Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Wednesday 31/12/08

Getting some interesting hits from the Salisbury area.

Another highly emotive and bollocky animal advert has appeared on our TV screens – a World Wildlife Fund advert for sponsoring a polar bear. The ad says that polar bears rely on polar ice and raise their offspring there and asks where they will go if the ice disappears. Well, for a start, polar bears adapted to a life on ice – much like Torville and Dean. Secondly, it’s not beyond the bounds of reason to assume they could adapt to life on land – there’s nothing stopping them, in fact they would have to as their food source will migrate there too. Secondly the ad states that donations will combat global warming; how exactly is sponsoring a polar bear going to combat something which is inexorable and definitely going to result in ice-free polar areas within a decade or two – no matter what we do? Are the polar bears going to demonstrate in Whitehall with placards? I’d want to know whether these sponsored polar bears will write to me, like the sponsored Dogs’ Trust dogs, and whether I can visit them.

Talking about adverts, there’s another which is for a Christmas savings club that goes by the name of Park. The only people I can see going for this scam are the terminally stupid. The advert says you can save with them for a debt-free Christmas 2009 and have the goods delivered before next Christmas. So if I’ve got this right, you make monthly payments in advance for something which won’t be delivered until 11 months from now – risking the company collapsing in the meantime (remember Farepak) and you ending up with nothing. The alternative is to go to any store you want, purchase the goods now on HP and receive them immediately. Given the options and the risks, I’d choose taking delivery now – or better still, simply keeping the dosh in the bank and gleaning the interest.

I have an admission to make – we installed the wood-burning stove a while ago. I didn’t want to write about it until we were certain it would do the job, which it is doing admirably. We have a large sufficiency of free firewood which has provided free heat throughout December to the extent that our normal winter Calor gas consumption of 2 x 47 kg bottles per month has reduced to our summer consumption rate of one bottle every 2 to 3 months. The only problem is that the device requires feeding with wood every 20 minutes or so and hence it’s not possible to stoke it up for the night and expect any residual heat by the morning – the combustion chamber is simply too small and there is insufficient control over the draw.

Ours is a 4.5kW version, being adequate for the entire 34 feet of the caravan, but having experienced acting like stokers on the Titanic, we should perhaps have gone for something like a Boxwood, which while of a higher wattage has a more controllable burn rate through the auspices of a flue damper. It won’t be long before we have to move to purchased logs, which will prove somewhat hard work, as we will have to split them into sufficiently small chunks to fit through the door.

Hay has found me guilty of falling asleep and allowing the damned thing to go out. She’s threatening to take my fire monitor’s badge from me.

Had some interesting reactions from people over the holidays while using the e-cigar in pubs and restaurants. One chap looked at me, noticed the e-cigar and accompanying plumes of ‘smoke’ and gave me a dirty look while sniffing the air. Now even Hay, a confirmed non-smoker, admits that the e-cigar doesn’t emit any kind of odour – even in the confines of the car. This guy was obviously reacting on the basis of pure prejudice, moral outrage, self-righteous indignation and deep disapproval.

In The Dog the other evening a chap did a perfect double-take. He then went through all the expected reactions within a coupe of seconds. The first was that of shock-horror, followed by, “Oh my God he’s smoking in a pub! What should I do? Shall I approach him? How come no-one else has approached him? Why are the bar staff ignoring him?” ending up with, “Oh silly me – it’s obviously not a real cigar.” I finally put him out of his misery and let him in on the secret.

People obviously don’t want to approach me for fear of looking ridiculous. You can see it on their faces.

We’ve been wakened at dawn for the last few days by the sound of Gollum scrabbling over the top of the caravan – for that’s just what it sounds like. Obviously it’s just birds.

Aviva – the new name for Norwich Union. What marketing whizz-kid in nappies dreamed up that one? What’s the point? Everyone knows what Norwich Union is and what it sells – it’s a solid brand that is in no need of a revamp. There are times I wonder what my marketing brethren are smoking – or rather how much they are being paid to come up with such crap. The advert uses Ringo Starr, Alice Cooper, Dame Edna and Bruce Willis – all of whom changed their names - to suggest that a change of name is ‘a chance to show the world who you want to be’. So Norwich Union wants to be known as a Viva – a crappy Vauxhall model from the ‘60s and ‘70s renowned for breaking down.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tuesday 30/12/08

We were listening to a programme on Radio 4 yesterday about a couple where the man had undergone gender reassignment. Hay thinks I’ve undergone a programme of genus reassignment – she’s convinced I’m some form of simian, or a badger. When asked whether my thinking I’m a woman would affect our relationship she replied it would probably result in a vast improvement.

