Saturday, 31 December 2011

It's All About Me, Me, Me

Another year is about the start.

  • Economists have become the new gurus and shamen of society; economics the new religion.
  • Marriage is used by celebrities to draw attention to themselves; and cynically cast aside once the objective has been achieved.
  • Avarice and greed is as prevalent as ever in all corners of society.
  • Ex gang member, Kim Jong-un, named as knight commander of the army in New Year Honours List.

May I wish you all a peaceful and contented New Year.

Friday, 30 December 2011

The Political Message

Ed Miliband says in his new year message that the Labour Party must show there is an alternative to rising unemployment and falling living standards – namely strikes and double pay!

Cameron will respond on behalf of the Tories by saying that if every working person shot an unemployed or poor person, poverty and unemployment would be eliminated.

Glegg will go on holiday to somewhere warm.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Prince Kim

Am I the only one to think it strange that Prince Philip was only let out of hospital just before Kim Il Jong’s funeral? 

Was Kim’s brain removed before brain death occurred, chilled and then transplanted into the body of Prince Philip shortly after he was admitted to hospital? 

Too much of a coincidence, if you ask me.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Automotive Life in the Cotswolds

The aftermath of Boxing Day at the local roundabout. Obviously someone decided to have a bit of a race along the dual carriageway.

This chap obviously didn't consult the dictionary before advertising his chimney wares on his van.

Heard someone on the radio just now say that risk has become a 4 letter word for business. As far as I know, it has always been a 4 letter word. A bit like Flus - whatever that may be.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Death of Cheese

Don’t you just hate being served supermarket stilton straight from the fridge? Unless left out at room temperature for a few days, supermarket stilton tastes like soap. Supermarkets, and some eating establishments, seem oblivious to the fact cheese is a living thing and, like most living things, needs a modicum of warmth to remain alive.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Thick as a Christmas Pudding

I was listening to some woman on the radio this morning telling us that because people still engage in fox hunting, the ban on hunting animals from horseback should be repealed, as it's plainly not working.

That's a bit like saying the laws against murder should be repealed as people are still murdered. Can't help but think the people who support fox hunting from horseback are a bit thick - or desperate.

Seems tube drivers are joining the ranks of rioters and bankers as some of the most hated people in the UK due to them bringing London to a halt today in pursuit of triple pay for working today (payment for working today is already accounted for in their salary). I suggest that instead, London Underground make both Christmas Day AND Boxing Day non-travel days (it's not as if the population couldn't handle it), and deduct an extra day's pay from the drivers' salaries. If they don't want to work on Boxing Day, then don't force them - but don't pay them either.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

All that Glisters

You know those reclining chairs that are always being advertised on TV for people with bad backs? Why do the manufacturers insist on covering them in fabrics that are so hideous you can only find them on market stalls?  

I see Prince Philip decided to stay in hospital rather than gathering with that viper’s nest, lovingly referred to as the bosom of the family. Can’t say I blame him – I’d rather be in a private room with my every whim being catered for – oh, hang on, doesn’t he get that anyway wherever he is? 

The Pope, resplendent in his glittering, bejeweled, red and cream, rhinestone-encrusted robes, complained last night about all the Christmas glitter. If the Roman Catholic church is known for one thing (other than systematic child abuse and its support for totalitarianism), it’s camp glitter and overbearing pomp.

In his Christmas sermon, the Archbishop of Cadbury will lament the abuse of trust. Perhaps he was talking about the Catholic church.

I wonder when the supermarket bosses are going to come out with Christmas sermons berating the church’s over-spiritualisation of Christmas and its incessant focus on non-existent folk magic. 

I seriously think it's about time that the mid-winter festival got back to its roots - a celebration centred on community, feasting and the giving of presents to lift our spirits and gird us for the remaining few dark months till spring arrives once more.

Off to buy myself a wassail.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Solar Powered Bums & Breasts

We are now generating solar electricity, but it’s not actually productive yet as it’s not hooked up to anything.

Yesterday I was pondering on why the human is the only mammal that wipes its bum. I reached the conclusion that it must be because of all the crap (if you’ll forgive the analogy) the average digestive system and lower intestine has to put up with – more so these days than hundreds of years ago. A bit of an indictment on the modern diet, I’d say. 

