Monday, 17 December 2018

Darth Santa

I'm preparing a laser show for our local car showroom between the High Days and tested the laser equipment and fog machine last week.

I thought of dressing as Santa for the actual show, but Hay thought I'd be better dressing up as Darth Vader, complete with the voice effect and walking out of the fog from the fog machine. Might recreate the light sabre fight scene from The Phantom Menace - the kids would love it.

Darth Santa?

Sunday, 16 December 2018

The Upcycled Festive Spirit

Overheard while the Chairman is faffing with his e-cig and considering changing the coil:

Chairman: "I think I need to change my...."

Hay: "Attitude?"

Hay started to decorate the house yesterday in preparation for Christmas. Her annual tree innovation was up to its normal standard - this year it's a branch from the apple tree and an ice theme:

I prepared the new chandelier with candles from IKEA:

The old Edwardian chair we'd bought for £30 was finally returned from the local upholsterer yesterday - cost was £300, including a complete rebuild, which was a snip considering another upholsterer wanted to charge £500 just for the reupholstering. Fit for another 100 years and well worth the money spent. I hadn't seen the upholsterer before, as Hay had conducted the negotiations. When I stepped into the shop I thought Johnny Vegas had come to Chipping Sodbury visit some relatives - he was a dead ringer.

Santa's Ghetto in Yate was gearing up for production yesterday, but I think Santa was on the bottle somewhere.

I would be, if I had to face the prospect of hordes of kids.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Fear Oral-B Estate Agents

Seen the Oral B advert on TV - the one where it shows an Oral-B toothbrush head surrounding a tooth from the top? Ever know anyone who cleans their teeth from the top in that manner? The bristles aren't even long enough to completely envelop a tooth from the top, or bottom, depending on which set of gnashers you're cleaning.

Here's an interesting thought. We hire estate agents to sell our houses and conduct negotiations with prospective purchasers - they, after all, are the experts. I wonder if anyone has ever hired as estate agent in the capacity of a buyer, using their expertise in negotiation once a house has been selected. Obviously it couldn't be the same estate agent as the seller is using.

I heard a Brexiteer argue yesterday that Scottish Independence you'd be disastrous for the Scottish economy as it would be kicking its largest trade partner, England, into touch. Brexitland must be an irony-free territory. Isn't this exactly the 'Project Fear' stuff Brexiteers have been accusing we realists of?

Friday, 14 December 2018

Recycled Brexit

Overheard on Messenger:

Hay sends me a photo of some recycling by the back door:

Hay: "Quote - I always take out the recycling every morning before you get up, always - unquote."

Chairman: "There wasn't enough there to warrant taking it out this morning. You're being unreasonable. The world won't crash and burn because I don't take out the recycling."

Hay: "Now you're sounding like a Brexiteer. I can't change the strategic plan on how we organise the recycling just to suit you. You made promises you were unable to deliver on."

Chairman: "Bully!"

Thursday, 13 December 2018


I often laugh at some expressions I hear on the news:

'Slept with' is one. Sleeping is invariably the last thing on the mind of those who 'sleep with each other'.

Another is 'denied any wrongdoing', which usually turns out to mean guilty as hell.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Having Your Cake and Eating It

I baked the Christmas cake over a week ago and have been adding scotch, brandy, rum and calvados in equal quantities. It's now well wrapped in cling-film and just about ready to finish off, but I detest marzipan (despite loving almonds and Stollen) and Hay isn't that enamoured of Royal icing.

The compromise is going to have to be almonds and glacé cherries with an apricot jam glaze. Just one, big Dundee cake.

Any other decorative suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Men and Our Cars

We men have a strange relationship with cars. Last week I posted a photo of a BMW Z4 Coupe on Facebook and it engendered more comment than a post about Brexit, and those who commented were exclusively men. Suggest to a man that a particular car looks rather nice, and it's almost as if you impugn their masculinity by denigrating the car they drive - we take it very personally. The conversation (or argument) invariably revolves around 0-60 times, not necessarily aesthetics - a tenth of a second means a lot to a man. Is it perhaps because we men see our cars as an extension of themselves and the speed and acceleration of a car makes up for our own lack of speed and acceleration - a sleek and fast body substitute?

The number of men who believe women are attracted to men with fast cars is legendary, but women seem more preoccupied by colour, comfort and practicality, with muscle cars holding little or no particular attraction for them - at least not in my experience. Readers may differ in their opinion.

