Sunday, 31 January 2016

Shades of Grey Rhodes

It's a little-known fact, but Hayley dyes her hair and her shoulder-length locks are actually totally grey. I've been trying to persuade her for ages to just go grey gracefully, but for reasons of pure vanity, and in the mistaken belief that grey is not sexy, she's resisting.

Naturally, if she were to go grey, waiting for the transition would result in her looking slightly odd, so I've been keeping my eye out for grey dye in Superdrug. Can I find it? - can I hell!. Does anyone know of an outlet that has grey hair dye?

I'm glad the decision was taken to retain the statue of Cecil Rhodes, else where would this cleansing of our history lead? I dare say the next target of the Rhodes Must Fall movement would have been dear old Queen Victoria herself - after all, she was the Empress of the Empire that sprung from Imperialism. Given virtually every key figure of the 18th and 19th centuries was an imperialist, the rot would go on forever and all our cities would be totally bereft of statuary.

Next would come women demanding the removal of statues of all misogynists (of which there were more than a few in the 19th C.) and the working class demanding the removal of statues of 19th C. industrialists (which would see the remainder consigned to the dustbin).

No, just because the people of the past raised statues to those they admired, it doesn't necessarily follow that we of today admire them - but don't airbrush them from history, else the lessons we have learned will be lost too.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Aberystwyth Quatermass Experiment in Syria

Livened up my own local Andromeda strain (as you can see it's very lively) and plumped up the purchased Cumbrian strain of sourdough starters before putting them both to bed in the fridge.

I've only just made some bread with my own starter, so it will be a week or so before I can report on the efficacy and taste of the Cumbrian rye strain. It's northern - bound to be indestructible and hard as nails compared to the namby-pamby, flaccid, southern strain.

Heard a woman in a shop complaining about all these men coming here in boats from Syria and suggesting they should be fighting for their country like our men did in WWII. I was going to join in the conversation and ask which of the myriad, murderous factions they should join, but I detected a whiff of bigotry about her, which is remarkably resistant to logic, or indeed common sense.

Have you seen the TV programme Hinterland? Set in Aberystwyth, but doesn't exactly do much for the local tourism industry. Grim isn't the word. It's like Accrington on a wet, winter Sunday, every day of the week. Wouldn't go there for all the tea in China after seeing it. One of the characters in the episode we watched had no speaking part - she was a corpse. I wonder if there's a set fee for acting as a corpse?

Friday, 29 January 2016

Place Names in a Song

We have started to watch the Scottish police drama, Shetland. This prompted me to look the place up in order to get my bearings, with some shocking results.

Was listening to Amazon Prime's new radio service yesterday and heard a tune that brought back memories. As far as I knew it was the signature tune to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - I never realised it was an Eagles number - Journey of the Sorcerer. I must have been away on a trip when that originally came out.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Ennui Roadtrip

Looking at one of my old houses on G-Maps Street View the other day got me to think of doing a G-Maps tour of all my old houses since 1975, when I bought my first house in Southport.

Hawkshead St, Southport - bought for £10,000 at age 21 - hate to think what it's worth now. Lost my Indian ring-necked parakeet here that I'd brought back from Sri-Lanka after a trip at sea, which probably went on to populate the north west and become part of the Indian ring-necked parakeet scourge of the UK.

Moss-Side Way, Leyland - a move to the countryside. Think it was £15,000. Hideous house, but the mem-sahib wanted to get away from Southport. The garden was pure clay and always waterlogged. 

Fernleigh, Leyland - a step up in size with 4 bedrooms, but not much to see out front. Garden was again a claypit. Built my first MGB here. Price £42,000 (the house, not the MGB). My neighbour was a traffic cop on the M6 and was killed by a shotgun blast from a poacher he caught while off duty. Wife and two small girls left behind - very sad.

Cumberland Rd, Southport. 13 rooms and gorgeous (after some renovations). Bought for £58k and sold for around £150k. A delightful house with numerous nooks and crannies - you could ever get fed-up in a house like this. The only house I was genuinely sad to have to sell. You could say I'd reached 'peak house' at this time, to use the current vernacular.

Recently converted, 2 bedroom garden flat in Kenilworth Gardens, West Hampstead, London, following a divorce - and a step down in the finances. The whole house had been gutted and converted to very nice flats. Bought for £111k and sold 5 months later for £135k. Very bijou and yet very desirable, hence the huge profit.

Got married again and moved to Shooter's Hill, South London. Nearly new 3 bedroom end-of-terrace bought for £99k and sold a couple of years later for £150k (I think). 3 floors and very nice. Loved the wisteria on the balcony, but they have a habit of undermining foundations and splitting walls. A bit Jerry-built - shut a door and the whole house reverberated.

