Sunday, 21 January 2018

Golden Rule for Streetights


Joining the Euro, not joining the Euro, the Euro being evil personified, the value of sterling against the Dollar or the Euro. I really don't know what people have against a currency union. We all used a common currency for millennia - gold and silver. How the hell did we manage for so long and so well in a global (or near as dammit, except for the odd cowrie shell and wampum belt) currency union?


If we were to switch back to gold and silver then we'd have to engage in honest trade with another party that already has some gold in their possession. People wouldn’t be able to just sit there and push a button to create new money based on vapourware and 'confidence' and Forex traders wouldn't be able to create a run on country's currency.

It would discourage inflation and government budget deficits and debt, which can't exceed the supply of gold. Governments, however, would no longer be able to reduce the money supply by raising interest rates in times of inflation. Nor could it increase the money supply by lowering rates in times of recession. In fact, this is why many advocate a return to the gold standard - it would enforce fiscal discipline, balance the budget and limit government intervention - as Greece learned to its cost. Several states in the USA already use gold for a number of transactions.

The weirdest thing happened as I was driving into the village for my Sunday paper - as I drove along one street, five streetlights went out in succession just as I drove past. Another did it on my return. It was like something out of The Omen...


Saturday, 20 January 2018

Small Englanders


The result of a YouGov pol yesterday - Fog in the Channel - Continent Isolated...


Surprisingly, 55% overall thought it a bad idea and only 26% thought it a good idea. Younger people thought it a good idea and the older the cohort became the more they thought it a bad idea.

Given an added route for holidays and trade is undoubtedly a good idea - even if only because of the jobs it creates, one wonders why so many think it a bad idea, unless it's the Boris effect - they're making a judgement on a Boris idea as opposed to the idea itself.

The Kipper result I can understand though - they're not noted for rational thought.


Friday, 19 January 2018

The Chairman's Admin Service


Last February we invested a large sum in a start-up using a government SEED scheme which guarantees 50% of your investment back in the tax year following the investment. The paperwork that enabled me to claim the 50% was allegedly sent in the summer of last year, but neither Hayley nor myself could recall receiving the certificate. We've spent an entire week persuading my accountant to lodge the claim without the actual certificate, which he was reluctant to do - and we were fast approaching the end of January deadline for self-assessment. Getting another certificate could take months. I'd actually forgotten about the tax relief - I'd already submitted my self-assessment in November, so it was a case of a retrospective application on having my memory jogged.


Given we were assured by the MD of said company that the certificate was sent by post, rather than via email (as was our assumption), Hay persuaded me to look through my important paperwork file rather than concentrating on my email archive. Hey presto! It was languishing in a little-used section of the filing system, heavily disguised as an HMRC tax certificate for SEED investment. My accountant was happy, Hayley was happy and I was happy and the revised self-assessment was duly resubmitted on Wednesday - enough, near as dammit, for a year's frugal living expenses. It was a close call.

Hay has now suggested I set up a business administration firm.....


Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Sartorial Elegance of Free Speech


I do believe I've reached the age where I can't care less about what I'm wearing - fashion holds no attraction for me whatsoever and stains on clothing (especially biological ones ones) are a badge of honour. Sure, I'll make an effort for business meetings, but in all other aspects of life comfort takes precedence over style. I call it the manopause.

Hay spotted these nifty items in a shop yesterday and suggested they'd be perfect for me as both day and evening wear. Practical, is what I'd call them...


Talking of the manopause, Being 8 years into it with no end in sight, Hay has been following a series of items on Woman's Hour about the menopause. One bloke rang in to the show to ask how he can best support his wife during the menopause. Hay shouted at the radio; "Leave for a few years, take the kids with you and lock up all the kitchen knives."

I note the government has banned a prominent American Holocaust denier, Mark Webber. I wonder how they reconcile this with government calls for free speech in UK universities? Methinks they just want an enforced platform for their views among the young, where their views are not well received. Mind you, Conservative views are not being that well received throughout the country at this present time, although the hedge funds have done well from Carillion's collapse by selling short. Rees-Mogg and his Somerset Capital Management missed an opportunity there, although the Conservatives allegedly accepted a £50k donation from one of the short selling firms.


