Monday, 23 October 2017

Cat Meme

Apparently memes are going round of cats behaving badly, with messages from their owners. Here's my contribution - but it's not my cat; it's my neighbour's...

The damned thing has a habit of sleeping on my keyboard.

A new coffee shop has opened in Yate. Gave it a go yesterday while waiting for Next to open so Hay could return the 20 odd items she'd ordered on-line (a constant bugbear with me) and was pleased to find they cater for road warriors - but there's no free internet, which is rather perplexing.

They have those brown sugar lumps that seem to have a dissolve half-life of a million years. Being sited on a car park in the middle of a shopping centre was in inspired choice of site.

Spotted this beautiful double rainbow while returning from taking No.1 Son to the station.

We watched Gunpowder, the new Saturday night drama on BBC. OK, they take a few liberties with historical fact but, on the whole, rather good, despite Kit Wossisname not being a particularly good actor in my opinion. I do, however, take issue with them sporting broadswords when by that time everyone was using rapiers (see, I learned something from that book on Elizabethan swordplay).

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Charity Shop Finds in Concorde

Struck gold in one of the local charity shops yesterday. Firstly that dress that went viral a few months ago when people couldn't agree on its colour (it's categorically black and gold).

Then a couple of pieces of genuine Ming Ching Hampton porcelain...

No.1 Son went to Bristol yesterday afternoon to have a look at the new Concorde Museum. Nice photo he took.

Hay watched the last episode of Rellik last night on catch-up. Thank Christ for that! I spent the time fiddling around with my smartphone.

Saturday, 21 October 2017


What with the weather going a tad cooler over the next few days, I thought I'd give the under floor heating a quick test drive. I'd forgotten how to turn it off - took me all day before I twigged a couple of valves in the engine room were closed. I'd been fiddling with the manifold most of the day, not realising I'd switched it off further back along the circuit.

Normally I'd be in shorts till near Christmas day - the record being New Year's Day a couple of years ago; however, this year the transition was made yesterday. I must be getting old. It's more to do with the damp than the cold.

That said, I must put some trousers on...

Friday, 20 October 2017


We were watching a programme on TV about the history of Chinese porcelain, presented by Lars Thrup, who I'm sure is not really called Lars Thrup - I'm convinced he's the younger brother of Christopher Biggins; he's a dead ringer for him.

Anyway, he mentioned the Ming and Ching dynasties, and it struck me that one of the local villages here - Minchinhampton - is actually a corruption of Ming Ching Hampton, and must have been an entry point for Chinese porcelain in the 18th Century...

I have a pair of Chinese porcelain vases - unfortunately one was accidentally broken by a friend and I don't have all the pieces. Bonhams in Henley valued them (pre-damage) at £800 over 12 years ago. Hearing that some old dear's vase, that she was using as an umbrella stand, sold for £43m has raised my interest in having the pair revalued. My dad brought them (along with a lot of other stuff) back from Shanghai in the 60s when the Chinese had a downer on imperial antiques and they were being sold off for a song.

No.1 Son is coming home from university for the weekend. Looking forward to having a chat with him about university life after his first month. All he will probably be interested in is having his laundry done and getting some nourishing sustenance.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Dark Overdraft Materials

Overheard in the kitchen:

Hay: "Oh, according to their magazine, Waitrose are doing half bottles of wine. The worrying thing is they're calling them mid-week bottles."

Chairman: "Have they got anything called a breakfast bottle?"

No.2 Son inadvertently managed to go a few quid overdrawn on his bank account. I pointed out to him that this will incurr a fee, as it was unauthorised. He asked me how much that would be and I answered that I didn't have a clue, as it's more than 30 years since I was last overdrawn at the bank, and that's the honest truth.

I hear Philip Pullman has released a sequel to the excellent 'His Dark Materials' trilogy, but who is the he of 'His'?

Grape jelly was a success and the test jar set quite nicely. The problem was we didn't have enough empty glass jars for about a litre and a half of jelly; they all went to the charity shop last week. Plastic containers had to do.

Will be delicious on cheese.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Jelly Data Selfie

The grape jelly making progresses:

Had to collect another bowl full of crab apples to provide enough pectin. The thing about crab apples is that once they fall on the ground they keep for months, as no creature in its right mind would eat the damned things - they're inedible. Producing pectin is the only thing they're any use for.