Tredegar Rd, Emmer Green, Reading. Back to the countryside due to a job in Maidenhead. 4 bedroom house bought for £150k. Bought brand new as a show house with all the fixtures and fittings. Saved me a packet in decorating. Pokey rooms though.

A move just down the road within Emmer Green to a much bigger, five bedroom house (six if you count my office). Can't remember what we paid for it, but was sold for £275k or thereabouts. Was working back in London at this time, so 3.5 hours of travelling a day took its toll on me.

Another divorce and I moved to a boat in Caversham Marina - boat photo follows. Another tumble in the finances following the divorce.

The 4 year-old MV Joseph (a Dutch barge) was bought for £120k and sold 3 years later for £60k - the market for boats had collapsed. Had a wonderful time here though and loved every minute of it (except occasionally in winter). Got back in touch with nature and learned a lot about ducks, geese, grebes, macerating toilets, poo tanks, condensation, diesel boilers, women, etc.. An indulgence.

Met Hay and bought a caravan to live in while building our house in Old Sodbury. Price was £500 (and another £500 to have it transported from West Wales). Tenure was 5 years. Cost £200 to have demolished. Wouldn't have survived if we hadn't installed a wood burner.

Our current house in Old Sodbury - they can carry me out in a box from here - don't want to ever move again. Cost to build? Somewhere between £210k and £275k, less £22k in VAT rebate. Value - priceless to me. Built to our specification and not with a view to marketability, so market value is probably a lot less than you'd think - for example, the whole upstairs is one bedroom, rather than three or four, which makes it much less valuable to a family. Similarly, the open-plan nature of downstairs is not to everyone's taste, but if divided into individual rooms we'd end up with rooms that are rarely used, whereas we inhabit the entire space all the time which gives the feel of spaciousness, Still not a patch on the old Victorian/Edwardian  house in Southport, but to recreate that now would simply cost far too much and wouldn't be allowed by planning regs.

The ironic thing is that my elder brother has only ever lived in two houses, both within a mile of each other in West Kirby. He found the house of his dreams and stayed put. How I envy him. I was a bloody gypsy by comparison - a bit like my mother in that respect (she was constantly moving, but only within a 5 mile radius).

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Korma Chameleon

One of the Chairman's recipes again.

No.1 Son has an addiction to the curry sauce the Fox and Hounds at Acton Turville puts with their take-away chips. I was therefore tasked with reproducing it, as shop bought jars of korma sauce don't pass muster. Here's the result, which is a more than passable facsimile, if I say so myself:

  • 1 jar of Tesco korma paste (you can't get away with that, unless you want to spend a few days with a mortar and pestle and sourcing herbs and spices from your local Asian supermarket, only to find you'll never use them again). Make sure it's the paste, not the jars of sauce,
  • 1 medium onion, sliced (I used a large onion and No.1 Son pronounced it as having too much onion - the ingrate - the pinnacle of his culinary achievement is pouring boiling water on Pot Noodles),
  • Small handful of desiccated coconut (could have sworn it was spelled dessicated, but apparently not),
  • Small handful of ground almonds (careful with these two ingredients - too much and it can become too gritty),
  • Tin of coconut milk,
  • 300 ml double cream (or even slightly less, but that's the carton size you get these days),
  • White wine vinegar to taste (about 3 or 4 tbps).
Finely slice and sweat off the onion in a little oil until soft - do not brown (I prefer rapeseed oil, but that's because I'm middle class and up my own arse). Add the korma paste and mix in. Add the coconut milk and cream and bring to the boil. Add desiccated coconut and ground almonds - turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes to reduce slightly and thicken

Pour into a suitable jar or bowl to cool. Once cooled off a bit, add the white wine vinegar to taste - I found this the be the crucial adjustment to get the same taste as the korma sauce at the Fox and Hounds. The hint of sourness adds that little something and replicates the taste I was after.

I froze the result in a silicone muffin mould and then placed the 12 or so resulting 'cakes' in a plastic bag so they could be defrosted and used individually.

Of course, this won't stop No.1 Son asking for Fox and Hounds curry sauce with his whitebait and chips take-away the next time Hay and I go there for a Friday night meal.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Nightcrawler Sourdough Lawn

Putin corrupt - surely not! I find it simply impossible to believe that this multi-billionaire from a humble background and no declared source of income beyond his salary is corrupt.

Gave the lawn a first cut yesterday. Should have done it New Year's Day - it was almost too long to get the mower through it and the motor was labouring! Could this be a record?

I've mentioned before that our neighbours have a couple of cats that regularly come into our house - we call them Blackie and Ging, for obvious reasons. Blackie's real name (if cats can have real names) is Spook, which is quite apt, although Nightcrawler would be even more apt. You don't know the bugger is in the house, but the minute Kitty's food dish is moved, he appears in a puff of smoke, in the same manner as Nightcrawler, the X-Men character.

