Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A Taxing Question of the Olympics

I'm getting a bit confused about this recent story of Barclays using tax avoidance schemes. 

Wilki defines tax avoidance and evasion thus: "In general, the term "evasion" applies to illegal actions and "avoidance" to actions within the law," which agrees with my definition.

Now a government treasury spokesman has said: "They have got caught, they disclosed this information, the HMRC has acted very quickly, there will be no benefit to the bank, they are clearly taking a substantial reputational hit and we have demonstrated that banks are simply not going to be able to get away with it."

Get away with what? Acting entirely within the law? Can't have that!

Millions of average punters read the Sunday papers' personal finance sections with a view to salting money away into legal tax avoidance schemes, yet no-one raises an eyebrow. A whole swathe of the economy is dedicated to making people's income and savings tax efficient. Banks try to minimise tax through entirely legal means and suddenly they're the Anti-Christ!

I'm not a great fan of the international banks, but I can't help feeling that the government is trying to ride the wave of anti-banking sentiment for populist political gain. Oh well, I suppose Jeremy Vine and his witless, pond-life, phone-in callers will resolve the issue.

Union leaders have called for civil disobedience during the olympics in support of the public sector. As if having the olympics in the UK isn't bad enough in itself. OK, I shall neither watch them nor enjoy them, risking prison in the process.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Guns 'n' Hacking @ the Oscars

I hear GNR are to tour the UK. I guess that'll be another round of late appearances and no-shows then.

What's all this about Oscars being presented at Holyrood? Well, after the way Bravehart mangled history, I guess anything is possible.

£600k for Charlotte Church; rather a lot for someone accessing your voice-mail. Wish some bugger had hacked my phone.

Spotted the Sun on Sunday when collecting my Sunday paper at the newsagent. The headline was something like Amanda Holden: "My heart stopped for 40 seconds". Not long enough by far, if you ask me. 


All windows now in. They're plaster boarding the interior now.  Exterior oak cladding ordered.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Educational Barriers

Can someone please explain to me in words of one syllable why being poor is a barrier to academic achievement? Surely it has nothing to do with poverty per se, but the attitude of parents to education, and if a parent has no regard for education, then the only answer is to remove the child from the parent - which would cause untold psychological damage.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Friday, 24 February 2012


The front of the house got the windows and doors treatment yesterday.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

University Challenge


I have the perfect solution to the problem of not enough poor people getting into university; allow only the intelligent in (regardless of background), take all their money and then make them live on the streets. Voila - instant hordes of disadvantaged poor people in university, all of them clever too.

Yours etc.,
Chairman Bill
Old Sodbury

Chairman Bill is in Aberdeen for the rest of the week doing missionary work.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Coming Along Nicely

Warning: the following contains scenes of a sexual nature, drug use and some violence.

Status as of yesterday evening.

The main doors and windows go in on the other side today (identical to the back). The rest of the green oak cladding is in the process of being ordered.

Downstairs in the central section is one huge feasting hall with a spiral staircase to upstairs; upstairs is one very large master bedroom, with a minstrel gallery at either end; left wing is kitchen (open to feasting hall) and separate utility room (for under-floor heating manifold and water tank); right wing is No.1 son's bedroom (was office, before he came to live with us).

Not the most economical use of space in terms of the number of rooms, but it's what we want - lots of open space and light, eco-friendly and self-sustaining.

Give the drought, we're thinking of making a lake around where the photo was taken. The ground is clay, thus it's entirely feasible.

One addition will be a separate cabin-office which can double as guest accommodation. but that will come much later.

Still haven't got a name for it. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A Christian by Any Other Name...

Did I hear correctly on he news this morning that Led Zeppelin have been put in charge of university admissions?

Apropos Sunday's post about outrage over something trivial becoming the new black for tossers; I note that the media watchdog, Ofcom, has said Jeremy Clarkson's tongue-in-cheek comment that striking public sector workers "should be shot" was not in breach of broadcasting rules. Public sector union tossers bosses had complained to the BBC that his comments were offensive. Thank God - sanity has prevailed!

