Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Emerald Isle

Overheard in a conversation about Croagh Patrick:

Hay: "Croagh Patrick is a metaphor."

Chairman: "I think you'll find it's actually igneous."

The Irish seem to have a strange relationship with their lawns, You see lots of houses set in about an acre of unblemished lawn, with hardly a plant to adorn it. Vast swathes of green with a tiny bungalow in the middle.

When you think about it, the lawn has been a status symbol for as long as we've been living in houses. The poor can't afford the time to look after them and those living in high-rises can only dream of them. How long will it be before we hear Jeremy Corbyn calling for lawns for all?

Ireland certainly is the Emerald Isle and, whereas mountains in Scotland and Wales are a forbidding black, the mountains here are covered in green from top to bottom.

Went to Achill Island yesterday - stunning scenery! Found a gorgeous beach at Keem.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017


There are calls to patriotism from some corners of the Conservative Party. What exactly is patriotism?

When we all lived in caves, patriotism (or tribalism, as it was then) was a biological, gut reaction that ensured survival against other tribes. It still has relevance, perhaps, in times of war, but not necessarily for everyone. When someone is about to jump off a cliff and calls on your to follow them using the call to patriotism, the word is bereft of all intellectual meaning, not that it has much these days anyway. It is the last resort of a scoundrel, as Dr Johnson once said, by which he meant it's used when all else fails - logic, reason, etc.

If you call me to follow you today, citing patriotism, what happens in 5 years time when you are no longer in favour and have been voted out? Does the patriotism I exhibited when I followed you suddenly become treason? The current calls to patriotism seek to demonise a very large section of the population that disagrees profoundly with a certain party's actions (what's the opposite of a patriot?). That is morally reprehensible.

The mistake a lot of voters make these days - and probably have since time immemorial - is to dogmatically defend their chosen party, whether they be right or wrong. This inevitably leads them at some stage into the untenable position of trying to defend the indefensible. Rather than admit that an area of policy is just not up to scratch, they will argue black is white to justify their allegiance and end up tying themselves in logical knots in any argument. A dogmatic position in politics, as in religion, is a route to disaster and invariably makes one look stupid, as there is guaranteed to be a paradox or logical inconsistency somewhere that has to be defended.

A call to patriotism usually comes from a demagogue. Populist demagoguery appears when people lose a sense of identity and scapegoats are sought in order to lay the blame elsewhere. You become a victim and place your faith in a perceived 'strong leader', which is dangerous thinking, as that strong leader generally has feet of clay and cannot deliver on his or her promises anyway. Once this realisation kicks in on the part of the populist demagogue, tyranny can easily follow, especially if the demagogue has destroyed civil liberties in the name of 'strong and stable' leadership.

Like it or not, the world is going global, and turning inward and pulling up the drawbridge under such circumstances is dangerous. Whereas the free market is very good at generating wealth, it’s a terrible mechanism for distributing that wealth and leaves vast swathes of the population worse off and prey to the demagogue. Populist demagoguery, based on lies and deception, is the precursor to nationalism and nationalism, as a reaction to globalism, is a medication that’s worse than the disease itself.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Croagh Patrick

Yesterday's task was to climb Croagh Patrick - the mountain you can see from our accommodation in Murrisk.

Everything started well and we passed St Patrick, who reputedly climbed the mountain and prayed there for 40 days and 40 nights. I have doubts about this story, as there's no way he could have carried 40 days' worth of food to the top without a team of sherpas. If you ask me, St Patrick here looks rather similar to St Nicholas. I'm sure there's a factory somewhere that churns out thousands of saints that are identical and they just have a different name plaque slapped on them depending on what's required.

Anyway, Hay was suffering and wanted to give up at about 3/4 of the way up, but I persuaded her to continue. Here's a view from half way up.