The revived Old Sodbury sourdough starter was still looking a bit flaccid yesterday, so I got an old apple off the ground in the garden and introduced a couple of slices of peel to add some yeasts. I've probably also added some virulent pathogens - perhaps I'll call it the Andromeda Strain.

Monday, 25 January 2016

BNP Sourdough


Chairman, as he leans to kiss Hay on the forehead: "You're my treasure and I love you."

Hay: "You smell of Cheesy Wotsits."

I've solved the Finnegan's Wake question - just dip in occasionally, anywhere, and read a few lines out aloud.

I thought my sourdough starter had died over the weekend and so bought a 35 year-old Cumbrian strain for £4.95 on eBay yesterday. However, I managed to revive mine with a bit of TLC. Hay asked whether I'd mix my old one with the Cumbrian one, but one has to keep the strains pure - you could call it sourdough eugenics. Might coin the term BNP sourdoughs.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Anachronistic Whimsy for Mark

We still use the expression cc in emails. The term cc stands for carbon copy - when is the last time you used a sheet of carbon paper to produce a copy of a typed memo or letter? For me it was in the 80s. A copy of an email is an exact electronic copy of the original and therefore we should surely use the term electronic copy (ec), or even just copy (c)?

On Thursday morning Hay told me she'd seen a bloke out on the common looking at our house. It transpired he was about to build a house himself and was looking for inspiration. She invited him and his wife round on Friday to look over the inside of our place with his wife, and his name was Mark. Anyway - on Thursday afternoon I saw a rather dapper bloke eyeing our house from the common and assumed it to be Mark, but he'd come a day early. I went out to speak to him and said; "I presume you're Mark?" to which he responded; "Yes - has my builder phoned you?" I was a tad confused about this, as I'd not been told his builder was calling us. Mark was interested only in our oak cladding and had no interest in looking at the interior. Friday came and a bloke and his wife arrived to look at our house - this was the Mark Hayley had spoken to. So we had two Marks looking at the house.

Yesterday I commented to Hay about the first Mark being 'Mark but not Mark'. It struck me this sounded like some band's name and then in came to me - Was Not Was. This sparked off an idea for a Bristol band name - Yeah But No But. It would obviously have to some vacuous, poppy band with a name like that.

Going back to Finnegan's Wake and its similarity to conceptual art; I think all conceptual artworks should be called 'whimsies' or 'ornaments' - they can mean anything to anyone and serve purely as decorative items.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Chairman's Wake for Lunch

Having heard the hoary of cliche that it's unreadable, I thought I'd buy a copy of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake and take my chances. Total waste of £1.99 on Amazon - it is indeed unreadable, to me at least. Tried about three pages and gave up - totally unintelligible, the ravings of a lunatic, indecipherable. Anyone want to buy a pristine copy from me (they're all pristine)?

I can't for the life of me see how James Joyce managed to get anyone to publish it. I'm sure it's meant as a joke and he thought some faux intellectual would somehow wax lyrical and manage to call it a superlative, literary masterpiece, as indeed some did, while simultaneously being at a total loss to say exactly what it was about, rather like the pretentious bollocks you hear about conceptual art. Emperor's new clothes syndrome, if you ask me. A book that can be described as; "Anything you want it to be," is nothing at all, and hence vacuous.

A headmistress who sent out a letter to parents saying if their kids forgot their dinner money they'd only get a drink and some bread and butter has had to climb down and issue an apology after parents complained. Can't see why she had to apologise - do these parents who complained think that if they forget their purse or wallet when they leave for work they're going to be given sandwiches for free from Costa-Packet or wherever? Can't parents these days accept some responsibility for their kids? It's not as if the little darlings are going to starve. The attitude, sense of entitlement and self-righteousness of some parents these days makes my blood boil.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Charity Router Barrow Boys

Colin, our builder has had to contend with the quagmire in our field while laying a patio for the cabin. For some reason we were talking about Sir James Dyson, who lives not far from us in the Doddington Estate and mention was made of his ball barrow invention. Colin opined that the ball barrow would not work on a building site as it was too unwieldy and subject to damage. This generated a couple of concepts for a barrow for use on quagmires - the aqua-barrow (barrow with skis) and the hover-barrow (like a swamp runner).

Struck charity shop gold yesterday. I've started walking into Yate on a daily basis for some exercise - 4 miles in total - and it also gives me a chance to check out the six charity shops enroute. Yesterday I managed to bag a cafetiere for £2 (you can never have enough cafetieres in our house), a brand new, unused Joules deck shirt for £5.50, a nice espresso set for £4.99 and some silicone baking moulds for £0.99 (they were exactly the ones I needed last week for the James Martin special shortbreads, and cost about £15 each on Amazon).