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Absolute Strength Carillion Candles


When checking the performance of Sterling I'm constantly annoyed at having to check it against several currencies and keeping a mental note of what's happening in each pairing. This led me to think about tracking currencies against something more absolute than just another currency, such as gold, but even gold suffers from the effects of supply and demand.

This induced me to do a bit of research and I came across the concept of Absolute Currency Strength, which is the strength of a currency against a basket of currencies. This is the chart for yesterday morning:

The chart can be found here. The meter takes readings from every forex pair over the last 24 hours, and applies calculations to each. It then bundles together each the associated pairs to an individual currency (eg, EUR/USD, EUR/JPY, EUR/GBP etc) and finds the current strength. The only problem is that it spans just 24 hours, which is not long enough for my purposes - a week or a month would be better. With 24 hours the results go up and down like the proverbial whore's drawers.

This problem got me searching Google Play and I came up with Currency Strength Indicator, where you can set the time frame from anything between 1 minute and 1 month and a sample of between 10 to 100 points in that time.


Don't know why, but I detest coloured candles, especially the ones that are dipped to achieve the colour. Hay had a couple of left-overs from her dad, so my OCD getting the better of me I peeled them with the potato peeler to remove the red wax dip. Feel much happier now...

Could someone explain how, if the government has existing contacts with Carillion and was paying for them, taking control of those contracts through existing Carillion staff and paying them, is going to cost more? Surely, with the profit element gone and the staff being paid the same, it will cost less than under the liquidated regime? The only answer that makes sense is if the government has paid up-front and the money has already gone, although I can't believe anyone would be so stupid. If the company is in liquidation, then I suppose the creditors would have first dibs on any assets, so there is that to factor in - and assets would need to be bought back from the liquidator by the government. However, assets would be going for a song in a fire sale.


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Flashing Onion Cats


Oops - I made two posts yesterday by mistake. One was meant for today.

I'm a criminal - got flashed by a traffic camera in Bristol at 5am last week while on the way to the airport. I was doing 50 in a 40 zone - that'll teach me to have Waze on silent! Rather than pay the £100 fine and obligatory 3 points on my licence, I've opted to go on a re-education programme. Evidence shows that people who choose these programmes are less likely to offend again, but I wonder if they just don't think; "That'll teach me not to have Waze on silent again."?


Last night there was a lot of squeaking taking place in the kitchen, meaning one of the cats had brought in a mouse. It being about midnight, I wasn't in a mind to go downstairs and rescue it - not that I could have. I'm not making any accusations - it could have been Kitty, Blackie or Gingy - but it was either eaten in its entirety (a rare occurrence, as one particular item of mouse viscera is usually left for me to clean up - invariably the stomach), or a dismembered mouse has been deposited under an item of furniture again.

Lots of media attention to supermarket packaging and then Lidl goes and starts selling pre-peeled onions in plastic. Not a good PR move - however, I don't like peeling onions either. Until such time as supermarkets stop selling pre-prepared (not only peeled, but diced) vegetables, it's a bit unfair to single out just one vendor. Look in any Iceland store and every vegetable is pre-peeled and diced, or mashed - and in plastic. Anyone ever peeled a pea, or do you prefer the podded, frozen variety?


Monday, 15 January 2018

Neanderthal Racism on a DM Bike


Is it racist to have a go at races that no longer exist? Can you poke fun at neanderthals with no consequences?


There again, neanderthal genes still exist in the population - in some more than others (or is that a racist comment?).

Talking of neanderthal genes, Branson has reversed his decision not to stock the Daily Mail and some are hailing it as a move against censorship. Virgin trains doesn't stock the Jewish Chronicle - I wonder why? It has been said that passengers on Virgin Trains prefer the on-line version of the DM as it provides great sport by being able to read the comments sections and baiting the fascists. No self-respecting Libtard Snowflake, like myself, would be seen dead with a paper copy.

Libtard - a favoured put-down by the right. It's an oxymoron to start with, but the users don't realise this. There are literally hundreds of academic studies showing that liberals are more intelligent that conservatives. Then there's Political Correctness - a useful club deployed by the right to beat out any dissent as they rampage about the place saying unacceptable things. Freedom of speech has legal limitations but also confines that are judged by the broader consensus of society.