The wo/man in the programme had apparently started having problems with his desire to be a woman and suggested to his wife that there were places he could go for a day or so to satisfy his psychological needs. Hay suddenly shouted out, “Shopping malls, nail-bars, department stores.”

Friday, 26 December 2008

Friday 26/12/80

Way back in the 60s, when she was still alive, my aunty Edith would take in a tramp from the streets at Christmas, treat him to a new suit of clothes and a bath, give him a Christmas dinner and provide him with a bed for the night. I suspected that was the same one every year - her husband, my uncle Vic.

The Royal Institution's Christmas Lectures used to be around midday between Christmas and New Year and were the highlight of my Xmas TV schedule. They are now on at 4am on Channel 5 - and they have the cheek to say TV hasn't been dumbed down.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Wednesday 24/12/08

Managed to find a free Wi-Fi connection in a local café here in St Ives.

Hay’s sister and Perry arrived on Sunday, but we then had the Great St Ives Man Flu Epidemic of 2008, which mutated into Woman Flu – which obviously isn’t as bad as Man Flu, but you wouldn’t think so to hear the moans. Michelle has been hors de combat since Monday and I’ve been struggling with enough catarrh to supply a glue factory for a year.

All the beaches here in Cornwall are Gwyth-something or other. I swear we went to beach called Gywneth Paltrow the other day, or was that Gwyneth Dunwoody beach?

The shops have these things called nativity scenes in their windows. Very strange indeed - a motley bunch of itinerant farm labourers or sheep stealers with what look like some Afghan drug dealers, all staring intently at a naked baby. I’m surprised the local council allow it. Obviously it must be a commemoration of the breakup of some 1st century international paedophile ring. This whole Christmas thing is a bit disturbing in my view. What would you do if your missus came home and told you she was pregnant and God was the father? Surely you’d think of either calling the men in white coats or your divorce lawyer – possibly both?

We were watching a film on TV earlier today – it was called Swallows And Amazons, perhaps you’re familiar with the story. A number of kids on their summer holiday perform a number of stupid, irresponsible and dangerous activities, such as camping and sailing. In the sailing scene there wasn’t a single lifejacket in evidence. I’m surprised there wasn’t a health warning plastered all over the screen warning children not to attempt this at home.

Saw an advert by The Dogs’ Trust for sponsoring a dog. Apparently a pound a week produces phenomenal results - a dog apparently will write to you and send photos. They should put these animals on show in the circus if they are capable of writing.

Did you hear about the explosion in Lancashire that knocked out large parts of the Grid? What are the people there going to use to heat their pie and chips on Xmas Day?

Have you noticed lots of young girls walking around in what are called UGG boots? There’s a mass outbreak of them here in St Ives. The things must be specially made for knock-kneed girls, as almost without exception the insteps of their boots are worn down to nothing, making them look as if they’re traipsing around in their well-worn bedroom slippers.

The place we’re staying at has a glass chopping board. What’s that all about then? Anyone knows that slicing something on glass results in a totally blunt knife at the first slice.

You know the expression to ‘do the odd thing’? I wonder whether synaesthetes ever ‘do the even thing’.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Sunday 21/12/08

Accessing via a mobile is slower than accessing via a very slow connection that's running very slowly - especially when one is suffering from a dangerous case of Man Flu.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Saturday 20/12/08

Here's a joke for synaesthetes. Red.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Friday 19/12/08

Right – past blog entries have been edited in accordance with yesterday’s notice and can be found here. Enjoy!

Yet another reported Microsoft Internet Explorer security breach! You’d think that if Opera and Firefox can produce web browsers that are immune to security attacks, then the world’s largest software company could once-and-for-all develop a relatively secure browser that didn’t require a security patch more often than government officials leave their laptops on trains.

I downloaded the patch last night, along with a few more Microsoft updates, but now I have another sodding problem with something called SHSTAT.EXE not initialising. Apparently it’s something to do with McAfee anti-virus software – but it’s a bit galling when a Microsoft security patch knocks out your anti-viral software.

Took delivery of some extra reserves of e-cigar e-liquid yesterday. I received a 30ml bottle of the usual vanilla, along with 30mls of a flavour described as ‘French Pipe’. I can report that French Pipe is a deliciously decadent melange of chocolate and brandy and is eminently palatable. Hay, however, is a bit worried about some of the constituent chemicals and thinks I may go the way of the dodo before much longer if I carry on with this stuff. She does agree though that it can’t be anywhere near as harmful as baccy.

