Monday, 29 February 2016

Civic Duty in a Free Market Brexit

Apropos the clothes question from yesterday, Hay has her 'acid test' trousers which set the standard for her weight. If they get too tight, then it's a signal that it's time to pare back on the calories, rather than going up a size. I'm a bit similar myself.

Hay is involved in setting up clinical trials and longitudinal studies for the NHS. She was telling me last night that whereas 92% of pregnant women who were born in 1946 agreed to sign up for a longitudinal study into their children's health, only 2% of today's pregnant women agree to sign up. That's a shocking statistic and indictment on the altruism of the present generation.

Back to Brexit:

I'm seeing a lot of stuff about subsidies and protectionism versus the free market in the context of Brexit. While I tend toward free market economics, I don't treat it as an ideology with everything being black or white, however, some do. The free market promotes efficiency, but there are times when efficiency at any cost is a bad thing, like when it can result in the decimation of an industry and a total reliance on foreign exports, or when it results in industries or services falling into the hands of rapaciously efficient and psychopathic Big Business, which has no consideration for people or ethics, but only profit.

My decision on whether to leave the EU or not hinges on whether the EU wishes to standardise the size of contact juggling balls. Well, it's about as cogent as many of the arguments being put forward by both camps. How about a decision on the standardisation of clothes sizes or light bulb connections?

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Embarrassing Chairman in Boxers

Mr Corbyn told anti-Trident campaigners yesterday: "We live in a world where so many things are possible. Where peace is possible in so many places. You don't achieve peace by planning for war, grabbing resources and not respecting each other's human rights." Right - we'd better be prepared for Putin then!

OK - I'm prepared to embarrass myself - here's the few simple contact juggling tricks I have learned thus far, but bear in mind I'm spending no more than about 5 minutes a day practicing, if you can call it that (Hay keep complaining about the sound of things hitting the deck).

I got myself an upgrade to a 100mm acrylic ball and a white practice ball, the latter being much lighter than the acrylic ball and doesn't dent the floor when dropped.

I haven't yet got the hang of keeping the ball absolutely still when doing the turns and the hand flips are a bit wonky, but I'm getting there slowly. Won't be long before I'm doing party tricks.

I forgot about the cage trick:

I was inveigled into ordering some underpants from Amazon for Hay's dad on Friday and got a message yesterday while we were out walking:

Chairman: "I just got a message to say your dad's jocks are arriving today - in fact I can track his package."

Hay: "What, even when he's wearing them?"

Saturday, 27 February 2016

A Bright Idea in Trousers


Hay: "Shall we go to Owl Pen?"

Chairman: "That's a breakfast cereal!"

Hay: "Owl Pen, not Alpen!

Wanted a light bulb yesterday - nightmare! Time was you could go to a local shop and simply choose a 40W, 60W, 100W or 150W bulb from the only fixture available - the bayonet fitting. Ubiquitous and simple. Now I have some 4 or 5 different fittings - large screw-in, small screw-in, bayonet, GU10, etc. The blame lies fairly and squarely with IKEA - and quite possibly the EU. Bastards!

While Hay was taking some item of clothing back to Next, she caught me browsing the men's trousers and persuaded me to try a pair on. The item selected was a pair of dark blue chinos, 34 regular with button fly (not my favourite) and slim-fit. I swear Next make these for deformed people who have no calf muscles; the damned things grabbed my calves in a vice-like grip such that the minute I stood up from a sitting position said trousers were at half mast. Of course you can't bend down to pull the bottoms down, as the mere act of bending over keeps them short. Don't younger people have rugby player legs? Are they all androgynes? As if it isn't already a problem that modern pockets aren't deep enough to retain change when sat down or back pockets are half way down your leg...

Friday, 26 February 2016

Generation Why

Spotted this cartoon on Facebook last week:

Could Generation Y be so self-centred due to as many as half of them being the product of a broken relationship, with each parent feeling intense guilt toward their children, resulting in over-indulgence?

