9 May 2010

Polling StationSo, the nation has spoken and, ignoring all hanging chads, the results are in! No one won! It’s one of those elections where “None of the above” actually came first. Indeed, it might reasonably be argued that everyone lost.

Poor old Gordon certainly lost. Dumped into the thick of it when things began to go pear-shaped for Blair, he had to try and pick up the pieces and, in his particularly charmless manner, failed miserably. Poor old David Cameron, standing against the most unpopular Prime Minister since Thatcher and pushing on an open door still could not persuade two-thirds of the electorate to trust him, leaving him just short of an overall majority. And, poor old Nick Clegg and the Lib-Dems found themselves squeezed between the two major parties once again.

One thing is clear (again) – the “first past the post” electoral system employed in this country is a nonsense but neither of the two larger parties is remotely interested in altering it. The Conservatives gained 36% of the popular vote, Labour 29 and the Lib-Dems 23. Under the present scheme, that translates into 306 seats for the Conservatives, 258 for Labour and a miserly 57 for the Lib Dems. If one does the maths and allocates the seats according to the proportion of the vote they each secured, the Conservatives should have 235 seats (72 fewer than they won), Labour should have 188 seats (70 fewer) and the Lib Dems 149 (92 more seats than they have “won”). As I say, it’s not surprising that no one other than the Lib Dems wants to investigate alternatives; so far Cameron is promising Clegg a “commission” to investigate changes which is quite a way from the sort of price the Lib Dems would like to extract as their reward for supporting the Conservatives in government – a hard sell at the best of times given their very opposing views on Europe, taxation and social justice. It will be fun to watch what happens.

As mentioned in previous dispatches, we had a most enjoyable time with Ching Ryan last weekend. We strolled through the countryside, visited Oxford and ambled through the bluebell woods at Badby. Unfortunately, the cold winter we’ve had meant that the bluebells are about a week later than usual this year and so the display was not as fine as it can be.

Molly in the Bluebells

Bluebells Bluebells

Bluebells Bluebells

We also took advantage of Ching’s visit to make our way up to London on Thursday for an adventure before meeting up with her for dinner. We discovered that the Grand Designs exhibition was on in Docklands so we spent much of the day there. This is, as the name might suggest, a “design” show so there are lots of interesting products in various sections – kitchens, bathrooms, general house building, gardening, furniture, etc. Even though we’re not doing any designing or building in the near future, it’s still good fun to wander around looking at all the gorgeous and glorious stuff.

From there we went back into the centre of town and made our way to Trafalgar Square where we found a particularly comfortable patch of grass just in front of the National Gallery on which to recline in the sunshine for a modest moment or several. Nothing like tromping around an exhibition to tire you out! So, after a brief snooze we spent an hour or so browsing the National Gallery before it was time to meet up with Ching at Wahaca, one of our favourites (if not, indeed, our favourite) place to eat in London. I’ve written about Wahaca before but it does Mexican “street food” which is similar in many ways to tapas in Spain. We shared a mountain of snacks and emerged feeling comfortably bloated (well, I did anyway – the girls were undoubtedly much more restrained than I was).

And, if that wasn’t enough excitement for one year, on Friday evening we had to drag our tired backsides out again, this time for a wine-tasting dinner with friends Dave and Val. They are a couple who have featured in past dispatches – they lived and worked in Paris for many years and now, suitably retired, have returned to the Banbury area. They still go to France frequently and each time Dave comes back laden with a considerable quantity of half-decent wines. From time to time they will organise a wine-tasting meal where Dave will pair several bottles of wine and we indulge ourselves in a bit of blind tasting. He’ll prepare some basic notes about what we should be looking for and it’s good fun to try and taste the differences between very similar wines. Last night we had two white Chinon wines which were strikingly different; one was very young and fruity and another was older and hence smoother and fuller. We also compared red wines from both sides of the river in Bordeaux including a Margaux and a St Emilion (which Mom and Dad will remember from our outing in those environs all those years ago). Good fun in spite of the somewhat thick head the morning after.

And still, our social whirl is not yet finished – we are out to lunch this afternoon with the friends who looked after Molly when we did our west coast/east coast expedition last autumn. It seems the kids want to see Molly again and we got invited to make up the numbers and, of course, to provide transport for Molly. It’s all go!

And finally, finally – let’s wish all our respective Mothers a most marvellously memorable Mother’s Day. I certainly do love mine.

Love to you all,