The following observation is not exclusive to men - the vast majority of drivers will happily sit in a queue to ensure they arrive at a petrol pump with the filler next to the petrol pump. The other day I drew up to my local filling station and there was a queue of 5 cars waiting on one side, with none on the other - I drove into the empty side not having a clue anyway as to which side the filler was on the car I was driving. Modern petrol pump hoses are more than long enough to reach the other side of any car. I suppose it's to do with the prospect of acute embarrassment in the instance of parking a little too far from the pump and having to perform manoeuvres in front of an audience, should the hose not reach.

The other day a friend posted an item on Facebook about diesel technology having progressed to the state where new diesels are less polluting than petrol cars, yet diesel cars are nevertheless scheduled to be banned. This is an example of complex problems being reduced to simple problems and a simple solution being proposed (a bit like Brexit). It would be better to merely specify performance standards that all cars have to adhere to and forcing engineers to tackle the problem with innovation, rather than simply banning diesels. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

Dirty Stamp on Christmas

Overheard in the kitchen:

Hay: "Which part of 'don't stamp all over the kitchen in your dirty shoes' didn't you hear.

Chairman: "All of it."

Hooray - the bank agreed to the massive loan to pay for the stamps required to send all our Christmas cards. Managed to get them all off yesterday morning - until, that is, we receive a Christmas card from someone we accidentally left off the list. They'll naturally see that as an intended sleight, which means we'll end up sending them one that arrives well after Christmas. Never fails to happen.

I'm now feel I've been poisoned by envelope gum. Hideous concoction that I'm sure has some nasty side effects.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

New Lamps for Old II

Finished the conversion of the electric ceiling light to candle power.

Quite effective and we're pleased with the result. It will look lovely with some Christmas decorations on it, taking care, naturally, that whatever it is adorned with is not a fire risk.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

For Whom the Bell Tolls

I attended our Village Hall Committee meeting earlier this week and was told that the local WI have booked the hall for a special event, but they've been reluctant to tell us what it is. I suspect they've arranged a public hanging.

Saw an article on our local news the other night about a church in the area that has switched from brass bells to digital bells. Whilst I'm sure it will save on the cost of maintenance of the bells and bell ringers, it won't do much for the art of campanology.

Not sure about you, but I much prefer an analogue timepiece to a digital one. A clock face can be read instantaneously, unlike a digital cock. Calendars, however, are always digital, although seeing where a day is on a monthly calendar is a form of analogue calendar.

Talking of sound earlier, I was researching soundbars so as to give my new TV the sound older TVs seemed able to achieve by design, but you end up spending as much on a soundbar as you do on the TV, which is surely meant to have adequate sound in the first place. What's going to be the next TV innovation? Shit video that requires a videobar to get it looking half decent?

Why are Brexit supporting MPs saying a 2nd referendum would risk splits in the country. Isn't the country split already?

Friday, 7 December 2018

New Lamps for Old

Bought an old cartwheel type ceiling light from a junk shop yesterday for £30 and spent the evening converting it from electric to candle-power for post-Brexit Britain....

It's a pity the sheathes for the original light bulb holders are so wide, as they'd be perfect candle holders for long candles if tack-welded into position. IKEA extra-large tea lights are not a bad option though.

Might opt for some longer stubby candles that won't fall over and present a fire risk - will see once I remove the existing chandelier and hang this one.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

More Light at Christmas

There's a street not far from us in Westerleigh where the residents get together and put on a display of Christmas lights for charity. Last night I did a short video in the pouring rain (yes, I did leave a donation).

About 70% of the houses get into the mood. Dread to think what the electricity bill is.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The 12 (+20) Days of Christmas Comedy

The annual competition has started.

I like the last one - understated. I shall post more as I spot them...

Last night at the Village Hall Committee meeting we were discussing which comedians to invite to the annual Comedy Night in April. The name Boris Johnson cropped up as a possible star turn.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

The Effect of Percentages

Went rollerblading this morning, after a gap of 2 months following my hand injury. I thought I'd have lost my balance, but no, it was as if I'd never stopped. I settled for a couple of laps of the Tesco car park, just to satisfy myself that I still had it.

I was arguing with two Brexiteers yesterday on Facebook. I posited that the UK risking 44% of its  total exports (the percentage we send to the EU) will have a greater adverse impact on our economy than the EU risking between 8% and 18% of its total exports (what it sends to the UK, depending on how it's measured) in its economy, despite the latter being the larger, absolute amount number. This is because of the effect of percentages - this isn't even GCSE maths. They refused to believe me and suggested I was thick.

