Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A Quantum of Cats

Overheard while watching Quantum of Solace:

Bond (Daniel Craig) has just diced with death in his Aston Martin and is now standing in front of M looking a tad disheveled.

M to Bond: "You look like Hell."

Hay: "Oh, I don't know - must be designer Hell."

For months now we've had a couple of the neighbouring cats coming into our house and taking over. One is ginger and we've nicknamed him Orange; his brother is black and nicknamed BlackBerry. We were going to rename our cat (a.k.a. Kitty) Kit-Kat or Android in the interests of nomenclature harmonisation.

There's not much we can do about their presence as we have to leave our cat-flap open for our cat. The downside is that our cat food bill has tripled. Anyway, we finally hit on a solution - having Kitty chipped by the vet and investing in an electronic cat-flap, which is now on order.

Getting any cat into a cat cage for transport to the vet is a nightmare, more so for Kitty. Hay left the cat cage out in the kitchen on Sunday evening, only to discover on Monday morning that Orange had actually slept in the damned thing overnight. Talk about cheek!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Another Long Walk

9.4 mile walk yesterday! We really do have some gorgeous countryside in South Gloucestershire.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Solar Energy

Since the 6th of March we've generated £1,156 worth of electricity with the solar PV array.

Since the 6th of March we've used £1,110 of electricity.

In effect, I'll be paying for only one calendar quarter of my electricity (unfortunately the most demanding quarter - January to March), which will be quarter I have been saving £70 a month for since March.

On the up side, I should receive the £0.43 feed-in tariff for another 20 odd years (although future governments could easily renege on this commitment). On the down side, the price of electricity is guaranteed to rise over that period, so the benefit will decline over time.

There will come a point when I may consider storing my excess generated power in batteries, rather than sell it to the Grid.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Overheard on a Long Walk

Hay and the Chairman are on a 6 mile country walk (at Hay's behest). They have gone off-piste to take a shortcut over a field (at the Chariman's request).

Hay: "You can't go that way - there are horses in the field and they've churned it up into a mud soup."

Chairman: "Just watch me."

2 minutes later the Chairman is flat on his back in a large, deep patch of mud.

About a mile further.

Chairman: "Of course you know you only have so many strides in your life before you need a hip replacement, so you need to conserve them."

Hay: "You've no need to worry. With the small amount of walking you do, most of your strides are still in the bank."

About 3 miles further on.

Chairman: "What's aerobic exercise?"

Hay: "It's when you exercise your aerobes."

Friday, 27 December 2013

The Nativity

Consider this during the festive season: 

The Gospel of Luke mentions a stable and manger (no room at the inn). Matthew states the holy family was ensconced in a house.

Luke mentions only shepherds and no star, while Matthew mentions no shepherds but introduces the star and the magi. 

 Our familiar nativity story is an ensemble of various incompatible narratives cobbled together.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Overheard on Christmas Day

Hay: "You know your Sinterklaas? Well, where does his Moor come from?"

Chairman: "Saddleworth."

Yesterday Hay's dad surpassed even the hideously wrapped parcel I exhibited earlier in the week, as you can see below. Two entirely different colours of wrapping paper, with no attempt whatsoever to make it at least look arty.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Inept Wrapping

Hay had to ask her dad whether he was drunk and wearing a blindfold when he wrapped his Christmas presents.

Alan Turing has been given a posthumous pardon. Why?

It's rather stupid and pointless to judge the values of yesteryear by the values of today. Should the authorities go back and pardon every historical crime that is no longer a crime today? Would that open up a can of worms for compensation claims from living relatives? Was this done purely because he was Alan Turing? What about all the other people who were convicted of exactly the same 'crime' as Turing?

Gesture politics?

Monday, 23 December 2013

Cooking News on Radio 2

Hay is a fan of TV cooking programmes. The other day we were watching Gordon Ramsay doing something culinary in his kitchen for Christmas and even Hay said she felt worn out watching him bounce about. The man's a bag of nerves and needs something to bring him off his high.

Another programme featured The Fabulous Baker Brothers. OK, so they have a shop on our local high street in Chipping Sodbury (which sells stuff at twice the price of anywhere else and is frequented by the Waitrose Yummy Mummy set), but I found them to be more The Intensely Irritating Baker Brothers. 

Is it me, or has Radio 2 on Sunday mornings become overtly Bath and Wellsish? The 8am show used to give the occasional nod in the general direction of religion (specifically Christianity), but of late it seems to have become radically holier-than-thou, being filled by interviews with sad individuals whose lives seem to be totally devoid of meaning without their imaginary friend. May switch to Planet Rock.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Entertainment News

Interviewed on Desert Island Discs, Miranda Hart says she struggled with fame. If you ask me, she has an ongoing tussle with humour too. Could be a generational thing, I suppose., but back in the day, comedians actually made you laugh - it was the definition of comedy.

By all accounts, Abbey Clancy has won Strictly Come Dancing 2013, beating Natalie Gumede, Susanna Reid and Sophie Ellis-Bextor in the final. I only know who the last of those people is, and that's only because she became a minor pop star a few decades ago - as the the rest, not a clue. I gave up watching the programme when the contestants' names became as familiar to me as the names of the Azerbaijan national water polo squad.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Lucky Heather Christmas Tip

Just a thought; if gypsy heather is meant to be so lucky, why the hell don't they keep it all for themselves, as they are generally among the most unlucky people on earth?

Let me leave you with a tip for Christmas - Lidl Gressingham duck breasts from the their chilled section - not the Luxury ones (they're a quid more expensive). 2 breasts for under a fiver. Really succulent and delicious - we had some last night.

Friday, 20 December 2013

The iPhone 5 Works Hamper

I'm becoming a dab hand at this sourdough baking thing. I'm no longer using recipes and timings, just the look and feel of the dough and final product. I sense a possible post-retirement career coming on.

