Saturday, November 18, 2017

Zimbabwe 2017

Mugabe has been president of Zimbabwe  for some 40 years.

 Legally the legitimacy  of his presidency has always been open to question as a result of issues at polling stations and the risks or at least perceived risks to life and limb of those  who  were courageous enough to campaign or stand against him.

Nonetheless the military who have recently  placed him under house arrest, appear to be concerned that as he legitimately holds office, simply deposing him would be an act of  sedition for which the responsible officers could, if the attempts to change  the way in which the country is governed fail be tried and perhaps even executed.

The recent actions of the Zimbabwean military therefore seem courageous  though my own view is that there is a substantial risk that even if Mugabe is replaced  the new President  will still fail to work  hard to  enhance the impoverished lives of the majority of the country's population.

Taking a far more positive view however,  the farmers  in Zimbabwe  (ignoring questions of farm ownership) could harvest record crops of grain etc with cattle too thriving at present, owing to  I believe exellent weather for agriculture in the country during 2017.  The country potentially could once more become the bread basket for many other African  countries.

Additionally despite the undoubted poverty and hardships faced by many families and schools , students from Zimbabwe are far better educated than many of their  fellows in Africa. Indeed many Zimbabwean students emigrate after graduation and work in other countries as for  example engineers.

 If conditions in Zimbabwe  improve some of the country's graduates could begin to return maybe setting up small work places with employment prospects for others there  so life in their homeland could begin to improve for ordinary people

Then added to the above positives, is the fact that presidential henchmen and the like apart, most ordinary people in Zimbabwe are peaceful.

 Thus there is huge potential  for improvement at the current time. Of course  that potential may not be realised. Further the generally peaceful protests even now taking place could turn violent at any time so one can but hope and pray. As an aside I  have wondered over the years whether the UK  as the former  colonial power,  might have been be better advised to have entered the country  rather than say Iraq , to attempt to restore some kind of fairness. That thankfully remains purely academic.

One point that illustrated for me the difficult situation in Zimbabwe, occurred a few years ago. A local Jesuit prep school had arranged for a dozen or so pupils from a sister school in Zimbabwe to attend classes  in the Wimbledon school  for a couple of weeks, with the Zimbabwean boys staying with local students' families.

 A dinner  was arranged for the Zimbabwean boys and the staff accompanying  them. As the dinner was arranged at short notice the Chairman of Governors was unable to attend so the Headmaster asked me to give a brief welcome speech at the dinner.  To his consternation, the Zimbabwean  ambassador  then arrived for the meal quite uninvited.

The temptation then was to change  the speech from words welcoming the boys and staff to a rant directed of course to the ambassador, about the regime in their country. Thankfully  (even in hindsight) the temptation was resisted.

Hopefully Zimbabwe will now be able to move forward  certainly from the perspective of the country's  ordinary citizens, to a brighter future but without  bloodshed enroute.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Armistice Day 2017

Previous blog posts, at about this time of year have been entitled "Rembrance Sunday" as often we have attended at Beaumont for Mass at the large war memorial in the grounds. Today is Armistice Day hence the title to this blog post and tomorrow is Rembrance  Sunday.

Given the comparatively small size of the old School at least as regards the number of pupils there a surprisingly large number of old boys died in WWII and WWII. Some 220 boys according to the Imperial War  Museum stats.

As my injuries from the bicycle accident last month will not have healed sufficiently to enable us to risk travelling there this year I will be absent.

Sadly for the same reason, I have had to pull out of  the reunion dinner due to be held tonight  at the old school, now an hotel, by all those who were in the final year at Beaumont when the old place closed some 50 years ago. Some 30 boys from that year are due to attend, most of whom I have not seen since teen age years.

The kind words expressed by quite a number upon my explaining the reason for withdrawing surprised me to such an extent that I hope to visit many of them personally in 2018.

Meanwhile hopefully a good time will be had by all tonight.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

NHS - Part 3

Having been well cared for as an NHS inpatient at St George’s hospital for about a fortnight, I was slightly apprehensive about whether upon being discharged home, I or rather we being Mrs maytrees and 27 year old maytrees min as well as yours truly would be left to deal with rehabilitation as best we could in our own amateur fashion.

Not a bit of it at least so far. The NHS has provided two physiotherapists who attend the maytrees house hold. They have provided a programme of home exercises which are required to be undertaken three times daily; furthermore upon perceiving the pace of recovery they have arranged for further equipment eg that facilitating the carrying of food and drink to be delivered quite free of cost.

There are of course quite a number of weeks of healing to go through yet, with ample time for mistakes to be made by yours truly nonetheless the dedication of the NHS staff is impressive. 

Already switching from Zimmer to crutches is under way with the next significant challenge being that of climbing the stairs once again.

Also impressive is the work of local Catholic parishioners in ensuring that holy communion is brought to me at home.

Only when easy mobility is suddenly taken away does one begin to appreciate the real beauty of the human condition previously taken in my case, completely for granted. 

Astonishing too at least to me is the cost free nature of all the above NHS support. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

NHS - Part 2

Having just been discharged from St  George's NHS Hospital the advice is that it will take 3 months for me to walk unaided and perhaps 6 months for a full cure.

Experience with the NHS so far is first class. Following the accident the young ambulance paramedic after stretchering me safely in decided to rescue my bike as well which he then perched at the back bringing it in to A&E at the hospital. There the young girl doctor after checking my aches and pains said that I must wear a helmet as had the fall been onto my head the outcome could have been fatal. I was then along with the said bike taken into resuscitation where a full analysis was made. 

The earlier doctor who came in at the end of her shift to say farewell was told by maytrees  min that she too had been trying to make me wear a helmet for years. I promised both that when recovered I would buy one supervised by maytrees min and thanked her again for all her efforts for me.

Mrs maytrees and our youngest daughter managed to load the old bike before departing in the battered VW Polo following which admission to a small 6 bed part of the Gunning ward where I was to remain as an inpatient for a fortnight - more later.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

NHS Re Visited - Part One

Having decided to take a bike ride to Richmond Park then back by Wimbledon Common to avoid traffic on a glorious October morning I came across a section of the bike path just off the very busy A3 road being resurfaced. Trying to move from the bike path to pavement I toppled on a kerb resulting in a pelvic fracture or 3. Me and my bike having been brought by ambulance to St George's NHS hospital by ambulance Physio and occupational therapy applies.

Getting out of bed is proving the most difficult aspect so far but that can apple equally to the able bodied.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ireland September 2017

Dunlaoghaire 2017
Traveling to Ireland again this year was unexpected but proved well worth while.

The  younger sister of mrs maytrees is seriously ill with cancer and this following the huge sadness of the sudden death of her husband in April, so we decided to go over to visit her for a few days.

Given the major problems with Ryanair which I am never keen to use anyway, travel by British Airways to Dublin Airport was straightforward. 

I recalled travel  to Ireland 45 years or so ago, by ferry to Dunlaoghaire,  bringing my old Morris Minor convertible over. Cars could not simply be driven up an exit ramp in those days but had to be lifted off by crane and placed  often none too gently, on the quayside. Dunlaoghaire has changed much for the better in many ways since those days as we appreciated during a day trip north of Dublin. Air fares are far  cheaper now than in the 1970s so ferries tend to be less popular than they were.Car hire was surprisingly inexpensive and easy. A tiny but easy to drive Seat proved ideal. 

On this visit  the installation of the new trams in and about Dublin's O'Connell Street appears at last  to be nearly complete with many of the new routes being tested presumably with passenger use expected soon. Hopefully the trams will reduce the noise and nuisance of the vast number of buses that currently travel around the area although London's Underground seems to have made no difference to the similar problem at home.

The Castle Hotel proved to be a great idiosyncratic hotel as illustrated by the picture below:

The Castle Hotel
One evening as mrs maytrees and I were enjoying a quiet supper in the old music room at the hotel, the owner came over to chat with us. He said that when his father had died he was living with his mother in Putney paying a weekly £5 for rent at council accommodation. We talked of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, the UK miners' strike  and education, to mention but a few topics. As to the latter he described how to better himself, he studied for and secured a law degree. Later he was able to buy the then rather run down property which he now owns as the very successful Castle Hotel. 

We talked for quite a while during which time he bought us some tea and coffee though my supper had grown slightly cold by the time we had finished. An unusual and great evening especially as speaking with staff afterwards, they all said how good he is. Doubtless we will return there on our next visit.

Temple Bar
 River Liffey
Early morning for me at least proved the best time for visiting parts of Dublin. 

Trinity College is as attractive as ever as the picture below illustrates
Trinity College Grounds
58 years later I recall let alone still know, very few people with whom I was friends  as a child but William from County Dublin is a great exception. His wife is now a lecturer at Trinity and like the maytrees' family, they have four children though a few more grand children than we do. 

We met again in Dublin for an extremely convivial lunch and I reflected that perhaps one of the few advantages of boarding schools is the very strong friendships that can be formed there   so much so that they firmly stand the test of time.
O'Connell Street

For he sake of completeness I add the picture of Dublin's main thorough fare to the left, though to me the street is not very attractive. The newly enhanced  tram system which traverses O'Connell Street is welcomed by all Dubliners I spoke to but although putting in an underground system might be very much more costly, it would serve the people rather better. Perhaps in the years ahead, the tram system will be complemented by a new subway as seems to have occurred in say  Munich.

The reason for our trip to Ireland was the sad illness being suffered by the younger sister of mrs maytrees. Indeed during our first three visits to her at the beautiful accommodation in which she lives, provided by the convent substantially  supported by the state, she was really unable to communicate but on our final visit she was almost back to her old self enabling us to spend a couple of hours with her in a cafe.

And so the trip proved really worthwhile.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bury St Edmunds

East Anglia is not a part of the country that I visit very often so when a friend of maytrees max who I also knew from HCPT, asked that I came to support him at an Employment Tribunal at Bury St Edmunds for a few days, there was little difficulty in agreeing. Added to that, his counsel is also an old friend whose work over the years I knew well.

One of the great advantages of attending an ET purely as an observer/friend, is that there is of course no need to spend hours on the papers rehearsing the arguments.

Traveling to and from Bury St Edmunds by train was convenient and enjoyable. The train from London Liverpool Street to Ipswich ran on time, was comfortable and not too full. Changing at Ipswich it was pleasantly surprising to find the small local train already waiting at the adjacent platform ready to pick up passengers, many of whom were on their way to Cambridge university - Cambridge being slightly further up the line from Bury St Edmunds.

Bury St Edmunds turned out to be a very attractive small city (it has a cathedral) with some smart restaurants and shops. Probably during WWII the city was so far out from London or industrial centres that it largely escaped the bombing that devastated other towns and cities.

Rising early in the morning to buy a newspaper before breakfast it was interesting to learn that although newsagents tend not to open before 7am Costa Coffee and similar shops were open at that time and happy to sell copies of the Times even without coffee.

Some early morning photos in the mist:

Although our hotel was cheap and cheerful, its setting (bottom right photo) was fine. Restaurants  were full most evenings so I assumed that people were either not too short of cash or that credit  is the key.

The ET case itself continues for a couple more days with judgement probably not being issued until November/December. However the presence of friends on the claimant's side probably served to counter balance the 10 or so witnesses the Respondents called from the UK and elsewhere for their case. 

My own view, which after retirement is obviously an amateur one,  is that the claimant will be successful. 

Perhaps blog-posting any details  of the case itself,  is best deferred until after the  (public) judgement is handed down.

Zimbabwe 2017

Mugabe has been president of Zimbabwe  for some 40 years.  Legally the legitimacy  of his presidency has always been open to question as a...