Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Chairman Bill's Recipe Page

I have perfected the mid-week, fast and nutritious recipe! One pot cooking that takes only 5 minutes to prepare (the night before, if you choose) and is delicious.
  • Take one flatish casserole dish with a lid (like a le creuset).
  • Arrange in the bottom some green beans, purple sprouting broccoli, sliced peppers, baby sweetcorn - in fact any non-hard vegetables you like. I also add 3 garlic cloves, roughly sliced.
  • Sprinkle with oil (rapeseed or olive) and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar.
  • Add half a small wineglass of decent white wine (actually, an execrable white makes bugger all difference) or the same amount of stock. Don't overdo the liquid, as the veggies will produce quite a bit.
  • Top with as many chicken breasts as people you need to feed (I do 6 and it lasts 2 nights).
  • Sprinkle sea salt and plenty of cracked black pepper over the top.
  • Top off with a large sprig of either tarragon, purple sage or rosemary (not all 3 together - just one of the three options - or whatever herb you prefer).
  • Put the lid on and place in the fridge till the evening.

When it's near dinner time, slam the casserole into a 200 degrees C oven for 40 minutes, or as long as necessary to ensure the chicken breasts are cooked (just slice one to check).

If it's your wont, boil a few baby new potatoes as an accompaniment, although I prefer to bake them till cooked, punch them open with my fist wrapped in a tea towel, drizzle with garlic infused olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and bake until crispy at 200 degrees C.

What with Hay now working in Bristol and me working mainly from home, I'm now the chef during the week and this went down a treat last week and last night. I tried a variation with pork escalopes, and that worked fine too, although chicken is better.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Term Time Holidays

While ironing last night (Hay was out at yoga) I watched something on TV about parents taking their kids out of school during term time so they can save a bundle on holiday costs.

One parent waxed lyrical about the educative benefits to kids of being totally immersed in a foreign culture - all the while sitting in an hotel pool-side area infested with other Brits. Now that's irony! Perhaps the parents meant the culture of the Yorkshire couple in the room next door, or the Scots down the corridor....

The sad thing is that these are the very same parents who will wail when their kids fail their GCSEs and shout from the rooftops that the education system has failed them.

A headmaster was interviewed and told he must have sympathy for the families who have children at his school when so many percent were on free school meals. Well, the way to get your children out of the vicious circle of becoming the next generation of parents to have their kids benefiting from free school meals is to ensure they aren't absent from school. Simples, as they say. To these parents, a good, cheap holiday among fellow Brits on the Costa Del Sol is worth more than their kids' future.

Notwithstanding what I said above, why bother fining the parents? We will always need uneducated people to fill the menial roles, and if that's what the parents want for their kids, then surely that's their right. Analyse and discuss.

Monday, 27 October 2014


Overheard on Saturday in a Taxi in Accrington:

Chairman: "So I guess you like cricket?"

British Asian Taxi Driver (in a thick, Lancashire accent): "Too right mate."

Chairman: "And what team do you support?"

British Asian Taxi Driver: "Lancashire, naturally - we may be near t' Yorkshire border, and I may have family over there, but I'm no traitor to me roots."

Saturday, 25 October 2014


Years ago I bought one of these cigarette lighter FM transmitters for the car - you can play music from a USB stick over FM and pick it up on the radio.

As we're Oop Nowerth this weekend - West Kirby to see big bro', thence to the North Yorkshire Dales via Accrington to see No.1 daughter - I thought I'd dig it out and see if it still worked, as the CD changer is the Merc is not connected (damned thing has a 10 pin DIN, whereas the radio has an 8 pin DIN). It was swamped by local stations within the narrow band in which it transmits, so next to useless.

When these gizmos first came out there weren't so many FM stations, but since then they have proliferated like inane and unenlightened Facebook posts. Not worth buying, unless you do a lot of driving in the sticks.

Now an app for the phone that transmits on selectable FM (assuming the makers could put an FM transmitter into the phone) would be a brilliant idea. Use Waze for routing and an app to play my music over the radio. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Time for a Grump

I'm getting heartily fed up with Vodafone. They send me a text and an email when my bill is ready, telling me to go online to view it, and without fail they're tinkering with the website and I can't see the damned thing anyway. Surely it can't be beyond their tiny wits to send the notifications during the very short window each day when their website is actually working?

An advert from a company called MacKnight: "We are proud to announce the launch of our new award winning Salmon Bacon. We are the first again to launch a healthy alternative to bacon and it is NOT made of pork. It is pure salmon, meaning rich in Omega 3 and full of anti oxidents [sic]!. The amazing feature of this product, apart from being healthy, is it looks and tastes exactly like bacon made from pork! Another world's first for MacKnight! Kosher Bacon!"

