Wednesday, 31 December 2014

It's an Age Thing


2014 will shortly be history and within 3 months I'll be eligible for free prescriptions.

When in my 20s and first considering the age at which I should have been retiring (60, in those days), it seemed so far away. Now I'm within 3 months of the date I should be retiring, as per the original plan, I can't even contemplate retiring.

My father was 2 years younger than I am now when he took early retirement, and could well afford to, and spent very nearly the next 30 years in a state of semi-indolence, funded by a pension Ponzi scheme.

A few bad pension investments (made by the pension companies and not me personally), coupled with overall poor performance of pensions in general, have left me wondering whether putting cash into a pension scheme was worthwhile or whether I'd have been better sinking the money into property. Actually, it's a no-brainer - property would have been a far more solid investment.

There again, two divorces and buying a boat didn't help either.

All things considered, I couldn't actually imagine being retired. I know so many people who are retired and claim they are so busy being retired that they wonder how they ever found the time to work in the first place. That's fine if you were lucky enough to retire on a final salary scheme and paid off your mortgage in your late 40s or early 50s.

When I think back to when I was in my 20s, people in their 60s looked, dressed and acted old. That is no longer the case, although I am starting to prefer looser fitting clothes and now dress for comfort, not really giving a damn for what others think (much to Hay's occasional annoyance).

It's a sad fact of life that much of one's life is spent trying to impress - that's what fashion is all about, portraying an image. In fact it's what mating rituals are all about. Beyond a certain age the preoccupation turns to 'looking good for one's age' - chasing eternal youth, rather than being happy in your own skin and being true to yourself.

Enough of the rambling - may I wish any remaining readers a Contented and Comfortable New Year, whether in work or retirement.


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Various Overheards in Cornwall


We've been away for a few days in Cornwall.

Overheard while looking in a shop window in St Ives:


Chairman: "I wouldn't mind those knives for the kitchen."

Hay: "I think you'd be better off with the mug."

Overheard in the hotel:

Chairman: "Do you want a towel?"

Hay (in mock shock): "I would never steal hotel towels!"

Chairman: "Sorry - I was being northern again."

We were watching a programme on TV about British country houses. Have you noticed how dukes and earls are getting much younger these days?

After having watched some woman from Harrods showing us how to wrap presents just before Christmas, I'm thinking of setting up an alternative wrapping service for next Christmas. Hay thinks I should call it Ham-Fisted Wrapping.

It struck me that we all know what Clegg's, Milliband's and Cameron's wives look like (they're never out of the limelight), but we never see Kirsten Farage on TV or gracing the celeb pages of the press.


Overheard while listening to a radio item about giving apes human rights.

Chairman: "It would never work - just imagine the effect on the economy - several million unemployed apes claiming benefits."

Hay: "But isn't the readership of the Daily Mail comprised almost entirely of chimps?"

Chairman: "You have a point. Also parliament is stuffed to the gills with the buggers."


Saturday, 27 December 2014

Dreary TV


Says a lot about the dire quality of Christmas TV when a programme showing some octogenarian woman reminiscing about her year gets top billing.

Personally, I got more entertainment from the internet and Netflix than the TV this Christmas. I have no idea what the BBC spends the licence fee on - it certainly isn't spent on making gripping (or even mildly interesting) TV programmes.

Across all the myraid TV channels yesterday, there was only one programme I considered worth watching (a film), and even that was not up to its makers' (Aardman) usual standard due to the heavy, dead hand of Amercian influence.

Watching the staple Christmas and New Year fare of The Great Escape, The Sound of Music, repeats and normal weekday shows dressed up as Christmas specials gets a bit wearing as you enter your 6th decade.


Friday, 26 December 2014

Crackers


After the poor showing of Christmas cracker jokes this year, I'm thinking of developing range of crackers that stimulate conversation at the dinner table.

Rather than having weak jokes, the slips of paper would pose philosophical conundrums, such as; "Reconcile an omniscient deity with the uncertainty principle."

Last night's crop - which must have been foreign imports - produced this spelling howler.


We're thinking of keeping this year's Christmas tree, allowing it to completely drop its needles, storing it in a dry place and then using it again next year, but spraying it white.


Thursday, 25 December 2014

To Vape or Not to Vape


Do you reckon Chris Rea has got home yet?

Adverts for e-cigs are being banned.

The clip from one, promoting KiK e-cigarettes, featured a group of adults using and discussing the devices, with one man saying: "I used to smoke normal cigarettes, but after I quit, I tried these. I actually prefer them."

The ASA received seven (note - just seven) complaints from viewers who argued the advert would encourage non-smokers, and particularly former smokers, to use them. Vape Nation denied this, arguing the advert was aimed at current smokers. But the ASA said: "We considered that the man's statement could encourage non-smokers to take up using e-cigarettes and we therefore concluded the ad was irresponsible."

So what if non-smokers take up e-cigarettes? What specifically will harm them?What particularly is irresponsible about persuading people to take up harmless e-cigs? They won't be 'smoking' tobacco, after all.

This is to do with naked, puritanical and ideological prejudice - that and kow-towing to ill-informed, bigoted pressure groups, not logic or even simple common sense. Could it be driven by the desire to find a new tax?


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Overheard Encounters


Chairman: "But have you ever been to Carnforth? The railway station was the scene for that film, what was it called?........ Close Encounter of the 3rd Kind."

Hay: "Brief Encounter."

Can't help but feel that this furore about that Sony film, The Interview, is nothing more than an elaborate marketing exercise.


Monday, 22 December 2014

Good Intentions


That's it - I'm on holiday for 2 weeks! I'm armed with a long list of jobs that need completing before the weather turns fine, but will never get done. Some may even find their way on to that annual triumph of hope over reality, my New Year's resolutions list.

I might, with a bit of luck, get round to solving the intermittent wiper setting fault on the car, although I'm almost certain the weather will prevent me actually getting round to starting it - at least that's what I'm hoping. I'm sure there's a special tool I need to accomplish the job, one I don't own and will have to spend hours looking for on the internet. I'll make sure that if I do fins and buy it, I get UK Mail to deliver it - that will make certain the job never gets started.


