Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Rammed Full

Hay's up in Newcastle on business today having traveled by train yesterday. Apparently the train was rammed full with passengers; however, she managed to get a seat by the absolutely stupid expedient of booking the journey a few days in advance and automatically being allocated a seat. How dare she!

I think she should have sat in a corridor and made a political point at the train operator's expense.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Inward Investment

Trade figures suggest the UK had record inward investment for the year to April 2016, a period when everyone thought it inconceivable that the UK would vote to leave the EU. This is perversely being hailed by the leave campaign as a success for the out vote. 

They start with lies and then manipulate facts to suit the narrative. I sometimes despair of the UK electorate and their stupidity. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Short Sighted Roman Lottery

Went to our local church for afternoon tea again yesterday. It's becoming a bit of a habit - all in support of the fabric of the old place, you understand; I'm not suddenly becoming religious. We met many of the friends we've made in the village since becoming more involved in village life through joining the Village Hall Committee and it nearly became a cream tea lock-in, fueled by cake.

Before we left the church I made a note of the lottery numbers someone had kindly put on a board earlier in the day; however, I was unsure whether they were meant to be read across or down, as they were in groups of three. I finally worked out they could only be read downwards, as I'm certain there's no number 00 in the lottery. The numbers are obviously divinely inspired.

This National Trust thing is becoming a habit as well. I wonder if Roman fathers in Britain around  300 AD ever said; "Come on, let's break out the chariot and go to see the National Trust's Neolithic ruins this weekend!"?

Thinking of the ancient Romans, they never had spectacles. I wonder if a lot of the battles they had in ancient times were conducted with a heavy contingent of myopic individuals aimlessly flailing their swords around hoping to strike someone - anyone?

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Old Piles

Went to Tyntesfield yesterday - another National Trust property to the south of Bristol. Due to the admission price being double the normal NT rate, I do believe we've covered our annual subscription already - and we haven't even started paying the monthly subscription yet.

The gift shop contained a copy of Bradshaw's Guide. which has been made popular by the likes of Michael Portillo and his Great Railway Journeys TV programme. One wonders when a Bradshaw's clothing range will be introduced by some enterprising individual. If someone does, I just pray it's not based on Portillo's hideous pastel trousers and jackets.

The house was build on the proceeds from the South American bird poo trade for fertilizer. The last occupier died in 2001 and had reduced its occupation to just three rooms. The National Trust stepped in and bought the place in 2002 after an appeal was launched.

It's typical of these places that the original creator was rich as Croesus, but subsequent generations either fritter away all the money or can't pay for the upkeep due to the burden of death duties. James Dyson's Doddington Park, just up the road from us, will eventually go that way too. Dyson has spent an absolute fortune renovating the place and its grounds.

Saturday, 27 August 2016


Been having problems with the domestic hot water not getting up to temperature. Given we have solar thermal, solar PV, underfloor heating and an Air Source Heat Pump, the engine room (as I call it) is awash with pipes, manifolds, control boxes and pumps, finding the fault is a bit beyond my limited engineering skills.

Called in a plumber who pronounced a problem with the Air Source Heat Pump outdoor unit. Called Mitsubishi, who took a week to organise a refrigerant gas qualified plumber to call. He tested the system over the span of an hour, topped up the refrigerant (it was 300gm short) and left. There was a slight improvement, but still the water wouldn't reach more than blood heat.

Finally went over the system myself and discovered the pump that draws water from the Air Source Heat Pump was too hot to touch and wasn't making the usual hum when under load. Obviously the pump had failed. Hit it a couple of times with a 2lb fine adjustment instrument (a hammer) and it hummed into action and the water temperature on the control unit immediately shot up.

Despite it now working, the pump needs to be replaced as a precaution for winter, as it also feeds the underfloor heating.

Should I call out a plumber to replace it, or just do it myself?

Why the hell couldn't a plumber find the problem?

Friday, 26 August 2016

Wiggins Burqa Wedding

I've found out that the Tour of Britain cycle race goes through Chipping Sodbury on the 8th September, the day before our wedding. Would have been nice if Sir Bradley Wiggins could have made it a day later and we could have had some free entertainment for the guests.

Some people aren't half getting into a tizzy about burqas (should be bloody burqua anyway - there's always a u after a q in English), hijabs, niqabs (another weird lack of a u) and what have you on the beach. Woman forced to wear a burqa by a bloke = bad; woman chooses to wear a burqa of her own free will = not bad. Get over it. So long as it doesn't frighten children or horses, what does it damned well matter? Just try telling me what I can or can't wear on the beach and see where it gets you.