Had another look at my Facebook data selfie a couple of days ago - the predictions allegedly improve over time. The first two analyses are reasonably accurate but, for reasons already stated, I'm not so sure about the last two. Click to enlarge.

As for my overall personality traits - can't really complain.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Grape Jelly

Hay's taken it into her head to make some grape jelly. We have loads of grapes from this year's harvest and plenty of crab apples to provide the necessary pectin, without which she'd just have grape juice. Here are the boiled crab apples from the garden.

And here are the boiled grapes.

Can't wait to see the final result...

Monday, 16 October 2017

New Blades for Old

As a prelude to watching Blade Runner 2049, last night we watched the original's final cut on Amazon. Hay noticed a necessary continuity error; just prior to making a run for it, Zhora is seen pulling on a pair of boots with killer heels, yet when she's finally shot and falls over, the heels have mysteriously disappeared and the boots are flat. Now were the heels jettisoned automatically by the boots to enable Zhora to run, or was it a necessity so she could run?

I've always wondered what Rick Deckard's job was that enabled him to immediately take up becoming a Blade Runner again. I mean you can't normally just drop your job immediately and he obviously had some occupation in order to keep body and soul together after retiring from being a Blade Runner. I've lived over 30 years thinking Harrison For's character was called Dekker.

It's strange how the female replicants have exotic names, whereas the males have normal, boring ones.

We're looking forward to seeing Blade Runner 2049, especially given the reviews.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

That Old Canard

It's becoming self-evident that, despite the Brexiteers' demonstrably false cries that they need us more than we need them, the EU will not give the UK special status; the broad, sunlit uplands of Utopia are a myth. This was known before the referendum, as giving the UK concessions would provide the green light for other EU members to demand similar treatment and herald the demise of the project. Ukip, however, in an act of national hubris, refused to listen to reason - people with irrational, dogmatic prejudices don't like being challenged by facts.

Now the call is for a hard Brexit - which is exactly what was predicted, and the start of the decline of the UK to a position of near irrelevance on the fringe of Europe, with declining productivity, rising inflation and a debt mountain larger than before the global financial crisis.
  • We will reclaim our national waters, only to be barred from fishing in the rest of the EU's waters and having up to 24% tariffs imposed on fish exports to the EU - our larges fish export market.
  • German car makers will not come to our rescue, as they don't want to see the UK becoming a back-door for cheap imports from the rest of the world and threatening the emerging markets of eastern Europe.
  • Japanese car makers will be subsidised to stay in the UK to the tune of their entire wage bill.
  • Logistics supply chains reliant on input from Europe will be thrown into disarray.
  • Air transport, be it passenger or cargo (according to IATA) will suffer a severe downturn due to policies not being in place and many routes will be closed.
  • We will lose all current Free Trade Agreements under the EU, and as a nation of 65m compared to the EU's 600m, we will fall to the back of the queue in future FTA negotiations.
  • Being a nation of only 65m, we will not get better deals than were negotiated under the EU - in fact, logic dictates we'll get worse ones as we're a smaller market.
  • Tariffs, combined with the additional friction and beaurocracy necessitated by customs procedures, will raise the cost of both imports and exports, adding to inflationary pressures and a loss of competitiveness on exports.
  • We will lose the Euro clearing business to Germany or France, along with 83,000 jobs and €930 billion of trades per day.
  • Economists have estimated the loss to the economy would be between 4% and 9.5% of GDP - between 12 and 29 times the cost of membership.
That's not to say there won't be winners, which is why they're heard arguing their narrow viewpoints, but they're only interested in their companies, not the UK in general. The CEOs of such companies have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders, not UK Plc.

Our only hope now is that Mrs May is using Fabian tactics with the Brexiteer's and delaying the break till such time as it becomes obvious to even the most hardened Brexiteer than this is pure folly, and calls for a 2nd referendum. My fear, though, is that the dogmatists who hate Europe with a passion and are dishonest about their reasons, just won't listen.

Polls, however, are encouraging and there is a gradual and growing swing to remaining. There will be cries of; "The will of the people should not be thwarted," but what if the will of the people changes? If a defendant is found guilty and subsequently evidence is uncovered that he or she is innocent, does justice demand that the original sentence stands? As David Davies said in 2012; "If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy." Democracy is a process, not a binary event.

