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


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:


  • 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 

  • 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."