Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Facel Vega Skates

I was reading something about Albert Camus yesterday and learned he died in a car accident while driving something called a Facel Vega, so I looked it up on Wikipedia.

An interesting marque and this one looks as if it might have been the concept behind Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward's futuristic Rolls Royce.

Sadly, I succumbed to an impulse yesterday while browsing at the local charity shop.

Fortunately, when I got home, I discovered that the wheels had perished and thus rushed back to get a refund. That was a close thing...

Update: spotted a pair for sale locally on Facebook Market in excellent condition - brand new and unused. Bought them, so I will embarrass my two boys after all...

I wonder if I can create a new sport - Rollerblade scything?

Monday, 18 June 2018

Investors in Gliders & Snaths

I've dug out an old English scythe blade that used to belong to one of Hay's great uncles, who used it to scythe the meadow we built our house in. I think it was last used in anger in the '70s. It was pretty rusty after years of neglect, but seemed in relatively good condition and worth restoring.

What I need, however, is a new snath (being what we experts call the handle), but snaths for English scythes are as rare as brains in a Brexiteer. Below is the blade fully cleaned up and restored.

I think, on the basis of research into English scythe snaths, their availability and price if you can find one, I'm going to have to use this purely as a decorative item in the house and purchase an Austrian scythe  - bloody Europeans and their superior technology...

Been seeing a lot of gliders in our area over the last few days. Going up in a glider would petrify me - not so much in fear of crashing, but losing a thermal and having to land miles from nowhere or destroying some poor farmer's crop. I often wonder which bright spark first thought to himself; "Ooh - I think I'll go up in a plane without an engine"? Doesn't exactly seem a sensible idea at first glance.

Saw a van yesterday with the Investors in People logo. I thought that had died a death decades ago but, apparently, it's still in operation. Never saw the point myself. The companies indulging in this stuff were invariably the worst to work for.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Fathers' Day Scythe for Criminals

Apparently, according to The Sunday Times, less that 5% of all robberies and burglaries are solved. Now given fully 50% of business start-ups fail, I'm surprised more people aren't turning to a career in crime. Heard that Savid Javid is working on a plan to give police more powers to tackle motorcycle thieves - I wonder what additional powers they require beyond the power to arrest thieves? Sounds like more vacuous statements from a government in crisis.

Fathers' Day today. No use to me now, I was completely orphaned in my late 50s.

The scything course was excellent and I learned a lot. For a start, an Austrian scythe is much easier to handle than an English scythe. Secondly, it's best to scythe grass when it's slightly wet. Thirdly, keep it very sharp by honing it often.

Here's me attacking the grass with gusto.

I think I handled it rather well.

This is the Austrian scythe.

Peening the blade with a special gadget.

Here's a video of our tutor showing the correct technique.

I did, however, become aware of another grass cutting tool for long grass - the Allen scythe. Here's a particularly well looked after example. They're generally at least 40 years old.

I may just go on one of their hedge laying courses next.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Up-Cycled Poldark Scythe

Given we've allowed the garden to go to seed and mown paths through it in the interests of ecology, the ride-on-mower now can't cope with the once-a-year cutting - it's simply too long.

Hay spotted a local scything course and has booked me on it for today. Personally I think she was thinking more about Aidan Turner in Poldark than the sight of me scything the grass bare-chested. The only problem is that it's forecast to rain this morning.

 I was of the opinion that a scythe was in the region of £100 plus, but I found some all-metal ones on eBay for just over £30 from Ireland. Must get myself one in time for the harvesting season.

When I spoke with the guy who is doing the tuition, he said Aidan Turner's technique is crap and he wouldn't cut much grass with it.

Being a keen up-cycler, I was impressed with the ingenuity shown in the following images, if not with the safety...

Friday, 15 June 2018

Andy Warhol JRM Original

I see the Jacob Rees-Mogg has been defending the indefensible - the setting up of a branch of his hedge fund, Somerset Capital Management, in Dublin and the firm warning its clients of the effects of a hard Brexit. Oops. Naturally you'd expect the Gruniad to report it, but the Torygraph is also on his tail. Seems he wants to become 'the man that broke the bank of England' while publicly excoriating him.