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Support Royal Mail


Last week I succumbed to some TV advertising and purchased a Worx Sonicrafter tool (I'm sure it will come in useful at some time in the distant future).

Bought it on eBay and then waited for the delivery.


  1. Received a text from the courier (Mail UK) on Tuesday to say it would be delivered that day; it never turned up.
  2. Received a text on Wednesday to say it would be delivered that day; it never turned up.
  3. Received a text on Thursday to say it would be delivered that day, it never turned up.
Following each non-delivery, I contacted Mail UK to say we are hard to find and the driver should call my mobile so I could talk him down - my phone number was even on the consignment to avoid this (plus they had my phone number in order to alert me by text). Needless to say, I never received a phone call. I don't think Mail UK supply their drivers with mobile phones.

Eventually it was delivered on Friday, by a different courier subcontracted to Mail UK. He said Mail UK couriers have 2 minutes per drop, and if they can't find a destination within 2 minutes, they take the package back to base.

Our Royal Mail system is being dismantled and destroyed by these incompetent jokers cherry picking only profitable routes and providing crappy service. Don't use cheap couriers, if you do, you're part of the problem.

Sold a Le Creuset cast iron pan on eBay a year or so ago and used one of these cheap couriers to deliver it. Damned thing arrived split in two at the destination. It's extremely difficult to break a cast iron pan, but that particular courier managed it.


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Overheard in Bed


The Chairman is about to perform his nightly ritual of reading a couple of pages of a book and falling asleep with it open: Hay has had a particularly harrowing day at work over a line management issue.

Hay: "What are you reading?"

Chairman: "A biography of Napoleon - he's just on the verge of taking over France."

Hay: "What would he have done with a tricky line management issue?"

Chairman: "Create a large Cisalpine client republic as a buffer and partition Venice between Austria and France."

Hay: "I'll try that on Monday. well, either that or kick it upstairs to HR."


Saw an advert on TV last night for a L'Oreal hair colour product called Prodigy. I won't mention the image that flashed through my mind, but I'm certain it's not the image L'Oreal intended.


The garden rose is still going strong, with only 5 days to Christmas.



Friday, 19 December 2014

Overheard While Channel Surfing



Hay: "Oh it's Nigella! Haven't seen her on TV for a while."

Chairman: "No, not since she was throttled."


Still can't understand this Russian rouble collapse frenzy  is no-one actually looking at the facts?


Anyone know who won the 1938 Nuremberg Rally?


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Pirate Rouble Gateway, Bishop to Kitty 4


At last a serious study of e-cigarettes, not clouded by prejudice or preconceptions. The remaining myth to demolish is the statement that e-cigarettes are a gateway to real cigarettes. I don't know if you've ever had an e-cig, but that's like saying drinking lemonade is a gateway to scotch.

I was feeding Kitty this morning and couldn't help but think that she couldn't give a damn about whether her kitty-crunchies are shaped like a fish or a star, so long as they are palatable and taste vaguely of goldfish, sparrow or mouse. I'm convinced the manufacturer's advertising just goes straight over her head and is a complete waste of time and effort - she doesn't even look at the packaging and certainly doesn't worry that 9 out of 10 cats prefer a particular brand. Why does no-one make mouse flavoured crunchies? I suppose they could be a gateway to real mice...

Here's my new best mate who I met in Lidl and rides a buccaneer's mobility scooter. Gateway to piracy, obviously. A game old lady!


They say the Russian rouble is in freefall. If you care to do some research on the conversion rate, it's not even reached the level of last September yet. It's the meteoric rise of the rouble since September that's more shocking.


So, the Anglicans have finally got a woman bishop. Stockport though....

Wonder how she got the job - V-Factor face-off perhaps?


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Perpetuating Memes


I was a tad shocked yesterday by a FaceBook post showing a woman with a black eye with a superimposed picture of her partner or husband. The text said; "The man who did this to my sister is trying to have his image removed from FaceBook. Please share if you agree domestic violence is not OK. Break the silence."

Now I don't know the woman posting the message, or her sister, or her sister's husband/partner. In fact, I know nothing about this at all, except for the post coming via one of my FaceBook friends, who may have got it 1st, 2nd, 3rd or Nth hand. 

The post may be true, it may be a load of bunkum, it may even be someone with a grudge against the bloke being targeted. Sharing stuff like this on a whim can be dangerous, as you could open yourself to prosecution for libel. 

FaceBook can be a useful tool; it is also the best medium for spreading ridiculous, and in some cases malicious crap that many people fall for, hook, line and sinker (miracle cures for cancer that "doctors are trying to suppress," come to mind most, as well as free cars or iPods).

I'm not saying this story is crap, but unless you know the individuals concerned, you just don't know whether it's crap or not (unless it's the miracle cure or the free car, in which case you can be certain that it's unresearched, purposefully misleading crap, or will lead you to a site that installs malware on your 'puter). Sharing such posts is spectacularly irresponsible, especially in light of some high profile accusations which have proven to be baseless and fabricated.

FaceBook, for some, has replaced the courts as judge, jury and executioner. That's mob rule.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Overheard in the Chemist


Overheard in the chemist.

Chairman: "I believe you have a prescription for me."

1st Chemist: "I'll go and have a look."

2nd Chemist: "Hello sir, it's good to see you again, Are you well?"

Chairman: "Fine thanks........ actually no, else I wouldn't be here in the first place collecting pills."

2nd Chemist: "Yes, there is a certain elegant logic to that."

Managed to get an identical set of Christmas tree lights to the ones we bought last year. Why on earth do electrical items all come with those plastic sheaths on the plugs? It's not as if I'm going to try to gouge my eyes out with the pins of a 3 pin plug, or go on the rampage in Chipping Sodbury High Street armed with 3 pin plugs! Probably some bollocky European directive.

After writing the above paragraph, and spurred on by an inquisitive mind, I did some basic research - they are apparently not the result of some HSE directive, but are fitted to plugs as an insurance against scratching the product (not the plug) whilst on the production line, in transit and/or unpacking. Not so daft after all.

