Saturday, 31 December 2016

Marmite New Year

Went out for a meal on Thursday evening and my dessert was served with a drizzle of brown sauce. It was chocolate, but reminded me of Marmite. That got me wondering whether there was such a thing as Marmite risotto - and blow me down, there is!

Less than 17 hours to go till the New Year - plus a second. Alan Bennett once said that when one writes, one is basically having a conversation with oneself. Blogging feels very much like that, but I know some people do indeed call by occasionally, or I wouldn't get the comments. To those who do call by, may I wish you a very happy 2017 for midnight. I don't think I'll be awake - New Year isn't really something that gets me excites, as staying up beyond 9:30 pm is a rarity for me.

Friday, 30 December 2016

The One Ring Solar Panel Condiment

Overheard watching Antiques Roadshow:

Expert: "The ring is equisit, but now we need to know who the maker of this ring was, and it's a one-off."

Chairman to Hay: "Sauron?"

Anyone noticed how global warming has coincided with people putting all these solar panels on their houses? Just saying...

I had a yearning for toast and Marmite the other day but couldn't find any in our cupboards. However, I did find a pot of Bovril and decided to try that. Much less salty, but essentially the same taste. Decided to so a bit of digging and found:
  1. Both are made by Unilever,
  2. Marmite is indeed saltier,
  3. Marmite has many more calories.

So, if you want a less fattening and healthier (in respect of salt content) alternative to Marmite, spread a little Bovril on your toast. I'm converted,

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Bulb Bumpers

Well, I never - £0.75 from the local charity shop for 20. Slightly too large, but they work.

A light bulb blew yesterday and it took me about 20 minutes to find a suitable replacement from my spare bulb stock, which is not small by any means - it has become a nightmare. Bayonet or screw-in; then there's the screw size if it's a screw-in, then there's working out how bright the damned thing is if it's an eco-bulb, the majority of which seem to have a power of about 1 candle. I  must have at least 10 different types of light bulbs in by bulb box. I blame IKEA. Have you noticed how we've lost our fishing industry, steel industry, coal industry, etc. since IKEA started trading in the UK?

You know those Citroen cars which have their sides covered in corrugated black plastic? Whenever I see one I'm overcome by a desire to purposely bump into it, like a dodgem car, in order to test the resilience,

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Post, Post Truth

Apropos of yesterday's post on post truth, some examples from yesterday:

Firstly, I heard Ken Livingstone on the radio complaining that the proposed policy of combating election fraud by making voters present their passport, driving licence or a utility bill prior to voting would disenfranchise many voters, particularly those who are poor and would be natural Labour supporters. That sounds quite logical and is actually backed up by statistics (although not voiced in the interview, probably due to it being bleeding obvious). 

A Tory politician was then interviewed and, without any justification, said he disagreed - that's it - he just disagreed. In the interested of fairness (but not truth), the interviewer didn't question the politician's disagreement, despite the ONS website stating that 17% of the UK population does not have a passport and slightly fewer have no driving licence. The chance of these two groups overlapping by a substantial amount is non-zero, coupled with the fact that an unidentifiable percentage of those will be living in rented accommodation and thus very possibly not paying a utility bill either. 

The Tory politician is entitled to his opinion, but when every ounce of commonsense and available evidence says that opinion is plainly wrong, he should be made to justify it. Had this been a headline in my newspaper, it would have said; "Tory politician denies the bleeding obvious." Actually, there would be a lot of headlines of this nature in my newspaper.

Secondly, I spotted a headline in the Daily Mail on a news stand while waiting for Hay to  make a purchase. It stated that a new report had reached the conclusion that the UK would be £24m a week better off outside the EU. The report was by a group called Change Britain, which is actually the Vote Leave group under a different name and has attracted criticism for dropping Vote Leave's pledge to increase spending on the NHS. 

The DM was portraying Change Britain as an influential, respected and independent organisation, which it most definitely is not. Again, my newspaper headline would be; "Remnants of Vote Leave campaign still manipulating figures to back up false claims."

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Post Truth

We're hearing a lot in the media of late about Post Truth, or the advent of a milieu in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. I don't think this is a new phenomenon, it's just that increasing use of social media, which gives everyone an equal voice, is exposing the appalling, long-standing ignorance of science, literature, history, politics and economics within a large proportion of the population. That's evidenced by the number of people blithely sharing Facebook posts that are patently false or pander to popular prejudices, with no attempt whatsoever at verifying their contents - to coin a phrase, technology has allowed ignorance to go viral. Combine that with;

  1. the BBC bending over backwards to try and portray itself as impartial and giving the breath of legitimacy to all manner of crackpots without any critical investigation (fairness has superseded the search for truth), 
  2. irresponsibly poor newspaper journalism, where important news comes from about three outlets worldwide and stories are no longer investigated for veracity as there's no money in truth (and the remainder comprises celebrity dross and idolisation), and 
  3. demagogues, adept at manipulating emotion, riding the crest of this wave of exposed ignorance by getting people to angrily reject facts, 

and the result is everything being dumbed down to the point of banality for consumption by the lowest common denominator, having little desire to think or engage in any form of critical analysis. Opprobrium is heaped on the educated and they're labelled, sneeringly, as elites by those who espouse and promote anti-intellectualism.