We were literally within a hundred yards or so of the top and my vertigo kicked in on the rock-strewn 41 degree slope. I thought I'd conquered that decades ago, but no - up there you feel very exposed and I was about to freeze in a panic. Discretion was the better part of valour and we started our decent. Several coffin-dodgers passed me and I felt so ashamed, but when vertigo gets you there's nothing you can do.

Didn't expect to see a golf putting green half way up. I've since learned it's a helipad.

In this shot you can see Mordor in the distance.

And in this one is the Plain of Rohan.

Today is wall-to-wall rain, so we're going to have to seek out something cultural and indoors.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Crazy Bastard Gym

Walked from Murrisk to Westport and back yesterday (about 11 miles in total) to catch the Westport Food Fesitval and went past what looked like a kids' playground containing some rather sturdy looking playground equipment - but it wasn't the usual stuff like swings and roundabouts. It was real exercise equipment and, as well as a bunch of kids, there was a pensioner working out on the equipment. A free gym for anyone to use. Very enlightened.

I can just imagine the pensioners kicking the kids off the equipment...

There was a stall at the Food Festival selling some rather powerful sauce.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Hot Water Crayons

Well, Ryanair managed to punish Hay and myself for not paying to reserve seats on the flight to Knock by seating us at opposite ends of the aircraft but, by good fortune, both of us ended up in the only rows in the plane with no-one either side of us.  Just shows they must have an allocation algorithm that purposely splits people who book together but don't choose to pay for seats, despite what they say in their PR.

Hay wondered how she could get water to drink in Bristol airport without paying an arm and a leg for designer stuff. I told her to just take an empty bottle and fill it from the cold tap in the ladies’ loo once through security. Well, believe it or not, you can only get hot water out of the loo taps and the only way of getting cold water is to buy it. Airports are becoming like RyanAir.

Hay was looking at some lipsticks in the “duty free”. They wanted £18 for what is essentially a crayon. 

Can you resell a Kindle e-book the way you can a paper book?

Friday, 23 June 2017

Trust in the News

Sussed out the RyanAir booking thing. We couldn't check-in without booking a seat as we'd selected to check-in for the return flight simultaneously, and the return flight is more than 7 days away, hence the mandatory seat booking. Checked in for the outward flight only and we managed to get the free seats, but while I was in 30B, Hay was placed in 05A. They punish you by separating you for not booking the seats. Bastards.

Is it me, or were Melvyn Bragg and Michael Palin separated at birth?

Trust in news media has been making headlines, especially in the wake of fake news in newspapers before and since the EU referendum.

Claims of BBC bias abound from both the left and the right (which I treat with equal scepticism for reasons articulated several times in the past), but what the BBC does report is at least factual, unlike the utter drivel published in many daily newspapers. I can, however, accept it's slightly left of centre, as expected from an organisation that employs university graduates.

I always listen to Today on Radio 4 in the morning and I predominantly use Flipboard for my daily e-news source - it collates numerous news sources covering whatever subjects I'm interested in, filtering out the more partizan and disreputable stuff; although, when this do slip through, the opposing viewpoint is also shown. Flipboard also has a more international view, publishing stories from other countries on a variety of subjects. It helps in seeing what other countries think about the UK, which is not flattering at present.

I use the Reuters website quite a bit too, as it regularly comes out as staunchly centrist and international.

I often quickly peruse the on-line versions of the Daily Mail and the Guardian, just to see opposing views and have a laugh at some of the more rabid Daily Mail comments (the Guardian comments seem much more intelligent and measured, although they too can be quite extreme and bizarre at times).

Facebook is perhaps the least trustworthy news source in the world and, if anything does attract my attention, I will invariably seek corroboration elsewhere.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Thought for the Day While Sunbathing in a Hat

Thought for the day: is the free movement of capital as problematic as, or indeed more problematic than free movement of people?

OK, I'll get it out of the way and say the nights are drawing in.

Loved Mrs Queen's European hat yesterday - it couldn't possibly be accidental and I would suggest Prince Philip, with his usual mischievousness, was behind the choice. With complete and typical neutrality, it could be taken two ways - five stars for what it may end up as, or as a snub to the government, which has stupidly risked the breakup of her once United Kingdom.