Strangely enough, I have yet to hear a single rendition of Slade's Christmas ballad, 'Merry Christmas Everybody'.






Monday, 15 December 2014

Sieg Rotten Christmas Tree Tea Light Henge


I'm not the vaguest bit interested in Sports Personality of the Year, but I couldn't help but see the BBC News advert for the program, which showed Simple Minds rehearsing. Before the reporter said it was Simple Minds, I thought (what turned out to be) Jim Kerr was Johnny Rotten.



See what I mean?

Tried to decorate the tree yesterday afternoon, but I was accused by Hay of being a Christmas Tree Light Nazi. I detest mixing tree lights, especially if they are so obviously different - it's heretical.

Will try again tonight, once I have paid a visit to the official Gestapo Christmas Tree Light Emporium and bought another set exactly the same as the ones I like best (I don't like bright, white lights - you may as well festoon your tree with strip lighting - much preferring a soft, candle-like colour).

Over the last few days, the local council has been installing our very own Chipping Sodbury fake henge on the roundabout, using locally sourced Cotswold stone.


Each to his own, perhaps. Read in the Sunday papers that barrow burials are now popular in some sections of the population. Perhaps a long barrow should be installed on the roundabout too, to take the overflow from the local church.

Tealights! When was the last time you saw anyone warm their teapot with tealights? The 60s was the last time I saw this happening - mum had one of those glass tealight thingies for teapots. About time the name was changed to mood lights, wouldn't you say, or Indian restaurant food warmer lights?


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Workplace Pensions


Had occasion to look at the government website about Workplace Pensions this morning.

Finally went and looked at a non-governmental website, as the governmental one left me totally confused and with more questions that when I started to look.


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Consistently Aqualung


Heard Jethro Tull's Solstice Bells on the radio yesterday while driving through Devon, which got me to listening to some Tull on YouTube when I got home. "Sitting on a park bench eyeing little girls with bad intent." I'm surprised Ian Anderson hasn't been arrested as part of the Operation Yewtree investigation.

While driving through one area I saw signs for Tolpuddle, Affpuddle, Puddletown and Piddlehinton, all in quick succession.

An item on the news yesterday stated that various NHS trusts had consistently managed to fail to reach certain targets. That word "consistently" was reassuring: consistence leads to being able to make plans - inconsistency is notoriously difficult to deal with.


Friday, 12 December 2014

Chairman Bill Endorses....


Just been reading about how Sophie Ellis-Bextor got a discount on a hot tub in exchange for an endorsement.

Just wondering if there's any retailer out there who could benefit from a Chairman Bill endorsement. Celebrity does have its drawbacks, but there are a few pluses too, as I have found out over the years. Oh, the glare of the media spotlight, the adulation, the fawning fans...

The possibilities are endless; spectacles, back pain remedies, cataract operations, Malbec, memory aids, stinky cheese, pre-stained clothing....


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Getting into the Spirit of Panvis


My home-baked Christmas cake got its last feeding of alcohol last night - over the last 3 weeks I've alternately fed it scotch and rum and by now it must be more soused than George Best ever was. A week of drying out and it will be ready to ice. Not sure what to use instead of marzipan, which I detest. A layer of apricot jam is favourite at present, but any suggestions are most welcome as an alternative to prevent the icing being stained by the cake.

The Christmas tree is still languishing in a bucket of water outside (I don't hold with putting decorations up too early), but will be turned into a festive installation before the end of the weekend.

Plum puddings were made at the local church in the village on Stir-up Sunday.

Have you seen the price the supermarkets are charging for goose? We're definitely not having goose this year, much as I love it and prefer it to turkey.

We have a tradition of a family breakfast on Christmas morning - all three households of the kampong (us, Hay's sister and partner and Hay's dad - sometimes with a few hangers-on) congregate in one of our houses and have kedgeree. It's our turn this year and last night I had a practice run by making panvis, a Dutch kedgeree made of potatoes, rice, onions and mustard. Perhaps not up to the standard of my dad's panvis, but a very good attempt (needed slightly more mustard).

Here's my recipe:

Ingredients: 

  • 2 medium onions 
  • 4 pieces smoked cod or haddock 
  • 1 cup rice 
  • 3 baking potatoes 
  • 2 tablespoons English mustard (gives a bite and colour)
  • Salt and Pepper 
  • Butter 
 Method:


  • Gently fry the finely sliced onion in butter till translucent and caramelised (as if making French onion soup). 
  • Poach the cod/haddock in very little milk. 
  • Boil the rice and the potatoes (separately). Mash the potatoes.
  • Combine all the above and mix with the mustard, salt and pepper. 
  • Spread into a baking tray and dot with butter – fluff up the top so it will catch the oven heat and crisp. 
  • Sprinkle with a few pinches of mustard powder and paprika and put foil over the top.
  • Place into a 200 degree oven with foil on top to thoroughly warm up. Turn up the heat up to 250 degrees after about 25 minutes, removing the foil to crisp up the top.
  • Serve with steamed shredded greens, or similar.
Makes enough for 3 or 4.

As a kid I remember carefully going through my plate of panvis to check for fish bones. Seems to me that filleted fish was a luxury in those days and we had to rely on my mum's (or dad's) inexpert filleting.


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Use By - Sell By


It seems crazy to me that we have food banks while supermarkets are forced to chuck out thousands of tonnes of produce because they're adhering to government rules on use by and sell by dates.

Use by and sell by are fine for an affluent society, but not when you're on the breadline. Supermarkets can't even donate this excess to the needy, as they would still be guilty of putting it into the food chain.

Perhaps we need a 2 tier use by and sell by - one for the affluent and another for the poor, with an associated price drop for the latter.

Baroness Wossername is right about poor people not being able to cook, but perhaps it was expressed in an unfortunate manner. I'd contest that most people can't cook - people have lost the skills. These days a busy family buys ready meals and you can even buy a complete Heston or Jamie Christmas dinner these days.

Given kids are usually home before their parents, perhaps kids should be taught to cook as part of their curriculum and then parents can come home to a lovely, home-cooked meal.