Talking of God (again - but at least it generates comments); yesterday, Ermintrude suggested I was being somewhat presumptuous in assuming what Christians believe (the bit about the sins of the father being visited on the sons). 

This argument assumes the atheist has no knowledge of Christianity; however, the vast majority of atheists were;

a) raised in one of the many Christian traditions, and
b) invariably attained enlightenment through critical analysis of religions - not just Christianity.

They therefore arguably have a deeper knowledge of religions in general – and Christianity in particular - than the average practising Christian, who has probably never read the bible from cover to cover and has no idea what the Nicene Creed is, let alone recite it. 

Christianity contains within its mansion a plethora of rooms (to quote a 1st century itinerant sage) and it is impossible to develop a single list of dogmas on which all sects are agreed. During the early stages of Christianity there were long-running battles over such diverse matters as the divinity of Jesus (early Christians didn’t actually believe he was divine), the Trinity (an accretion brought about by the synthesis of Judaism and Greek philosophy) and whether X-Factor was better than Pop Idol, etc., resulting in almost daily mutual anathematisations and excommunications of various church fathers by other church fathers on an epic scale. To say the embryonic church was fragmented is an understatement, and it was precisely so because the Christ didn't leave any written records - after all, he didn't intend to found a new religion as he was a dedicated and practising Jew who preached nothing  but compassionate Judaism.

This anarchy continued until Constantine, who saw in Christianity the potential for a state religion that reinforced the concept of the Imperium (it had an entire language for articulating the relationship of government and piety), thought enough was enough and instigated the Council of Nicea, where he got the competing beardies to agree on a single creed. Any sect not agreeing was declared heretic and bonfire fodder.

The next schism divided the church into Western and Eastern orthodoxy, from which many competing sects shot off at a tangent at light speed. Then came had the myriad strands of Protestantism, a number of which became as right-wing as orthodox Catholicism. 

Today there are over 22,000 Christian denominations with another 5 being added each week. No wonder it’s impossible to define what a Christian actually believes! If one were to take all the professed Christians in the world and delete from the dogma each and every belief that the various churches choose to reject, and yet still call themselves Christian, you’d have no religion at all - or as we experts call it, Anglicanism.

The range of beliefs extends from those who profess biblical inerrancy (despite the many biblical paradoxes) to those who deny Christ’s divinity and resurrection, yet believe Christ had some important messages to give humanity (a bit like a 1st century hippy, man). 

Thus to claim someone doesn't know what Christians believe is entirely true, as no-one knows without knowledge of the particular sect, or sub-sect, that a believer belongs to. To say you are a Christian is a bit like saying you’re a socialist – which means you could be a middle of the road democratic socialist (Anglican), or a communist (Catholic), or indeed a national socialist (Creationist).

I would posit that if Christians actually compared the dogmas of their espoused church with their own deeply held beliefs, it would dawn on at least half of them that they're actually in the wrong church. This is down to the fact you are in the church (or religion) you're in due to no other reason than the simple fact your parents were in it, and neither they nor you engaged in any critical thinking. You adopt the religion of your tribe and it's called cultural relativism.

Point out some logical fallacy or paradox in the dogma of a professed Christian and you'll immediately get the response that the person you're debating with naturally doesn't believe that particular dogma anymore. Another tactic is to declare than the NT trumps the OT; well, if that's the case, why have the OT as a sacred text at all? When all is said and done, the Torah was Christ's only reference and it's what he preached. His crime was to dis the Sanhedrin, who had become corrupt and drunk with spiritual power.

As I said yesterday, like a seasoned politician, the Christian will tend to move the cross (aka goalpost) as the case suits.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Skewered by a Wet Flannel

Reports in the papers last week suggest Richard Dawkins was 'skewered' in a debate with Rev. Dr Giles Fraser on the Today Programme.

From what I heard, Dawkins had a lapse of memory over the subtitle of Darwin's 'On The Origin of Species'. Wow, what a 'victory'! Not exactly what I'd call an incisive intellectual skewering - we all suffer lapses of memory occasionally and of that's skewering, then I'm skewered about 3 or 4 times a day.