The French have a swathe of nudist beaches, for God's sake, and wearing something at these is not a prosecutable offence!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Two Seats Burkina Farce-o

Corbyn is going to have to be called "Two Seats" from now on. I didn't think it was possible to buy advance rail tickets without a seat reservation, at least when ever I've bought tickets I've always had a reserved seat, whether I like it or not. Can't blame Branson for having a poke at him - it was obviously a set-up, and then for Corbyn's PR team to spin the story into another Branson attack just compounded the error and made them look utter fools. Branson is almost a national treasure.

The French burkina ban? Ridiculous!It's simply inviting Muslims to flout it, cause an even greater furore resulting in the police being in a no-win situation. It merely panders to the ultra-right wing. Wonder when someone in a wetsuit will get asked to remove it? As for wearing a loose-fitting total covering on a sand covered beach - happens all over the middle east, which is predominantly sand, and happens to be the best protection against sunburn and heat.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Brexit Workout

Colin will be finishing Hay's office today. He's on a bit of a health jag - he left his van next to the office and walked home last night. He warned us he may be a bit late today as he'll be walking to work this morning too.

Colin's house of the one just to the left of his van cab by the pole - all of 20 or 30 yards away...

I'm finding it hard to reconcile the following:
  1. Brexiteers are crowing that financial Armageddon hasn't happened yet,
  2. Simultaneously they're complaining we haven't left the EU yet.
Somehow they can't see the connection between 2 and 1 - cause and effect. That said, sterling is already at its lowest for 31 years.

The referendum was a declaration of future intent, but many are thinking it will never happen. It certainly won't happen till we know what we're aiming for and have worked out the consequences. To do otherwise would be like dropping everything and going on holiday without checking your passport for validity, booking a hotel and flights or even asking your boss for holiday leave - a recipe for disaster. 

As for Owen Smith standing for the Labour leadership on a platform of putting the final plan to the electorate - a canny move. Might not endear him to the Trot wing of the Labour party (who seem to be in the ascendancy), but would certainly endear him to (at the very least) 48% of the electorate, if not more now.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

That Season

It's that time of year again...

Let battle commence. Where are all the hedgehogs when you need them?

Monday, 22 August 2016

National Trust - Lacock Abbey

We're certainly getting our money's worth from our National Trust membership - reckon two more visits to their properties and we'll have paid for our membership within a couple of months.

Yesterday was the Wiltshire village of Lacock and Lacock Abbey. Lacock is a Wiltshire chocolate box village and the Abbey was one of those places that were sold off to the nobs by Henry VIII after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It came into the possession of William Fox-Talbot, who invented photography and the tithe barn hosts a photography museum.

The village seems to have taken advantage of its celebrity status by locals (at least I assume them to be locals) opening shops that sell the type of stuff that loads of people will browse, but no-one actually seems willing to buy.

Lacock itself was in the throes of a WWII festival, which seem to be quite popular in many villages up and down the country these days.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

August Hay Fever

Went out with some friends last night for an Indian meal. While I'm not generally a beer drinker, wine with spicy food is not something I enjoy so I ordered a pint of Cobra. Within some 5 minutes my eyes were itching like hell and I had all the classic symptoms of hay fever. Apparently Cobra contains four varieties of hops and I guess they infuse the beer with pollen.

Had something spicy and the symptoms immediately abated, but on ordering another beer they returned.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Paralympic Condom Tragedy

The Paralympics are being cut back to fund shortfalls in the ordinary Olympics. A tragedy, undoubtedly, but does anyone actually watch the Paralympics? I certainly don't - but there again I don't watch the ordinary Olympics; I'd rather watch paint dry.

Is it just me, or does the Rio Olympic logo look rather like a very loosely constructed condom? I only realised today what it's actually meant to be - three people linking hands and legs (or leg, in the case of two of them, which is more appropriate for the Paralympics).

Friday, 19 August 2016

Justice for Voles

Saw a news headline on the BBC website saying the National Trust had released 100 water voles. I wonder what they were being held for and whether they had access to a solicitor.

Talking of the National Trust, does anyone know what this shrub is? Saw it at Dyrham Park last weekend and thought I'd get one for our garden.
Colin fitted the floor and ceiling to Hay's garden office yesterday, but we added another 25mm insulation to the ceiling (25mm on its own just won't be enough for winter snugness). It's also had electrics fitted and is now awaiting a skim coat to finish it off. Just as well, given the next few days hold rain. 


