Poor Man

“I’ve been speaking with your Health Secretary. He says things are getting better. Poor man.” So said the Queen, dressed demurely in a mauve frock, when, last Tuesday, after fifteen months, she met in person her current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. With the cameras rolling and clicking Johnson looked the unruly but chuffed school boy he is, standing with hands clasped behind him, before the Queen’s constant good manners.

“Yes, Yes.” The Prime Minister assures the Queen and that is all we see of that moment. 

Queen Elizabeth II greets Prime Minister Boris Johnson at an audience at Buckingham Palace, London, the Queen’s first in-person weekly audience with the Prime Minister since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture date: Wednesday June 23, 2021.

Until later in the week The Sun Newspaper hits the stands. There is Matty Hancock, Health Minister, clutching aide Gina Coladangelo in a clinch-hold on the front page, with the headline. “Face, Hands, Cock no distance” In the little-known dangers of University life, Matt and Gina first met at the Oxford University radio station. By Saturday evening, Hancock had resigned and Sajid Javid, previously chucked out as the Chancellor has been brought in as Minister of Health. A Cabinet reshuffle is not an empty phrase. Javid is a solid Tory man, called by some the First Son of Margaret Thatcher, and he will have to come up to speed quickly in this Health crisis brought about by this government.

Hello Javid

On his first day in office he said ‘Yes’ to every question put to him. Sometimes adding the unnerving, ‘Absolutely’. Back to hypocritical, humbled-for-the-moment Hancock, who made a public apology for ‘breaking the rules on social distancing’ and says he will continue to serve his country from the back benches. After lying to our Queen, ‘Things are getting better’ and taking his eyes from ‘working around the clock’. Opinions from the dustman to the politician run between – ‘long may he rot there’, to ‘how dare he show his face in Westminster’. His constituency of West Suffolk is none too pleased with their minister’s behavior and if not exactly cries, there are certainly mutterings of “Off with his head.” Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts was ahead of her time. Even with their budgetary caution, the BBC has added their voice to the clamor from Labour and opposition government parties with outcries of ‘shame’, Johnson should have fired Hancock. Johnson knows as well as any man, that when the little brain takes over there is not a lot of logic going on.

Anglican church memorial to British officers in the Afghan war. 1866

But wait – stuffed behind a bus stop in Kent – someone – who was that – happens to find a bundle of soggy classified documents from the Minister of Defence. Information on the HMS Defender trying out a quick sail through the Black Sea checking on Russia’s response to edging a wee bit close to the Ukraine and Crimea was laid out in those soggy pages. Russia made their position clear with a quick response. This is a shell game over the waters and one can only hope that the fish have something to say about it. As NATO prepares to leave Afghanistan to its fate, Britain is thinking it might move in – again. While visiting India in 2004 we stopped at an old Anglican church. Along the nave, beside each pew, was a scabbard in which the British officers should place their swords. A memorial Cross stood outside to commemorate British officers who had died in the Afghan War – of 1865.

Following last week’s closure of the Apple Daily Newspaper in Hong Kong a seventh senior editor, Fung Wai-kong, was arrested as he prepared to leave Hong Kong for the United Kingdom. Now another newspaper, Stand News, has removed all their past published Opinion pieces. The Chinese Government’s net is tightening its draw string.  

Meanwhile Alexander Lukashenko responded to the Western worlds imposed sanctions by sending plane-loads of Iraqi refugees to be unloaded in Lithuania while moving Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega from jail into house arrest. But this is no picnic or sign of safety for Roman, Sofia or any of the young people in Belarus, calling for a more democratic government. The IT industry that was booming in Minsk is disintegrating in the sewer of government impositions. Those young IT engineers that can, are leaving for the neighboring Ukraine.  

Angela Merkel is lobbying the European Union to adopt Germany’s ruling that everyone coming from Britain to Germany go into quarantine. She is to visit with Boris Johnson in England this week and then onto the US before she leaves office in the autumn. She may be being very sensible and cautious, but so far the rest of Europe is not going along with her idea. 

In this little island we are dealing with the crater-hole of one Minister falling on his sword and another picking it up out of the gutter. On Monday Chris Whittey, England’s chief medical officer, went to St. Jame’s Park for a little sit and think and was set upon by two men, angry, frustrated and feeling helpless in this continued uncertainty. Police were called to investigate, but will get no further than form filling.

Guillen Nieto with the Abdala Vaccine

But on another Island, Cuba, there is news that lifts the spirits with the development of their own Covid vaccine. Named Abdala – as a latin country would –  from a poem by José Martí. It has so far proved 92% effective and thus is on par with BioNTech, Pfizer and Moderna. There is no attacking scientists or health workers in Cuba where political Isolation from the US embargo, their reluctance to take vaccines from China or Russia has kept the country poor and yet rich in its independence and humanity with a health system to be proud of.

This has been A letter from A. Broad

Written and read for you by Muriel Murch

First Aired on Swimming Upstream KWMR.org

Web support by murchstudio.com

20,000,000 and counting

Recorded and Knit together by WSM

…is a lot of people given their first dose of the Covid vaccine. This week the rollout of vaccinations begins for those between 64-60 years old. Cases of COVID infections in the UK are down 40% and – for the moment – England can be hopeful. Last week The Queen joined health workers from around the UK on a Zoom conference call, talking of how well the program is going and how important it is. The Queen added that her vaccination “Didn’t hurt at all” and encouraged those who were nervous about having a vaccination “to think of others and protect them by having the vaccination.” At 94 she remains in lockdown in Windsor Castle while Prince Philip, her 99-year-old husband, is transferred from King Edward Vth hospital to St. Batholomew’s and there are other family concerns on her mind. She is not immune from the extra burdens that this time brings. In her own isolation from family and work, she shares the worries which we all carry with the sense that the world is closing in on us. For some people, this time brings issues of weight gain, but in The Queen I see weight loss and the concerns of aging for both her and Prince Philip are on my mind.

Her Majesty The Queen urges people to get the vaccination

Stacy Abrams was a bright light when she zoomed into Andrew Marr’s Sunday show. Smart, polite, and clear with her message of upholding the democratic voting process in North America. She is a strong intelligent woman and her interview was a source of hope of sanity in the United States. She has me wondering, almost wishing, that it will be the women of color who might save the U.S. and even humanity.

Stacey Abrams

So many nations are caught in struggles for national power and control while others reach for a form of democracy. The United Arab Emirates is not of the latter. Last week, footage from a sequestered phone-camera was released taken by Princess Latifa locked in the bathroom of her villa/jail as she called out for help. Princess Latifa has accused her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the UAE, of holding her hostage in Dubai since she tried to flee the city in 2018. The statements from  Dubai say “she is safe in the loving care of her family.” But no pictures of her are forthcoming.

And in other countries, the clenched iron fist of authoritarian rule is being met with continued resistance, and the continued resistance is being countered by fists squeezing on the triggers of guns and power. 18 protesters were killed in Myanmar this weekend. Aung San Suu Kyi has been brought to court, via video link and though purported to be in good health, her lawyer was forbidden to see her – and again, no pictures of her are forthcoming.

The news from Hong Kong where protests continue is of 47 public officials who have not sworn the new oath of loyalty to Beijing, China, and Communism and who were put on trial. The newly introduced oath of loyalty aims to cull anyone who seeks to maintain or improve democracy in Hong Kong from holding public office. They would be banned from running in elections for the next five years.

It is a worn phrase – ‘while protests continue’ – and yet protests do continue wherever they are needed as democratic challenges and activists are suppressed, along with the journalists who report them. 

A Belarus court has jailed two TV journalists of Poland-based Belsat TV for two years on charges of fomenting protests while filming a rally against the country’s leader. James Shotter and Max Seddon wrote for the Financial Times reporting on the Belarusian activists who have slipped across borders, to Lithuania, and Poland. Nexta, founded by a prolific blogger, Stsiapan Putsila is run by a small young and savvy group of activists. Posting quick-fire information and images on Telegram, it has become the main source of news for what is happening and where to be for the Belarusian public.

Another story, a single paragraph, maybe of deeper relevance than first observed, is of Mikita Mikado, the Silicon Valley founder of a Belarusian software firm who launched a crowdfunded platform to help security officers pay the heavy fines needed to leave the force and re-train for other work. Hundreds from the Belarusian police-force have reached out to him, sick of the violence they are asked to perpetuate. Lukashenko is beginning to ramble with his statements while Putin hopes that with Navalny put away he can sit back and watch – for a moment.

How to find comfort or inspiration during these times? Reading helps, those books that one never had time for before. Finally, Middlemarch by George Eliot is by my bedside, and to my amazement, I am enjoying the words, the pace of reading, and the story – in the doses that bedtime reading provides.  But like many others, I return to poetry and found renewal with a program from the Wigmore-at-home series. I settled in to listen and watch a performance by Alice Coote, Christian Blackshaw, and Ralph Fiennes as they wove together the music, letters, and poetry of Tchaikovsky and Pushkin. They gather artists and audience together bringing us solace and strength for this time.

This has been a Letter from A. Broad. 

Written and read for you by Muriel Murch 

First aired on Swimming Upstream – KWMR.org

Web support by murchstudio.com

Old Memories and New Beginnings

Recorded and Knit together by WSM.


The days and dates you remember come from childhood, and the important moments in our personal lives and country’s wellbeing. Where were you the day King George VI died, and Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the days the Kennedy brothers or Martin Luther King were assassinated, the day Elvis died, John Lennon was shot? We remember them all.

And where we were the night of the 2016 election results? I was driving back from San Francisco to the farm. Texts with Walter as I crossed the bridge.
“The numbers do not look good.”
“I’ll pick up supper.”
And pushing a shopping cart through Molly Stone’s as in years gone bye with four hungry children clamoring, all wanting supper. Shopping mindlessly, plucking from the shelves, sushi, crackers and what else? Then, as light receded to dusk and dusk became dark, driving home. The scene was somber. Four men standing in the kitchen and a laptop on the counter. I laid the supper out on the table but nobody moved in on it until the whisky and glasses arrived.

Watching a long evening

We watched the laptop screen almost in silence as the numbers came in. The sushi was gone, the chips too, and the whisky bottle was nearly empty when the farm frog appeared, from some crack, to perch on the kitchen counter. There have always been frogs on the farm and every winter one or two of them come inside, as if they are checking on us, seeing if we are all all right. This night we were grateful.

Farm Frog

But now, this year, when Pennsylvania was called we had a different kind of meltdown. Messy and dangerous as the President can make the next two and half months, there is a path forward and we are exhausted and giddy from the worry and relief, as when a beloved child has just escaped, damaged but not dead, from a serious accident. There is hope and there maybe a world for our grandchildren to repair and thrive in. A text comes through from our neighbors here, ‘’We are celebrating in the parking lot”. And – keeping a social distance – we go to join them. The mixture of at least four nationalities was the beauty of the night as we stayed apart, rejoicing in relief. The papers’ weekend headlines, where, in one phrase or another, World leaders messages; ‘Welcome back America.” But it was only when the Scottish Ayrshire Daily News announced the headline:

“South Ayrshire Golf club owner loses 2020 presidential election.”

Scottish Ayrshire Daily News

That we breathed a little more deeply.

And suddenly the weather turned into glorious autumn days. Days that call you to be outside, remembering long ago gallops through woodlands, but now grateful for a bike ride in the park or a stroll by the river. The sunshine called everyone and we avoided the village where small clusters of people are lingering outside their favorite coffee shops. They hover on the pavements where the heaters are still on under little covers, and where the tables have been taken away but will return one day.

This weekend the United Kingdom honored Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday closest to Armistice Day, November the 11th. Though COVID is having its way with us all, the Queen had her own agenda to attend to before lock-down on Thursday. Taking matters into her own hands, she left Windsor Castle for the city. The Court Circular for November the 4th reads: “The Queen this morning commemorated the Centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, London, and was received at the Great West Door by the Dean of Westminster (the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle).” Her equerry Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, of the Household Cavalry was by her side. The Queen honours and loves her country’s soldiers and must carry her own youthful memories of the day and night the people of London rejoiced.

HM The Queen watches from The Balcony at Whitehall. Thank you Getty Images

But on Sunday all was in order for the very scaled-down Service of Remembrance and laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph. With COVID in the air the 100,000 spectators who usually attend the event were kept away. The Military precision of decades flowed on with everything mapped out for the march-past service and laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph. The event began with The Royal family, somewhat depleted of male members, and was followed by representatives of the armed and civilian services, representatives of the Commonwealth, and a long string of past Prime Ministers and present-day politicians, before the representatives from all services and wars marched past. David Dimbleby, at age 82, gave the commentary with a voice that has finally overtaken his father Richard’s in our memory. The solemnity of the occasion was only disturbed, for me, at the appearance of so many past Prime Ministers with their wreaths. How many of them who had sent men and women to war on their watch were able to pray for the souls of the departed?

Monday – and the papers are buzzing and twitching as world leaders continue to welcome Joe Biden on board with as much joy as relief. But Boris Johnson must choose his words carefully. “We have more in common than that divides us”. Joe Biden is loyal to his country, to past President Obama, and carries a deep sense of moral honesty. Before the US election, like many British politicians of this time, he called on the Prime Minister to honour the Good Friday Agreement. Joe Biden is not known particularly for ‘Biden’ his tongue. And this may be a moment when we can be grateful for his outspoken Irish Heritage, for, suddenly, there are talks happening again between the European Union and the UK Government. Fish and Ireland are back on the Agenda.

This has been A Letter from A. Broad. Written and read for you by Muriel Murch. First aired on Swimming Upstream – KWMR.org. Web support by murchstudio.com