Thursday, 30 March 2017

Garden Gate Holiday Rip-offs

Anyone else remember having garden gates like these as a kid?

They were usually cream and black.

We're having a week in Murrisk on the west coast of Ireland later this year, staying with an ex work colleague who has converted an annex into a holiday let. A week of walking, kayaking (hopefully) and sightseeing in gorgeous countryside framed by mountains and the sea, as you can see from her photos below. 

Yesterday morning I wanted to book the Bristol airport car parking. There is a myriad sites that maintain they can get a better deal for you if booking in advance - one is Airparks. Tried them and the cost would have been £46.99, which they allege is a saving of £17.01. What that is a saving over is not mentioned - for obvious reasons - but you're led to think it's over the standard price when booking direct. 

Being a suspicious individual, I went to the official Bristol Airport car park site and got exactly the same price. Bastards! Beware of these sites that make you believe you'll get a better price by booking through them. 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Gas (Welding) Man Cometh

It's that time of year again - lawn mowing.

Removed the ride-on mower's deck belt in order the get the bodge that's held it together for the last year welded. Took a bit of effort, but got there in the end. Don't think it's ever been off in the mower's life.

One of the pulleys is out of line due to a weld having cracked and being bodged previously. I tried levering it into the semblance of alignment using hose clips attached to another upright, but it's once more shredding belts, so time for a proper repair.

Too fiddly for me to attempt - the only welding experience I have is to welding 10mm steel plate, not wafer thin mild steel, added to which my welding gear's mask is so dark it precludes seeing anything at all. Needs cropping, reinforcing and gas welding by a professional. 

Emailed the local TopWeld guy, but no  response after 24 hours. Followed it up with a call to his number yesterday - got his voice mail and he didn't get back to me. Will probably have to find an Eastern European to do it...

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Hotel Staff Laptops

One thing I forget to mention about the hotel we stayed at in Porlock. You hear these apocryphal stories about British people not wanting to do menial jobs; well, on our departure we got speaking to the hotel manager who was short of staff. He'd advertised for two staff and two Brits sent him their cv. A trial shift was organised, but both of them failed to turn up - not a peep from either of them as to why. He added that any Europeans he offered a trial were guaranteed to turn up and invariably got the job. All the staff I had dealings with (with the exception of the manager) had foreign accents.

Seems the selective airline laptop ban in unworkable, according to experts, as those having to put their laptops in hold baggage can mix with those who don't in the airport departures lounge and be handed a laptop. The only way this would work is for security checks to be done again at the departure gate, or for laptops to be banned on all flights. Experts, eh?

Monday, 27 March 2017

Eurovision Holiday Weekend

Overheard during my birthday weekend trip:

Chairman: "This is the best cream tea I've ever had - much better than a Devon cream tea. By the way, where are we?"

Hay: "Devon."

Later - the Chairman has an itch and is scratching his bum.

Hay: "Something in your eye, Badger?"

While passing through Lynmouth I spotted what was advertised as a 14th century tea room. I  wasn't aware there were such things as tea rooms in the 14th century, et alone tea. That said, I suppose roving baronial armies must have needed somewhere to  stop off for a cream tea before besieging the odd foe's castle, but could you imagine the problems with all those pikes -  could have had someone's eye out in a tea room.

The place we stayed overnight in Porlock, Millers at the Anchor, is very quirky, but beautiful and I can't recommend it highly enough. I had a look at some  of the guest comments, and as usual, you had the vegetarian brigade making a damned nuisance of themselves and complaining about the lack of variety in the vegetarian dishes. A vegetarian option is a bloody concession, not a basic human right!

I believe there's some kerfuffle about Russia's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. This bloody event is becoming a larger diplomatic nightmare with each passing year. It would appear countries try to get themselves banned so as to garner sympathy. The best thing Britian could with Brexit looming is to submit a song called 'Up Yours Germany' and get banned. That would get us sympathy from other European nations for Brexit negotiations and we might get an easy ride...

