Friday, 12 February 2016

Trial by Google TV at the Royal Oak

What with all these complex questions - the junior doctors' strike, Trident, whether we should stay in the EU or not - I'd love to see a TV programme where competing arguments are aired in front of a panel of analysts and the various claims are pulled apart for verification. Perhaps the we can make informed decisions. For me, that would be compelling viewing, as I'm sure it would be for many people; much better than these interminable bloody talent shows and soaps.

I was incensed at seeing Google's UK head of operations being asked by the Commons public accounts committee what his salary is. As if it has any relevance to Google's tax affairs! The guy unfortunately got flustered instead of immediately responding; "It's none of your damned business and is totally irrelevant." These parliamentary committees like generating fodder for the Daily Mail. It's government that make tax laws and perhaps it should be the government that's hauled before a parliamentary committee to be held to account for cosy deals and its failure to prevent the routing of sales and profit overseas.

It's about time MPs were paid like the rest of us - they need no qualifications to become an MP and therefore they are unskilled labour; there's no shortage of people wanting to become MPs and therefore their pay should be set by market forces. They should certainly not be paid more than junior doctors from day 1. Perhaps they should receive the same pay as they were getting prior to becoming an MP, with increments for additional responsibility, time served (which gives an indication of voter satisfaction) and out-of-hours work (but weekends are at the normal rate until 7pm, as we want a 7 day a week parliament) - at least their prior pay was earned and a good indicator of their true worth.

On my walks I regularly pass The Royal Oak pub on the High Street in Chipping Sodbury. It opens quite early for breakfast, yet I never fail to see someone in the window having a pint of beer at some unearthly hour. Mind blowing! Probably an MP.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Publicly Incommoded Seniors

Well, we've all been there: you're in a public loo and the paper dispenser is one of those big, round ones where the paper comes out of a hole which is just smaller than your hand; after pulling off the first wodge of paper, the end of the roll disappears up the dispenser hole and you can't reach it; mild panic sets in as you wonder whether you can get to the next cubicle with your trousers round your ankles (and without tripping over) before anyone else comes into the loo...

Saw an advert yesterday for British Seniors. It's a savings plan to ensure your kids don't have to foot your funeral bills. Sorry, that's not my problem to solve - if they want any of what's left after Hay and I have spent it all, then the least my kids can do is to dispose of our corpses.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Gentleman's Not for Switching

What with our Scottish Power 1 year electricity deal coming to an end this month, we decided to have another look at YouSwitch last night. Best deal was sticking with Scottish Power, but a 2 year fixed price deal with no exit fees. Saving = £600 a year on the basis of current usage. That's the equivalent of the cabin being free, plus a little more. Still well below what we're generating in feed-in.

Well worth checking our YouSwitch.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Memories of the Frome

Getting worried:
  1. Walked into Yate in the pouring rain yesterday for what I had down as an 8:40 appointment for a spirometry test. The receptionist said the appointment was in March, not February.
  2. On the way home I bought some lamb and apricot pies and three faggots from Artingstall's the butcher. Called in at a charity shop and promptly left the carrier bag of food in the shop. Realised it when I got home and went back in the car for it - they thought it was a donation.
  3. Got back home again and made myself an espresso to get over the trauma, then left it while I took my coat off and promptly forgot all about it. Found it stone cold half an hour later.
Anyway, took a few shots of the River Frome (normally a placid brook) in full spate on the way back from Yate:

Hay wants to kayak the Frome from its source hereabouts all the way to Tesco, shooting the Waitrose rapids in the process. I think it's just about at the right level for some big-game fishing...

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Deterrent of Democracy

There's an perversity about democracy in the UK; we decry cuts to the NHS and social care funding, yet most can be relied on to vote for lower taxes and connive to get the taxpayer to fund care for their elderly through tax avoidance schemes concerning inheritances and rearranging the ownership of their elderly parents' houses.

Was listening to Any Questions on Radio 4 on Saturday and the issue of the Trident nuclear deterrent came up. The hoary old cliche that a nuclear deterrent is useless against terrorism was trotted out by one member of the panel. Do these people think terrorism is the only form of warfare? Do they think that if Russia gets too big for its boots Putin is going to send terrorist suicide bombers against NATO?

Since the development of the nuclear deterrent the UK has not been directly threatened by a nation state. This may be due to a number of reasons, including the fact we have a nuclear deterrent, although granted I would list this pretty low down on the possible reasons to date. Conventional warfare between countries has not suddenly and miraculously been eliminated and, on the balance of probabilities (although it seems inconceivable at the moment), there will be another conventional war with some nearby nation within the next 50 years or so.

The corollary of not having a nuclear deterrent is to massively increase conventional forces, if one is to have a credible defence strategy at all, thus not renewing Trident has adverse cost implications anyway.

In all probability, Israel would have been wiped off the map already if it didn't have a nuclear deterrent. That said, a deterrent in itself is useless - it has to be combined with a leader who any enemy knows is prepared to use it. Without such a leader it's a costly white elephant.

I leave you to draw your conclusions as to whether a nuclear deterrent is necessary. I believe the question is not whether it is necessary, but what we are prepared to pay for it and whether Trident is the most cost-effective option.