Talking of being a loaf short of a bakery, as far as I'm concerned, anyone who says God (or Allah) told them to do it,or claims to know the mind of God, is a certified, class A nutter, or a schizophrenic. The two Lee Rigby killers were also disaffected black youths who were easy prey for a new 'family' who could bend them to their perverted will. We've seen it time and time again, especially in a cult context.

Hay took delivery of her new work phone yesterday - an iPhone 5s. She couldn't be bothered to set it up! Obviously there's not a male gene in her body...

At the last possible minute I received instruction from Head Office in Israel that we have been allocated £1,400 for Christmas gifts for all the staff. Well, Christmas ain't their thing, after all, so how were they to know you have to put your orders in during October.

Now last year we gave the staff M&S hampers, but if you have a look at them you'll discover that the goods in the £150 hamper can be bought in-store for about 50 quid, making the hamper itself worth about a Ton, which is extortionate in anyone's Excel spread sheet. Seems all the upper end supermarkets pull the same stunt at Christmas. Caveat emptor!

Thought about gift vouchers, but my money man told me that's the equivalent of cash and hence subject to being taxed, which ain't really nice of HMG.

Did some quick research on t'internet and found a relative newcomer to the Christmas Hamper market called All The Best Hampers. Got some 22 items (compared to M&S' 15) for just over £150, plus £5.95 next day delivery. Excellent value, especially when you consider it contains 4 bottles of legal highs as opposed to just 2 with M&S.

The last day for Christmas delivery is today (they only deliver Tuesday to Friday), so it was touch and go as to whether we'd get the order in on time, but we succeeded.

I'm expecting mine to be delivered later today. They even do corporate hampers in your company colours - may give that a shot next year.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Nearly That Time for Damaging Kids

Overheard while driving:

Hay: "There's evidence that public school damages kids."

Chairman: "Yes, but me and my mates were damaged in a good way."

Well, nearly Christmas (although you wouldn't know it from the lack of shopping activity or TV adverts).

I swear that in a few millennia, archaeologists taking core samples of our compost heap will be able to date the various deposits by identifying the annual clementine peel and walnut shell layers.

Must get myself off to the supermarket shortly and stock up on some Blood of Christ with which to overindulge myself during the festive TV repeat season. I generally find that, just like a serious actor preparing for a role, I have to add a few pounds weight to see me through the festivities.

We were in a local cafe on Sunday and on the table was an advert for a crib festival. The advert was fostering the concept of a Christian Christmas and stated quite boldly that the nativity is supported by historical fact, quoting Luke; "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to their own town to register."

Now, obviously this oft-trotted 'fact' of history was never checked by the church in question, for the version Luke recounts has little basis in recorded historical fact, never mind about the discrepancies with Matthew of 10 years in Jesus' birth (Matthew places Jesus' birth at the time of Herod the Great, who was long dead by the time Quirinius was governor of Syria).

  1. There is no record of a universal census under Augustus,
  2. Provinces were taxed through their local satrap, and
  3. The point of a tax census is local and there would have been no reason whatsoever for Joseph, resident in the province of Galilee which was ruled by Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great), to travel to Jerusalem in Judaea, a totally different province administered directly by Rome and the home of a long dead (supposed) ancestor.
The whole story is a fabrication to shoehorn the nativity into Old Testament prophecy, as any Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and be of the house of David (various OT references).

Let's get back to basics and take the Christ out of Christmas, which was invented by the Christians in order to subvert the pagan winter solstice festival.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Warning: Do Not Try This at Home

As promised yesterday, a photo of the up-cycled, crystal chandelier, Christmas tree ornaments:

Having been extremely pleased with my sourdough bread last week, at the weekend I attempted a sourdough rye bread - kind of Eastern European style.

I certainly wasn't prepared for what looked like a sticky mud pie. The dough is nothing like normal bread dough and sticks to everything like Bostick. It was so sticky that using the breadmaker simply to knead the dough was out of the question.

Nevertheless I persevered, not really expecting much to develop from the baking and treating the whole process as a learning exercise; however, the result was spectacularly good.

A firm, dense crumb (as a rye bread should be) with a sweet-sour taste. The sweetness was obtained with 3 tablespoons of honey, the sourness from the sourdough. However, next time I'm going to try scalding the rye flour, which apparently is the authentic method of releasing the sugars from the starch to obtain the sweetness. I'm also going to add some fennel seeds to the carraway.

Eminently suitable for smoked salmon or Parma ham canapes. Keeps for weeks, allegedly.

A word of advice; never, ever use a breakmaker for sourdough - the automatic timings are way out. Rather than rely on timings, it's far better to use the look of the dough - it just needs to double in size (except when you're using rye, which doesn't rise as much as wheat). This can take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours or more, depending on the dough.

If you're thinking of making your own artisan bread at home, try this link - I found it invaluable. I'm now keeping a few sourdough starters of varying cereals in the fridge.

Next on the list is a loaf made of spelt, some pittas and a few naan.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Xmas Up-cycling Address

Hay has come up with a good bit of up-cycling: we have a rather nasty looking 1950s chandelier (one of those tinny brass jobbies that goes over a naked light bulb) and she thought it would be good to dismantle it and turn the crystal droplets into Christmas tree icicle decorations.

Will post a photo of the finished effect when they are hung.

Had to laugh at the address on a Christmas card to Hay's dad. Must have been a computer error, although someone must have fed the data to a computer in the first place.

The 4th line is completely wrong.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Lost Irony, or Deliberate Irony

Over the weekend we visited a charity shop in the Stroud Valley. Behind the guy on the till was a print of a Banksy - the following one.

I somehow think the guy behind the counter had lost the irony of the image behind him........ or had he?

