Monday, 29 June 2015

WCs, More Kayaks and Glasto

Is it only ever male public toilets that are closed due to vandalisation? It certainly seem that way.

Had a good long weekend in Fowey - met up with No.2 Son in Truro for the first time in some 8 years; a great, if somewhat brief reunion. On the basis of the kayaking stint we did on the River Fowey on Saturday, Hay bought a couple of sit-on kayaks from eBay yesterday - seems I'm destined to get a bit more active on future trips to Cornwall, but now to figure out how we transport them using one or t'other of the sports cars - neither are capable of accommodating a roof rack and I'm reluctant to put a tow bar on either for the trailer.

Didn't stay up to watch The Who's Glasto set (they never were really one of my favourite bands), but did watch Lionel Richie - marvelous! Heard the sad news that Chris Squire of Yes died yesterday. Yes' early stuff was among the soundtracks to my youth - specifically Yes Album.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Gregg's, Fowey, Kayaks and Kanye

Ever been to Exeter Services on the M5? The roundabout there is a bloody nightmare - I defy anyone to negotiate it without losing their direction and having to go round twice. Stopped off there on the way down to Fowey on Friday and I take back everything I ever said about Gregg's - £3 for a bacon butty and a drink (and both were excellent), whereas Costa Packet do just a coffee for £3.

We passed a lorry with a sign on the side saying "Peter Green Chilled". Well, that goes without saying. He spent most of the 70s and 80s like that.

Hay and I hired a couple of sit-on kayaks yesterday afternoon and spent 3 or 4 enjoyable hours paddling round the creeks. Stopped off at the Old Ferry Inn for lunch, but my shorts were soaked and I had to explain that sit-on kayaks have lots of holes in the bottom and it wasn't me just being of a certain age. Hay now wants to buy a kayak or two from eBay. At last, something I can use the trailer for.

Hay was watching some Glasto on TV last night while I dropped off to sleep. I awoke to rather a lot of swearing coming from the TV - Kanye West, apparently (never heard any of his stuff previously). I asked Hay to turn it off - if the bloke can do nothing but swear while singing, then I don't think that's in keeping with Glasto. The bloke is an utter prat.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Fighting the EU

Apparently the Queen has said the EU is worth fighting.

Oh, hang on - she said the EU is worth fighting for....

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Radio Free Sodbury for Rebel Glasto

Overheard last night:

Chairman: "What are you doing? I was going to finish making the dinner myself!"

Hay: "Frying the pork steaks - like I told you."

Chairman: "No you didn't!"

Hay: "I told you three times, and you said Mmmm!"

Chairman: "And what exactly do you think 'Mmmm' means?"

Hay: "That you heard me."

Chairman: "That was your first mistake. 'Mmmm' means no more than I heard you say something, but I haven't a clue as to what it was, as I was otherwise occupied. It's a bloke noise. To hear you I have to be physically looking at you."

One hears (not in the above sense) that an ex governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, has said the Confederate flag doesn't offend him at all. That's hardly surprising - he isn't black and his antecedents weren't slaves.

A couple of years ago Hay converted an old stone chicken shed into a 3m x 2.5m office for her to use while working from home. A change of job rendered it superfluous to requirements, but she decided to rent it out to recoup some of the investment. She was lucky and Malcolm, who runs a local carpet cleaning company, rented it for a year at £200 a month. It was just somewhere his accountant could use for a couple of days a week to do the books. She loved it, as Hay's dad would often come out to chat to her and bring her loads of tea and biscuits.Unfortunately, Malcolm started another business over in Thornbury (he's a serial entrepreneur), which came with plenty of office space, so he vacated it a couple of months ago, since when it's been difficult to get anyone else to take on the lease.

I suggested we target taxi companies, as I could easily give it that air of seediness that private taxi firms seem to attract. The only problem is we'd need to stick a bloody great transmitter on the roof and expand the parking area into a full parking lot. My next thought was to advertise it as a pirate radio station - Radio Free Sodbury. But again, we'd need a whacking great transmitter on the roof.

Talking of music, we're going down to Cornwall for the weekend (Fowey, if you must know), but realised earlier this week that it's Glasto weekend, so the M5 is going to be a total nightmare going on Friday and coming back on Sunday. Not perhaps the best weekend to choose. As if Glasto wasn't big enough already, they've only gone and installed another Pyramid Stage on Ceres.