To quote Steve Allen (who was talking about religion, but it applies equally to other areas)  - "The problem is that once the untrained mind has made a formal commitment to a (religious) philosophy— and it does not matter whether that philosophy is generally reasonable and high-minded or utterly bizarre and irrational— the powers of reason are surprisingly ineffective in changing the believer's mind."

Monday, 26 December 2016

Christmas Day Fork Handles

Good grief - now George Michael. 5 days to go - can the fates squeeze a few more in?

Overheard at Christmas dinner:

Hay's Dad: "Well, when I went over to Barbara's relatives I  felt so out of place - they were all youngsters. I  asked if they had a pair of scissors. When they asked why I said so I could cut some slashes in my trouser knees."

I have been  very dissatisfied with our Christmas tree this year and I put it down to LED lights. They comprise pinpricks of light that seem incapable of illuminating the tree itself - the tree just sits in the background as a dark entity and nothing of it, or the decorations on it, basks in any reflective glow - there simply is no warm glow. I'm banning LED lights next year and replacing them with the old fashioned ones (if I can find any) where, if one bulb goes, it takes you an hour to find which one has failed. They at least cast a light. Anyone else with LED tree lights having the same issue?

Disappointed with the Christmas TV schedule to the point of wanting to refuse to buy a TV licence next year. With the exception of a programme on Alan Bennett and his film, The Lady in the Van, there was absolutely bugger all worth watching over the last two days - it's as if the TV station staff have gone on holiday and dredged the barrel for the most boring and banal crap to be played till they come back. In the 70s and 80s the Christmas schedule was the highlight of the year; now it's the low-light. We even resorted to watching Mrs Queen at one stage (her mention of that harridan, Mother Teresa, who reveled in the suffering of her charges, seemed a bit strange and did her no favours).

I have this little Dutch Christmas decoration - a candle-powered angel chime. The candles drive a fan, which in turn make small cherubs strike two bells. Had it donkey's years and am rather attached to it. The problem is that it depends on four candles of a type that are difficult to purchase here in the UK, so I use four tea lights, but they're not tall enough to get the heat near to the fan. It does work, but at about 1/3rd of the speed required, although that does reduce the chime from "annoying" to "a faintly pleasant tinkle".

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Charcoal Christmas Lunch

Overheard watching the last episode of Season 2 of The Man in the High Castle:

Hay: "Himler is turning into a good guy, in a Nazi sort of way."

Chairman: "What!?"

The curse of 2016 has struck the music industry yet again. 6 days to go to the end of the year - I bet some rock starts are bricking it.

Ordered a gas lighter - the wand type for lighting candles - from Amazon; the packing was a tad over the top, you could have got a hundred of them in there.

Seeing as many shops will be closed just for today and we'll consequently be in a state of siege, we decided to go into town yesterday to do the last bit of shopping to ensure the food cupboards and fridge are bulging till tomorrow.

Looking at British shoppers always depresses me. Whereas on the continent people dress in mustards, reds, bright blues and all hues of the rainbow, British people seem to have a love affair with the same shade of charcoal grey or black. They look a drab lot and they always wear hideous, cheap footwear too. It's almost as if clothing for the factory floor or installing double glazing has become every day wear.

Not looking forward to the family kampong Christmas lunch later today. Firstly Hay will have a battle with her dad about the white wine - he insists on keeping it on the sideboard and never chills it. Secondly there won't be anyone to argue about Brexit with - we're all in agreement. Well, there is Hay's dad, but he hasn't a clue about Europe anyway and thinks it's just a good reason to talk about his experiences as a child in the war. No, with the exception of whether the white wine should be chilled or not, it's going to be an argument-free lunch and we'll be talking about nothing but the price of fish and when we should take the decorations down.

I suppose I could start an argument about the imported, modern fad for turkeys at Christmas and demand a return to traditional British values with goose.

Merry Brexmas all!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Athenian Broadband Justice

Bugger - yet another last minute dash to the supermarket - we've out of red wine already!

Saw on a news article yesterday that some are saying broadband is a basic human right. I'd rather see free access to justice taking precedence over broadband, but perhaps that's just me and I'm a throwback.

I have to go to Athens on business in February - the return flight is £123. The petrol for a drive to Yorkshire and back is more than that. It just doesn't seem right. Crazy times.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings, or whatever you prefer. I really don't care that much what it's called, as I have no axe to grind. To me it's a period when I can take some time off work, relax with friends and family and celebrate the fact that the daylight hours are once more lengthening and it won't be long before the plants start to grow and the sun's warmth returns. Although having said that, my crocosmia are already sprouting, even the seeds from this year's crop that I planted in previously bare areas. The seasons are going haywire. Even crazier times.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Snowy Postman Diets

Today I start the cheese, stollen and Amaretto diet! We're well stocked up on a load of food we're never going to eat, so that's OK then.

For a long time we knew our postman as Chris and only found out by accident earlier this year that his name is actually Stu. A bit embarrassing. Hay wrote him a Christmas card yesterday and put his Christmas box in it, but inadvertently wrote it out to Chris. I spotted it in time and she had to write another.