Monday, 8 December 2014

Gender Stereotyping Christmas Trees


Who remembers feeling horror when Christmas trees reached the exorbitant sum of a pound a foot? Shelled out £60 for ours yesterday, although that's the same price as last year.

Remember the story about some self-absorbed parent who complained to Tesco about gender stereotyping of kids' Christmas toys? Well, I had occasion to visit Marks and Spencer yesterday and I think I'll complain about gender stereotyping - just look at what I saw.




It's tantamount to apartheid,


Sunday, 7 December 2014

A Taxing Issue


Why on earth is anyone earning more than £25k receiving child benefit when public services and those genuinely in need of financial assistance are screaming out for more money?

Rather than giving out money on the basis of the number of kids you have, perhaps the next Chancellor should consider a child tax, using the money for education or eliminating university fees.

The super rich might avoid it though by putting their kids in a tax haven. No bad thing, perhaps.


Saturday, 6 December 2014

Icons & Minimalist Art in America


Got myself an old, iconic Jaguar mascot off eBay for a tenner, married it to an oak plinth, also purchased from eBay for £4, and now have a nice little ornament.


Took this minimalist photo yesterday - I call it "Ceiling",


Regarding the spate of people being topped by American police; I wonder if the level of civilian deaths and the heavy-handed approach is caused by the fact the police have no idea whether the person being arrested is carrying a gun, in which case shooting first and asking questions later is the pragmatic response.

If flagged down by the police in the UK, you're not asked to keep your hands on the steering wheel in case you reach for a gun in the glove compartment.


Friday, 5 December 2014

Pop Trivia


Apparently the first incarnation of the the popular rock combo Motorhead was called Bastard. Lemmy was persuaded to change the name when it was pointed out to him that it might be difficult to get a slot on Top of the Pops with a name like that.

Seems to me that being banned by Top of the Pops or the BBC was equally efficacious in ensuring success for some. Who remembers Fairy Tale of New York by the Pogues, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by The Beatles, and the immortal Diggin' my Potatoes by Lonnie Donnegan?


Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Argument Sketch


Listening to Ed Balls commenting on the Chancellor's Autumn Statement yesterday, I was reminded of the Monty Python Argument sketch.

The misleading Tory chant of; "The mess we inherited from Labour," as if Labour caused the global financial crash, has been replaced with the misleading Labour mantra of; "They missed their targets."

The point about targets is that they are targets and not promises, as any salesman knows. They are meant to be stretching, and to interpret them as promises when related to something as complex as the economy is facile in the extreme. Labour is not doing itself any favours by resorting to this tactic, especially when other indicators (numbers in work, growth, etc.) are positive.

The fact remains that in order to eliminate the deficit, taxes have to rise, and turkeys don't generally tend to vote for Christmas.

The credit crisis was not simply the fault of the rich, as they don't generally need to borrow (except to invest for growth), it's the fault of those who borrow more than they can easily repay. Yet it's always the rich who are targeted in order to bail out those who borrow beyond their means. This strikes me as basically unjust and the cry of; "Well, they can afford it," is unattractively juvenile and something you'd expect from teenage children.


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Jewish Wisdom


Was reading an article about abortion and the pro-life campaign.

Some Jewish wag made the comment that Jews don't see a foetus as a person till it graduates from medical school, which, knowing many of my Jewish work colleagues, I thought rather hilarious as well as insightful.

For those not familiar with historic Jewish views on life, some Jews believed a foetus is not a person till 40 days after conception.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Overheard II


Overheard while watching a Countryfile report on Lancashire where the Lancashire Wildlife Trust was mentioned:

Hay: "Lancashire Wildlife Trust? The only wildlife in Lancashire is feral whippets, escaped pigeons and untamed ferrets."


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Overheard


There haven't been enough Overheards of late.

Overheard while getting dressed:

Hay: "One of the girls from work is going off to have a baby..."

Chairman: "Where is she getting it from?"

Hay: "Oh, I don't know - Waitrose I suppose".

Chairman: "Is it for Christmas?"

Hay: ".....Anyway, she was telling me about a friend of hers who had two boys who she and her husband gave the forenames Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. They insisted on being called by their full forenames until they reached the age where it became embarrassing and are now called simply Bob and Jimmy."

Chairman: "If our parents had adopted that protocol, you'd be Hayley Mills Dash and I'd be Philip Duke of Edinburgh van Bergen".


Friday, 28 November 2014

Southmead Update & Prejudice at Lidl


On Wednesday I had to take No.1 Son to Southmead Hospital again to have his orthodontic brace adjusted. Still couldn't get a parking place immediately and had to wait for about 15 minutes before someone vacated a space, sending No.1 Son into the hospital on his own (which was not an issue at his age, but I don't like sitting in a car waiting for a car parking space to become available).

When I finally got in I was amazed by what I saw; it wasn't so much a hospital as a facsimile of an airport terminal. Instead of departments they have 'gates' and there's a huge, atrium / departure lounge that functions as a main thoroughfare. It really is spectacular and must have cost an absolute fortune. Can't help feeling though that they should have used less space for the atrium and more for a multi-storey car park.

I buy quite a bit of stuff on eBay and occasionally have cause to communicate with sellers, or even buyers of things I'm selling. When I get responses like; "hi there, the old 2 pin plug has 250v on it, so im not sure, thanks, dan," I can't help but get a preconceived impression of the person I'm communicating with. Surely people are taught in school how to use capital letters and punctuation - they are the next thing you learn after mastering stringing letters together to make words. Is it prejudice on my part, a failure of the British education system or just sloppiness on the part of the seller? Perhaps a mix of all three.

Apparently Lidl is selling perfume that's indistinguishable from Chanel. Had a whiff of it yesterday morning and suspect people mean it smells like The Channel.


Thursday, 27 November 2014

Dedicated Follower of Fashion


Last week, against my better judgement, Hay managed to persuade me to buy some "fashion trousers". She maintains they look good on me, but they are torture to wear.

These contraptions have a very narrow leg, such that my rugby player calves are gripped in a vice of trouser material. The result is that after sitting down the legs go to half mast and you constantly have to adjust the length.

