Friday, 30 September 2016

The Aged Traveller

They say travel broadens the mind, it also keeps you young - if you travel fast enough. Time dilation takes care of that.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Holy Days

Do you realise that we have a lot to thank the Jews for? They invented the weekend. Admittedly it was only one day, but the Christians improved on the idea by extending it to 2 days. I think it's time we adopted Muslim ways too and added Friday to make it 3 days. Can we make it 4? A search has to be made for some religion with a Thursday, or preferably a Monday, as a holy day.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Tribal Koolers

Yesterday I had dressed for a business meeting in London and was about to put some rubbish out into the recycling, having donned my Koolers (a type of Crocs, but much cheaper) to quickly nip outside. I just happened to look down and was greeted by a sight of perfect, yet totally subconscious accessorizing.

You'll be glad to hear I thought better of going to the meeting dressed in this manner, although I could possibly have started a trend.

Returning to the tattoo debate, I wonder what the fascination and obsession is with non-indigenous tribal art? It's very rare to see tattoos displaying anything redolent of the Arts and Crafts Movement, or Art Deco, or indeed Art Nouveau. It would be much prettier and more culturally apposite. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2016


Tattoos. Mmmm.  This hoary old subject came up again over the weekend when having a discussion with my friend Simon. Simon sports an Ironman tattoo. No, not this one:

It's the M Dot tattoo he has, like this:

Although his dot has a white cross within it. I'm not sure what the white cross signifies though, unless it's a personal modification. To earn it you have to have swam 2.4 miles, you have to have then cycled 112 miles and then run a further 26.2 miles. Simon has certainly earned the right (probably several times over), as has an ex policeman friend who lives further up in the village. When you think about it, it's a corporate brand. Not sure whether people ever fake them, but I guess seeing one on a 20 stone couch potato is a bit of a give away. They're more likely to have a tattoo comprising a couple of golden arches.

I too have a tattoo. It appeared miraculously one morning following an evening of extremely heavy drinking on a ship in Tilbury docks a couple of days before my 1st wedding. I remember clearly what happened until about 9pm, but thereafter is a complete blank. Imagine my surprise in seeing a miraculous sailing ship in full sail on my upper right arm the next morning!

I don't like tattoos and wish I'd been sufficiently compos mentis to have avoided getting mine. I've said before that they're OK when working in a bar or in some creative industries, but certainly not in a sales situation if they're immediately visible. A salesman lives or dies by the customer reaction, and you won't get much sympathy from a customer by telling him he should change his or her antiquated attitude.

You don't see too many surgeons emblazoned with tattoos, unless they're possibly a Polynesian. Similarly not many bank managers or lawyers wear tribal art. In my youth tattoos were worn by sailors, ladies of the night and ex cons; people who were a bit edgy and subversive. They were an expression of individualism; however, when 80% of your mates have one the individualism thing disappears and becomes fashion, but a permanent fashion statement is an oxymoron. Now-a-days they're considered so to be positively pedestrian. You're more likely to be edgy and individual if you have reached the age of 25 without succumbing to a fashionable tattoo!

I've never understood the palid Brit sporting tribal tattoos from Polynesia or Japan. It just isn't culturally valid. Painting your head with woad and having crude animal tattoos hammered into your skin with a pointed bone is more in keeping with British tribal art from pre-Roman times, when it was last practised.

It's a generational thing; however, it won't be that long before we have hordes of pensioners covered in faded and unrecognisable tattoos. Doubtless they'll regret it at that stage and a massive business opportunity will arise for tattoo removal.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Redeveloped Ice Cream

Overheard in The Old Sawmill in Berrynarbour:

Chairman: "Devon is filled with people from the Midlands."

Simon: "Yes, I heard quite a few northern accents."

Chairman: "Birmingham - northern?"

Simon: "North of the M4 is northern to me."

Ever noticed how eating emporia in different parts of the country promote their locally made ice creams? There's Callesticks in Cornwall and Otter Valley in Devon, for example. Our own local brand is Marshfields. The thing is I've yet to discern any difference in taste between these locally made ice creams - they all taste exactly the same so me.