I then asked which of the following theoretical economies would be weaker; the UK having a 50% unemployment rate, or China with 10% unemployment, despite that Chinese 10% being over twice the entire population of the UK. They still refused to budge and said the Chinese economy would be weaker because of the absolute numbers - and I was still thick.

I despair of people like these; they are the epitome of the archetypal Gammon Brexiteer and it's not hard to see why are the natural targets for any falsehoods that Johnson, Farage, the Daily Mail, et al care to promulgate, not having an analytical brain cell in their bodies.

How James O'Brien maintains his cool when Brexiteers like these talk absolute bollocks to him on his phone-in show is beyond belief. It's great fun to listen to as they tie themselves in knots of cognitive dissonance when he gives them enough rope to hang themselves. I can recommend his latest book, which includes a large section on Brexit and transcripts of some of the more amusing chats.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Shabby Flavoured Clothes

We Brits (I include myself in this category, despite my Dutch heritage) are a really dour and shabby lot when it comes to dressing for inclement weather. I went into Tesco yesterday and virtually everyone was wearing some ill-fitting, drab grey, black, navy blue or shit brown. Go to continental Europe, and Scandinavia in particular, and everyone is lit up in reds, blues, whites - all manner of brighter colours.

Footwear is another area where we Brits are somewhat shoddy in our appearance. The ubiquitous trainer seems to be the standard dress code. We seem unhindered by and bereft of any semblance of chic or style in the winter months.

Saw an article in yesterday's Sunday Times castigating makers of vape flavours for targeting kids with sweet flavourinhs. Hang on - adults like sweets too! Are vanilla, caramel and chocolate flavoured coffee pods specifically targeted at kids? Do they have to make flavours kids specifically hate, such as spinach, red wine or cabbage? Kids like air too and air is a key component of an e-cigarette - should air be banned?

Did you know that identical twins do not have identical fingerprints? I looked it up yesterday and was quite surprised.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

I Am Not a Number

As a keen observer of the far right, one thing I've noticed is that the further right a person is, the more he or she generally tends to view all people as members of a group, rather than as individuals. It's as if their pattern recognition faculty, as humans are essentially a pattern recognising species, is in overdrive. It's the cause of so much misery in the world today.

For example, we know that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and want nothing more than to get on with their lives but, for the far right, the actions of a few tarnishes an entire group; all benefit claimants are spongers; all refugees are economic migrants; all homeless people are drug addicts; anyone with left-leaning views, or any political party with the word socialist in it, is communist.

It is infinitely easier to pass judgement based on ignorance and move on, than it is to analyse and take a chance that your view of yourself and your world may be called into question.

Analyse and discuss.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Eggflaps in the Rain

I was driving into Bristol yesterday, following a lorry with no mudflaps along the A46 following a rain shower. It was like driving in a mud bath. Lorries should be made to have efficient mudflaps as a condition of an MoT certificate, if you ask me.

Saw someone in the pub having a snowball cocktail last night. Remember the advert for Warninks Advoocaat? Evenings and mornings, I drink Warninks. who the hell would want an eggnog in the morning? Lorry drivers, perhaps?

Friday, 30 November 2018

A Song of Fire and Reggae

Is George R.R. Martin, the author of the books on which Game of Thrones is based, Del and Rodney Trotter's uncle Albert.

I heard on the news that reggae is to receive protected status from UNESCO. What the hell does that mean? If you're a reggae artist will the Reggae Police check your music adheres to certain standards before allowing you to say it's reggae? Will those who hate reggae have visits from the Reggae Police? Sounds daft to me.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Forecasters - What Do They Know?

So the government has produced its Brexit forecast and the Brexiteers are shouting from the rooftops that forecasts are wildly inaccurate, without checking on the veracity of their statement, nor the direction of and historical inaccuracy.

