Tuesday, 31 March 2015


We were watching the new BBC drama, The Ark, last night.

I got the feeling it was about a Manchester family on benefits, headed by a bloke called Noah Gallagher.

Lost interest when it showed Noah building a massive boat on his own that obviously required shipyard technology and heavy lifting gear, not to mention huge trees, which seemed curiously absent in the desert landscape.

Did you know that Mrs Noah's name isn't given in the bible?

Monday, 30 March 2015

Hat Election Special

I hear there's a new MGM series called Vikings. Not sure if it's scheduled to be shown in the UK, but a Norwegian friend sent me a link to a promotional site where you can buy Viking hats that come complete with beards. Neat!

I was watching Sunday Politics on TV yesterday and got rather annoyed with Labour's Lucy Powell, who insisted on trying to get her rather unbelievable points across rather than answering Andrew Neil's questions. It seems Labour is decrying the tripling in zero hours contracts to deflect the electorate away from the fact 1.9m more people are in work than 5 years ago. Surely a zero hours contract is better than being unemployed? It's not as if you're forced to work a zero hours contract.

Labour's strategy seems to be to a) resurrect the 50p tax threshold, which raises hardly anything and is purely populist, and b) not making deep spending cuts. This, they seem to be telling us, will reduce the deficit quicker than the Tory plan of making deep cuts. Lucy Powell must be on another planet.

When the programme moved to its West Country variant, there was a refreshing admission from a Green candidate who said the Greens would not focus on reducing the deficit at all, as many countries run on an almost permanent deficit with no ill effects. She's right - there are many economists who say a deficit is a false bogeyman..

As for the Tories not saying where the cuts will be applied, I can't blame them, as they don't want to alienate potential voters. However, being reticent is hardly going to do them any favours in the final analysis. Catch 22 comes to mind - they're damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Woo-Woo Apostrophes

Woo-woo and aberrant apostophes. I could have a field day, but I can't be bothered.

Trying The Observer newspaper today. Seems you can't find a truly centrist Sunday newspaper in the UK these days. Sunday newspapers are too important a route to the electorate for them to be left as independent.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Few Overheards

The Chairman and Hay go over to admire a garage a neighbour is having built and get chatting to the builder:

Builder: "So did you build that house?

Hay: "Yes."

Builder: "I suppose it grows on you. Did you design it yourself?"

Hay: "Yes."

Builder: "That explains it then."

The Chairman and Hay retreat, crestfallen.

Overheard later in Wetherspoon's (where they do an excellent eggs Benedict and coffee for two for the price of one M and S bacon butty):

Waiter: "I'm sorry sir, but you can't use electronic cigarettes here."

Chairman: "May I ask why, as they're not illegal, harm no-one and are completely odourless. 

Waiter: "I don't really know sir, it's a management rule."

Chairman: "Are nicotine inhalers banned?"

Waiter: "Not to my knowledge, sir."

Chairman: "This is a nicotine inhaler."

Waiter: "You still can't use it, sir."

Chairman: "May I suggest that before you tell the next person you see using an e-cig that they're not allowed to use it, you question your management as to the reason, and pass that on to the person you tell, as it's a completely irrational rule and bound to get customers upset. It's as logical as telling people that grey hats are banned."

Overheard much later while watching TV - an advert for Fast and Furious 7 was showing:

Chairman: "Jason Statham, Vin Diesel AND that other bloke - wossisname - the dead one, married to Goldie Hawn?"

Hay: "Dead one? Kurt Russell isn't dead."

Chairman: "Yes he is, he died last year."

Hay: "You're thinking of  Patrick Swayze."

Chairman: "Well, he's going to be dead then."

Got a phone call from the Fox and Hounds in Acton Turville at 9pm last night to say I'd won the Easter egg raffle. I bought an entry after my 60th birthday meal there last Sunday. Haven't a clue what I'm going to do with a 3 foot Easter egg.

How to confuse your kids; ask them when was it during the process of domestication of sheep that they lost the ability to hunt.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Richard III Terrorist Hats

Overheard while talking about Richard III:

Chairman: "So Richard III had numerous motives to eliminate the young princes, but there's no hard evidence they were actually killed - no smoking gun."

Hay: "So they could still be alive....., well, not actually alive...."

We were having a discussion about hats and I reached the following conclusion:

  1. A hat, as we understand it, is a bit useless as it covers nothing but the top of a man's head, which is generally well protected by hair (unless follically challenged).
  2. The bits that actually get cold are the ears, so a hat without earflaps is a bit useless.
  3. The nose also gets cold, so said hat should have something to protect the nose.
  4. Ergo, the only really effective hat is an IRA-style balaclava.
This prompted us to consider a Terrorist range of clothing that could be sold on eBay:
  • Obviously the IRA balaclava,
  • A bomb vest in a chic midnight black,
  • A Che Guevara beret with a fetching IRA logo,
  • One of those hideous, black, leather jackets favoured by eastern Europeans and international terrorists,
  • Large black sunglasses with your favourite terrorist organisation logo.
The Palestinian chequered tea towel favoured by Yasser Arafat became an iconic and ubiquitous item of clothing for the discerning, left-wing radical, so there's no reason why our new range wouldn't follow suit.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Portishead Containerised Bed Ghosts

Overheard at Portishead Marina:

Chairman: "See that registration number on the parked car?"