Apparently particle physicists have discovered some new particles - the Up Brexit, the Down Brexit, the Left Brexit and the Right Brexit. The most elusive particle of all, the Successful Brexit, has yet to show any evidence of existence.

Given that the Universal Credit system, the NHS - in fact, anything that government touches turns to poo, one wonders how they're going to deliver a successful Brexit. The words 'successful' and 'Brexit' are an oxymoron when juxtaposed in a sentence, unless the words 'is' and 'impossible' are included.

A few days ago I was wondering whether charity shops gave their staff some basic training in identifying really valuable pieces of junk. Well, I was looking in one of the local charity shops and spotted this Andy Warhol original in the window.

I'm sure they're not aware of its true value...

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Quelle Surprise - Fake News

Been seeing this meme about Jean Monet, one of the 'founding fathers of the EU', rather a lot recently on Facebook and, being the sceptic that I am, I decided to do a little digging.

It transpires he didn't say this at all and it's a conspiracy theory (quelle surprise) - read this for an explanation. There again, I haven't checked all the sources mentioned in the article.

Yet another breach of customer credit card data. I confidently predict that a system of exchange will be invented where we use some proxy for financial transactions - like government promissory notes or disks of metal that represent the currency being used. In order to steal it, criminals would have to physically attack you, rather than sitting in the comfort of their own homes in front of a computer. A radical idea, or what? It would rejuvenate our high streets.

So a poll has shown that 82% of people would support a tax rise to increase funding to the NHS - the problem is that this doesn't translate to elections and people lie in polls; time after time, the electorate votes against general tax rises. They don't, however, vote against tax rises for others, such as top earners.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

2-Stroke Crap

Does anyone else hate 2-stroke power tools with the same vengeance as I do?

There's a bloody chainsaw to add to this little collection of non-working garden tools that won't start either. Getting just one to work would be brilliant. I'm convinced you can buy one direct from the manufacturer and still not get it to work first time. Even if you did, it wouldn't work 2nd time and certainly not when stored over the winter.

I've rebuilt more cars than I care to remember, but these gizmos freak me out. Everything is tiny and inaccessible; pull just a bit too hard on something and it comes apart in your hands; purposely take something apart and all manner of springs and spigots roll all over the floor; try to get some new petrol pipe of the correct size and you could be asking for unicorn horn dust.

It's always the fuel system that's at fault and rebuilding old carburettors that you either can't buy anymore, or are priced astronomically if you can, is fraught with problems.

It's time to invest in battery operated garden tools with the latest battery technology as tools with cables simply aren't an option in a garden the size of ours.

I hear meat has been found in supermarket vegan foods. Good!

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Will of the People

2 years down the line and with many issues which were not know at the time having come to light, I see no reason why parliament should not check that THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE remains as it was, as I somehow think, and as recent polls would indicate, that THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE has shifted somewhat away from imposing a self-inflicted injury on the basis of lies, misinformation and wanton over-simplification of complex issues.

On three occasions – Denmark on the Maastricht Treaty, Ireland on the Nice Treaty and Ireland again on the Lisbon Treaty – voters have initially rejected an EU treaty only to vote in favour of it in a second referendum following a period of reflection. Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps, though sure, are slow and solemn..

How many parliaments and administrations suffer multiple mid-term defeats due to the will of the people changing once the consequences of policies become clear? Democracy, after all, is a process and not a binary event.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Brexit Continuity for Eno & Kim

Did you know that Brian Eno's full name is Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno. However, his Wiki page says he was born just Brian Peter George Eno.

We were watching the new series of Poldark last night and I was paying more attention to the settings than normal. Charlestown made an appearance, doubling for Truro docks, but what caught my attention most was that there were several scenes in which the sun was rising over a seascape in a morning scene, indicating an east facing location, while also setting over the same seascape in another scene, indicating a west facing location. The makers are obviously filming early morning and evening scenes (usually where Ross Poldark is galloping along some cliffs) at exactly the same time of day, which makes sense from saving money on locations, but contravenes continuity and makes it difficult to determine exactly where the location is.