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Migration Watch

The Conservative government is looking at ways to stem a potential flood of Eastern European migrants into the UK.

I wonder if I can persuade our Town Council to look at ways of stopping chavs coming into the area.

Same issue, different scale.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The New Rome

It's all going a bit Roman Empire in North Korea, isn't it, what with the leader topping his relatives.

"Men should be either treated generously or destroyed, because they take revenge for slight injuries - for heavy ones they cannot." Niccolo Machiavelli...

Friday, 13 December 2013

Flat Pack Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree has been bought and it sitting outside in a bin of water. The intention is to place it under the minstrel gallery so that the full 9 feet can be enjoyed from the living room - the problem being it has to go in front of one of the sets of double patio doors, severely compromising easy access to the back of the house for the purpose of emptying the wood burner (which we occasionally flash up on really cold evenings, of which there haven't been too many yet).

My solution is to hang the tree from the cargo block I have suspended from the upper eaves in way of the minstrel gallery, which solves two problems in one go - firstly, stabilisation of a large Christmas tree, and secondly, being able to hoick it out of the way to gain access to outside with the wood ash from the fire (as well as being able to have the tree upstairs when we go to bed).

While on the subject of the wood burner; it's rated at 12kW, which I wasn't sure was enough to heat the entire barn-like structure of the house (the only non-open-plan room in the house is No.1 son's bedroom, and of course the bathrooms). As it transpires, it's more than enough - in fact too much, which is why we only light it when the outside temperature of forecast to go sub-zero.

It's also worthy of note that lighting the wood burner in the evening reduces our electricity consumption by some 10kWh a day (depending on the outside temperature, we're using anywhere between 35 and 50kWh a day, and not generating much from the solar PV, although we still have plenty in hand from the summer). You can see the effect over the last week or two on the red line in the chart below (click to enlarge):

For the uninitiated, red is per diem £ consumed, green is £ per diem generated, yellow is £ per diem net gain or loss (all on the left hand scale). Solid blue is the net cumulative spend on the right hand scale.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Expensive Electrical Fakes

Seems the Cameron who was present at Mandela's obituary fest was a fake Cameron, or so we're told.

It also seems our electricity prices are not as high as they could be if we were German.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

To Decorate, or Not to Decorate, That is the Question

When do you bring in the Christmas tree and decorate it?

When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s, it would be unthinkable to put up your tree before Christmas Eve, or possibly a day or two earlier.

These days you see many people putting them up in November, which I think is an American influence, as Americans increasingly seem to put them up for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Monday, 9 December 2013

Artfully Disheveled Sourdough

Had my usual Saturday breakfast with No.1 Son on Saturday. The bloke who served me looked as if he'd spent at least 30 minutes in front of a mirror combing his hair in such a manner as it looked as it he hadn't combed his hair that morning. Why bother?

I have become an artisan baker. We've been baking our own bread for years now, but using commercially bought yeast and a bread maker. Lately I've become interested in being able to bake a sourdough and making my own sourdough starter with wild yeast.

I started the process about a week ago, using one of the web recipes to make a starter. The secret to a good starter is equal weights of flour and water, not equal volumes.

Here's my recipe:
  • 300 gm sourdough starter,
  • 500 gm strong white flour,
  • 200/300 ml water (use the lesser quantity and increase if the dough is too tight),
  • Table spoon sugar,
  • Pinch of salt.
Now for the preparation and baking:
  • Mix in the bread maker using the dough setting, adding a half eggcup of caraway seeds (if you like them) about 5 minutes before completion.
  • Remove from the bread maker, place in a lightly greased bowl and allow to rise for a couple of hours, or as long as it takes to double in size.
  • Knock back the dough (gently) to remove the air.
  • Place in a 1 kg baking tin and once more allow to rise to double its size (could take from anywhere between 2 hours to 6 hours).

Bake for 30/35 minutes at 220 degrees C.

Paul Hollywood would be proud of me!

My Christmas present list for Hayley includes a sack of wheat for planting in the field in spring, and a windmill to grind my flour.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Technical Note

Yesterday I bought an el-cheapo charger off eBay for my new laptop - I always like to keep one in my briefcase for instant travel so I don't have to dismantle the rat's nest of wires under my desk (I have a spare laptop charger, phone charger, electronic ciggy battery charger and extension cable, along with sox, jox and a couple of shirts).

Plugged it in to test it and for some reason I couldn't get on the Net. Phoned BT Broadband, as I naturally assumed there was something wrong with the service, especially as it affected every wi-fi device attached to my home network.

After much mucking about and resetting of the router, the Indian gentleman from BT suggested I try a wired connection, so I unplugged the laptop from the charger and took it over to the router to connect a cable. Worked perfectly. That narrowed the problem down to the wi-fi.

BT man then made an adjustment to the wi-fi channel remotely; I unhooked the wired connection and it still worked perfectly. I gave BT man my thanks and rung off, took the laptop back to my desk, plugged in the charger and - the wi-fi had collapsed again.

Being in the microwave business myself, I suspected something was causing Radio Frequency Interference (RFI). It could only have been the laptop charger, which contains a transformer. I guessed the suppressor had failed.

Subsequent tests proved my theory - don't be tempted to buy cheap laptop chargers. Not only can they interfere with your wi-fi, they can also go up in smoke. Additionally, no amount of tin foil will create a Faraday Cage (I tried).

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Mandela's Legacy

It's a real shame that Mandela's legacy is a corrupt ANC leadership, intent on raiding the public purse for its own benefit.

People like Mandela are the exception, not the rule.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Architectural Lexicon for Test Card Pensions

After watching George Clarke's Amazing Spaces, I have a new lexicon:

  • Cupboard = Storage Solution,
  • Window = Solar Gain,
  • Classroom = Learning Environment (although 'a couple of old containers welded together' would have been my preferred description).
Mind you, I've always favoured using ten words where one will suffice, especially when I'm inebriated by my own personal verbosity....