Spent the weekend with some friends in our usual haunt of Lee Bay in North Devon. There's a 1920s era, derelict hotel there which has the usual story behind it:
  1. Developer gets in quick and buys it, intending to demolish it and turn the site into luxury houses for rich people.
  2. Locals up in arms as new houses (which would probably end up as 2nd homes) would destroy the ethos of the village. They would prefer it renovated into either an hotel, or apartments with a bit of affordable housing.
  3. Developer hangs on the the property for over a decade, allowing it to fall into such a state that they maintain it can no longer be economically renovated.
  4. Local council left with no choice but to allow it to be demolished.
It's a real shame. Here's what the old place looks like now:

Very Poirot or Agatha Christie. This is what they want to build in its place:

While a renovated hotel would provide permanent local jobs, the proposed development would add relatively little to the local economy and simply not fit in with the rest of the architecture in the village. It's basically architectural and cultural vandalism.

Our pool car (as we call it) broke down on the M5 returning home and we had to be rescued by the RAC. The first time in my life I've ever broken down on the motorway and not been able to repair the car myself. We were very lucky, as power just evaporated while in the overtaking lane. Only just managed to encourage the car to cross the lanes (with heavy traffic) and come to rest on the hard shoulder. The RAC engineer diagnosed a faulty crank shaft injection sensor, but I suspected an electrical short, as while we were being towed to a garage I noticed the dashboard instruments all died whenever the indicators were put on. We shall see today. A faulty crankshaft sensor means scrapping the car, as it's only worth a couple of hundred quid.

There were some huge blackberries where we came to rest, although God alone knows what noxious substances being alongside the M5 had covered them in.

We were only 4 hours late in getting home.

Sunday, 25 September 2016


Overheard in the bathroom - the Chairman is about to swill his mouth with fluoride mouthwash, as advised by his dentist in a forlorn attempt to retain the last few rotting tombstones in his mouth:

Chairman: "These bloody childproof tops are the bane of my life."

Hay: "Mmmmm..."

Chairman: "It's not what you think - I don't have my glasses on and can't see where to press on the cap to release it."

Hay: "A likely story..."

Hay was given the wedding present of a book book by (surprisingly) her book club. It's called The Good Housewife Encyclopedia, last published 1963. Here's an excerpt (click to enlarge):

It's little wonder there were so few divorces in the 50s and 60s...

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Carbon Fibre & Bamboo Bike

Olly, one of the engineers who rent the first  cabin, has been doing an inordinate amount of overtime, even coming round at weekends to work, or so I thought. He's a keen cyclist, travelling on his bilke to our place on a daily basis from his home in Bristol. 

It transpired he was building himself a lightweight racing bike from bamboo and carbon fibre, and very nice it is too. It's called Ruby.

I still think he should have attempted a seat and wheels from bamboo too...

Friday, 23 September 2016



Hay: "Having been married 3 times, who is your favourite wife?"

Chairman: "Always the next  one."

When I first started shopping for food in the early 70s, rump was more expensive than, and preferable to, sirloin.  At some point chefs started promoting sirloin, saying the fat content produced a better taste, despite the thick layer of gristly fat that's paid for and yet left on every plate of sirloin steak eaten. As a consequence of promotion, sirloin rose in cost and is now more expensive than rump.

If the fat on a sirloin makes it so tasty, why is fillet steak or tenderloin considered the best, and most expensive  cut, and yet its fat content is almost zero?

Nothing to do with taste and everything to do with the law of supply and demand, as evidenced by the price of skirt steak (aka butcher's steak, hangar steak or onglet) starting to rise now that people are becoming more aware of its potential as a much more tasty and cheaper alternative to either rump or sirloin.

Whenever we have steak I always buy skirt (£9 or £10 per kilo), frying it for about 4 minutes each side (depending on thickness) and then cutting it into slices across the grain due to it being slightly tougher than standard steak. Due to it coming from nearer the guts, it has a much more meaty (almost gamey) taste which is far superior to that of rump or sirloin - in my opinion.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Speedy Boarding Cabin Update

A quick update on the 2nd cabin:

I wish we could connect it to our house for electricity, but it would put too much load on the house and so a separate supply has been ordered. The exterior should be finished very shortly and then work will begin on the interior. Hopeful for an end of October or early November finish.