Thursday, 25 February 2016

XLVI Stunt Vaping on Fat-Arsed EEG

Overheard while driving with Hay along the A46 toward Nailsworth and discussing possible wedding venues:

Hay: "Apparently the Bodkin was originally a priory before the dissolution and was then turned into a coaching inn before falling into the hands of the Duke of Beaufort."

Chairman: "Obvious place for a coaching inn on the A46 - a main artery in those days."

Hay: "Naturally it wasn't known as the A46 then."

Chairman: "I'll think you'll find it was known as the A46 in Roman times, hence Roman Camp a few miles back, but obviously they called it the Via XLVI and Legio IX Hispana were marching up and down it."

Sent my local MP (who happens to be a Conservative) an email on Monday asking which side he is taking on the EU issue. He has yet to respond.

Had cause to go into the local vape shop the other day for a spare part. I'm always astounded by the clouds of vapour generated by the people in there - it ain't human. When I vape I produce small amounts of vapour that disappear within a few seconds - these buggers have turned it into a performance art. You can hardly see the damned counter for the fug.

ECG and EEC - the word they describe is a single word, albeit a compound word. Surely the contraction for both should simply be E?

I'm seeing an alarming number of otherwise reasonable looking celebrity women on magazine racks with gigantic bums, and when I say gigantic I mean deformed - you could put a fully loaded teatray on them while said women are standing vertical. Is it an attempt by fat-arsed celebrities to make their huge backsides fashionable?

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Staff of Public Life on the Dark Side of the Moon

Something I learned yesterday - there are 33,000 EU civil servants (the massive, unelected bureaucracy we're always told about), whereas there are 80,000 (unelected) civil servants working for HM Revenue and Customs. Given the population of the EU, I'd say that's pretty efficient.

Strange music heard on the dark side of the moon? Answer's pretty obvious - Pink Floyd.

On behalf of all Dutch people I must apologise for Tiger Bread. It apparently first appeared in the Netherlands in the 1970s and is now ubiquitous. The thing is, it looks more like giraffe than tiger. What taxonomic ignoramus ever decided to call it Tiger Bread is beyond me.

Some versions could feasibly get away with being called Leopard Bread, but certainly not Tiger Bread.

Talking of bread, I was in Marks and Spencer the other day waiting for Hay and decided to engage the girl on the bakery counter in a conversation about sourdough recipes. She didn't have a clue - to call their in-store bakery a bakery is a travesty; the damned stuff is shipped in ready for just bunging in the ovens and the staff dressed as bakers are as knowledgeable of panemology as I am of contact juggling...

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

My New Fad

I have a new fad. Forget the drone - it's been languishing on the sideboard for over a month now. Here's my new hobby...

To be honest, if you're considering having a go, don't bother with the book - it's far too complex and advanced. Just look up some YouTube tutorials, of which there are hundreds. The ball I got is 70mm, but I've just ordered a 100mm ball, as they have more inertia and are better suited to the illusions.

Take a look at this:

Anyone remember David Bowie in Labyrinth? He didn't juggle the ball himself - there was a guy stood behind him.

Monday, 22 February 2016

In or Out

We're being asked to vote on something that the vast majority of us have no clue about, which leaves it down to narrow-focus pressure groups with axes to grind and vested interests to persuade us to vote the way they want us to by use of distortion and marketing techniques.

I'm leaning toward staying in, not because I'm wedded to any ideological point of view, but because I can't see what's going to change if we leave, and that's just my personal view. We will still need to trade with the EU, a condition of which is to abide by many of their rules, regardless of whether we're in or out. Better to remain in and change the things we don't particularly like; most European voters have the same issues with the EU that we do, so things must change in the long run.

Migrants? We seem to be doing a reasonable job of keeping the number coming in relatively low compared to Germany, France, Greece, etc. We can't be forced to do anything we don't want to and other countries don't seem to suffer from not obeying EU rules (take France as an example). Even if we're censured we just pay a fine and carry on keeping them out regardless.