Watched 'World War Three: Inside the War Room' last night on iPlayer. It seems to me that NATO's current weakness is having members with large, ethnic Russian minorities. The Baltic States need to integrate these ethnic Russians ASAP to preclude any pretext for Russian aggression. If that can't be done, then NATO has a bomb in its midst. The irony of the situation is that ethnic Russians are increasingly entering the Baltic States today precisely to escape Putin's corrupt rule.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Hand Flying Candid Camera Pop Stars

Who, as an adult, has never held their arm out of a car window as a passenger and flown their arm in the wind, angling the hand's angle of attack to keep the arm airborne?

Returning briefly to the ecumenical advert family I wrote about yesterday. In the advertisers' aim to show the racial diversity of the UK and to mollify the professional racial offence-taker, they've created a family (one black parent and one white) that is probably the least representative of the average family within the UK. The black father should himself perhaps be the child of a mixed marriage and the mother should have some Asian in her. A mixed Chinese step-child could complete the picture. Still wouldn't be typical though - certainly not in Old Sodbury where you can't move for white faces.

Hayley cruelly took a clandestine photo of me using the Bed Ghost method of putting the duvet cover on:

Regarding the recent slew of rock and popstar deaths - the number of stars exploded (if you'll forgive the pun) in the early to mid 60s - we'd reached peak global popstar - and therefore it was a foregone conclusion that the numbers dying would commensurately increase around now. Another 10 years and we should reach peak popstar deaths. They additionally had a greater cultural impact and legacy than the here-today-gone-tomorrow stars of today who tend to be more parochial in their appeal and less prolific, so we can expect the popstar death announcements to peter out after about 10 years from now.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Ecumenical Charity Shopping for Education

As a frequent visitor to charity shops for clothing, I detest the ones which sort men's trousers into nothing more illuminating than S, M and L. While women might be happy to try on every damned item in a shop, regardless of whether it fits or not, men generally know at a glance whether they want something and don't wish to be detained beyond the couple of nanoseconds it takes to look at the waist size, taking it on trust that the leg length is adequate. S, M and L just don't give you that scope.

There's a charity shop merchandiser operating within Chipping Sodbury who seems to be hired by the charity shops on a rotation basis. She is really good and makes the shops she merchandises look more like an up-market boutique. Ladies' clothing colours on the racks are co-ordinated - purples, blues and blacks at one end, reds at another, yellows on yet another and whites, creams and pastels on a fourth; only the most tasteful ornaments are put on display. You can see when she's left one shop for another - very quickly it all goes tits-up again with a real mish-mash of colours and styles looking like a 4 year-old (or 80 year-old) threw it together and the ornaments on display gravitate back to those hideously kitsch china figures only your granny would have bought.

Have you noticed how TV adverts are fixated on ecumenical families - one parent white and the other black. They seem adverse to showing a black couple for some reason. Wonder why? Seems like tokenism to me.

The Department for Education had cause to issue a statement about something yesterday. The single sentence statement contained the word less when it should have used the word fewer. Oh the delicious irony.

Friday, 5 February 2016

1971 Archive

Was going through my archives the other day and spotted this little gem - my first trip to sea. Joined Elder Dempester Lines' MV Onitsha aged 16 with 11 other cadets in Antwerp at the end of September 1971, leaving her in Amsterdam in April 1972. It was what was called a double-header - two consecutive voyages encompassing Europe, West Africa and the USA. Click to enlarge.

We had a whale of a time and I can recount many hair-raising stories. Several fellow cadets were school chums from my class at HMS Conway. The captain was a hard-drinking, chain-smoking martinet of the Old School type. She was sold on to a Greek outfit after we left her.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Bug Hotel Liquid Exercise

As regulars will know, I've taken to having a 4 mile walk into Yate and back every morning for a bit of exercise and reduce the winter plumage. I always take a rucksack with me in case I come across something interesting in one of the charity shops, or need a bit of food shopping. Carrying something back also gives me some additional exercise.

Overheard yesterday:

We have a really huge Christmas tree in the garden which regularly sheds baskets full of cones around this time of year - a neighbour planted his live Christmas tree there decades ago on 12th Night. I collected about 20 cones to dry on the mantlepiece and use as kindling for the wood burner - they burn like napalm. Hay has taken it into her head that they can be turned into bug hotels in the garden, but I must be missing something. Surely, as they can be used for weather forecasting, if it gets wet the pinecones will close up and squish the bugs?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

BBC News


Chairman: "You were snoring last night."

Hay: "I was purring."

Have you noticed how the BBC news website's 'Most Popular' section is becoming increasingly like reading Facebook or Hello Magazine? I guess it's as a result of other news outlets resorting to charging for their output, so everyone gathers around the BBC now to read celebrity gossip.

Men aged 45 to 59 most fed up with life, a headline says. I wonder if there's a correlation with that age spread and living with children when they become teenagers?

On the TV news there was a story about an American ex-graffiti artist, KAWS, who was commissioned to put 6 metre high, wooden cartoon characters into a Yorkshire landscape. One of the arty-farty brigade responsible for commissioning these cartoon characters said; "He challenges the landscape, which is what we want." A coalmine challenges the landscape; a landfill site also challenges the landscape. Challenging the landscape is not necessarily good. It's another term for a bloody eyesore. I suppose one saving grace is that the landscape in question is a 'sculpture park' within an estate. The sad things is that they are juxtaposed with sculptures by Hepworth and Moore, which harmonise with the landscape. For some typical art-bollocks-speak about the exhibition and KAWS, click here.

Everyone is talking about David Cameron's EU concessions like they're a done deal. He came back waving a piece of paper - somewhat reminiscent of another Prime Minister from history. This deal has to be voted on yet, for heaven's sake!