Firstly, if it ain't made from pork, it ain't bacon! Dimwits! It's smoked salmon and you simply fry it. Secondly, if it tastes like bacon, then it has had its chemistry monkeyed around with and is worth steering well to windward of.

As for Facebook - it's becoming more like the Jeremy Kyle Show every day.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tractor Marbles

Scientists have successfully moved objects with a tractor beam. At last! A solution to fetching the TV remote, although I'll need another remote to do it.

The Elgin Marbles are causing a bit of a stir again. I do think, however, they should be returned to Greece - they were looted, after all. How would we like it if some Greek came over here and made off with one of our cultural treasures - like the Royal Family, for example. Oh, hang on....

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Heavy thoughts today.

Labour says the UK is on the brink of becoming a permanently divided society between the haves and the have nots, laying the blame primarily on housing costs and youth unemployment.

What do they mean by permanently divided? 

Surely education, or the lack of it, is the single key to social mobility for those lacking drive and determination? and so long as anyone can get an education then social mobility is alive and well! Get a half decent education and your earning power will increase as the job options open to you multiply; fail to get a good education and the only way is down.

What has grossly failed the education system is the demise of the grammar school, which was open to anyone, regardless of background, and lumped those who wanted to learn together without the disruption of those having no desire to learn. It's a sad fact of life that even the best teachers don't have the ability to educate those lacking motivation, and motivation invariably starts at home.

Giving people money to offset the cost of housing will have only one effect - increasing the price of housing as more people chase the same number of houses. A futile gesture, unless money goes into building council housing to increase the supply, reduce demand and bring down house prices in general as a consequence. Maggie Thatcher selling off council housing was a massive con to buy votes and the consequences are with us to this day.

Youth unemployment - what can be done there except creating non-jobs? Ending unpaid internships just means kids won't even get any experience, albeit unpaid (I don't seem to remember the apprentices of my youth getting much, by the way - I got enough for social spending, with my parents forking out for the basics till I was 20).

So long as poverty is a relative rather than absolute measure (and an arbitrary one at that), poverty is here to stay. There's an interesting interactive graph here that allows you to explore the effect of people's wages on the 60% of median. Spread the 10 salaries evenly and 30% will be in poverty; the only way to take people out of this definition of poverty is to group all the people in a narrow range with few outliers. However, eliminating the outliers is social engineering on an impossibly massive scale.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Heavy Metal Schrodinger's Cat

As an anti-neighbour-cat precaution, Hayley's dad sets his cat flap to one-way, allowing his cat (called Cat) to exit the house but not come back in.

Several times this week we've been woken at around 3am by Cat miaowing outside our house to be let in, necessitating me getting up, walking over to Hay's dad's house and letting her in with our key (Hay's dad is partially deaf, so a miaowing cat has no effect on him whatsoever).

While talking about this last night with Hay, I suggested Cat should be given her own door key, which prompted a call to Hay's sister (the family artist) to commission a cartoon for Hay's Dad's Christmas card. It will depict Cat, Kitty, Blackberry and Orange (the latter 2 being the neighbours' cats) forming a feline pyramid outside Hay's dad's back door so Cat can reach up and insert the key in the door.

Did you know that Schrodinger's cat was called Milton? Next time someone mentions Schrodinger's cat you can say: "You mean Milton?"

Last night we went through our usual Friday night ritual - dinner at some local pub, followed by watching some Vintage TV. Last night it was Heavy Metal, which I can't say I'm a great fan of (and no, Led Zep is not an HM band). There was the usual lineup of Motorhead, Slayer, Black Sabbath (without Ozzie), Judas Priest, etc.. What I'd like to see, which would be quite radical, is Motorhead et al playing a session dressed in dinner jackets or looking like the Mike Flowers Pops.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Good Old NHS

The Ebola story is showing how good the NHS actually is.

Yes, you get the odd story about a hospital here and there failing, but that's to be expected within a system where hospitals are actually accountable. The fact this comes to light is a strength of the system.

The NHS is a national system and therefore has at its heart something called strategy, or joined-up thinking, as we experts call it. When a national health threat materialises, we in the UK get a nationwide policy and not the disjointed response prevalent in the USA.

Americans are far more likely to be wiped out by an epidemic than Brits due to oversight there being primarily at the state level.

We should do all we can to prevent governments of any hue selling off the NHS and putting it in the hands of multiple private entities with competition and profit being the prime motive.

Oh, I forgot - the Americans are great believers in God, so a prayer or two should protect them. You never know, they may actually turn to science - there are no religious people in epidemic foxholes.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Religious Tolerance

Tony Blair is calling for religious toleration to be taught in schools across the world to prevent radicalisation.

