Saturday, 29 March 2014

Overheard in the Pub

We were out for dinner last night at the The Bell in Yatton Keynell. Really warm and cosy with a couple of log fires burning.

Chairman: "It's just struck me that you only ever see log fires down south. Up north fires are normally coal."

Hay: "That's probably because they use all the wood up north for making clogs."

Friday, 28 March 2014

Time to Take the Lid Off

Screwed up enough courage yesterday to take the hardtop off the Merc and dust off the ragtop.

The problem was where to store the hardtop, as I have yet to build a garage for the house.

Problem solved by driving it into work and storing it in the warehouse for the summer among all the satellite systems!

Perversely, I think the hardtop looks better on the car than the ragtop, but best of all is no top.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Chairman for Gustator!

I've finished the book on Little and Old Sodbury and have moved on to another book by the same author (PA Couzens); Annals of a Borough - viz Chipping Sodbury.

In the 1200s any male reaching the age of 12 had to undergo Frankpledge, whereby he had to present himself and associate with 9 others, each of whom took an oath to be responsible for the good behaviour of the others. Not a bad idea, even for today.

Did you know that in the 1950s you could post an early letter in Chipping Sodbury for 1/2d and have it delivered to a friend in Old Sodbury the same day? Says so right here in the book. Damned country has gone to the dogs since then.

I want to stand for election as Gustator for Old Sodbury and Chipping Sodbury, the function of whom in the 1200s was to be responsible for the quality of the ale offered for sale in the town. Now the only way of determining that is obviously by tasting. I bet there was a long queue of candidates for the role of Gustator.

Might also apply for the role of looking after the ducking stool and pillory, as well as the provision of collar and rope for bull baiting.

Anyone know why Americans rub their chopsticks together before tucking in? Seems a bit senseless to me, unless it's ultra-caution in case of splinters, although I've never had - or known anyone else to have - a splinter from an unrubbed chopstick.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


Been reading a small books by a local historian - Annals of Two Manors (Old and Little Sodbury) - sadly no longer in print, but available from our local library. The book gives the history of the manors since Saxon times.

It mentions the events surrounding the building of the 2 mile long GWR tunnel just up the road in 1897, which for a time brought prosperity to the locale - along with "much drunkenness and dissolution" on the part of the Irish navvies. 

Apparently the original route was a couple of miles to the north of Old Sodbury, but the Duke of Beaufort, whose Badminton estate it ran through, had the route changed so as to not be too close to his house.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Where Did I Put Those keys? Why Did I Come Into This Room?

She calls it forgetfulness; I think I have too much stuff going on in my head and what with the storage space being finite, my brain is just making room for the more important stuff.

The Chinese relatives of the Malaysian Airways disaster passengers initially castigate the Malaysian authorities for not giving enough information, and once they do they're accused of lying. They can't win.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

A Question of Competence

Was listening to Any Questions on Radio 4 yesterday and heard a newly qualified primary school teacher justifying going on strike this coming week because of the hours she has to work.

She complained about there being "less teachers". She's obviously not a teacher of English then.

Collected the car yesterday from Ludlow - love it!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Smells Fishy

Went to the local chiropractor yesterday for a consultation before undergoing some therapy for a frozen shoulder and some preventative, manipulative maintenance on my recurrent back problem, which is caused by a displaced sacroiliac.

I have no idea what caused the sacroiliac to go out of kilter in the first place, but tend to attribute it to Wally Stobie pinning me and my two mates against a wall in the bar of the good ship MV Egori in a scrum during a session of bar rugby in my mid 20s. Wally (the 1st Mate) was - and probably still is - built like a brick shit-house and could form a scrum front row on his own, such was his prodigious strength. He ran our team's front row (in which I was hooker) into a bulkhead and just kept pushing, resulting in my back undergoing some stresses for which it was not designed. I felt no immediate ill effects, but from that year on I started with the back problems.