"The plan is working," says the Chancellor, the next headline is; "Born today, work till 77." Another politician who must have had my son's English teacher advising him on the meaning of words...

We're watching a rerun of 'Life on Mars' on NetFlix and Sam Tyler wakes to the test card showing on his TV - the one with the little girl holding a soft toy in front of a blackboard:

Hay: "Remember the test card?"

Chairman: "Remember it? It's still the test card, isn't it?"

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Murderous Teacher Hubris

British children are apparently lagging well behind their foreign peers.

My son returned from school last week saying he had had to show the use of a new word; the word he chose was hubristic, and provided a perfectly acceptable example of its use.

The English teacher then proceeded to ridicule him by telling the class that there was no such word. When he assured he it was, and proved it using the dictionary, she accused him of using it incorrectly.

How on earth could she know that when she wasn't even aware of the word before my son uttered it?

Is it any wonder British kids are lagging their peers when the teachers don't even have degrees in (or rudimentary knowledge of) their subjects? And the buggers want a pay rise to boot!

The killers of Lee Rigby are pleading not guilty to murder. If what they did wasn't murder, then what the hell was it? Perhaps they were taught English by my son's English teacher...

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Pension Day in the Post Office

Got caught in the local sub Post Office yesterday - I only went in for 10 x 2nd class stamps and was there half an hour. The queue was out of the door.

The usual story from half a dozen old ladies organising their Christmas cards to far-flung relatives while collecting their pensions; "This one's for Malta.........and this one's for New Zealand........and this one's for Australia.......and...." Bloody interminable.

Now there's an idea - an automatic stamp dispenser; plug in your debit card and it spits out as many stamps as you need with no queuing on pension day. 

I saw a headline yesterday that said; "Energy firms start to announce plans to pass on savings to customers as the government unveils a package of measures aimed at reducing bills." Given it's the Conservatives in power, they must be thinking of culling old people.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Yes Dear, Lovely

Went to the annual Bath Christmas Market yesterday.

Ladies' underwear - why all the different colours and patterns? No-one but them and their husbands are ever likely to see it, for God's sake! Why not either just black or white - or just black (doesn't show the stains as much - just going from my personal experience with my own underwear).

And why do women have to paw everything in the damned shop? I can buy an item of apparel without ever touching it till I get home; women though can't progress though a department store without touching the goods, even if they're not buying.

Yesterday I was very close to just going on autopilot as saying; "Yes, dear, lovely," just to get her to move along, or to buy something so I can get out of the place.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Went to Thorbury for the weekly shopping yesterday. OK, Christmas decorations festooning the streets in late November has become acceptable, but Santa's Ghetto is taking it a bit far.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Am I a Cynic on Snippets?

It may be a coincidence, but shortly after you tell the BT telesales person who calls you that you don't really want to upgrade from their lowest broadband tarrif to the vastly more expensive one, the broadband inexplicably slows down and goes a bit Pete Tong?

Snippets from last night:

We were playing reverse Trivial Pursuit - you get given the answers and have to produce a question:

No.1 Son: "Alma Cogan."

Hay's Dad: "Oh, she was a German Jewish refugee. Her famous song went; "Sue wants a barbecue, Sam wants to boil a ham."

Chairman: "Not the best choice of song for a Jew escaping from the Nazis."

Actually, Hay's Dad was wrong. Jewish yes, but born in the UK and of Russian/Romanian stock.

Talking of nostalgia, who remembers this chap?

Friday, 29 November 2013

Warning - Advert

Has comet Ison been swept up by the Dyson at the centre of our solar system?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

It's All in a Name

Soccer is being investigated by the National Crime Agency - or SOCA (Serious & Organised Crime Agency), as it used to be known. Ironic?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Scottish Question

The question of whether Scotland should be independent it an emotional one – a bit like home rule for Cornwall – a nice, idealistic idea, but a decision that's impossible to make on the basis of rational judgement, as no-one has a crystal ball and knows what the consequences will be. It will be, at best, a gamble.

However, the question of remaining part of the UK is a much easier one to make if you believe that speaking a common language, having a relatively common culture and sharing a currency are pre-requisites for union. 

Those voting for independence must logically be against participation in the EU, but I suspect many are not.

The last thing we in England want is a bunch of Jocks heading across the border and taking claiming our benefits if it all goes tits-up after independence.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Say Cheese

I keep my Stilton cheese in a Tupperware box at room temperature, just to ensure it is ripe rank - the way I like my Stilton. I only put it in the fridge if it's in danger of going too liquid (Hayley is disgusted by my Stilton habit).

Yesterday I returned from the office and fancied a scoop. I promptly dug in and absent-mindedly put the Tupperware box away during a moment of distraction.

A bit later I fancied another scoop, but I was damned if I could find the Tupperware box. Spent some 20 minutes hunting high and low. Finally discovering it in the microwave! I am at a total loss to understand why I placed it in the microwave - I must be going senile.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Fire Slavery Culture

Flashed the wood burner up for the first time last night - then spent an hour wafting the air away from the smoke detector as the paint cured and smoked away. I eventually put a shower-cap over the damned thing. Must remember to remove it today!

I hear that those women who have been kept as slaves for 30 years are in the care of Social Services. My initial reaction was, frying pan and fire.

Hull, City of Culture! What kind of culture is that then - botulism or common or garden mould?

Politicians are saying that Co-Op Bank chairman, Paul Flowers, was not qualified to run a bank. I guess he was as qualified as George Osborne is to run the country's economy. There were also questions about his expenses, as there were about the expenses of many politicians (who are still employed as MPs).

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Marine Innovation

Spotted these simple devices yesterday.