Just about the only form of control I have over No.1 Son in order to get him to conform to some form of basic, civilised behaviour is access to the broadband (he seems addicted to gaming and I'm at my wits' end). I set access controls on the router to limit his use, but the little bugger hacked the router and managed to circumvent my attempts to block him, either by using some VPN technique or changing his Mac address - and he's been doing it for ages. I wondered why he was so blasé about the increasing penalties I had to introduce in an attempt to get him to wash his dirty dishes. I've now taken to using a more clandestine blocking method and it was very funny last night to watch him trying to figure out what I've done. It's now cyber and psychological warfare.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

War Crimes

Been seeing some really nasty stuff on Facebook about the Alexander Blackman case - the UK soldier who killed a captured and injured Taliban who no longer posed a threat.

If your country is a member of NATO or a signatory to the Geneva Convention, there are rules of engagement - regardless of whether the people you are fighting are Geneva Convention signatories or not. That's what you sign up to when you join the Army, take it or leave it. Contravene the rules and you take a known risk.

Now had a German done the same to a British solder in WWII, if caught, he'd have been swinging on the end of a rope at Nuremberg for a war crime, and no-one in the UK would have batted an eyelid. A Brit does it and there's uproar. I find that somewhat incongruous.

What's in question here is whether war should mean total war, with all the horrors that entails for non-combatants as well as combatants. Of course when fighting extremists you can't expect them to adhere to any rules of engagement, especially when it's their country you're fighting in. However, I've yet to hear of a case of a terrorist in a civil engagement in Europe being shot out of hand by, for example, the police when captured and incapacitated and no longer posing a direct threat, and that's analogous to a battlefield situation.

It's apparent that this disregard for the rules of engagement is not the norm within our armed forces and the vast majority of British combatants manage to adhere to them. A small minority, for whatever reason, do not or cannot. Some of those simply don't get caught contravening the rules, Should those who are caught be censured for that inability? Analyse and discuss.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Free Speech and Hearing

Overheard after an item about the impact of age on hearing on the Today programme on Radio 4.

Chairman: "I've noticed you can't hear some of the high pitched sounds I hear. You don't even hear your phone ringing sometimes."

Hay: "Ive noticed you don't hear me when I'm talking to you."

Chairman: "That's just selective detuning."

Should the right to free speech be upheld in all cases? I think not - it's not an all-or-nothing. Like most things it's a continuum and there comes a point (and that point can be different for all people, as they too are a continuum) when enough is enough and it strays into just bad manners or incitement. Determining the boundary, however, is fraught with problems.

Analyse and discuss.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Share if You Survived Trump in a Pop Star Cabin

My God, not a good month for pop stars in their 60s - another couple of deaths yesterday.

Have you seen those posts on Facebook showing dangerous things we all did as kids (i.e. before they were banned as being too dangerous) and asking you to share them if you survived? Strikes me you wouldn't be able to share them if you didn't survive, and some didn't - which is why they were banned in the first place. Bill doesn't go on about past dangerous activities - be smart - be like Bill...

Talking of banning - should Trump be banned? No! If we were to ban every twonk from coming into the UK, then half of the UK parliament wouldn't be allowed back into the country after their holidays.

For some reason I was looking at past presenters of the Today Programme on Radio 4 and noted Jack De Manio was one of the first. On looking at his Wiki page I noted he won an MC in 1940 and was then cashiered in the field by a Field General Court Martial in '44, but can find no reference on the internet as to why he was cashiered. It certainly did't seem to affect his career so couldn't have been a heinous crime. If anyone can throw a light on this then I'd be grateful.

Colin finished off a few jobs on the new cabin this week - outside patio laid (much to the delight of the boys using the cabin for their new business), kitchen tiled and radiator installed in the bathroom. Very pleased with the result.

Just the cooker to hook up - Hay's dad can do that. Thinking of making a parking space for two cars - and making a separate entrance in the fence on the lane - Colin's next job. If I can get a job pretty soon, then we may even build another cabin in the summer, but not to such a high spec as this one. Seems renting them to businesses has more mileage (and substantially less work) than renting for holiday accommodation.

Is it me, or is the news becoming the most interesting and entertaining programme on TV?

Monday, 18 January 2016

Birthday Fare

Made some lemon possets with shortbreads for Hay's birthday dinner on Saturday. James Martin's recipe called for sliced figs and strawberries with a sprig of mint to garnish. I only had strawberries and raspberries, and there is no mint to be had in the garden at this time of year.