Here’s a nifty little service, although by now it might be a tad late for Xmas. Crap Wrap is a gift wrapping service for men which guarantees to wrap your present in a typically shoddy male fashion. The advert states:


Deliberately wrapped badly. Too much offensive brown tape, untidily hacked at wrapping paper, rips in the packaging exposing the surprise underneath. Indeed, it takes a high degree of skill to deliberately wrap a present this poorly, so to confirm authenticity, some tipsy bloke wearing boxing gloves and a sack on his head will slap a genuine CrapWrapped™ label on the completed mess. Our ham-fisted gift wrappers will do their best at doing their worst in wrapping your products for you.


The Telegraph says, “Cheering news for lazy men… has perfected an authentic Neanderthal wrapping service… It makes you proud to be British.” If you don’t believe me, see here.

An Egyptian chap is offering his 20-year-old daughter in marriage to the Iraqi journalist who threw his flip-flops at George Bush. The daughter said she’s OK with the idea and maintains she would like to live in Iraq. Isn’t that a bit like saying you’d like to live in Bootle or Hackney? Can’t imagine the local town council where she currently lives in Egypt will be too happy with her statement. For Iraq to compare favourably with it the place must be redolent of Buncefield following the explosion three years ago.

Scientists have apparently discovered two people with touch-emotion synaesthesia, which is the rarest form of the condition. With this form different materials evoke intense emotions in the person afflicted. I’ve just thought of a synaesthesia joke - when asked what it felt like to have synaesthesia, one sufferer said, “Chocolate flavour,” and another said, “Three.”

Sixty-six countries at the United Nations, led by the Netherlands and France, have called for homosexuality to be decriminalised and demanded an end to legal punishment based on sexual orientation. A number of Arab and African states, as well as the USA, rejected the non-binding declaration. No surprise there then, although the US objection was to do with a technicality concerning the separation between State and Federal law. Syria, that beacon of democracy, toleration and human rights, said that it would lead to paedophilia being legalised. To my mind that’s a bit like saying that if the Palestinians were to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest they would be guaranteed to receive 12 points from Israel. I can’t quite see the connection - primarily because of the simple fact that there isn’t one - but I suppose the Syrians are entitled to their unenlightened bigotry and illogical conclusions.

Today’s post may be the last for a week or so, as I’m not sure that the place we’re staying at in St Ives over Christmas has an internet connection. I’ve been trying to set up my mobile to facilitate remote posting, but either I’m stupid or there’s something the Blogger help facility isn’t telling me. I can get on-line using the mobile web browser, but not with MMS, which would be my preferred modus operandi.

If I don’t manage to post again before the end of the week, may I wish all of you a very merry Christmas – especially my growing fan base in Cornwall and all those who have taken up e-smoking on my recommendation.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Thursday 18/12/08

I’ve been asked to delete the half dozen innocuous references to my boys on my blog, as well as delete the one photo of them at a jousting exhibition and the YouTube video of my elder son at a fencing competition. So as to minimise friction and retain the moral high-ground I have agreed to do this and hence the link to past posts (in Word format) has been deleted until I can effect the necessary edits to the document.

A couple of weeks ago I highlighted a Sunday Times article by Rabbi Julia Neuberger about this very issue. I doubt whether many actually bothered to click on the link to read it, so I have copied and pasted it here, as I think it contains a very important message for those dull, ill-informed and paranoid individuals who expend vast amounts of energy living in constant fear of there being a paedophile or terrorist around every corner. It must exhaust them.

Please read this quote to the end to obtain the full impact.


From The Sunday Times, December 7, 2008

Are we too afraid of touch?

Our aversion to innocent physical contact has gone a touch too far. Look around you, there are notices everywhere: “Be careful: keep your eye on your possessions”, “Swim at your own risk — no lifeguard on duty”. We are told by government to be alert to the risk of terrorists. And we are watched by CCTV wherever we go. But all this advice to be watchful makes us fearful. It makes us shrink into ourselves. We become unkind, unconcerned for others, and our children become terrified of the outside world.

These days, you have to have a Criminal Records Bureau check before you volunteer to work with anyone described as vulnerable — children, anyone over 65, and a whole lot of others besides. That makes many young men, especially, nervous about volunteering at all, and others deeply irritated that they are being asked for a CRB check to work, say, in hospital radio.

If a young man has a criminal record, but now wants to help others who are younger still — just getting into trouble with the police and at risk of worse — he has to be incredibly determined not to be put off by the marathon of bureaucracy.

