James Miller


Monday, December 31, 2007

Biting Dogs


I understood from Royal Mail statistics, that postman were most likely to get bitten by dachshunds.

The trouble is that the media is always looking for the most newsworthy story and this often conflicts with the statistics. For instance about five hundred die in fires in their own homes every year. How many get reported? But every Rottweiler bite gets detailed minutely.

Friday, December 28, 2007



I must admit that of all my behaviour since Celia died, has been my attitude to alcohol. I worried that I might drink for England or to oblivion, but it has not been the case. Well at least yet!

Take yesterday!

I thought perhaps it might be a good idea to buy a few half bottles in Tesco. That way I would not be tempted to open another.

But I couldn't drink the whole half bottle. It was good wine, but it just tasted foul.

Do we have some psychological mechanism that protects us from self-destruction?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Day


I had been dreading Christmas Day in a way, but it went well.

I decided soon after Celia died that I would not go down to Hampshire to see George, Amanda and Immi, but stay here by myself and do something useful. I really didn't think I could face the two hour trip on a day, when the radio is nothing but repeats. I had gone down on Sunday to see them and it is so much better, when there is something like live football on Radio 5.

After presents and breakfast, I walked the dogs and then I had my first phone call of the day from David. That helped, but it almost made me late to pick up the two ladies I was taking to the pensioners Christmas lunch in Bury St. Edmunds.

I enjoyed helping at the lunch, even if I was useless. At least I shall be better if I do it again next year. I probably will.

I sat next to another helper, who had Parkinson's Disease. We talked for a bit and he said how when he was diagnosed, he'd retired and was now busier than ever with various causes. He said he'd seen it as an opportunity, rather than a problem.

That is an admirable attitude.

I had more calls in the afternoon and then I cooked myself a turkey breast joint from Marks and Spencer. It was good, but a bit dry as I don't know how to make gravy and I'd forgotten to buy any cranberry sauce.

Here's a very bad picture of me toasting Celia.

Dinner For One

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Working on Christmas Day


My wife died two weeks ago today. I’m fine and I shall be one of the hosts at a Christmas Dinner for pensioners at lunchtime.

But spare a thought, for many like me, who will be alone on Christmas Day for the first time in many years. After all if there are about a million deaths a year in the UK, that means that a lot will happen just before Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

First-Class Humbug


John Carter, in a letter to The Times, makes an eminently sensible point, but one that is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

I post quite an assortment of books, parcels and letters both in connection with business and with selling things on eBay over the Internet. For the last few months, I have been printing electronic postage from the Royal Mail, either directly onto the envelope or a label. The system works well and so far in the couple of hundred items that I have posted this way, there has not been any problem. I suspect though that as they are in effect fully coded and tracked, that if an item did go astray then it could be located much quicker than with normal postage.

Living in the country, I also find this system a great advantage, as I no longer have to drive three kilometres or so each way to the Post Office. I just make sure it’s all ready by mid-morning and hand it to the post-man.

Developments like this, do set a problem for the Post Office. As more and more services are available over the Internet, such as Vehicle Excise Duty, Television Licences and now high-value postage, the small rural offices are becoming less and less viable.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Carphone Warehouse


Just had a nice letter from Carphone Warehouse this morning cancelling Celia's phone.

They also wrote off the last bill.

That's good.

Friday, December 21, 2007

David Quick


One of the first breaks I had in programming was to write the LCAS system for Bob Wesson of Lloyds Bank as it then was. This was in about 1971 and was a job that came courtesy of Time Sharing Ltd. I always like to think it was a successful system, as it was still being used many years later and I have the letter from Bob to prove it.

At the time, I banked with Barclays. I was also rather broke, as in trying to write Speed, PERT7 and other things, I was a bit short of cash-flow. We couldn't have been that broke, as Celia, Edward, Henry, George and myself had managed to move from a fourth floor walk-up flat with no lift, to one on the eleventh floor of a tower in the Barbican.

Those that I worked with, such as Mike Spicer, suggested that it was time that I moved to a decent bank and that I made an appointment with the manager of the local branch in Finsbury Square.