We went to get some spray-on snow for the Christmas tree from town yesterday to brighten it up a touch. The sign on the cans said 3 for 99p, but Hay was adamant that she only needed a single can and proceeded to the checkout with that single can. The girl on the checkout said; "That'll be £1 please," so Hay went back for another two cans.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas Coconut Tree

Overheard while trimming the coconut palm:

Chairman: "I'm really surprised this coconut palm has lasted three years - I  thought it would kick the bucket during its first winter."

Hay: "It must resemble its native habitat - no direct sunlight."

Chairman: "What do you mean? Cocunut palms grow in full sun!"

Hay: "I meant for the nut to germinate, under a palm."

Chairman: "No, like any other nut it requires an animal to take the nut elsewhere, as it won't grow under the parent tree. Didn't you know that they have squirrels the size of elephants where these grow..."

Bought our Christmas tree yesterday and got it decorated. One place that specialises in nothing but Christmas trees had already shut up shop for the year! We were told to select whichever tree we wanted and make an offer, so we got it half price, but could easily have gone lower.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Democracy & Corruption

What with accusations in the popular press that MPs and the judiciary are trying to overturn a democratic vote, charges of treason 'against the people' are being bandied around the internet. Setting aside the fact that there is no such things as treason 'against the people' in English law, if it's treasonable to seek to overturn a democratic vote, where does that put the unions and their alleged and recently avowed intent to bring down the democratically elected government? What's good for the goose is surely also good for the gander, yet no-one is screaming traitor in this case. 

Another charge that's doing the rounds is one of corruption at the heart of the EU and the UK government; however, is this actually the case. We're fed stories by the press about increasing corruption, but the fact corruption is willfully hidden makes it very difficult to either monitor or quantify with any meaningful metric. Not only that, but are we talking about corruption in public life or business?

I can find no hard facts on trends in government corruption - i.e. whether the UK (as an example) is more corrupt now than it was say 50 years ago. Even polls on perception of corruption are notoriously unreliable, as opinion is generally informed by the media, whom a) increasingly have a political agenda and b) like to juice things up to sell papers (hence the large number of apologies they have to print).

If I were to posit that the UK is no more corrupt now than 50 years ago, no-one could prove me wrong; neither could I prove myself right. It just seems to me that the corruption narrative suits the agenda while having nothing to back it up - and the agenda is increasingly being set by a partizan media.

Click to enlarge

The above chart from a report by Transparency International into UK corruption shows perceived corruption in various areas of life. Unsurprisingly, politics is perceived as the area where most corruption takes place, and also surprising is that the NHS, despite its massive procurement budget and questionable contracts with the private sector, is seen as having little corruption. I reiterate that this chart is for perceived, rather than actual corruption. Our national love affair with the NHS must feed into this perception.

One thing worth pointing out is that it's less than 200 years since a seat in parliament could be bought or gifted. That, at least, is no longer the case (unless you count the Chelsea council homes for votes scandal). In the 18th and 19th centuries it was an indisputable fact that  politics was rife with corruption - in fact it's doubtful if much (including the Industrial Revolution) could have been achieved without it.

At the heart of corruption in public life is temptation, and nothing is more tempting than having lots of power and consequent control of a very large budget. A large procurement budget is also tempting to those lower in the pecking order charged with spending it. So, logically, big government provides a breeding ground for corruption and small or distributed government reduces the temptation. Here we have a paradox in that the right generally wants a reduction in the size of government (usually at the expense of social care), whereas the left is a fan of big government (by beefing up social care). Thus a left wing government would have more temptation - and opportunity - to become corrupt, but it's perceived as more of a right-wing problem aligned to cronyism.

It's worth bearing in mind that any tradesman who will accept a discounted cash sum rather than issuing a VAT invoice is guilty of corruption, as is the customer who pays that cash and doesn't demand a VAT receipt. How many of us are guilty of corruption?


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Carols at Christmas

The reading at the village church's Christmas Carol Service on Sunday evening went off without me being struck by lightning. The church looked lovely, with twinkling candles lining the path - luckily there was no wind.

The reverend canon made a humorous reference to Ronnie Barker with respect to the lighting of the 4th candle signifying the 4th Sunday after Advent.

The tree (real, not fake), a nod to our pagan heritage, was tastefully decorated too.

Despite suffering the early signs of Man-Flu, which gave my voice a lower timbre and finally descended on me in its full and awful fury yesterday, I gave a decent rendition, using ethos and pathos (not to mention Athos, Porthos and Aramis), although with the story being a myth and containing an angel, logos was sadly missing. The message of Herod's plan to kill all the children in Bethlehem was given with a booming voice and with a malevolent glare at the young children in the congregation, which I think chilled them suitably and put the fear of Odin into them. They'll never sing Hark the Herod Angel's Sing again...

There was a conflicting carol service a couple of miles away in Chipping Sodbury, but those who attended it will doubtless be condemned to eternal damnation and hellfire as schismatics, as Old Sodbury's village God is more powerful than Chipping Sodbury's townie one.