On another favourite DM topic; I was listening to an item on immigration on Radio 4 yesterday morning and the argument about its effect on local jobs was mentioned. This stirred a memory of one Norman Tebbitt a few decades ago calling on the jobless to get on their bikes. I wonder how people felt about immigrants from Liverpool or Sheffield coming in and taking their jobs. Then again, remember the phenomenally successful Auf Wiedersehen, Pet?


A Carillion for Recycled Wellingtons


So Carillion has gone bust - a familiar story of an obsession with size, takeovers driven by boardroom egos, the lure of the City and good old government incompetence. That's just how British manufacturing declined and now it's spreading to the construction / services industry. It's yet another kick in the backside for privatisation where a service has to be provided with a profit element. The British taxpayer will now step in to save the bits it relies on - another familiar story. I wonder how many MPs have shares in Carillion.

I resurrected my kefir grains over the weekend; they'd been frozen for at least 4 months, if not more, and produced an excellent batch of kefir 1st time - so freezing definitely works as a means of preservation. They're back in the freezer again now and probably won't brought out again for at least 6 months.

Why do socks come off when you wear wellingtons? Perhaps I need to invest in some long socks - could be why you see farmers with their socks rolled over the tops of the wellies?


Old people and recycling - what is it about recycling that they don't get? Open Hay's dad's bin and it's crammed with stuff that should go into the recycling bins, but no. It's the same with our elderly neighbours. Having lived though the war you'd think they'd gravitate to recycling quite easily, but it's almost as if they're saying; " I've done my bit."


Sunday, 14 January 2018

Cheesy Charts


Trump and his cancelled visit: I was reading a book on Oliver Cromwell last night and a passage jumped out at me; "Vanity is a dangerous attribute in a politician." The sentence was not about Cromwell.

Used to like reading Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times, but he's become rather illogical since he came out as a Brexiteer. Today, in response to Farage's pronouncement that perhaps there should be a 2nd referendum, he suggests best of three. Bring it on I say - as the disaster that is Brexit unfolds before our eyes and the cost mounts (it has already cost more than the projected savings, not that there are any when the loss of trade is taken into account), each referendum will produce an even bigger swing to Remain as more of the Brexit propaganda turns to dust.

The Ukip Fuhrer's girlfriend's Tweets - you couldn't make it up! Talk about imploding...

Continuing with the theme of food, I spotted this cheeseboard in one of the local shops yesterday - a cheeseboard with three knives.


Now how many bloody cheese knives does one need. I remember when there was only one shape for a cheese knife, and even that was a tad highfalootin' when an ordinary knife would suffice. Three though?

Here's an interesting chart - make of it what you will - it reflects the incidences of the words NHS Winter Crisis in the press and is from Full Fact.



Saturday, 13 January 2018

Daily Mail Offal


Harking back to an earlier post this week about United Cattle Products Ltd's restaurants in the 60s - the UCP chain - I was in our local butcher's yesterday to buy some faggots, a large piece of belly pork and some ham hocks and spotted a bag of chitterlings.


Now chitterlings are pigs' intestines that have been turned inside out and washed - nothing more, nothing less. I wonder who first came up with the idea of chitterlings? It's not as if anyone is ever going to become a chitterling baron along the lines of Bernard Matthews and his turkey empire. Looked up some recipes, but could only find ones from American southern states. Possibly something that US servicemen introduced in WWII when everything was used except the oink and the tail. Hay's dad remembers them, and not fondly either.

There was a highly illustrative YouGov poll about Virgin Trains' decision to stop providing the Daily Mail on their trains...


The Daily Mail is claiming, somewhat ridiculously, that Virgin's decision was an attack on free speech. I do worry about the Daily Mail and its grasp on reality. Still can't forgive Branson for suing the NHS or screwing up the East Coast Rail franchise though.