Apropos of the above, it seems that TV over this year’s festive period has nothing to offer but programmes about how to make a turkey dinner. Every celebrity chef in the country seems to be cashing in on the act. The rest of the schedule comprises Christmas editions of the vacuous game shows that are on the box every day of the week, or the same old hackneyed films that appeal only to the morbidly dull or very young children (solely on the basis that they've never seen them before). Even the Royal Society's Christmas lectures have, in succeeding years, been relegated to ever more obscure channels - I'm not even sure they're on TV this year (they've probably been replaced by a vapid, so-called 'documentary' on a day on the life of an Eddie Stobart truck - riveting!) TV these days panders to the lowest common denominator - i.e. those who would be intellectually challenged by a Christmas card.

The irony of this debacle over illegal French breast implants is that women have these things inserted into their bodies in the belief it makes them more attractive to men, but I think the majority of men would actually be put off by the knowledge that a woman had prosthetic augmentation – I know I would - I'd feel short changed. The mere fact a woman would contemplate it would be enough to put me off.

What's the betting that Prince Philip will be either driving a horse and carriage around Sandringham like a maniac by teatime, or dead?

I want to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy Yuletide, or if any are practising Christians (there may still be one or two), a merry Christmas.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Common Dictatorial Currency of Praise

Here’s a novel idea; I propose a currency union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, in order to work this would require a political union between the 4 countries. The obstacles to that are Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Should Scotland secede from the Union, I wonder what the currency would be and how stable it would prove. Perhaps they could peg it to the deep-fried Mars Bar. 

Northern Irish? It would have to be the Euro. 

The Welsh could go back to a man’s worth being defined by the size of his flock of sheep. 

Heard this on the interweb yesterday; some bloke was chatting to his sister in Welsh on his mobile phone when someone started pointing and shouted; “It's because of you bloody Poles that we can't get jobs in our own country!" 

The Iraqis seem intent on murdering each other now the American have left. At least they’re doing it democratically and in the name of God. Although hang on – anything done in the name of God is usually totalitarian in design. What they need is a strong dictator to impose peace and stability, someone like - oh I don’t know - Saddam Hussein (to pick a random name from the air). 

Could have sworn I saw an image of the face of Kim Jong Il on my piece of toast this morning. The birds were definitely all singing his praise.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Partnership Issues of Celebs

Could a bloke who is married to a woman called Sybil be said to be in a Sybil partnership?

Is it a sign of getting old when you don't recognise half the celebs John Colshaw & Co are doing impression of?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Ethics of Denial Policing in Munich

I was listening to the theoretical physicist Jim Al Kalili interviewing Lord Robert Winston on Radio 4 yesterday morning as part of the Life in Science series. When questioned on ethics, Winston said that science graduates should be taught ethics in the same manner it comprises part of the medical degree. I agree, but I also think theology students destined for the church should be taught ethics in a manner in which the subject actually sinks in.

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi has apparently denied reports that he is dead. Well, of course he'd deny it, but I'm afraid I simply don't believe him...nor do I believe Piers Morgan.

The Joe Stalin Wing of the Inspectorate of Constabulary has said that police should have filled the arsonists during the summer rioting in England with lead and just mowed them down. It is believed they also recommend the waterboarding of suspects - and by 'suspects' they meant anyone within a 50 mile radius.

Meanwhile every insurance salesman under the sun has sent their cv to Munich Re in the hope of getting a job there.

I see Argentina is flexing its muscles again over the Falklands. While espousing human rights, the Argentine president is seeking only to establish sovereignty over the natural resources and to hell with the locals. The following chart shown the limit of the Argentine claim (you might have to click on it to enlarge).

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Unstable, Alcoholic, Married Women

You know how women, even if they're incredibly tall, all have smaller feet than the equivalent sized man? Well, I was arguing with Hay (who is 6 feet tall and a size 6) that this must make then inherently unstable.

Hay replied that women have a lower centre of gravity than men and this must surely compensate for the instability.

What's your opinion?

I see Cameron is intent on injecting some quantitative easing into the divorce courts by encouraging happily unmarried couples to put pecuniary advantage to the fore through tax incentives if they marry. What a silly man! Everyone knows the divorce courts are rife with married couples and that unmarried couples never divorce.

Talking of statistics; it is said that 25% of all road accidents involve alcohol. That must logically mean that 75% must involve water, tea, coffee or soft drinks. A sobering thought in this festive season!

The builders have been busy for the last week putting the electrics in the house. Within the next couple of days we're expecting delivery of some 4kWs of solar PV panels and the makings of the under floor heating system. The builder swears we'll be able to move in within 3 months, albeit into an unfinished house, but I doubt it somehow. I'm bargaining on another year in the caravan.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Ripping-off Yarns

Do Kindle books come in hardback and paperback versions, and if so, are they priced differently?

I was reading an article which claims that Kindle e-books are 9% more expensive than the equivalent paper book, rising to 11% when only paperbacks are considered.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

It's the Economy, Stupid!

An open-air market in Salford has been closed because more fake goods were being sold than legitimate products. Experts say this illicit trade costs the UK economy around £1.3bn a year. Items being sold at the market included fake branded clothing, designer jewellery and GHD hair straighteners.

What I can't understand is this supposed economic cost of £1.3bn that these experts claim, as the people who buy the fake stuff at knock down prices are highly unlikely to buy the genuine article in the first place - especially in Salford. For example, a genuine pair of these hair straighteners are about a hundred quid, which is obscene.

The action of closing down the market is to actually take some £2m out of the economy (the value of the goods seized), and the reason the market was closed is due to copyright infringement, not because of an illusory and non-existent cost to the economy.

The irony is that the economy has actually suffered because the market was closed down, and those selling the counterfeit goods will now be drawing Jobseekers' Allowance - mind you, they were probably drawing it already.

The double irony is that these counterfeit goods are cheap, shoddy copies of what are invariably expensive, shoddy items.

Are we the only people not to have watched Strictly Come Dancing last night?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Judge Not

Bishop David Cameron has said the UK is a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so.

In a speech in Oxford on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the bishop minister called for a revival of traditional Christian values to counter Britain's moral collapse.

I guess he means those traditional Christian values of homophobia, bigotry, self-righteousness, intolerance and selectively adhering only to those bits of The Christian Law (i.e. Bible) that support your bigoted position.

What about the moral collapse in the Catholic church with all the child abuse that's been going on? Oh, I forgot, they're Catholics and not Protestant.

As for the UK being a Christian country, under 10% attend church.

I do wish politicians would not huff and puff with outraged moral indignation and look to cleaning the Augean stables within their own houses first.

The UK is a mish-mash of different religions, agnostics and atheists. A country develops from the nature of its people, not the people from a nostalgic, chocolate-box vision of the country a few centuries ago. Cameron sounds like King Cnut.

Friday, 16 December 2011

I Is Not Understandings You Good

Have just returned from another of those interminable trips to a Mediterranean country that is having problems with its debt.

I am continually amazed at how foreigners with an execrable command of English manage to make other foreigners with an equally bad command of English understand them.

Imagine the scenario - two chaps of different nationalities, neither of whose English could even vaguely be called passable, chatter away in English and make themselves fully understood to the other. I'm sitting there totally bemused, not understanding even the gist of the conversation and nodding sagely.

Incroyable, as they say in France. Must be something to do with the grammar of their respective languages being similar, hence they both make the same mistakes.

Some councils have been caught out by the snow; hardly surprising really, it is only mid December after all and it's not as if snow would be expected.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

God Particle Found

I think I've found the God Particle.

Look very closely at the space between the hands below - focus carefully - and you'll just about see it. No - it's not that bit of cough on your computer screen, or that bit of dust. Look closer!

There you go....

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Compensation Culture

There's a bit of irony in the human body - as you get older, your ears continue to grow, thereby theoretically giving you better hearing; however, you slowly go deaf too. I suppose it could be evolutionary compensation at work.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Two Europes Sarkozy

Sarkozy says there are now two Europes - if you ask me, they are the one that is about to embark on the Titanic and the one that is staying behind on the dock in Southampton.

Basically both positions are a gamble and no-one can be certain what will happen; however, history is against the Euro working, and if there's one thing politics can teach you, it is that history has a habit of repeating itself.

I can't help feeling that European politics and economics is heavily infected by Groupthink with no-one (except the UK) being prepared to point out that the Emperor has no clothes.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Installation Pudding

Installing a printer driver used to take a few second; now it's a whole afternoon. Why is this? Are programmers becoming a tad cavalier with the exponential increase in disk capacity and lax in tight programming?

Touts are being vilified for buying Heston Blumenthal's Xmas puddings in bulk from Waitrose and selling them on t'internet for £200 odd. I'd call them entrepreneurs for spotting a gap in the market and selling them to sad people obsessed with celebrity culture. Anyone who is willing to pay £200 for a pudding that costs £13 in Waitrose needs their bumps read - in fact anyone who is willing to pay £13 for a pudding is a tad deranged.

That being said, it could also be said that the touts are preying on the feeble minded.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Counterfeit Reality

Saw an item on the local news the other night about the sale of counterfeit tobacco. Can there be such a thing? If it ain't tobacco then what is it? Lettuce? As if a smoker couldn't tell the difference. What they probably mean is counterfeit brands of tobacco - fake Rothmans and the like, but still made of baccy. The correct term should be illegal tobacco.

The push against such cigarettes is being made on health grounds. Eh? The bloody things kill you anyway, so how is a packet of fags with a fake label going to make it any worse?

A doctor was interviewed and said that much of this counterfeit tobacco came from Africa and was stored in warehouses, such warehouses having rats, which means the liberal application of rat poison that could get into the product. Well hang on, Zimbabwe is something like the word's 5th largest producer of tobacco - that surely means that all its tobacco is laced with rat poison, no matter where it goes - genuine or fake products.

China and India are No.1 and No.2 in terms of production; are we meant to believe there are no rats in China or India?

Additionally, makers of 'fake' products aren't going to go to the trouble of filling them with the 70 odd chemicals Imperial Tobacco put in their products to make them burn better; it would simply cost too much. In all likelihood they're more pure than the 'genuine' article - possibly even 'organic'.

I somehow suspect this is really to do with lost tax revenue and nothing whatsoever to do with the health benefits of genuine fags versus their fake counterparts. The authorities must think we have the intelligence of a root vegetable.

Friday, 9 December 2011

What's in a Name in European Judea?

Apropos of yesterday's post about signs; as we live in an area where houses have just names and no numbers, we've been debating for some time a name for the newbuild. The working name to date has been Badger's End, Badger being the nick-name Hayley gave me years ago due to my beard being shaded like a badger's face - although it has since become more small, white polar bear than badger, perhaps Arctic badger.

Due to the houses in our vicinity having no numbers, finding the place is fraught with difficulty for those not familiar with the area - like ambulances, the fire services and anyone who may have occasion to find the house in a bit of a hurry.

Couriers especially have issues with houses in our location (houses with no numbers were the bane of my life when I drove as a courier during a brief period of being 'between jobs'). Even a satnav programmed with our postcode results in couriers grounding their car sumps on a nearby unmade road resembling a glacial moraine and deliveries being deposited with anyone in a half mile radius.

When we had the scaffolding up on the house last year, the scaffolding company put a white plastic sign at the end of our track by the main road advertising their wares. It said "Budget Scaffolding, Yate". Once the scaffolding was removed they left the sign, and as it was a useful landmark for people trying to find the house, we left it where it was.

We're now thinking of leaving it there for good and amending it to read "Bagget Scarfold", being a suitably pompous name for the house. The scaffolding holding the sign up may have to go, however, as they are redolent of an industrial unit. The lettering on the example will need changing too, else it would look like a ransom note.

If closer European integration is the solution, what is the problem? No, European integration itself is the problem, the only solution being for Europe to split along cultural and economic lines. Besides, they have some really bitter winters in Europe - I certainly don't want any of that, so it's better we stay out of any pact and stick to British winters, which are much milder.

Why is it that every parent who has ever had a child in a school nativity play dresses their kid like a comedy Arab with a dressing gown and a tea-towel? I guess we've been fooled by all those quaint Victorian Bible images.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Sign of the Times - Tally Ho!

The Beaufort Hunt met in Chipping Sodbury yesterday - there must have been about 50 horses, at the very least. Made a hideous mess of the road with all the horse muck.

They normally meet about once a year outside the eponymous Beaufort Hunt pub on the High Street, but for some reason this time they met across the road outside the Nat West Bank. It could be a sign of the times, demonstrating a new sponsor, or possibly because most of them are bankers (who else can join hunts these days?).

I was going to follow them along the aptly named Horse Street, but they perversely went down Hatter's Lane instead. Pure madness!

On the way home to Old Sodbury I took a detour into the countryside (Little Sodbury, Little Sodbury End, Sodbury cum Hardy, Sodbury on the Wold, etc.) and espied scores of horse spotters keen to get a glimpse of them. They cluttered up the back lanes something awful, what with their horse boxes and 4x4s.

Just managed to get our application in yesterday for the feed-in tariff before the government deadline - the website kept crashing with the final rush.

Air source heat pump, 1,000 litre tank, 3kW solar PV array, some thermal solar panels (the radiator type) and under floor heating - all for £37k, allowing for the government grant of £850. It would probably cost double as a retro-fit.

Talking to the salesman, the companies selling this kit make about 7% margin, which is nothing.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Cash Stash

Which is better in a recession; to spend your stash (if you have one) and get the money into the economy, or leave it in the bank where it can be lent to business to expand - or at least weather the storm?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Irony of Road Deaths

Ever considered the irony contained in the phrase; "Let's lay all our cards on the table"?

Think about it....

The image below shows all the road deaths in our area between 1999 and 1010. Looks like we're in Death Central.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Beggaring Belief

The Royal Mail has warned staff not to accept Christmas gifts valued at more than £30 for fear of bribery charges.

What on earth would you bribe your postie to do? Deliver your mail to next door? Not deliver your junk mail?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around

Bank of England governor, Mervyn King is being lambasted by politicians and business leaders alike for his gloomy economic prediction of last week, which detractors say is leading to a loss of confidence in markets and consumers.

That's ironic when you think that it was massive over-confidence within markets and consumers - and consequent unsustainable levels of debt - that caused the crisis we're now in the middle of.

It seems politicians, and the business leaders who fund them, will never learn the lessons of economic and political history, which is a double irony when you consider that most politicians these days have degrees in PPE.

Never go to a politician for the truth - they will tell you what they think you want to hear (unless you're a public servant); more so closer to an election.

Thinking of offering my services as Santa at a local store - I'll tell the kids as it is; Santa has been subject to a recession and cannot afford to give presents this year, all the elves have been laid off and the reindeer are in line for a pension reduction.

I was practising on my son last night. Tried the old Jedi trick of a wave of the hand with the words: "You are not expecting anything over 10 quid for Christmas."

I hear union bosses are calling for Jeremy Clarkson to be sacked. No disciplinary procedure, no employment tribunal, no strike action allowed by Clarkson - just summary dismissal, which is an abysmal way to treat a public sector employee (Clarkson works for the BBC).....

Saturday, 3 December 2011


Hayley bitterly regrets having given me copious quantities of fried onions with the bangers and colcanon she made for dinner last night.

Pity there's no feed-in tariff for gas.

By the way - if you want to see the real story on public vs private sector pay and pensions, look at this. Public sector employees are better paid than those in the private sector. Pensions are certainly much better.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Clarkson Files

Union leaders have said Jeremy Clarkson should be made to live for a year on a nurse's salary. Why not a head teacher's or judge's salary?

Or even a union boss's salary?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Monopoly Money

In defence of yesterday's Day of Action, many who work in the public sector maintain the work they do is hugely important, as evidenced by the chaos that ensues when they go on strike. However, one of the main reasons for the public sector having such an impact is due to many of its branches being virtual monopolies. Withdrawal of labour ipso facto has a huge impact.

The work BT did when it was a government owned monopoly was hugely important, but when competition entered into the market through deregulation in the 80s and 90s, BT became less important - and largely irrelevant - as there was a (invariably cheaper) private sector alternative.

Nationalise all garages and suddenly all garage mechanics perform vital and hugely important work (and are incidentally able to hold the country hostage if their demands are not met).

Crippling strikes that affect the public are the preserve of the public sector. Due to the presence of competition, strikes in the private sector affect only those they are meant to affect - the shareholders (and of course those employees who do not wish to strike and may lose their jobs as a consequence). This gives public sector employees vast bargaining power when negotiating pay and conditions; power not available to private sector employees. This power must be wielded responsibly and not in pursuit of unrealistic goals that assume an infinitely elastic public purse.

Incidentally, for union leaders to cherry-pick specific occupations at the bottom of the public pay-scale to justify their cause is disingenuous and massaging the data to suit the desired result. The same can be said of governments cherry-picking top NHS consultants' pay to justify their position. These are not matters relevant to discussions over final salary, index-linked pensions and their affordability across the entire public sector spectrum - top to bottom - in today's economic climate. The issue of low pay is precisely that - an issue of low pay for specific occupations. To drag this into the overall argument is a classic red herring.

I have to report that Hayley's mother, Sylvia (or Caravan, as she was known in the family), died yesterday after a short battle against cancer. Following the removal of a malignant melanoma some 4 years ago, she recently complained of stomach pains. On analysis she was found to have an enlarged lymph gland under one arm. A CT scan a couple of weeks ago showed rampant cancer in her brain, lungs and stomach. The end was swift, but (following the administration of palliative pain relief) painless.