Monday, 19 December 2016

3D Oaths

I was thinking about the possibility of printing a fake Christmas tree with a 3D printer, and then realised there are certain things that a 3D printer is incapable of printing as a complete unit, such as items which have unsupported (from the bottom) downward hanging parts, as you can't print something that hangs in the air (like a branch) due to it being supported by another part above it that hasn't yet been printed. Nor can something be 3D printed as a complete unit unless it's inherently rigid.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said it was impossible for people to play a 'positive role' in public life unless they accepted basic values like democracy, equality and freedom of speech and has proposed an oath. The problem is that this is useless unless we have a precise definition of all three values as they apply to the UK, which in itself is a movable feast. Oaths also need consequences, as well as policing, else they are meaningless rhetoric. Most public oaths in the UK (parliament, the judiciary, etc.) are in respect of allegiance to HMQ.

I've been struck dumb by the lurgy today - voice like a rasp - much to everyone's delight.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Man in a High Trump Tower

We started watching the 2nd season of The Man in a High Castle on Friday evening. Ludicrous plot, but remarkably prescient about the state of the USA and the fact it is only a few, short weeks away from becoming a kakistocracy. A climate change denier and oil and gas man in charge of the environment, Sylvester Stallone chairman of the National Foundation for the Arts, Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser, etc. Each day brings another startling revelation of ineptitude.

In a BBC interview, the populist politician, Nigel Farage, apparently said he was "hacked off" by the term populist to describe anyone opposed to what he called the "global elite" and said it was a deliberately pejorative term. I believe that in their turn, the so-called global elite are a tad annoyed at Farage for using the deliberately pejorative term "global elite". I suggest Farage reads the dictionary definition of populist, which coincides 100% with his brand of politics. As for Farage's petulance over Theresa May's entirely logical refusal to appoint him UK Ambassador, I believe Mrs May would rather appoint a Mexican Muslim before Nigel.

I've adapted the reading from Matthew for the carol service tonight. Here it is:

And the Lord said; "Will the majority of Brexiteers please get it into their thick skulls that when the UK sends 50% of its exports to the EU and the EU sends only 7% of its exports to the UK, the EU does NOT need the UK more than the UK needs the EU. It's like saying the mainland needs the Isle of Wight more than the Isle of Wight needs the mainland, for heaven's sake. I'll blow my top and have  a word with Dad and send another flood if I see this infantile economic analysis used one more time, oy vey!"

The fake Christmas tree was returned - it not only looked hideous, but bits broke when the wrappings were pulled from the branches. If you're going to have a fake tree, then at least ensure it looks 100% fake - go for a white one, or possibly black. I'll be looking for another real tree this week.

Saturday, 17 December 2016


The replacements for the three broken IKEA candles arrived yesterday - the 3rd attempts at achieving a shipment without any breakages. Yup, you guessed it - three arrived and three were broken in the middle. Rather than try for a 4th shipment I accepted a £10 gift voucher. Customer services were exemplary and I don't know whether to blame the IKEA packing department or the courier (probably a mixture of the two). I advised them to  stop sending candles by mail order - it simply costs them too much in breakages. They obviously need lessons from Amazon on packing.

Ever had a Christmas card where the signature is indecipherable, there's a long, double-sided letter accompanying it informing you about what's happened throughout the writer's whole year, but it adds nothing to its provenance as you don't know them that well, and you simply haven't a clue as to who sent it? Got one yesterday and after an hour of scratching my head I eventually had the bright idea of going through my Xmas card list to see if I could glean any clues. There it was!

Office Christmas party tonight - well, given I work from home and Hay does too, that's what we're calling it when we go out tonight for the annual family pre Christmas dinner.

Hay bought a fake Christmas tree yesterday, much to my annoyance as we've always had a real tree. However, I have to admit it looks very real in the packaging. The test will be when we put it up during the coming week. It looks very much like this example below.

And I'm coming down with a nasty virus which I must have caught in the plane on my jaunt to Aberdeen on Tuesday.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Lithium Credentialism Power

Was looking for some Lithium AA batteries on Amazon.

Look just above the star rating - used batteries?

All police officers will now be required to have a degree in policing. Can't but help feel that  the creeping professionalisation of what were once seen as 'jobs' means that government is making the job market more and more restrictive and reducing the talent pool of those who have plenty of aptitude but lack the academic trait. It happened with nursing and yet I can't remember anyone ever saying that nurses were incompetent before they had to have degrees. 

What next? A degree to become a squaddie, a degrees in plumbing? I'm probably speaking too soon and somewhere out there you can get a degree in plumbing. Specialisation is good in certain circumstances, but there are many jobs where a bit of common sense and dedication is all that's required - you learn on the job.

I guess that if you're forced to invest in specialisation then the desire to leave that specialisation is reduced by both economic necessity (the cost of obtaining a degree) and the fact you won't be qualified for any of the increasing number of jobs that also require a degree. Rather than it making a job more attractive to aid recruitment, you're, in effect, narrowing the market and locking someone into a job for life - and invariably a public service job. That's not a good thing, unless the job is reasonably well paid. Of course, if you have to obtain a degree for your job then you're going to want a higher salary too. A double edged sword. Will this come back to bite the authorities in the bum?