The only people who Brexit will definitely benefit as a group are the speculators, who thrive on uncertainty. Lots of Conservative MPs have links to the City and some, indeed, own wealth management funds. It's hardly surprising they're Brexit fanatics. Parliament, for the unscrupulous, is a route to untold wealth.

Saturday, 14 October 2017


This is the latest book I'm reading:

I've learned a few things:

  • The reason men's coats button left over right is so it leaves the sword hand free if you need to unbutton your coat during a sword fight - as I have occasionally had to do.
  • Women are escorted on the gentleman's right arm due to the sword being on the left hip and an encumbrance.
  • Rapiers proliferated in Elizabethan times due to their much lower cost of production. This fuelled a high increase in violence (a lesson for the NRA - violence decreased considerably when the wearing of swords in public was banned).
  • Because of it's lower cost, the rapier was originally the weapon of choice of the lower orders and its use was frowned upon by the nobility, who were used to hacking each other to death with the broadsword, where size, strength and endurance won the day, rather than skill and tactics.
  • The Elizabethan fencing master was considered on a social level with a juggler, actor or vagabond, but this changed once the nobility adopted the rapier out of necessity.
  • The Germans turned fencing into a sport and the custom of shaking the right hand came from there, using the sword hand to signify disarmament and peace.
A certain personage is mentioned in the book - the splendidly named Palfry Alpar, who was former Arms Master at the Royal Hungarian Military Academy. His name sounds like a quaint village in the heart of  the Cotswolds, a bit like Meryl Streep, although that is in Somerset...

Friday, 13 October 2017

Dyslexic Cat Mirrors

Hay's new kitchen island is causing problems. Because it takes up a sizeable area of the kitchen, the various cats in the house occasionally go round a corner of it and run, unexpectedly, into another cat. With the black and ginger cats this is not an issue - they are brothers; however, when it comes to Kitty, it's a different matter and a fight is called for, with fur flying and cat screams.

We need cat mirrors at each corner so the cats get advance warning of Kitty being just round the corner. 

A new dyslexia centre has been opened in Bristol, according to our local news. You'd think there would be a simpler word for the condition - how the hell is a dyslexic person meant to find the centre if they can't read such a complex word? Non-dyslexics can even have a problem with it, for God's sake.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Camembert Catastrophe on Facebook

Not content with one disaster, I compounded it last night while Hay was away for a couple of days. I made baked Camembert for No.2 Son and self, using Lidl Camembert, forgetting it should be made with pasteurised Camembert and ending up with the usual curdled, rubbery mess.

The image below is what it should look like; mine was more like one of those plastic replicas of food you see in restaurant windows in Japan.

Well, it's skinny day today, so I shouldn't be able to make a mess of a simple soup toight.

Facebook is becoming rather a nuisance. I'm constantly having to move my cursor to view what I want to view when scrolling, as things keep popping out of the background whenever the cursor goes over hyperlinks, of which there are simply too many these days. if it's not a damned advert for something I'll never buy, it's unnecessary information about people having posted a reply.

There's a PC-based application called Data Selfie that monitors your Facebook usage and makes an attempt at interpreting that, drawing a conclusion about your proclivities. However, it doesn't take into consideration why you're looking at a particular page, just the fact you're there. Nor does it take into account your smartphone viewing habits. The application has me down as as a conservative Christian, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. The only reason I visit such pages is to have arguments with conservative Christians. I wondered why I kept seeing adverts for guns and bibles - all is now clear.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


Jacob Rees-Mogg has a particular hatred for the European Court of Justice, but I'm at a loss to know why. The only criticisms of the ECJ that I can find are nothing to do with the rulings, but the backlog of cases - in that respect it's not much different from the British courts.

One of the problems is that fines are quite hefty, which makes an appeal almost automatic, and that adds to the time taken for a case to be completed, but other than that, no-one is complaining, except for a bit of minor tinkering and in that applies to any organisation.

The ECJ has been raised as the poster institution of the Brexit camp for no logical reason and Brexiteers are being whipped into a frothy-mouthed fury about an organisastion which does nothing more than protect their EU consumer rights and arbitrates between EU member states on EU law. It seems more to do with the fact it has the word European in it.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Contraceptive Loaf

Hayley is congenitally incapable of cutting a whole loaf. Slices invariably come out thin at one end and thick at the other and the loaf ends up looking as if it was given to a bunch of kids. Is this a female thing, or are there blokes out there who are also cack-handed with a bread knife? The ramifications for DIY are enormous for blokes who can't cut a loaf - just imagine the carnage following an attempt to make a couple of shelves. It doesn't bear thinking about!

We were watching a film called 'Gone Girl' on Amazon Prime the other night. A wife tried to frame her husband for her murder following her disappearance. Drops of her blood were found in the kitchen, which she had placed there, but he (being a bloke) was unlikely to notice. Hay maintained she could slosh buckets of blood on our kitchen floor and I still wouldn't notice. I do notice hacked loaves though.

Donald Trump's government has issued a ruling that allows employers to opt out of providing free birth control to women, allowing employers and insurers to decline to provide birth control if doing so violates their "religious beliefs" or "moral convictions". Seems to me that it allows employers to claim it's against their religions convictions, even if they have none.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Charlemagne's Pound Coins

Currently reading a contemporary biography of Charlemagne with two sources.

They pulled no punches in giving nicknames to chroniclers in those days...

I've noticed over the last few weeks that while supermarkets other chains are still taking the old pound coin, independents are palming them off on their customers and just shrugging their shoulders when you ask for new pound coins in your change. The cynic in me wonders if this is a deliberate strategy on their part.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Over-Conspicuous Consumption

Ref my post last Wednesday about the trade-off in mate selection. Hay reminded me that mate selection can be based on something else, as it was in her case - pity, altruism and the feeling you have for a wounded animal...

We went to Plas Newydd yesterday yesterday - the site of my old school. It's a National Trust property now, so we thought we'd renew our membership, which recently lapses, and take in Penrhyn Caste in the afternoon. Well worth a visit. A 19th century exhibition of over-conspicuous consumption. The Lords Penrhyn had an income of £65k from the estate, plus another £1.5m from the family slate quarry - and that was in the 1800s. They weren't exactly a forward looking family with respect to industrial relations and a 3 year lockout at the slate quarry in the early 1900s still leaves a sour taste in the area.

Here are a few snaps:

Saturday, 7 October 2017


We headed to Betws-y-Coed yesterday as a stop-off point for some walking before a black tie, school reunion dinner in Llandudno this evening. Betws-y-Coed is one of those places where the only form of employment is working in a dining establishment, running a bed and breakfast or having an outdoor clothing emporium.

It seems most of the bed and breakfasts here are up for sale. Most are also run by Scousers - but there again, most of N Wales is Scouse. Time was (when I was at school in Anglesey), before the motorway was built along the coast road, the place was relatively isolated, but the motorway as opened it up phenomenally. And with Welsh now being compulsory in schools, many more speak it as a first language.

Outdoor clothing is something I find quite amusing; people spend an absolute fortune in order to buy clothing that's half a micron thick and weighs nothing, but still keeps you warm. What's wrong with a duffel coat and a cable-knit sweater, along with a canvass rucksack that soaks up water? If it's raining, an oilskin sou'wester and cape are perfectly adequate.

We walked from Betws-y-Coed, along the north bank of the River Llugwy to where the A5 crosses it and then back along the A5 - just over 5 miles - taking in Swallow Falls.

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Human Interest Story - And Fast

Years ago the only news reporters were men and all you got was factual news without any touchy-feely stuff.

I can't help thinking that it was the advent of female reporters, and consequently news editors, that introduced the human element into news reporting, which I find rather an annoyance due to its  manipulative nature, but I'm sure women adore because of the emotional value. Trial by Mumsnet, where opinion matters more than fact. It also opens the news business to, quite justifiable, accusations of bias. 

I prefer my news to limit itself to the plain and simple facts. Is that a typically male thing?

On Facebook I have news feeds from various news outlets; the problem is that many of them rush to be first with a story because their on-line publications contain adverts, and the first outlet with breaking news stands the best chance of getting a paid click on an advert. However, they seem to sacrifice accuracy for that speed, so, invariably, the news story is hideously inaccurate to the extent of being positively misleading. The BBC at least waits until there's a high degree of detail before releasing the story and is therefore is more trustworthy as a comprehensive news source.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

A Vintage Year in Catalonia

It's the annual grape harvest here in Old Sodbury and our crop is a bumper one.