Anyway, I digress. The practise includes an aromatherapist, a therapy over which I have deep scepticism. I noticed an array of essential oils on display in the waiting room and took the trouble to read some of the uses on cards below the various bottles on display. Here is a sample:

  1. This essential oil is both a tonic and a sedative. Isn't that an oxymoron?
  2. Rub the oil into the affected area in a clockwise circular motion. Will the direction of motion make a blind bit of difference?
  3. Marjoram oil - for tension headaches - put some on a hot towel and place at the back of the neck. Surely the hot towel on its own will have infinitely more effect for a headache than something put on the skin, which is akin to putting a plaster on your forehead with an Asprin under it?
I also possess a healthy scepticism over some of the more esoteric claims of chiropractics, but tend to lump them into the same category as osteopaths when it comes to the manipulative side of the business - chiropractics tend to include a touch of metaphysics in their techniques. That said, previous visits to osteopaths and chiropractics have given me almost instantaneous relief (but no cure) for the back problem when it flares up.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Downside of Moustache Wax

Moustache wax is fine for maintaining a resplendent handlebar in normal circumstances; however, I have become aware of a dire problem - steam from a hot cup of coffee can soften the wax with the consequence of massive moustache droop and you looking like a bedraggled walrus.

People are to be given more control over their pension pots once they retire - is that a wise idea? Perhaps it is if the government wants to stimulate the economy out of recession - just imagine, thousands of irresponsible pensioners (which is what the government is banking on) grabbing the cash and blowing it on moustache wax, holidays, Lamborhginis, wine, women and song. A perfect recipe for a booming economy fueled by the elderly.

Talking of old people blowing their money on cars - it's my 59th birthday tomorrow and I'll be up at sparrow's fart to proceed to Ludlow to collect the Mercedes SL300 Mid-Life I bought. Can't wait!

Just look how clean that engine bay is - it shines! I'll have to find an old, disused barn to keep it in for the next 30 years.

The problem with buying old cars these days it that it's debatable as to how long we'll be using petrol to power them. By the time this jobbie becomes as classic as an e-Type (and of similar value) I'll have to invest in a hydrogen cell to keep in on the road, which will kind of detract from the originality.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Is history repeating itself?

In the case of Germany and Austria, the vote was allegedly over 99%.

It would seem that, under Putin, Russia is going from communism to fascism in a few short decades. The parallels are frightening.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Gunboat Diplomacy

I just can't help feeling that restricting the travel arrangements and freezing the assets of certain Russian and Russo-Ukranian politicians (when they've had ample time to move their assets) is as effectual as doing absolutely nothing.

Surely a fast-track induction of Ukraine into NATO would have made a slightly more compelling argument?

That said, if the citizens of Crimea want to join Russia, then surely that's a democratic right? There again, if the manner in which it was conducted was illegal according to international law (which most commentators agree is the case), then Russia has made a mockery of the United Nations and should be expelled through legal process.

One wonders whether the UN is headed for the same fate as the League of Nations.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Decision Time

Spent yesterday travelling up and down Shropshire and Monmouthshire with Hayley in her SLK with the lid down in search of my next car - and a decision has been made. Hopefully, this one will be mine within a few days. If not this exact one, then one very similar and certainly in the same colour.

1993 Merc SL300 auto. OK, possibly a bit extravagant on petrol at 27~30 MPG, but a remarkable piece of precision engineering for a couple of quid under £5k (which is the average price for this vintage with just under 100k on the clock). Not a single spot of rust anywhere and the engine bay looks as if it just came out of the showroom. Insurance is only £150 p.a.

In the interests of economy, the trusty old Golf TDi stays and will be used by Hay and me for anything over 100 miles. At 165k on the clock it's just not worth selling it.

The classic car market is very depressed at present, so it's an ideal time to buy.

That's the mid-life crisis sorted - well, at least until we build a garage and I can find a knackered 2+2 e-Type to rebuild (a long time dream and not beyond my capabilities - I've rebuilt many an MGB in my time). A garage-cum log store is next on the construction list and Colin the builder has been put on standby.

It's strange - I can say I've been very well paid pretty much all my life, but I've never, ever, bought a brand new car - not once. Can't see the point when you'd lose at least a quarter of its value the minute you drove it out of the showroom.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Malaysian Plan Hi-Jack

Now here's a thought.

There were (or are) 2 Ukrainians aboard the Malaysian Airways plane, and a lot of Chinese. Could the Ukrainians have hi-jacked the plane to put pressure on the Chinese to put pressure on the Russians over Crimea?

Or am I adding 2 and 2 and making 5?

Friday, 14 March 2014

Ahoy, Me Hearties

Made a nice addition to the block and tackle. Should help when cleaning the windows on the inside.