Thursday, 15 December 2016


By some weird quirk of fate, I've been asked to do a reading at our local church carol service on Sunday evening. Not sure why I was asked.

I had hoped I'd be reading something from the Book of Dawkins, but it would seem Dawkins hasn't made it into the canon yet. Instead they selected a passage from Matthew concerning the birth of Jesus of Nazareth and the flight to Egypt.

If we inspect the Gospels and analyse the evidence, we are led to believe that Christ was born when: 

i) Augustus instigated a world-wide census (Luke),
ii) Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke), and
iii) Herod was King of Judea (Matthew).

This would appear to date Jesus' birth very accurately, until we discover that Herod died on April 12, 4 BC, that Quirinius was not governor of Syria during the reign of Herod and no historian of the Roman Empire makes any mention of a universal census during the reign of Augustus - although Flavius Josephus does mention a census in Judea in 6AD - ten years after Herod's death. There is clearly something amiss in the chronology.

Do you think I should point this out during the reading? No, don't worry, it's too much like telling a kid that Father Christmas doesn't exist, except it will be adults...

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


The expression teaching your grandmother to suck eggs has outlived its time, or at least changed to your great, great grandmother. Can anyone alive today actually say their grandmother sucked eggs, or even articulate why they engaged in this pointless activity?

What would be a more apt expression; teaching your grandmother to make pork crackling, perhaps, or teaching your grandmother to say; "Oooh, haven't you grown."?

A good expression for a futile and utterly pointless activity would be teaching your grandfather to use the TV remote.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Fox Hunting

OK - fox hunting.

Despite living in the middle of Beaufort Hunt country and an area with the greatest number of hunts, on a moral level I'm against it. It's making the killing animals an entertainment, and not even with a view to eating them. Inexplicably, many supporters profess to be animal lovers, but that love seems limited to horses and dogs (but obviously not all members of the canidae family).

Taking a pragmatic view; despite foxes keeping crop damaging rodents under control, as apex predators they are undoubtedly a pest in some parts of the countryside, they will take lambs in lambing season (although numbers are very low) and wreak havoc in poultry farms (large and small scale) and therefore have to  be controlled in such areas. A fox won't just take one hen - it engages in surplus killing, destroying far more than it will actually eat. Hay's family stopped keeping chickens due to the number of foxes around here.

What are the forms of control available? Shooting - a bit hit and miss, unless you're a marksman (which few farmers are). Poisoning - rather unethical and can leave the fox dying in agony. Trapping - a bit like poisoning. Hunting...

Hunting doesn't take place all year round, but only once fox cubs have left the den, so there's little danger of young starving if the vixen is killed. Very few are actually caught - I'm not sure of the numbers, but it isn't high as it's a very inefficient method of killing - more are killed by cars on the roads. There is, therefore, a quasi-valid argument from this perspective for using hunting as a form of control as it's debatable as to whether it's any worse than the alternative methods, albeit less efficient. However, if foxes need controlling, they need controlling all year round - and effectively.

What I do object to is landowners encouraging foxes by putting out carcasses during the close season, specifically to increase their numbers and the chances of killing one during the hunting season. It makes a total mockery of the control argument and is hypocrisy of the highest order.

I don't buy the countryside employment argument either - we once employed people for cock fighting, dog fighting and bear baiting. The only employment affected is the people who look after the hounds, as the horses can still be used for drag hunting and general countryside jaunts. It's not as if morality has to be tempered by pragmatism on the scale of the numbers employed in the UK arms industry, for example.

I also don't buy the 'natural method' argument, well, not since we eliminated wolves. We don't exactly see packs of wild dogs chasing foxes either.

The jury is out - but as I say, from a moralistic point I'm still against it, although from a pragmatic view there has to be a form of control in certain areas of the countryside. Perhaps a form of licensing is the answer, restricting it to areas where sheep and poultry are raised and there are verified cases of predation by foxes. Backing that up with a fox tax on each fox killed could be good too, although that may turn into a bounty and a free-for-all, but farmers may not be too upset about that (hunts themselves might). There is, of course, the attendant chance of hunt landowners purposely starting to stock poultry and leaving them open to fox predation as a means of justifying a licence, but the law can't cater for all eventualities.

I would also posit that fox control is the last thing on the minds of the people who engage in fox hunting - they're engaged in a ritualised form of entertainment (I'd hesitate to call it a sport - unless you include competitive jumping of hedges and the competition amongst the hounds) and it's run as a business costing anything from £30 to £150 a day. Enter the moral imperative again.

To sum up; killing animals for pure enjoyment is indisputably bad, yet in some areas (and I emphasis some) foxes need to be controlled. I have friends on both sides of the argument who would vociferously defend their positions. Your opinion?

Monday, 12 December 2016

It's All in the Timing

Overheard while having brunch at A local cafe:

Hay: "I see that other coffee shop has closed again. We have enough coffee shops here, we need a decent restaurant that's open in the evenings."

Chairman: "How about an Austrian themed restaurant with all the staff in lederhosen?"