The world seems split between anti-globalists and globalists. Globalists are meant to be pro free trade, whereas anti-globalists are defined as nationalist and protectionist. What I find strange is that the Brexit movement is anti-globalist, exhibiting both nationalism and protectionism, while simultaneously accusing the EU of protectionism. Brexit is also anti-elitist while being nationalist, which again is incongruous as nationalism is predicated on an elite nation state. The word hypocrisy comes to mind.

Trump and Kim - Trump is caught between two facets of his ego; on the one hand he wants to be seen as a hard man, on the other he's desperate to get a deal and prove himself better than Obama. Kim knows this and is probably betting on the narcissist's hatred of Obama coming out on top, so be prepared for Kim being given anything he demands. I can imagine Kim saying to himself; "At last, someone I can deal with - a narcissist."

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Good Ideas

Anthony Bourdain? News coverage of almost hysteric proportions, but no-one except my elder son has ever heard of him in our extended household, and we're not exactly living under a rock. Could it be because we're not fans of American TV?

Yesterday was the Old Sodbury Village Day, an annual event where we try to raise funds for the fabric of the village hall, as well as provide a day of family entertainment and fun.

Being on the Village Hall Committee, along with Hay, it's our responsibility to come up with various ideas for the entertainment. My contribution this year was arranging for a local archery club to attend; we get an archery section of the local football field, where we hold the event, and the archery club gets the chance to drum up membership from the local community - a win-win scenario.

I usually volunteer to be in charge of the car parking in the adjacent field, but apparently is was also my idea this year to ask people for donations for parking, rather than it being free. I'd forgotten, but managed to rush home and get a bucket, hastily write "PARKING DONATIONS" on it and position it by the field entrance before people started to arrive.

It was interesting to watch people as they went past the bucket after having parked their cars. Some slung in 20 or 30p, that being all they had in change; many deposited 50p; most threw in £1 and some even threw in a £2 coin. A very small number would walk past sheepishly, make no eye contact whatsoever, and leave nothing in the bucket.

Occasionally I had to take a break, when I would take the bulk of the money out of the bucket and leave maybe £4 in change in it. Now despite cars very obviously having come into the car park during my breaks - trade was brisk - the amount of money in the bucket climbed by no more that a couple of quid, indicating that people would generally chuck money into the pot while being watched, but not if there was no-one watching them.

At the end of the day I'd made about a substantial amount from the car park.

Next year's ideas will be a) to provide disabled parking, b) run a car wash in the car park, and c) to run a radio station - Old Sodbury Pirate FM - for the day.....

Saturday, 9 June 2018

The Shirt of T for Boris

Yesterday, while checking out the local charity shops for treasures I came across a Pink Floyd tour T shirt. Hay said no. She maintained that blokes shouldn't wear T shirts with signs or logos - indeed anything on them - after the age of 30, else they look somewhat pathetic. Generally I agree, but I suggested I could grow a huge paunch in order to look the part.

I did, however, pick up this rather attractive little raku vase for £1.99 - a bargain in anyone's money.

I sometimes wonder whether charity shop volunteers are given some basic training in pottery makers' marks to ensure they don't sell for a song something that's worth a fortune. I somehow doubt it.

So, Boris reckons that if Trump had been conducting the Brexit negotiations he'd have gone in hard and won concessions. This asinine statement shows that Boris isn't as clever as some would make him out to be.

To go in hard you have to have a bargaining chip in the form of a metaphorical cudgel you can wield. In the case of the UK, the cudgel is aimed at our own heads - and the EU knows that.

Boris is a well educated fool and has weaponised self-harm. At least he realises we need concessions in order for the economy not to go into meltdown, but the fact we can do little to seriously harm the EU without doing greater harm to ourselves self-evidently shows we're a supplicant. Trump could have done no better - we bought the product, used it effectively for 40 years (it did what it said on the tin) and now we're returning it to the shop and asking for a refund......