A bit difficult to see from the photo, but the device attached to the painter uses the boats motion to activate a small bilge pump attached to a bungee. Handy if you're away from the boat for some time

This device is attached to the boat's painter and turns it into a very effective spring, giving the painter much more give. There are many other devices of this nature, but this one avoids having to cut the rope.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Another Day, Another Chevron

At the METS Exhibition in Hamsterjam for a couple of days. Spotted this little blinder - now that's what I call a bucket seat.

Another example of innovative up-cycling. I'm damned if I know where I'll get the legs from though.

Ever been on a UK motorway and seen those chevrons painted on the carriageway? The signs always say; "Keep 2 Chevrons Apart" They never say 1 chevron, so why not save on paint and place 1 chevron at the correct distance in the first place, rather than doubling them up?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Country Walk

The Chairman and Hayley are having a country walk down a local lane which is liberally sprayed with horse muck:

Chairman: "Why the hell can't horse riders be made pick up their bloody horse muck, like dog owners have to?"

Hay: "Horse muck isn't dangerous to human health."

Chairman: "It damned well is if you slip on the stuff. Added to which, if I were to dump a load of it in the middle of a street I'd be prosecuted; if a horse does it it's fine."

Apparently a poll (aka what the baying mob says) shows that more than 50% of people in the UK believe Marine A (the Marine who illegally shot dead a Taliban insurgent) should receive leniency. Why does that not surprise me?

There's a story in the Sunday Telegraph today about the "fiasco" of a Sudanese paedophile who is due compensation for his human rights being violated. The problem with these populist stories aimed at the mob is that they risk destroying legislation that is designed to protect the vulnerable, just because of a very, very few inevitable mistakes, like the one recounted in the news story. The problem is not the human rights legislation, but mistakes made by civil servants that allow human rights legislation to come into play.

If the mob had its way, we'd have a return to arbitrary justice and gruesome public executions in town centres.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Utterly Stainless

Well, the stainless steel table centre-leaf finally arrived yesterday. It will take the hottest of dishes, but I'm undecided.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Simply Too Much

I think I have Children in Need fatigue syndrome....

It has simply become an excuse for awful TV.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

It's the Economy, Stupid

Britain is coming out of the recession, so we are told, while Germany and France are still mired in economic woe.

Could it be that because of the continentals' lack of spare cash, their aversion threshold to shoddy British goods has been lowered and they can no longer buy good, but expensive, German goods?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Age Thing

You know you're growing old when the names of celebrities, models, X-Factor winners, style commentators and weekend newspaper columnists mean absolutely nothing to you.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Colour Question on Remembrance Sunday

Hay: "Oh God - you've gone and put the coloureds in with the whites again!"

Chairman: "Yes, but I did put them in separate parts of the washing machine drum!"

Two minutes' silence on radio simply isn't good radio.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Problem with Politics

The problem with democracy is that people will vote for their own narrow interests, not for the greater good.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Raise the Marketing Bar with Scaffolding

I'm over in Rotterdam this week and another trade show.

Now this is what I call a trade stand - no pretences, no marketing flim-flam - just pure schmooze.

It's a bar. When your company is a shipyard and you're exhibiting at a marine exhibition, there's not much you need to do in the way of marketing - everyone knows exactly what you do.

Saw this too and it gave me an idea for a cheap, but stylish coffee table (or even dining table).

It's made from scaffolding, which is as cheap as, well, scaffolding, and a few bits of pallet, but I'd use heavy oak beams.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Offshore Barges?

Apparently there's a mystery over Google's barges in the USA.

No mystery - they're obviously offshore tax havens!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Ye Olde Pound Shoppe

Chairman: "That's novel - where did you get it?"

Hay: "The old Pound Shop."

Chairman: "You mean the 20 Shilling Shop?"

Saturday, 2 November 2013


The Daily Mail is off on one again with immigration.

Here are a few statistics:

  • This country has the highest ratio of university degrees per capita in the world.
  • It produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation in the world - by a large margin.
  • It has the highest number of scientists and technicians per capita in the world - by a large margin
  • It has the highest number of PhDs per capita in the world.
  • It has the highest number of physicians per capita in the world.
  • It has the largest number of startup companies per capita in the world. 
  • It has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies outside of the US and Canada
  • It is also the largest immigrant-absorbing nation in the world, per capita.

That country is Israel - a nation founded on immigration from all four corners of the globe.

Yes, it has had its problems with immigration and assimilation, but it has innovative policies to manage immigration.

America too was founded on immigration, as were Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The key seems to be assimilation, not ghettoisation or multiculturalism, which sets immigrants apart.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Reality Law of Arts

So they're putting TV into courts of law. I foresee that bloke who runs X-Factor getting in on the act before much longer and it becoming yet another form of car-crash, reality TV. Barristers or defendants will have to do a song and dance routine to sway the jury.

They say that for every £5 spent per head on the arts outside of London, £70 per head is spent in London. That doesn't upset me - I don't really need culture on my doorstep when I have a plethora of nature and countryside within walking distance.

You know, every time I look at David Miliband, I think he looks as if he's in final GCSE year, or doing work experience.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Other Channel Dilemma

Hay: "There's a program on the other channel about OCD."

Chairman: "Is it compulsive watching...?"

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sunday Service

Chairman: "So who are the Archangels?"

Hay: "Err..."

Chairman: "Michael, Gabriel and.... what was that third Ninja Turtle's name?"

Hay: "Len McKlusky?"

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Danger - Albanian Guns Printed in French

These plastic printed guns could be dangerous - just think of all the phthalates on the handles that those wielding the guns would be exposed to.

Overheard in the House:

Chairman: "Of course you realise that every word in English that ends in 'able' is French in origin - table, formidable, inimitable....."

Hay: " Cat!"

Chairman: "Catable..."

