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Dear Reader

The more observant among you will have noticed that this column has not been updated for some time.  For this I apologise. 

The perfectly valid reason was my wife’s unexpected illness.  Two weeks ago – it seems more like two years – M was taken poorly with severe abdominal pains.  These, as it turned out, required surgery for a twisted upper intestine.  This ordeal was followed by a week in the intensive care unit at Kingston Hospital, and a further week of confinement after that.  She is fortunate that the surgeon decided early on, after expressing concern about her distended belly, to ‘go in and take a look’.

She is now home and on the road to recovery, which we have been warned will be long and winding.

I intend to resume Rants, but if they become intermittent, I know that you will understand that having a sick partner can be terribly involving and, for a writer, most distracting.  Please bear with me.  And I need a little time for recovery myself – not least from having been obliged to fathom the intricate and eccentric mechanisms of a great number of household appliances which hitherto I had mistakenly believed to have been designed as labour-saving devices.     

Meanwhile, in a break from washing, drying and microwaving, I shall take this opportunity to sing the praises of the National Health Service, an institution that seems to come under daily attack in the media, which too often seems to have been cajoled into it by lobbyists from interests in the private media sector. From the moment an ambulance was called to our home to the time of her release yesterday the NHS took care of her expeditiously, efficiently and sympathetically.  Every facet of the care she received has been, in a word, exemplary – so much so that from time to time during her treatment I sometimes momentarily lapsed into thinking that she was under private care.  I shall be writing to tell the Kingston Trust of my grateful admiration.

On the world scene, not much of note seems to have happened in my absence from this space, just plenty more of the same – mainly the Europe debate and the rise and rise of Donald Trump. 

The arguments for and against Britain’s future in the European Union drone on, still shedding, as they have from the beginning, far more sound than light.  Each side accuses the other of doing that very thing, but if reason is the basis for choice, there seems little to choose between either one.  That rather leaves my best hope with the British electorate conforming to a tradition of making the right, meaning sensible, decision on the day.  And you all know what I think that verdict should be  

Across the pond, Trump is now more or less guaranteed the Republican Party nomination – a sad episode in the history of the Grand Old Party, and potentially an even sadder one for the American people.  The only positive I can find in this is that Ted Cruz was forced out of the race.  A choice between a buffoon and a nasty piece or work sounds to me like no choice at all.  I wish I was not quite so close to saying the same thing about Trump versus Clinton.

At this point, I should admit that I was wrong about Trump’s staying power.  Early in the primary season I had confidently expected the voters of Iowa, a state I’d imagined to be largely populated by practical, down-to-earth agricultural folk, to take him down a peg or two, if not down altogether.  Instead they went for him in a big way.  Shame on Iowa, I say. 

And shame on all those Americans who are now jumping on the Trump band-wagon in the belief that his puerile sound-bites might just answer the prayers of a nation disillusioned with its mainstream politicians.  All I can say is that America should be more careful what it prays for.  But then we are talking about a nation in which many a religion takes the form of a thriving mail-order enterprise run by a telegenic, fast-talking huckster, which is exactly what I believe Trump to be. 

That will do from me for now.  I’ll be back shortly ….



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