The NHS is run in the most part by migrants from a previous influx, but not from the EU. The NHS is being pressurised by the vast number of procedures we can now perform (and are being demanded as a right) compared to years ago. Add to that the fact that the Baby Boomers are getting older as well as living longer. That's not sustainable and is nothing to do with migrants "swamping the NHS". It's simply down to too little tax, incompetence and efforts to privatise everything in sight.

Refugees? Not being in the EU ain't going to change our commitment to the UN Charter.

Many complain that we get less back from the EU than we put in. Well, isn't that also true within the UK? Money gathered from rich areas in the south is invested into poor northern areas to regenerate their economies (the Northern Powerhouse project) and lessen the gap between rich and poor areas. It's just on a bigger scale in the EU.

EU nationals migrating for better job opportunities? Again, doesn't that already take place within the UK - wasn't it Norman Tebbit, the arch Eurosceptic, who exhorted the jobless to get on their bikes? I agree there is an argument that big business needs a highly mobile, European-wide and yet cheap workforce, and that is conducive to population migrations on a scale that may not be manageable and could be a big negative factor for the unskilled the man in the street. Big business has a vested interest here and so they will support this.

The EU is undemocratic? The EU is comprised of an elected chamber and an unelected 'civil service'. I can't name one national civil service that's elected. Europe is more democratic than the UK!

Sovereignty? I translate this into MPs' desires to be more relevant and to aggregate power.

Finally, how can one simultaneously argue for Scotland to remain within the Union and yet argue for the UK to leave the EU? It just doesn't make sense unless you factor in xenophobia.

Parochial, self-interest group scaremongering seems to be the order of the day with sensible debate and analysis on a wider landscape being the casualty. Just remember that the last argument you hear before voting is invariably the most persuasive, so it's just as well you're not reading this in a few months time. Just analyse the facts, sift out the bullshit (if you can), question, question, question some more and vote according to your conscience. In essence though it's a gamble, as the hidden variables are myriad and accurate prediction impossible.

Democracy is the exercise of self-interest.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

A Trouser of Cauliflower Rice

Hay has taken to making the most God awful stuff - cauliflower rice. It may well be good for you and be all the rage, but to me it smells like raw sewage and stinks the house out. Please do not try making this at home....

After coming a very close second in the previous Village Quiz Night (we only lost because we misunderstood the use of the Joker), last night we crashed and burned down to 9th place due to the music round being mangled by the question master into a Match the Music to a Film round. The options for the Joker were geography (my speciality) or music (Hay's speciality) and we played it on the music round. Hay knew every tune, the artist, the album and the year, but not the film it was used on. Needless to say, the music round was our worst scoring round as we're not film buffs. Should have played it on the food round, where we got every question correct.

At least we discovered in the general knowledge section that the collective noun for a bunch of ferrets is a 'business' - not a 'trouser', as Hay and Christine (our neighbour) suggested.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

What's in a Name

Strange how the vast majority of famous people from history are referred to by their surname; Botticelli, Newton, Shakespeare, Pompey, etc., but a select few are known to us by their forename; Galileo, Michael-Angelo, Rembrandt..

Julius Caesar is an odd one; his full name was Gaius Julius Caesar, the Julius being his gens or surname, and Caesar being a cognomen, or sub-clan nickname given to an ancestor of his. He should be referred to as either Gaius Julius or possibly Gaius Caesar - the names he was addressed by in the senate.

Kings, queens, emperors, and some dictators, are naturally enough known by their forename. Napoleon who was both a commoner and an emperor was first known as Bonaparte and later as Napoleon.

Popstars tend to favour the royal naming convention, but many do have ideas above their station.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Electric Renaissance Man

I'm wondering whether to give in to testosterone (and my own version of Hairy Panic), become a Renaissance Man and let the eyebrows, nose hair and ear hair grow with wild abandon, rather than continually fighting a losing battle to prevent myself looking like Freddie Jones' Thufir Hawat character from the film Dune.

The burning question of the day, however, is whether I should start a petition for that other quintessential Renaissance Man, Jeremy Clarkson, to become the new Eurovision Song Contest presenter?