Hay suggested a thick balsamic vinegar for colour contrast - I had my doubts. Did it nonetheless and can confirm it was a taste success. I should have thinned it out a bit, as it came out blobby.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Soviet Birthday Present

Saw in the news yesterday that Jeremy Corbyn is threatening that a future Labour government would block the payment of dividends to companies who don't pay the living wage. He said: "Not only is this unfair, it actually holds back growth. A more equal society is not only fairer, it does better in terms of economic stability and wealth creation." Now I don't have an issue with the living wage, but Soviet Russia was a more fair society, yet it wasn't exactly stable economically. It's also undeniable that many companies (and hence jobs) wouldn't exist if SMEs had to pay the living wage today.

It was Hay's official birthday yesterday (her actual birthday isn't till tomorrow). Got her a set of silver and gold DNA earrings and the family clubbed together to get a matching pendant. I thought it a poignant present, given she's a PhD biochemist.

Come May we'll have been together 10 years, and just the other day she mentioned that the relationship just gets better. Not sure which relationship she was talking about though.

Here are a few of the things we've shared:
  1. We lived in a caravan for 5 of the 10 years,
  2. My elder son came to live with us,
  3. Hay lost her mother to cancer,
  4. I lost my mother to dementia and old age,
  5. We built a house,
  6. We built a 2 bed cabin,
  7. I've been made redundant twice,
  8. Hay has had God knows how many jobs,
  9. I became a grandfather,

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Civil War Kitchen Bargains

Got some charity shop cookery bargains this week:

Firstly a gravy separator - been looking for one of these for absolutely ages, but to no avail. £3.49 in the local charity shop.

Next up is a couple of silicone moulds for ring-shaped confections at £1.99. I was really after just the middle thingies (they come off) to make James' Martin's special mini shortbreads for some lemon possets I'm making for Hay's birthday party tonight (it's not actually her birthday till Monday).

Been devouring books about the English Civil War - specifically seeking ones about the various battles, of which there were more than you tend to think. The only problem is that the accounts are confusing in the extreme, as all the names are English and that makes it very difficult to determine on whose side the various characters (beyond the well known Essex, Fairfax, Cromwell and Prince Rupert) were. It would be more than useful if the names were colour coded.

Friday, 15 January 2016

69 Bike Ghost Students

Now it's Alan Rickman at 69! Seems 69 is the new 84...

Tickets to the Mrs Queen's official 90th birthday street party are to cost £150. Given it's not till June I somehow think it's a bit of a risk to part with £150 next month. Not only from the age risk aspect, but also the weather.

Got a free bike last weekend from a pal in the Old Sodbury Yacht Club. He'd had a knee op and could no longer cycle. As it was in rather good condition I thought I'd buy a cover for it - have you ever tried putting these bloody covers on a bike? Nightmare! The only way you can manage it is to use the same modus operandi as I use for putting a duvet cover on a duvet - you wear it on yourself before putting it on the bike. In our household, the wearing of the duvet cover is called the bed ghost method, thus putting a cover on a bike involves the bike ghost method.

It seems to me that students these days protest against the very things students in the 60s were protesting for. In the 60s students wanted free speech and a platform for all; these days they want to stifle free speech and ban everything from statues to Katie wossername. Is it just the tragedy of university students that they want rebel against what their parents wanted, even if it's manifestly right-wing to do so?

Thursday, 14 January 2016

I'm Incandescent!

Saw a technology story the other day about researchers in the USA having developed a technology to make the old incandescent bulb more efficient. Living in an eco house, this interested me. Now the old fashioned bulbs are meant to be hideously inefficient, as they convert only 2~3% of their energy use into light with the rest coming off as heat - this is why eco warriors have a downer on them. A corollary to this is that they're very efficient at generating heat. Bear this in mind as you follow my logic.

Now lightbulbs are mainly used when the hours of daylight are restricted, which usually coincide with periods when it's colder outside and you therefore tend to have the heating on. It strikes me that the old incandescent bulbs therefore contribute to warming a house - with a massive 97~98% efficiency in terms of heat production - and if you switch to the more efficient bulbs you ain't going to see any saving in the colder months, as your thermostatically controlled heating system will ratchet up to compensate for the lack of heat from the incandescent bulbs. Added to that, most heating systems are vastly more inefficient than a light bulb when it comes to providing heat from energy.

I would contend than any saving made in the summer is more than outweighed by the extra energy required from the inefficient heating system in winter. In all calculations I've seen on the savings accruing to energy saving bulbs, they are simply compared directly to incandescent bulbs without any allowance for incandescent bulbs contributing to the heating of a home during the darker months.

I'd like to see some studies on this in real life situations.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Biscuit Dialects

Students at Cambridge have developed a new App, called English Dialects, that tries to determine where you come from by your dialect. You don't need to speak into the App, but merely answer some questions for which there's a voice prompt using different dialects. Feedback is encouraged in order to fine tune the App. My result as follows:

Not too far out seeing as I was brought up predominantly in Southport, moved to Leyland, then London, Reading and finally Old Sodbury (the impact of which is negligible). Northern with a southern swing, but I registered my recording as Southport. Hay's result was even closer, although I neglected to screenshot it.

One part of the App allows you to record some phrases and upload them. Another bit lets you listen to recordings from the 1950s and 60s for various towns and cities, as well as other users' recordings. Guess the dialect would be a good party game. However, given you're asked to read a prepared script, it must surely focus more on accent than dialect.

From listening to some of the user clips, it sounds to me like regional accents are dying out in the middle classes - they've homogenised over the last 60 years. Perhaps this is down the migration patterns in seeking jobs and students going off to universities at the other end of the country. Very few of the current day recordings sound like you'd think they should, except for Wigan and Ormskirk.

Saw an advert yesterday for BelVita. It purports to be an energy-giving breakfast food providing essential carbohydrates. IT'S A BLOODY CHOCOLATE BISCUIT - ALL BISCUITS ARE CARBS! I can see the marketing people now saying; "How can we persuade those thick bastards to eat a chocolate biscuit for breakfast instead of something healthy?"

You may as well eat a McVitie's chocolate digestive and fool yourself into thinking you're eating breakfast. Things like this make me in favour of a sugar tax.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Dead Pop Stars & Cars

Lots of internet shock about David Bowie's death. Comments ranging from 'devastated' (I think not - that's usually reserved for family, close contacts and band members) to 'sad' (saddened, possibly) and 'shocked' (mildly surprised, perhaps, given his age). In my case it was mild surprise. Many of these remarks are just throw-away turns of speech. Bowie certainly did raise music making to an artform - in fact his life was an artform in itself, a bit like Dali. Major Tom was played incessantly in the school dorm when I was a teenager (along with King Crimson, The Doors and Black Sabbath) and his music was never out of fashion.

By the reaction of some when Michael Jackson died, you'd think he was some kind of demi-god. A sense of perspective was (and remains) lacking. However, that said, I spoke to Hay's sister who is a therapist and she offered the opinion that if someone is not 100% certain of their own identity, they can easily latch onto a popular cultural icon, identify with that person and genuinely feel a sense of devastation when the object of their fixation kicks the bucket.

I just hated that the bugger just got better looking and cooler the older he got - the bastard! Wonder if it's just another reinvention of his persona and he'll come back as a zombie...

Spotted this little gem on Antiques Road Trip yesterday:

At first I thought it was a Spitfire, but the back looked all wrong. Took me a while to find out what it is, which is an Elva Courier (1958~1969), which came with a range of engines, including a V8. Strange I never heard of these motors before. A little more research showed they can be bought for £16~25k.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Captain Beakey and His Band

Bowie - a book has just come out, an album released and then he goes and kicks the bucket without anyone knowing he was ill. That's a stylish exit - the ultimate performance art!

I hear that, once he takes over Britain, this Jihadi Sid character - who sounds like one of Captain Beakey's partners in crime - is going to flog all Indian restaurant owners for selling beer. That's taking the 'no safe limit' recommendation a bit too far if you ask me.

I'd like to know what his stance is on the junior doctors' strike and what his plans are for housing on flood plains. While he's at it, would be cancel all roadworks during national holidays?

If he ever did come to power, then shadow cabinet resignations would be a bit more interesting - if there were to be a shadow cabinet, that is. More likely the shadow cabinet would be lined up outside a convenient post office and resignations effected at the point of a Kalashnikov.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Overheard - Twice

Overheard while watching a TV programme about loneliness:

Chairman: "When I kick the bucket, are you going to have me stuffed and positioned in my chair so you don't get lonely?"

Hay: "I wouldn't actually notice any difference."

Overheard while Hay is having one of her hot flushes:

Hay: "In my younger days, say 20 years ago, I used to see women of a certain age walking around in winter with bare legs and nothing around their necks. Now I'm 50 I can understand why."

Saw this on walking past Chipping Sodbury Caravans yesterday: 

Always wondered what he was doing since Wizard.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

No Safe Limit

I'm trying to convince Hayley that the Chief Medical Officer's statement of 'no safe limit' on booze effectively means no limit, safe or otherwise and thus you can drink as much as you like. She's not having it.

Friday, 8 January 2016

The Humble NRA Watch

The next time there's a gun massacre by some nutter in the USA, the anti-gun lobby should lay the blame, fair and square, at the foot of the NRA and the gun lobby - and prosecute them as well as the perpetrator. Either that, or simply ban the NRA as an organisation that facilitates terrorism.

It strikes me as illogical that Americans are scared stiff of most harmless Muslims, but unafraid of their own nutters with automatic weapons. Surely they should be welcoming jihadis so as to further their agenda of guns for all. That just shows how morally and intellectually bereft their arguments are.

This is my watch - an Omega Seamaster De Ville. A very good watch in its time and now a classic.

It's old, it's battered, the face is scratched, it was my father's before me and was originally bought in the late 50s or early 60s.

It tells me the time and even tells me the date. It's self-winding, but due to me not being that active I sometimes have to give it a boost. On months with 28, 29 or 30 days in them, I have to wind it on a bit to get the date to change - not a massive issue. It can lose a minute in half a week - I could have it adjusted, but a minute is not key in my life. If I do need pinpoint, accurate time I refer to my phone. In time, it will be passed on the No.1 Son and I just hope he treasures it as much as I do.

It doesn't tell me my heart rate, my blood pressure, how many steps I've taken or any of that kind of rubbish as, quite frankly, I'm not the least bit interested. I can guestimate how many miles I've walked and I know how overweight I am just by looking in a mirror.

What's the fascination with these fancy new smart watches that track your every activity, even if you do no exercise whatsoever? Surely they must be an embarrassment for most people who wear them?

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Guns 'N' Old Fossils

The former Hewlett-Packard C.E.O. and prospective Republican presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina, said that Obama’s persistent linking of gun violence with guns was; “Sad but not surprising, from a man who believes that people’s health can be improved by access to health care." What planet are these people on?

The Labour party is in disarray. To have any chance of getting into power, any UK political party has to attract the middle ground; for some inexplicable reason the majority of paid-up Labour members decided to ditch the middle ground and voted far left Corbyn as leader; many Labour MPs have realised they now stand little chance of retaining their seats at the next election and are, quite understandably, rebelling. It's democracy in action - it's also a death spiral.

Talking of old fossils, for the past three days I've been cleaning the limestone patios with the power washer to get rid of the green and black gunge that has accumulated since the rains started. A hideous job with a 2 inch wide spray, and I now know every inch of both patios intimately. It's Indian limestone, but why Indian stone is cheaper than English is beyond me.

Took these photos of some interesting fossils.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Dementia Team Building With Guns

Hay signed me up for a dementia study - they need healthy people to see whether and when they get dementia. Got an email to sign up, and immediately had problems remembering my password.

A certain person (not me) is going to participate in a team building seminar today. What a total waste of time and money for an organisation that's already heavily cash-strapped - I doubt they'll see much change from £1,000 plus expenses. Certain people are team oriented, others are not. It's a fact of life that can't be easily changed. There are only two ways in which someone can be changed from a loner into a team player - extensive and very expensive psychological therapy, or the threat of violence. How managers think they can send staff on a one day course and come out with team players is beyond me.

The good manager determines the operating style of a particular report and then places him or her in a role where they are most effective, whether that be as a loner or a team member. Don't ever try to change them or you'll end up with disgruntled staff who will sabotage your efforts or simply underperform. If hiring, then the manager needs to determine whether you're seeking a team member or not, and hire accordingly. Alternatively, the good manager creates a team and caters for the various stages of team formation and also manages the diverse personalities within a team - countering the know-it-all and give the shrinking violet the opportunity to contribute. You can teach people to adhere to processes and procedures, with rewards and consequences if they are not followed, but don't expect them to act contrary to their natural inclination.

"People with evil intentions will always find a way to get a gun". That's a statement by Dan Patrick, Lieutenant Governor of Texas, when rejecting Obama's plans for gun control. What about all the accidental shootings of people by people without evil intentions? And is the answer to people going on shooting sprees with automatic weapons to arm every citizen with automatic weapons that they permanently carry with them?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Yorkie Pharaohs

Watched a programme on TV last night about ancient Egypt. It was presented by Professor Joann Fletcher, who speaks in a broad Yorkshire accent. She was having a conversation with some poor Egyptian farmer who still uses a wooden plough and oxen - not only did this guy understand English, but he didn't even need a translator for the Yorkshire accent. There might have been some intensive coaching going on off-screen though. If not, then hats off to him.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Chairman's Literary Booze Recommendations

Antiques Roadshow - I'm just waiting for someone, when asked how the item in question came into their possession, to say they stole it.

Was doing some window shopping at Waitrose yesterday and spotted these booze gems, which I highly recommend:

This one eliminates the need to handle two bottles at once - the vodka and the cola bottle. Obviously this is meant to be consumed while driving, when using both hands can be a tad dangerous.

This one seems targeted at children - nothing like starting them early on something that reminds them of school dinners. Just a shame Heston left out the custard flavour.

The final one is for the lady of the house - an early-morning gin to be taken between the hours of 7am and 9am, before the school run.