Overheard in the Italian Restaurant:

Waiter: "Besides English, which I have been learning for a year, I speak fluent Italian and Greek, but actually I'm originally from Albania. What I can't understand is that I have two jobs, work all the hours God sends, and yet there are all these English people who have no job and do nothing but live on benefits. Why do you English allow it?"

Friday, 25 October 2013

Russian Roulette

I see the Russian football authorities have denied there were any racist chants at a recent Man City match against CSKA Moscow.

I wonder when the Russians will bring embezzlement charges against the entire City team?

On another 'tack', while I've heard of cow-punching, I believe horse boxing is to become a local sport in Newcastle.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Fast Spin, Please

Like my new recycled fire-pit for the patio? Just 'drum' up some kindling and a few logs and away we go! Toasty warm evenings (well, above eco-wash temperatures) on the patio with a glass of something red in my paw.

The logs have to go on 'pre-wash', of course.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

There's No Place Like Roma in the Pink Art League

My mum always told me I'd been nicked by gypsies as a baby, but they returned me once they found out what I was like.

I've been listening to Grayson Perry's Reith Lectures on Radio 4. For all his cross dressing he makes eminent sense when talking about art. I have a new-found respect for the bloke.

I was listening to Oz Pink Floyd on YouTube last night at full belt (Hay is away on a training course in Maidenhead) and No.1 Son came out from his bedroom and asked me to turn down the volume. Kids just don't understand adults....

Rugby League World Cup!? Is rugby league really rugby?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Great Clothing Plague of 1978

Was watching an advert for Dettol's new product - Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser. It's a liquid you add to your laundry to kill bacteria on your clothing.

Does anyone remember the great clothing bacterial plague of 1978? Millions died from bacteria on their clothing - hardly a family was spared. People simply underestimate the risk of being poisoned by their clothes.... Not.

Talk about inventing a product for a problem that doesn't exist, except in hospitals. If people are frightened of bacteria, they need to analyse their kitchen chopping boards, mattresses, hairbrushes, toothbrushes and hands, not their clothes - alarmist nonsense.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Brixton Briefcase

Was looking at some mobile phones with No. 1 Son at the weekend.

I thought my Galaxy Note 2 was just about at the upper limit of size, but there was one on display that was even larger. It won't be long before we have laptops turned into mobile phones.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

South Sea Bubble

Royal Mail share prices were set by some people who know a thing or two about the money markets. The shares were set at £3.30. 

Fuelled by the greed of a public that is almost totally illiterate about corporate valuations (and remembers the last public sector float), the shares reached £5.03 on Friday. This is despite the fact Royal Mail staff seem to have been programmed to self destruct by their antediluvian union bosses - a warning, if ever I saw one. 

Pundits are claiming the shares were under-valued, citing the massive rise in prices. However, that depends on what you're trying to achieve; a realistic valuation, or a South Sea Bubble, which I fear is where this float is headed.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

In the Dog House

Hay: "It's strange how dogs can put up with being put in kennels, but it stresses cats."

Chairman: "That's probably because of all the dogs."

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Retro Driving

While driving in Denmark last week, I noticed a car behind me with the old-fashioned yellow headlights.

Do you remember the days when if you took your car to the continent you had to paint that yellow stuff on your headlights? Not only that, but if I remember correctly, you also had to put some clip-on diffractor thingies on them so they dipped in the other direction.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Theakston's Brighouse

Spotted this being sold (or rather, given away) at the exhibition yesterday, and very tasty it was too.

Is it a Danish variant of Theakstons Brighouse beer from Danish West Yorkshire (part of the Danelaw that was)?

Travelling back to Blighty tonight with 40 minutes to change terminals at Copenhagen to make my connection to LHR, having to renegotiate airport security in the process. Not very hopeful of making it, but SAS sell it as a ticket, so you'd think it should be feasible.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Automatic Danish Sardine Mediation

Am I right in hearing that the Pakistan Taliban is offering to mediate between the US Democrats and Republicans over the budget?

After a day at this exhibition I'm rather worried about the state of Danish people's feet. They seem to have a penchant for rather poor footwear, mainly comprising trainers or some equally heinous shoe facsimile. The whole nation must suffer from fallen arches. I'm starting to sound like my mother.

Spotted a Chinese guy yesterday who I saw board the flight to Aalborg from Copenhagen. He was sporting a blazer emblazoned with a badge saying; "Mega Sardines." His iPhone was also covered in Mega Sardines stickers. That's dedication for you, well, either that or a very misplaced sense of what comprises sartorial elegance.

A Ford car that takes control of the steering wheel when it detects the risk of a collision is being tested at a research facility in Germany. Given how people illogically seem to prefer "feeling more in control" of a manual car than an automatic, I can't see that ever taking off with the majority of the idiots on the road...

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Battle of Jutland

Am currently in Aalborg for the week at that well-known, international event, the DanFish Exhibition, where I'm showcasing our latest product with one of my distributors.

Due to this being somewhat of a last minute thing, all the hotels in Aalborg are stacked to the rafters with Danish fishermen, so I had to book somewhere out in the sticks and 30km from the city in a place called Dronninglund, near the tip of the Jutland peninsula (ended up with a manual hire car, but that's another story - why in the 21st century to car makers still manufacture the quill pen equivalent of cars? Moreover, why do drivers insist they have more control in a manual car, when that's patently false - you try emailing people when having to contend with a gearstick, especially when driving on the wrong side of the road - nightmare!).

The hotel is a wonderful old building having has a history going back to the 12th century (according to the booklet), but looks more like an 18th century royal hunting lodge in the chocolate-box, Munchausen style.

First class dinner last night in a dining room stuffed with hunting trophies (I had to listen to the waiter explaining all the dishes in minute detail, meaning the food was a tad tepid by the time I tucked in), but I returned to my room to discover breakfast is served from 8am, whereas I have to leave at 7am to stand any chance of getting parking at the exhibition.