Yesterday, and for the first time this winter, we made 10p more from the feed-in tariff than we consumed in electricity. Spring is definitely in the air.

Thursday, 18 February 2016


Renaissance - French word, Italian movement (allegedly). Why use a French word for something indelibly associated with Florence and Rome? I guess Renascita doesn't have the same ring to it and sounds more like something you'd do in the loo.

Overheard while watching Waldemar Wossisface's (you know who I mean - fat blob who dresses in black and wobbles rather than walks) BBC programme on the Renaissance:

Hay: "The people in Flemish paintings never look happy. Mrs and Mrs Arnolfini look positively glum."

Chairman: "I'm sure the long-lost Arnolfini Divorce is languishing in someone's attic waiting to be rediscovered."

Hay: "I always think Mrs Arnolfini looks pregnant."

Chairman: "Shotgun wedding?"

I always find Renaissance images of babies rather strange, they look more like perfectly scaled down adults rather than the Jelly Baby misshapes they actually are.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

One Out - All Out in Synchonised Gay Hospitals

Hay has an endearing habit of naming all manner of things with her own vernacular. Regulars may already have heard of the Bosnia hat - the lower one of my two winter hats - although that one hasn't had much of an airing this year.

She calls my beanie the "One Out - All Out" hat, the sartorial elegance and efficacy of which is enhanced by the wearing of a donkey jacket along with standing next to a burning brazier while brandishing a placard calling for the destruction of Tory scum.

A Catholic Filipino boxer has a go at gay people and Russia categorically denies bombing a hospital in Syria. Are any of us the least bit surprised?

Ref the boxer - he said animals don't exhibit homosexual behaviour, which makes gay humans worse than animals. Well, he's factually wrong (what a surprise that a religious person is mistaken). Here's a list, and it includes our nearest relatives - but there again, he'll probably deny evolution too.

Someone put a synchronised swimming video on Facebook yesterday and the accompanying music was Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. I wonder why it is that a group of humans engaging in some synchronous activity, whether it be swimming, ballet or Irish dancing stirs our souls so much? The whole is very much greater than the sum of the parts.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A Game of Marbles with Cows

The Elgin Marbles - I believe we should give them back to Greece. The Parthenon is not the Parthenon without them, and the Parthenon is their natural setting. In fact, we should hand back anything in museums that's not legitimately ours, providing we're satisfied the artefacts will be well looked after. Museums have become a bit like zoos and circuses - an anachronism and places where things are shown off outside of their natural habitat. Should the rightful owners wish to send them abroad for the occasional exhibition, then that should suffice.

There was a story on our local news last night about a farmer who has lost 1/3rd of his milk herd to bovine TB in the last 12 months. He's obviously calling for a badger cull, which is controversial in its own right. The irony is that the UK is producing too much milk anyway, which has led the the collapse of milk prices. Catch 22?

Went to London yesterday for the 3rd round of an interview process for a job - turned out I was the only candidate they saw. They'd apparently already made their mind up at the 2nd stage phone interview a week ago. I'm back in employment and now and start on March 10th. I even get a 7% pay rise, which makes up for no pay rise for the last 5 years.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Bread Care Friends

I'm seriously considering banning Hay from slicing bread - she seems genetically incapable of cutting a slice without the loaf ending up looking like one of Picasso's early cubist experiments gone dramatically wrong.

It was Hay's dad's 80th yesterday but we had the party on Saturday - granted it's bit of a risk at his age, but he's quite fit. How many of us could have a birthday party these days and have 10 friends, whom we've known all our lives, attend from no more than a 3 mile radius? How times have changed - we move about so much that our childhood friends are either long lost or scattered far and wide.

The newspapers yesterday were once more filled with stories about people wanting the state to pay for the care of their elderly parents, even though said parents have assets and the kid themselves have assets. State funding translates to the taxpayer, of which there soon won't be enough to fund all the things we're meant to fund, especially with birth rates dropping and an ageing population. I believe the term 'elderly parents' contains the seeds of the solution - if these elderly parents have children (and they must by definition), then perhap the children should be assessed for their ability to look after their own parents and effect some repayment for the 16 to 20 years care they received, rather than continually harping on about how we all owe their parents a debt from WWII so they can dump their parents on the State.