The waist is about 3 inches lower than the waist on my normal trousers, with the result that after sitting down the arse drops several inches and I look like one of those cruddy kids who delight in showing off their underwear and having droopy arses in their trousers. Not a fetching look.

Once you put something in your pocket, it's there permanently until such time as you take your trousers off in order to be able to get your hand in the pocket.

Number ones is a bloody nightmare. For a start the base of the fly is several inches higher than normal, meaning your flow is restricted due to having to first arrange your plumbing so as to overcome the dog's leg and risking having a nasty dribble accident once you replace your plumbing. Additionally, you have to roll your tackle up on replacing it, or at least fold it, in order to overcome the dire lack of tackle space.

Never again will I buy "fashion trousers". I need volume - the more the merrier. Same goes for jocks - they have to be voluminous boxers of the old Marks and Sparks variety, which I haven't seen for about 10 years.


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

I'll Pick a Rose for My Rose at Christmas


Can't help but think there's something rather distasteful and juvenile about certain pop stars having a dig at Bob Geldoff about the latest incarnation of "Do They Know it's Christmas". Seems excuses to denigrate it become more fanciful by the day, ranging from parts of Africa being Moslem (the song is aimed at the UK population, for heaven's sake), the song suggesting Africa can't sort out its own problems (which it very obviously can't) to Africa isn't one country (you don't say, Sherlock).

The latter half of November and the roses are budding.


Don't you just love that global warming?



Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tak-a-tak-a-tak-a-tak


A few months back I took a photo of a Spitfire Merlin engine rocker cover at The Ragged Cot pub in Minchinhampton, and very nice it was too.


Over the weekend I bought a Spitfire Griffon 65 rocker cover on eBay, intending to burnish it and turn it into a similar display. 


The Griffon was a later Spitfire engine and much larger than the Merlin, being 37 litres compares to the Merlin's 27.

Perhaps not as iconic as the Merlin, the Griffon was nevertheless crucial in keeping the Spitfire ahead of German air technology and speed. I have to admit that the Merlin rocker box looks more retro and beefy, having a few more contours.





Monday, 24 November 2014

Foodie Fads


Seen the ultimate in twaddle:


  • Loin of cod tempura, or gourmet burger,
  • Pommes frites,
  • Smashed peas.
I believe that translates as battered cod or burger, chips and mushy peas.


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Action Man Alternative


A new doll has been manufactured to compete with Barbie. It has more 'normal' proportions.



When will a new Action Man be made, more closely resembling the average UKIP voter?


Should I be forced to resign?


Friday, 21 November 2014

Rochester & Strood


One hears Emily Thornberry, MP, has apologized to all right wing chavs.



Thursday, 20 November 2014

Hamsterjam


Returning back to the UK today. Must say I'm impressed with the new taxis at Schiphol airport - they bought 100 Teslas, and they look the business (this is not one of them). Wouldn't mind one myself.


Some shots of my trip:

I particularly liked this Amsterdam house.



How the kids are taken to school. I also spotted a mobile bike mechanic using one of these - he's at the end of a mobile phone and repairs punctures, etc.



A novel bike.


Saw this at the trade show I've been at - combines solar PV with solar thermal in one unit.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Ched Evans


Been following this Ched Evans story - the Sheffield United footballer who was found guilty of rape.

  1. There are some inconsistencies about the conviction, despite him not being given leave to appeal (jury convictions rarely get leave to appeal) and still trying to clear his name. For example, the girl who was raped never made a rape complaint - the police brought the prosecution - and another footballer who was present and charged was subsequently acquitted on the same evidence.
  2. He has done his time. 
  3. He is out of his contract with Sheffield United.
I'm a great believer in giving people a 2nd chance. He has served his sentence and therefore has paid his debt in the eyes of the law (assuming guilt). If the sentence doesn't meet the crime, that's another matter. Given Evans is still trying to clear his name, I think it a bit previous to deny him a job. 

My first reactions was that this could all blow over if he simply made a public statement demonstrating contrition and donated his first few weeks' salary to a rape crisis charity - but, if he's still trying to clear his name, that's also a bit previous and tantamount to an admission of guilt. Catch 22.

Then there's the matter of him being a role model, as some term it. Not many footballers could be called role models - I can think only of a handful. Should a role model be treated more severely than just an ordinary person? Perhaps yes, but I would hesitate to call him a role model.

If he were still in his contract and there was no specific clause within it prohibiting him from engaging in certain acts or having a conviction, then the football club itself could be guilty of discrimination.

I think too many people are jumping on too many bandwagons, far too quickly, and without knowing a great deal about the case in question. There have been numerous cases of miscarriages of justice in the past, but the jury system is nevertheless still considered infallible. Similarly, offenders have gone on to reoffend.


Monday, 17 November 2014

Hedging Service at a Fork in the Road


The hedge around our field is in desperate need of some attention; however, anyone we phone to do the job simply never returns our call. After seeing a hedge laying competition on Coutryfile last night (just up the road at Highgrove), I was thinking of announcing the Old Sodbury hedge laying competition.

Bought some 2nd hand forks in a local charity shop on Saturday - made them into napkin rings. Haven't quite got the hang of it yet, but I shall improve with practice.


Due to the varying thickness along the handle, bending them isn't as easy as you'd imagine; I need to get myself some steel pipe to aid the process.

On my Friday jaunt to London I called in at Reading services and got myself a bacon bap.

The Hype

The sorry-looking reality

Spotted these stollen bites at the Costa counter. 3 pitiful bites for £2.29. You can get a box full of the buggers weighing 350g from Lidl for £1.99. How the hell do Costa justify these prices?


There wasn't an English accent to be heard behind any of the counters (all eastern European), yet Reading has quite a few unemployed people. Seems the Brits just don't want the work, and it's not as if the owners are paying less than minimum wage.

Off to Hamsterjam later today for the rest of the week to attend a trade show.



Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sturgeon Deliveries


Yet another courier parcel delivery has gone astray. I think companies should outsource their parcel deliveries to the European Space Agency - they can hit the mark from 4 billion miles.