I was reading FlipBoard this morning to get my daily aggregated news feed from a variety of sources. A story appeared from yesterday's Sun maintaining that the predicted post-Brexit trade slump hasn't materialised. What does the Sun think post-Brexit means? Have we actually left the EU yet? Have tariffs, which will be the cause of a trade slump, kicked in without our knowledge? I despair of some journalists - you'd think a working knowledge of English would be required for the job.

Friday, 8 June 2018

A Plague on Their Houses

I'm currently well into the 2nd book of Philippa Gregory's series, The Counsins' War, which covers the Wars of the Roses, a period in our history that fascinates me.

The war was fought between the Houses of Lancaster and York - the Duchy of Lancaster being the personal possession of the Monarch since 1399 and the Duchy of York being a cadet branch of the Plantagenets. 

The strange thing about the Duchy of York is that, while usually conferred on the 2nd son of the Monarch, it has never continued beyond two generations due to the holder dying without male heirs or becoming king himself ( happened 6 times) and has had to be created 8 times in total. Prince Andrew, the current Duke of York, seems to be following the tradition of not being able to pass it on to male heirs.

One tends to think of duchies as being based in the county denoted by their name, which is far from the truth. If you look at the map of the Duchy of Lancaster, it's scattered all over the place.

Our local duke, the Duke of Beaufort, is the only duke to have his duchy take its name from outside the British Isles. It's amusing to realise that the Dukes of Somerset are Beauforts, while the Dukes of Beaufort are Somersets, the duchy of Beaufort having been created for a legitimised son of a Duke of Somerset in 1682.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

The Language of Dictatorship

Overheard yesterday morning:

Chairman: "Someone I was speaking to yesterday used the term senile dementia. You don't hear the word senile in front of dementia anymore. Now who was it who mentioned it?"

Hay: "It was Len - I think you've got it!"


Hay: "Veronica is looking for a handyman."

Chairman: "I can do that."

Hay: "Someone competent."

Chairman:  "Not me then?"

I was listening to Iain Duncan-Smith on radio 4 yesterday morning and was interested in his use of words. The EU was constantly referred in a manner that indicated we'd had no input whatsoever over the last 40 years. The word dictate was used in regards to EU rules - again, as it we had no influence over their creation. or voted for them through our elected representatives.

The Brexiteer lexicon is framed by the repeated accusation of the EU being a dictatorship. When I challenge people to provide an explanation, they fail miserably. Some people need to look up in a dictionary the meaning of the word - a country, government, or the form of government in which absolute power is exercised by a dictator, a dictator being a person exercising absolute power, especially a ruler who has absolute, unrestricted control in a government without hereditary succession. There is no way the EU, which is comprised of 28 member countries, each with elected representatives, is a dictatorship.

This use of inflammatory language is deeply worrying, especially when Uber Brexiteers call legitimate opposition traitorous; call an independent judiciary traitorous; call the House of Lords traitorous.

Look up "EU Dictatorship" on Google images and it's evident that Brexiteers can't seem to make their minds up as to whether the EU is a right or left wing dictatorship, which in itself is telling.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Private Hands & Hair

I heard a rather asinine statement from an John Glen, MP, on the radio yesterday morning. He said, in relation to RBS, that banks are better in private hands. Does he realise exactly why RBS was taking into government hands in the first place? Does he forget who caused the global financial crisis? This man is Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister, for God's sake. Economic amnesia, as a friend put it.

I was lamenting the profusion of ear and nose hair, not to mention back hair, with a friend of roughly the same age as me and it suddenly struck me that hair sprouting from unexpected places is the over 60s' equivalent of teenage acne. He commented that there should be places that provide Brazilians for noses and ears.

The RHS is apparently conducting a scientific trial of several traditional anti-slug remedies. I'd have thought the simple solution is a sign warning slugs off the veg patch.

I have reached the conclusion that I shouldn't be allowed near a tin of tomatoes while wearing anything white. For that matter, I shouldn't be allowed anywhere near bleach while wearing something couloured - especially when trying to get the red stain of tomato juice from something white in the sink.

Is it just coincidence that Brexiteers are a Simple Majority, or is it a statement of inalienable truth? Brexit is now the windmill in Animal Farm. Everything must be dedicated to its erection and if in the end it does not materialise in the exact way that disparate people wanted, but never planned for in the first place, it will be someone else’s fault. Our Normandy was when we joined the EU against opposition in '73 and Brexit is our Dunkirk - it's WWII (to use a Brexiteer analogy) in reverse.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

In a Word

I'm currently reading a book (I have about 3 on the go at present) called The Enigma if Reason, which is about how we reach conclusions as a result of rationalisation, or the lack of it.

This got me thinking about how people who have been deaf since birth perform tasks we take for granted, such as reading, when they have no 'language' to interpret written words on a page.

I did a bit of Googling and, whereas people who have normal hearing usually have an inner voice when reading, people who have been deaf since birth don't. They apparently read words as symbols (a bit like hieroglyphs) and then visualise the symbols in sign language. It's a fascinating concept.

Apparently there are over 200 variations of sign language around the world.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Uselessness & Value

Hay's dad mentioned his old friend Rex yesterday. That's a name you don't hear much these days, unless he has a collar round his neck, barks and walks on all fours. That said, it's entirely up to Rex what he does in his spare time.

A comment on the art market that resonates with me.

"The price of a work of art is an index of pure, irrational desire; and nothing is more manipulable than desire. It is no accident that the immense fetishism that sustains the art market should hive reached its present level --a delirium whose only historical parallel was the Dutch tulip mania of the seventeenth century-just at the time when the old purposes of art, the manifestation of myth and the articulation of social meaning, have largely been taken away from painting and sculpture by film, television and photography. Only when an object is truly useless, it seem, can capitalism see it as truly priceless. The desire far all commodities and hence their price are affected in greater or lesser degrees by manipulation - apart from diamonds, art is the only commodity whose price is purely and intrinsically manipulative and has no objective relationship to any social machinery except that of “rarity” and promotion."

That was from a book I'm currently engrossed in, "Nothing If Not Critical" by Robert Hughes, an Australian born art critic with some wonderful turns of phrase. It's an anthology of essays on some 80 artists throughout the ages and very illuminating. 

Hughes has a wonderful way with words and a wit, without being as waspish as Brian Sewell.

Sunday, 3 June 2018


I was scanning my FlipIt news feed on Friday and came across a story in the Sun about a Romanian who owns a bakery business in the UK and will only employ Romanians, as he thinks Brits simply don't work hard enough.

Naturally, this story attracted the ire of Sun Readers; however, it's a complaint I've heard time and time again from British employers - I have a friend who would rather employ Eastern Europeans as they at least turn up for interviews, turn up for the job if they pass the interviews and put in a hard day's work.

Regardless, this got me to thinking about how Chinese restaurants seem to employ only Chinese. Similarly, Indian restaurants and Italian restaurants seem to employ only Indians (or rather Pakistanis) and Italians. Have you ever seen an advert for waiting staff for Chinese, Indian or Italian restauranalts specifying nationality? No, because specifying a nationality would be illegal; staff are usually solicited through contacts and family. However, you'd expect to be served by an Italian in an Italian restaurant for an authentic experience.

That said, I have been to a Chinese restaurant in a small town up north where young Brits did the table waiting, and indeed there is one in Chipping Sodbury that similarly has young Brits waiting on table, but both are in rural locations where there are very few naturally occurring Chinese.

That. or course, begs the question of what a genuine Chinese, Indian or Italian is. Nationality is fluid, being generally defined by one's passport; ethnicity, however, is genetic. While it's relatively easy for a Brit to pass him or herself off as an Italian by the simple expedient of a bit of hand waving and the adoption of a cod-Italian accent, it's harder for a white Brit to pass him or herself off as an ethnic Chinese or Indian without some drastic cosmetic work.

Go to any Chinese chippy in Liverpool and you'll be asked what you want in a thick, Scouse accent indistinguishable from any other Scouser. For how many generations must a person of Chinese or Indian descent trace their lineage to a British birth before we drop the Chinese bit of British-Chinese or the Indian bit of British-Indian? We don't generally call anyone of, say, German descent and born here Anglo-German - we define them as British, unless you're a Brexiteer, of course, in which case anyone with a foreign surname has to be shipped out on the next plane from Heathrow.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Well I Woke Up This Monrning

We went to watch Paul Jones (ex Manfred Mann) and The Blues Band perform in Thornbury last night. He's another of those Peter Pan types - despite being 76 he annoyingly looks no older than about 50.

Like what happens at a lot of gigs, I'm convinced that a lot of the audience was on drugs - statins, blood pressure medication, viagra...

It's somewhat strange that while the blues idiom is meant to be about waking up in the morning and finding either your dog has died or your girlfriend as done a runner, blues can be some of the most tub-thumping music around. Perhaps blues musicians are happy when their dogs die or their girlfriends hop it...

Friday, 1 June 2018

Leaky Internet


Hay: "Remember the New Inn on Tresco?"

Chairman: "I thought it was on Waitro."

Hay: "I give up."

I'm getting worse.

Heavy rain always brings internet problems round here. Spent most of yesterday afternoon trying to get all the various computers and mobile phones back online. As soon as one spur on my home network was connected, another went down for no explicable reason. At least I managed to mow the lawn before the heavens opened. More rain this afternoon and then a respite. 

Are the people who huff and puff with righteous indignation about Tommy Robinson just thick? That's a rhetorical question, by the way.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Led Pools

Well, yesterday's weather prediction was spot on with the confidence level still at .62, which is statistically significant (anything above 0.5 his highly significant). The solar generation was actually the worst in 5 years, which perversely reduced the confidence level, but that was because the previous years were somewhat higher and around the same figure for the 4 years, although still low.

What is strange is that almost all the dates with high confidence levels are days of low solar generation. The only high confidence of high solar generation (for the time of year) are in the middle of winter.

There's a news report that Jimmy Page - he of Led Zeppelin fame - has opposed the building of a basement pool by his neighbour in London, one Robbie Williams.

In the 70s Page was famous for his pool parties and I seem to remember (although I can't find the relevant info) that someone died in his pool. I do know Philip Hale died of vomit inhalation during a party at one of his houses. Since then, there's been a meme about not going to Jimmy Page's pool parties if you want to stay alive. John Bonham certainly died at one of Page's houses in 1980, but not as a result of drowning - unless you count drowning in his own vomit after 40 shots of vodka. The drowning in vomit seems a recurrent theme - perhaps that's where the meme started.

When I lived on my boat in Caversham Marina, I regularly used to go past Page's house in Sonning (below), which was on a corner and walled off - it was just opposite the Uri Geller's house; a lot of famous people lived in Sonning and George Clooney bought a house there recently.

The road through Sonning is a nightmare at rush-hour, as it's a rat-run to the A4 to Maidenhead with a bridge over the Thames that is only one car width. I bought myself a motorbike specifically to negotiate the traffic while living in Caversham and working in Ascot. When I previously worked in Maidenhead and lived in Emmer Green, I'd go via Henley specifically to avoid the bridge.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Predicting Italian Elections

Today, the 30th of May, on the basis of the average for the last 3 years, should result in a very low chance of generating much solar energy.

If you look at the above chart of my average 3 year solar generation, you'll see a blip in the blue line, just before the half way mark - that's the level of confidence. It coincides with a dip in the red, solar generation line. It's a totally fatuous predictive chart anyway, as the red line will smooth out as more data is added over the years. Not only that, but the paucity of, and continued decline in, high confidence points shows it's useless for predictive purposes. We'll see what happens today, but the forecast is looking to remain firm, at least for 2018.

Talking of predictions, Italian politics can be described as a circus at the best of times, but the current kerfuffle seems somewhat strange - an alliance between left wing and right wing populist parties. I wonder what the 5 Star and Lega voters themselves think about the alliance? While both parties are united in the populist axis, their left and right wing positions on the political axis does not bode well for united decisions on many areas of policy. I can foresee another election producing some unexpected shifts in the voting pattern and perhaps a migration to the centre as an expression of dissatisfaction the leaderships and their alliance with the enemy in the pursuit of power.