Here are Hay's instructions to her sister for looking after the house (the cat with wings is obviously Cat, but it looks somewhat evil to me):

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Recruitment Speak

Have you noticed the number of job adverts for "Project Managers", as the recruitment industry calls them?

When I was a project manager it involved complex scheduling, allocation of nonexistent resources, critical path analysis, extensive monitoring, producing reports that no-one read until the project was late and countless, interminable meetings to ensure the project was on track, all with the aid of some pretty nifty software which took at least a year to master.

If you read today's adverts in depth you discover that the requirements of the role are no more onerous than being able to make a shopping list or order some printer ink. Not a mention of proficiency in Prince II or even MS Project.

Another much misused word in the recruitment industry is "Director". Whereas it used to mean someone on the board of a company or at the very least running a department, it's now invariably a sales person.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The End of Cat

Cat is no more. She died on Sunday evening. I say died, more killed - by a neighbour's dog.

Gerry was out walking his elderly greyhound when Cat, who was on her last legs anyway and very frail, wandered across her path. Dogs being dogs, and greyhounds being greyhounds, the inevitable happened. It was all too much for Cat, who expired on the lawn aged 17.

Hay was distraught, Gerry and Anne were distraught. All-in-all, everyone was distraught. There was a lot of distress in evidence.

Last night we went round to Gerry and Anne's to tell them not to worry - these things happen. Hay used it as an excuse to tell them that the only way her anguish could be assuaged was for them to show her around their new house (like us, they built their own house - yet another contemporary, oak-beamed, barn-style thingie - in a plot next to their old house and moved in earlier in the year). 

Barn-style buildings are now becoming the norm in our little enclave and we have forged a tradition that never existed before we came on the scene (we had planning problems when we first put in for permission, as the planning department didn't consider a barn-style house as in keeping with the locale).

Three large glasses of wine each and a couple of hours later, we parted as if nothing had happened. Life's too short to have a grudge against neighbours. I told Gerry that the only way my deep anguish could be assuaged was for him to arrange a drive in Dave's E-Type Jag for me (Dave being Gerry's neighbour). Doubt that will happen.

Gerry and Anne were particularly distraught, as they have previous in this respect. A couple of years ago another dog of theirs got into Geraldine's house and ripped Geraldine's parrot apart. Geraldine was not as forgiving.

The burning question of the day now is whether Kitty gets promoted to being called Cat.

It's like Peyton Place round here....

Monday, 22 June 2015

The Down Side of Democracy

The nights are drawing in!

Been thinking about democracy over the last few days and have reached the inescapable conclusion that it only works within a relatively homogeneous population.

Democracy, where the majority rule, will invariably produce a tyranny of the majority and the only way to reduce the detrimental effects of that is for everyone to be much the same so that needs are aligned as much as possible. Where there are large differences within a population, be that socio-economic, racial, etc., the tyranny of the majority will be most divisive. 

The object of government therefore must be to reduce large differences wherever possible, but that is not possible while a tyrannical majority exists - it has no vested interest in eliminating differences as it is those very differences that result in power, and all governments love power. It can only be achieved by the electorate voting in a party dedicated to the eradication of large differences - and these are few and far between.

I believe that, despite what people say or political correctness or groupthink dictates, every one of us is a selective categorist at heart - be it based on the family, the tribe, the village, the football team, the political party, the class, the sexuality, the gender, the nation, the religion or the race. The more the person referred to is like ourselves in one or more of the afforementioned categories, the less the anxiety we feel in their company.

When the anxiety is based on race we call it racism and are told it's bad, as race, like gender or sexuality, cannot be changed. However, I would contend many are almost as unable to change their political view or religious philosophy as they are their race - the decisions are not necessarily based on logic, but something deeper and fundamentally forceful, such as culture and parentage, which are extremely difficult to overcome. At the nation level we call the anxiety nationalism and it's at the root of all nationalist movements, from the SNP to the Kurds - and unscrupulous politicians with a naked desire for power prey on it.

The feeling we get from belonging to something greater than ourselves is a powerful drive within humans - we're a social species, but to a limit. We feel most comfortable living in societies comprised of people just like us. That's why immigrants gather in ghettos and why indigenous people feel threatened by an influx of immigrants into their neighbourhood. The further one gets away from the family in terms of social unit, the less the feeling of belonging and the greater the anxiety.