Don't get me wrong - if you genuinely can't pay, then I'm more than willing to subsidise your care package when you become incapacitated through old age. But if you live in a massive house which you gave to your kids to avoid having to fund your own care, or you have affluent kids who can well afford to look after you or pay the care fees, you've lost my sympathy and gained my enduring hatred as a sponger and parasite. Why are people these days so obsessed about passing on an inheritance intact and expecting the taxpayer to fund it?

Sunday, 14 February 2016

A Sunday Curate's Egg

I remembered where I'd put the champagne - in a plastic bucket in the garage.

Overheard Yesterday:

Hay: "How's your book going?"

Chairman: "Alexander the Great has just died 10 days after several massive drinking bouts, no clear successor, a 3 year old bastard child by his mistress and his wife has six months to go before giving birth to a legitimate child."

Hay: "I know little of Alexander the Great, but you can see where it's all headed and it's not going to end well if you ask me - military factions based around generals, coups d'├ętat, civil wars, the Empire split and all Alexander's kids eventually topped - it's a Shakespeare plot, or Eastenders."

Talking of Empires - it's getting more complex in Syria and I forecast Normandy getting involved by claiming the Principality of Antioch.

A few interesting images I found posted on Facebook:

What a line-up! Nearly everyone you'd want to see. Wish I'd been there instead of at school in Anglesey.

I know someone like that - so does Hay.

A beautiful Ferrari. Couldn't go without a mention.


I'm heartily sick of seeing these images of crippled kids on Facebook with exhortations to either share or say Amen. If you take the trouble to look at where these posts originate, it's invariably very young narcissists who plaster their Facebook pages with selfies and have two to three thousand 'friends'. They seem to do nothing but share these harrowing images of kids who they almost certainly don't know (unless they happen to work in a very large children's hospital - which makes it worse), never mind about not having permission to share these kids' images. Sharing them achieves nothing for the kids in the images - it's like seeing an image of a cancer patient on the news with no commentary. It's just a cynical attempt to boost their own page ratings to attract a following - and what amazes me is that people fall for it, albeit through the best of motives. Narcissism is OK, but feeding it by blatantly capitalising on misplaced empathy is wrong on every level. 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Remembering Valentine's Day in Syria

A ceasefire in Syria? I'll believe that when I see it.

Spotted these in a charity shop yesterday. Hay said it was pointless - my feet would just look the same:

Bought some champagne on Thursday for Hay for Valentine's Day. Wanted to keep it out of her way, but didn't want to risk putting it in No.1 Son's bedroom, where it would be perfectly safe, but I'd be reliant of him getting up well before 1 o'clock in the afternoon (zero chance of that on a Sunday). So I decided to put it in a safe and cool place away from the house; the problem is I can't remember where the hell I put it.

I'm sure it will come to me before tomorrow...

Friday, 12 February 2016

Trial by Google TV at the Royal Oak

What with all these complex questions - the junior doctors' strike, Trident, whether we should stay in the EU or not - I'd love to see a TV programme where competing arguments are aired in front of a panel of analysts and the various claims are pulled apart for verification. Perhaps the we can make informed decisions. For me, that would be compelling viewing, as I'm sure it would be for many people; much better than these interminable bloody talent shows and soaps.

I was incensed at seeing Google's UK head of operations being asked by the Commons public accounts committee what his salary is. As if it has any relevance to Google's tax affairs! The guy unfortunately got flustered instead of immediately responding; "It's none of your damned business and is totally irrelevant." These parliamentary committees like generating fodder for the Daily Mail. It's government that make tax laws and perhaps it should be the government that's hauled before a parliamentary committee to be held to account for cosy deals and its failure to prevent the routing of sales and profit overseas.