Talking further about predictions, I can predict that, following a hard day of shopping at Lidl for tools and inspecting all the local charity shops on my part, Hayley will not don a nice cocktail dress for my return home, having chilled the Martinis and having a chicken chasseur ready in the oven...

Tuesday, 29 May 2018


Few surprises there then:

I was watching a Jonathan Meades programme on iPlayer last night where he described Trump as exhibiting; "Racism, misogyny, a chilling nationalism, blatant nepotism, sheer nastiness and a complete lack of generosity." Can't disagree with any of that.

Seems Meades is with me on contemporary art too.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Beyond Design Life

I just about manage to keep the old ride-on mower limping along from one year to the next. Had to take the deck to be welded - again - a few weeks ago, but then a spring went on one of the tractor drive pulleys. 

Given the bits are like hen's teeth and have to be ordered from either the USA or Germany and can take weeks to be delivered, I concluded a jury rigged fix by removing a spring from the seat, the seat being sprung because it acts as an automatic cut-out for the engine when you dismount. 

The problem was that while the seat spring was of the correct length, it was too fat, resulting in the clearance between the spring and the drive belt disappearing, although I didn't now that at the time, as you're working almost blind without a ramp to put the thing on. Naturally, one pass of the garden resulted in the drive belt shredding and me having to finish the job with the hand mower, but at least the grass, which is now growing like mad, had received a cut before we went on holiday to Cornwall.

I tackled the drive belt yesterday, when the spring issue became apparent but, given the ground clearance is only about 9 inches, I had to put the thing on its side to gain access, which naturally risks damage to the engine because of petrol and oil leakages. Luckily, I'd ordered a suitable spring before going on holiday from a spring emporium on eBay, so the correct (although not original) part was available to me.

Never having replaced the drive belt before, it turned out to be a mammoth task requiring the clutch to be removed, which in itself is difficult enough. Finally managed it and discovered I needed to put the drive belt over the rear axle pulley before putting it over the main drive shaft and had to do it all over again.

A lot of buggering about later and the job was complete, but I wonder what will fail next. You learn a lot about things by keeping them going long after their design life, especially when they're so old that there are no manuals or YouTube videos to help you and all you have is an exploded parts diagram lacking specifications.

I'm going to tackle the next bit of welding myself as I have an electric welding kit. What I don't have is a welding mask, but I see you can now get self-darkening masks which allows more accurate placement of the welding rod. Must get one of those!

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Self Service

I keep hearing Brexiteers accusing the Lords of being self-serving in relation to their scrutiny of Brexit. It's usually in respect of any that have EU pensions but, a) very few do, and b) they will get their pensions whether we remain in the EU or leave. It's a very specious argument that can be equally levelled at the electorate itself.

We all know that if we had more tax money available then many things would improve - the NHS, libraries, police, etc - anything to do with public service. Yet, when it comes to general elections and the electorate is offered the choice of a tax increase or a tax cut, the tax cut wins hands-down. Isn't that self-serving?

The will of the people, to use a popular phrase, is rarely in the interests of the country as a whole. Every few years our constitution provides the electorate with an opportunity to display its ignorance, which it does by voting for a self-serving policy. Given electoral horizons don't extend beyond five years, any damage can be reversed at the next election, should the people will it so, but they rarely learn.

Brexit, on the other hand, will affect a whole generation for decades to come - the irony being that it's nether in the interests of the electorate nor the country, just speculators and rich press barons. Even Patrick Minford, who is one of only a handful of economist who predict an upside and has been criticised for using an out-of-date model, does so on the back of massive job losses, which he admitted when pressed.

The Geheime Brexitpolizei now want to get rid of the House of Lords, yet many, prominent, Conservative Brexiteers actually voted against reform of the Lords a few years ago - JRM included. Now they've changed their minds, but only because their Lordships disagree with them on this issue. Isn't that in itself self-serving?