Reminds me of my cadet days, swinging from a Bosun's chair while chipping the masts on a variety of ships.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Car Heaven

I was in car heaven yesterday lunchtime:

There were even some e-Types and a Cobra, but I couldn't get in a position to snap them.

I do like the Merc 320 SL, but am considering a 270 CLK CDi as a birthday present (more economical).

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Managed to get t'internet to Hay's new office, which is a converted chicken shed about a hundred feet away from the house, using a relay of wi-fi repeaters to overcome a dog's leg in the direct line of sight. However, each hop reduces the bandwidth by half, so she only has about 5Mb, which is sufficient for her use.

This spurred me on to consider how I could get power there, as she's currently hooked into her father's house supply.

After considering a mini solar PV array and some solar thermal for heat, she stopped me when I mentioned I could set up a laser on the roof of the house, aim it at the office and transmit power over that. What I really need is a mini thermonuclear reactor.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Licence vs Subscription

The BBC is mooting subscription instead of licence. Is there a difference?

Well, the solar panels are making money again, as you can see from the latest chart of generation versus consumption, and we've turned the corner.

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

To Diss or Not to Diss?

Alex Salmond has accused No.10 of  having "disrespected" the Scottish people.

Now, officially (and by that I mean since we started codifying the language), disrespect is a noun and can be used as an adjective or an adverb, but never a verb. Unless, that is, you're a hip-hop artist.

On the other hand, language evolves - that's how English became English.

On the 3rd hand, would one be downgraded if using the word in an English grammar exam?

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Jehova's Witnesses Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact

Had our local Jehova's Witnesses around yesterday. Nice people really. They actually come across as quite sane - if you can get them off the subject of religion that is, which I usually manage to do.

My usual tactic is to listen politely to the first minute or so of their loopy 'message' and then divert them the second a suitable diversionary word is uttered by them. Yesterday it was the NHS - of course everyone likes to have a moan about the NHS, so that was an easy one. Damned if I can remember the trigger word, although they were going on about the Book of Revelation, which must have been written by a smack-head on a particularly nasty trip.

The down side was I got a half hour ear-bashing about the failings of the NHS. I did, however, manage to counter this with another diversion into home baked bread; I was on firm ground and gave them a boring 15 minutes on sourdough starters and the correct mix for Peshwari naan stuffing.

Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact - that just popped into my head while contemplating Germany's refusal to join the rest of the EU to impose sanctions on Russia. Just looked up "Merkel Molotov-Ribbentrop" on Google and it seems I'm not the only one thinking along these lines, although it's being called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pipeline.

I haven't seen a single, reliable report yet of ethnic Russian Crimeans being threatened by Ukrainians. Quite the reverse - the Russians seem to be doing all the threatening - or should that be goading..

How can the majority of Russian people have actually voted for Putin? I guess the simple answer is they didn't - just another voting irregularity.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Vlad the Impaler

Scientists have unearthed what they believe to have been the largest ever predator to roam across Europe - the Vladimirus Putinicus...

Well, seems it's game over for the West and they're left looking foolish and with egg on their faces in the rush to appear to be "leaders". Putin has what he wants (including the Crimean Tartars - which could be a poisoned chalice) and the EU and NATO can be left with the rump of a basket economy - although I'd hazard a guess that Putin has some other ploy up his sleeve to claw back most of eastern Ukraine, if not the whole damned lot. OK - Crimea still has to be put to a referendum, but we all know about Russian "voting irregularities". What Putin wants, Putin gets. Gas will be his weapon of choice against NATO.

Putin has been a very naughty boy!

Just goes to show how the UK must become self-sufficient in energy, and the only way to do that at a reasonable cost is nuclear, with a sprinkling of sustainable to keep the Green clowns at bay, and where people don't complain about turbines or solar farms ruining their view or house prices. Russian money to build the nuclear stations would be ideal.

I wonder if Putin has designs on an independent Scotland?

One of the aims of the EU was to prevent another major European war through closer ties. Well, it has certainly achieved that - I doubt whether the EU nations could ever agree on a war against a common external aggressor due to perceived "economic consequences".

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Hard Rock Comfy Jeans for Vapers in Ukraine

We were watching Led Zep, Deep Purple and Dio on Vintage TV last night.

Some of the tracks played were old but the televised performances were relatively recent. It was surprising that while the 60s style clothing was still evident on some of the band members (especially Deep Purple), the tight jeans had been exchanged for more comfy and voluminous ones. You could even call then "gentlemen's jeans".