Friday, 12 January 2018

Manufacturing Hoodies


Brexiteers are hailing the recent increase in manufacturing output as a vindication of their position; however, what they're not taking into account are the following two and incontrovertible facts - not opinions, but facts:

  1. Sterling has dropped from its value before the referendum, making our products more competitive, and
  2. We are still in the Single Market, meaning no tariffs are being levied on our EU exports. You can check this, but I believe you'll find I'm right.
Rather that it being an argument for leaving the EU, it's a somewhat forceful and cogent argument for remaining in the EU - from a manufacturing perspective, at least. Manufacturing output increasing is a result of a drop in sterling, occasioned by the market's reaction to the mere prospect of us leaving the EU, coupled with us still being in the Single Market in order to be able to take advantage of the drop in sterling AND zero tariffs.


Getting this through some people's skulls is almost impossible, which just demonstrates how emotions governed the Brexit win, rather than rational logic. This alone justifies a 2nd referendum - following a period of enforced, public education at a government Remain Camp.

Now sterling is creeping up again but, once tariffs some into effect, Brexiteers had better hope to Hell that sterling crashes through the floor - which it probably will - so it's no use crowing about sterling's recent rise as if it's some magic talisman. The rise in sterling is down to a variety of reasons, not least of which is the political situation in Germany, the EU's most important economy, and the fact Germany has no government. This has weakened the Euro, but Germany will have a government in the near future.

Of course, the corollary of this is that perhaps we should threaten to leave the EU every couple of years or so, just to give exports a boost.

Ref yesterday's post about the 'racist' hoodie; seems I was wrong about the parent being on-set (one of the few occasions she was not), but right about the parent not seeing the hoodie as racist. There again, she lives in Sweden, a highly evolved country.


Thursday, 11 January 2018

Spartan Army in the Jungle


Bit of a kerfuffle going on about the Army's latest, 'inclusive' recruiting campaign. Can't see what all the fuss is about myself - from either side of the debate. I would imagine gay people have been in armies ever since armies were invented - the Spartans, for example, were the most efficient fighting force of their day and pederasty was actively encouraged.


Given the nature of armies, I dare say the incidence of gay people among their number is perhaps higher than in civilian life. No need to advertise for them; no need to argue against their inclusion - they've been there since day one. However, the fact that ethnic minorities are under-represented is perhaps something that should be addressed, and this campaign does attempt to do that.

There's a row about a clothing firm advert and whether it's racist. The image is below.


Accusations and counter-accusations are rife on social media; however, as this kid looks under 10, it's inconceivable that his parents weren't on-set, or at least saw the photo before it was published. In my opinion, there is only one party that is able to judge whether this advert is racist and that is the boy's family. If they don't have an issue with it, then no-one else should. Strangely enough, the parents' view is not reported.


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Ear Hair in Glasgow


Overheard while passing a couple in Glasgow airport yesterday:

Him: "Did you remember the bring the KY jelly?"

Her: "Shhhhh! You're being loud on purpose!"

I feel sorry sometimes for cats - they can do absolutely nothing about their proliferation of ear hair.


Take Kitty, for example; she, being a fluffy cat, suffers more than most.


Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Golden Globe Ritual Farms


This business of women attending the Golden Globes wearing black - hope it continues - it's also a style statement. A black dress looks sophisticated.

I don't have anything to back this up but, in my experience those who seem to want to ban ritual slaughter (halal in particular - few mention Jewish shechita), professing it to be an animal welfare issue, generally seem to be on the side of reversing the ban on fox hunting. That, at least, has been my general experience when arguing the pros and cons with each position. Anyone have similar experiences? That suggests to me that those wanting to ban ritual slaughter are not at all concerned with animal welfare, but something else.

I'm not convinced ritual slaughter, carried out properly, is any more distressing on an animal than giving it a blow on the head first. Exsanguination was, after all, the preferred method of suicide among the Romans, precisely because it was the least distressing to them. Cut yourself with a very sharp knife and you're not even aware you've cut yourself till you see the trail of blood. Studies have been carried out reaching opposing conclusions, so the jury is out. The problems with animal slaughter manifest themselves when the operation has to be done on an industrial scale - that's where corners are cut in the interests of profit.


Apparently if farm subsidies were to disappear, some 90% of farms would face closure, with a consequent crash in the price of farmland. There are 210,000 farm holdings in the UK, meaning farms would shrink down to just over 21,000. According to Full Fact, on average, English farms made a £39,000 profit in 2014/15 from their farming business. Only £2,100 of this came from agriculture, which is what springs to many people's mind when they think of farming. If we look at cereal farms alone, they lost £9,500 in 2014/15.

The options seem like a nightmare scenario should subsidies disappear completely - the remaining 10% of large agribusinesses may buy up the small,  non-profitable farms, shrinking supply to just a few large companies having massive power to set higher prices (a consequence of no subsidies), or we'll have to buy food from outside the UK - probably the EU. A crash in farmland prices could be a boost for house building, but the consequences for food production are immense.


Monday, 8 January 2018

Chess Pieces & Tripe


Given Hay has been feeling rather ill of late and somewhat low, I decided to take her for a short jaunt into Bath yesterday, ending up in Patisserie Valerie. I was disappointed to discover Patisserie Valerie had changed hands from the family that used to own it and had been purchased by one of the large food businesses - in fact it has changed hands a few times. 

It's such a shame that family businesses that have been going for years - decades even - end up as chess pieces being swapped and switched between large companies having nothing but growth as their targets. Time was when a good return, even if steady, was all that a family required - an income. Growth, especially in the catering industry, can only be achieved by expanding and putting pressure of suppliers, after which corner cutting is the only way to go, with a resulting drop in standards.


Looking at businesses that have sold out to the conglomerates drew my attention to a restaurant chain I remembered as a boy in Southport - The UCP restaurant chain - which my dad loved, as he had a weakness for offal. Until yesterday I never knew what UCP stood for, but suspected something industrial - apparently it's United Cattle Products, which makes sense when you realise that their key dishes were tripe and brawn. Obviously, UCP came about before firms started to consider marketing as a means of enticing a customer base; a chain called United Cattle Products can only be targeted at a specific demographic, and it can only be northern. Sounds more like an animal feed company than a restaurant chain. While it may have worked in the 50s, I doubt such a name would work today.


Sunday, 7 January 2018

Genius Football Managers


A narcissistic man-child describes himself as a stable genius. You couldn't write this kind of stuff as a drama plot - it simply wouldn't be believable. Political drama plots usually centre on Machiavellian politicians who are rather brilliant, not idiots. What's happening to politics? There's obviously a competition between America and Britain as to who has the most insane electorate and most incompetent politicians.

It's all the more galling that the younger generation is being blamed for all our ills and calling them overly PC when it's (generally) the older, reactionary generation that's systematically dismantling what puts civil into civilisation, in the firm and unshakeable belief it's for the greater good, despite all evidence to the contrary.

If civilisation is measured by how well it looks after those who are poor or dispossessed it's failing miserably - civilisation costs, but vast swathes of the electorate don't want to bear that cost and are only interested in themselves. They are so consumed with themselves, rather than the plight of others, that they even go to the extent of voting for charlatans and imcompetents to get their way. Short term gain - long term loss.


Have you noticed how football managers are masters of the art of stating the bleeding obvious when interviewed? There again, there's not much else they can say when some of the questions are idiotic, to say the least.. "We just needed to get more balls in the net." "We just need to beat the opposition to win." "The boys just weren't up to it today." "They were better than us today."


Saturday, 6 January 2018

Panto Rat


Went downstairs yesterday morning and was assailed by a smell of Calor gas - always a worrying sign. The gas hob was firmly switched off and the smell wasn't anywhere near the hob anyway. Thought nothing more of it till I smelled it again a few hours later near the TV. Hay suggested I look under the TV table - a dead mouse, which was obviously cat kill. Underfloor heating is brilliant, but not if you have a dead rodent hidden somewhere.


Talking of rodents, I wonder if next year's panto season is going to get a contemporary update with some wag developing a political theme to the traditional panto, having either Trump, Gove, Boris, Fox, Davis or Hunt as the villain.


Friday, 5 January 2018

It Can't Happen at the Dentist


I've posted about the American novel, "It Can't Happen Here" before. People have said there's no comparison (it concerned the ruling Democrat party), but I think it's playing out before our eyes as Trump battles his ex chief strategist. Look up the book and read the plot. Buzz Windrip, a populist President who stood on a platform of traditional American values and returning America to greatness (sound familiar?), has a massive falling out with his chief political advisor, Lee Sarason - aka Steve Bannon - who then manages to oust Windrip and implement a fascist administration. It probably won't play out exactly as portrayed in the book, but what pans out will nevertheless be interesting.


