So what have me and mine been up to since I wrote my last blog back in August of last year?
Our life in Blighty
You may recall that at the time of my previous blog my family was back in Thailand after spending some 18 months away. Well, they had a pretty good time, and got around quite a bit, but by the time they had been there for 3 weeks, they surprised me by saying that they were getting bored and wished they were back in Oakham.
This was music to my ears. I have always lived in dread of the day when my wife and daughter will announce that they’ve had enough of England and demand one-way tickets back to the Land of Smiles.
I think one of the key factors that have led to a thumbs up to living in England has been the fact that they are able to cook almost any kind of Thai food here – even Issan food (especially som tum). The ingredients come from a multitude of diverse sources, including foraging along the roadside, specialist shops in Leicester and Peterborough and Thai friends who are always coming and going to and from Thailand. There is one supermarket in Leicester that stocks an amazing array of fresh Asian vegetables, and there is another stall in a Peterborough market that stocks similar produce.
Lek has become a fanatic mushroom gatherer, and at one time she was out nearly every day foraging for edible fungus in the surrounding woods and countryside. She only stopped because there is no room left in the freezer to store them.
So within all these outlets close to hand, and even our local Tesco’s, Lek manages to cook up a wide variety of Thai dishes on a daily basis.
The inclement weather doesn’t seem to bother them one iota and they will just as happily go out in sub-zero temperatures in the middle of winter gale as in the occasional bright days during our lovely but brief summers.
Song, my stepdaughter, started at her new secondary school back in September, and seems to have settled in very well. The school has state of the art facilities, and while it’s just a standard, non-selective secondary school, it has an enviable reputation and is quite hard to get into if you live outside the catchment area.
She is well looked after there and has around 4 hours a week of one-to-one specialist teaching which undoubtedly helping to speed up her spoken and written English, which is improving almost daily.
The school is extremely hi-tech and just about everything is computerised, and through the use of school apps I can monitor all her homework tasks and which ones are overdue.
She has already been on a number of school trips including a camping weekend in the forest and a trip to London to see Lion King.
The school is also very strong on discipline which is very gratifying after seeing all those dreadful documentaries about the state of English education in some of the struggling urban schools in places like Essex and Yorkshire.
The three of us had a quiet-ish Christmas at home and Song enjoyed a proper English Christmas with traditional lunch and loads of presents.
Olly, our little Yorkie-poo, is as mischievous as ever and there is never a quiet moment with him around demanding attention and wanting to play. I take him out every day for a 40-50 minute walk, in and around Oakham, and that gives us the necessary exercise that we both need. I invariably arrive back home covered in sweat and totally knackered and it takes me an hour or two to recover.
More Visa Blues
With Lek’sand Song’s visas up in November, once again I have to turn my mind to submit fresh applications to the Home Office for Further Leave to Remain. This will involve almost the same level of documentation and requirements that we needed for the initial application, so it will be a worrying time.
At least we have conquered the first hurdle when Lek passed her new English test with distinction, a couple of weeks ago. Well done Lek.
My COPD (lung disease) is slowly getting worse, and a year ago I thought I would soon be destined to use a wheelchair as I could barely walk more than a few yards without being overcome with coughing, wheezing and extreme shortness of breath. Thankfully the Doc came up with a new inhaler that has worked miracles. Yet another inhaler was recently added to the two I already use and I’m now feeling better than I have for quite a while, although the 50-minute daily walk is just about as much exercise as I can manage. Long may it continue.
As for my other co-morbidities, (as the docs call them), my diabetes continues to be more or less under control, my blood pressure is okay-ish, and my stomach is sort of behaving itself since I was prescribed meds for my bile acid malabsorption (BAM for short).
But my prostate problems are getting worse, and in spite of daily self- catheterisation and meds, I am emptying my bowels all too frequently and I’m due another cystoscopy, (camera up my urethra). This will probably be followed by an operation to clear the blockage.
I’m also waiting for a CT scan of my head and nose to see what is causing the polyps which are growing in my nose. I haven’t had any sense of smell for over a year now, and my taste buds are fast disappearing. Yet another operation may be on the cards to remove the polyps, once they know more about them.
So all in all, things could be a lot worse. How much worse would my ongoing medical problems feel, if I was living all alone? There’s not too many sickly 74-year-olds who are taken care of by a wonderful 39-year-old Thai lady who is devoted to my well-being.
And what could be finer than to be part of an 11-year old’s journey into teenage-hood; helping with her homework and reading is worth a million dollars worth of anti-de[pressants. To say nothing of Olly…
Ah… happy days! Here’s a few more family pics.
Brave New Britain
It seems almost impossible to believe that we’ve finally entered Boris’s brave big ben bong bong bongo Brexited Britain.
At exactly 2300 hours GMT on January 31st, the UK finally became free of the European yoke.
Millions of True Blue Britishers rose at dawn on 1st February, to breathe the new air of freedom. It was almost like Armistice Day.