I also discovered at 6am this morning that the water doesn't get heated till I guess around 7am, so it was a cold shower with a sliver of soap.

The shower is of the semi-wet-room style, and I have yet to find a wet-room shower that works as intended. Bloody water everywhere! It took 2 towels and a mat to mop up the water from where it shouldn't be. Must cost them a fortune in laundry.

Not looking forward to coming back on Friday evening - I was sold a ticket that leaves me 40 minutes to connect with the flight to Heathrow at Copenhagen, where I have to change terminals and renegotiate airport security, which will be at least 30 minutes. Given SAS sell the ticket as such, I guess it must be feasible.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Education of Society

An ethnic minority Tory party candidate has said that the make-up of the Tory party needs to reflect society. A bit naive, if you ask me; the Tory party, or indeed any party, can only reflect the make-up of its members - that's what democracy is about.

Religious Education or Maths - mmmm, not a difficult decision to make.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Colour Purple

Apparently Cadbury, now owned by the American plastic cheese outfit Kraft, has filed for a trade mark on the purple colour they use on their chocolate bars.

When the application failed, Cadbury said; "Our colour purple has been linked with Cadbury for a century and the British public has grown up understanding its link with our chocolate."

I've always associated purple with ginger people, not chocolate.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Mourning the Lowest Common Denominator

In these days of gladiatorial, prurient, car crash TV, I think I've found the perfect name for a TV program; "Scenes You May Find Upsetting - But Rather Stimulating". Ace crowd puller! As addictive as Colombian marching powder, or Big Brother.

Does anyone know what you're meant to do on a Day of National Mourning? The more unstable countries seem to declare them at the drop of a hat, but are they national holidays, or what?

Monday, 30 September 2013


People out of work for more than two years will have to go on work placements in return for their benefits, under changes being unveiled by the chancellor.

Does that include MPs?

I see that all parties are in vote buying mood and offering us a whole gamut of unsustainable bribes to get us to vote for them.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

This is Not a Pen

Doing my usual perambulations around Western Europe again (Holland and Italy this week), reading airline shopping catalogues.

This is not a pen. Or to paraphrase Magritte; "Ceci n'est pas un stylo."

It may have started out as a pen, indeed it may have been developed as a pen; however, it ceased being a mere pen when stupid people started paying vast amounts of money for it, at which point it transmogrified into a lifestyle statement, having the express intent of saying something meaningful about the person who wields it (usually something to do with their perceived social status).

To me it says; "Dick head for paying 320 Euros for something that shouldn't cost more than £20."

This, however, is something in an entirely different category.

It's what we experts call a "Gadget". Gadgets have a use (albeit that some are severely limited, like the iPhone, for example, which falls more into the previous category). This is a pen, but with infinitely more functionality than the aforementioned Mont Blanc, and at half the price, which is still a tad high - but that's the consequence of being an object of desire and appealing to Gadget-Man (being a technologically more sophisticated version of Homo Neanderthalensis, of which I happen to be a member).

Monday, 23 September 2013

Costa Concordia TV OK

See the large, white dome on the upper right of the Costa Concordia? My company supplied that - it's a TV antenna. Good to see it survived.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Moore Bacon Please

It's nearly the end of September - time to get the sprouts on the boil for Christmas!

We went to Oxford yesterday to see the Henry Moore and Francis Bacon exhibition at the Ashmolean. 

While I like Moore (despite his stuff being a cliché for every new bank or FTSE HQ in the 50s and 60s), I never much liked Bacon's stuff. His lover was chap called George Dyer, who was also his muse. I have reached the conclusion that Bacon must have really hated him in order to disfigure Dyer's face in almost every painting of him.

While we were shopping for some underwear in Primani (hers, not mine) I heard a trendy couple calling after their children, Elle and Hudson. Who am I to judge? Yet it did make me smile.

On the way into Oxford we visited The Trout, the Thames-side venue for many of the pub scenes from the Morse detective series. I remember the place from some 15 or 20 years ago - dark and dank. It's been completely transformed into a 70 to 150 cover fine dining establishment with the most incredible designer lighting. Morse would turn in his MkII Jaguar if he saw it now.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Overheard in the Restaurant

The Chairman is studying the wine list and about to place a drinks order with the young girl behind the bar, who looks the type who doesn't do named wines and prefers numbers from a list.

Chairman: "I'd like a large No. 2, please."

Landlord: "The toilets are over there sir."

Friday, 20 September 2013

Prohibited Gifts

Strange things to sell in an airport, but I guess that's just Palma for you!

Spotted these the other week at the Frome Cheese Show - cute, in a Stephen King way....

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Evolutionary Barter on the Med

Yesterday I had only the one meeting in Palma (de Mallorca), so after having done my duty by making my distributor aware of my company's latest offerings, I decamped to Portals Nous for a bite to eat. I sat in 30 degrees of heat, admiring the numerous yachts in the marina (bemoaning the central heating was on at home) and desperately hoping I'd spot something monstrous being parbuckled; however, I suspect one has to be in Italy for that delight.

It's the kind of place where one sees portly, rather hairy, simian-like men of a certain age escorting svelte, long legged women half their age. These women are not at all put off by the visually challenged nature of their partners, it being adequately compensated by their large bank accounts and private yachts.

This got me to thinking of the psychology involved.

No-one is fooled by these liaisons, least of all those who partake in them. What they are engaged in is evolutionary barter; the women trust that any issue from the liaison will have the evolutionary benefit of improved social standing and inherited wealth (not to mention a dash of genetically inherited business acumen, if such a genetic trait exists), and the men hoping their gene pool will be vastly improved by the addition of a dash of beauty, although genetics doesn't necessarily work that way. The advantage lies with the women and the men can only hope there isn't a throw-back down the line (Benie Ecclestone was lucky with his kids, but his daughters may give birth to ugly dwarves).