If anyone tells you these garden office things can be put up in a day, don't believe them. Today, with the various modifications we had to make, is day 10, and that's with 1.5 people working on it. It's not at all like putting up a shed.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Wedding Run Up

Blue wedding suit arrived yesterday - and it fits perfectly. Now the shirt cuffs need shortening, which Hay's dad's girlfriend is going to take care of. She reckons 2 inches off them, but I have my doubts. I've been proven right before. Perhaps a last minute visit to an airport shirt shop on the way back from Germany the day before the wedding might be in order.

Still not happy wearing a linen suit though - linen makes you look as if you slept in it. I suggested to Hay that I could wear the suit in during the trade exhibition I'll be at in the days preceding the wedding, but she thought that a bad idea. Can't think why.

To wear a tie, or not to wear a tie, that is the question. As the wedding is informal I'm not minded to wear one. A linen suit is ultra-casual too - even gentleman-of-the-roadish - so a tie would just be somewhat incongruous. Perhaps I should be accompanied by a scruffy dog and carry some copies of The Big Issue.

All these British athletes winning golds at the Olympics - unheard of! Could they be on drugs?

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Cabin Virus Fever

Hay's office roof mebrane (which is rubber) has been fitted, but we're going to make some alterations to the flooring; the incorporation of a Celotex layer for added insulation.

Hay's dad starts on the electrics shortly. We'll take a spur off the house, which will provide internet via the house ring main. We're not bothering with water, what with it being so close to the house.

I'm struggling with a PUP - Potentially Unwanted Program - on the laptop. Various virus hunters keep identifying Zperm and deleting it, but then the command screen keeps appearing very briefly and it's. I tried videoing the appearance of the command prompt, which is for a fraction of a second and needed slo-mo to see what was going on. All I  could see was a CMD.exe execution with nothing following the prompt, so I'm not sure what it's doing. It's not even as if there's any untoward activity showing up from the PUPs, but you never know what the hell they're doing.

Same goes for my mobile - had several days of advert-free use after the factory reset and then I started getting the Chrome browser hijacked again with redirections. Wikipedia is the only other programme affected, unlike last time, when even my banking app froze. Seems to have happened after installing a Panorama 360 camera app and I do believe it's down to that. I've cleared all the settings, but to  no avail. I've since uninstalled the camera app, but the problem persists.

Monday, 15 August 2016

100 Year Sweat Shops

I feel sorry for the Chinese tailor who altered my suit -  look at the hours the poor bugger works. He only gets about 4 hours off during the week.

Here's a snap of the wedding venue (left of centre - Town Hall), although I'm sure I've already posted a few shots of it before. Goes on forever at the back. Went to test the sound system on Saturday and discovered they have Internet. Might see if I can live-stream the wedding (without Hay knowing, or course).

Watched Ironclad II on Amazon last night. Not worth watching - rehash of Ironclad I, but much worse and with no basis in history. 

It's set 5 years after Ironclad I, hence 1220, yet at the end one of the characters does a voice over saying the main protagonist went off to fight in the Hundred Years' War, which a) didn't start for over another 100 years (1337), and b) would not have been known as the Hundred Years' War when it started.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Garden Story with a Twist

The linen jacket sleeves couldn't be re-lengthened - it transpires they were taken up at the shoulder and not at the end of the sleeves. The manufacturer has run out of 42 regular jackets, so I've had to order a blue linen suit - thank God. Would have felt like a refugee from Our Man in Havana in a white one. Now to look for a short armed person to sell the white suit to.

Regular readers may know I bought an old Bolens ride-on lawnmower back in the spring, but a broken deck belt rendered it inoperative after a couple of months. No amount of research could produce a diagram of how the new belt should go on and even the engineers renting one of our cabins were completely flummoxed. I finally found a diagram on the Interweb yesterday - 5 minutes later the ride-on was operative. The secret is that the belt crosses over itself, which is not something that's immediately obvious, especially when the deck is in the raised position.

The problem that had me scratching my head was that whatever way you fitted it (most of the pulleys are V shaped while a few are a flattened U) resulted in a the V in the belt meeting a U shaped pulley, or the other way round, somewhere along the path. Twisting the belt and crossing it over itself sorts all that out as well as taking up the extra few centimetres of slack that was plaguing me. I was convinced for a while that I had the wrong belt - although the par number matched perfectly.

Hay  was certain I'd never get it running again, and I was starting to feel that way too...

Hay's new garden office didn't quite make it to the weatherproof stage on Friday, but it should be finished this week:

Colin's thinking of getting a job as an IKEA furniture assembler after this. How the hell you're meant to erect it in one day is  beyond me - perhaps if you were doing it all day, every day.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Seating Conundrum

To have a wedding breakfast seating plan or not - that is the question. Why it's called a breakfast when the vast majority are in the afternoon is a historical point that's lost on me.

On the plus side  for a seating plan is that there's no anarchic free-for-all - people sit where you place them and no-one is wandering around aimlessly. The downside is that some of the guests may not know those with whom they are placed, leading to them feeling a bit out of it. You do your best, however, to  mix incongruous people together to stimulate lively chit-chat and Brexit argument.

The plus side for no formal seating plan is that people can sit with whomsoever they wish, perhaps leading to a more convivial atmosphere. The negative side is space wastage - there will always be some tables with a single spare place which a couple can't avail themselves of, meaning you have to  allow at least 10~15% more places than guests.

While I'm a seating plan Nazi (based on the assumption that people like to be told what to do), Hay tends toward the free-for-all, but doesn't get my insistence on having more places than guests, which I think is a recipe for disaster.

If there's no seating plan, we won't have a top table either. That naturally means that the key people will be spread around the remaining tables, which is not a bad idea, as they can gravitate to their own socio-economic and age demographic - or clique, as we experts call it.


Received the wedding car decoration ribbons from eBay yesterday - a snip at £3.99. I'm buggered if I understand the instructions though. Putting a ribbon on a car should be simple enough without having to read reams of instructions.

My off-white linen suit (from Samuel Windsor at £125 in their summer sale, which I was not keen on at the time of ordering and am still not that keen on - would have preferred blue) has been to the local tailor for alteration at the princely sum of £50, but now the cuffs are too short. I said at the fitting that I thought them a bit short, but both the tailor on the High St and Hay thought they were fine - but that was before the pink Charles Tyrwhitt shirt (£20 in their sale) with long arms arrived (no double cuff, so I can't even wear cufflinks). Makes me look like a gorilla and, knowing me, I'll end up looking like Sir Les Patterson at the reception; white and me don't mix. Going to have to get Hay's dad's girlfriend to do a quick job on the cuffs, as I'm not prepared to pay another £20 to the Chinese tailor in the High St for something I'll never wear again, unless someone decides, without my permission, to bury me in it.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Zip Repair II

Four weeks to the wedding and we just about have everything organised.

I was wrong about the damaged Zip file being my oldest - I have one even older that's fully intact. My earliest computer file (Word document) is dated 30th August 1995 and my email address was GTMPVXS@TYPEB.SITA.INT, which today is incomprehensible.

I have tried every free Zip repair tool going, but none of them work on the said damaged file. I'm reluctant to go for a paid one (even though they say they can read the file in trial mode) in case there's a problem on the final transcription and I've paid for nothing.

It's amazing what can be done with some old decking and a double-glazed unit, as that's all this new office of Hay's seems to be made of, although it is pre-insulated and kitted out for electricity.

Should be weatherproof by the end of today; however, the blurb said it could be erected in a day while Colin and his mate have had 2 full days so far to reach this stage.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Zip Repair

Overheard while watching Django Unchained:

Chairman: "Those slaves look rather well fed."

Hay: "Perhaps they've only just arrived."

Chairman: "From MacDonalds?"

Had a go at repairing my damaged zip file archive using DiskInternals ZIP Repair. It said it had recovered 5,748 files. No luck, despite the signs while recovering looking promising. Will have to try something else.

Am I the only person not the least bit interested in the Olympics?

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Old Churchill Files

Was watching TV last night and saw an advert for some hair preparation for women called Olia. It was being promoted by a celebrity who I failed to recognise - to be honest I have an easier job recognising Churchill, the dog from the insurance advert, than I do half the co-called celebrities endorsing products on TV. Sign of the times - or my age.

Have you seen the latest advert (for Sky, I think) showing David Beckham running round a city for a workout? I'm sure the bugger lives in a large house in the country and wouldn't be seen dead running in a cityscape.

Was having a look at my zipped archives from previous jobs (I always retain every document I've written) and found one of them was corrupted. It dated from a job I had between 1997 and 2000 and, unless I can find a way of repairing it, the archive is now lost for all time. As a consequence, my oldest computer files now date from 9th November 2000 and I have none left from the last century. Could have been worth something as digital antiques...

How old is your oldest computer file?

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Ozleworth Transmitter

We went to Newark Park in Ozleworth on Sunday for a few hours and saw this on the way back:

The Ozleworth transmitter. Very eerie up close and looks as if it's abandoned, but it can't be.

Newark Park is a National Trust property, originally built in the 1500s as a hunting lodge and greatly extended since. A Texan, Bob Parker, leased it in the 70s on condition he renovated it. He did a nice job and spent a fortune on it.

Hay was persuaded to part with £110 in order for us to become National Trust members; I had my doubts about joining a right wing party that looks after the Nob's houses for them...

Hay & House.

Wonderful view from the Hall.

View obscured by ugly window on the landing.

Saw a very nice cabin in the grounds for serving snacks.

I was rather taken by it. You can never have too many cabins. Perhaps Colin's next job...

Monday, 8 August 2016

Rail Fare Cello Savings

No.2 Son is off to Cornwall for a few days on Tuesday. I booked him a rail ticket with, which cuts the journey into several individual segments and reputedly results in a saving over booking it as a simple return fare. I ended up with some 6 tickets, but a £17.55 saving. They take a percentage of the saving, but it's only a small amount.

We've hired a couple of musicians for the wedding - a duo comprising a violin and a cello. The object of the exercise is to have them play live music pre and post-ceremony. I'm trying to get them to play something upbeat at the end of the ceremony - along the lines of Two Cellos doing Thunderstruck.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Thought for the Day

Scientists behind the Planck Mission believe the universe to be 13.82 billion years old. But given space was more dense during the early baryonic matter phase (roughly 47,000 years after Big Bang) and time slows down in high gravity, is that 13.82 billion years at our gravitational density, or 13.82 billion years of cosmic time? There would be a difference due to time dilation within high gravity - a measured second back then would be longer if observed from a present day gravitational perspective (not that it could).

Note that the above image is pre-Planck.

Just something to ponder while you're cutting the grass today.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Old Sodbury Technology Park

Overheard while Hay was Reading the Yate and Sodbury Voice:

Hay: "Crimes - the new funeral director in the High Street is doing all-in funerals for £2,400."

Chairman: "That'll be easyFunerals; only allowed one item in the grave, and you have to pay extra for Priority Cremation."

Colin was away on holiday last week, so not much work was done on the 2nd cabin. He made up for it this week though.

The company in the first cabin are quietly confident of getting more funding for their product, so we hope to have them for another year.

And Hay's DIY garden office for her new job turned up yesterday.

Not only are we creating the Old Sodbury Technology Park, but we're keeping Colin in permanent employment. When assembled, it's meant to look like this.

I'm of the opinion it would be better as a tool shed.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Chinese Caravans

China has unveiled a straddling bus which allows cars to pass underneath. They obviously don't have caravans in China.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Hull Nuts


Hay: "I have to go to Hull in a couple of weeks on a Friday for a 1pm meeting. If you came up on Friday evening and met me half way, we could stay somewhere nice for the weekend. What's on the route?"

Chairman: "Doncaster, Nottingham, Derby, Birmingham, Solihull..... I'll meet you half way in Tetbury then...."

Note: Tetbury is about 16 miles from us.

Heard a news item on the radio yesterday about some gin bar where the owner has installed a mobile phone signal blocker, complaining that too many people are using social media, leading to them not really enjoying the bar. That's one establishment I'll keep clear of then...

Spotted these in M and S (can't use ampersand in Blogger) over the weekend:

Coconuts with ring-pulls! Yet they sell coconut water in bottles on the next shelf for half the price.

Blokey restocking the shelves said they sell loads of the coconuts, but hardly a single bottle of the coconut water. There's one born every minute - or even second.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Hay's Household Hacks

Just thought I'd alert you to a couple of Hay's household hacks:

  • Vinegar - great for glass and calcium encrusted bathroom fixtures.
  • Diluted bleach - a cheap replacement for expensive kitchen and bathroom surface cleaners that contain bleach.
Simple really.

Just a word of warning - never mix Harpic and bleach. I did it once on when I lived on my boat. The result is chlorine gas, which can kill you. Nearly choked me!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Local Dialect

Saw this bit of doggerel on a tombstone yesterday in Old Sodbury church:

Dearest wife do not lament,
Dry up those tears and be content,
'Twas God alone whom did us join,
And parted us at His own time.

It was obviously meant to be spoken in the local Gloucestershire dialect...