Hay has some serious tooth problems that are going to take a long time and a lot of money to fix - several teeth that are fractured under the gum due to excessive tooth grinding and there's evidence of bone loss in her jaw. She has to have two removed ASAP just to make room for the necessary work. I told her that it's not that bad, as I survive on a quarter of the number of teeth she has...


Thursday, 4 January 2018

Yoda Power on Rafts


We're inveterate electricity supplier switchers. We are about to switch from Scottish Power to a company called Outfox the Market. After having a web-chat to one of their operatives yesterday, I'm convinced from the curious use of grammar that I was chatting to Yoda.


I wonder if getting our power through The Force we are?

Last night there was an item on local floods (Somerset Levels and all that) and someone from the flood defence organisation was interviewed. He said a whole raft of options are being explored. An unfortunate turn of phrase, I thought.


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Dr Taggart on the Halal Trains


We were watching an advert for Taggart on the Drama Channel the other night. Am I right in thinking that Taggart is a bit like The Doctor and regenerates every now and again?


Heard someone saying that the price rises on the trains should be borne by those using the service and not funded from council taxes. What they forget is that people with annual season tickets into, say, London, bring money back into their local communities, which can be recycled within the local economy to support local businesses in those communities, benefiting all within that community. This provides an entirely reasonable argument for local council taxes to subsidise the increases on main line commuter routes, but I've not heard anyone suggesting it.

Halal meat has come back into the news with the government saying it will force butchers to label whether meat is Halal or not after Brexit. A bit of clutching at Brexit straws, methinks - they need something positive to say after all the bad news. The irony is that there's nothing stopping them doing it now, or indeed at any time in the past. Fake news, or at least attributing it to Brexit is fake.

I find it strange that those who voice the loudest concern about halal meat don't heap such opprobrium on kashrut, the Jewish version of halal slaughter. That's quite telling.

What's funny about all this Halal slaughter controversy is that my grandfather slaughtered his own pigs in his back yard in a manner that was indistinguishable from Halal, with the exception of him not uttering an incantation. A profanity, perhaps, but not an incantation. I thought Brexiteers wanted to go back to the good old ways...


Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Titanic Experts


Christmas decorations came down 1st thing yesterday morning and one of the cats (neighbour's, not ours) decided it wanted to herd three pheasants that had come into the garden.




Glad the holiday is out of the way - not the best we've had, what with illness.

I was listening to something in Radio 4 the other day where some old lady was complaining about experts (in the context of Brexit) and she used the oft trotted out phrase that experts built the Titanic. Yes, they also built the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, the QEII and many more wonderful feats of engineering, not to mention all the scientific and medical wonders that keep us alive (and in all probability the complaining lady's hip replacement). It's an intellectually bankrupt argument to say experts are not to be trusted on the basis of the few notable failures and the sound-bite of the desperate.


Then there's the fact that the Titanic disaster was built upon and resulted in the passenger vessel safety rules we have today. Using the Titanic to rubbish all experts is clutching at straws. Had the Titanic been built by people totally ignorant of ship stability and naval architecture she would never have made it off the stocks in the first place.

The point of experts is that they have something called experience on which to base their decisions - and yes, some of those decisions can be fallible in novel situations. However, the complete absence of experience will have a success factor no higher than pure chance, and in many areas of expertise chance means almost zero.


Monday, 1 January 2018

Artificial Intelligence in Poldark


Overheard while driving past the entrance to Chavenage House:

Chairman: "Hi Bixby - look up Chavenage House."

Bixby: "I'm sorry, I didn't get that."

Chairman: "Look up Chavenage House."

Bixby Brings a search up on 'shaving horses'.

Chairman: "I'm going to switch tactics - OK Google - look up Chavenage House."

Google Assistant: "Chavenage House is a 16th Century Elizabethan manor house......"

Hayley: "No, Bixby, I did not say press the red nuclear button....."

Chavenage House, which is about 15 miles from us near Tetbury, where we went yesterday, doubles for the Poldark family pile of Trenwith House.




While in Tetbury I went into a charity shop and spotted this recipe book but, annoyingly, there wasn't a single recipe in it.


Happy New Year everyone!