That Nicola Sturgeon gets right up my nose. Heard her being interviewed saying why should Scotland leave the EU because a party Scots hadn't voted for wanted to. You could use that level of argument for any county, or indeed town or village within the UK. She calls it democracy - when there's little or no difference between the Scots and the English, I call it anarchy. The Scots are as different from the English as Geordies are from Scousers and I defy anyone to tell me how the Scots are so different from the English (OK, they have a few more carrot-tops and a penchant for cross dressing, but that's as far as it goes).


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Move Out of the Damned Way!


I drove the new Dinky Toy to London yesterday to hand-deliver a large satellite communications proposal to the Brazilian Navy Commission in Europe; what should have been no more than a 2 hour drive turned out to be 4 hours due to the weight of traffic and I made the deadline with 5 minutes to spare.

On the way back I was following a Porsche Carrera 4S on the M4 and the spray from the Porsche's wheels necessitated that I give the windscreen a quick wash and wipe. I twiddled the wiper thingy, but nothing happened. I twiddled it again and still nothing happened. I twiddled it furiously and the Porsche Carrera suddenly moved over from the fast lane into the middle lane to let me pass.

Yes, I'd been sat in a Hyundai Getz 1.1 litre, furiously flashing a Porsche to get out of the damned way.

As I drew level with the Porsche, I think the driver saw the funny side. Whether he realised I'd mistaken the high beam flasher for the windscreen wiper, I don't know.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Double Bypass Burger


Heard about the Double Doughnut Burger (I refuse to spell it the American way).

Steve Jebson for Hungry Horse, said: "Our popular menu caters for a variety of tastes and appetites and includes everything from lower calorie options such as our hot chicken and bacon salad at 393 calories, through to the indulgent occasional treat such as our new Double Donut Burger. All the nutritional information for our menu is available on our website and in our pubs, so that our customers are able to make informed decisions about what they choose to eat."

Informed decision - who's he trying to kid? The people who would eat that probably can't even read, let alone reach an informed decision!


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Victim vs Survivor


Have you noticed how the BBC, when reporting on rape or sexual abuse, has started calling those who were abused 'survivors' instead of 'victims'.

Survivor, to me, indicates someone who has transcended the event; not all victims of abuse survive the ordeal, they can remain traumatised for the rest of their lives.

Victim: a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.

Survivor: a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died.

Also, survivor: a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

I guess it can depend on the dictionary you use as to the definition, and dictionaries are nothing more than someone's opinion - hence the different definitions.

However, that said, the use of the word survivor in the BBC, at least to me, is an example of imposed groupthink to perhaps engender a sense of empowerment in the victims. All who are subject to sexual abuse are victims; not all victims are survivors and to label them all as such is a misrepresentation (possibly with a hidden political agenda).

Perhaps the word victim has become debased now that we have the 'victim culture' and everyone is a victim of something (at least in their own minds) - a bit like the word 'hero' has become debased by overuse in grossly inappropriate circumstances.

Language is a funny old thing...

Analyse and discuss.


Friday, 7 November 2014

I'd Never Have Guessed


Apparently the new Star Wars film title has been released. It's called Star Wars. That was a well kept secret!

It would appear that a French health watchdog is of the opinion that 3D glasses could be dangerous for youngsters' eyes. According to Anses, the process of assimilating a three-dimensional effect requires the eyes to look at images in two different places at the same time before the brain translates it as one image, and this could be harmful to developing eyes. That sounds suspiciously like the way eyes work to see the real world in depth. Perhaps just seeing is harmful to the eyes...

So who really did kill Bin Laden, and will the TV spin-off rival the Dallas cliff-hanger?


Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Dinky Toy


The Golf TDi with the knackered auto gearbox is on eBay as a 'spares or repair' and last weekend we bought (or rather I was persuaded by Hay to buy) a cheap (£999) Hyundai Getz 1.1 Dinky Toy as a replacement Pool Car. Cheap and economical, but manual.

Last night I had to pick up No.1 Son from school following his weekly trip to Bristol Uni for part of his A level course. Now driving at dusk has become a problem since I was diagnosed with early stage cataracts (glare from oncoming cars and colours just meld into one mass), but driving a car which has the indicator and wiper switches in the reverse positions from the Golf, as well as having 5 manual gears, proved to be a total nightmare.

A favourite bugbear if mine is manual cars - especially ones with 5 gears. You are forced to drive with one hand permanently on the gearstick when in town traffic, while using the other to put your windscreen wipers on to signify you're about to make a turn.

Some people say manual cars give you better control. How can that be possible when you're steering with one hand only for the majority of the time? We're in the 21st century, for God's sake.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Devolution


Was watching something on local TV last night about devolution of power from Westminster and Cornwall.

Never met an actual native Cornishman, and I used to go to Cornwall once a fortnight.

One bloke (allegedly a Cornishman) said it's ridiculous to think Cornwall could be governed from London. That's like saying Middlesbrough or Barrow in Furness can't be governed from London.

For the best part of 300 years Cornwall was governed from Rome, and Australia from London.

It's only small-minded people who come out with statements like this. Distance is no barrier to government; it's the attitudes of those governing and those being governed (and their relationships) that matter.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Molecular Gastronomy II


Just thought I'd show a picture of my apple juice pearls. These are jellified all the way through, so if you ain't got your full complement of tombstones in your mouth, then they can be a tad difficult to get your gnashers around. Rather than chewing them, I gum them.


Can't wait for the really nasty chemicals to arrive in the post so I can experiment with a soft, lipid shell and make all manner of wonderful Quatermass blobs that I can feed to the unsuspecting family.


Monday, 3 November 2014

Halloween


We didn't have a pumpkin, so Hay used an orange instead.



Sunday, 2 November 2014

Molecular White Trousers


We went to the Chipping Sodbury Yacht Club dinner on Friday night - dress was full uniform and medals.

We had a wonderful rendition of sea shanties by The Shanty Men.


However, I do question the wisdom of white uniform trousers for gentlemen who are in the main above 60. Lots of stains....

