Tuesday 4 March 1997

I slipped into Godalming on Friday for a number of errands, not least a look at the Saturday auction lots. There were a couple of things I was interested. I returned on Saturday to bid, but the auction was running far slower than scheduled and I arrived over an hour too early, and couldn’t be bothered to wait. I also made an appointment to have my eyes tested - this I kept on Monday and I will pick up two pairs of glasses (for the price of one) this coming Friday. The optician told me my eyes were fine and that they might not deteriorate further. But he didn’t believe me when I told him they had definitely got worse in the last five years, he thought I might just have noticed the flaws for the first time.

For once, on Friday, the barber was not too busy and I managed to get seen to within a few minutes of entering his shop - usually there are several people queuing and two of them working away with the clippers and scissors. On this occasion only one of them, the quieter and more effeminate of the two (call him Ron because I don’t know his name) was working - strange for a Friday I thought. I made the mistake of commenting on the missing barber (call him Ken), and was treated to a monologue which lasted the whole length of my cut, though that wasn’t that long in fact since he fair whips through my hair with the clippers. The story he had to tell was a sad one.

After seven weeks of illness, Ken has just been diagnosed with a cancerous tumour and may not be able to work for months. Ron cannot go on without another barber and so he has been interviewing for a replacement. Meanwhile, Ron’s been over to visit Ken’s wife (Ken still being in hospital). Finding her out, he left Ken’s tools by the back door. Ken, of course, has no income, and Ron has effectively sacked him for being ill. He feels ever so guilty about this, and keeps running over the story to try and massage it into an acceptable shape. I had thought Ron and Ken were old pals but, apparently, Ken only joined Ron 18 months ago. Before then, Ron and Albert were the barbers for 25 years. The shop still belongs to Albert, but Ron is hoping to get the lease soon, and become his own boss.

I spent the entire weekend in the garden, digging mostly, preparing the vegetable beds. I bought and planted a gooseberry next to the blackcurrants after reading that raspberries don’t like waterlogged ground in the winter. I pruned the blackcurrants and apples. I set a range of seeds for germination: tomatoes, peppers, gourds, and a number of seeds that I received from the RHS, from their annual surplus collection. I also tidied up the pots a bit, removing those cuttings that were killed over the winter. Adam prepared a small plot on which he can grow a few things. I’ve set him up to keep a diary of what he does, and that should help him achieve his Cubs gardening badge.

Friday 7 March 1997

A messy day today in the office. I couldn’t get down to any consistent work. I don’t know why really. I had to go to Godalming, I had to go to the paper shop, I had to pick Adam up from school, the phone rang lots for various little reasons, etc.

I was in Brussels the last couple of days, hobbling around a bit, since my knee isn’t properly fit yet. I had a couple of interviews in DGXVII, one on Synergy and one with Patrick on the gas negotiations. The most important news for the newsletter, though, is that from the Environment Council. The Dutch Presidency managed to win agreement on a 15% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2010, with a burden sharing accord among Member States for 10% of that target. Quite an achievement really. There has been criticism of the missing 5% i.e. how can the EU go to Kyoto professing a 15% reduction target and asking everyone else to sign up to the same, when in reality it has only agreed how 10% of it will be achieved. I don’t agree with that criticism. I think the example of the 2000 target of CO2 stabilisation shows that it is impossible to predict too far in advance what will happen to the emissions and therefore it is perfectly acceptable, indeed desirable, to present a framework for working out a part of the responsibility to start with, and to come back to the problem further down the line. Almost all the Member States have reduced their obligations down from the levels that the Dutch had calculated/proposed. The UK, for example, has agreed to reduce emissions by 10% by 2010, but the Dutch had calculated that a 20% reduction would be a more appropriate burden for the UK. Gummer, I noticed, was running around boasting about his achievement.

I did not manage to do much for transport, largely because there’s a Transport Council next week and it seemed counter-productive to start calling the government reps beforehand. I can focus on that next Wednesday and Thursday. I did, though, manage to pick up a number of lesser Commission proposals to help bulk out the pages.

My trips both to and from Brussels were relatively painless. I finally finished ‘Kenilworth’, it was a long, and at times less than thrilling read, but there’s no doubt what an accomplished writer Scott was. I was disappointed that Amy Robsart died in the end, but I suppose if she had lived, Scott wouldn’t have known what to do with her; she couldn’t, after all, return to Tressillian while still married to the Earl of Leicester, and the Earl couldn’t die because he didn’t in reality, and Scott seems to have woven his fiction around historical facts.

A discussion with my accountant this afternoon. Fortunately, I had read the latest edition of ‘Which’ with its annual tax return review. I discover from that, in fact, that in future I will no longer need to submit both company accounts and an annual tax return; the two things will become one. That’s not to say I don’t need to keep records, rather that I must now adjust my records to match the needs of the Inland Revenue’s new self assessment forms. From the ‘Which’ report I gather that they sound somewhat complicated but, once up and running, they might reduce my accountant costs. Hence the need to make sure I lead my accountant towards what’s best for me, not for her.

Sunday 9 March 1997

A splendidly warm and wind-free day - it could almost have been a summer’s day. I spent the morning in the office and then satisfied myself that I was sufficiently up to speed on EC Inform-Energy 47 not to have to work on it this afternoon. It’s a slack issue and may only end up as 16 pages. I looked back over the last couple of years and couldn’t find a single example of a 16-page issue.

I spent most of the afternoon in the garden. There is just so much to do. The crocuses have been out for a while but the first daffs came out this weekend because of the warm weather. The winter jasmine, which sits by the corner nearest the front door, has finished flowering, the poor shrub is not very healthy; and the forsythia is blooming. The flowering current looks close to opening its bloom, and all the bluebell leaves are coming up, but there’s no sign of buds yet.

I continued digging and replanting plants from the side bed, where I just heeled them in prior to the landscaping work; and I continued preparing the beds for further planting. I will need to get the early potatoes, sweet peas and a few other things in soon, probably before the end of the month. I would have planted the potatoes today, it was ideal conditions, but they haven’t chitted properly yet.

April 1997

Paul K Lyons


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