  1. The Office of Budget Responsibility forecasts are not 'wildly' inaccurate. Excluding the forecasts for 2008 and 2009, which were compiled by the Treasury (the OBR only came into existence in 3010) and affected by an unexpected event - the global financial crisis, which could not be forecast as it was caused by fraud - the difference between the OBR growth forecast and actuality has never been more than 1%.
  2. The actual outcome has consistently been worse than the forecast, not better.
  3. If the OBR is forecasting a 4% drop in GDP for May's Brexit and 9% for a hard Brexit, on the basis of probabilities and past accuracy, it will be 5% and 10% - possibly more since the forecasts are for a longer period than just one year and the error will be compounded over time.
  4. A forecast of 2% growth versus a 1% reality is a large percentage error, but not a large absolute error and is a consequence of using small numbers. Brexiteers can be guaranteed to quote percentage errors in the coming days.
  5. Brexiteers have yet to produce a forecast, and they won't; they will persist in their own Project Mindless Optimism with nothing to back it up, hoping to garner the reactionary forces of huffing and puffing outrage from those who don't bother to check anything and believe what they're told by demagogues who sound authoritative.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018


I was brought up to believe that the berries of the yew tree are highly toxic and are to be avoided; however, I switched on the radio yesterday to learn that this is incorrect. The pulp of the yew berry is entirely edible, but what must be avoided is crunching the seed in your mouth, as that is the poisonous bit. Don't crunch it and  it will pass straight through your body with no ill effects, or just spit it out.

The proof is here in The Poisonous Garden website. To quote the pertinent information: "Though the berries are harmless, the seed within is highly toxic. Unbroken it will pass through the body without being digested but if the seed is chewed poisoning can occur with as few as three berries."

When at the Chatsworth House Christmas Market last Friday, someone was selling Christmas wreaths make from real fruits, the purpose being to feed the birds with your wreath. Not only were they spectacularly beautiful, but they served a purpose beyond the usual, merely decorative intention.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018


With a month to go, Christmas preparations are under way at last. I bought my silly Christmas jumper at a charity shop yesterday and finally managed to get some Iceland, 12 month matured Christmas puddings when the shop restocked. None were available on Saturday or Sunday due to their popularity.

These Iceland puddings are meant to be the best on the market, according to Which Magazine and a survey of 12 baking experts.

When Hay saw them she said that she thought her dad still had some from last year, making his 24 month matured puddings and even more desirable...

Monday, 26 November 2018

The Monsal Murder Mysteries

I took this photo on Saturday of Hay exiting the old railway tunnel on the Peak District Monsal Trail.

It makes her look like Batwoman leaving the Batcave. Cropping it a bit closer and it would make a good cover for a murder mystery.

The other end of the tunnel terminates at the Monsal Viaduct.

One of those magnificent feats of Victorian engineering. It's now used as part of a walking and cycling trail from Bakewell to Blackwell.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Overheard in the Peak District

Overheard in Chatsworth House Farm Shop, which is very expensive:

Husband, as wife grabs a basket: "You won't be needing a basket, love."

Overheard in Hobb's Tea Shop on the Monsal Trail as Hay steps outside while the Chairman returns from the loo:

Shop Owner: "Your wife's done a runner."

Chairman: "That's the 3rd wife that's done that to me."

Shop Owner: "You'll have to let me know your secret."

Overheard in Bakewell:

Chairman: Shall we go to Ashford under Water next?

Hay: "I think you'll find it's Ashford in the Water."

Chairman: "Sounds wet either way."

Never been to the Peak District despite having been brought up under two hours from it. Well worth the visit. Somewhat like the North Yorkshire Dales, but not quite as bleak.

Hay wanted to jump into the River Wye, but hadn't brought her swimming gear. Next time - possibly in December or January...

At the Chatsworth House Christmas Market, there was a preponderance of stalls flogging flavoured gin and jumping on the gin bandwagon. To my mind, that's akin to those cheeses with bits of fruit or herbs in them - a bloody heresy.

Saturday, 24 November 2018


This AirBnB thing is so different from normal BnB stays. We tend to spend more time chatting to interesting and very nice people who allow us in their homes than actually sight seeing.

The one we're staying at in Bakewell has an even odder twist - the owner isn't even here. She left a key for us and we have the free run of her house while she's away. We've never met her and she doesn't know us from Adam (or Eve). Trust and reputation through reviews (both of the renter and the lodger) is paramount.

There is a drawback to AirBnB - it takes revenue away from traditional BnBs and hotels,which, given the vast majority of AirBnB hosts don't declare their AirBnB income, means less tax revenue for the government. Yes, AirBnB themselves pay tax but, being a humungous company with revenues of $2.6 billion, they have expensive tax accountants who specialise in reducing their tax burden through loopholes and the like.

Visited the Chatsworth House Christmas Market yesterday in the evening. A fantastic market - much better than the one at Bath. However, every 4th stall was some bugger selling flavoured gins. Surely that fad has run its course?

Friday, 23 November 2018

Jamal à Becket on Thanksgiving CCTV

Is it me, or does the Khashoggi affair bear all the hallmarks of Henry II and Thomas à Becket? "Will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest?"