Inspired by a Facebook friend with a restaurant (The Monro in Liverpool), I'm getting into molecular gastronomy. I made balsamic pearls to accompany dinner last night, also a heap of apple juice pearls. Used agar for these, but have bought some sodium alginate and calcium chloride on eBay in order to make all manner of scrummy caviar with a thin lipid shell that pops in your mouth. Hay's biochemistry PhD may come in handy for a few ideas.



Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Chairman Bill's Recipe Page


I have perfected the mid-week, fast and nutritious recipe! One pot cooking that takes only 5 minutes to prepare (the night before, if you choose) and is delicious.
  • Take one flatish casserole dish with a lid (like a le creuset).
  • Arrange in the bottom some green beans, purple sprouting broccoli, sliced peppers, baby sweetcorn - in fact any non-hard vegetables you like. I also add 3 garlic cloves, roughly sliced.
  • Sprinkle with oil (rapeseed or olive) and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar.
  • Add half a small wineglass of decent white wine (actually, an execrable white makes bugger all difference) or the same amount of stock. Don't overdo the liquid, as the veggies will produce quite a bit.
  • Top with as many chicken breasts as people you need to feed (I do 6 and it lasts 2 nights).
  • Sprinkle sea salt and plenty of cracked black pepper over the top.
  • Top off with a large sprig of either tarragon, purple sage or rosemary (not all 3 together - just one of the three options - or whatever herb you prefer).
  • Put the lid on and place in the fridge till the evening.

When it's near dinner time, slam the casserole into a 200 degrees C oven for 40 minutes, or as long as necessary to ensure the chicken breasts are cooked (just slice one to check).

If it's your wont, boil a few baby new potatoes as an accompaniment, although I prefer to bake them till cooked, punch them open with my fist wrapped in a tea towel, drizzle with garlic infused olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and bake until crispy at 200 degrees C.

What with Hay now working in Bristol and me working mainly from home, I'm now the chef during the week and this went down a treat last week and last night. I tried a variation with pork escalopes, and that worked fine too, although chicken is better.


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Term Time Holidays


While ironing last night (Hay was out at yoga) I watched something on TV about parents taking their kids out of school during term time so they can save a bundle on holiday costs.

One parent waxed lyrical about the educative benefits to kids of being totally immersed in a foreign culture - all the while sitting in an hotel pool-side area infested with other Brits. Now that's irony! Perhaps the parents meant the culture of the Yorkshire couple in the room next door, or the Scots down the corridor....

The sad thing is that these are the very same parents who will wail when their kids fail their GCSEs and shout from the rooftops that the education system has failed them.

A headmaster was interviewed and told he must have sympathy for the families who have children at his school when so many percent were on free school meals. Well, the way to get your children out of the vicious circle of becoming the next generation of parents to have their kids benefiting from free school meals is to ensure they aren't absent from school. Simples, as they say. To these parents, a good, cheap holiday among fellow Brits on the Costa Del Sol is worth more than their kids' future.

Notwithstanding what I said above, why bother fining the parents? We will always need uneducated people to fill the menial roles, and if that's what the parents want for their kids, then surely that's their right. Analyse and discuss.


Monday, 27 October 2014

Allegiance


Overheard on Saturday in a Taxi in Accrington:

Chairman: "So I guess you like cricket?"

British Asian Taxi Driver (in a thick, Lancashire accent): "Too right mate."

Chairman: "And what team do you support?"

British Asian Taxi Driver: "Lancashire, naturally - we may be near t' Yorkshire border, and I may have family over there, but I'm no traitor to me roots."


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Gizmos


Years ago I bought one of these cigarette lighter FM transmitters for the car - you can play music from a USB stick over FM and pick it up on the radio.

As we're Oop Nowerth this weekend - West Kirby to see big bro', thence to the North Yorkshire Dales via Accrington to see No.1 daughter - I thought I'd dig it out and see if it still worked, as the CD changer is the Merc is not connected (damned thing has a 10 pin DIN, whereas the radio has an 8 pin DIN). It was swamped by local stations within the narrow band in which it transmits, so next to useless.

When these gizmos first came out there weren't so many FM stations, but since then they have proliferated like inane and unenlightened Facebook posts. Not worth buying, unless you do a lot of driving in the sticks.

Now an app for the phone that transmits on selectable FM (assuming the makers could put an FM transmitter into the phone) would be a brilliant idea. Use Waze for routing and an app to play my music over the radio. 


Friday, 24 October 2014

Time for a Grump


I'm getting heartily fed up with Vodafone. They send me a text and an email when my bill is ready, telling me to go online to view it, and without fail they're tinkering with the website and I can't see the damned thing anyway. Surely it can't be beyond their tiny wits to send the notifications during the very short window each day when their website is actually working?

An advert from a company called MacKnight: "We are proud to announce the launch of our new award winning Salmon Bacon. We are the first again to launch a healthy alternative to bacon and it is NOT made of pork. It is pure salmon, meaning rich in Omega 3 and full of anti oxidents [sic]!. The amazing feature of this product, apart from being healthy, is it looks and tastes exactly like bacon made from pork! Another world's first for MacKnight! Kosher Bacon!"

Firstly, if it ain't made from pork, it ain't bacon! Dimwits! It's smoked salmon and you simply fry it. Secondly, if it tastes like bacon, then it has had its chemistry monkeyed around with and is worth steering well to windward of.

As for Facebook - it's becoming more like the Jeremy Kyle Show every day.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tractor Marbles


Scientists have successfully moved objects with a tractor beam. At last! A solution to fetching the TV remote, although I'll need another remote to do it.

The Elgin Marbles are causing a bit of a stir again. I do think, however, they should be returned to Greece - they were looted, after all. How would we like it if some Greek came over here and made off with one of our cultural treasures - like the Royal Family, for example. Oh, hang on....


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Poverty


Heavy thoughts today.

Labour says the UK is on the brink of becoming a permanently divided society between the haves and the have nots, laying the blame primarily on housing costs and youth unemployment.

What do they mean by permanently divided? 

Surely education, or the lack of it, is the single key to social mobility for those lacking drive and determination? and so long as anyone can get an education then social mobility is alive and well! Get a half decent education and your earning power will increase as the job options open to you multiply; fail to get a good education and the only way is down.