Hay: "A bit too S and M."

Chairman: "How about one called Roadkill; all our food is freshly scrapped from local roads first thing in the morning."

Hay: "Sometimes I think you're mad."

OK - now you can start to think about putting your Christmas tree up. You complain about Christmas songs in supermarkets in November, Easter eggs being available straight after Christmas, but you then go and collude by putting your bloody Christmas trees and decorations up well before the due date.

Time was when they went up on the afternoon of December 24th, then it transmogrified to the 3rd Sunday after Advent under pressure from the Christmas Tree Growers' Association and now many are putting them up in late November, thinking they're American and blowing a kiss to Thanksgiving, a celebration centred around a bunch of right-wing, religious fundamentalists who left England by way of the Netherlands, as they felt religiously oppressed, so they in turn could become religious oppressors!

By the time Christmas actually arrives the kids are already fed up with damned thing and the look of awe has turned to one of extreme boredom. I blame that hideous invention, the fake tree, which extends Christmas by a month - in both directions!

I'll probably make a start on the planning next week, but I can't see the tree (if indeed it is a tree this year) going up before the 21st or 22nd.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Les Patterson's Christmas Card Batteries

Hay: "So what do you really want for Christmas?"

Chairman: "A pair of Sir Les Patterson pre-stained pyjamas."

When you buy a car battery you look at the amp hours in order to make a decision; when you buy. With 1.5V batteries there's no such guide - it's pot luck as to whether the batteries will die tomorrow or in six month, as we've discovered with the electronic cat flap. Why the hell can't battery manufacturers put the milliamp hours on their wares? It has to be a conspiracy.

That said, a bit of research has shown me that there is indeed a code, but it's still rather vague and tells you next to nothing about a battery's longevity within that code. For example, LR6 means an alkaline battery with a capacity of anywhere from 1800 mAh to 2600 mAh. What you need to be looking for is apparently the cheapest FR6 (Lithium), which results in a capacity of 2700 mAh to 3400 mAh, a slightly narrower margin, but at least far in excess of that of an alkaline battery Price is certainly no guarantee of performance within the alkaline range, nor the lithium range. 

Managed to achieve a tactical victory this week by using the element of surprise - got all our Christmas cards send by last Thursday. Smug, or what?

Saturday, 10 December 2016


Overheard in the pub:

Chairman: "I'm quite gregarious, it's just that I don't like people."

Hay: "That statement will be on your Overheard blog segment tomorrow."


Chairman: "Don't you think you mother me?"

Hay: "In what way?"

Chairman: "Well, you sometimes organise what I wear?"

Hay: "That's simply because I don't want to be seen out with a tramp."

Later still:

Waitress: "What 5 cheeses would you like for your cheeseboard?"

Chairman: "Oh, let's see - Dairylea, Philadelphia, Baby Bell, Kraft Cheese Slices and Cheese Strings."

Friday, 9 December 2016

Campaign Media Dinosaurs

You know that little T Rex that appears on your screen when you have no internet access? I only found out by accident the other day that if you click on it it starts a game.

I started a campaign the other day on 38 Degrees to force newspapers to print retractions and apologies on the front page. Seems I'm the sole campaigner. I seem to recall a similar petition several years ago but it got nowhere.

Have you noticed that web pages that used to show you everything you wanted a summary of on just one page now make you scroll down through several pages? I first noticed it with the BBC news website, but now all media outlets are doing the same thing and just filling space with massive pictures that add little, if anything, to the story.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Scotch Sales Calls & Fork Handles

It's not what it seems - I'm not injecting scotch intravenously but merely injecting the Christmas cake with more scotch. Honestly!

Remember those mail-order IKEA candles I bought, of which 4 of 6 turned up broken? The 4 replacements arrived by courier yesterday - 3 were broken. Here we go  again; I might just get the full complement by Christmas.

A strange thing happened the other day; I got a call from someone who registered as Stuart on the caller ID. My natural thought was that the caller was in my address book and I knew him. I couldn't actually take the call, but listened instead to the voicemail he left. It was a sales call from someone I don't know. Inspecting my address book I discovered I had no contact called just Stuart, which I found somewhat curious.

Somehow he'd managed to insert his forename into the caller ID such that I'd naturally think it was someone who I knew and hence answer the call. The lack of a surname was an obvious sales ploy, as I'm bound to know several Stuarts; however, the inclusion of a surname could feasibly alert me to the fact I didn't know the person and may possibly not answer the call.

I found this on YouTube concerning the ploy, which is quite interesting:

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I Spy a Turner Bingo Prize Cake

I hear Angela Merkel is calling for a ban on the burqa. She is, however, up for reelection and thus it can only be interpreted as a sop to the hoi polloi as I believe she's too intelligent to actually want a ban herself. What I  find strange is that the country with probably the greatest cause to ban the burqa on security grounds doesn't - I speak of Israel. Just goes to show that there's something else behind the call for a ban, and it isn't attractive.