The white grapes are really sweet and the red ones succulent.

Interesting result from a YouGov pol on Catalonia.

I suppose the reaction of SNP supporters is entirely predictable.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Fork Handle Hefner Adverts

There's a lot of condemnation of Hefner and his choice of women - and the same goes for Trump and indeed any elderly male with lots of money.

When all's said and done, isn't all mate selection based on trade offs? There has to be something in it for both parties, whether that be youth, attractiveness, fecundity, protection or financial security, else what's the point? One of these criteria trigger the flood of oxytocin we call love. The concept of the elderly, rich male with a young female just moves one of the selection criteria somewhat further along the scale into the outliers and condemnation is somewhat hypocritical.

The oxytocin hit may be a little lower though and rational analysis may play a greater role  (unless, according to Hay, the elderly male is Robert Redford). The purpose of the oxytocin, by the way, is to cloud your judgement and mask the fact you may be aligning yourself with someone who looks like a haddock. In that manner, its effect is similar to that of money.

Analyse and discuss.

Got the annual supply of candles from IKEA yesterday. £48, less an IKEA voucher for a tenner from last year.


I'm not risking buying them online again, even though I do end up with three times the amount for the same price due to breakages in the post (and the tenner voucher).

Getting full page adverts popping up on my mobile of late, like this one. The logo in the top right is Ad Choices.

Not sure which app is causing it, but I suspect it's Facebook Messenger. Anyone else with similar problems?

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

William the Silent

One wonders when the NRA is going to claim responsibility for the shooting in America. The weapon was allegedly fully automatic, which is illegal, but semi-automatics can be converted to fully automatic with legally purchased add-ons.

Just reading a biography of a Dutch hero, the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish Habsburgs that set off the Eighty Years' War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1581. He was also the ancestor of the monarchy of the Netherlands - the House of Orange-Nassau.

It doesn't say much...

William was tolerant of any religion on the proviso that it didn't subvert order. What incensed him was the intolerance within religion for other religions, in particular the fanatical and savage brutality of the Catholic Inquisition of the Spanish. Had be been alive today, he would have been equally tolerant of Islam, but without all the jihad and stoning nonsense of the fanatic.

The book has a strange physical property - the paper has an ultraviolet glow down the middle, but it's only visible in shadow. It's difficult to reproduce in a photo, but it's manifestly obvious with the eyes.

Talking of Spain - what a catastrophe. Nationalists hold what, according to the constitution, is an illegal referendum to foment trouble for their minority cause and the government responds with what can only be described as a cack-handed, overblown response that's played right into the hands of the nationalists. Nationalists everywhere think independence produces heaven on earth, but when required to explain how, they can never say; they just get annoyed and waffle. That's not to say nationalism isn't warranted when a nation is being genuinely oppressed, like the Kurds.

William the Silent's nationalism on behalf of the Dutch (he was not Dutch himself, but born in Nassau in what is now Germany with hereditary lands in both Germany and Southern France - the Orange part) came about due to religious oppression on the part of the Spanish overlords.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Cat Fly Paper Celery

Hayley took delivery of her baby on Saturday - her handmade kitchen Island, which has been on order since May.

I spent the weekend screwing it together, putting on the handles and knobs, putting on the oak worktop and oiling the worktop. Don't know if you've ever oiled a kitchen worktop with 3 cats in the house, but at times it looked like cat flypaper. 

Now just to hope that it doesn't adversely affect the under floor heating. There is a floor gap all the way round, so there shouldn't be a problem.

Obviously all the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen had to be rearranged, with the consequence that No.2 Son and myself are wandering around the kitchen looking as if we have Alzheimer's and can't find anything.

Had occasion to go into Waitrose on Sunday - didn't have time to get to Lidl - and spotted the following:

Celery - 58 pence. Expensive, but a necessity for Sunday dinner.

My eyes then alighted on celery hearts at £1.45 for half the amount of the full celery stalks that are sold for 58 pence. Has the British housewife gone stark raving mad? It's not even as it the whole celery doesn't have hearts. Waitrose charge nearly 3 times as much for celery hearts!