Filling the Lords with political appointees merely to get a majority, one way or the other, is not conducive to proper political scrutiny. Say what you like about the old aristocracy, but their horizons extended far beyond a five year parliamentary term and they did have the interests of the country at heart. I really don't know what the answer is to Lords reform, but we do need scrutiny of new laws and the HoL to be filled with people having experience. We also need it to be above mere politics and filled with people who operate in the best interests of the country, rather than a particular political party.

Talking of voting, it seems de rigeur now to accuse the winning side of voting irregularities. It's become an automatic, knee-jerk reaction in many countries. In many cases it's actually very valid, but in some it's merely a political ploy that is becoming wearing.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Contemporary Art

Following on from our visit to the Tate St Ives last week, here are some photos of a few of the art works on display. The vast majority of it left me stone cold. The odd Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore sculpture I could appreciate, along with the Piet Mondrian, but once you've seen one Mondrian you've seen them all and one boulder is pretty much the same as any other.

My beef with contemporary art is primarily with Abstract and some Expressioinism and is that it's impossible to differentiate between a good artist and a bad artist - which to me says it isn't art at all. At least not in my definition - and I don't necessarily have a definition; I just know, as the saying goes, what I like. Art, like music, is very subjective. What leaves me cold may send someone else into paroxysms on delight. Mostly though, I thinks it's pseudo-intellectualism. When a monkey with a paintbrush can fool so-called connoisseurs, then it ain't art - it's decoration at best and tripe at worst.

Take this one, for example. Patrick Heron - utter tripe. Recognised as one of the leading painters of his generation and influenced by Cezanne, Matisse, Braque and Bonnard - influenced by copious quantities of Watney's Red Barrel, more like. I'm convinced that St Ives in the early 20th century was the epicentre of the UK drugs trade.

Does me not appreciating a Patrick Heron make me a Philistine? I don't believe so - I think it makes me immune to marketing, hype and fakery. If this is good art, then everyone is an artist, which debases skill.

Here's another 'masterpiece' from Heron:

I wouldn't even have it on my floor as a rug, for God's sake; it certainly doesn't move me. It took me ages to get this photo, as some bloke was stood in front of it admiring it for at least 5 minutes. Perhaps he was just waiting to 'get it'.

Even the great Mark Rothko (above) isn't immune from my excoriating critique. I've heard people say they feel an almost religious experience when viewing a Rothko close up. Why? I'd need to be high on LSD to feel anything for this. Are such people religiously moved by carpets too, or are they merely echoing the art establishment mantras? I suspect the latter.

Another Heron above. Still don't 'get it'. Not a semblance of draughtsmanship or form - just a couple of daubs on a green background. Doubtless he agonised over the exact shade of green, but no more so than I did over the shade of magnolia on my walls.

I do get the artist who has demonstrated that they can at least draw then going on to experiment with different styles and techniques, or the artist whose work is important from an art hisotry perspective, but when all they've done since day one is scrawls and splashes, it debases the artist who has the ability to actually draw and spent some time learning to do so.

Some who churn this stuff out are, I'm sure, just on the bandwagon for the money and can see a chance of a quick buck by hoodwinking people. Much of contemporary art is like Prog Rock - so consumed with its own pseudo-intellectualism that it has gone too far up its own arse and had been subverted by speculators in the galleries; the Emperor's New Clothes, so to speak.

I do like this installation from the Tate St Ives though, which was tucked away in a corner. The juxtaposition of the stools and the chair show an uncanny affinity for form and space. Sadly, it was unattributed and there was no accompanying explanation in bollocky art-speak.

Never expected to find this contemporary homage to Marc Duchamp though:

It was signed Armitage Shanks who, I have to admit, I've never heard of.

I resonated more with some of the stuff on display in the high street galleries (below):

This ceramic piece is almost hypnotic when you view it and makes you giddy. Interesting, certainly, decorative too, but art - I don't know. The lines are blurred here, as the artist has a skill in ceramics.

This chap can be viewed from any angle and look good. Not sure I'd pay 4 grand for it though - I wonder how much the artist gets from that price - less than half, I'd wager. It's one of only 4 the sculptor made.

As I said before, art is in the eye of the beholder and this beholder just has an abhorrence of Abstract art, just as I have an abhorrence of most Punk and all Country music.