The "incubators of radicalism" need to be confronted, he argues, to prevent the spread of ideas that "warp young and unformed minds".

Does he mean ideas like religion itself - ideas that people cling to with no evidence whatsoever? That's the home, where kids are first inducted into the woo-woo world of religion at the knees of their mothers and fathers.

Just asking...

Monday, 13 October 2014

X Factor Diversity Training

Overheard by Hay at work during diversity training:

Pakistani Trainer: "I have to go to Friday prayers."

Female Trainee: "So where do you go for that?"

Trainer: "A local mosque."

Female Trainee: "What, any old mosque?"

Trainer: "Yup."

Female Trainee: "Can anyone go? Can I go?"

Trainer: "No, not unless you have your husband's permission and he's a moslem."

Trainee: "Hang on, what's this training we're doing?"

Trainer: "......."

We were forced to watch the last few minutes of what looked like the X Factor final last night - at least I assume it was the final (we had the sound turned down) as Downton Abbey was 15 minutes late.

Seems to me the winning formula is either bland, white boy band or Beyonce look-alike. This program just confirms my theory that the public is the worst arbiter of taste, whether that be music, art or indeed anything - but by God, Simon Cowell is a clever chap in using it as a market testing vehicle to make shed-loads of money from the public's execrable taste.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Parking Lancashire Hello Magazine

We were sat in a local cafe yesterday morning in Chipping Sodbury having breakfast. A copy of OK magazine was on the table and I idly started to turn the pages while waiting for our order.

It had the usual spread of stories and massively touched up photos of Peter Andre, Kerry Katona, etc., lounging in their glitzy homes decorated in the most appalling taste imaginable.

It suddenly struck me that magazines such as OK, Hello, etc. are just the opposite pole of magazines like Lancashire Life; the former celebrate pointless celebrities, the latter pointless aristocracy.

I've noticed that the ParkingEye appeals industry is proliferating - spotted a parking ticket appeals organisation that charges £16 per appeal, and they advertise a 100% success rate. Seems a waste of time and money when you can let the buggers take you to court using two basic defence arguments and end up having the case dropped before you even get to court.

These arguments are:

  1. It's not their land, thus they can't take you to court anyway - only the owner of the land in question can do that, and
  2. They can only claim for what was lost (the price of the ticket) and cannot claim punitive damages.
Admittedly a DIY approach requires some knowledge of court procedures and a bit of time, but having appeared in court several times over domestic matters and having represented myself twice, I'm becoming a dab hand at preparing professional looking court papers.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Welfare State

For the vast majority of mankind's existence there has been no such thing as the the Welfare State. The tribe shared as necessary and the family unit ensured no-one starved; the lame, the halt and the old were looked after.

That, however, wasn't sufficient to save the Neanderthals when the Cro-Magon people came over via Calais, took all their jobs and put hundreds out of work with their new-fangled efficiency drives, time and motion studies and technology.

In a way, I can be said that the lack of a Welfare State has made man what he is today - the result of Darwinian selection.

Would I sacrifice my descentants' chances of becoming homo-superior or some weird uber-Conservative monstrosity by discontinuing the Darwinian experiment? Damned right I would!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Feast of the ParkingEye Caravans

My masters in Israel are having another of their interminable holidays. This time it's Sukkot (last week it was Jewish New Year).

Sukkot, or the Feast of the Tabernacles, purportedly celebrates the Jewish tribes having camped out in 'The Wilderness' for 40 years some three and a half millenia ago. They just won't let it go...

Hay proposed we have a Feast of the Caravans, an annual celebration of our 5 year sojourn in the caravan while the house was being built.

Regular readers will know I have been battling ParkingEye since April over a £100 plus parking 'fee'. Well, I prepared my professional-looking 100 page defence for the small claims court, consisting primarily of transcripts of previous rulings against them on the basis of:

  1. I paid - they didn't issue a ticket (as well as admitting one of the pay stations was not working properly on the day in question), thus they are in breach of contract,
  2. As they are not owners of the land concerned, they cannot take me to court - under contract law, the landowner is the only person who can sue, and
  3. Under contract law, they cannot charge punitive amounts, only actual losses - i.e. £2.20.

This was posted to ParkingEye on Saturday. On Monday I received a letter telling me that in the interests of saving court costs, if I stumped up £50 they would drop the case.

Yesterday - following their receipt of my defence - they sent a letter telling me they are dropping the case completely.

My advice - don't kow-tow to bully-boy tactics. If any of you are facing the same issue, contact me and I'll send you the standard defence.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Southmead Hospital

Had to go to Bristol's new "superhospital", Southmead, yesterday for No.1 Son to have some adjustment on his braces at the maxillofacial unit.