Trying to create one big melting pot of racial harmony is, in my opinion, misdirected. It goes against the natural human instinct to stick with people like ourselves and is doomed to failure because of this essential human condition.

While immigrants are in a distinct minority, the drive for them to assimilate is powerful and differences are thus reduced - they become more like us - but when immigrants become the majority in any one location, the drive to assimilate dies through lack of need and differences proliferate, resulting in societal tension between different groups.

For democracy to work effectively, immigration policy must be directed toward reducing differences, not encouraging them. Multiculturalism is a naturally divisive policy. So too is the EU objective of a single European nation - it cannot work, much as some would like it to, as the natural cultural differences prevalent within pre-existing boundaries or regions (and I mean particularly the cultural differences between the Teutonic/Protestant and Latin/Catholic regions) cannot be eliminated and integration of the population into one homogeneous, undifferentiated nation where tyranny of the majority is minimised is basically impossible.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Fragrance of the Top Gear Brit Abroad

It's so easy to spot the Brits in any airport, especially when there's a flight boarding queue - just look for the one with the fat and/or shabbily dressed people - yup, that's the 16:20 EasyJet flight to Bristol. On Thursday evening I went out to dinner with my distributor in Rome and returned to the hotel to find two very drunk, fat, shabbily dressed English women stumbling into the foyer, abusing the concierge in no uncertain terms. Makes you ashamed to be British.

Hay had occasion to go into SuperDrug yesterday. Virtually all the female fragrances on display were endorsed by some celebrity, half of which whose names are totally unknown to me. If the tester smell is anything to go by, most of them smell of fly spray. Should manufacturers wish to use the same sales strategy on men, they'd need to market something like Sump Oil by Guy Martin, or Real Diesel by Fred Dibnah.

While away I heard that Top Gear has appointed an even bigger knobhead than Clarkson as its prime presenter - and a Ginger one to boot, so I guess that will get him some viewers.

Friday, 19 June 2015

When in Rome

Trundling a wheeled briefcase around the inner suburbs of Rome produces somewhat similar effects to trundling the same around the streets of Piraeus - before long the wheels are either abraded to uselessness, or they drop off. The pavements here leave a lot to be desired. The only solution is to walk along the road, but then you're open season for all the cars and scooters as they vie in striking you a glancing blow, or even a direct hit.

Went to see the Italian Navy yesterday, a longstanding customer, and had to do the usual security stuff. Given they receive delegations from all over the world, you'd think they'd put someone on reception who spoke English, but no. Imagine Cissy and Ada of Les Dawson Show fame, but Italian and with no English at all. It was like a bloody pantomime.

You have to admire the Italians: while it's illegal, but possible to drive a car and talk on a mobile phone (especially in an automatic), I somehow imagined it was totally impossible to do so while riding a scooter - until yesterday that is. I was advised by my distributor here that it's not uncommon to see someone riding a scooter talking into a mobile phone and smoking at the same time.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Juicy Lead Cantuccini

Blurb on a pack of Lidl granola:

"Delicious clusters of crunchy British wholegrain oats toasted wth acacia honey, coconut chips, seeds and whole nuts, mixed with juicy raisins." Forgetting for one second about the lack of punctuation, juicy raisins? Isn't the whole purpose of a raisin for it to be dry? A juicy raisin can only be a rehydrated raisin or still a grape.

Nestle has withdrawn £50m worth of instant noodles from shelves in India after regulators found higher than permitted levels of lead. Lead? What the hell is any lead doing in instant noodles?

Been experimenting with Italian biscuits this week, specifically cantuccini. Saw some for sale in Lidl and thought they couldn't be too hard to make - and they're not. Here's my twist:
  • 250g self raising flour,
  • 150g caster sugar (most recipes call for more, but they're sickly sweet),
  • I recommend 1 level teaspoon baking powder for that added lift,
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence, or you could use vanilla caster sugar,
  • 2 or 3 eggs - depends on consistency - needs to be like plasticine,
  • 180g chopped hazelnuts and almonds or any nuts of your choice,
  • 25g melted butter,
  • half a cup dessicated coconut (my own little addition - you could add ground almonds),
  • A dash of Amaretto or rum (my own touch).
Mix the lot till it's a stiff plasticine consistency, using the eggs to get it right - it will be sticky as hell. Dust with flour, place in a plastic bag and bung in the fridge for half an hour.

Turn oven to 180 degrees (160 fan). Cut pastry into 4 and make a sausage from each, laying them side by side on a flour-dusted baking tray, leaving plenty of space between them. Flatten the rolls slightly and then bake for 25 minutes.

Once baked, slice the pastries and allow to cool. Once cool, bung back in the oven for another 15 minutes to get that twice baked crispness. Leave to cool again and then store in a bag until it's time to dip them in an espresso.

Another hiatus - off the the Paris Air Show for the day and then on to Rome till the end of the week. All business.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Boxing Class

Last night the local news was highlighting a Bristol boxer who has just won some title. I got to wondering why, when universities and public schools have boxing clubs, top boxers are almost without exception from impoverished backgrounds. You never hear of a top boxer called Dr So-and-so.

I guess it must be that well educated amateurs have alternative ways of making money and are deterred from a boxing career by the many years of training while earning nothing, along with the attendant low probability of actually making it to the very top. The disadvantaged boxer, with little alternative, perhaps has nothing to lose and hence is more willing to take the gamble.

Yet, that said, there are many top athletes who do some from privileged backgrounds, but not boxers. Answers on a postcard.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Fighting ISIS

ISIS and other similar organisations obtain the vast majority of the money with which they fund their activities from either oil or drugs.

Makes me wonder whether the best strategy for the West is to dramatically reduce its reliance on middle eastern oil through a greater focus on renewables, combined with an end to the War on Drugs, which is an abysmal failure and serves no purpose than to drive up drug prices.

Sunday, 14 June 2015


Just a thought - if Nigel Farage doesn't like foreigners that much, shouldn't he call himself Nigel Farridge?

While we were up north we passed a place called Eldroth, which sounded as if it was somewhere in Middle Earth. As it happened, when we were walking the Clapham Nature Trail, Hay spotted something glinting gold in a stream. Hissing; "My precious", she waded into the stream to discover it was a 10p piece which the brown colour of the water made look as if it was gold.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Migrants, Parents & Weather

Was watching a BBC news item last night about the way in which Australia treats refugees and economic migrants by paying Papua New Guinea to take them.  Perhaps we should take a leaf from their book and place our economic migrants somewhere nasty, like Blackburn, or even Scotland. Actually, Scotland may be a bit too much and would probably lead to all manner of accusations of them being denied basic human rights.

Seriously though, even though I consider myself a liberal, we simply can't accept untold numbers of migrants without an unwanted effect on locals and public services wherever they are housed - that has been proven in Greece and Italy. The strategy must be to deter them coming in the first place. To do otherwise would result in more coming, riots in the affected areas and the rise of extreme right wing parties.

The case of Rebecca Minnock and her son, Ethan, seems to be drawing to a close and perversely she seems to be garnering public support for her case, which seems to be that it's OK to alienate a child from its father. No-one seems to deny she's a good mother, but parental alienation and purposely blocking parental access to a child is a serious matter and is almost exclusively a female trait.

What with all this bad weather, I wonder how long it will take to find the tourists who caused it by posing for naked photographs in Castle Combe?

Friday, 12 June 2015

Final Dales Walk and a Motorway Service Station

Positively the last picture from Clapham - Alan Bennett's house:

On the way back we called in at Gloucester Services, as we usually do. It's a new take on an old idea and looks like something you'd find in Latvia or Scandinavia. Eco-friendliness and locally sourced produce is key, as well as value for money and quality (even the roof is grassed over):

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A Walk in the Dales II

Went for a walk around the Clapham Nature Trail yesterday. It takes you around the Ferrer estate, which owns about 70% of the properties in the village. You can't rent any of the estate houses unless you have children, as they want to keep the local school going and have a very heavy commitment to keeping the village as a working community, rather than allowing it to become a chocolate box village of 2nd homes. Sounds like a viable strategy.

Apparently Alan Bennett lives here for some 3 or 4 months of the year and another famous citizen was Michael Faraday, who electrified the village using an early form of hydro-electric power from the waterfall.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A Walk in the Dales

I'm at a loss as to why the Dales are classed as part of Yorkshire. They're plainly part of Lancashire...