30 June 2022

An open letter to the Health Secretary

In the woods.....

Sajid Javid MP,
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care,
House of Commons,


30 June 2022


Dear Mr Javid,


I am writing to you concerning an issue which is adversely affecting my wife’s (and indirectly my) health.  In advance I apologise for the length of this, but I feel it necessary to present you with the full story, partly because we will not be alone in this.


My wife, Amanda, who is now 68 years old, was diagnosed with dementia over ten years ago. Initially the diagnosis was early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and she was prescribed Donepezil for a year.  I was not convinced by this diagnosis, however, and so, after extensive further testing, a brain scan, and the involvement of a neurologist, the diagnosis was corrected to Frontotemporal Dementia (Semantic Variant) a rare form of dementia which has an approximate life expectancy of twice that of Alzheimer’s, and for which there is no cure nor officially authorised medication.


For several years she has been seen by Professor Jonathan Schott, Professor of Neurology at the Dementia Research Centre, UCL Institute of Neurology and Honorary consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square.  Professor Schott has maintained contact with me as Amanda’s husband and principal carer (with LPA) over the years, though Amanda is no longer capable of attending his clinic nor of understanding nor communicating as the disease has robbed her entirely of speech.


For the record we moved from Hertfordshire to Norfolk in January 2021, partly to give us more space to accommodate our daughters and other carers who may need to stay overnight.  Since the move Amanda’s condition has deteriorated (for example she is now entirely dependent on myself or carers for everything, from washing and dressing - she is doubly incontinent - to eating and drinking and going out for walks).  Since that move, we have had involvement from our new GP surgery, as well as Older Peoples Memory Assessment Team at Chatterton House, Adult Community Mental Health Service West and South Norfolk, who, in February 2021, recommended trialling Memantine Hydrochloride, which she now takes at 20mg a day, which may have helped keep her calmer as she was very disturbed by our move.  We have also had help from Adult Social Services, and have been visited by NHS Occupational Therapists who have provided some devices which help with Amanda’s security in the house.


However, and, after that preamble, this is the heart of the matter, Amanda has developed a tendency to get up and walk about at night, taking a risk in going downstairs as many as six times a night.  Generally, I am able to help her and to give her a drink of water and take her to the toilet, but on occasions she has fallen out of bed, or on the stairs, and quite often she gets stuck at the top of the stairs if I am not there.  Sleep disturbance is common among people with dementia and the impact for patients and their families is significant, and there are no easy solutions.


The effect of this is that she is not getting enough rest, but this is also having a negative effect on my ability to care for her.


In order to calm her and to help her settle at night, she was prescribed Risperidone (0.25 mg), an antipsychotic which is used to treat Schizophrenia, Mania, and aggression in people with Alzheimer’s dementia.  


As an additional attempt to get her to sleep better she was prescribed Melatonin (Mylan) 2 mg prolonged-release tablets. The active ingredient of these tablets is melatonin which belongs to a natural group of hormones produced by the body.  This hormone synchronizes the body’s biological day-and-night rhythm.  Although Amanda would still wake during the night (usually either because of incontinence or because of thirst) the effect of this prescription seemed entirely positive with no noticeable side effects.


However, when I requested a renewed prescription, this was denied, apparently because it should only be prescribed in hospitals(?) I questioned this but was told that there is some controlling body within the NHS, possibly within Norfolk, which will not allow the prescription of Melatonin by GP practices.  


The result of this was that the only viable alternative was deemed to be the Z drugs, such as Zolpidem and Zopiclone.  And so, we started to give her one or two Zopiclone 3.75 mg tablets at night.  This is a hypnotic or sleeping tablet.  What I did not know was that this drug should not be taken with antipsychotics such as Risperidone, one of the recognised side effects of which is signs of a stroke, such as a sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arms or legs, especially on one side.  Amanda did indeed appear to be affected in this way (though she cannot articulate her feelings) and one morning in May I had to call an ambulance as I feared she might have had a stroke.  After discussions with various medical professionals on that occasion we agreed to stop giving her Risperidone and she recovered from that incident. In the meantime, it seemed that after a few days of taking Zopiclone it may have accumulated in her body, and the recognised side-effects of reduced alertness, dizziness, confusion, loss of co-ordination, muscle weakness, restlessness, accompanied by several incidents in which she fell, all appeared to be present (though again there is no way of consulting Amanda about her feelings as she is incapable of communication).


We have stopped the Risperidone.  We have since stopped Zopiclone.  We are not allowed to have a prescription for Melatonin.  And apparently there are no other viable alternatives.


So, what I am writing to you about is to enquire as to why we cannot have Melatonin on the NHS?  It is available over the counter in the United States and Australia, and it is available online in this country.  Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland and is structurally related to serotonin. Physiologically, melatonin secretion increases soon after the onset of darkness, peaks at 2-4 am and diminishes during the second half of the night. Melatonin is associated with the control of circadian rhythms and entrainment to the light-dark cycle. It is also associated with a hypnotic effect and increased propensity for sleep.


However, I note that there has been a case in the Court of Appeal concerning the production of Melatonin, as a company called Neurim Pharmaceuticals is the registered proprietor of EP 1 441 702 (the Patent), which expires on 12 August 2022.  Could it possibly be that the NHS is caught up in the business affairs of Mylan and Neurim, and that as a result my wife and many others are being denied a relatively harmless pharmaceutical product?


I appreciate that even if Melatonin were to be prescribed for Amanda, it may not be suitable for long-term use, and I also know that it is not a magic bullet which will enable me to sleep undisturbed throughout every night.  But Amanda is dying and I am endeavouring to keep her in her home for as long as I can protect and care for her.  Strong sleeping pills known as ‘Z-drugs’ are linked with an increased risk of falls, fractures and stroke among people with dementia – according to research from the University of East Anglia, involving the University of Exeter.  Prof Chris Fox, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: As many as 90 per cent of people with dementia suffer sleep disturbances and it has a big impact on their mental and physical health, as well as that of their carers.  To date there are no proven effective treatments available, however people with dementia are often prescribed Z-drugs (zopiclone, zaleplon, and zolpidem).  But a new study reveals that stronger doses of these drugs are linked with an increased risk of adverse effects.


And, as described above, Risperidone is not the answer either.


So, please could you look into this issue?  Perhaps with the expiry of Neurim’s patent in August other companies will be able to produce melatonin tablets at reduced costs and perhaps then GPs will be able to prescribe it, or perhaps even it will become available over the counter in Pharmacies?  It would be good to have a little light thrown on this and to feel that the miserable world of sufferers from dementia and their families and carers is not being ignored or made more difficult by business concerns.


Thank you for your attention, 


Yours sincerely,




Richard Gibbs


cc: James Wild MP, Professor Jonathan Schott, Heacham Group Practice, Chatterton House



16 June 2022

Our House

Our house

Is a very, very, very fine house

Our House, 1905

This is our house. Welcome! It was built in 1883 by John Palmer Benstead (7th June 1828 - 24th February 1887). John was the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Benstead, who married Richard Folker, a farm labourer, in 1834. In the 1841 census John Benstead is recorded as a farm labourer, living alone in Heacham. He then worked for Thomas Savory at the Old Bakehouse in Ladies' Walk and married Mary Ann, his employer's daughter, in 1851. They had seven sons and four daughters, though one of these was stillborn.

Mary Ann, and John, had a bakery in the Market Square from 1851 until Alma House was built, at a cost of £900. In the 1860s and 70s the population of Snettisham was 1,233 and there were four other bakers in the village

Our House, today

When John died the business remained in the family. The photograph of the house in 1905 shows Frederick and Emma Benstead with their young son Bob. Apparently he took over the business from his brother Tony some time before 1930, and maintained it until his retirement in 1967/68.  He married Nellie in the 1920s and had a daughter, Mollie, in 1927 and a son, Alan, in 1930.  

Bob Benstead made bread, cakes and pastries, using a coal fired oven in what is now the kitchen.  

The kitchen as it is today - formerly the bakehouse - some of the ironwork is original.

Bob delivered to Snettisham and the neighbouring villages of Sedgeford, Fring, Ingoldisthorpe and Dersingham.  He had a cart and a donkey, which lived in this shed:

There was no inside kitchen in those days, nor a toilet or a bathroom - the outside earth toilet being beyond the donkey shed, with a large and a small wooden seat. The first bathroom was put in in around 1960.

This room, now a dining room, was the main living room:

And this, now my study, was the front parlour:

Many years ago, when Graham Nash was living in Laurel Canyon at Joni Mitchell's house, she brought home some flowers one day, and he composed a song, which he entitled Our House:

Our house
Is a very, very, very fine house (very, very fine house)
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And our

I'll light the fire
While you place the flowers
In the vase
That you bought today

I suspect it loses something in translation, and I should point out that we actually have three cats, but the sentiment (and it really is rather sentimental) fits our very fine house......

Of course we are nowhere near Laurel Canyon, but Snettisham is a fine village:

With, as you can just see in the top left of the board, pride in the Snettisham Hoard, or Snettisham Treasure, which consists of a series of discoveries of Iron Age precious metal, found in the area between 1948 and 1973. The hoard consists of metal, jet and over 150 gold/silver/copper alloy torc fragments, over 70 of which form complete torcs, dating from 70BC. Probably the most famous item from the hoard is the Great Torc from Snettisham, which is now held by the British Museum. Though the origins are unknown, it is of a high enough quality to have been royal treasure of the Iceni.....

The village has a fine church - St Mary's - which, according to Nikolaus Pevsner, is perhaps the most exciting Decorated (ie English Gothic from between 1290 and 1350) parish church in Norfolk, with its 175 ft tall spire (rebuilt in 1895) and its fabulous six-light window in the west front.....

The village also has a handsome 17th century Old Hall, built, like our house, of carstone (quarried just up the road) with brick dressings:

And, in a discreet way that puts most other villages to shame, there is a wonderful book shop, named after the Great Torc:

Perhaps inspired by this, and possibly as an indication that life is healthy here so we don't need a village defibrillator, the telephone kiosk now hosts a book swap:

And though there is no longer a Post Office (the post van visits four days a week), the main post box is a priority one, especially decorated by the WI for the Platinum Jubilee:

And in case you were wondering, there are two pubs, one of which dates back to the construction of the church, as apparently it was raised to accommodate the masons involved in that holy work. 

In addition, in the spirit of Mr Mainwaring, the village has an Old Bank, though it is now a family run restaurant, named The Good Food Guide Best Local Restaurant 2019 for the whole of Britain and soon after was also listed in the Michelin Guide.

The village is near the sea, just a 45 minute walk from the Wash, over 60 metre high Wild Ken Hill (renowned for its rewilding and for supporting the careers of Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan.....) and across the marsh, which used to be (and probably will be again) under the sea.

Indeed, although the weather this year has been dry and warm, there have been times when the heavens have opened:

Our garden, earlier this year

And the proximity of the sea, and the unpredictability of the weather, have taken their toll:

We moved here at the beginning of 2021, and our house is currently our home, for which I have no regret.

I won't claim to be a big fan of Graham Nash, but I recognise his temporary joy in living with Joni Mitchell. I have temporary joy in living with Amanda, though, as with everything, it won't last.

I cannot claim to be a big fan of Madness, either, though that depends on how you define the term. I can now sympathise with Mr Rochester when he fell for Jane Eyre, and I can empathise with Grace Poole (the stout, middle-aged, red-haired seamstress who works as a servant at Thornfield Hall, who is secretly the nursemaid and prison guard for the insane Bertha Mason.....) - though that is not the only reason I drink.....

But I do like Suggs, and Madness's Our House is a hymn of joy:

Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our
I remember way back then
When everything was true and when
We would have such a very good time
Such a fine time, such a happy time
And I remember how we'd play
Simply waste the day away
Then we'd say nothing would come between us
Two dreamers

Daniel Woodgate / Graham Mcpherson / Lee Thompson / Christopher Foreman / Michael Barson / Cathal Smyth / Mark Bedford

Amanda, stuck at the top of our stairs

I'll light the fire
You place the flowers
In the vase
That you bought today
Staring at the fire
For hours and hours
While I listen to you
Play your love songs
All night long

For me
Only for me

Graham Nash

From Amanda's window

Our house, was our castle and our keep
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, that was where we used to sleep
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house

Our House




30 May 2022

For comradeship

Life and death and so on......

David Craig with Shep, the Lake District, c1984

When I was a teenager I didn't think I would live beyond twenty-five: don't ask me why. I don't think I had any idea why at the time, and I certainly can't think of one now.

But since I have passed my allotted three-score years and ten, I think I have proved myself wrong (and not for the first time....)

Anyway, I am getting used to the idea of death now, as there is a lot of it about, even though my first experience was probably when Tiddles didn't come back from the Vet (which would have been around 1961 or so) and then when two of my budgerigars were found face down on the sandpaper with terminal dehydration.

Since those fateful days a succession of grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, friends and pets have taught me that when you're dead, you're dead. Absolutely. Brown bread.  

So I wasn't exactly shocked the other day when I rang my old friend and mentor, David Craig, and learned, from Anne, his widow, that he had died last November. It was sad news, certainly, and I was very sorry I had not known in time to pay my respects at his funeral, but since the last communication I had had from him was a Christmas card in 2020 that said it would probably be the last he would send..... I was not  completely surprised.

Indeed, I had a sense that he had been preparing for his demise for some time. In 2013 he wrote to me that We're nae deid yet (an Aberdeenshire saying).... and in 2018 he sent a card saying We're both very old now, but not too bad in our minds - I think..... In fact I saw them at Easter that year on my way to spend a couple of weeks volunteering for the RSPB on the Mull of Galloway, and they were pretty good (despite the odd grumble).

I first encountered David when he lectured on the poems of Bertolt Brecht in 1969, my first year at Lancaster.  This was something of an epiphany for me and Coal for Mike still resonates - for comradeship.

For more of the story, and atmosphere, of Lancaster in those troubled years, please see: 

I got to know David, and Jill, his then wife, quite well in my second year, and better still in my third year when he took over the Creative Writing module from Frank Goodridge.  He was a patient and thoughtful teacher.  Whatever drivel I produced was treated with respect and so it was with some excitement that when I wrote to him from Italy in 1983 saying I was thinking of returning to the UK to take a Master's degree he replied immediately, inviting me to take his MA in Creative Writing.

And so it came about.  Amanda and I lived in Burton in Lonsdale, and on occasions I would walk to visit David at his home in Burton in Carnforth, wading across the Lune on the way.

We had a great year, with workshops with the likes of Kazuo Ishiguro and Bernard MacLaverty, and weekends in the University's farmhouse high on the shoulder of Ingleborough above Clapham.  We went on a day trip to Sellafield, which, in a letter to me in January 2013, he recalled.  I had sent him a paper copy (he struggled to read my pieces on the computer) of  my blog about my paternal grandfather's experiences in the First World War: (https://www.richardpgibbs.org/2012/11/remembrance.html).  He replied:

He continued: Among all your pieces it is the Vatican banker/Timon (https://www.richardpgibbs.org/2012/08/timon-of-athens-divine-power-of-money.htmland now your grandfather's diary that have impressed me.  The others have struck me as well short of what you can do -  as rather old-fashioned magazine fillers, without enough personal centre, or unexpected information, or indelible imagery.  Excuse my being hard to please; I'm assuming you'd rather candid opinions than vague courtesies.....

We remained friends..... It was his candour and honesty that made him such a fine man.  

And I wasn't alone in being told I was generally lightweight; in his piece on Robert Macfarlane's Landmarks for the London Review of Books in September, 2015, David wrote: The rest of the book – described on the dust jacket as ‘a field guide to the literature he loves’ – seems to me less valuable, less significant..... Macfarlane’s book is different from the work of such writers as Jim Crumley, Mark Cocker and Richard Mabey. Where they stay with a region or a species for long enough to sink into it and pass, as nearly as can be, inside it, he veers from one writer or locale to another.

David was an excellent writer.  I have just re-read Native Stones, his 1987 book about climbing.  As Jonathan Raban said, This is no more a book "for" mountaineers than Moby Dick is a book "for" whale fishermen.  

As David explains, I am a middling sort of club climber at the flickering age of fifty-four, but, as he goes on to say, his approach lies in what are now the back dales and easier-angled crags.  My climbing grew late out of a lifelong fascination with nature, consciously escapist and very much concerned with the secretion of poetry and expressive prose.

I can hear David's soft, Aberdonian, voice in every sentence of this book, and his spare prose is a joy to read:  Dow Crag and the Old Man of Coniston stand up in the north-west as we look from our bedroom window and Dow's gullies show clearly in snow, white veins on black, Great Gully and Easy Gully slanting between the buttresses..... This is a deceptively simple sentence, but manages to pinpoint two locations, and steer us to see one through the eyes of a gentle, enthralled couple in their bedroom, who can precisely name distant features of the wintry landscape with affection and awe.

Two years after Native Stones was published, David wrote me a long letter in his slightly difficult longhand, in which he recounted the death of his beloved Shep (pictured at the head of this piece on a day when we walked in the Lake District). Talking of Shep, we had to have him killed in July. We'd always said that if his legs went and he had to drag himself around, that would be it - nothing left for him but a poor life we wouldn't want to live ourselves..... So we nerved ourselves to the euthanasia at last - took him to the vet at Kirkby, whom he knew well - he shaved his foreleg, slid in the needle, as we hugged him - stillness - absolute stillness - then a profound sigh, and another, as the very last air went from his lungs.

David's last book, Paradise and Wilderness,  was published in 2019 and is his own selection of poems from his writing life. A note on the back cover states that David, was born in Aberdeen - 'the granite city'.  many of the poems are uncompromising when tackling the inhumanity of man.  But alongside, there are poems of family and relationships that are sensitive, tender and ultimately hopeful that human kind can make this a better world.

I hope that he won't mind me quoting from this collection?  It is hard to choose a few lines, but perhaps the last stanza of Old Man Blues (2) fits here well enough....

A much worse hell, would be to lengthen out his days
Behind a screen of sound-proof one-way glass,
And see his dear survivors playing and talking,
Cooking their meals.  You wave and call.
They ignore you, they know you're dead,
You don't. And none of this can happen, 
Since there is neither hell nor heaven at all,
Only an infinite richness
On which the sun sets, moments after it rises.

As I said at the beginning, there's a lot of death about, from the terrifying accounts of torture and murder in Ukraine, to the vast numbers of victims of the pandemic, to the more natural passing of friends and family.  Having called paramedics to my wife's bedside this morning on the suspicion that she might have had a stroke, we live with the prospect all the time.  Some say that we are the only species with foreknowledge of death, though having noted solitary miserable birds outside the social limits of their normal flocks, I don't subscribe to such elitism.

As Roy Eldridge once said, No matter how hard you try, you can't get out of this world alive.  I am grateful for my life, so far, and for the fact that it involved the comradeship of David Craig.

And if ever any of my writing touches a chord, or is at all effective, that is quite possibly due to the mentorship of David Craig.

Requiescat in pace, Dave.....  Thank you.

David Craig

CRAIG David 1932-2021 Scholar, writer and poet. Died peacefully at home on 2nd November surrounded by family. Dear companion, friend and beloved husband to Anne. Father to Marian, Peter, Donald and Neil. Grandfather and stepfather. Funeral 17th November, 12 o'clock, at Dalton Woodland Burial Ground, Dalton Hall, Burton in Kendal.

David's obituary can be read at:

28 April 2022

Time Out of Mind

Not Dark Yet.....

Shadows are fallin' and I've been here all day
It's too hot to sleep and time is runnin' away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal
There's not even room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writin' what was in her mind
I just don't see why I should even care
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there

Partygate: A timeline of the lockdown gatherings

BBC, April 19 2022


The government has faced intense pressure over gatherings held in and around Downing Street during Covid lockdowns. Senior civil servant Sue Gray has said that many of them “should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did.” Here is what we know about them and the restrictions in place at the time:


15 May 2020


A photo from May 2020 showed the prime minister and his staff with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard in the Downing Street garden. When asked about it, Boris Johnson said, those people were at work talking about work.

The rules:


Legal restrictions at the time said you could not leave your house without a reasonable excuse and government guidance was that you could meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor setting while exercising.


This event is not being investigated by the police.

My diary:

Went over to Studham, parked by the church, walked across fields and then on Icknield Way skirting Whipsnade.  


20 May 2020


About 100 people were invited by email to socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening. Witnesses told the BBC the PM and his wife were among about 30 people who attended.

Boris Johnson apologised to MPs for attending the event, saying he spent 25 minutes thanking staff, before returning to his office.


This event is being investigated by the police.

My diary:

Two short walks (total 3 miles) today - first at St Albans where Amanda tried all the cathedral doors again, and then Nomansland, where they have reopened the National Trust car park.  My right knee very painful today.  Home-made pizza  in evening; Amanda's hair wash, then final two episodes of The Sopranos.


18 June 2020


A gathering took place in the Cabinet Office to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary.

This event is being investigated by the police.


We know at least one fine has been issued after the government's former head of ethics admitted receiving one and apologised for attending the event.

My diary:

A wet morning! But we drove to Wheathampstead and walked along the Lea to Water End and then back via the Ayot Greenway.  Not too bad! (4.8m).  Carer Sue came with Jen who may stand in for Sue next week.  I went to post and to allotment.  Amanda had gone back to bed but I got her up and she walked with Sue and Jen.


19 June 2020


On Boris Johnson’s birthday, up to 30 people gathered in the Cabinet Room at No 10 to present the prime minister with a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday, according to a report by ITV News.


No 10 said staff had gathered briefly to wish the prime minister a happy birthday, adding that he had been there for less than 10 minutes.


The rules:


Restrictions at the time banned most indoor gatherings involving more than two people.

This event is being investigated by the police.


We know at least three attendees have received fines from the police, with the PM, his wife Carrie Symonds and Chancellor Rishi Sunak all confirming they have paid fixed penalty notices.

My diary:

Grey morning, spitting a bit.  Drove to Ayres End and walked round Heartwood (3.7m); very green and grey and quiet, apart from the dog walkers.  Sue came pm - A in bed but I got her up and she had a nice walk.  I went to allotment.


13 November 2020


Sue Gray’s report said two gatherings took place in Downing Street on this date: one to mark the departure of a special adviser and one in the Downing Street flat.


According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, the gathering in the flat where Mr Johnson and his wife live was to celebrate the departure of Dominic Cummings, the PM's former senior adviser. A spokesman for Mrs Johnson denies the party took place.


The rules:


Eight days earlier Boris Johnson had announced a new lockdown in England. Indoor gatherings with other households were banned, unless they were for work purposes.


These events are being investigated by the police.

My diary:

Drove to Nomansland and walked up to Wheathampstead, across to Coleman Green and back via Heartwood (4.2m).  Raining to start but cleared and good colours.  Jen came and took A out and I rode my bike to Nomansland and then up to Beech Hyde Lane and back via Nomansland (8m).


27 November 2020


A leaving event was held for No 10 aide, Cleo Watson, where people were drinking, and Mr Johnson made a speech, according to sources.


This event is not being investigated by the police.

My diary:

Drove to Nomansland and walked through Heartwood to Hammonds Farm and back.  Hard frost and thick mist - very beautiful (4.1m).  Jen came for the last time and walked Amanda, while I rode my bike to Childwickbury Goats and back.


10 December 2020

The Department for Education has confirmed it had an office gathering to thank staff for their work during the pandemic. It says drinks and snacks were brought by those who attended and no outside guests or support staff were invited.


The rules:


Eight days earlier, London had been placed in restrictions which banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless reasonably necessary for work purposes.

This event is not being investigated by the police.

My diary:

Drove to Wheathampstead Cricket ground; walked up and across to Beech Hyde and Cromer Hyde and back via Heartwood.  Grey but quiet and pleasant (3.8m).  Then to pick up Kinder Brioss etc from Buongiorno Italia (St Albans).  Sue came and I rode to Childwickbury Goats.  FaceTimed Ben.


14 December 2020


The Conservative Party has admitted that an unauthorised gathering took place at its HQ in Westminster. It was held by the team of the party's London-mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, who has since stepped down as chair of the London Assembly police and crime committee.

In December, police said they would be contacting two people who attended the party.


This event was not included in Sue Gray's report.

My diary:

Drove to Nomansland and walked through new Heartwood and then back over Heartwood to Nomansland.  Great sky but very wet underfoot (4m).  Eva here for Amanda.


16 December 2020


The Department for Transport has apologised after confirming reports of a party in its offices, calling it inappropriate and an error of judgment by staff.


This event was not included in Sue Gray's report.

My diary:

Drove to Redbourn and walked via Nicholls Farm to the path above Trowley Bottom.  Very muddy and quite windy but not rainy. (4.5m).  Very wet and dark - Sue came for A but didn't go out.


17 December 2020


A leaving party was held at the Cabinet Office for the outgoing head of the civil service Covid taskforce - the team responsible for drawing up coronavirus restrictions.


Kate Josephs, now chief executive of Sheffield City Council, apologised for the event, saying she was truly sorry that I did this and for the anger that people will feel as a result.


A second gathering was held in the Cabinet Office to hold an online Christmas quiz for the Cabinet Secretary’s private office.


A third gathering was held in No 10 Downing Street to mark the departure of a No 10 official.


These events are being investigated by the police.

My diary:

Drove to Startops End and walked round the reservoir and along the canal.  Bright morning but still very wet underfoot (3.3m). Did not see much.  Sue took A out for a good walk pm while I rode to Childwickbury Goats. FaceTimed Ben.


18 December 2020

Downing Street originally denied a report by the Daily Mirror that a party took place in Downing Street. However, a video obtained by ITV News showed the prime minister's then-press secretary Allegra Stratton, joking about reports of an event, saying: This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced.


This event is being investigated by the police.

My diary:

Very grisly morning - drove to the Bridgewater Arms and a had a pleasant but muddy walk round the Ashridge Golf Course (3.2m).  Very wet and grisly in the afternoon and not feeling great.



Well, I've been to London and I been to gay Paris
I've followed the river and I got to the sea
I've been down on the bottom of the world full of lies
I ain't lookin' for nothin' in anyone's eyes
Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there

I was born here and I'll die here against my will
I know it looks like I'm movin' but I'm standin' still
Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don't even hear the murmur of a prayer
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there

Not Dark Yet

Bob Dylan

Time Out of Mind


Yeah, I bent the rules a little - I may have driven a mile or two more from my home than recommended;  I may have gone out twice a day when the rules prescribed only once.  


Perhaps I will get a fine?

But, with the exception of our paid and licensed carers who visited to help look after Amanda, we saw NO ONE during the lock down periods.

Once a week I would stand on my doorstep, at 8.00pm on Thursdays, and clap the NHS, despite an awkward feeling that this wasn't really helpful and that it was somehow condoning the extraordinary wastefulness and probable cronyism of the ruling party.....

The above is a very simple list of dates when the Party Monster was having a happy time and we (Amanda and I) were eking out our miserable existences in a world where our only hope was that we could go somewhere for a three mile walk each day.  



With thanks to the BBC