Monday, 16 July 2018

A Good Read

My latest read - and I wish I'd read it years ago. Fascinating book, I kid you not. It's incredible to think it was written in 1970.

I'm wondering whether I'm conforming to a patriarchal, male stereotype...

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Invisible Man of Pop

We were watching some old pop videos on Vintage TV last night and I swear Alicia Bridges is Pam Butcher off Eastenders.

Ever heard of Rod Temperton? No, me neither. He was the keyboard player for the 70's band Heatwave, wrote all their songs and was behind much of Michael Jackson's Off The Wall and Thriller albums. Listen to this Paul Gambaccini radio broadcast about him - fascinating. He died in 2016.

Most people believe Michael Jackson wrote his own songs, but nothing could be further from the truth. This makes one realise how much more of a musical genius Prince was, as he did write all of his music, and a lot for other people.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Boy Racers

Overheard while listening to JRM on the radio:

Hay: "How old is Rees-Mogg?"

Chairman: "About 150, I believe - could be older."

The other day a hatchback passed me with rap music blaring out of the open windows. For a start, it was one of the very hot days, so the owner must have been baking, unless he had his aircon on with the windows fully open, which is a severe waste of power.

He also didn't seem to realise that all those decibels were going to waste on the outside environment when they would be more usefully employed on his eardrums, if his windows were closed. Decibels also cause an electrical drain, which again uses power - power that slows down his boy-racer car.

Talking of boy racers, Mr Trump seems intent on giving us a masterclass in The Art of Anti-Diplomacy. Firstly he says Boris would make a good PM (which is nonsense anyway) when he was invited by the current PM, who is not planning to stand aside, and then he says Mrs. May's Brexit plan would scotch any trade deal with the USA (since retracted - you can imagine his advisors continually slapping their collective foreheads in disbelief), which is a perfect argument for staying in the EU. All he seems to understand is force, and the EU is a much larger force than the UK alone.

We seem to have Trump wanting the UK isolated and becoming the 51st state and Putin wanting the EU and NATO fragmented so he can pick off former Soviet states with impunity. The incredible thing is that we're helping both of them.

There again, it might be his revenge for people flying a baby Trump blimp over Parliament. Revenge is something he does understand but, unfortunately, he usually makes a mess even of that. It's just pure theatre and all part of his 'Art of the Deal' persona. Never take anything Trump says at face value.


Friday, 13 July 2018

Grim Reaper II - Friday the 13th

I ordered an Austrian scythe clamp off Amazon, thinking it would be of a suitable size to clamp the blade for my English scythe, but, alas, it was too small by a midge's nudger, so I effected a temporary bodge with a couple of exhaust clamps. 

Not the most elegant solution, but it works - I'll see if I can get a couple that are a tad smaller to make it look more aesthetically complete. I tested it on the field and it now just requires some proper sharpening, following which I'll dismantle it and paint the snath in a suitable Farrow and Ball country colour - French grey, or something similar. I did the blade edge in a silvery grey and the chine black.

Here's a photo of a man outstanding in his field...

It does have a tendency for the point to dig in, but that is just a matter of practice and the fact it's what we experts call a 3 foot blade, which is the longest (and hence heaviest) you can get. It's good to see Hay's great-uncle Sid's blade back in action after what must be at least 50 years out of service.

The bad news is that the grass in our field has flattened in many places and that makes cutting it very difficult. It has formed a thick, dense mat and hand scything is perhaps not the best method of cutting it. Even the sharpest blade would have problems. Cutting young grass isn't a problem at all and I could easily use the scythe as a (slow) lawnmower.

Unfortunately, one of the cats decided it would be a good idea to make a hidey-hole from the cut hay. I must be careful when pitchforking the hay not to spear a cat or two.

At least I managed to scythe the common before midday and then bale the hay in the afternoon...

Obviously, the common was cut by a tractor with attachment - the whole thing was done in a day. they usually leave the hay to dry for a few days, turning it a couple of times, but it's been so dry that this wasn't necessary this year. Also, there wasn't as much hay this year as usual, by a long chalk.  Would have liked them to come into our field and save me a job but, due to the size of the equipment, there's simply not enough room to manoeuvre the equipment down the lane and into the field.

Next on the fixing list is the peat cutter, but we don't have much in the way of peat hereabouts.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Hay Fever

I won't mention the football...

Here's a handy tip for hay fever sufferers - don't hang your washed bedding outside to dry in hay fever season, it just gets covered in pollen.

The match started out so promising with that early goal though...

Never mind, there will be a 2nd referendum in another 4 years at the next World Cup...

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Cornish Tea Plantations

Overheard while watching a local news item about the Somerset NudeFest:

Hay: "Isn't it funny how you never see fit young people being nudists - they're always saggy, baggy pensioners."

Chairman: "Perhaps it's about time we joined then."

So, if we win against Croatia today, we face France - our oldest enemy. I thought the EU was designed to avoid this kind of thing...

Yesterday we called in at a tea shop and I spotted this on the teapot:

Around the rim was the legend; "TEA GROWN IN ENGLAND." Naturally my interest was piqued and I looked it up - and yes - tea is actually grown on the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall and, believe it or not, Scotland. I guess it's eminently feasible given tea is a member of the camellia family and camellias grow well here. Makes you wonder why we spent all that money going to China for the stuff and then transplanting it to India. Poldark could have made a killing by growing tea, rather than scratching a loving looking for tin.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Grim Reaper

Managed to find myself a scythe over the weekend for £15 on Facebook Market. It has a curved, metal snath (or handle) and is somewhat rusty, but I'm sure that a little TLC will bring it up looking fine. Will have to get some phosphoric acid (Jenolite or similar) to neutralise the rust before applying some paint.

