This morning my wife said to me, “We should be outside”, meaning we should be out there gardening. Well, we didn’t do any gardening and within a very short time we had hail bouncing off the roofs, and when the hail stopped it turned to snow. What it will be like after March 29th I dread to think.
Also, my copy of Mrs. Miles’ Diary arrived from abebooks. Glancing through it I saw, as I rather expected, the confusion and uncertainty of the days before and just after 3 September 1919 accurately portray and foretell the times we are going through now as our inept “Government” and “Parliament” together totter towards Brexit and neither they nor we know what is coming to us. We shall just have to do the best we can and help one another out if possible.
How are you getting on with not being a robot ? I find myself being directed to groups of photos which are obviously of American street scenes and being asked to indicate which squares contain whatever. Obviously my knowledge of American street furniture is poor, and I sometimes have to go through this process two or three times before someone, somewhere - presumably an algorithm - is satisfied that all this ticking of boxes is being done by a human being because no robot would make such stupid mistakes.
I have terrible trouble with my ears. Partly this is due to the gradual failure with age of the neural circuitry which results in hearing loss. But, in addition, for some reason, possibly childhood illnesses and their complications - the infamous "double Mastoid" - the external auditory canals of both of my ears have narrowed considerably. The left hand one is still open and usable, the right hand one, not so. This was noticeably so as far back as the middle of the 1970s when a consultant in Salisbury, where we were living at the time, opined that "if he had his way" he would fit grommets. Quite who was stopping him from having his way I never found out, and when I have mentioned this in ENT Departments in later years they express astonishment and tell me this is or was only ever done for a finite period in the treatment of children - something to do with glue ear if I remember aright.
One upon a time, if one went to the Doctor's and complained of poor hearing your ears would get inspected, the pouring in of warm olive oil by over worked mothers would be commanded for several days, and frequently for several times each day, and then the nurse at the surgery would produce her big brass syringe and you would get an almighty flush which left your ears feeling exquisitely clean and restored your hearing immediately. Then someone (the ear police ?) stepped in and suddenly syringing was non-PC. Off you went to the local hospital to the ENT Department where an expensive piece of equipment, a glorified vacuum cleaner, would be inserted (often painfully) into your ear canal and the wax sucked out. Sometimes it felt as if not only wax came out but part of one's ear canal as well, and from time to time one would find a spot or two of blood lurking at the entrance to one's ear which did not inspire confidence in the procedure.
Some 30 years ago, when living in the southern art of the Lake District we had a local GP who was an ex naval doctor. He had a splendid piece of kit which pumped, via a small jet, warm water into your ear. A very gently pulsating stream over a period of several minutes. The effluent therefrom was caught in a kidney basin and the amount of stuff which came out in that time had to be seen to be believed. Never have I seen a similar piece of kit until we arrived in our present abode, where Lo ! the practice nurses use something similar. Knowing that the "insert oil" instruction would be given I commenced doing this seven or eight days beforehand and then booked a wash out appointment. Yesterday was the big day and our lovely practice nurse peered down her apparatus into my right ear and pronounced "no wax there" which came as a bit of a surprise seeing as that ear is just about closed up. On the left, not so good, and in went the water for only a very short time before the nurse saw results coming out and inspected my ear again. "All clear", she said and showed me the lump of sludge in her cardboard beaker.
My hearing aid has not been fitting into my ear snugly as it should do for a couple of weeks past which made me suspect that a trip to Mountainhall in Dumfries might be necessary, but since yesterday's clean out I have not had so much trouble, so I suspect the lump of wax had been preventing the proper entry of the mould on the hearing aid.
A Doctor told me once that many of the health troubles of the third world (I do not say this facetiously) could be prevented by the regular application of soap and water, and yesterday's treatment kind of bore that out.
This is a copy and paste job of the entry for 14th February in Ian Dunt's blog. Strong opinions, strongly stated by a man, who unlike many actually knows and understands what he is talking about.
"The government has been defeated by MPs on propositions that they themselves backed two weeks ago. The whole edifice of blather and nonsense is coming tumbling down.