The annual farce called the Turner Prize - and my annual rant. What is the collective pronoun for a bunch of pretentious pseuds? Time was when almost everyone recognised art when they saw it. Nowadays no-one, even the so-called connoisseurs, know what it is; put a sack of spuds in the Tate and you're bound to get some aesthete waxing lyrical with some bollock-speak that means absolutely nothing. The term 'art' has become so debased by the Serota Tendency as to be, to all intents and purposes, meaningless. Everyone who can position a few items on his desk is an artist. I'm firmly of the Brian Sewell school of art criticism.

Fingerprint recognition technology is making its way into our lives through smartphone and laptop security features. It would seem logical that the next step is its enforcement, such that intelligence departments can collect fingerprints and link them to IP addresses and communication devices, hence being able to better monitor subversives.

Not sure if I'd be happy with this due to the potential for misuse and/or fraud, but it's certainly not beyond contemplation, if not implementation. The discovery of fingerprints at the scene of a crime could no longer be relied upon as evidence, unless containing a trace of DNA, which is rare, due to DNA being unstable and fingerprints containing only miniscule traces of DNA, if any at all.

Time was when women would go down to the local Mecca bingo hall for a night out. Bingo was a side issue and the purpose of the weekly expedition was primarily social. On-line bingo companies are now turning this around so you can play bingo at home, in isolation. A worrying trend that puts the betting element to the fore.

Made the Christmas cake yesterday - a bit of a disaster. For a start I'd left it too late and didn't have time to steep the dried fruit in whisky for 3 days, so I just chucked a quarter of a bottle of scotch into the mix. That's not really a disaster in itself, but in my rush I totally forgot the nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon - in fact everything that makes it a Christmas cake. I'll just call it a Christmas Dundee cake.

Should Judge Rinder make the final decision on Brexit? Just a populist thought...

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Problem with Populism

People should be very wary of voting for single issue, populist parties. Populism revolves around a single issue - invariably grossly over-simplified, offering solutions having nothing to do with the problems, appealing to the lowest common denominator, utilising a scapegoat and consequently polarising opinion. Those who elect a populist government will have a range of views across the political spectrum on every issue outside of the one issue that unites them and hence 50% will be unhappy with the remaining policies (if any) of the party they voted for - policies that affect them on a day-to-day basis - transport, education, health, taxation, etc. Because of this such a party would effectively be paralysed if it wanted to govern and stay in power. You only have to look at the paradox of people who would naturally vote far left joining forces with right wing UKIP in pursuit of the single aim of Brexit. If that's not a recipe for complete disaster in other policy areas, then I don't know what is. Think NHS, for example - would a right-wing or left wing policy be followed?

The result can merely be a bit of inner city rioting or the political collapse of the government through a vote of no confidence, if there is indeed enough of an opposition in parliament to force a vote. In more extreme situations where there is no opposition, martial law can be imposed to regain some form of order and stability, with the attendant possibility of a dictatorship. 

Think of any popular revolution of consequence and it’s hard, if not impossible, to find an example where either a dictatorship or military rule did not follow. The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Cuba, the Iranian Revolution, countless examples in South America and Africa, the Arab Spring, even the English Civil War - none of it went particularly well. Furthermore, when you're in power through a popular revolt there's a tendency to paranoia in case there's another popular revolt against you once the realisation set in that half the people who voted for you don't agree with any of your other policies. Paranoia is the handmaiden of conspiracy theories and conspiracy theories facilitate all manner of human rights abuses in the name of stability and public order.

Like it or not, we need a political class experienced in politics and diplomacy and parties with joined-up policies across all areas of government, not just one-trick-ponies. Who can honestly say what the transport policy of UKIP is, or the education policy of the Greens without looking it up?

Popular uprisings invariably replace an allegedly 'corrupt elite' with another, yet more corrupt elite that becomes corrupted through having no previous experience of wielding power and no cohesive strategy beyond the single issue that got them into power in the first place.

Some pundits in the Brexit camp (particularly in the right wing press) are waxing lyrical about civil war if hard Brexit is not carried through, labelling all dissenters and the impartial judiciary as 'traitors' and trumpeting 'the will of the people' (more like the will of the baying mob that's been seduced by the demagogue). That, of course, is armchair rhetoric, but they're not far off the mark with the potential fallout from the consequences of a single issue party gaining power through cynical manipulation of the mob. For that reason, most referendums involving seismic shifts in policy tend toward the status quo, requiring a large majority of two thirds, or even three quarters, not a simple majority.

Baby and bathwater - caveat emptor!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Brassica Backlash

Was watching Country File last night and apparently a whole new generation of brassicas are being developed by farmers. Not much use your's truly, as, unless cooked with heaps of bacon or some other cured pork derivative, a different colour or shape makes not one iota of difference as all brassicas taste like sewage to me. The strange thing is that I love spring greens, but only if lightly steamed and smothered in butter, salt and pepper. 

That gave me an idea for a brassica weeding device based on a robotic sniffer system; if  it smells of sewage it's a brassica, if not then it's a weed. If the sniffer accidentally does come across some genuine sewage it wouldn't matter for those who like brassicas.

Being a good northern lass, and had she still been alive, my mother would have been putting the sprouts on to boil just around now so they'd be ready for Christmas Day. How on earth did sprouts come to be associated with Christmas dinner, and will there be a backlash against the Brussles sprout this year?