I hear Los Angeles has banned e-cigarettes in public places. Earlier in the year the Welsh Health Minister said the Welsh government was looking at evidence in order to support a possible ban in Wales. Everyone knows that politicians take no notice whatsoever of evidence. They sift what evidence there is to support their preconceptions, ignore scientific advice and do whatever they think will give them votes. That's been verified time and time again.

Yesterday, Russian media leaked a phone discussion on the Ukrainian protests between EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. Paet claimed he'd been told by a Ukrainian doctor that both the Kiev protesters and members of the security forces had been shot by the same weapons, suggesting the snipers were in the pay of the Ukrainian Maidan party. This has gone viral among the conspiracy theorists.

Unfortunately for the conspiracy theorists, the doctor concerned told the Daily Telegraph she'd only seen the protester casualties, thus scotching the conspiracy theory - and strangely enough, the Russian media is not covering this story. The story is also at odds with TV footage showing the plan-clothes snipers peering out from behind security forces' riot shields.

Listening to Russian state media should come with a health warning.

Many commentators are also calling the US hypocrites over the Crimean situation, citing the US invasion of Panama, Iraq, etc., etc. However, while we don't tarnish Putin with Stalin's crimes (although his methods are strikingly similar in that he brooks no political opponents and jails them on trumped-up charges), you can't tarnish Obama with what the Bushes did when in power. You can only judge the current administration by its past actions. To do otherwise is to lose the plot.

And as for the Russian's calling the new Kiev administration fascist, well the words pot, kettle and black come to mind.

My blog seems to be gaining the attention of the Kremlin of late:

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Teacher Frustration at Putin

A teacher in West Somerset Sellotaped the mouths of some of her pupils as they were obviously not behaving in class. Instead of getting support from parents, some of them complained to the school and one of them actually had the nerve to complain to the police (who, thankfully, were not interested).

If one of my kids came home telling me their teacher had Sellotaped their mouth, I'd be more interested as to what my kid had been up to to deserve the punishment than berating a teacher for trying to maintain discipline among a bunch of animals. My father would probably have punished me for being punished.

The reason teachers are so intensely frustrated is that they are in a constant battle with self-righteous parents and are not able to discipline kids in a way that ensures good behaviour. My school drew the line at child sacrifice, although that wasn't beyond the disciplinary lexicon of the prefects.

Never mind about the kids concerned growing up and behaving, a lot of parents also need to grow up too.

On another tack, regardless of what you think of Putin and what's going on in the Ukraine, you have to admire the way he's playing all the parties and has everything under his control - he's certainly read his Machiavelli. Mind you, you can do that when you're a virtual dictator having locked up the majority of your opposition on trumped up charges. One thing he can bank on is that the EU doesn't want another basket case economy in the club.

However, I can't help feeling he's made a strategic error - had he done nothing and had Ukraine cosied up to the EU and eventually joined it, he would have had a legally leased military base within the EU. There again, perhaps his actions are precipitating exactly that and overcoming the EU's reluctance to accept another basket case. It's a game of chess.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Mid-Life Crisis

Hayley is having her mid-life crisis - she part exchanged her Golf TDi for this yesterday...

My preference was the car to the left of this one, which is exactly the same model, a year older (hence cheaper) but automatic and having a few less scratches on the interior. However, blue is not the ideal colour for a Merc.

Why, in the 21st century, anyone would actually want a car with a manual gearbox is beyond me. Haven't (willingly) driven a manual for over 12 years. All this nonsense about having better control is rot - how can you have more control when you haven't got both hands on the wheel and are busy waggling a stick around?

Conversation with the salesman:

Hay: "Is this 60k mileage genuine?"

Salesman: "Nah - we clocked it."

Having a background in sales and marketing, I advised Hay to accept nothing less than a direct swap, as the salesman would be making at least 2 grand on the exchange and could afford to drop £500 from the Merc. Nope - she settled for handing over £500, but did get the offer of 2 new tyres on the back of the SLK, which must run to £200 at least. She picks it up on Wednesday.

I have to say that the roof is a mechanical marvel - I wish they'd had these systems in my MGB days.

I'm off to get a sheepskin jacket, flat cap and white silk scarf.....

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Peshwari Text

I had just given Hayley's sister one of my newly baked Peshwari naan:

 You have to know your Irving Berlin to understand this...