Friday, 25 May 2012


She warned me, and she was right. Rachel said I'd cry if I watched it, and I did. It was last week's episode of BBC's DIY SOS called "The big build - Enfield". It was about Eric Rivers who has a rapid form of MND and his wife Davina and their three children. It was obviously filmed last November. Their home is a two-bedroomed terrace in Enfield. Their youngest daughter had to sleep in her parents' bedroom, and all of them were grieving for a family life of which Eric's MND had already robbed them.

The programme showed the DIY SOS team moving in, supported by a massive outpouring of goodwill from local tradesmen and love from their friends, and transforming their home in just over a week. His daughters had said the priority was to make their home good for their dad. In the event, the team created an extra bedroom in the loft and a dining room extension on the back. Like us they made a wet-room and put in a through-floor lift. Eric's repeated statement was "the greatest gift we have is time" - and that's what the SOS team had given him - more time to enjoy with his family. Unfortunately it's too late now to see the programme on iPlayer, but you can see short extracts and more about it here: Clips from Enfield.

The Rivers experience a problem shared by many families plunged into MND or other disability - finding their home quite unsuitable for their rapidly disabled member. Most families don't have an incredibly persistent friend who tweats the BBC and the presenter until they agree to refurbish their house completely - not that anyone would begrudge the Rivers' family the help they received one tiny bit. In fact one's glad for all the good fortune and help that others receive. We were fortunate enough ourselves to have been given sufficient capital to adapt our home before we moved in. Most people are struggling to get adaptations done while they're in situ and as their needs constantly increase. Yesterday we went to Bicester Garden Centre for a meeting our local MND Association branch. There were lots of us there. We met a couple who were having to sell their family home to move into a flat, while another of our friends was faced with dismantling adaptations and a wet-room which an incompetent contractor had messed up and failed to complete before his wife had died of MND.

Our area is well supported by the Oxford MND Centre, but many areas are not so well served - which makes it all the more important that there should be a nationwide provision, not only for MND, but also for the other progressive neurological conditions, such as ataxia and muscular dystrophy, which no one expects and for which no one is prepared. Most people do not have the luxury of time of which I have been given much. As Eric Rivers said, in situations such as his, "the greatest gift we have is time". Let's give people like him, as much quality time as possible. It will be an incalculable present.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

More hospital visits

We began this week with my annual visit to the MND Clinic at the John Radcliffe in Oxford, followed by Jane going for a CT scan to check her collar-bone. In order to find where the latter was in the hospital, I looked on the hospital website - and who should I see smiling out at me, but our friends from Stanford, John and Jean Dudley. John last year died of cancer. Jean was a nurse. They were a lovely and brave couple, who had been through a lot in their lives. It was good to see that tribute to John in his latter days.

Once again our experience on Monday in both departments was excellent. At the MND Clinic, having checked in, we were greeted by a senior MNDA visitor who then went to tell the consultant. The personal touch was nice. Our wait for Dr Turner was negligible. It was my first visit to him. He, I think, is the PLS expert for the area. A good chat with him and some useful information, and then it was on to Rachael Marsden who is the coordinating MND nurse. She measured my puff - which I thought was pathetic - and we chatted again. Then came the trek through the malls of the West Wing and the corridors of the old hospital. When we found the CT department, they didn't have Jane clocked in on their computer, but no matter. We were ushered in to the small full waiting room. The CT assistant knew her stuff - and Jane was actually in and out before her appointment time. And so we were heading for the car. Not a bad morning courtesy of the NHS.

However, I have to admit, the previous week was another story - which wouldn't have mattered had we gone prepared with reading matter. Jane had her check-up at the fracture clinic. A couple of months earlier we'd been in and out in 20 minutes. This time, the x-ray was quick, but then came the wait, and the wait... which wouldn't have mattered had I not had an appointment two and a half hours later to see the OT about that wheelchair in Didcot. I have to say Jenny, the OT, was very forgiving about my being half an hour late - and also brilliant with her advice, which was that that particular variant was no good for me. She redeemed the NHS that afternoon. And to give the fracture clinic their due we gathered most of the doctors were in theatre. You can't control people's accidents.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Everyone a winner

It's been quite a good couple of weekends for teams which our family variously support. Outstanding for me was the victory of our local Formula 1 team, Williams F1, who are based in Grove, at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. I got quite animated! Our Manchester family are City supporters. I suspect they were on tenterhooks last Sunday, when it looked as though their team was about to lose to QPR - a close shave, I think you might say. And we have a long-term faithful Chelsea fan. His comment about last night's match was: "In reality football is a pretty meaningless game but right now?! Right now, I've never loved it more." (And, all right, I admit that getting rid of their previous manager may have proved a good move. It will be interesting to see what Roman Abramovich does with his most successful "caretaker manager", Roberto di Matteo.)  

Life's not only sport of course. Sport may be pretty meaningless (though it's arguable that it's a harmless sublimation of international or internal aggression), but to be really good at it does require a lot of hard work. I was interested by an item by Matthew Syed on Radio 4, where he argued that champions are not born, but made. He has five times Commonwealth table tennis champion and is now a sports writer for The Times. He wrote a book, Bounce - How Champions are made, of which you get a taste in the YouTube clip: Matthew Syed talking. It's certainly true that artists like the young cellist Laura van der Heijden achieve their level of accomplishment by dint of a great deal of practice. Her final performance for BBC Young Musician achieved something remarkable, holding me to listen and enjoy a piece way outside my comfort zone, Walton's Cello Concerto. And I'm sure, on a much less serious level, Pudsey's performance on BGT involved a lot of hard work on Ashleigh's part. (By the way, looking at Laura's website and the age at which she clearly outstanding, I don't think Matthew Syed's thesis is 100% correct.)

from ITV
from Laura's website
Left: Laura van der Heijden who won BBC Young Musician of the Year 2012 Right: Ashleigh Butler with her mongrel Pudsey who won ITV's Britain's Got Talent 2012

from Williams F!
 Left: Pastor Maldonado who won the Spanish Grand Prix last week for our local team, Williams F1.
from Manchester City
Right: Roberto Mancini, manager of Manchester City, who won the Premier League last Sunday - by the skin of their teeth.

from BBC
from Yahoo
 Left: Helen Jenkins who emphatically won the World Triathlon Series (swim, cycle, run) in San Diego on Saturday, as did Jonny Brownlee. By the way, local girl Jessica Harrison, who now competes for France, came fourth. Right: Didier Drogba, man of the match, for Chelsea who remarkably won the European Champions League Cup last night - by the skin of their teeth. He scored the decisive penalty in the penalty shoot-out. The picture shows him comforting Bastian Schweinsteiger, who missed the last penalty for Bayern Munich. Previously he'd done the same for Arjen Robben (also in the picture), whose penalty in extra time could have won it for Bayern. 

Sometimes he is traduced for acting on the pitch. There's no doubt in my mind that he's an exceptional striker. Before watching the match I hadn't perceived much more. I had noticed that his first reaction when he's scored a goal is to cross himself. During the final, I observed him on his knees in the penalty shoot-out, but most significantly for me was the way, while the rest of his team were absorbed in their own delirium of celebration, he was aware of their opponents' bitter disappointment and took time to show it. And he really did give them time. My estimation of him as a big man rose. It seemed to me that his faith might make a difference.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The disabled to get their Pips squeezed

from Uffington Post
I receive Disability Living Allowance, free of tax and not means-tested, which consists of two components: a) mobility, and b) personal care. At the moment I receive the maximum (of 3) bands for mobility, as I can't walk unaided or drive. That allowance is all used by Motability from whom we lease our car, which we have in order to carry my wheelchair, rollator, and all the clobber associated with my PLS. In due course, when I can no longer manage the passenger seat, it will go towards a roll-on-roll-off version. I have only the middle band of the personal care component as I can still feed myself, wash and toilet myself (given some preparatory help from Jane. Actually I can't pull up and fasten my trousers once they're down!).  The DLA is a great help, as it compensates for a number of extra expenses incurred by my disabled state.
I was advised to apply for it by my physio when my MND really made itself felt. The form is not excessively complex, but asks quite specific questions. It relies on self-assessment and therefore honesty (although I seem to remember having to give details of my health professionals such as doctors, with permission for the Department of Work and Pensions to contact them for verification).
The Government has plans to replace this benign compensation for disability with a new idea, PIPs, Personal Independence Payments, with the aim of cutting the cost (approx. £12 billion and rising) by up to £2.24 billion. It will mean reassessing 2 million claimants with the aim (or hope) of pruning out 500,000. Iain Duncan-Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is the man entrusted with handling this sensitive issue. The PM must hope he'll present it with more skill then the Budget fiasco. 
His first attempt, to the Torygraph, as reported in the Huffington Post, is a curate's egg.
"Duncan Smith told the Daily Telegraph: 'We are creating a new benefit, because the last benefit grew by something like 30% in the past few years. It's been rising well ahead of any other gauge you might make about illness, sickness, disability or for that matter, general trends in society.
"'A lot of that is down to the way the benefit was structured so that it was very loosely defined. Second thing was that in the assessment, lots of people weren't actually seen. Third problem was lifetime awards. Something like 70% had lifetime awards, (which) meant that once they got it you never looked at them again. They were just allowed to fester.'

"Duncan Smith defended the reforms which could see people without limbs, including ex-servicemen and women, no longer entitled to disability benefits as their everyday mobility is not undermined by their prosthetic limbs.
"He told the Daily Telegraph: 'It's not like incapacity benefit, it's not a statement of sickness. It is a gauge of your capability. In other words, "Do you need care, do you need support to get around?". Those are the two things that are measured. Not, "You have lost a limb".'
"Ministers are consulting on the new eligibility criteria for the disability benefit system which will be announced in the autumn."
Much of that seems to me reasonable. It's reasonable to want to keep a check on the validity of the initial claims; it's reasonable to keep a weather-eye on their continuing validity. It's true that medical technology can restore people to independent living and it's reasonable that the cost of that technology should be offset by savings on DLA. But there will be additional costs in the task of 2 million reassessments (carried out by GPs or more probably specially employed assessors). And to my recollection the benefit was not "very loosely defined"; in fact the questions were very specific, such as how far could I walk unaided, and could I dress myself, could I cook for myself, shower unaided etc. What I'm dubious about is whether my GP or consultant were ever asked to confirm my answers. (It may be that MND is recognised as a severely disabling condition.) 
I am, every year, at the same time as being informed about the monthly rate, told that I must report any change which might affect my award. It wouldn't be very hard for the DWP to contact my GP to check, if they wanted to. It would probably be cheaper to do that across the board than to set up an entirely new system with a large number of new assessors. 

Bishop: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones";
Curate: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"
"True Humility" by George du Maurier, originally published in Punch, 1895.
I suppose the most rotten part of the curate's egg is the sentence, "They were just allowed to fester." I'm sorry, I'm sure, that the minister regards allowances such as mine as a running sore, a festering wound in the body politic. I can assure him that most disabled people would prefer not to be a burden on the state; in fact they'd prefer to be sound in wind and limb. But it's quite nice to know we're not forgotten and that someone once cared enough to set up a system which, even if it can't erase, can at least ease the experience of disability. 
I sincerely hope that the new PIPs have the same humanity at their heart. (I tried to find pictures of IDS with disabled people, in vain - I wonder why - with the exception of the one above; at least I'm assuming the seated man is disabled - as it's from the Royal British Legion's website. However I did find this one from My Marilyn blogspot, which satirizes my hope....) Will its scepticism proves unfounded? Will the Secretary of State turn out to have the heart of Florence Nightingale?

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Quis custodiet custodes?

Jane read me some letters from The i newspaper today, which I found it hard to credit, about the head HMI saying that teachers don't know what stress is. I found it hard to believe until my brother came to tea and confirmed that Sir Michael Wilshaw had indeed been saying this to headteachers. So I looked up the report on line. There, along with a pose which he likes to adopt, I gather, looking down on us lesser mortals, was the article:
Teachers don't know what stress is, says Ofsted chief
from The Independent
"Teachers don’t understand the real meaning of the word stress, the new Ofsted head, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said today.... Sir Michael told a conference of headteachers... : 'Let me tell you about stress. Stress is what my father felt, who struggled to find a job in the Fifties and Sixties and who often had to work long hours in three different jobs and at weekends to support a growing family.
“'Stress is, I’m sure, what many of the million-and-a-half unemployed young people today feel – unable to get a job because they’ve had a poor experience of school and lack the necessary skills and qualifications to find employment.'
"He added: 'Stress is what I was under when I started as a head in 1985 in the context of widespread industrial action. Teachers walking out of class at a moment’s notice, doing lunch duty on my own every day for three years because of colleagues who worked to rule, covering five classes in the sports hall when there was no one to teach them....'"
What a crass and unprofessional inaccuracy (to use the noun Lord Leveson preferred to The Sun's "a lie and a slur")!

It puts me in mind of Brutus' description of the rise of a tyrant in Julius Caesar:
                           "But 'tis a common proof,
    That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
    Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
    But when he once attains the upmost round.
    He then unto the ladder turns his back,
    Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
    By which he did ascend." How well Shakespeare understood human nature! In case you're not clear quite what Brutus means, he's saying something like it's common experience that ambitious upwardly mobile characters, having climbed the ladder from the bottom, when they reach the top, regard themselves as gods and despise the lower rungs by which they climbed. Sir Michael's comments display not a little scorn for the ranks of the profession by which he attained his present lofty position. 

They also display an amnesia of the elementary principles of good teaching and good management - as I'm hearing Ofsted inspections are doing too. It's almost as if he and his cronies are kicking the ladder away regardless of the number of young teachers who fall off in the process. (No doubt Ofsted would regard it as a justifiable "rattling" of the professional ladder.) However, encouragement achieves better results than destructive criticism, as all good teachers know. There's of course a place for constructive criticism, and it's the job of HMIs to point out to schools where they could improve. But now, it seems, if one element of a school's performance, let's say, for the sake of argument, its academic results, is weak and in need of improvement (which might, to be fair, be a result of a weaker cohort of pupils following a particularly good one), no other elements can be rated higher (such as pastoral care, behaviour or community involvement). In other words, no recognition is given to the parts that are good, and thus all the teachers' efforts are rubbished and their morale undermined. It is not the way to treat people. 

A good teacher is not uncritical of an essay, for example, but he will find both good and bad aspects to comment on. To concentrate simply on the bad is a mere exercise of destructive power. To tell teachers, whose job patently is stressful, that they don't know what stress is similarly is an abuse of power.

In church today we were considering the commandment, "You shall not steal", and it occurred to me that officious Ofsteding (if there is such a word) is a form of theft. It's an irresponsible stealing of confidence and undermining of competence. And it's theft both from the teachers and also their pupils. Professional enjoyment and pride is replaced by fear as the motivation for performance - and as Britain's Got Talent proved last night enjoyment produces far better results than fear, even for dogs like Pudsey, whose reward is an appearance at the Royal Variety Performance and possibly Hollywood. Teachers' monetary rewards are not great, but the job satisfaction is - which is why most teachers teach. To have the job that you do rubbished by the equivalent of Simon Cowell must cause you to wonder why you bother. The question is "Who keeps an eye on the Inspectors?" Quis custodiet custodes, as the saying goes in Latin.

Having said all that, I noticed that Jesus didn't write off the likes of Zacchaeus, the Bible's archetypal "fatcat" who gave himself whopping bonuses. In fact he got him down off his perch, and described him and those like him as "the lost" and "also a son of Abraham". I find it quite challenging to love chief HMIs and top bankers, as Jesus appears to have done.... 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Celebrities in The Sun

My dental practice has one deficiency - and that is its selection of reading matter. Besides a number of pamphlets about oral hygiene, how to brush your teeth and that sort of thing (which, I admit, is fair enough), there's precious little else. That's the reason I now take a book with me - not that the wait is usually long enough to pick up the thread again. (Yes, it's the NHS.) However, there are always old copies of Hello magazine. Yesterday there were four. All four covers featured Katharine, Duchess of Cambridge ("Kate" to Hello), and of course the princess of football, Victoria Beckham, popped up once or twice, as well as Britain's answer to Carla Bruni, Cheryl Cole. Poor Katharine, every time we've been for an appointment, there she's been, smiling soulfully out from a slightly dog-eared cover. I wonder whether she's featured so much because, being state property, she doesn't have an agent charging the magazine an exorbitant fee.

I was reminded of this today listening to Rebekah Brooks' grilling at the Leveson Inquiry. I actually thought she did rather well, unruffled by the worst that the Inquiry QC, Robert Jay, threw at her and giving as good as she got. As one tweeter observed, if it was her intention, she was quite clever in giving the headline-writers a tasty crumb to deflect from the substance of the questioning: "LOL - Brooks reveals how PM signed his texts (until she told him what it meant)".
from The Huffington Post
At one point she was asked about the difference between Rupert Murdoch's and her own preference for news coverage in The Sun. "I preferred celebrities; he wanted more serious news." I guess, sadly, she is more in touch with The Sun's readership, although I must admit she came across as a rather sorted professional journalist, charming and determined... which might spell strength, or danger, depending where you're standing.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Chirpy old man!

I feel I need to rectify the impression I may have been projecting that I've become a permanent curmudgeon. Not so, dear reader....

Last weekend was wonderful. Not only was there more sun on Saturday and Sunday, but we also saw all of our family, as we were celebrating a birthday. As I'm sure I've said before, but it bears repeating, my family are great fun, and kind enough to keep most of their wit until I've finished eating. On Saturday Paul brought down our old photo albums from the loft and provided our granddaughters with considerable entertainment seeing their aunt and uncles as children and me with a full head of hair. Not only did Jane cook a roast for 9 on Sunday, but also a birthday lunch on Monday for 10 - both delicious, of course.

The house always seems very quiet after such a weekend. Not that Jane and I rattle around, it's just quiet and leaves us grateful for our children.

This week has been medical week. Jenny, the OT at the MND Centre in Oxford, contacted me on Tuesday about a possible tilt-in-space manual wheelchair for me to look at. It's "lightweight", and would help keep my posture more vertical than I manage at present. We'd have to see if it was easy to get in the boot of the car, both for weight and space. Anyway, we've arranged to meet her at a local supplier next week and she'll assess its suitability.

Then yesterday it was off to see the GP for a chat about my muscle relaxants. I'm taking the maximum dose I'm prepared to, and to be frank it doesn't seem to be solving the problem (my feet treading on each other when I walk, i.e. the adductors having too much tone, or something). As Gabapentin is a systemic drug, of course, it affects other muscles and I have found standing for any length of time harder et al. So in the end I've decided to reduce them bit by bit to zero. I am grateful for drugs (for example, that stop me fitting), although I don't always remember to say grace (i.e. thanks) before I take them, as I once heard Colin Urquhart recommend; but I'd prefer not to have them if possible.

And today it was the dentist I was visiting. She was ready to deal with a disintegrating premolar which has long given me trouble. She detected a small gum-boil next to it, and when I told her it had been a bit sensitive to pressure last week, she pursed her lips, and took an x-ray. Then she revised her intention to replace the existing filling, and gave me the choice, either to have root canal treatment and to try and cap it with a filling (with uncertain prospect of lasting success) or to have it out. She explained, but the decision was mine. Yikes! In the end I went for the extraction. She is amazing, my dentist. Out it popped!

All the above, of course, was on the National Health Service - not entirely free, but as good as - and all top quality treatment. Well, my dentist has extracted three of my teeth - and I still enjoy going. That must say something! Coincidentally today there were demonstrations by public service workers largely about pensions. In my view, my OT, physio, doctor, dentist, dental nurse, all deserve to have their full pensions as they are now.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Grumpy old man!

I'm told my post yesterday was a "real grumpy old man's blog"! Well, let me add to my grumples (my coinage).
Further grammatical errors that have been pointed out to me include different than. No wrong again: different from.

"Having read your blog for yesterday I find off of very annoying.  I heard a newsreader on the BBC use this only last week." Quite right, Heather. So do I, as in "Get off of the sofa!" No, just "Get off the sofa!" That's all you need.  

Adding unnecessary adverbs is a common affliction, for example, repeat again. Since "repeat" means "say, or do, again", the again is redundant, unless of course something's being said three times, which is what "repeat again" really means. Similarly return back: as "return" means "come back", you don't need the "back". Get a grip!

Don't let me get started on misplaced apostrophes.... ONLY WHERE A LETTER'S BEEN LEFT OUT!

And lastly, I once proudly taught the RSA's Basic Clerical Skills to help my lower groups with their literacy. It would, for example, teach them how to write their CVs, do interviews, address envelopes and write letters. Today I received an otiose reminder from the "Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust", no less, informing me that I have an appointment booked for 21st May. I reckon my students would have failed had they produced this sort of visual abomination: different font sizes, different alignment, irregular spacing between words and paragraphs. The envelope's addressed chummily to "Michael Wenham" (no Mr or The Rev), which I wouldn't mind, were it a personal letter from someone I knew. However, and here's the worst of the errors, it starts
"Dear  Michael Wenham"
and ends
"We look forward to seeing you at your appointment.
Yours sincerely
Patient Contact Centre".

All right, I understand it's a computer-generated letter, which comes from centralised administration department. But they certainly won't see me, and neither will the computer (I hope), and in fact I don't believe either a department or a machine can ever appropriately described as "sincere". I have to say it's not the politest of computers or contact centres throughout the letter. It would be pleasant to receive something more personal and actually more respectful. I'm not that fussed about my own dignity, but it matters that hospitals (doctors, nurses, ancillary staff and administrators) treat patients with respect. So it wouldn't hurt or be beyond human wit to programme in a format which said "Dear Mr Wenham" and signed off with a name, either of someone at the clinic whom I might actually see, or of someone at the Patient Contact Centre, with a last sentence such as "We hope you are still able to keep the appointment."

As you'll know, I am a genuine fan of the National Health Service, but the John Radcliffe's creaking stegosaurus which is its administration seems to me signally in need of a rethink.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Damp pedantry

What better way to spend a drizzly Bank Holiday that indulge in a spot of pedantry and possibly therapy? I'm provoked to it by the exchange of comments on this blog about split infinitives.

So here's my big beef: different to. It should be different from. I'm sorry: it really grates on my ear. Let me explain why. "Different" is basically the gerundive of the verb "differ". The gerundive is the adjective form of the verb, for example, "distracting", as in "You're very distracting". Now say, "This differs to that". Listen to it. It's clearly incorrect; "this differs from that" is correct. So, it's different from, and its opposite is similar to.

I'm sorry to say that it's mainly UK English-speakers who get this wrong, not least BBC presenters, whereas English-learners and our transatlantic cousins generally get it right. The trick is to think before you speak. I'm hoping this short post will go some way to reversing this distressing trend. But I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Check this out!

Last time I mentioned the enviable sunny weather being enjoyed at Casa Cristina, Roandola, in Romania. I've got some good news for you from Laurie, who runs it as a B&B and whose home it is.... "There's bottle of bubbly in the fridge for each of the first three bookings that mention your "Diary of a Donkeybody" blog!" Lubbly jubbly, as Del-boy would say. Cheers, Laurie!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


Casa Cristina, Roandola
"Now is the month of May" - so goes the madrigal, as far as I remember.  Apparently it's going to be a sunny 30º in Romania today, according to Laurie Webb who runs a B&B in Transylvania, called Casa Cristina. Sounds an attractive proposition to me at the moment, assuming you can face crawling through the airport immigration controls on your return - I suspect the flights go from Luton and Gatwick, to be fair. Anyway after quite a bright day yesterday, when I sat in the conservatory and Jane hung out two loads of washing (she's a canny lady!), we woke up this morning to rain belting down. I gather I slept through a whopper of a thunderstorm in the night.

It was raining too at dawn in Oxford as the choristers sang in May morning from the top of Magdalen College Chapel tower. The rain clearly dampened the enthusiasm at ground level of the usual inebriated (and sober) revellers - as, compared to last year's 18,000, the estimate for this year was between 3,000 and 6,000. Perhaps, thinking about it, the sober ones stayed in their beds, and just the inebriates took to the streets. Fortunately none of them was drunk enough or stupid enough to jump off Magdalen Bridge into the swollen and fast-flowing water of the River Cherwell.

I love this picture taken at the weekend by Luke Leary
and posted on Facebook.
I remain grateful for the continuing rainfall. Well, I can afford to, I suppose, as I just stay indoors when it's pouring. I am sorry, though, about Badminton Horse Trials being cancelled, as a very important, in my eyes, and lovely young lady was planning to go on Sunday. I was interested to hear the weathermen and the Environment Agency spokesman yesterday categorically declaring that although we've had the wettest April on record and although there were 120+ flood warnings out it would be having "absolutely no impact" on the deep water reserves from which we draw a lot of our water. None? Absolutely none? Perhaps by the evening they'd realised that no one quite believed them, as they'd changed their tune to "while the downpours help tackle the drought in many of the areas now suffering flooding, much more rain is needed in the coming months to fully (sic) replenish supplies". That sounded a bit more honest and consequently believable.