may have had some influence in supplier logistics it is now two years since we left and already we buy 20% more tomatoes from Morocco which is outside the EU than we did when we were members.

It remains to be seen if the Windsor Framework will be accepted by the NI unionist party, the DUP, who have refused to return to the NI Stormont government until NI is treated the same as other UK countries but it has always been treated differently to accommodate the Good Friday Agreement and to allow free movement of people, goods and services across the Irish border.

March 1st was the meteorological start fo spring so here is a new page.

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