Talking of Brext, Countryfile was again speaking to farmers on last night's programme - specifically Welsh hill farmers. A sheep farmer was saying that 80% of his income is from EU subsidies and he faces ruin. Doubtless the Brexiteers will today again be shouting; "Unfair and biased BBC reporting," from their fake, Utopian echo chambers, into which inconvenient truths are forbidden to enter. They'll conveniently ignore the report on adders and the fact Brexit will not  affect them in the slightest, nor indeed the black grouse...

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Stiff Upper Lip

Don't know about you, but I'm detecting a creeping emotional exhibitionism evident in the news. It all seemed to start with the death of Princess Diana and has just got worse in the last 20 years. Rather than new stories concentrating on the news and giving us a few basic facts, we're fed a constant stream of 'human interest' stories that delve into the lives of individuals who have suffered tragedies. News media have become like women's magazines. I find it all somewhat vapid, mawkish and very un-British.

Yes, people having suffered a tragedy need to grieve, but not in public and certainly not the whole damned nation, as if they were our personal friends. When a tragedy happens at the other end of the country, even the local news focuses on it to analyse its impact on the local area, however tenuous (or even totally non-existent) that may be. From being a nation renowned for its stiff upper lip and just carrying on, Britain has become a nation of sentimentalists that are portrayed as needing trauma therapy whenever something untoward happens (which I don't actually believe to be the case).

An example is the recent media headlines saying that Britian is 'recovering' from the London attack. No it's not -  for the vast majority of people it was an incident that had no impact on their lives whatsoever. The Daily Mail castigated Holyrood for continuing with business after a brief lull, rather than packing up early and slinking off with their tails between their legs. Carry on, I say!

It may not be politically correct to say this, but the news media is also over-using the term hero or heroine for people who do something at no, or very minimal, personal risk to themselves. The term has become debased through overuse by the media to the  extent that someone who is accidentally thrust into danger and does no more than anyone else in a similar situation would do, is hailed as a hero. No, a hero is someone who purposely thrusts him or herself into danger, knowing the possible consequences or, finding him or  herself in a perilous situation, does something extraordinary. Achilles was a hero; not every last Greek soldier outside the gates of Troy was a hero. Capt. Oates was a hero; not everyone who  goes fell walking is a hero. Heroes are a rare commodity.

Perhaps it's a generational thing, or aligned to the slow demise of the public school system where psychological resilience was prized and admired and passed down.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

A Friday Jaunt

Went on a little jaunt yesterday to use up the last of my 2016 holiday allocation and spent some of it in this place, which many will recognise from a famous '70s TV advert directed by a young Ridley Scott for a brand of bread. The advert made out it was somewhere up north, but it's actually in Dorset.

Allegedly it's England's steepest street - Gold Hill in Shaftesbury.

We came back via Glastonbury which, despite being only 30 miles away, I've never visited before.

Most of the shops there sell crystal magic bollocks and many of the inhabitants walk around wearing beatific smiles and uniforms comprising kaftans or 70's style patchwork clothes. They look stoned, if you ask me. Incense emanates from most shops and it's like being in a theme park for superannuated hippies. You feel like telling them to just grow up.

Also took in Lytes Carey Manor in Dorset - National Trust, Elizabethan and quite beautiful. Must be one of the few NT houses in the SW not funded by the slave trade.

Apologies for the quality of the photos - it's that blasted temporary phone I'm having to use while mine's being repaired.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Typical Cotswolds Pub

Hayley's on holiday now till she starts her new job in a month's time. Next week she's off to Broadway in the Cotswolds with her dad and his girlfriend for a few days (functioning as chauffeur and general factotum), leaving me behind to get some peace and quiet.

She was looking for somewhere to stop off for lunch with the old folk and alighted on the website of The New Inn at Coln St Aldwyns. She looked all over the website for a menu, but none was to be found. She could watch a video of the chef talking about his rare breeds, but not find a bloody menu! She had to phone them to get them to email it to her.