It's about time MPs were paid like the rest of us - they need no qualifications to become an MP and therefore they are unskilled labour; there's no shortage of people wanting to become MPs and therefore their pay should be set by market forces. They should certainly not be paid more than junior doctors from day 1. Perhaps they should receive the same pay as they were getting prior to becoming an MP, with increments for additional responsibility, time served (which gives an indication of voter satisfaction) and out-of-hours work (but weekends are at the normal rate until 7pm, as we want a 7 day a week parliament) - at least their prior pay was earned and a good indicator of their true worth.

On my walks I regularly pass The Royal Oak pub on the High Street in Chipping Sodbury. It opens quite early for breakfast, yet I never fail to see someone in the window having a pint of beer at some unearthly hour. Mind blowing! Probably an MP.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Publicly Incommoded Seniors

Well, we've all been there: you're in a public loo and the paper dispenser is one of those big, round ones where the paper comes out of a hole which is just smaller than your hand; after pulling off the first wodge of paper, the end of the roll disappears up the dispenser hole and you can't reach it; mild panic sets in as you wonder whether you can get to the next cubicle with your trousers round your ankles (and without tripping over) before anyone else comes into the loo...

Saw an advert yesterday for British Seniors. It's a savings plan to ensure your kids don't have to foot your funeral bills. Sorry, that's not my problem to solve - if they want any of what's left after Hay and I have spent it all, then the least my kids can do is to dispose of our corpses.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Gentleman's Not for Switching

What with our Scottish Power 1 year electricity deal coming to an end this month, we decided to have another look at YouSwitch last night. Best deal was sticking with Scottish Power, but a 2 year fixed price deal with no exit fees. Saving = £600 a year on the basis of current usage. That's the equivalent of the cabin being free, plus a little more. Still well below what we're generating in feed-in.

Well worth checking our YouSwitch.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Memories of the Frome

Getting worried:
  1. Walked into Yate in the pouring rain yesterday for what I had down as an 8:40 appointment for a spirometry test. The receptionist said the appointment was in March, not February.
  2. On the way home I bought some lamb and apricot pies and three faggots from Artingstall's the butcher. Called in at a charity shop and promptly left the carrier bag of food in the shop. Realised it when I got home and went back in the car for it - they thought it was a donation.
  3. Got back home again and made myself an espresso to get over the trauma, then left it while I took my coat off and promptly forgot all about it. Found it stone cold half an hour later.
Anyway, took a few shots of the River Frome (normally a placid brook) in full spate on the way back from Yate:

Hay wants to kayak the Frome from its source hereabouts all the way to Tesco, shooting the Waitrose rapids in the process. I think it's just about at the right level for some big-game fishing...

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Deterrent of Democracy

There's an perversity about democracy in the UK; we decry cuts to the NHS and social care funding, yet most can be relied on to vote for lower taxes and connive to get the taxpayer to fund care for their elderly through tax avoidance schemes concerning inheritances and rearranging the ownership of their elderly parents' houses.

Was listening to Any Questions on Radio 4 on Saturday and the issue of the Trident nuclear deterrent came up. The hoary old cliche that a nuclear deterrent is useless against terrorism was trotted out by one member of the panel. Do these people think terrorism is the only form of warfare? Do they think that if Russia gets too big for its boots Putin is going to send terrorist suicide bombers against NATO?

Since the development of the nuclear deterrent the UK has not been directly threatened by a nation state. This may be due to a number of reasons, including the fact we have a nuclear deterrent, although granted I would list this pretty low down on the possible reasons to date. Conventional warfare between countries has not suddenly and miraculously been eliminated and, on the balance of probabilities (although it seems inconceivable at the moment), there will be another conventional war with some nearby nation within the next 50 years or so.

The corollary of not having a nuclear deterrent is to massively increase conventional forces, if one is to have a credible defence strategy at all, thus not renewing Trident has adverse cost implications anyway.

In all probability, Israel would have been wiped off the map already if it didn't have a nuclear deterrent. That said, a deterrent in itself is useless - it has to be combined with a leader who any enemy knows is prepared to use it. Without such a leader it's a costly white elephant.