Collected it from Weston-Super-Mare yesterday from a bloke who said it had belonged to his grandfather and he'd brought it down to the South West when he moved here from Congleton in Cheshire. At least it's in the hands of a decent northern lad now.

I released all the seized bolts with some easing oil and brute force; luckily nothing snapped, although I had to grind the clamp off. It takes an edge very well, although it needed adjustment for the correct height. While the blade is very short, it seems capable of doing the job, but I decided to put my long blade on it anyway so as to get a much longer sweep and hence a greater cutting length, which is needed with tougher, hay-like grass.

Now just for an exhaust clamp or two to lock the blade into position, a coat of paint - probably Hammerite for the snath and a coat of bituminous paint along the blade rib - and I'm ready to go. I'd like a wooden snath, but needs must. I can always keep an eye out on eBay.

Once the cutting season is over, it will be a very nice decoration on one of the oak beams in the house till next year.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Swift Free Trade

Overheard in a pub in Painswick:

Chairman: "This weather is attracting a lot of swifts."

Hay: "Yes, but I don't think the swifts get the UK weather forecast in Africa."

Dis you watch the British Grand Prix? I'm certain those pit stops are psychic. The tyre changes are so swift you can't see them.

We were watching Countryfile last night and there was a face-off between someone from the Adam Smith Institute and someone from a farming lobby group, each arguing their case for and against free trade. The problem is that free trade is always presented as a binary issue - it's not.

Classical economics teaches us that free exchange works to produce the best results for all, whether the exchange takes place within one nation or across national boundaries. But this concept works only when the exchange is an equal one that occurs within a common framework of laws, customs, rules, and regulations. Economic competition conducted under the law of the jungle leads to chaos and failure; the price system becomes a guide to nothing that is sensible or tolerable.

Some things need to be protected for the long term, such as food security, strategic infrastructure and defence procurement (not pencils though). Some need short-term protection; nascent industries and those that are failing solely due to lack of investment in productivity-increasing technology. Some protectionism is required for no other purpose than to lower unemployment, as no electorate is going to vote for a government that sacrifices employment on the altar of the free market, no matter how much it increases the country’s GDP, as that additional GDP will only go to further exacerbate wealth inequality while jobs go to the wall.

Dropping tariffs in the face of dumping strategies is not a sensible approach – for reasons unknown, the UK government voted in the EU against the imposition of tariffs on cheap, Chinese steel, much to the chagrin of the Port Talbot steel workers; however, the EU went ahead with the tariffs and, as a result, Tata has invested in productivity improvements at the Port Talbot steel plant and saved Port Talbot from becoming a ghost town.

Similarly, inward investment is a double-edged sword – the drop in the value of sterling has meant that whole swathes of UK industry are now in the hands of foreign companies. One in four large UK businesses are now foreign owned, predominantly American, German, French and Dutch. Electricity supply and our railways are almost entirely foreign owned, and what is contributing to the lack of competitiveness of the UK steel industry? The price of electricity!

Foreign-owned infrastructure that remains in the UK is not so much of an issue - it can't be moved abroad. However, it can mean high consumer prices if monopolistic pressures come into play.

Another thing to bear in mind on tariffs is that they'er not always designed to lock out competition - if you adjust them to level any price advantage, then the only thing left to compete on is quality.

44 members of the African Union’s 55 members are hoping to inaugurate a massive, African Free Trade Area by the end of this year. Regional free trade areas are the way the world is going, and you can’t tell me than an African free trade area isn’t going to be protectionist.

I've just this minute heard Tim Martin - he of Wetherspoons - on Radio 4, advocating dropping tariffs on everything, worldwide. It's a ridiculous proposition for the reasons outlined above.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Toothbrush Team Spirit

Could Gareth Southgate be in line for a knighthood if England win the World Cup? It happened with Clive Woodward for the Rugby World Cup. Fingers crossed.

How about this for a idea - you play for the country in which the club team you play for is. You may be Egyptian, but if you play for Liverpool, then you can only play for England. I wonder what new dynamics that would bring into the game?

Any blokes out there actually use an electric toothbrush? I bought one several months ago thinking I'd give it a try. Lasted about half a week and then never used it again - it just takes so bloody long, what with a tiny head that doesn't even cover one tooth adequately. With an ordinary, manumatic brush you clean a vast swathe of teeth with just one swipe - several swipes and you're done. I'll bet it's mainly women who use these inefficient devices.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

She Has a Cunning Plan

So, the Cabinet has finally agreed a plan to put to the EU. If previous plans (if they can be called that) are anything to go by - and given this plan is obviously a compromise between differing factions in the Cabinet, and thus a dog's dinner - it will be refused by the EU as unworkable and crossing several of their red lines. I believe she knows this will happen, but it's part of her strategy.

My guess is that, if the EU rejects Mrs May's plan, she will be left with no other option than a hard Brexit, which would be anathema to business and, I suspect, to her. In order to extricate herself from a course of action that would leave the Conservatives with no funding from business and the consequences of a failed economy before the next General Election, she needs an escape route that lays the blame elsewhere, and the only way in which this can be accomplished is through a 2nd referendum.

14 straight polls in a row have indicated that support for Brexit, especially a hard Brexit, is draining away among the populace - that cannot have escaped Mrs May's attention. If the will of the people is paramount, as Brexiteers never tire of telling us, then the people need to be consulted to ascertain if their will has changed in the 2 years since the initial vote - a week, after all, is a long time in politics. There's no escaping that argument, logically, intellectually or morally, as a democracy that cannot change its mind is no longer a democracy.

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. History is with the remain arguments.

I could be wrong, but I don't believe Mrs May is as stupid as many believe her to be. This situation has been engineered.