For a start, when building a superhospital it's advisable to have sufficient car-parking facilities for the expected number of visitors. Cars were queuing up to park in the woefully inadequate car-parks - and doubtless patients were missing appointments as a consequence. The NHS should perhaps have consulted Tesco on how to construct a multi-storey car-park. Added to which, the minimum fee is £3 (not that I even got to pay it). The fee was £1 at Frenchay. I simply did what many other visitors did and double parked while my son ventured into the hospital on his own - if you're both the patient and driver, you can't do that.

Secondly, I question the wisdom of having so many departments in a single building. While my son was in the humungous Brunel Building the fire alarm went off and the whole building had to be evacuated. At the old Frenchay Hospital, departments are scattered around a motley agglomeration of buildings, whereby if there's an emergency in one of them, the rest can keep working.

I simply left without my son achieving the appointment and refuse to ever go back to Southmead, unless in an ambulance.

I have enormous respect for the people who work at the front line in the NHS, but they are let down by inadequate planning. Even the consultant dentists don't like the place - they have to park at Frenchay and get bussed in, meaning longer working days.

See here for further info.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

When in Rome, Have a Tattoo

Rome today, then home this evening. Given I'm here, I'm thinking of doing what the Romans do (although I'm not 100% certain what that actually entails).

I think I might do something really subversive. You know how middle-class kids, and even a good smattering of our younger aristos have tattoos? To be really subversive and different, I think I'll not get a tattoo. There, how subversive is that these days?

In my youth, tattoos were the preserve of ladies of the street, gentlemen of the road, gypsies, builders, personnel of the armed forces and seafarers of all hues. To have a tattoo when coming from the middle classes was considered really avant-garde and dissident (my old man didn't even see mine till I was in my late 30s or early 40s). Nowadays there's hardly a kid or a 20-something without at least a 3rd of their bodies covered in the damned things.

As a fashion accessory they kind of defeat the object, as they can't be changed next season - you get stuck in a season and the season is guaranteed to change. Tribal markings may be chic and currently in vogue, but as sure as eggs-is-eggs they will make you look very dated in a few years time.

Burmese neck rings as sported by the Kaya people, or some such stupid thing, will become de-rigeur in a few years time. Take those buggers off and you might end up with a lollopy head (although the effect is actually illusory, as it's the collarbone that's pushed down, not the neck that's elongated).

If you're dead set on having a tattoo, do something unique and timeless, not one that you've seen on your mate, who probably saw it on his mate, ad infinitum. Something like LUV & HAT across your knuckles, which will be grazing the ground, is not recommended.

Neither are phrases in some exotic or dead language, unless you've had it checked out by a native speaker (and even then they may be having you on). There's nothing worse than having a Persian phrase tattooed across your forehead, only find out it a bit later that it actually says; "I'm a bit over-fond of the creme-de-menthe", or "I love bacon", however true that might be.

Oh, it also behoves you to get a tattooist who can spell - saves a lot of pain later.

If in doubt, don't! I regret ever having my sailing ship. Had I been a tad more sober, I might have chosen the figurehead from my old school, or possibly the school crest (which actually is a sailing ship, but a nice one).

I think someone over egged the tint on this...

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Dr Who On Days Like These II

Well, the drive from Geneva to Milan via Montreaux, Sion and the Simplon Pass is an experience not to be missed - stunning views! There was plenty of Smoke on the Water at Montreaux, but bugger all Fire in the Sky as it was raining most of the way.

I reckon I could get a SqueezyJet flight with the family at sparrow's fart from Bristol to Geneva, grab a hire car and be in Lacchiarella in time for a light lunch at my favourite trattoria and be on a flight back from Milan Malpensa airport by teatime. Might just do that one day.

Actually - I just checked - £178 per person in flights, plus hire car @ £250 (shared), plus a night in the Atahotel Ripamonte @ £62 per person (but don't eat the food there - hideous) and half a tank of diesel @ £40 (shared). Leave Saturday lunchtime and return on the Sunday 3PM flight - home by 5. Family of 3 that's just a touch over £1k without food, and that's cheap enough in Italy. There are probably even cheaper ways of doing it.

Next time I may try the Furka Pass - the one from the memorable scene in Goldfinger where Bond was on a snaking road.

Put the radio on in the French part of Switzerland and was hard pressed to find a station that plays music - these Frenchies do like the sound of their own voices. Once over the Simplon Pass I got the Italian stations, with a lot more music, but it's all sentimental, shmaltzy tripe your mother would listen to  (if she were still alive - and deaf).

Here are some photos (it was awful weather):

I found this in Sion at a Military Megastore.(every town needs one)...


On the local TV last night they had Dr Who dubbed in Italian. Matt Smith with an incredibly deep voice seems a bit scary.