It seems to be one of those Cotswolds pubs that's suffered an upmarket make-over that has turned it into anything but a typical Cotswolds pub, despite the website calling it such. The only place this looks like a typical Cotswold pub is in in the pages of Ideal Homes magazine. It's a Londoner's idealised image of a traditional Cotswold pub and run by someone called Rupert or Sebastian. Hate the places - all Farrow and Ball paint and MDF - it's just an excuse to bump up the price of the food, as evidenced by £13 for fish and chips, £14 for a risotto and £16 for a piece of chicken breast. I was incredulous.

A typical Cotswold pub has lots of damp, as befitting a building several hundred years old, as well as a hideous toilet that's always cold. It serves beers you've never heard of before from local breweries, is a bit rough and ready and, if you're lucky, has delicious food at reasonable prices that locals don't need a mortgage to pay for.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Pig Pen Tapping Bias

Had to laugh yesterday: I was busy sending emails to  customers and one was called Franzia Eckhoff. Her email address is f.eckhoff@xxxx. I guess she gets comments all the time.

Seems I may have been right about Trump's people being 'incidentally intercepted' while the US security services were monitoring Russians. This isn't going to turn out well for Trump, as he's more or less admitted people on his team were communicating with the Russians. Someone will have a field day with this and his ego will eventually get the better of him.

I'm a tad confused about this airplane cabin laptop ban. Surely a laptop going through a passenger security check with you means it gets much closer inspection than if it's in hold luggage that isn't actually opened? You have to take your laptop out of your cabin baggage and open it (although no always). I just can't see the point of it. Perhaps hold luggage does get closer inspection after all. And why only on certain flights - can't terrorists board planes in Europe or the USA? If I were asked, I'd say Mr May is slavishly following Trump's illogical agenda.

Whenever I put on a clean top, Hay always makes comments, such as; "Ah, a clean canvass for you to do your work on by the end of the day." I have to admit that I do seem to attract a lot of muck to whatever I'm wearing and light colour are anathema to me ever hoping to put something clean on in the morning and go out in the same clothing in the evening. Hay's convinced that Pig Pen from the Charlie Brown cartoons was modeled on me.

The question of BBC bias is in the news, yet again. The BBC regularly comes out in studies as being close to centre, if  slightly left. That's  hardly surprising when you consider the people who work there are usually of graduate quality and there's a distinct correlation between educational level and political leanings. Bias can never be eliminated, yet the fact both the left and the right complain about BBC bias suggest  to me that the BBC has it just about right.

What the BBC should never be is a  mouthpiece for the government of the day. The BBC also regularly comes out in studies as being harder on the government than the opposition - which again is hardly surprising, given government calls the shots and needs to be more accountable.

There's no denying that the further to the right or left you are, the further away from your position you're going to see anything centrist. Those that complain most about the BBC seem to come from the extremities, not the centre.

The total elimination of bias, by giving the breath of legitimacy to ridiculous stories, is not in the best interests of news reporting either. There is a creeping 'balance' being given to news, which is counter to investigative journalism and the search for truth. One only needs to  think about the MMR scandal.

Talking of the MMR scandal, one thing I take issue with in journalism is science reporting. A single study may show something new but, until several studies corroborate that finding, it's not consensus - it's merely an hypothesis - yet the news media report it as hard fact. This is why we get conflicting stories about what's good for us  and what's bad for us. It's not the fault of the science, it's the undue weight given to single studies by the media. The Daily Mail had a field day with Andrew Wakefield and must have thought Christmas, Easter and several birthdays had come at once; a story about kids, science and vaccines - what a crowd puller. The fact kids died through not having measles vaccinations can be laid directly at the feet of the DM and its pitifully poor science reporting.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Galaxy S7 Edge Unedged.