It's commonly accepted that there's no majority in the Commons for any given response to Brexit. But today it went a step further. It was inadequacy squared. It is clear now that there is not even a majority for the imaginary things MPs had only recently given a majority to. The whole British political system is imploding in on itself.
It might seem like reasonless chaos, but there is a moral message to what is happening here. You cannot govern on the basis of gibberish. You cannot make gurgled yearnings the basis for your negotiating posture. Because the lack of meaning in those original propositions means that they do not work as functional foundations of policy.
This is what the farce looks like when it's untangled. May was defeated on her Brexit deal last month. It did not win the support of the opposition parties or her own MPs. They were concerned about the backstop, which would prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
There were then a series of amendments on what to do next. One of them was the Brady amendment. This substituted the backstop for "alternative arrangements", which it did not specify, on how to avoid a border. Even though this detonated her own deal, May whipped her MPs to support it.
The Brady amendment passed and the prime minister was able to claim, seemingly with a straight face, that she now had a mandate from the Commons to go to Brussels to negotiate some sort of magical solution to Ireland. She was unable to say what the solution was. She held meetings in which she tried to get people to accept ideas which she could not describe.
But MPs also voted on another series of other amendments that night. These would have provided a mechanism to stop no-deal, by extending Article 50. They rejected all of them, but then supported one by Caroline Spelman which ruled out no-deal in the abstract. So MPs were saying they backed the principle of something while rejecting any of the powers which would allow them to secure it. Nevertheless, even that modicum of reason appears to have now destroyed the government all over again.
It was a pitiful, ridiculous night, one in which parliament threw its weight behind fantasies without having the courage to support realities. But compared to this evening it looked like a towering moment of statecraft.
Today, the prime minister put forward a motion which said that the House "welcomes" her statement from earlier this week - one which said she was still trying to negotiate these fantastical "alternative arrangements" for Ireland. But then it also stated, and here was the kicker, that it "reiterates its support for the approach to leaving the EU expressed by this House on 29 January 2019" when it backed the Brady and Spelman amendments.
The Brexit jihadists in the ERG didn't like that, because it included the amendment ruling out no-deal. And the opposition parties didn't like it, because it included the Brady amendment on alternative arrangements. The House was divided against itself. It was in such a mangled and contorted state that it could not form sustainable majorities on anything. It literally could not even agree on the things that it supported two weeks ago. If it was a person you would have it sectioned.
The government has based its negotiating position on amendments which are on the one hand meaningless and on the other hand powerless, and now it is surprised when they do not form the basis for a stable platform of parliamentary support.
It was a shameful moment, one which was conducted without any honour or dignity whatsoever. Even for this government, which is quite plainly the worst of our lifetime, it was a despairing spectacle. The prime minister did not even attend the Commons for the result. She sat elsewhere, probably watching on a TV in an office somewhere, her political career departing her physical body.
"Is there some way you can encourage her to return to the despatch box and tell us what her plan actually is?" Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked John Bercow. The Speaker could not. Instead he peered at Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay and offered him the chance to respond.
The secretary of state sat unmoving in his seat. He is a man no-one had heard of, given arguably the most important ministerial appointment in post-war British history on the basis that he might not have the imagination to resign when he realised what it entailed. And now, when great moments come, he is unsurprisingly incapable of living up to them. He simply sat there. A government without a position, led by an absent prime minister, and a quivering, unmoving secretary of state.
"Or if the government chief whip wants to do so?" Bercow tried. No, he didn't want to get up either. The government was gone. It had vanished along, with its imaginary mandate.
There is really no government. It exists only on a formal level. As a functioning entity, it has ceased to exist. Its deal was demolished. Its negotiating mandate, which never had any content anyway, was rejected. It is a wisp of smoke, a lingering smell from somebody dreadful who already left the room.
Now, finally, MPs have to take back control. The fact that this even needs saying, that it did not happen weeks ago, should be a source of eternal shame to this parliament. But even if they did not have the spine then, they must discover it now.
This is where myth-making and fairytales get you: precisely nowhere. We need a concrete, meaningful plan to stave off disaster, with a firm and realistic timetable. That begins with a mechanism - not a principle, a mechanism - for extending Article 50. If they don't secure that soon, we're all going the way of the government."
The opinions in politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author.