Hay: "No, I can't."

Chairman: "You must be able to...... Oh, no you can't from where you're standing."

Hay (in a voice crawling with sarcasm): "I just said I couldn't for a laugh!"

As you will guess from the above exchange, we went to have a peek at Portishead Marina on the way back from Hay collecting some work related stuff from Clevedon. Hideous place filled with high-rise yuppie flats. A bit like Docklands, but without the soul.

Did see one interesting thing - a restaurant incorporating some redundant shipping containers into the design.

Check out the writing on the wall.

How do you put the cover on your duvet? I prefer the inside-out bed ghost method, as Hay calls it. She took this flattering snap of me last night while I was putting the cover on.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Expensive Water

Overheard in the kitchen:

Hay: "Why do you always wipe your hands on your trousers? They're always grubby."

Chairman: "I wipe my hands on my apron!"

Hay: "But you're not wearing an apron."

Chairman: "Whatever I happen to be wearing at the time is my apron.....and my overalls."

Spotted this in a magazine yesterday:

Seems they take spring water, which contains electrolytes, boil it and distill the steam, thus removing all the electrolytes, and then bung some electrolytes back into it.

Seems a lot of work and money to achieve the same result as just bottling the spring water in the first place. No doubt some mugs will fall for it. Even the mere words Smart Water smacks a bit of woo-woo homeopathy.

The advert says; "Inspired by the clouds," inspired by money, more like.

Don't like the new BBC News website. You can't see all the news at a glance and it appears geared to video clips, rather than the written word. The BBC says it's designed for cross-platform use, rather than just laptops. Designed for kids, if you ask me. I think I'll be looking for an alternative news source.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

You Are Next in Line for Ideology

Spotted this the other day - it must be good:

Overheard at the Sort It Centre:

Chairman: "Hey look - a woman driving a bin waggon."

Hay: "Heavens above - they'll be wanting the vote next."

Hay called Tivium yesterday about a free boiler for her dad under the Green Deal (Tivium have had a bit of bad press lately and there's some debate as to whether they are scammers). She was in a phone queue and, from the time it took to get from 2nd in line to next in line, it was obvious they have just one person manning the so-called 'call-centre'.

Been having a debate with some friends about the outsourcing of NHS contracts which stimulated me into doing some research through the auspices of The King's Fund, which is a highly respected independent charity that reports on all things NHS. Until recently I adhered to the popular perception that the NHS is being sold off piecemeal, but I have since changed my mind, being persuaded by asking some pertinent questions of myself and looking for the answers.

It transpires that the 2006 level of outsourcing was just under 3% of the NHS budget. Today it is just under 6%; admittedly a doubling, but surprisingly the rate of increase has been slower under the coalition than under the last Labour government, at least to 2014.

In the final analysis, it's not the government that places the contracts, it's the HHS Trusts themselves, using government policy that allows it.

Arguments against outsourcing of contracts cite a number of high profile cases where patients were not getting the best attention or being put at risk. Yet in 2013 some 14 NHS hospitals were put into special measures because of systemic failings, and just recently the largest NHS Trust, Barts, has also been put into special measures. Ergo the potential for disaster is not limited to the private sector alone.

I'm not in favour of government policy being developed on the basis of pure ideology, much preferring it to be evidence-based (medicine itself, after all, is evidence-based). That's why I'm no longer fundamentally opposed to the outsourcing of NHS contracts. If outsourcing can be shown to provide benefits in terms of patient care and reduced waiting times, then why not? It doesn't cost the NHS any more and the NHS isn't physically able to reduce the waiting lists anyway without a large time-lag until resources are in place. It's pragmatic expediency, but it shouldn't go too far, else it undermines the whole concept of the NHS, which is fundamentally a good thing for the disadvantaged.

Contrary to received wisdom, the NHS currently has its second highest ever patient satisfaction rating. To listen to the unions and the anti-outsourcing brigade you'd think it was going to hell in a handcart - this simply isn't true.

The ideology that says public services should have no commercial input whatsoever will result in massive inefficiency (we learned that lesson  from the nationalised industries, which were under no pressure to innovate and became bloated and uncompetitive as a consequence) and longer waiting lists, which is tantamount to saying the NHS itself is more important than the patients it serves, which is patently absurd.