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Overheard in Stroud

Overheard when going to Stroud market:

Chairman: "I think I'll wear the jacket I got from the charity shop last week. It's warm, it's practical and it's stylish."

Hay: "It's not stylish."

Chairman: "OK, it's warm and practical."

Overheard in a cafe in Stroud when a young waitress brings us a cappuccino and a latte:

Chairman: "That cappuccino is dairy-free, isn't it?"

Hay: "And the latte is coffee free, isn't it? I have a coffee allergy."

You know the rings that are left when you remove a phone holder from your car windscreen? They should have a technical name.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Veil of Oppressive M&S Pong

I was listening to something about burqas in Germany on the radio yesterday morning. One person was saying that the burqa has no place in modern society as it's a symbol of male oppression. It occurred to me that telling a woman, who actually feels more comfortable wearing a burqa in public, that she can't, is equally oppressive and the burqa in this case becomes no more than a veil (if you'll pardon the pun) for anti-Islamic sentiment. It's blatant hypocrisy and some people are merely hanging their prejudice on it. Yes, there should be certain exceptions - in a bank, in court, in fact, anywhere where you have to remove, say, a motorcycle helmet. Women in the west have every legal right to not wear the burqa, women equally have the right to extricate themselves from an abusive relationship; if they choose not to, whether Asian or Western, that's their concern. No additional legislation is required. How would women react if someone took it on their head to ban them wearing a miniskirt or having tattoos? There'd be uproar. Islamic countries may well ban the display of acres of female flesh, but such countries are not exactly noted for equality or freedom and we shouldn't be following their lead in setting our boundaries.

Hay is organising the Christmas cheeses, which will be gleaned from a £30 wedding present voucher in favour of Pong Cheeses: Langres unpasteurised, Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue, St Maure de Touraine, Lincolnshire Poacher, Wife of Bath. Can't wait.

She went to Marcus et Spartacus yesterday to spend a £70 voucher (another wedding gift) and came away with hardly anything, whereas £70 in Lidl buys an entire week's shopping for 4, including booze. Marks do frozen turkey crowns for £20 and larger ones in Lidl are £11.99. What a rip-off!

Friday, 2 December 2016

LibDem's Midnight Running IP Addresses

Overheard on the telly:

Host of Points West: "Discussing drink / drive initiatives in the area, we have the Head of Road Safety, Avon and Somerset Police, Inspector Kevin Rowlands."

Chairman and Hay, simultaneously: "So that's what he's doing these days."

So the LibDems ousted Zac Goldsmith in Richmond on a platform of remaining in the single market. Can anything be read into that? Richmond contains a high proportion of graduates (who generally voted Remain in the referendum) and the area did indeed vote Remain in the referendum by a long chalk, so I guess not, but to overturn a majority of 23,000 is no mean feat.

Time was when your IP address gave a pretty good indication of where you were logging into something from. These days it's pot luck. Mine regularly shows up 700 miles away from here as some Godforsaken hamlet in deepest, darkest Scotland where it's debatable as to whether they have internet in the first place. The only thing you can guarantee is the country (and even that's no guarantee in England, Scotland and Wales).

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Goat, Cats' Whiskers and Indian Mutinies

Various groups are petitioning the government to replace the tallow that's used in the production of the new £5 note. One is reminded of the cause of the Indian Mutiny - the pre-greasing of musket cartridges with tallow and/or pork fat, which offended a number of religions - well, basically all of them in India. Vegans are also getting in on the act now. We may laugh, but imagine the uproar in Britain should dog fat be used.

December at  last; finally we can start thinking about Christmas. No.2 Son knows exactly what he's getting for Christmas - the write off of his £52 mobile data bill in exchange for no Christmas money. He racked up £52 in data above his 3Gb monthly data allowance, and that was in addition to the previous month's £82 data bill that he had to pay me. There was a slight gap between the bill for the previous month and me slamming a bar on his data usage on Vodafone, hence the £52. You'd think teenagers were a bit tech savvy, wouldn't you...

Lidl Petit Chebra goat's cheese - one of my staples. Can't get through a week without at least two of these cheese logs. Comes in a dual wrapper; the outside is a sheet of plastic and the inner wrapper is paper, the sole discernible purpose of which seems to be to stick to the cheese.

I always have to remove it. Seems senseless to have it there in the first place as the outer plastic wrapper serves its purpose in full.

Our neighbour's two cats regularly enter our house, much to the chagrin of Kitty, who doesn't really get along with other cats. The black one is pure mischief, whereas the ginger one (is one allowed to say  that these days?) just sleeps all day and when he is awake just sits there looking at you quizzically. I'm never sure whether it's a look of cool detachment or whether he's just simple.

Yesterday Hayley was away in Newcastle, No.1 Son was ill in bed, No.2 Son was in his caravan (with no idea how to connect to the printer) and I was in the kitchen. Suddenly our printer spat out a couple of pages of a More Than pet insurance application form. I have no idea how that happened, unless the cats were communicating with it via some cats' whisker wi-fi method and trying to tell me something.