Hospital staff are often told not to put an arm round patients to comfort them lest it be viewed as assault. So it tends to be the porters and care assistants who give a bit of comfort, while the nurses only touch the patients when they have to carry out some kind of intervention. Many people, especially older people, don’t want too many interventions. What they want is human contact, a bit of tender loving care.

We are all so terrified of child sexual abuse that we have outlawed taking photographs of children at nursery school without parental consent. And adults are terrified that their motives will be suspected if they talk to a child or, even worse, hug one. So, a few years ago, when Clive Peachy, a bricklayer, saw two-year-old Abigail Rae walking down the road after she had escaped from her nursery school in Warwickshire, he did not stop and help her because he thought people would think he was trying to abduct her. The result? She drowned in a pond.

Young male volunteers in primary schools describe feeling like pariahs, viewed with suspicion by many staff — when all they are doing is trying to help. And children want comfort if they fall over in the playground, yet teachers have been told never to touch the children in their care. So you get 12-year-olds with broken legs crying for their mothers, with staff unable to give them a hug, and five-year-olds putting sunscreen on each other because the teachers have been instructed not to touch them. The mess that ensues, and the visits to hospital because cream gets in their eyes, would be funny were it not so ridiculous. Equally absurd are the letters informing parents that children should not bring home-made birthday cakes into school in case of food poisoning — a position that results in children being less likely to share.

So what is all this about? First, there is a real fear of being sued, far greater than the actual numbers of cases would warrant. Second, there is a fear of what others might think. We have begun to internalise the messages that people might think we are abusers when we are not. Third, we are fearful of our children being injured, being killed, being abducted. Yet, in terms of ordinary accidents happening to children, the numbers have gone down dramatically rather than up over the last 30 years.

Nevertheless, our children are frightened to go outside because, as the think-tank Demos and the Green Alliance demonstrated a few years ago, they fear the outside world. They think the streets are full of terrorists, murderers and child-abductors. Worse, they think they know what they look like. They are white, male, middle-aged, wear horrible clothes and have a funny look in their eyes.

But children would not feel like this if adults did not encourage them. It is adult fear, stoked by government and insurers, by risk assessors and hospital and school managers. If we aren’t careful, the next generation will consist entirely of wimps. They will go off on adventure holidays abroad, but they will not walk down the street or get on the Tube alone for fear of attackers. The net result will be not only a lack of life skills, but overwhelming fear: of predators, of accidents, of life itself.

Meanwhile, the sexual predators will carry on just as before — largely in the family — because no system of checks will root them out completely. And we will have created a whole generation of unhappy people. We need to be sensible, not risk-averse; we need to look out to see where we can help others. And, sometimes, we may even need to touch them.


I hold Julia Neuberger in quite high regard, as she has the agreeable habit of talking sense on fundamental social issues.

Now for the Bernard Madoff $50bn rip-off. He’s guilty of pyramid selling in the manner of a Ponzi Scheme. A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that involves paying abnormally high returns to investors out of the money paid in by subsequent investors, rather than from the profit from any real business.

Now pyramid schemes are illegal in many countries, including the UK. They collapse when the number of subsequent investors at the bottom of the pile decline and run out. Now you’ve got the basic idea, consider the following (I’m not sure if anyone else has made the connection I’m about to make):

Consider a scheme whereby you pay someone an income funded by several other people putting money into the fund. They in turn are, at a later stage, also paid an income from even more people putting money into the scheme, etc, etc. At no stage is the money which is put into the scheme actually invested in anything – as rapidly as it comes in it gets paid out to ‘investors’ higher up the pyramid. This system relies on an exponential increase in the number of people ‘investing’ at subsequent stages. Does that sound like an illegal pyramid scheme to you? Well, in the UK we call this the State Pension, and the numbers of individuals at the bottom of the pyramid are in decline, as they are throughout Europe – which is why there’s a pensions crisis. If pyramid selling is illegal, then why can the State get away with it?

On a lighter note, did you know that every time Wales win the rugby grand slam (as they did this year) a Pope dies – except for 1978, when Wales were really good and two died. I wonder if Pope Ratzo will be a bit on edge for the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Wednesday 17/12/08

Forgot to mention – had a stupid bid in the boat last weekend. Some idiot who hasn’t even seen it made an offer of £75k via the broker, which is £30k less than the asking price. Now I realise house prices have crashed, but they were fantastically overvalued in the first place – boats weren’t. In fact boats tend to hold their value for quite a long time and depreciation is very slow.

An anonymous Saudi has offered £6.5m for the shoes Muntadar al-Zaidi threw at President Bush. Now I know the latest trainers are astronomically expensive, but that’s taking it to extremes. Should I perhaps take the boat to London and ram it into the Thames Barrier in the hope that some Saudi will give me a few million quid for the wreckage?

