Tuesday, 27 September 2016


Tattoos. Mmmm.  This hoary old subject came up again over the weekend when having a discussion with my friend Simon. Simon sports an Ironman tattoo. No, not this one:

It's the M Dot tattoo he has, like this:

Although his dot has a white cross within it. I'm not sure what the white cross signifies though, unless it's a personal modification. To earn it you have to have swam 2.4 miles, you have to have then cycled 112 miles and then run a further 26.2 miles. Simon has certainly earned the right (probably several times over), as has an ex policeman friend who lives further up in the village. When you think about it, it's a corporate brand. Not sure whether people ever fake them, but I guess seeing one on a 20 stone couch potato is a bit of a give away. They're more likely to have a tattoo comprising a couple of golden arches.

I too have a tattoo. It appeared miraculously one morning following an evening of extremely heavy drinking on a ship in Tilbury docks a couple of days before my 1st wedding. I remember clearly what happened until about 9pm, but thereafter is a complete blank. Imagine my surprise in seeing a miraculous sailing ship in full sail on my upper right arm the next morning!

I don't like tattoos and wish I'd been sufficiently compos mentis to have avoided getting mine. I've said before that they're OK when working in a bar or in some creative industries, but certainly not in a sales situation if they're immediately visible. A salesman lives or dies by the customer reaction, and you won't get much sympathy from a customer by telling him he should change his or her antiquated attitude.

You don't see too many surgeons emblazoned with tattoos, unless they're possibly a Polynesian. Similarly not many bank managers or lawyers wear tribal art. In my youth tattoos were worn by sailors, ladies of the night and ex cons; people who were a bit edgy and subversive. They were an expression of individualism; however, when 80% of your mates have one the individualism thing disappears and becomes fashion, but a permanent fashion statement is an oxymoron. Now-a-days they're considered so mainstream.as to be positively pedestrian. You're more likely to be edgy and individual if you have reached the age of 25 without succumbing to a fashionable tattoo!

I've never understood the palid Brit sporting tribal tattoos from Polynesia or Japan. It just isn't culturally valid. Painting your head with woad and having crude animal tattoos hammered into your skin with a pointed bone is more in keeping with British tribal art from pre-Roman times, when it was last practised.

It's a generational thing; however, it won't be that long before we have hordes of pensioners covered in faded and unrecognisable tattoos. Doubtless they'll regret it at that stage and a massive business opportunity will arise for tattoo removal.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Redeveloped Ice Cream

Overheard in The Old Sawmill in Berrynarbour:

Chairman: "Devon is filled with people from the Midlands."

Simon: "Yes, I heard quite a few northern accents."

Chairman: "Birmingham - northern?"

Simon: "North of the M4 is northern to me."

Ever noticed how eating emporia in different parts of the country promote their locally made ice creams? There's Callesticks in Cornwall and Otter Valley in Devon, for example. Our own local brand is Marshfields. The thing is I've yet to discern any difference in taste between these locally made ice creams - they all taste exactly the same so me.

Spent the weekend with some friends in our usual haunt of Lee Bay in North Devon. There's a 1920s era, derelict hotel there which has the usual story behind it:
  1. Developer gets in quick and buys it, intending to demolish it and turn the site into luxury houses for rich people.
  2. Locals up in arms as new houses (which would probably end up as 2nd homes) would destroy the ethos of the village. They would prefer it renovated into either an hotel, or apartments with a bit of affordable housing.
  3. Developer hangs on the the property for over a decade, allowing it to fall into such a state that they maintain it can no longer be economically renovated.
  4. Local council left with no choice but to allow it to be demolished.
It's a real shame. Here's what the old place looks like now:

Very Poirot or Agatha Christie. This is what they want to build in its place:

While a renovated hotel would provide permanent local jobs, the proposed development would add relatively little to the local economy and simply not fit in with the rest of the architecture in the village. It's basically architectural and cultural vandalism.

Our pool car (as we call it) broke down on the M5 returning home and we had to be rescued by the RAC. The first time in my life I've ever broken down on the motorway and not been able to repair the car myself. We were very lucky, as power just evaporated while in the overtaking lane. Only just managed to encourage the car to cross the lanes (with heavy traffic) and come to rest on the hard shoulder. The RAC engineer diagnosed a faulty crank shaft injection sensor, but I suspected an electrical short, as while we were being towed to a garage I noticed the dashboard instruments all died whenever the indicators were put on. We shall see today. A faulty crankshaft sensor means scrapping the car, as it's only worth a couple of hundred quid.

There were some huge blackberries where we came to rest, although God alone knows what noxious substances being alongside the M5 had covered them in.

We were only 4 hours late in getting home.

Sunday, 25 September 2016


Overheard in the bathroom - the Chairman is about to swill his mouth with fluoride mouthwash, as advised by his dentist in a forlorn attempt to retain the last few rotting tombstones in his mouth:

Chairman: "These bloody childproof tops are the bane of my life."

Hay: "Mmmmm..."

Chairman: "It's not what you think - I don't have my glasses on and can't see where to press on the cap to release it."

Hay: "A likely story..."

Hay was given the wedding present of a book book by (surprisingly) her book club. It's called The Good Housewife Encyclopedia, last published 1963. Here's an excerpt (click to enlarge):

It's little wonder there were so few divorces in the 50s and 60s...

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Carbon Fibre & Bamboo Bike

Olly, one of the engineers who rent the first  cabin, has been doing an inordinate amount of overtime, even coming round at weekends to work, or so I thought. He's a keen cyclist, travelling on his bilke to our place on a daily basis from his home in Bristol. 

It transpired he was building himself a lightweight racing bike from bamboo and carbon fibre, and very nice it is too. It's called Ruby.

I still think he should have attempted a seat and wheels from bamboo too...

Friday, 23 September 2016



Hay: "Having been married 3 times, who is your favourite wife?"

Chairman: "Always the next  one."

When I first started shopping for food in the early 70s, rump was more expensive than, and preferable to, sirloin.  At some point chefs started promoting sirloin, saying the fat content produced a better taste, despite the thick layer of gristly fat that's paid for and yet left on every plate of sirloin steak eaten. As a consequence of promotion, sirloin rose in cost and is now more expensive than rump.

If the fat on a sirloin makes it so tasty, why is fillet steak or tenderloin considered the best, and most expensive  cut, and yet its fat content is almost zero?

Nothing to do with taste and everything to do with the law of supply and demand, as evidenced by the price of skirt steak (aka butcher's steak, hangar steak or onglet) starting to rise now that people are becoming more aware of its potential as a much more tasty and cheaper alternative to either rump or sirloin.

Whenever we have steak I always buy skirt (£9 or £10 per kilo), frying it for about 4 minutes each side (depending on thickness) and then cutting it into slices across the grain due to it being slightly tougher than standard steak. Due to it coming from nearer the guts, it has a much more meaty (almost gamey) taste which is far superior to that of rump or sirloin - in my opinion.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Speedy Boarding Cabin Update

A quick update on the 2nd cabin:

I wish we could connect it to our house for electricity, but it would put too much load on the house and so a separate supply has been ordered. The exterior should be finished very shortly and then work will begin on the interior. Hopeful for an end of October or early November finish.

Was in Glasgow yesterday for a business meeting - went Easyjet. Speedy Boarding - you get on the bus first and get told to sit at the back, but when you get to the plane they open the front doors first!

Green tea - what's the point? Might as well pour hot water on some privet hedge clippings.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Book Club Rock God

Oveheard in the living room:

Hay (from upstairs): "What's the name of the book on the screen of my phone?"

Chairman (frying the chips for dinner): "Just a minute...... 'Narrative Of A Child Analysis: The Conduct of the Psycho-Analysis of Children as Seen in the Treatment of a Ten Year Old Boy'."

Chairman goes back to frying his chips.

Hay, 2 minutes later: "What was it again?"

Chairman: "Oh, for God's sake........ 'Narrative Of A Child Analysis: The Conduct of the Psycho-Analysis of Children as Seen in the Treatment of a Ten Year Old Boy'."

Chairman goes back to frying his chips - again.

Hay, a minute later: "Who's the author?"

Chairman: Expletive.....

Was reading about Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. How many women do you think marry a rock god and think it'll be all roses, a cottage in the country and 2.5 kids from then on? Marrying a rock god isn't exactly a recipe for domestic bliss, although a select few have managed to pull through.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Alf Tupper

GB's success at the Olympics and Paralympics has been put down to funding. What happened to the spirit of Alf Tupper? He didn't need loads of money being thrown at him, just a good fish and chip supper....

If Olympic success is all down to money, what chance do poorer nations have?

Monday, 19 September 2016

Cheyenne Crocosmia

In a moment of ennui I was watching the 1971 film, Yuma, starring Clint Walker, who made his name in the 1960s cowboy series Cheyenne, which I watched avidly on the TV as a kid. I was rather surprised to find out he's still alive aged 89.

I just love the riotous display of crocosmia flowers in the late summer and early autumn. I have some 200 corms planted around the house and wanted to increase the number of plants by using the seeds.

Read up about it and you're told to plant them in some expensive soil mixture that costs an arm and a leg in a greenhouse and carefully prick them out, etc. Yet simultaneously you're told that they can quickly become a pest in the countryside because they readily self-seed. So if they are so prolific in the wild, why do you need to buy all manner of composts and tend the seeds with loving care in a garden? Just doesn't make sense.

I collected the seed pods from my crop, put them in the warm engine room and left them to dry out for a couple of weeks. This has given me several handfuls of seeds which I will sow around the perimeter of the garden this week. Let's see what happens next year.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Lidl Army Maneuvers

Alerting all men - next Thursday is Lidl pneumatic tool day!

Now there has to be something for every man in this little cornucopia...

You couldn't make it up! The EU announces a plan to create a European Army and Brexiteers immediately get on their high horses saying we could never place out troops under the command of 28 nations and should stand alone - the Dunkirk spirit, and all that (Dunkirk was one of those uniquely British quirks of treating a resounding defeat as a victory). The very next day  a senior general declares the British Army unfit for purpose

The American Army is a federal army, the Soviet Army was a federal army, NATO is a federal army - any military alliance (which is usually a necessity in war, if not the very cause of it in the first place) is a federal alliance. Virtually every international war we've ever fought in since the Middle Ages has been fought with an army comprising allied forces. Isolationist Brixiteers just can't get their heads around alliances.