Watched Beowulf on TV last night - it's a kind of 5th century Coronation Street plot about Grenville, who I believe has a corner shop up north, selling local things for local people. He's rather terrifying, as anyone who knows northern corner shop proprietors knows.

The plot concerns Rothko (bit if a painter) having died and appointed his wife as Thing, as his son was a bit immature. I suspect also because he was a bit frightened of his missus, what with her being a northern woman and all that.

They'd adopted a migrant called Beowulf, a Sean Bean voice clone who wasn't too fond of Grenville and wanted to take over his corner shop. Beowulf is meant to be a migrant, but is actually a brother from another mother to Rothko's legit son, but that's a secret. Grenville looks rather like a cross between an orc and Gollum. Coincidence? I think not!

Some of the action seems to take place in Wales, and some outside the gates of Mordor. More advert time than programme time, if you ask me.

The TV rendition of War and Peace. Read it in my youth (as one of those books you feel you should read before you die and about which you can at least have an opinion when discussed in polite society - a bit like Shakespeare). Terminally turgid and impossible to keep track of the various princes, princesses and counts. Imperial Russia had more aristos than a dog has fleas. Couldn't face more than 10 minutes of the dramatisation. Anna Karenina with battles; The Archers with aristocrats; Eastenders with serfs.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Mobile Sherlock Chef Asleep

Decorations came down yesterday - glad it's all over, don't think the liver could cope with any more booze. Need to focus a bit more on the skinny days of the 5/2 diet, which I've been rather lax with of late.

Watched the latest Sherlock on iPlayer last night. Can't see what all the fuss is about. You have to be really dull not to be able to follow the plot, added to which it was very amusing in parts.

I find it incredible that when I put my laptop under the slightest stress, the fan whirs away like a 747 turbine, yet I perform exactly the same operations on my mobile phone and it's as silent as the grave.

Went out with the family for lunch on New Year's Day, but unfortunately there was a mix up with the bookings and our usual haunt - the Fox and Hounds at Acton Turville - turned out to be closed. Recovered the situation by popping to it's sister establishment, the Bell at Yatton Keynell. On the way home we called in at yet another old favourite that has recently been sold (the Salutation), purely to check out the menu under the new management:

However, they'd had a party the night before that went on a bit, so not surprising.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Calories & Antioxidants

Overheard on New Year's Day:

Chairman: "I had a semi-skinny day yesterday; no breakfast, no lunch and only dinner."

Hay: "But you also had a Christmas pudding and a bottle of Malbec! You must have had at least 5,000 calories."

Chairman: "Yes, but I would have had 10,000 had I eaten breakfast and lunch."

Now we're at the start of another year, health supplement firms (aka scam artists) are inundating us with adverts, fronted by people like Carol Vorderman, for dubious cure-alls. Antioxidants are the latest craze, and yet there's not a shred of clinical trials evidence they do anything for us when taken as supplements. I feel a crusade coming on.

Friday, 1 January 2016

A New Year Curate's Egg

Overheard I:

Chairman: "Did you know that only one Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with gold oak leaves, swords, and diamonds was ever awarded? The chap was a flyer."

Hay: "English, was he?"

Overheard II - The Chairman and Hay are approaching 4 male teenagers in the street at about 10:30am:

Chairman: "Why are they awake and, more importantly, if they are awake why aren't they in their bedrooms gaming?"

Hay: "Perhaps they've been radicalised."

Overheard III - in the butcher's:

Chairman: "Are humans white or red meat?"

Hay: "White, but in your case, roadkill."

Butcher: "I'd call them 'the special stuff'."

Went to bed at 21:30, was woken by fireworks at midnight and felt rather ill shortly after that. Rest of the night was peaceful and woke at 06:00, rather later than usual. Don't think I've managed to reach midnight on New Year's Eve for the last 5 years - at least.

The 'hoverboard' is banned in the UK in public spaces. I'm sometimes at a loss to understand what constitutes a public space. Perhaps shared space would be a more appropriate definition. That said, what will be banned next - wheels?

Harking back to the honours system - not sure I'm in favour of awarding people gongs simply for being top golfers, tennis players or suchlike. The awards are couched in terms of 'services to' whatever, but in most cases it's a bit like awarding a gong to a lottery winner. Services to something should be defined as furthering it, whatever it is, rather than merely participating in it and getting paid lots of money. The latter is nothing more than the reward for participation - or as we experts call it, doing your job. As for a K for Barbara Windsor, she isn't even an actress - she's a character. The only thing she's ever contributed to acting is the phrase; "Get aaht o' mah pub!". About time the system was overhauled or scrapped.

Regarding yesterday's comment about inappropriate pop songs at the end of films - heard it again after the TV film about Paul Potts. Potts sang bloody opera, and then the end credits had some vacuous pop song over the top of them..