RyanAir is trying to pressure us into buying a seat now for anything from £4 to £16 before we can check in. I strongly object, as I've paid the fare already and I'll bloody well stand all the way if necessary.

One of the questions in my YouGov daily poll yesterday was "Have you suffered from sunburn over the last few days," to which my answer is no. As a teenager, and well into my mid 30s, I wouldn't miss a chance to do some bronzying, especially when at sea in the tropics. It was the unspoken rule that a seafarer had to return home as brown as a nut. The desire to get a suntan tailed off from then on, to the extent that, since my 50s, I tend to shun sunlight, if at all possible. There again, it may have had something to do with me selling my soul to Satan and these long cuspids that appeared.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Phoenix RyanAir Kefir

What's this in the news about Phoenix Nights being cancelled? Didn't realise there was another series.

We're preparing for our holiday in Ireland, leaving the house in the care of my two teenage sons, Hay's dad and Hay's sister. Anyone who cares to attempt a robbery with that lot looking after the house is either very brave or plain foolhardy. 

We're flying to Knock and then driving over to Murrisk in Mayo. However, the fly in the ointment is RyanAir. They try to extract money from you at every conceivable opportunity. You have to pay 20 Euros to manually book in at the airport, which is fine, as we could book on-line for free. The problem is that you can only book in online two hours before your flight departure, and you have to print out your boarding card. That's obviously not possible if you're using a normal computer, as the availability of printing facilities is somewhat scarce in airports. The only solution is the use a mobile app and get an e-boarding card on your phone - but I'm fully expecting something to go squonk with the system when we attempt an app-based check-in at the airport with 2 hours to go, resulting in us having to check in manually for 20 Euros.

I've perfected the kefir making. I put the kefir grains in a one litre Kilner jar (actually one of IKEA's lookalikes) with the milk (semi-skimmed or whole), seal it so it's airtight and leave it in the fridge for a week. The conversion takes place slowly and under increasing pressure, resulting in the perfect, fizzy kefit drink by the end of the week. That's then decanted into plastic bottles for use during the next week while I'm making the next batch. One litre a week is about the right amount, added to which it is happy fermenting away while you're on a week's holiday. Being left a few days longer isn't a problem, and I dare say I could get away with leaving it to ferment in the fridge for 2 weeks without any problems.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Varifocal Formations

Cloud formations in the shape of the UK/GB are all the rage at present. I snapped my own yesterday morning in the sky over Chipping Sodbury:

For some time now I thought I had scratches on my varifocals - either that or some smudge that I couldn't remove. Got Hay to have a look as, without my glasses, I can't see things close up. It transpires that my lens prescription is etched into the lenses. Apparently it's common practise with varifocals.

Why this should be done only with varifocals is a mystery.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Bloody Foreigners

During what started as a reasonably good-natured argument with several people on a Facebook group in support of Brexit (I'd gone into the lion's den), one person got a bit frustrated and called me a 'foreign piece of shit' on the basis of my surname. I have to admit, it was the only instance of someone using logic, albeit faulty, in the entire argument. It was more a use of assumption than formal logic and a case of adding two and two to get five.

I'd spent several sporadic hours throughout the day trying to get some Brexit supporters to articulate a single reason for their support of Brexit that wasn't based on a demonstrable fallacy, a misunderstanding of the areas under the influence of the EU, couldn't be immediately be demolished with a bit of simple logic or wasn't based on simple, naked xenophobia. Needless to say, there was not a single argument that could hold water and make me think; "Hang on, you have a point there." The argument, for what it is, is manifestly visceral and therefore immune to reason.

David Davies will today boldly go into Europe for what will inevitably be his Dunkirk moment. It will be interesting to watch events unfold, especially now that support for Brexit is crumbling in both the country as a whole and the government in particular.