The manager was David Quick and that meeting led to a lot more than a loan for our first Porsche.

Sadly, David died at the age of 74, a few days before Celia.

He will be sorely missed by everyone and especially his family.

They don't make bank managers like that anymore! That is, if they ever did, as I've never met another like him.

Get the Picture


Celia hated having her photograph taken and Henry, George and Myself searched a lot of holiday snaps to find something suitable for her celebration.

Celia and Imogen

This morning Marion found something better, but it needs to be scanned.

It all illustrates how you should always make sure there are good pictures of you, your partner, spouse, parents and children.

You may never know when you might need them.

The BBC's Insult to Celia


Well not really!

But why the year she dies, does the BBC decide to put the Olympia show-jumping on at a reasonable time in the evening?

She would have enjoyed that.

Just as she would have cheered, when the eighteen-year-old William Whittaker, won the Puissance.

Council Tax


This illustrates the difference between different central and local government departments.

As I now live alone, I get a 25% discount on the Council Tax bill and I have just been informed of this by St. Edmundsbury Borough Council.

Not for this, a great long form which requests all sorts of personal details, birth and death certificates and a signature in blood, but a simple form, that I date in two places and sign.

Winter Fuel Payment


That's just as difficult to claim as the Bereavement Payment.

If I feel let down by the government, how does someone who doesn't know the Internet as well as I do.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bereavement Payment


I seem to get the impression that I might be able to claim some sort of bereavement payment for the loss of Celia.

A few points :-

1. There is a very complicated form to fill in.

2. There is no on-line form.

3. I also need my birth certificate to claim.

So I just wonder how many people give up and don't claim.

Compare this with the Senior Railcard, that I bought a few months ago. They assessed my age using my passport or driving licence number and did it all quickly and efficiently.

Couldn't we have that for the Bereavement Payment?

Or would a simple system mean that it would put quite a few Civil Servants out of a job.

Morning Routine


Today was a typical morning.

I got up about five after a good night's sleep. I just can't face lying there in bed, so I got up immediately and checked my e-mails. There was a nice tribute to Celia from a friend and that uplifted me. I think that there might be a problem for me, when they stop!

But I know that there are plenty of people out there, who can help me get professional help.

I also did the daily spam count and search for fraudulent e-mails. The results of this are publishing in the Making the Most of the Internet blog. The numbers of these never seem to get any better, but at least some of the perpetrators can be used as Aunt Sallies for some of my anger.

I've also taken to taking the dogs for a walk in the dark. We must look a funny sight as we walk through the fields, with me carrying a powerful torch. At least Anna shows up as she is almost white! Although this morning that wasn't much use, as it was so cold and frosty.

She does seem to have learned from the dog training. Or was it me? If I get down on one knee and call her, she usually comes for a cuddle.

I'm off to play tennis this morning. Hitting a few balls hard should help. I hope it does.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

An Up and Down Day


I suppose it is to be expected, but I seem to be living on a bit of a knife edge. Yesterday was a case in point.

I rose early about six and found that Anna had done an impression of a muck-spreader all over the cage I bought for her on Monday. I'd hoped she'd avoid the repeat of the previous night, where she had done it all over the floor of the scullery or dog room, as it is normally known.

I'll be glad when she's clean, as if it's one thing I don't need it's an incontinent dog with the runs.

I got a bit maudling in the morning, as messages of support seemed to dry up from friends. But at least I started to get some of the messages and pictures of support on to her web site. You can see them here. Most are not what I had expected and have moved me tremendously.

I was just about to start cursing, when John phoned and invited me to dinner. I then looked at the days left of this week and decided that it was probably best to put things off until next week. I even thought about having Celia's traditional dinner party in the week after Christmas to impose a certain amount of normality on life. Whether I will is another matter.

John's call had cheered me up and I felt a lot better as I went into Bury to get some new glasses.

At tea-time, I took Anna for her first day of dog training at a puppy class at Ousden. It was good, even if she could have been better behaved.