Received the other two solar powered, Wi-Fi, CCTV cameras this week. I'd forgotten how to link them to the App and spent an entire evening trying to connect them - with eventual success. They all work a treat.

Seen so many adverts, especially from restaurants, advertising Thanksgiving events. They have transformed into sending presents or treating special friends to a dinner out in thanks for something they've done. What with Halloween and Black Friday (which is a scam of the proportions of Brexit), the UK is fast becoming the 51st state of America and it's all being driven by commerce. I want nothing to do with it.

We're off to the Peak District for a mini-AirBnB break today, leaving the boys in charge of the house, so it will be a good chance to test them - the CCTV cameras, that is, not the boys - but logically it's both.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Optimising 1 of 68 Apps

I recently bought a 2nd hand 2008 VW Passat Estate. This car has a head unit, or an Android-powered display, for the uninitiated.

Several days following the purchase the head unit went into a spin and began to go into a cycle of optimising the Apps. It would start at optimising 1 of 63 Apps and then go through exactly the same cycle, perhaps with occasionally fewer Apps. Nothing I did would bring the display back to normal.

Even an automotive electrician who specialised in these things said it was knackered and I'd have to order a new one for £150, but it would have the latest version of Android. I duly ordered one from him and simultaneously booked him to install it and a reversing camera I'd bought on eBay.

When we went to The Gower on Saturday I left the head unit to keep going through its cycle to see if a long period would have any positive effect. Lo and behold, once we go to Swansea the head unit booted itself into normality.

On inspecting the System function, I discovered that the head unit had upgraded itself from Android 4.0 to Android 6.1. What had happened was that the unit, for once, had sufficient time to download every version of Android between 4 and 6.1, optimising the Apps at each stage, which obviously required a couple of hours. It's now apparent that the previous owner had never connected the head unit to the Internet for several years.

As it transpired, the automotive electrician had managed to cancel the new head unit order. He did, however, fit the reversing camera I'd bought from eBay, although the camera (which doubles as a reversing light) was a smidgin too large for the aperture, requiring me to shave a tiny sliver of metal from it before seating it properly. This is despite the eBay advert clearly saying it is for a B6 VW Passat, which mine is. Bloody eBay...

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Solar Blinds

Spotted a news item on Reuters about Venetian blinds that double as solar panels

It would seem to me that there's a major stumbling block; you'd need to spend your days in near darkness to get the full effect. That's OK if you're away at work, but not so good if you work from home - or the weekends.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

The Allen Scythe

Went to collect the Allen Scythe on Saturday morning, just before we buggered off to the Gower for the weekend. Only just managed to squeeze it into my brother-in-law's Berlingo with an inch to spare.

Decanted it on Sunday evening (there wasn't enough manpower to do it on Saturday morning) - it was a lot easier to unload than to load. It's been idle for 2 years and I haven't tried to start it yet. It will probably require a full-on overhaul during the winter.

I'm hearing a lot of stories about this device, from it being a bugger to start to it chopping off people's fingers with alarming ease. It's a fine example of 1935 engineering design and they were manufactured right up to 1973. I'll have to look up the serial number somewhere to see when this monster was made.

Here's an old pdf manual I found online. You could get a host of attachments - I particularly like the trailer seat and the snow plough.

A couple of videos:

I wonder how it would perform with a Triumph triple 995cc engine instead of the 144cc Villiers 2-stroke. Here's the fancily painted one in action.

Monday, 19 November 2018

The Gower

Stayed in a very nice AirBnB place in Eastgate on the Gower Peninsula on Saturday night (we've yet to be disappointed with AirBnB) and the owners of the house had a couple of totally mad cockerpoos. This prompted the question of what would you get if you crossed a cockerpoo with a hen - a cockerpoodle-doo...

The Gower is our new Cornwall, and a lot closer. Some pics of rural south Wales at its best (click to enlarge):

Hay decided she was going to go swimming at Three Cliffs Bay. No, that's not a wetsuit, but a rash vest and leggings. She's mad you know.

She actually went out in the surf, but she was so far away that she can't be seen on those photos. I therefore staged a shot closer to shore where the water was only a foot deep - fake news style.

I spotted some guys kite surfing at Oxwich Bay. That looks like a good challenge for 2019. Rollerblading is so 2018. A freind told me he'd taken a week's course in the Red Sea, but I'm sure I can just pick it up - well, I suppose there is the risk of being accidentally whisked off to Ireland by kite surfboard.