Was in Glasgow yesterday for a business meeting - went Easyjet. Speedy Boarding - you get on the bus first and get told to sit at the back, but when you get to the plane they open the front doors first!

Green tea - what's the point? Might as well pour hot water on some privet hedge clippings.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Book Club Rock God

Oveheard in the living room:

Hay (from upstairs): "What's the name of the book on the screen of my phone?"

Chairman (frying the chips for dinner): "Just a minute...... 'Narrative Of A Child Analysis: The Conduct of the Psycho-Analysis of Children as Seen in the Treatment of a Ten Year Old Boy'."

Chairman goes back to frying his chips.

Hay, 2 minutes later: "What was it again?"

Chairman: "Oh, for God's sake........ 'Narrative Of A Child Analysis: The Conduct of the Psycho-Analysis of Children as Seen in the Treatment of a Ten Year Old Boy'."

Chairman goes back to frying his chips - again.

Hay, a minute later: "Who's the author?"

Chairman: Expletive.....

Was reading about Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. How many women do you think marry a rock god and think it'll be all roses, a cottage in the country and 2.5 kids from then on? Marrying a rock god isn't exactly a recipe for domestic bliss, although a select few have managed to pull through.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Alf Tupper

GB's success at the Olympics and Paralympics has been put down to funding. What happened to the spirit of Alf Tupper? He didn't need loads of money being thrown at him, just a good fish and chip supper....

If Olympic success is all down to money, what chance do poorer nations have?

Monday, 19 September 2016

Cheyenne Crocosmia

In a moment of ennui I was watching the 1971 film, Yuma, starring Clint Walker, who made his name in the 1960s cowboy series Cheyenne, which I watched avidly on the TV as a kid. I was rather surprised to find out he's still alive aged 89.

I just love the riotous display of crocosmia flowers in the late summer and early autumn. I have some 200 corms planted around the house and wanted to increase the number of plants by using the seeds.

Read up about it and you're told to plant them in some expensive soil mixture that costs an arm and a leg in a greenhouse and carefully prick them out, etc. Yet simultaneously you're told that they can quickly become a pest in the countryside because they readily self-seed. So if they are so prolific in the wild, why do you need to buy all manner of composts and tend the seeds with loving care in a garden? Just doesn't make sense.

I collected the seed pods from my crop, put them in the warm engine room and left them to dry out for a couple of weeks. This has given me several handfuls of seeds which I will sow around the perimeter of the garden this week. Let's see what happens next year.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Lidl Army Maneuvers

Alerting all men - next Thursday is Lidl pneumatic tool day!

Now there has to be something for every man in this little cornucopia...

You couldn't make it up! The EU announces a plan to create a European Army and Brexiteers immediately get on their high horses saying we could never place out troops under the command of 28 nations and should stand alone - the Dunkirk spirit, and all that (Dunkirk was one of those uniquely British quirks of treating a resounding defeat as a victory). The very next day  a senior general declares the British Army unfit for purpose

The American Army is a federal army, the Soviet Army was a federal army, NATO is a federal army - any military alliance (which is usually a necessity in war, if not the very cause of it in the first place) is a federal alliance. Virtually every international war we've ever fought in since the Middle Ages has been fought with an army comprising allied forces. Isolationist Brixiteers just can't get their heads around alliances.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Eye Test

Overheard while driving up the M5:

Chairman: "Are they sheep or seagulls in that field?"

Hay: "Are you sure you're actually capable of driving?"

Baby On Board signs in the back of cars - what are they all about? Professional tailgaters won't take a blind bit of notice and the rest of us already keep a safe distance from cars ahead anyway, as we don't want to be involved in an accident.

That said, we were once again delayed by 30 minutes by an accident on the northbound M5 out of Devon. Every journey north we've done northbound this year on the M5 has meant a long wait in traffic due to an accident somewhere between Exeter and Bridgewater.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Horsefly Strike in Salcombe

Returning home today - can't say I'm sorry as I'm all South Devoned out. If push came to shove I'd rather live in North Devon. Never even got to unpack the kayaks. That said, the place we've been staying at has been perfect; we needn't have brought anything other than the clothes we stood up in, yet I'm sure that if we'd radioed our sizes ahead we'd have been presented with a complete wardrobe of clothes too.