On the PM Program last night they were asking for nominations for awards for ordinary people. We thought we’d nominate Caravan for services to old ladies, as he looks after a whole troupe of them – mowing lawns, getting their shopping, organising their recycling bins, etc. When he dies he’ll probably become the patron saint of bins and lawnmowers.

Here’s a bit of good news for Fathers For Justice – as part of sweeping changes the media will be able to report legal proceedings in family courts. Jack Straw said the changes would help lift the veil on how the legal process worked. Not before time too, although individuals will still not be able to be identified as minors will need to be protected – but what they will need protecting from is still a bit of a mystery to me. Perhaps some of my avid readers from the legal profession can explain in the comments section.

Have you noticed how the ITV 4 logo had a rather disturbing resemblance to one of the Ss in the Nazi SS symbol?

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Tuesday 16/12/08

So sorry about yesterday’s disappearance of the Blog. I was fiddling around trying to add new gadgets and the bloody thing did a runner on me. At least I had all the text backed up, so all is not lost.

Nigella was doing her bit for Xmas on TV last night. It’s rather strange, but whenever she’s having a dinner party, her hubby, Charles Saatchi, is conspicuous by his absence. Must be too busy buying a piece of crap that he’ll sell on to an unsuspecting world as art.

An Iraqi journalist, Muntadar al-Zaidi, threw his shoes at President Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. In Islamic countries it’s considered the worst possible insult to hit someone with your shoe – or to even show them the sole of your shoe. It’s the Moslem equivalent of black-balling someone from the local golf club or serving sherry above 20 degrees centigrade. However, that begs the question as to how you leave the place after having chucked your flip-flops away and they’ve been commandeered as evidence by plod. You must surely bring along a spare pair, or else you’d look a right plonker toddling off home in your bare feet. If spares are brought, is there a protocol concerning which pair actually get lobbed – the spares or the ones on your feet? Perhaps security people should start doing searches for spare pairs of sandals as well as explosive devices.

Talking of soles, a Devon man has had his eBay advert for his soul withdrawn. The exotically and improbably named Dante Knoxx offered his soul at a starting bid of £25,000.50 or a buy it now price of £700,000. EBay withdrew the item due to it not being physical. I suppose that raises the question of the definition of physical. Is music physical? Are videos physical? The only physical things you’re buying in the previous examples are pieces of plastic, which are not what is actually being sold. I wonder if I could sell higher dimensions than the three of space and one of time. Anyone want to buy the 5th dimension?

Am I alone in pronouncing pickle in the Lancastrian manner – i.e. ‘pittle’? Hay is highly amused by it. Pittled eggs, pittled walnuts, I got into a right pittle, etc. I must say in my defence that I only revert to Lancashire dialect in moments of distraction, which are becoming alarmingly frequent.

Anyone understand charcoal? How the hell can you burn wood (admittedly in the absence of oxygen) and end up with something that’s still a fuel? I’ve never quite understood pyrolysis. Anyway, it seems that wood burners are all the rage at present and everyone is busy installing some version of a pot-bellied stove. Even large estates are installing wood-chip burners as main heating system boilers, the reason being that the wood is sustainable. That may well be the case, but wood emits more carbon than coal into the atmosphere and if everyone used wood, then we’d be back to the killer smogs of the last century.

I’m having problems with my underwear of late. As males get older they succumb to a condition which in our household is termed by its medical name ‘testiculus danglus’, which is a consequence of gravity. It’s a condition which plays havoc with the gusset of boxer shorts, and mine have become as thin as rice paper. I need to invest in a make of foundation garments for the older gentleman that are designed to counter what the rag trade call ‘gussetus abdadicus’. Any suggestions?

There’s a story in the news about Woolies refusing to sell Star Wars lightsabres to kids due to fears they look like guns. Never have I seen a lightsabre that looks even remotely like a gun, and my kids have had quite a few lightsabres. Regardless of whether they look like replica guns or not, I wouldn’t have thought that Woolies could afford to be too picky about what they sell to whom at this precise moment.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Monday 15/12/08 - Addendum

Right! Here's a link to all past posts in Word format (edited in accordance with a request), but beware - it's just over 5 megs and 205,000 words, which is a decent sized novel and half the size of Tolstoy's War & Peace.

Monday 15/12/08

Apologies! I inadvertently deleted the Blog.

Normal service will be resumed just as soon as I figure out how to reconstitute posts to date. Luckily I have all the text available in Word, so I guess I can put it somewhere and provide a link.

Watch this space.