Then the evening disappeared. I had intended to cook myself a lamb chop, listen to the football and then take the plates back down to the Lidgate Star, that had contained the Spanish omelette for Celia's celebration. But I got distracted by a phone call and so skipped supper and went straight to Lidgate, where I ordered a steak in stilton sauce.

But the best bit was I talked for perhaps an hour to Tony, the landlord and he really cheered me up. Thanks, Tony! But I don't think I'll be taking his slow mail boat to South Africa via Ascencion, St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha. On the other hand I might.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Celia's Celebration


I'm told by all those who attended, that it went well. It is not for me to judge.

I shall be getting some pictures in the next day or so, so I shall post those here or on Celia's web site.

Thanks to Roderick Newton, Gail Ashton, Lindsay Davies, the team from Louise MacKrill, Lyndsey Cooper and others too numerous to mention.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Celia's Flowers


Today is the day that we celebrate Celia.

It's still dark now and I'm clearing some of the mess up. Not that it's too bad, as I'm trying to ditch the habit of a lifetime of being untidy.

These are the flowers for her in the drawing room.

Celia's Flowers

They were arranged by Tolly's of Newmarket.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I've Stopped Drinking


Not touched a drop since Monday! Is this a record?

Trying To Eat Well


Celia would have expected me to try and eat well.

Have I? I think so. I try to follow her standards. I've even taking to washing up the dog bowls more often.

Henry and George left on Tuesday afternoon and I was alone that night. Strangely and unexpectedly, in some ways it was almost therapeutic, as I could have my own thoughts and do everything to my own pace. People have to remember that the longest I've been away from Celia since we met was probably about five days. I've always been good at my own company, but not for more than a day or so. I must get used to it.

Wednesday it was a Salad Nicoise at lunchtime and liver from Waitrose, with potatoes and onions, followed by a posset in the evening. I always find that liver with all that vitamin B12 gives me a lift.

Yesterday, it was a nice piece of steak, with more potatoes and cauliflower. It always surprised me how Celia could cook cauliflower so well, as she didn't eat the stuff. But I managed to cook it well enough. For me at any rate. Again I followed it with the cake, jam and custard.

Today, I tried a stuffed pepper thing from Waitrose at lunchtime. It was fine, but I don't think I cooked it the right way. As we often did in the past on Friday night it was sausages, potatoes and beans. Normally, on Fridays we didn't have a pudding, but tonight I ate one of the possets. I suspect that the other two will have to go in the bin as they are a bit past their sell-by date.

So have I been eating enough?

I think so, as my belt is getting tighter.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Police Pay


The real problem is that the police are so inefficient.

If they were given decent computer and communications systems and the government didn’t keep piling more and more complicated laws on the police, then there would be more crimes solved and Britain would be a much better place.

Then they would be worth more pay.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007



Celia finally succumbed to her cancer at one fifteen this morning.

Yesterday, Henry, our middle son, and myself had lifted her from her bed at home with its beautiful views of the Suffolk countryside and sat her in a comfortable chair. Most of the morning she had chatted with the nurses and doctor from the surgery, those from Macmillan, and family and friends.

Just after lunch, we lifted her back into bed and she fell into a sleep induced by the morphine she was taking.

Except for a one or two brief moments, where she spoke lucidly and calmly, she did not really wake up until she passed away.

It has been a short but difficult illness for her as she has visibly declined day by day and even hour by hour. At the end of September, we’d had the wettest holiday of our lives in Valencia and she’d walked miles in the rain with no ill effects. Six weeks or so later and she could hardly walk up stairs. For the last two weeks even that had been impossible unaided.

But she bore it all with a massive bravery and very few tears.

Now she is gone and we must all carry on without her.

For some it will be harder than others, but then she would not want people to dwell too long on her passing. They must remember all of the good times and handle problems in the same sympathetic and practical way she always did.

I sensed that in some ways, Celia was overwhelmed by all the cards and messages she received and I thank everyone for what they did. She never felt that so many could feel so much for her.

Celia has donated her body to medical science and for this and other reasons there will not be a conventional funeral. Arrangements have not been made as yet and I will advise people in due course.