There again, any minor laurels - however tangential and obscure - will be pounced upon and hailed as a major victory by those who are losing a war and have urgent need of some diversionary propaganda with which to bolster the true believers. It's like the British understandably calling the Dunkirk evacuation a major victory.

One thing that can be said in Fraser's favour is that he campaigns for lesbian and gay inclusion within the church, and for that I heartily applaud him. Wonder where he stands on women bishops, or God for that matter.

Another line of attack was that of showing Dawkins' ancestors were engaged in the slave trade in the 18th century. Go back far enough and I'd probably be able to prove your ancestors engaged in a little recreational rape and pillage in Northumbria in the 8th and 9th centuries (especially if you're from Huddersfield) - but that doesn't necessarily make you a rapist. Hang on - it does in the eyes of Christians, because the sins of the father are visited on the sons, or some such dogmatic rot that's totally devoid of any objective evidence. 

To hear of even one miniscule intellectual 'victory' on the part of the militant superstitionist brigade would be news indeed. As it is, they resort to northing more substantial than ad hominem attacks or moving the goalpost (or cross), which invariably signifies utter desperation and imminent collapse of the argument. It simply makes the attackers look stupidly smug, but not in the eyes of the true believer who displays the beatific smile of a drunk, or indeed an Ahmadinejad.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

I'm Outraged and Offended

Not sure what to be outraged by or offended about just yet, but I'm sure I'll find something. Apparently it's the new black for tossers who haven't got a life - and militant Christians (or are they the same thing?).

Funny, ain't it, how they've coined the derogatory term 'militant' secularist for those of us who simply don't want a particular brand of religion shoved down our throats at every conceivable opportunity outside the confines of a church. I think I'll start calling theists 'militant irrational supertitionists'. In the final analysis, religious dogma is merely a matter of opinion; the sheer number of mutually incompatible religions claiming 'revealed truth' proves that.

The apologists for religion are currently trotting out the fatuous homily that our laws are based on the Bible, or even Christianity. Utter tosh and an argument that is the last refuge of the faux Christian who doesn't know the 10 commandments.

There are only 3 of the 10 commandments which have any relevance to the laws of England - the one about murdering (which the church specifically allows under certain circumstances), the one about stealing and the one about bearing false witness (but that's only in a court of law). Every culture - even those without religion - have these same prohibitions, and I would posit they were appropriated from existing culture by the writers of the Bible and not something handed down by some Grand Poobah in the sky.

I defy anyone to show me an English law that upholds the other 7 commandments. No, in the words of Bertrand Russell: "You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress of humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the coloured races, or even mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world."

As tangible evidence of that, just look at the moral dilemma the church currently has over gays and women Bishops. I wonder if those councillors who want to say prayers before council meetings want to be able to blame God for the cuts? "Don't blame me guv' - I was being guided by God." The 'established' church is desperately trying hanging on to the establishment by the skin of its teeth in the face of total and irredeemable irrelevance.

Bit pissed off at the cat; she spends all night going in and out of the cat flap, but come daylight she miaows to be let out and back in again through the human flap - commonly called a door. Inexplicable. I'm outraged!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A Window on My Life of Prayer

I see militant Christian, Cardinal Eric Pickles (the man who inexplicably claimed a 2nd home allowance for living in Brentwood, like many London commuters), is to enact powers allowing councils in England to hold prayer meetings.

Next he'll be enacting powers to force councils to hold them and then initiate the 2nd Inquisition - nobody expects the 2nd Inquisition. Amongst their weaponry are such diverse elements as fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to David Cameron, and nice red uniforms — oh damn!

The words silly, reactionary and dinosaur come to mind.

The first couple of windows went in yesterday. Rest to follow on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday.

Solid, kiln-dreid oak brushed with Danish oil. Can't wait to see the green oak cladding in place.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Overheard by E-Mail

Chairman's colleague: "I'm on my way to Schiphol airport."