I don't seem to be able to go away for a few days' holiday without getting bitten by a horsefly - the damned things never touch Hay. Got a fly strike on Wednesday while doing the Bantham slog. I seem to have a worse reaction to horsefly venom than most people and end up with limbs like Popeye's where I'm stung.

Did Salcombe yesterday. I'm convinced ladies can walk into a hairdresser's there and just say; "I want a Salcombe," receiving in return a cut giving you that sun-kissed, wind-tousled look you'd have if you'd just stepped off a yacht in the harbour. On top of that they'd get a free, striped Breton top and a Cath Kidston bag. Salcombe must be the spiritual home of the striped, Breton top.

Hay's convinced the ladies all change from their daytime striped, Breton tops to their evening striped, Breton tops after 6pm when they all start congregating in the local bistros and restaurants.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Bantham Slog

There's an activity here called the Bantham Swoosh, which uses the fact the Avon estuary is quite constricted to propel swimmers along at a fair pace in the ebb direction. We wanted to take advantage of it with the kayaks, but the tide times are currently all wrong. Instead we did what I've called the Bantham Slog - a walk from Aveton Gifford to Bantham, via the estuary walk, a quick jaunt across the Avon estuary by boat and then another walk from Bigbury back to Aveton Gifford. All told, about 10 or 11 miles.

The walk from Aveton Gifford to Bantham was pretty uneventful, but what followed was something I wouldn't care to repeat.

Above shows Hay talking to the Bantham Harbour Master who ferried us across the Avon. From his accent he must have previously been Harbour Master at Birmingham docks.

The Harbour Master's dog, Wolf.

My first ever sight of a slow worm.

Having been diverted from our intended path by a herd of cows, their bull and some young blocking a gate, we went through a forest and alighted upon the complete carcass of a cow. Got lost in the forest (a bit like said cow) but managed to forge a way out and regain the path.

The final part of the walk was along a road called Tidal Road and we hit it at exactly the wrong time. It was under about 3 feet of water but we nonetheless decided to wade along it in preference to diverting some 3 miles inland. All went well until literally the last 3 paces, when I fell off the slipway and went up to my neck in water. Hay naturally thought it all very funny. I was not amused.

Some of the better photos:

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Bake-Off Holiday Accommodation

Hottest September day for donkey's years? Not in South Devon it wasn't! Hopefully we'll have a bit more sun today and manage to kayak down the Avon (one of the many River Avons).

I wonder whether Bake-Off has sown the poppy seeds of its own demise; whether it has succumbed to too much Rich Man's Butter Cake; whether the Money Biscuits have taken over the bakery. Never watched it after the first series - these things are good fun first time round but then get formulaic, predictable, boring and no longer entertaining. However, I can understand why it's compulsive viewing to some. But to shift it to the channel that gave us Big Brother - surely a docker's doorstep too far?

Was looking at a TripAdvisor review of a pub just down the road from where we're staying; it said; "The place was quiet and made me feel awkward by having to shush my 3 year-old all the time." Good! Another review stated the place doesn't favour children - we'll make a beeline for it tomorrow night then! Yet another castigated the place of not offering gluten-free food - excellent, no faddy weirdos (most people who believe they are gluten intolerant self-diagnose and haven't been anywhere near a physician for a real diagnosis).

We're staying for a  few days at a place called Offield's Farm (aka Bantham Cross Barns), comprising several farm outbuildings that have been converted into accommodation. Very nice too and good value - everything you could need is laid on, including some food. That said, wherever we stay we have a problem with lighting, always having to nick some sidelights from one of the bedrooms to position in the living room in order to make the lighting more homely. As a consequence we've decided to make up a bag at home with a couple of travelling table lamps in it - we'll just grab the bag before going on any future trips.

The nice thing about staying in holiday accommodation is that you can rummage about in all the drawers and cupboards without feeling the least but guilty.

There's a child gate at the top of the stairs, and while the fixings are there, the gate itself has been removed. I think I need to get the owner to reinstate the gate, as I nearly went arse over tit down the stairs in the dark on the first night, as I'm not used to bedroom curtains and at home I can see where I'm walking at night.