I leave you to draw your conclusions as to whether a nuclear deterrent is necessary. I believe the question is not whether it is necessary, but what we are prepared to pay for it and whether Trident is the most cost-effective option.

Watched 'World War Three: Inside the War Room' last night on iPlayer. It seems to me that NATO's current weakness is having members with large, ethnic Russian minorities. The Baltic States need to integrate these ethnic Russians ASAP to preclude any pretext for Russian aggression. If that can't be done, then NATO has a bomb in its midst. The irony of the situation is that ethnic Russians are increasingly entering the Baltic States today precisely to escape Putin's corrupt rule.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Hand Flying Candid Camera Pop Stars

Who, as an adult, has never held their arm out of a car window as a passenger and flown their arm in the wind, angling the hand's angle of attack to keep the arm airborne?

Returning briefly to the ecumenical advert family I wrote about yesterday. In the advertisers' aim to show the racial diversity of the UK and to mollify the professional racial offence-taker, they've created a family (one black parent and one white) that is probably the least representative of the average family within the UK. The black father should himself perhaps be the child of a mixed marriage and the mother should have some Asian in her. A mixed Chinese step-child could complete the picture. Still wouldn't be typical though - certainly not in Old Sodbury where you can't move for white faces.

Hayley cruelly took a clandestine photo of me using the Bed Ghost method of putting the duvet cover on:

Regarding the recent slew of rock and popstar deaths - the number of stars exploded (if you'll forgive the pun) in the early to mid 60s - we'd reached peak global popstar - and therefore it was a foregone conclusion that the numbers dying would commensurately increase around now. Another 10 years and we should reach peak popstar deaths. They additionally had a greater cultural impact and legacy than the here-today-gone-tomorrow stars of today who tend to be more parochial in their appeal and less prolific, so we can expect the popstar death announcements to peter out after about 10 years from now.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Ecumenical Charity Shopping for Education

As a frequent visitor to charity shops for clothing, I detest the ones which sort men's trousers into nothing more illuminating than S, M and L. While women might be happy to try on every damned item in a shop, regardless of whether it fits or not, men generally know at a glance whether they want something and don't wish to be detained beyond the couple of nanoseconds it takes to look at the waist size, taking it on trust that the leg length is adequate. S, M and L just don't give you that scope.

There's a charity shop merchandiser operating within Chipping Sodbury who seems to be hired by the charity shops on a rotation basis. She is really good and makes the shops she merchandises look more like an up-market boutique. Ladies' clothing colours on the racks are co-ordinated - purples, blues and blacks at one end, reds at another, yellows on yet another and whites, creams and pastels on a fourth; only the most tasteful ornaments are put on display. You can see when she's left one shop for another - very quickly it all goes tits-up again with a real mish-mash of colours and styles looking like a 4 year-old (or 80 year-old) threw it together and the ornaments on display gravitate back to those hideously kitsch china figures only your granny would have bought.

Have you noticed how TV adverts are fixated on ecumenical families - one parent white and the other black. They seem adverse to showing a black couple for some reason. Wonder why? Seems like tokenism to me.

The Department for Education had cause to issue a statement about something yesterday. The single sentence statement contained the word less when it should have used the word fewer. Oh the delicious irony.

Friday, 5 February 2016

1971 Archive

Was going through my archives the other day and spotted this little gem - my first trip to sea. Joined Elder Dempester Lines' MV Onitsha aged 16 with 11 other cadets in Antwerp at the end of September 1971, leaving her in Amsterdam in April 1972. It was what was called a double-header - two consecutive voyages encompassing Europe, West Africa and the USA. Click to enlarge.

We had a whale of a time and I can recount many hair-raising stories. Several fellow cadets were school chums from my class at HMS Conway. The captain was a hard-drinking, chain-smoking martinet of the Old School type. She was sold on to a Greek outfit after we left her.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Bug Hotel Liquid Exercise

As regulars will know, I've taken to having a 4 mile walk into Yate and back every morning for a bit of exercise and reduce the winter plumage. I always take a rucksack with me in case I come across something interesting in one of the charity shops, or need a bit of food shopping. Carrying something back also gives me some additional exercise.