Chairman: "Are you emailing while driving?"

Chairman's colleague: "Yes, but I keep one hand on the steering wheel."

Chairman: "It's safer to type with both hands - less risk of a spelling mistake."

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Overheard While Objectifying Tiny State Exercise

The Queen has been defending the state religion. Looking at the map of countries that actually have a state religion, it would seem we're in a pretty select bunch - most of them being theocracies. A bit anachronistic, to say the least.

17 frustrated harridans with faces like slapped arses have complained that a Ryanair advert objectifies women, resulting in the ads being banned. Wimmin, eh?

Meanwhile, researchers in Madagascar have discovered a tiny chameleon.

It is thought this little blighter was inexplicably incinerated shortly after the photo was taken.

You know how the politicos seem keen to import American solutions to binge drinking - like drunk tanks? You mark my words, Cameron et al will not rest until prohibition is enacted in the UK.

Overheard in the Caravan

Hay: "I think I should do some pilates."

Chairman: "Ain't  that the chap who sent Jesus to the cross? Ever thought of tai-chi?"

Hay: "Nah - don't like Chinese food."

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Oak Cladding in Memory Lane

The burning question of the day is will Abu Qatada will actually get the England manager's job?

The builders managed to get the first lot of oak cladding applied to the gable ends of the house yesterday.

The extra addition under construction on the left is a late plan change to cater for the gubbins required to house the tank and manifold for the under floor heating. Without it, the kitchen space would have been seriously compromised.

This aspect also shows the solar PV panels on the south-facing roof and the two solar thermal ones on the east-facing roof of the kitchen (the latter replicated on the west roof).

All being well, the windows and doors go in at the end of the week and it will start to look more like a house than a derelict shopping centre.

Went on a walk down Memory Lane yesterday in London - or more precisely, the area around Minories and Tower Hill. Went to see a customer in Mint Court (where the old mint used to be), but wondered what the hell they were doing to the Tower of London.

Walked past the building where I used to work some 20-30 years ago - it's now all owned by a Danish company called Maersk, which now owns almost the entire maritime world.

Just up the road was the Castle pub, where I and my friends used to repair after work for a wee libation. The landlord was none other than Frank Mahoney, the boxing manager - before he went into boxing management.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Ronnie's Thornbury

Time for another restaurant review.

We went out for dinner on Saturday evening to a little place in Thornbury called Ronnie's, which is an off-shoot of a popular restaurant in Clifton, Bristol.

We'd been there a couple of times before for lunch after weekend shopping, being well impressed; however, Saturday evening was perfection. I can honestly say Ronnie's is a treasure of a find and well worth a visit for any foodie.

I started with belly pork and scallops - not a combination you'd immediately think of. I was rather surprised to see a small slice of belly port and two scallops presented with a soy sauce reduction, especially as it was priced at an astronomic £11. However, it was heavenly and I didn't begrudge the price one bit.

My main course was calves liver - medium rare. Again, not a large portion, but exquisite as far as presentation and taste were concerned. Price was £18.

Hay started with fishcakes - 3 rather small balls of fishcake, but beautifully presented and pronounced lush.

Her main was a stone bass - again she could not fault the dish and declared it splendid. There was a small crispy something accompanying the fish; Hay couldn't tell what it was, but it tasted of the sea. The waiter informed us it was the fish skin, crisped. A wonderful little detail.

The cheeseboard comprised 3 very tiny slivers of wonderful, unpasteurised English cheeses - sublime at £6.75 (or thereabouts)!

Total price for 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 desserts, 3 glasses of wine, a bottle of Malbec and two coffees was £156, including 12% tip. Not bad really.

The staff are immaculately dressed, polite, knowledgeable, attentive and incredibly professional - a total delight to be waited on by. They are also predominantly foreign (foreigners seem to understand the catering trade so much better than Brits, don't you think?).

My only complaints would be:

  • The fact they automatically apply a 10% gratuity (I raised it to 12% as I was so impressed), and
  • They don't lay the table again once it has been vacated - if they did it would just make the place look a bit more welcoming (I don't like looking at bare tables as the night progresses).

Minor niggles and certainly nothing that would stop me going again. I would put Ronnie's on par with The Vine Tree in Norton. The former is fine dining, whereas the latter is more pubby - but both are have excellent food.

The owners of Ronnie's have got it just right - prices that are high, but not so high (given the quality and attention to detail) as to put you off. It's all about value for money and the dining experience.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Unholy Stink Like a Polecat

Former Archbishop of Cadbury, Lord Carey, has said the Christian faith is facing "gradual marginalisation". He was referring to the court ruling that prayers as part of the official agenda of a council meeting are unlawful.

I'm not surprised Christianity is becoming marginalised, what with their internal squabbles over gender equality, sexuality, transubstantiation, evolution, heliocentrism, etc. - questions that secularists settled without recourse to the supernatural or tradition. If you ask me, Christians are marginalising themselves; they are becoming a small and very vocal  anachronism, wanting to drag everyone kicking and screaming into the 17th century.

Kitty killed a stoat yesterday (or a weasel - can't tell the difference) and decided to bring it into the caravan as a present. Not sure if you've ever had a whiff of a stoat - they stink to high heaven. Kitty had managed to get some of the stink onto her. 

Saturday, 11 February 2012

England Manager Position Filled

There are internet rumours that North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has been assassinated.

Chairman Bill can exclusively reveal that the real reason for Kim's disappearance is that he clandestinely flew to England for secret talks with the FA over his appointment as the new England Manager.

Kim enjoying a recent Spurs match

Friday, 10 February 2012

360 Degrees of Nonsense

360 degree feedback. What's all that about then?

You're hardly likely to tell your boss what you think of him or his management style (unless you're having your exit interview and don't want a reference) and the majority of top flight bosses are by nature emotionally stunted, weapons-grade psychopaths (they need to be to have clawed their way to the top), so they don't give a toss what their staff think about them in the first place. Top management is known to be a favoured refuge for the charismatic, yet incompetent psychopath who craves the adrenalin rush of risk taking (witness the banking crisis).

360 degree feedback started in the German military during WWII - and they lost. It was then adopted by the Americans and turned into a management fad. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Mr President

Is it my imagination, or are the Republicans viewing the nominations as a challenge to get someone even more stupid than Bush into the White House?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Overheard Monopoly on Bad Taste While Growing a Tamponade

Overheard while watching "How to Grow a Planet"

Presenter: ".... our earliest ancestors, the monkeys."

No.1 Son: "Dad, do you believe in evolution?"

Chairman: "Certainly."

No. 1 Son: "Does that mean you're closer to being a monkey than me?"

Chairman: "Hmmmph..."

Overheard while watching Holby (a UK clinical drama).

Doctor Actor: "It's a cardiac tamponade!"

Chairman: "What's that?"

Hay: "It's a,,,..."

Chairman: "Condiment made from olives and ox heart?"

Ever noticed that when Arab potentates are seen schmoozing foreign diplomats, the furniture on which they sit and surrounds them appears to have been designed by someone with execrable taste? All glitzy and covered in white and gold brocade, with wood that can only be direct from a rather hideous repro furniture catalogue or the set of The Only Way is Essex.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Overheard While Flying in China

Overheard while listening to a news item about the efficacy of intercessory prayer.

Hay: "From a scientific perspective, I have no problem in accepting that people of faith are healthier, in general, and live longer than people who have no faith."

Chairman: "Unless, of course, they were martyrs. Martyrs tended to have a relatively short life. 

Take the time to have a look at these incredible videos of some guys flying.

Chinese Scenes from BASE-Book - Matt Gerdes on Vimeo.

Long-Lining from BASE-Book - Matt Gerdes on Vimeo.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Overheard Hotspot for Plan B

Overheard in the restaurant:

Chairman: "You do know that I do it for you, don't you?"

Hay: "What?

Chairman: "Keep myself looking unattractive; it stops other women getting interested in me."

Hay: "I think I'd rather take the risk!" 

The blog briefly became an internet hotspot On Saturday - I had some two and a half thousand hits. Investigation of the pages causing such a flurry of activity showed it was one with an image of the American actor, Ben Gazzara, who died on Friday. That image is apparently in the top line of a Google  image search of the chap.

The builder started putting the oak cladding on one the the gable ends of the house on Thursday, but then hit a problem that he hadn't anticipated. This resulted in a day and a half's work going down the pan, him apologising profusely and refusing to take any payment for him of his other two chaps, despite Hay and I assuring him that the build was a leaning curve for us all and we had no problem with paying him. If only more tradesmen were like that.

Plan B goes into action today.

Talking of planning - I find it illogical that you're not allowed to change a Grade II listed building in any manner, even to bring the accommodation up to a decent standard; yet planning regulations forbid you to build a house with the kind of period features that Grade II listing stops you changing.  

It's precisely a lack of planning regulations throughout the majority of England's existence that has created  the wonderful architecture we have, and now planning regulations have left us with a myriad of hideously inadequate chicken coops.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Time for a Change - Corporately Speaking

It seems to me that shareholders these days are more interested in the profits from buying and selling shares than the dividends. This can lead to market manipulation, short-termism and excessive risk-taking by the boards of companies.

Perhaps it's about time that something was done about this and punitively taxing share profits such that the focus goes once more on real profits, rather than ephemeral ones gained from share prices. It would certainly lead to less short-termism and more realistic corporate valuations.

Anyone got a counter-argument?

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Periodic Table Table

Yes, you read right and I didn't mistakenly write table twice - and here it is:

It was made by a guy in the US, and you can read about it here. He has a really crappy website, but I love the concept. Strong within him the Force must be.

Would adore one for the new housebuild, especially as Hay is a biochemist, but she thinks it a bit faddy.

Friday, 3 February 2012

What's in a Word (of God) for Italians

Some 120 Church of England clergy have written a letter to someone (it's not clear who, but probably someone in a frock and a pointy fascinator [and why does Blogger's spell-checker not recognise this word?]) saying civil partnerships should be facilitated in churches.

A few weeks ago, John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, said that marriage is defined as a contract between a man and a woman and it is not for the state to 'dictate' the meaning of the word marriage.

Logically, and by implication, the Archbish must mean that the CoE should also not dictate the meaning of the word marriage - the church has no monopoly on the dictionary, nor the rite itself. 

Commonly used words (unless scientific or professional) are not generally defined by institutions, but by popular use. Take the word 'gay', for example, or 'awful', the meanings of which have changed over time - the latter now meaning the total opposite of the original usage.

If the church defines marriage as being only between 'a' man and 'a' woman, does that mean Archbish Sentamu does not recognise polygamous Islamic marriages?

Perhaps the Archbish should invent his own word for his bigoted version of the marriage contract. Methinks he's a bit of a Cnut, who, as many will know, tried to turn back the waves under the inexorable onslaught of the tide....

Now, apropos of my little trip to Italy earlier in the week, I now present my homage to famous Italians:





Thursday, 2 February 2012

Overheard - Free, At A Cost

Overheard in a conversation:

Her 1: "My sister works with autistic adults."

Her 2: "You mean men?"

Was in Rome earlier this week on a business trip. Stayed at a Sheraton and was rather unimpressed by the total lack of tea or coffee making equipment in the room.

To be fair, there was a sign saying that free tea or coffee could be delivered to the room - for the small cost of a 7 Euro delivery charge. I'd want a burger, some fries and a side salad for that!


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Consistency of a Giraffe

Fred "the Shred" Goodwin, the man who sank RBS, loses his knighthood, despite not having been found guilty of a crime in the courts. 

Certain lords sitting in the upper house acted criminally (and still won't pay back illegally gained expenses), yet are still lords and no-one is clamouring for them to lose their titles.

Something not quite right here, surely? One rule for those who anger politicians and another for politicians. Populism of the worst kind, if you ask me.

Why is Sainsbury's making bread out of giraffes?