Whether one favours nature or nurture as the dominant factor, the fact remains that any progeny raised within an environment where deals are struck as a matter of course will gain on both counts. Mind you, it could work in reverse, with the progeny inheriting their fathers' looks and their mothers' brains.

Thinking about it, does it matter whether a partner is chosen for their looks, their personality or their wealth? Of the three, the first will fade over time and the third could disappear in the burst of a commodity bubble. The second, however, is more long-lived, unless one gets early-onset dementia or passes through the menopause.

A friend of mine - well more an acquaintance who abuses me a lot - commented on the misty nature of the photo above, attributing it to the poor imaging of the Samsung. I replied that it was an evocative arty shot, conveying relaxation, ease and a languid afternoon in the company of the Med, thus hiding the embarrasing fact that the lens of my mobile phone was liberally coated in the oil from the fried squid I was eating.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Europe & Taxi Drivers

I'm not sure whether I'm for being in Europe, or leaving it.

My pro European side tells me we should be in, if only to influence the drafting of some obscure EU rule on forcing the buggers to install tea and coffee making facilities in continental hotel rooms, which for some reason they no longer provide. It would be a civilising influence.

Not sure it you've experienced continental taxi drivers of late - especially Spanish ones - they seem to think it perfectly acceptable to drop you off in the general vicinity of your destination, even if that's several blocks away. I suspect this is greatly influenced by too great a reliance on satnavs - "If the satnav says it's here, then it's here."

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Lesson in Marketing in Madrid Airport

On the way to Heathrow yesterday I was listening to an item on Radio 4 about Freeminers in the Forest of Dean. One old miner had created a visitor centre and was perplexed why not a single soul had visited it in 15 years. The interviewer conducted a survey of the area and suggested a dirty big sign at the entrance from the main road saying "Private" may have had something to do with it. Just a suspicion, mind you...

In Madrid today, Palma tomorrow, home Thursday. At least it's warm.

Madrid airport must win the prize as the airport with the worst signage in the world. Me and a herd of fellow travellers on the same flight spent about half an hour trying to find the exit. After a few circulatory perambulations we finally found the shuttle train to the main terminal from the gates, and I swear the journey was similar in time as going from Bristol Parkway to Swindon.

I detest Spanish TV - the buggers insist on dubbing everything, and the advert breaks are about half an hour long. No bloody mini-bar in my hotel room either, never mind about tea or coffee making facilities - dire!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Country Boy Goes to Town

Went to London on Friday for a conference in the Lloyd's Building. 

I'm always shocked by visits to The Smoke, despite having worked there for most of my commercial life until moving to the sticks some 10 years ago. The pace of change in relentless and hardly a visit goes by without some dramatic change to the skyline. 

One of my former offices is unrecognisable, and another seems to be destined for some major surgery.

This place used to be the site of The Baltic Exchange, where I first ventured into commercial life after leaving my shipping company. My MD at this place narrowly missed (by less than 30 minutes) the IRA bomb that destroyed it. On the destruction of that venerable building we relocated out to the Docklands, to the very office in which I'd worked before joining the company (it was owned by my shipping company).

Through this portico is St Helen's Place, a narrow cul-de-sac which is frequently used as a filming location for period dramas. I had an office on the 3rd floor on the right. Now some hideous Frankenbuilding seems to be under construction within its confines, unless it's just renovation (which seems more likely, as it's listed). 

It is the fate of all new buildings to be initially hated as an eyesore. I wonder how many of these new edifices will still be standing in 200 years time?  I dare say some will stand the test of time and become much-loved landmarks - a bit like the Lloyd's Building, which is generally accepted now as part of the architectural canon that is London Town.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

From an Old Shipmate

Received the following from an old shipmate of mine. Poignant and well crafted. A man after my own heart:

"How exceedingly clever it was of the Romans to cease being Romans and become Italians.  I can picture a ceremony in which emperors, legions and cohorts exchange crowns for fedoras , chariots for fiats and armour for Armani . The most empirical nation in the history of mankind  was able to rebrand itself into the rather dotty but much loved cousin who always turns up at weddings and funerals, impeccably dressed but you just know that inside those hand crafted shoes there are a plethora of holes in his socks. 

Italy is able to amble  along with their barking politicians and fabulous nosh without being constantly compared on the world stage with their illustrious forefathers, all because of a name change. Likewise, Turkey has evolved without censure from the glory days of the Ottoman Empire and reinvent itself with the aid of rebranding.  

Had we had the foresight to sally forth as the London Empire for example during our relatively recent crack at world domination, it would be so much easier to be British today. We could probably have avoided all those expensive apologies to Kenya, India, Australia etc and not have had to shimmy  around the afore mentioned world stage in clothes several sizes too big, perched on top of our little pile of ageing nuclear ' deterrents'. 

We could have taken comments like the one made last week in St Petersburg by a Putin aide about Britain being somewhat inconsequential in todays Great Game on the chin, pulled another pint, doffed a kiss me quick hat and skipped into the wings. Instead, we had to listen to Cameron trying to join up cherry picked dots between our former role as Masters of the Universe and the rather scruffy hobbit like country that we are today. 

I for one, am comfortable with the hobbit look and can think of nothing worse than having to get up in the morning and don a suit of full armour. As hobbits we can shuffle contentedly along the byways and when we do find the odd truffle in the undergrowth it will taste all the better. Sadly though we are condemned to being Great British."

Copyright, Mark Hilpern.

Friday, 13 September 2013


Don't fancy coming across a coffee drinker while I'm driving. These are webs spun by spiders under the influence of certain substances.