What has grossly failed the education system is the demise of the grammar school, which was open to anyone, regardless of background, and lumped those who wanted to learn together without the disruption of those having no desire to learn. It's a sad fact of life that even the best teachers don't have the ability to educate those lacking motivation, and motivation invariably starts at home.

Giving people money to offset the cost of housing will have only one effect - increasing the price of housing as more people chase the same number of houses. A futile gesture, unless money goes into building council housing to increase the supply, reduce demand and bring down house prices in general as a consequence. Maggie Thatcher selling off council housing was a massive con to buy votes and the consequences are with us to this day.

Youth unemployment - what can be done there except creating non-jobs? Ending unpaid internships just means kids won't even get any experience, albeit unpaid (I don't seem to remember the apprentices of my youth getting much, by the way - I got enough for social spending, with my parents forking out for the basics till I was 20).

So long as poverty is a relative rather than absolute measure (and an arbitrary one at that), poverty is here to stay. There's an interesting interactive graph here that allows you to explore the effect of people's wages on the 60% of median. Spread the 10 salaries evenly and 30% will be in poverty; the only way to take people out of this definition of poverty is to group all the people in a narrow range with few outliers. However, eliminating the outliers is social engineering on an impossibly massive scale.


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Heavy Metal Schrodinger's Cat


As an anti-neighbour-cat precaution, Hayley's dad sets his cat flap to one-way, allowing his cat (called Cat) to exit the house but not come back in.

Several times this week we've been woken at around 3am by Cat miaowing outside our house to be let in, necessitating me getting up, walking over to Hay's dad's house and letting her in with our key (Hay's dad is partially deaf, so a miaowing cat has no effect on him whatsoever).

While talking about this last night with Hay, I suggested Cat should be given her own door key, which prompted a call to Hay's sister (the family artist) to commission a cartoon for Hay's Dad's Christmas card. It will depict Cat, Kitty, Blackberry and Orange (the latter 2 being the neighbours' cats) forming a feline pyramid outside Hay's dad's back door so Cat can reach up and insert the key in the door.

Did you know that Schrodinger's cat was called Milton? Next time someone mentions Schrodinger's cat you can say: "You mean Milton?"

Last night we went through our usual Friday night ritual - dinner at some local pub, followed by watching some Vintage TV. Last night it was Heavy Metal, which I can't say I'm a great fan of (and no, Led Zep is not an HM band). There was the usual lineup of Motorhead, Slayer, Black Sabbath (without Ozzie), Judas Priest, etc.. What I'd like to see, which would be quite radical, is Motorhead et al playing a session dressed in dinner jackets or looking like the Mike Flowers Pops.


Friday, 17 October 2014

Good Old NHS


The Ebola story is showing how good the NHS actually is.

Yes, you get the odd story about a hospital here and there failing, but that's to be expected within a system where hospitals are actually accountable. The fact this comes to light is a strength of the system.

The NHS is a national system and therefore has at its heart something called strategy, or joined-up thinking, as we experts call it. When a national health threat materialises, we in the UK get a nationwide policy and not the disjointed response prevalent in the USA.

Americans are far more likely to be wiped out by an epidemic than Brits due to oversight there being primarily at the state level.

We should do all we can to prevent governments of any hue selling off the NHS and putting it in the hands of multiple private entities with competition and profit being the prime motive.

Oh, I forgot - the Americans are great believers in God, so a prayer or two should protect them. You never know, they may actually turn to science - there are no religious people in epidemic foxholes.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Religious Tolerance


Tony Blair is calling for religious toleration to be taught in schools across the world to prevent radicalisation.

The "incubators of radicalism" need to be confronted, he argues, to prevent the spread of ideas that "warp young and unformed minds".

Does he mean ideas like religion itself - ideas that people cling to with no evidence whatsoever? That's the home, where kids are first inducted into the woo-woo world of religion at the knees of their mothers and fathers.

Just asking...



Monday, 13 October 2014

X Factor Diversity Training


Overheard by Hay at work during diversity training:

Pakistani Trainer: "I have to go to Friday prayers."

Female Trainee: "So where do you go for that?"

Trainer: "A local mosque."

Female Trainee: "What, any old mosque?"

Trainer: "Yup."

Female Trainee: "Can anyone go? Can I go?"

Trainer: "No, not unless you have your husband's permission and he's a moslem."

Trainee: "Hang on, what's this training we're doing?"

Trainer: "......."


We were forced to watch the last few minutes of what looked like the X Factor final last night - at least I assume it was the final (we had the sound turned down) as Downton Abbey was 15 minutes late.


Seems to me the winning formula is either bland, white boy band or Beyonce look-alike. This program just confirms my theory that the public is the worst arbiter of taste, whether that be music, art or indeed anything - but by God, Simon Cowell is a clever chap in using it as a market testing vehicle to make shed-loads of money from the public's execrable taste.


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Parking Lancashire Hello Magazine


We were sat in a local cafe yesterday morning in Chipping Sodbury having breakfast. A copy of OK magazine was on the table and I idly started to turn the pages while waiting for our order.

It had the usual spread of stories and massively touched up photos of Peter Andre, Kerry Katona, etc., lounging in their glitzy homes decorated in the most appalling taste imaginable.

It suddenly struck me that magazines such as OK, Hello, etc. are just the opposite pole of magazines like Lancashire Life; the former celebrate pointless celebrities, the latter pointless aristocracy.

I've noticed that the ParkingEye appeals industry is proliferating - spotted a parking ticket appeals organisation that charges £16 per appeal, and they advertise a 100% success rate. Seems a waste of time and money when you can let the buggers take you to court using two basic defence arguments and end up having the case dropped before you even get to court.

These arguments are:


  1. It's not their land, thus they can't take you to court anyway - only the owner of the land in question can do that, and
  2. They can only claim for what was lost (the price of the ticket) and cannot claim punitive damages.
Admittedly a DIY approach requires some knowledge of court procedures and a bit of time, but having appeared in court several times over domestic matters and having represented myself twice, I'm becoming a dab hand at preparing professional looking court papers.