Outsourcing should be used to:

  1. Address temporary or seasonal peaks in demand, thus maximising resource utilisation within the NHS (and giving the taxpayer value for money),
  2. Give patients improved access to services (as has been done by giving GPs control of their budgets and decisions on where to purchase patient-centric services, such as testing), and
  3. To stimulate innovation through a healthy degree of competition.
It should not be used where continuity of care is essential; however, that said, the NHS model for mental health services is based on a one-size-fits-all model of CBT, which does not necessarily work for all mental disorders. Continuity of care in mental health, is one area where outsourcing should not be used, but due to the NHS' focus on CBT, much of the therapy is outsourced, but sporadically, as it's the poor relation of the NHS and has very little budget.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Free Speech in the Sunday Telegraph

I was reading some newspaper articles about Islamists in the UK using the pretext of free speech in order to spread their hate-filled message and subvert democracy. Free speech is sacrosanct, except when it is used as a Trojan Horse to subvert the very free speech it takes advantage of. Free speech is not a black or white issue - there are many ifs and buts to all that is sacred. Free speech is only binary when used within a society that is itself committed to free speech.

Talking of free speech, yesterday I decided to change from our usual Sunday Times (which is bought more out of habit - and the Culture magazine - than political leanings) to something a bit different. What I'm after is a Sunday paper with few adverts, an absence of political standpoint, a total lack of celebrity tittle-tattle, no fashion items, lots of news and a bit of independent analysis. Given the foregoing, why I went for the Sunday Telegraph is a mystery even to me, but that's what I chose from the newsagent's pile - I must have suffered a brainstorm.

I forgot that one of the columnists in the Sunday Telegraph is that utter fool Christopher Booker (he was doing his usual global warming denial thing yesterday). He rejects that asbestos is dangerous, citing a paper by an academic whose academic qualifications have since proven to be faked. If he's so convinced asbestos is not dangerous, I'd like to see him put his health where his mouth is and immerse himself in the stuff for a few weeks (although he's now probably too old for it to have much effect before he kicks the bucket from natural causes anyway). That said, I have no problem with him peddling his fallacious views, as he's not interested in using them to stifle free speech.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Overheard at the New Inn, Clapham

Hotel Owner (an affable Australian): "Ah, Mr Dash."

Chairman: "I'm not Mr Dash, I'm Mr van Bergen, she is Dr Dash."

Hotel Owner: "I'm sorry, the booking for you both was in the name of  Dash."

Chairman: "Oh no. Hay, you haven't gone and booked the reservation in the name of your husband again, have you?"

Hotel Owner: "................er,......, er."

While in Clapham (Yorkshire) we were invited to a "Bring and Take", where village people (and I don't mean the 70's pop group) bring stuff they no longer want to the village hall and anyone can take it as a form of recycling. We got a small while teapot (which happened to have been donated by the New Inn, where we stayed), a genuine Yorkshire pudding baking tray and a full 5 litre tin of Autoglym.

Now I somehow suspect that an irate Clapham husband who wanted to polish his car will be asking his wife what has happened to the £30 tin of Autoglym that had been sitting in his garage for the last ten years....

The Bring and Take had a strange feel to it. The natural reaction is to browse and not take anything, as it goes against the grain to not have to pay for something. Managed to overcome the reaction, but it would have been easier had the owners not been stood behind the tables of (in their view) junk. Hay wants to replicate the event at Old Sodbury Village Hall, but would insist the owners of the items come from behind their tables and mingle with the crowd.

On the way up to Clapham we were listening to Woman's Hour on Radio 4. Nicola Sturgeon was bemoaning the fact that sanitary towels had VAT charged on them when they were necessities and not luxuries. I think she's unaware that since 2011 the VAT is only 5%, unlike men's razors (an item of necessity for men, and some women), which are VATted at the full 20%. Silly woman!

On the way back the M5 was closed between junctions 8 and 11, adding two and a half hours to the return journey. Got back in time for the England - France rugby match.

It's my 60th today - looking forward to lunch with the family.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Facebook Far Rght

I've seen rather a lot of distasteful far right adverts on Facebook of late from organisations like Britain First and the English Democrats. Here are a few examples:

It's curious they're focusing on the burqa. They don't say, for example, ban the dreds, ban the Sikh turban or ban the sari. All those are symbols of an alien culture, yet the focus is exclusively on Muslims. The far right talking about tolerance is just pure hypocrisy on a monumental scale.

I'm in two minds about the burqa. If it's enforced on a woman with her not having any say in the matter, then I'm dead set against it. If she wants to wear it, then what's the problem? Even in Israel Muslim women are not banned from wearing the burqa. In fact, there are even some Jewish sects among whom it's common for women to wear a full covering.

This one is a bit of a laugh considering the protests about pro and anti hunting. There's a whole swathe of English people who have no qualms whatsoever about seeing animals ripped apart for sport.

These adverts are are pure demagoguery and designed for one purpose - to intimidate.

There was an interesting program on TV the other night by Trevor Phillips. A lot of sense was spoken about segregation and race relations. He's admitted he got it wrong by virtue of the PC pendulum having swung too far, and the far right is now taking advantage of it. One interesting comment was that if left to their own devices, any people will tend to coalesce around other people of a similar identity - the Brits abroad are themselves a prime example.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Yorkshire's Best

Last week I sent my Bloggy pal, Alan Burnett of News From Nowhere, a consignment of Wickwar Gold, a beer from these here parts, for which he had expressed an admiration in his blog.