They no longer have to suffer night sweats over the shapes of bananas or cucumbers, they can eat their own pet horses without being arrested, let their kids blow up balloons without fear of being arrested for child abuse, throw their used tea bags into the compost bin without being suspected of spreading infectious diseases, dust off their EU-banned high powered vacuum cleaners, toasters, kettles and hairdryers; and our dear Cornish brethren can refer to their swedes as turnips without raising the ire of Brussels bureaucrats, along with a million more petty, illogical and maddening rules passed by unelected officials with no reason other than to put us little Britishers firmly in our places.
A Brave New Britain indeed – except that nothing much will change before the end of the year, although many of us wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the so-called transition period extended by a few months…
And after that? Nobody knows…
It all depends on what sort of trade deals Boris can do with the EU, the USA, and other important trading partners. If I were a betting man I wouldn’t be too optimistic.
The EU has already stated publicly that they believe they have got us by the ‘goolies’, and unless we continue to align ourselves with EU rules and regulations, we can expect a touch of the old heave-ho’s when it comes to flogging our post Brexit wares and services across the Channel.
But the whole point of Brexiting was to escape this Euro-straightjacket, so good luck on that one… Boris.
I have never had any love for the EU, as my long term readers will know very well. I have written many an article over the past decade decrying the crass stupidity, waste and downright undemocratic rules imposed on us from across the ENGLISH channel.
I even called it correctly back in the late nineties when I maintained it would be unbelievable folly for the UK to join the Euro – and this at a time when almost the whole country – especially all those financial experts in the city’s square mile – were totally convinced that the Euro would be the best thing since sliced bread.
We all know how that one turned out.
As for the USA, well I believe we just made a faux pas extraordinaire when we ignored their advice (instructions) on involving the wonderful world of Huawei’s cheap Chinese technology in our brand spanking new 5G communications network. By all accounts, Trump was so enraged that he slammed down the phone when Boris was still mid-way between an um… and an err…
Doesn’t bode well for a lucrative UK-USA trade deal, does it?
But I never advocated leaving the EU – I just wanted us to do our level our best to change it from within. I always felt – and still do – that we had to make our best of a bad job as to Brexit would leave us very isolated when it came to world trade. As much as I excoriated our EU membership, I always felt it was too late and too complicated to undo our European relationships.
We shall see what we shall see. Let’s hope and pray I’m wrong.
At the time of writing, we are experiencing severe storms in all parts of the British Isles. Only a few days after Storm Ciara left our shores Storm Dennis is due to wreak its havoc across Britain’s green and pleasant land. While they fall short of full-blown hurricanes, we still have winds of in excess of 60 miles an hour here in Oakham, and in other more exposed locations, especially along the coast, winds of up 90 miles an hour have been, and will be blowing up a storm.
The weather forecasters tell us we’re having the worst storm conditions for seven years and some widespread damage and severe transport interruptions have been the order of the day. Major storms are predicted to last well into next week. Several people have been killed by falling trees, and in many areas of the North, people have been having to clear up from floods for the fourth or fifth time in as many years. Newly built flood defences have proved woefully inadequate
So after all the floods and mayhem of 2019 along with the highest temperatures ever recorded in the UK, there seems little doubt that something pretty serious is happening to our climate.
To be honest, these worrying changes are unlikely to have much effect on my life, given that I’m 73, going on 74 and unlikely to reach 80, but I do feel for my family, and indeed all the generations who will have to bear the brunt of these cataclysmic happenings. If it wasn’t so scary, the next few years would be morbidly fascinating.
The European Environment Agency has predicted that an average one-meter rise in sea levels would mean 90% of the surface of Hull would be underwater, and other English cities such as Norwich, Margate, Southend-on-Sea, Runcorn, and Blackpool could also experience flooding covering more than 40% of the urban area.
Across the North Sea, Dutch cities including The Hague, Rotterdam, and Leiden are predicted to face severe floods from an average rise in the sea-level of one meter.
Large areas of Spain, Portugal and France would be grappling with desertification, with the worst-affected zones experiencing a two and half-fold increase in droughts.
Hotter summers increase the risk of forest fires, which hit record levels in Sweden in 2018. If emissions exceed 4C, France, southern Germany, the Balkans and the Arctic Circle will experience a greatly increased fire risk. However, fire danger would remain highest in southern European countries, which are already prone to blazes.
Further north, winters are becoming wetter. Failure to limit global heating below 2C could mean a swath of Central and Eastern Europe – from Bratislava in the west to Yaroslavl in the east- will suffer from a sharp increase in heavy thunderstorms during autumn and winter.
In some areas of Central and Eastern Europe, there is predicted to be a 35% increase in such rainstorms, meaning torrential downpours would be more frequent.
And all these dire predictions are just for Europe!
While I remain pretty pessimistic on the ability of this world to haul itself back from the brink, (especially with a climate-denying maniac in the Whitehouse), as with Brexit, I sincerely hope I’m wrong.