The previous guests had left their recycled bottles in a crate by the front door. Did a guest review on the basis of the empties. Veuve Clicquot, a half decent Argentinian Malbec, a few menial NZ whites, a Montino Rioja and a Gallo (the latter rather letting the side down; it's not so much a wine as granny pop).  There's obviously an Aldi in the neighbourhood.

Left my boys in charge of our house..... I pity anyone who tries to burgle it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Eating Out

Hay referred to an eating establishment we know of as having gone 'up-hill', which I thought rather amusing and yet apt.

We were in an Italian restaurant in Bigbury, Devon, last night and there was a woman with a screaming child. Time was when if you had children your life changed, but these days a lot of mothers refuse to change their lifestyle at the expense of others. A screaming kid in a supermarket is one thing (you have to do your shopping), but a screaming kid in a restaurant is plain inconsiderate.

While on the subject of kids - what's the point of a birthday party for a 1 year-old? The kid hasn't a clue what's going on, after all.

Going back to the Italian restaurant - it's called the Pickwick Inn, a name which must have been invented in the latter quarter of the last century and isn't very Italian. Added to that there are no Italians within the management or the staff - but it was delicious Italian food nonetheless. Pleasant decor too. When you think of it, you cook Italian food at home and don't call yourself Italian, and Jamie Wossisface certainly isn't Italian.

I always find it amusing to be in a restaurant when you get those long-married couples who don't look at each other or say a word to each other during the entire meal. There were two of those couples in the restaurant last night. When Hay and I go to a restaurant it's just one long conversation - in fact, our life is one long conversation and we can't stop talking to each other.

Monday, 12 September 2016

LANs & WANs & Colin

The Wi-Fi in the cabin that's currently rented out went down last week, just before I left for Germany. Had a quick fiddle in the few hours remaining before I had to leave for Heathrow, but I was totally flummoxed. Had to call in the local IT man while I was away and he diagnosed a failed extender, as well as a server that's about to swamp my home network. He managed to sort it out temporarily and I ordered a new extender.

Fitted the new extended yesterday morning, but it took me a couple of hours for what should only be a 10 minute job. This technology really confuses me and I managed to get a Wi-Fi connection purely by good luck, rather than through any knowledge of what I was doing. 

Anyway, I wanted to relocate the extender to a better position and did so, having to disconnect the cables in the process. Naturally the Internet connection didn't return when I reassembled the cables in the order in which I thought I'd plugged them in initially. Spent another hour buggering about before realising I had a cable in the wrong socket - again, deduced by trial and error.

Time was when you could just plug something in and it worked. Nowadays you have to be a bloody expert in communications protocols. The instructions don't exactly illuminate you one iota either. I'm going to have to pay for Colin to go on an IT networking course so he can functions as our tame IT consultant as well as our personal builder.

Colin excelled on the dance floor at the wedding party on Friday with his dance moves - and he was 50 yesterday. He certainly put all the dad dancers to shame.

There were only two bad decisions in the wedding format:

  1. Having a top table comprising 10 people - getting to the food passed along the line was difficult and conversation was impaired by only having those next to you to chat to. We should have allowed the top table crowd to sit where they wanted on the square tables.
  2. Not having fully checked out the DJ - he was too old and didn't understand the dynamics of a dance crowd. No sooner than he was playing something that got the guests dancing, he'd slow it down again with the next tune and they'd all return to their seats. Hay thinks she should have given him a play list or found a DJ who a good decade or two younger.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Random Shots

Been far too busy clearing up after the wedding to think of anything to write, so today's post is just a random snapshot from the wedding (not the professional photos):

Hay and self.

No.1 Son, Jan, with neighbour.

My elder brother, Jan, with my son in-law, Graeme.

My neice, Holly, and my daughter, Charlotte.

Rather hazy photo of self and my brother, Jan.

No.2 Son, Bruno.

Pater Familias with No.2 Son, Hay, Me, No.1 Daughter, No.1 Son and Son in-law.

Hay with her dad, Brian, sister, Michelle, and dad's partner, Barbara.

Hay leading the rowing song on the disco floor.

A table comprised mainly of Chairman neices and a No.2 Son. 

The Chairman, way-laid by "Pippa".