Regarding the death of Martin McGuinness; much as I detest Norman Tebbit, I can't blame him for not having a good word to say about him. I would probably feel the same had I been at the end of an IRA bombing. That said, it's so welcome to see the vast majority of those across the political divide giving him credit for the work he did in eventually bringing about peace in Northern Ireland. Neither side was blameless.

As for Colin Dexter's death - who do you reckon dun it?

Phone went into a bootloop on Monday night while charging and started to overheat while we were asleep. It was lucky I came down at 00:30 and unplugged it, as it was so hot I could hardly touch it. Couldn't even switch it off and had to put it in the fridge for 5 minutes before I could get  any sense out of it. Took it back to Vodafone yesterday morning and hopefully Samsung will either replace it or change the battery. There was a very real chance it could have burst into flames.

The Galaxy S7 Edge is one of those stupid phones that are factory sealed, so you can't simply change the battery yourself. A retrograde step taken up by many manufacturers. It was problems with the battery that caused the Note 7 issues.

There's a good chance Samsung'll try it on and say it's out of warranty due to me having installed Nougat, but providing it's a hardware fault (of which I'm 100% convinced, as numerous factory resets, operating in safe mode and even switching the firmware didn't cure the problem), an EU law says they have to repair it under warranty for 2 years. See, there are many such EU laws which protect the consumer.

In the meantime, Vodafone have given me a crappy old device that's slow as treacle, has as much memory as an Alzheimer's patient and is running Kit-Kat. I'm using it with a skeleton set of apps.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Countryfile Technology

What with flashing phones with new software at age 62 (well, I will be tomorrow), I surely can't be typical of my age group? I should be asking my  kids how to operate the TV remote and all kinds of things like that, but invariably I find myself giving them technical advice.

I was trawling through various Fabceook posts early yesterday morning and alighted on one of those ideologue Brexit posts - the kind where dissent or reality aren't allowed, where Brexit is almost a religion to be enforced and any factual disclosure is met with tirades of abuse. Ultra-Brexiteers, as I call them, were complaining about BBC Countryfile's alleged pro-Remain stance on Sunday evening, where Tom Heap reported on the plight of market gardeners and the lack of migrant workers to harvest this year's produce. 

Mantras abounded, such as; "There are many Brits who would do the job," when, plainly, there aren't (as evidenced by not a single Brit any longer applying for these jobs), and; "They should go to the EU if they like it so much," "Totally unacceptable," and; "Totally biased reporting," all of which demonstrate a complete refusal to engage with reality. 

Ultras were threatening to switch off in their droves. Hello! - the programme is about farming and farmers who, in the main, are anti-Brexit. Market gardeners, almost to a man, are anti-Brexit. The item was factual, unbiased in terms of reporting and highlighted the problems Brexit will bring to our market gardeners. Market gardeners were interviewed, for heaven's sake, so it wasn't as if words were being put into  their mouths.

The post-war, idyllic, Darling Buds of May days, when East End London families went out to Kent in the summer to pick hops and fruit are long over. University students on summer vacation either want to go home, work in a pub or get an internship to aid employment prospects. Unemployed people don't want to work in seasonal jobs involving living in a Spartan barracks redolent of Stalag Luft IV for weeks on end - they look for permanent jobs and the ability to be home every night.

The Ultra's position is to put his or her fingers in his or her ears and shout; "La, la, la, la," while trotting out the magical incantations we're familiar with, in the firm belief they protect them from nasty facts that don't adhere to their dogma. It's like reading the ramblings of flat Earthers or  Young Earth Creationists. Many even seem to express a gleeful joy that market gardeners are facing ruin and it being their own fault for using migrants.

What a country this has become when dogmatic ideology triumphs over intellect, rationality and reasoning. Of course some sections of the economy are going to be hurt badly - that's why the referendum was such a close run thing. Is it to be forbidden to report facts that don't agree with ideology? Is TV to become one, long, tedium of sanitised, pro-Brexit, groupthink in the hands of these Ultras?