Yesterday I received a return consignment of 12 bottles of beer from a wide variety of Yorkshire breweries, for which I am grateful - they will come in useful for my 60th birthday celebrations on Sunday. These ales bear such evocative names as Farmer's Brown Cow, Battle Axe, Frothingham Best and Gamefell Flame - names that conjure up images of the North Yorkshire Dales, dry stone walls, icy brooks and the Cauldron Falls.

Craft beers, of which both consignments are admirable examples, have received a welcome boost through the budget, assuming of course that the Conservatives are returned to power; however, as Alan is close to the Labour Party, I'm sure he will apply pressure where necessary to ensure the boost is retained by Labour.

As it happens, Hay and I are off to the North Yorkshire Dales today to sample the air and spend a night at the New Inn in Clapham (the Yorkshire Clapham, not the London one) after meeting up with No.1 Daughter just across the border in Accrington for lunch. We're leaving the house in the care of No.1 Son, who has proved himself trustworthy in the past.

The title of this post is Yorkshire's Best, which refers not only to the ales so kindly sent by Alan, but to the inestimable Alan himself, who is an all-round excellent chap and dedicated blogger. Thank you Alan - or rather ta lad, tha shun't uv.

By the way, when Yorkshire folk say; "Tin tin tin," they're not extolling some metallurgic fantasy, but are merely saying; "It isn't in the tin." Similarly, when they say; "Mama Mia," they're not referring to a musical by the popular beat combo Abba, but simply announcing to their mother that they've arrived.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Cat Budget Jobs

Heard some stuff about the budget on the news last night. Shouldn't be allowed this close to an election - most of the promises only take effect well after another government may have come in anyway, so it's pure electioneering.

I think I can honestly say that no budget has ever affected me in a way such as I'd notice, so it's a bit pointless even thinking about it. The withdrawal of tax relied on mortgages many decades ago might be the only one that concerned me, but I don't believe the effect was all that noticeable in the final analysis.

Just out of interest I went to the BBC budget calculator and worked our how much I'd gain, and it's £187 a year. See what I mean? That's nowhere near enough to buy my vote.

Kitty has has eye problems over the last few weeks - Hay thinks she may be allergic to cats.

We were talking about real jobs the other day. Being a doctor or a nurse - now that's a real job. Laywers? No, they only exist because we can't trust each other and is a sad indictment on the human condition. In a way the police are in the same pot as the lawyers. Teachers? Certainly a real job, also engineers and firemen. Artists and writers, no - they make our lives more enjoyable, but not a real job.

I would hesitate to call my own job (sales) a real job too.

What would you include in your list of real jobs?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Curse of the Blind Yorks' Thorium Basket

A schoolboy's thrupenny bit design has won a competition for the new pound coin. A sure sign of inflation?

Saw the destruction on Vanuatu on the news last night; I mistook it for the aftermath of the M32 eco-protestor's site.

Prince Harry, is to leave the army, thus getting himself geared up for a possible role as the next Duke of York. That, of course, depends on Charles taking the throne and Andrew vacating the Dukedom through death (assuming he doesn't get married again and have a son - or dies after Charles, in which case William's second son would inherit the Dukedom). An interesting fact is that the Dukedom has not been passed on in a direct line from father to son since the 15th C, the incumbent either dying without male issue or inheriting the throne himself. If Harry gets the job, will he beat the curse and pass it on to his son?

Just who was the grand old Duke of York?

Got myself a new pair of specs t'other week. Now I usually go to SpecSavers, which results in a pair of bins for around £80. The problem is that, without fail, I have to return for another eyesight check and end up waiting while they re-order the correct strength lenses. To eliminate this constant to-ing and fro-ing, Hay persuaded me to visit the independent shop on the High Street, considering them more professional; however, I was stung for £230 - and that was using my old frames! Anyway, I ended up with a pair of bifocals with anti-glare (due to the early stage cataracts) and that photocromatic stuff that turns them into sunglasses. The problem is that the photocromatic coating is a bit vicious, with the result that they turn brown even when it's raining, not only making me look like a blind person sans stick, but actually impairing my vision to the extent I am almost rendered blind. Wouldn't mind so much except they take about half an hour to switch back to normal when I come indoors, so I'm stumbling around - more so than usual. I should be on full Disability Living Allowance when wearing these!

I understand the inflation 'basket' of goods has been updated to make it more relevant to our day and age. Talking of sticks, the one thing they forgot to include is the Selfie Stick; seems everyone who is anyone has to get a Selfie Stick these days and no self-respecting Sleb is without one. Sounds more like an instrument of masochistic auto-eroticism to me.

Someone alerted me to Thorium Reactors yesterday as a solution to fossil fuels. Looked it up on terms of Thorium vs Fusion and alighted on this Friends of the Earth item. Typical Greens - ignore the issue completely with a dismissive wave of the hand (no detailed analysis) and rely on pedal power. If they'd been around in the late 1800s, we'd have London covered in a mile deep layer of horse shit.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Overheard in the Shocking D&G Eco Kitchen

Hay's dad (who was an electrician in the RAF during his National Service) is installing a light switch for the cooker canopy:

Hay's Dad: "This Stanley knife isn't very sharp - do you use it as a spoon?"


Hay's Dad: "OWWW! I guess that'll be the live wire then."

I'm with Elton John and I'm going to boycott Dolce and Gabbana (at least in the charity shops I frequent). I'm also with Dolce and Gabbana and am going to boycott Elton John's music (he hasn't produced anything worthwhile since Rock of the Westies anyway).

It's rather ironic that the M32 eco-protesters complaining about a new bus route through some allotments have left a shit-tip behind them - the site couldn't even be used as an allotment anymore with the rubbish they've left behind them. Not exactly environmentally friendly and makes you wonder if they're just a bunch of anarchists. They don't seem clever enough to realise they've now lost any public sympathy the next time they decide to have a tree-top protest.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Overheard on a Sunday

Overheard while reading the Sunday papers:

Hay: "I see they're selling tinted moisturiser for men for the no-makeup-makeup look. Would you try it?"

Chairman: "It would be a cold day in hell before I did."

Overheard while watching Poldark:

Chairman: "I can't believe how much that bloke who plays Ross Poldark looks like me."

Hay: "you have a head, two arms and two legs; the resemblance finishes there. You look more like Poldark's servant, Judd."


Seafaring Captain to Verity Poldark: "Are you interested in rigging, Miss Poldark?"

Chairman: "Now, as a seafaring type myself, I can spot a euphemism  a mile off."

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Political Spectrum


Hay: "What's the name of that woman presenter on the Today program on Radio 4?"

Chairman: "I haven't the faintest - it's only a woman, so I don't notice the name."

I did a survey yesterday on The Political Compass which, worryingly, showed me to be leaning toward the Greens, but slightly less libertarian. I may be ideologically inclined toward the Greens, but I think some of their policies are just hare-brained and, due to their Utopian nature, could only be implemented through the auspices of (perversely) a benign dictatorship lasting a generation or more.

I believe this to be so due to a number of their policies being so radical that there would be a myriad unforeseen consequences, which if left to a mere 5 year term would result in them being booted out after their first stint - if indeed a revolution didn't force them out first.

Disbanding the armed forces is a bit silly when the history of Europe is the history of the balance of power. Upset the balance of power and you generally have a war on your hands.Not only that, but having a bunch of redundant, disgruntled, trained killers roaming the streets is perhaps not a recipe for social order.

The Greens' ideological stance against any form of nuclear is also irrational and unscientific when clean nuclear fusion is the answer to all our power needs for, literally, millions of years. To me, their stance smacks too much of woo-woo and shifts them into the territory of crystal gazers and homeopathists.

However, the juxtaposition of my political views and those of the Greens shows how narrow the gap is between sensible, Chairman-like rationality and the stonkingly idealistic, Utopian, utterly lunatic nutterdom of the Greens. It also shows how a survey is not the complete story.

The worrying thing, however, is the main parties all being in the upper right quadrant, with Labour and the Liberals becoming less socialist. No wonder the electorate is confused - the parties are all chasing the vote of the haves, leaving the have-nots to look after themselves. Must be the consequence of a more affluent society.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Flat Cap Allotment Mudguards

A bit of excitement in Old Sodbury yesterday morning - a car ploughed into the allotment across the road from us.

The bloke who rents and tends the allotment was heartbroken - he's just spent all winter turning it from a wasteland into a beautiful veg garden. It's the 3rd time it's happened to him. From the angle, it looks as if the driver (a young lad) was distracted (possibly by text messaging), didn't even see the left hand bend he was about to encounter and shot straight across the road into the allotment, taking out the lamppost in the process (3rd time that's been knocked down too). He's lucky there wasn't a car coming in the other direction.

Me and a couple of my old school friends were talking of our impending 60th birthdays yesterday. We were saying how we feel no older than 40 years ago, yet our teachers at school, who were younger than we are now, looked ancient to us and acted so sensibly. The fact my generation doesn't feel or act so old is perhaps to do with the breakdown of reverential respect, and I don't mean that in a bad way, simply that we no longer respect people just because of their position within the establishment; for us, respect has to be earned and is not a God-given right, as it was for our parents (remember the famous TW3 sketch). For our parents, respect was conferred by one's position in the hierarchy, and the hierarchy in those days contained any number of bloody fools. We live in a meritocracy now and no longer kowtow and doff our caps to the aristos.

None of us could even contemplate retirement at 60 or even 65. The thought of playing dominoes down the pub every afternoon with another 60 year-old fills me with dread.

Hay bought me an early birthday present - an old bloke flat cap.

Quite dapper - just need a whippet to go with it. At least it hides the singed hairline.

The oil drum top mudguards arrived yesterday - perfect in the arc, but a bit narrow in the width. I now just need Hay to remind me that I; "Should have asked for the dimensions before purchasing them," and that; "This wasn't planned very well." I'm sure she will.

I'm certain I can just tack on a sliver of straight metal with pop rivets to suitably extend the width. In fact I'll have to in order to create some fixing flanges. I'll just tell Hay this was all part of the (non-existent) plan.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Greeks Bearing Disc World Work Horses

Terry Pratchett - what a creative man. I only discovered his books within the last few years and thoroughly enjoyed the mad-cap, yet entirely logical world he created. Couldn't put them down and once I finished one I moved quickly to the next in the series, devouring the lot in short shrift. His writing will be missed by me.

A survey has shown that the Mediterranean countries (you know, those where they're generally renowned for being a tad lax in the work ethic department, are what might kindly be called sleepy and where a number of them told terrible lies about their economies in order to join the Euro) work more hours than their northern European colleagues.

I guess they're either being a bit creative in their interpretation of the meaning of 'work', else they just don't accomplish as much as we do in our shorter, daylight-starved hours.

I wonder whether the result of the survey was based on questions or observation. I somehow think the former, and if so, the results will be prone to exaggeration on the part of the excitable Mediterranean cultures and cool, reserved understatement on the part of the northern cultures - or am I stereotyping here?

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Top Gear Bloody Personalised Greed

Stories of financial greed seem to be filling the news.

Marvin Gaye's family have won a £5m copyright case against Pharrell Williams over the song Blurred Lines, which is meant to sound like Gaye's '77 song, Got to Give it Up. Now copyright infringement is a serious issue; however, I do believe that in assessing damages, plaintiffs should demonstrate financial loss and damages should be set accordingly. I'm almost certain in this case that sales or royalty fees from Gaye's Got to Give it Up did not suffer one iota as a result and this is a case of opportunism on the part of Gaye's family, who by all accounts are not a nice bunch of people anyway. Perhaps copyright should be vested solely during the lifetime of original creator and not that of noncontributary hangers-on.

Paul Gascoigne maintains media phone hackers destroyed his life, probably with an eye on a big payout. Seems he was already making an excellent fist of destroying his life before anyone hacked his phone. 

As for the case of Ecotricity boss Vince Dale's wife of 20 years ago claiming £1.9m of the money he made since their divorce, that simply beggars belief.

Over the last few days I've been inundated with emails giving me suggestions for presents for Mother's Day. The fact mother is dead, and has been for some time, seems lost on the marketing people of these organisations. They know the most intimate details about me, my age, my buying preferences - but not that my mum is dead. Now it's no skin off my nose now, but imagine the way someone whose mother has only just died would feel on receiving these unsolicited emails.

It's my 60th next weekend and, against all expectation, Hay has bought me a personalised registration for the Merc 300SL - K300 PVB (the car is already a K reg). The thing is I'm getting a hankering for either a 500SL, an old Porsche 944 S2 or a Merc SLK 320 V6, which are cheap as chips at present (£5~7k for a good model) and guaranteed to become serious classics down the line. So too is the old 3.0 Honda NSX, but at £30k odd, they are already beyond my meagre means and far more than I would ever pay for a car, despite being a true supercar (0~60 in 4.8 seconds and 276 BHP) that could blow the socks off most modern cars. I set my limit on cars at about £6k max, and preferably half that.

Talking of cars, unlike the majority of the UK's population, I'm pretty ambivalent about Jeremy Clarkson. He makes a fortune from portraying himself as a buffoon and is fairly funny in print, so long as you don't take him too seriously. Most people react to him like they do to Marmite (or ladies' thongs), bringing out strongly polarised reactions. I personally don't watch Top Gear - it's very obviously just a carefully scripted circus with as much spontaneity as a Nuremburg Rally. If he is sacked (and again, I'm ambivalent - but anyone with a name like Oisin Tymon deserves a punch for that fact alone, let alone not having dinner ready), I'd quite like to see the return of Quentin Willson, one of the original Top Gear presenters.He certainly knows a thing or two about second hand and classic cars.

Continuing the theme of self harm (I refer to the bonfire incident of a few weeks ago), I nearly sliced my thumb off yesterday. Couldn't find any plasters and had to make do with Sellotape till Dr Hayley got home.

Looks a bit messy, but it did the job.

Took delivery yesterday of my eBay angle grinder bargain - only £25. Didn't realise it would be so huge - it's the size of a large baby. That could do some really serious damage in the wrong hands, like mine.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Trailer Porn III & the Evolution of Parents' Evening

Went to parents' evening at No.1 Son's school yesterday evening. One of his teachers had a bottle of purplish liquid at his side with which to wet his whistle. Not sure if my quip about me also being partial to a drop of meths occasionally to get me through the day went down too well. No.1 Son looked suitably embarrassed, as usual.

No.1 Son was mega-unimpressed with his AS Level mocks performance, but the teachers were all complimentary of his ability and said Cs at this stage can easily translate into As at the real exam time. Mock exams are apparently based on the full 1 year syllabus, which has not yet been completed in terms of teaching, so it's quite normal to get average scores in mocks.

Thought of a way I could cut the oil drums without any risk to life and limb (although after the bonfire incident, perhaps I need to take a rest from dangerous sports).

Take one oil drum, place it near the car (outside) and run a hosepipe from the car exhaust to the oil drum. Leave the car running for several minutes and, voila - drums are filled with inert carbon monoxide, rendering them completely safe for cutting with an angle grinder, or even an oxy-acetylene cutter (not that I have one, but that would be nice - although I'm sure Hay would object).

It would be just my luck to gas myself in the process.

Been reading Bryan Sykes' book, Blood of the Isles, which analyses the origins of the British and Irish through DNA analysis. It sparked a thought.

Now evolution is driven by DNA mutations (about one mutation occurs every 20,000 years, on average). Most mutations are totally useless and end up as junk DNA. A very small number are lethal, resulting in the death (or severe incapacity) of the recipient with the associated inability to pass the mutation on. An even smaller number are useful and are passed on to future generations. Evolution, therefore, is a double-edged sword, depending on those who are more susceptible to inheritable mutations, and by inference, lethal mutations.

Those who are not as susceptible to mutations (and there are people in the population whose DNA shows no mutation for many tens of thousands of years) are at less risk from lethal mutations, but are next to useless in terms of the evolution of the human race.

There are people who suggest we have stopped evolving because we are more in control of our environment, and hence natural selection doesn't operate, but that doesn't stop the mutations happening. Evolution, however, also depends on small populations and inbreeding (like in Norfolk, and Dursley), so that beneficial mutations get fixed into the cohort, but inbreeding presents its own problems (like in Norfolk and Dursley). In the modern era, access to transport means few people stay restricted to their birthplace (except in Norfolk and Dursley), so while the beneficial mutations may be spread wider, they get diluted.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Bonfire Gumboots

I wasn't put off by the blow-back from the bonfire and my hair being singed off last month - we had another on Saturday, and it burned for two whole days - and a bit. These were the last remnants that were disposed of on Sunday, which finally burned out on yesterday afternoon, just before the rain came.

We were going to use the logs as bug hotels, but they're a bit on the large side and will take ages to rot a bit.

It has taken Hay over a week to get her new, high-fashion gardening boots delivered. 2 failed attempts at delivery and then at least a dozen calls to the courier company, who say on their answerphone message that they're open 7am to 7pm weekdays. Needless to say, no-one mans the phone at any time of the day and she was lucky to get through after the 12th attempt.

I think she could go out shopping or for a meal in those.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Three Legged Springer Cattle

Danny is a local farmer who was at school with Hay and we used him and his heavy equipment recently to level the house foundations spoil tump in the field.

When Danny was doing the leveling he had two dogs running around, an elderly Jack Russell and a totally daft springer spaniel that was just a coiled spring of boundless energy.

We were saddened to hear Danny had accidentally run over the springer, the 2nd dog he's managed to run over in his farming life. Apparently it's a common occurrence among farmers. The springer now has 3 legs and the money we paid Danny to level the field was all used in vet's bills.

While talking of farmers, scientists in China have bred a strain of Frisian cattle that are resistant to low levels of bovine TB. This was achieved by giving them a gene from a mouse, but does that mean we can expect to see cats all over the country stalking cows in search of a large meal?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Trailer Porn II

Ladies - please look away. Today is all about tools.

OK, so the drums were delivered yesterday, but (by the smell) one of them previously contained something highly flammable and I don't want to go attacking it with an angle grinder and blowing myself into Wiltshire and next Thursday in the process.

The only solution is a set of air shears or a nibbler, which are relatively inexpensive (about £15), but the cost of a compressor is something else (£100 plus).

May go back to the original idea of buying the ready-made oil drum mudguards off eBay, but there again, a set of air shears and a compressor is very appealing (although not to Hay - she accused me of not thinking this one through properly; what a ridiculous accusation....).

I already have a small compressor for paint spraying, but it's nowhere near powerful enough to drive a set of air shears. That said, I have spotted this drill attachment, and at £19 I may give this a go first before investing in a cimpressor.

I have been tooling myself up of late and buying all manner of equipment from eBay and Lidl (the Lidl Parkside power tools are really good for the price) and I really lust after a decent compressor. It's just a pity I didn't buy one from Lidl the other week when I saw some for sale. I nearly bought the Lidl chain winch, but that would be almost impossible to hide from Hay. Yesterday she spotted the chainsaw I got from eBay earlier in the week, but nothing was said, beyond a knowing and resigned look.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Trailer Porn

Much to Hay's consternation, I'm heavily into trailers at present.

Bought a larger trailer to augment the teeny one. Hay wants to sell the teeny one, but being a woman she has no idea how useful the teeny one is for dragging around the garden on the back of the ride-on mower for moving earth, collecting detritus or spreading horse manure. Nevertheless, teeny one is now on eBay and set to be history by tomorrow.

Teeny One

Bigger One

Now, as you will see from the photo of the bigger one, it has a slight problem - the wheels are exposed and could cause anything lying in it to shoot out once on the move (the seller hadn't quite finished it and in any case only used it for transporting motorbikes).

The bloke who sold me the bigger one suggested two solutions; firstly remove the top from the chassis and insert a spacer, thus bringing the base of the trailer above the wheels and then plating over the gap, or secondly, fabricate some mudguards from a couple of pieces of sheet steel he kindly provided with the trailer.

Not being too handy with making rounded bits and angles with steel, I actually found a quicker (and better) solution to the fabrication, and here is it. 

A couple of homemade mudguards created from the top of a 40 gallon oil drum. Found this solution on eBay, but given the cost of postage from Preston is a bit steep, I sourced a couple of oil drums locally and will use the other one to make a couple of BBQs (simply cut in half and make an X shaped cradle for each half).

So for £10 I have two products - the mudguards and a couple of BBQs (plus a big bucket). Additionally, I can cut the oil drum tops in such a way that they have some flanges to firmly secure the mudguards to the trailer.

As usual, it will probably take me 6 months to get round to doing the job.

In the longer term I want to build myself a Teardrop Trailer like this (I got the plans from eBay), but I need a garage first.

However, it will probably end up looking like this:

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Instruction Manual

The Chairman had bought a £14.99 shoe rack from Lidl for No.1 Son's room in a forlorn attempt to persuade him to not use the floor as a dumping ground, especially as he's complaining his room is cold and seems intellectually challenged by the concept of the amount of clutter on the floor being inversely proportional to the heat generated by the underfloor heating.

Chairman: "Bloody instruction manual - might as well be written in Chinese. Bugger that - it can't be that hard to put up."

Hay: "You should use the instruction manual."

Chairman: "Good God, woman, I'm a man. I don't need an instruction manual for a blasted shoe rack. Disassembling the Merc's engine, perhaps, but not for a shoe rack."

Every man needs a woman to stand by his side offering helpful comments, such as; "That doesn't look right," or; "Are you sure that goes there?" It really helps.

I only had to take it apart once, due to a misplaced corner piece. Anyone who hadn't read the instructions would have made the same mistake.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The News

Saw this headline on the BBC this morning; "Power plants paid to stay idle, MPs say." My immediate reaction was to think; "Just like some MPs."

I was shocked to see that the average university boss gets £260,000, with one getting £623,000. No wonder they're attacking Labour's £6,000 university fee pledge and calling it unfunded.

At last - a sensible drugs policy from the Lib Dems - hand responsibility to the Department of Health.

Farage rejects arbitrary immigration targets and then sets an arbitrary target of 50,000.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Headgear in Quebec

Facebook, or rather some of the people on Facebook, really annoy the hell out of me.

Last week there was a story in the news about a Muslim woman in Quebec who was told to remove her headscarf in court by a judge.

Here is a picture of the woman concerned and her headscarf:

Here is the image that accompanied someone talking about this case on Facebook:

A world of difference, would you not agree? Muslims seem to be the right wing's target du jour and from some of the garbage on Facebook you'd think there was no such thing as a good Muslim.

The writer, Theodore Shoebat, seems to be related to Walid Shoebat, a personage well known for embroidering the truth or even total fabrication.

A lot of the stuff you find on Facebook is twisted and targeted at the weak minded, who merely regurgitate it with no attempt at verification. A lot of it is just outright lies and misinformation peddled by stirrers. I'm more likely to believe stuff found in the Daily Mail than on Facebook, and that's saying something.

Pertinent to this particular story, would a nun have been asked to remove her wimple, or a Sikh is turban? I think not.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Death & Artificial Intelligence


Hay: "When you die, I'd like you buried at the local church."

Chairman: "When I die you could put me in a care home. They way they seem to treat people these days, they probably wouldn't even twig I was dead for six months."

Hay: "If you were to die at home I probably wouldn't notice - you'd be in your usual place, slumped at your computer for several weeks."

Chairman: "Yes, but I'd start to ming after a while, which would be a bit of a give away."

Hay: "Not so as I'd notice - it would be the same old smell as you have now."

Later - the Chairman is doing the Artificial Intelligence thing (washing the dishes):

Hay: "Have you thrown the hot water away?"

Chairman: "Yes - why?"

Hay: "You haven't washed the gravy jug."

Chairman: "What gravy jug?"

Hay: "The one sitting right under your nose, next to the sink."

Chairman: "Ah, that one......"

Sunday, 1 March 2015

What's the Purpose II

There have been quite a few stories in the news about AI, or Artificial Intelligence. 

Seems to me that the sole aim of AI is the have a device that can do the dishes or hoover the house. Women can do that already!

I mentioned this to Hay, but to avoid a clout around the ear, had to add that they must surely use only a miniscule percentage of their intelligence to perform these tasks and that most were on autopilot when performing them.