Overheard yesterday:

We have a really huge Christmas tree in the garden which regularly sheds baskets full of cones around this time of year - a neighbour planted his live Christmas tree there decades ago on 12th Night. I collected about 20 cones to dry on the mantlepiece and use as kindling for the wood burner - they burn like napalm. Hay has taken it into her head that they can be turned into bug hotels in the garden, but I must be missing something. Surely, as they can be used for weather forecasting, if it gets wet the pinecones will close up and squish the bugs?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

BBC News


Chairman: "You were snoring last night."

Hay: "I was purring."

Have you noticed how the BBC news website's 'Most Popular' section is becoming increasingly like reading Facebook or Hello Magazine? I guess it's as a result of other news outlets resorting to charging for their output, so everyone gathers around the BBC now to read celebrity gossip.

Men aged 45 to 59 most fed up with life, a headline says. I wonder if there's a correlation with that age spread and living with children when they become teenagers?

On the TV news there was a story about an American ex-graffiti artist, KAWS, who was commissioned to put 6 metre high, wooden cartoon characters into a Yorkshire landscape. One of the arty-farty brigade responsible for commissioning these cartoon characters said; "He challenges the landscape, which is what we want." A coalmine challenges the landscape; a landfill site also challenges the landscape. Challenging the landscape is not necessarily good. It's another term for a bloody eyesore. I suppose one saving grace is that the landscape in question is a 'sculpture park' within an estate. The sad things is that they are juxtaposed with sculptures by Hepworth and Moore, which harmonise with the landscape. For some typical art-bollocks-speak about the exhibition and KAWS, click here.

Everyone is talking about David Cameron's EU concessions like they're a done deal. He came back waving a piece of paper - somewhat reminiscent of another Prime Minister from history. This deal has to be voted on yet, for heaven's sake!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Tesco Empire

I'm always incredibly suspicious of any people who call themselves dieticians. Surely it's a non-job that's based solely on common sense?

Bought Hay 'The Humanure Handbook', a seminal text on composting toilets. She was reading it over the weekend - said it was shit book...

Been reading another biography of Alexander the Great. One tends to think of him ruling a vast area comprising Greece, Asia Minor, Persia, Egypt and parts of India and Afghanistan in its entirety, but in reality he took only a few rich, key cities and the surrounding land upon which they depended for markets and governance. Strategic cities and transport corridors were the key to his winning an empire, while most of the remoter tribes in the areas nominally under his control remained fully independent - they simply weren't worth the effort as there was nothing to gain in tax revenue. Alexander's empire was one of corridors, not vast, contiguous tracts of land - a bit like the way ISIS is operating today. It just goes to show how civilization, which produced the centralisation of markets and associated concentration of wealth, is the temptation that causes large scale wars. Occupy Tesco and Britain is yours - occupy Lidl and Aldi and half Europe is yours!

Monday, 1 February 2016

A Day Out in the Cotswolds

Had a day out in the Cotswolds yesterday, mainly to see Kelmscott Manor, the country home of William Morris (closed) and the church of St George, which John Betjeman called one of the least mucked about churches in England, or words to that effect.

Went through Bibury:

Barnsley - no, not that Barnsley:

Visited Burford Garden Centre which, like Gloucester Services on the M5, is more of an experience than a mere shopping trip. Saw this oak framed Cruck Marquee, the price of which is a rip-off. I'm sure I could put something like this together for well under £1,000. Anyone who buys this has more money than brain cells.

This is Kelmscott Manor - William Morris' country residence.

And here is the church of St George in Kelmscott. 11th Century Norman with a few Early English modifications.

The congregation is so small that there is a service only once a month.

Finished off with a small libation at the Plough in Kelmscott - quaint, but a touch on the expensive side for nosh. Maybe worth a punt when I have a job: