Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Funeral Photography Celebrations

Let me get this right; a Libyan travelling direct from Libya is barred USA entry, but the same person transiting via the UK is allowed in - at least that's the way I read the confusing literature, which seems to change by the hour. If that's so, then what's the point of the bloody ban in the first place?

Even if my reading is wrong, a dual Libyan / British Muslim is definitely allowed in (so we are assured by that other buffoon, Boris). Again, what's the point? Does having a British passport confer some magical, terror-free aura? For God's sake - aren't we having problems with some British Muslims going to Syria to actually fight for ISIS. Confusion reigns and I sense a furious, befuddled back-peddling that creates even more confusion. The words 'gross incompetence' come to the front of my mind and grossly incompetent people look for scapegoats to mask that incompetence.

It's no use Trump saying a week's notice would have resulted in a direct terror threat - this came straight out of his tiny head and went no further (that's very obvious) and so he could merely have kept it secret from the public while consulting a bit with some experts (there's that word again) about the implementation (not to say legality) and avoiding these chaotic consequences. The man seems utterly bereft of any common sense and appears to think he's in a reality show, but more than compensates for the lack of common sense with an overabundance of hubris. And it's very good hubris - the best hubris - no-one does hubris better - the other hubristic people are just losers, let me assure you....

Given MPs are to investigate fake news, they'll have to tackle Trump's Tweets and Sean Spicer's propaganda briefings first.

You know how people hire professional photographers for christenings and weddings? Are photographers missing a gap in the market by not advertising funeral photography?

Talking of celebrations, the next one in our family kampong is Hay's father's birthday on February 14th, when he'll be 81. He was telling us that when he was born his mother's family suggested he be called Valentine or Valentino - doesn't exactly mesh with Brian William though. He's rather glad they didn't change it.

He does have somewhat right-wing views, as most older people do, and we constantly joke about it with him. At our family dinner at the pub the other night I asked what he wanted us to do with his Nazi Party memorabilia when he passes away.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Smart Fox Gin

Well, the pilot programme for The Presidential Apprentice didn't go too well, did it? A very poor, some would say incompetent, implementation. Don't think I'll be watching the rest of the series - it's just a litany of ineptitude and poor planning. Perhaps they should give Alan Sugar a shot at hosting it.

Now watch Agent Orange cast around for for scapegoats for the fiasco and fallout. That's how demagogues work; the concept of the buck stopping with them has no meaning in their lexicon.

Overheard while dining out:

Hay: "Gin is my non-drinking drink."

Remember my post a couple of weeks ago about smart spectacles? Well it looks like a chap called Carlos Mastralengo is well on the way to making them as described, so they autosense distance and adjust accordingly.

Not the most elegant design as yet, but he's working on improving them.

Talking of eyes, there's an advert currently on TV for a Vauxhall Astra that has a fox caught in headlights. The only problem is that the makers have no idea about a fox's eyes and show it with round pupils, whereas the fox has eyes like a cat. Must be CGI eyes.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

5:2 Caramel Diet

Overheard in a shop:

Chairman: "That's a nice item of clothing. Look, they have them in chocolate, a hideous snot colour and..."

Hay: "Mustard."

Chairman: "I was going to say diarrhoea."

Regarding the GSM switch, I figured out that if you set your mobile as the Master controller, you can phone the GSM switch to change its state without generating a return confirmation message costing 5p. Just need to figure out how to get it to cancel the confirmation text when using text to control it. Here's a video of it, but blokey looks as if he needs a new tablet.

Any innovative ideas for its use? One could be to switch the main internet router off at bedtime on school days, but I'd have to lock it and the router in a cupboard.

We went out en famille last night for a celebratory dinner. Most unpleasant having to sit next to a table with a screaming baby. Why do parents these days feel they have a right to bring babies to pubs and inflict their kids on other diners? What's wrong with leaving your kids at home in the care of a babysitter, which is what we did as new parents?

Chairman's special diet supplement: 3 tins of Lidl sweetened condensed milk. Remove the labels. Cover with water. Boil on a simmer for 3 hours. Cool thoroughly.

Delicious caramel. Gave one away, storing another and snaffled the 3rd. Apparently you can do it in 30 minutes, if you use a pressure cooker.

Despite  that, I've managed to lose 3.5kg since the 9th January. Had put on some extra plumage over Christmas (and the run-up), so I decided to get a bit more strict on the 5:2 regime. Apparently I have another 4kg to lose to hit the green area of the BMI. That 3rd can of caramel is going to have to stay where it is for now.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Cabin Update With Electronics

2nd cabin just about ready. Just need to hang the three internal doors and finish off the parking area. Hay already has a local business start-up lined up to take occupancy in a couple of weeks.

Next on the to-do-list come summer is a solar PV array to power both cabins.

Hay bought a couple of Laptronix glass panel electric heaters on Amazon for the place - it's mistake to allow a woman to buy technical equipment.

The instructions are in Chinglish and as useless as a one-armed trapeze artist with an itchy arse. Through a process of elimination, I found it has no timer control (except for a countdown timer to switch it off after so many hours) and the minute you switch it on at the mains it defaults to the off setting, so you can't even use an external timer to switch it on automatically in the morning before you arrive. A total waste of £106 - she should have left it to the expert in the family.

I bought a text-activated switch on Amazon for £20.99 (just about the cheapest) to go with these heaters, but it's now redundant until such time as Hay gets some bog-standard heaters with a simple on/off switch and a thermostat.

The switch is magic - I got it working with a Giffgaff pay-as-you-go SIM, loaded with 10 quid to get started. You simply text instructions to the switch and receive a text confirmation of the status (on or off) by return. Really simple, but it costs 5p for every confirmation text received back. You're meant to be able to switch off the reply confirmation, but I can't seem to get it to work, failing which, I assume that once the top-up runs out it will just stop sending confirmations anyway, but I'll still be able to send control texts to it. You're also meant to be able to just do a voice call and it will simply change state from whatever state it happens to be in, with no confirmation text, but that doesn't seem to work either.

The issues are probably to to with the instructions once  again being in bloody Chinglish - very bad Chinglish. A tad on the bulky side too, as it can cover the wall socket switch and is flush with the socket, meaning it can turn it off the wall switch accidentally if pressed in too hard.

I can think of all manner of uses for it, from recycling the internet router remotely, to controlling a light while we're away.

Friday, 27 January 2017

For Once....

The other day I posted some useless items I've seen advertised on Facebook (the Norlan whisky glass, a plasma lighter and the tactical pen), yet there was one item that I think is innovative. The universal box spanner.

I'm always searching through a box of box spanners to find the right sized one, and invariably that's missing. This jobbie has a number of spring-loaded hex pins which retract and adapt to any shape, with the hex pin configuration ensuring a lock and hence a good grip, so it will fit anything - not only a nut or bolt.

The price on the Facebook advert was horrendous, but it was only about 3 quid on eBay - and that includes a hex adapter for a drill. Only time will tell how robustly it's constructed, but being able to use a single box spanner superbly meets my emotional needs, as well as my practical needs.

Thursday, 26 January 2017


Patriotism is a word that's appearing more and more within politics. There's a fuzzy boundary between patriotism and nationalism, and an excess of patriotism is chauvinism or jingoism.

Patriotism is a form of tribalism and one of the easiest emotions for the scoundrel to harness in achieving an end, as evidenced by numerous 'patriotic' demagogues and despots throughout history, along with Dr Johnson's observation that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. By that, Johnson meant that appeals to patriotism by a politician must be viewed dispassionately, as their aims are rarely patriotic.

Patriotism is rather illogical to my view - why pledge unquestioning allegiance to a particular country merely on the basis of being born on its soil? And what is allegiance to a country; surely it can only be to the government of the day, which many will have an issue with, as why else have elections every now and again? My country, right or wrong is not a philosophy I can adhere to, it betrays reasoning, encourages blind obedience and engenders Group Think. The Nazis and the KKK had their roots in patriotism.

I find images of American school kids with their hand over their heart reciting a creed in front of the star-spangled banner deeply disturbing and somewhat Orwellian; no wonder Trumpian anti-intellectualism is on the march. I wonder if Trump's next executive order will be to produce a list of proscribed authors, or declare certain art forms decadent (so long as it's modern art and musicals, I wouldn't have much of a problem with the latter). Marx and Engels once said that the workers have no country; they were talking about the millions of workers who had, were and would be sent by the ruling elite to fight in wars in the name of patriotism and that had little or nothing to do with them.

Being the product of parents of two nationalities and not being born in the UK myself, I have little truck with either nationalism or patriotism. I don't see myself as fully British, nor fully Dutch. Rather, I see myself as having a wider outlook that's not constrained by boundaries based on language and so-called culture. Having led a seagoing life added to that. All this, perhaps, makes me more tolerant of other nationalities - we all belong to one race and we're all driven by the same pursuit of happiness. As a consequence I'm probably more supportive than most of the EU as a fully-fledged state.

Someone told me recently that the EU is forcing us to lose our culture. I'd like to know how, unless it's to make us a bit more outward looking and not so bloody insular. It's also startlingly ironic when you consider the British have been the most successful nation ever in terms of forcing their culture on others. Most of the grand houses around the country were financed either through slavery or the pillaging of the Empire, which was deemed very patriotic at the time (and don't think I'm engaging in post-colonial relativism and making any judgments - it's just the way they did things then and no-one alive today can take responsibility for that).

What I really detest are the people who browbeat others with their patriotic zeal. It's invariably hiding something else and that's usually compulsion and a desire for subservience to a totalitarian ethic. Don't get me wrong - there are causes worth fighting for, but they have little or nothing to do with patriotism and everything to do with the difference between right and wrong.

I agree, however, that religious differences can introduce problems, especially when a religious philosophy encroaches on areas that should remain fully within the secular sphere and a belief having little to support it, other than numbers, is imposed on a population. Radical Islam and Republican Christianity fall into this category.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Emotional Needs

Hay was reading something about the alarming increase in the divorce rate among 50-something women and had some quite valid comments. The prevailing feeling among these women is that their emotional needs aren't being met by their husbands, but Hay pointed out that men, unlike women, are notorious for not being psychic and emotional needs have to be articulated if they are to stand any chance of being met. Communication is the only way to resolve differences that could lead to divorce and, even then, relying on someone else to meet your needs is a sure path to a one-way, neotenised neediness, which is a deeply unattractive quality. 

Hay never committed to a long-term relationship till she was in her early 40s, by which time reality had set in and the marketing image of a wonderful marriage with 2.5 kids, an expensive house and a marvelous lifestyle had been shown for what it is - a total fake. Bringing up kids is hard, and a lot of women resent exchanging a set of kids for one large toddler the minute the nest has emptied.

She remarked that a lot of women also try to compete with their daughters and become obsessed with looking like they're 25 when they're actually 55. They seem to think to themselves; "Is this all there is to life now?" and the short answer is yes, things aren't going to miraculously change. Essentially, if you want connection, tenderness, respect and unquestioning love, get a dog rather than a husband.

We men, on the other hand, have emotional needs that are quite easily met and don't necessarily require another person to fulfill them, just heavy machinery and/or pistons.

In the photo above, Colin (our builder) can be seen satisfying his emotional needs in a very efficacious manner - and all on his own. My emotional needs are met by occasionally getting into my Mercedes 500SL and clogging it. Buying tools at Lidl also goes a long way to meeting my emotional needs, as does arguing the toss with numpties on Facebook  (that's the 'connecting with people' bit).

Hay suspects I don't have than many emotional needs as I lack emotions, plus being totally devoid of empathy doesn't help me either. Being the sensitive soul that I am, I begged to differ.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Coronation St Emoticon Adverts for Tactical Pens

Had a million people in our house yesterday - period!

I  get a lot of messages, text or whatever, containing yellow smiley or laughing faces, yet I stick to the tried and tested ;o) - primarily because I don't know how to find the yellow ones and fear they are humungous eaters of data on a phone. However, I'm starting to feel that the younger generation no longer understand the old manual emoticons and I'm becoming a bit of an emoticon fossil. I've also noticed they're more a female thing, and used in excess by them in the same vein as multiple question and exclamation marks, which are needless.

For some reason or other I was looking up the Wiki page for Ena Sharples of Coronation St fame, as you do, and discovered she has a whole back-history which could form the basis of an excellent spin-off soap set during and after WWI. ITV is missing a trick here.

I keep seeing adverts on Facebook for the same daft things. One is a Norland Whisky glass at the princely sum of £42. Why anyone would want to spend more than the price of a bottle of whiskey on a glass to drink it from is beyond me. The other is a plasma lighter (a bit like a taser) that prevents you having to inhale the dangerous combustion gasses from lighter gas. Again, a bit pointless when your next action is likely to  be inhaling a lungful of carcinogenic, tar-infused cigarette smoke.

The piece de resistance has to be the advert for a Tactical Pen, probably instigated by yesterday's post on the Sheaffer. It converts very quickly into an offensive weapon, as if a pen can't already be offensive in the right, literate hands (ergo, the pen being mightier than the sword).

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Pen is Mightier....

Did I hear right that one of Obama's last acts was to free Bernard Manning? That's a travesty of justice, surely!

I loved Sean Spicer's (Trump's Press Secretary) take on the inauguration crowd numbers, which must have come from an alternative reality. Trumps seems to be battling fake news with his own fake news. Can anyone ever believe anything he says from here on in?

The latest cancer scare is food. Food causes cancer, so stay clear of it!

Fueled by the calligraphy bug, I decided to buy myself a Sheaffer Imperial fountain pen on eBay and managed to secure a gold plated 797 for just over 30 quid, which is a bargain. As it transpired, it almost matches my existing Sheaffer Targa ball point, which was totally unintended and an unexpected bonus. They aren't a perfect match, as the Imperial was of 1960s vintage and when introduced it had its own ballpoint and propelling pencil, whereas the Targa was a 1970s development, but it's near enough. The only difference is the clip.

Now the search is on for a medium or broad, inlaid gold nib for the Imperial, which are as rare as rocking horse poo. The beauty of the gold nib is that it's much softer than a standard steel one and adapts itself to your individual writing style much faster as the gold wears down.

I also bought Hay a 1970s, Lady Sheaffer 1001XG, Targa stainless steel 1st Edition fountain pen for her birthday - the accompanying ballpoint, which was a snip at £7 on eBay, arrived yesterday to make a perfect Targa set for under £50.

My father used to have an Imperial which he gave to me many years ago; however, it suffered from damage and went to pen heaven a long time ago. He wrote all of his correspondence with it and used a very distinctive Peacock Blue ink from Scrip. I think he fell in love with Sheaffer pens while bringing Liberty Boats back to the UK from the USA during the war. I have a couple of his old ships' logbooks from when he was captain toward the end of his career in the 1960s, and in the photo below you can see his signature in that colour at the bottom right.

Scrip no longer manufacture Peacock Blue, but there are near-enough approximations available on t'internet and I got myself a bottle.

Before going to sea, my father worked for a couple of years as a bank clerk in Den Helder, where he learned copperplate writing. Almost all Dutch people of his vintage (born 1914) had immaculate handwriting. While I have a penchant for the calligraphic stuff, my natural handwriting is quite poor (or so I think), whereas Hay's handwriting is far superior and well suited to  a fountain pen.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Right

You couldn't dream it up - the delicious irony of extreme right-wing, xenophobic, nationalist parties from across Europe having a pan-European conference to talk about co-operating to destroy the EU. There again, it's not without precedent and happened with the Pact of Steel between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, which had a secret protocol comprising an agreement over joint military and economic co-operation. Makes you kind of think the far right doesn't actually have an issue with the European Project, so long as they are running it.

On another front, what benefit will there be for the UK in a trade deal with the USA when Brexiteers are advocating that we buy British and Trump is demanding Americans buy American goods. Being at the front (or back) of the queue will be of bugger all use when nationalists are saying we should stick to our own.

Talking of Trump, Americans would do well to read It Can't Happen Here, a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis. Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of a politician who defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt and is elected President of the United States after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and "traditional" values. After his election, he takes complete control of the government and imposes a plutocratic/totalitarian rule with the help of a ruthless paramilitary force,

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Coronation St Chic

Went out for dinner with our good friends Jo and Pete last night. Given yesterday's post on spectacles, I was paying keen attention to Pete's. I never knew that the Jack Duckworth Sellotape-mended look had gone mainstream - Pete assured me they were actually designed and made like that..

It would appear Pete is a trend-setting fashionista.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Should Have Gone to ....

I think I'll boycott Trump's inauguration.

I must spend at least a month every couple of years having problems reading small print and wondering whether I need new spectacles, before deciding I really do and then spending another couple of months organising an eye test.

I sometimes wonder whether anyone will ever manufacture a pair of spectacles you can adjust yourself using some smart-materials technology to alter the lens shape. The only time you'd ever need to change them would be if you got fed up with the style. Not much in it for the likes of SpecSavers as they would almost be a one-time purchase; however, anyone developing them would corner the spectacles market within 2 years, albeit a much reduced market size.

There are specs on the market you can adjust, but they have very poor reviews and work on adjusting two lenses that slide over each other, rather than the lens actually changing shape. They're only for reading too and don't correct distance vision. A pair of self-adjusting varifocals is just what I need. Apparently a US company called PixelOptics did develop something along these lines, but went bust in 2013.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

2nd Hand Cars

You know I cannot, for the life of me, understand what persuades people to buy new cars. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they do, as it means more second-hand cars for me to choose from.

The benefits of a second-hand car include:
  1. It's much cheaper and you don't lose up to a third of the value the minute you drive out of the showroom,
  2. You don't need a loan to buy it, and a loan on a depreciating asset is the worst kind of loan,
  3. It's less likely to be subject to  a recall for some dangerous malfunction that only comes to light during the first year,
  4. It's invariably cheaper to repair, as you don't necessarily need to go to a main dealer,
  5. If you do total it, it's not expensive to replace,
  6. You're not so precious about getting a dent,
  7. Probably cheaper to insure,
  8. If old enough, you can do most of the servicing yourself, 
  9. If classic it's probably a lot more individualistic,
  10. The resale value will be much closer to the purchase price, and
  11. It may even increase in price if it's a classic.
I've never bought a new car, in fact the newest car I ever bought was a 5 year old Volvo estate which lasted me for 15 years. Most have been in the 10 to 20 year age range at purchase and I've never paid more than £7k (that was the Volvo). Most of my cars have been in the £2~3k range. 

Here's the Chairman's 2nd hand car tip. If you want a diesel powered, hatchback workhorse capable of towing a caravan, but couldn't care less whether it looks good or not, I'd go for a 2ltr, 2000 to 2004 registered Mazda Premacy. You've probably even never heard of it - that's because it's plug ugly, but because it's ugly you can pick one up with well under 150k on the clock (good for another 150k because it's diesel) for under £500. Bargain!

 Another in a similar vein is the Chevrolet Tacuma. Again, ugly as sin and little known, but you can pick up a 15 year old model with under 60k on the clock for less than £700. A 10 year old one will only set you back another £500 - max.

My next car is going to be one of the above, as the Hyundai Getz isn't powerful enough for a caravan and is at the end of its life anyway as it will probably not pass another MoT without a shed load of expense. Residual scrap value is £200 (if I'm lucky), but it only cost me £800 four years ago. That's what I call value.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Valentine for Putin

If your wife has a birthday in mid January (like today) and Valentine's Day is within a month of that birthday, you can forget about Valentine's Day - right?

All this kerfuffle over Trump and the salacious allegations; I guess the point is not whether Trump actually did any of those things, but whether anyone believes he's capable of doing them, which is a whole different ball-game. One also has to bear in mind that Putin is a master of disinformation and it wouldn't be inconceivable that he planted this story and ensured it was leaked. Far from Trump being about to become the most powerful man in the world, that title firmly belongs to Putin.

Still practicing occasionally with the Insular uncial script, but I think I need to develop my own style.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Man Looking

Yesterday a friend made a Facebook post regarding having to remonstrate with her husband about his inability to find things that are right in front of his face.

This masculine act of searching is termed 'Man Looking' by Hay and is a form of divination somewhat akin to dowsing, which only those carrying a Y chromosome are capable of performing. It comprises a mystical waving of the right hand in the general direction of where the missing object was last seen, waiting a few seconds to tune into the universe and uttering the incantation; "I'm sure I put it here." If there's no vibration or 'resonance' (as we men call it) felt in said hand then the diagnosis of 'missing object' is immediately confirmed. During this mystical rite, the womenfolk murmur encouraging phrases such as; "I can see it from here," or "it's staring you in the face."

Further investigation is deemed totally unnecessary, as actually looking or moving objects to uncover the missing item is forbidden by ancient tradition. Added to that, we just know it's not there. Confirmation of something missing is usually followed by the male laying an accusation before the feet of their spouse that whatever it is that's missing has undeniably been moved by the spouse.

Placed in this invidious position of imminent exposure, women then resort to trickery and sleight of hand, seemingly rematerialising  the missing object in a miraculous manner such that it's in plain view, subsequently drawing their husband's attention to it with a smirk of sarcastic triumph on their lips. We men never fall for this trick.

Objects that tend to disappear into the interstices of spacetime are keys, wallets, spectacles, letters and screwdrivers. The frequency of these items disappearing seems to increase with one's age. It can be possible for a man in his 80s to be totally unable to find anything whatsoever in his own house due to his mem-sahib succumbing to the female compunction to simply move things all the time.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Big - Small - Big

It's strange how technology starts of big, becomes much smaller and then gets bigger again. A prime example is the mobile phone. However, consider the humble pram too. They started off as massive carriages, minus the horses - aka the Silver Cross prams that mothers and Norland nannies all over the world used to perambulate their charges. The Silver Cross basically required its own garage. Mothers and nannies had to leave the kids outside any shop they had occasion to visit and I'm certain a lot of babies were nicked while their mother popped into a shop of some bacon.

Then came the Maclaren buggy. Small, efficient and convenient for packing away in a car boot. If ever you see anyone in their late 50s or early 60s with a missing fingertip, you can almost guarantee they lost it while folding a Maclaren in the 70s. No problem at all going through a shop with one of these, as they were only as wide as a child.

Then some bright spark decided to combine the function of a baby car seat with a pram, and now we once more have humungous Swiss Army prams that mothers insist on bringing into crowded coffee shops. They're designed so as to accommodate the entire kitchen and a massive Kath Kidston baby bag containing everything required for a week's stay in the Cotswolds.

One day someone is going to cross a pram with a 4x4...

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Phone (or Write) Home

Another day of volunteer phone box scraping and grinding yesterday.

No.2 Son and I took the 10 to 12 watch. 

Tried an insular uncial script with the calligraphy pens yesterday. Not too bad, but again, practice is required. It's not a script I've ever tried before. I'm really getting back into this.

I'll probably get into trouble for that. Who are the Romanes?

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Animatronic Egg Discs

Overheard while watching a local news item about the BBC Natural History Unit's use of animatronic spy creatures:

Hay: "Would you notice if an animatronic Hayley suddenly replaced me?"

Chairman: "I thought you were animatronic."

Hay: "Well, I'm not."

Chairman: "Just what I'd expect you to say if you were animatronic..."

Overheard listening to Desert Island Discs and demonstrating the change in language.

Chairman: "Hideous choices - these tunes were probably popular when she came out."

Hay: "Was she a bloke then?"

Chairman: "I  mean in the sense of being a debutante...."

Trump says he'll work with Russia. I  bet he will, given the recent events.

This week's egg delivery showed up what must have been a painful lay for one of the chickens.

One of our neigbours also had a similar delivery with just one humungous egg out of 6.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Bill's Epistle to the Blogosphere

The Sheaffer calligraphy pens arrived yesterday. Much broader nib than I'm used to and, not having done this for well over a couple of decades I'm rather rusty. Must see if I can obtain finer nibs, else I'll be constrained to jumbo-writing.

I had my own way of doing letters and I seem to have forgotten how I did the letter g. A bit of practice when I have more time and I'm sure it will all come back. Given there were three pens and a whole range of colours I tried a bit of decoration, albeit somewhat cack-handedly.

I'll probably bore everyone rigid now with hand-written blog posts.

Stop press: Just looked more closely at the nibs on the 3 pens and they are indeed of varying sizes, but I was so keen on having each pen for a different colour that I didn't realise it.

My Book of Kells book with the colour plates also arrived a few days ago. I'll never be able to replicate these capitals if I live to be 100.

Click on them to enlarge and appreciate their exquisite beauty.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Crowd Coach

Heard that Jose Mourinho has said that supporters need to up their game. Given that the level of crowd support can have an important psychological effect on players, this is an interesting concept. Support for teams in the USA is almost a professional job, what with cheerleaders, etc. Perhaps football companies need to invest in employing crowd coaches...

Wednesday, 11 January 2017


Stirred into action by watching the biography of the Brontës on BBC over the holiday period, I purchased copies of Villette and The Professor last week, the former being Charlotte Brontë's first novel and the latter being a later and shorter reworking of the former.

Unless you have a good command of French, don't bother with Villette. While the novel starts off in England, it swiftly moves to Belgium, where Charlotte Brontë seems desperate to display her knowledge of French. While I can cope with the odd word here and there, she quickly moves to entire sentences, then paragraphs and finally complete conversations, at which point I lost interest and gave up in disgust. It requires substantially more than just a rudimentary knowledge of schoolboy/girl French.

Very much a woman's book, meandering around stream-of-consciousness emotions and long, descriptive prose. You can miss paragraphs and even entire pages and not lose anything of the plot - it's just acres of descriptions. Extremely well written, but nevertheless boring for a bloke - not a steam engine or piston in the entire novel, and it's set in the Industrial Revolution, for heaven's sake. 

She and her family were spot on with the heavy metal umlauted 'o' in the surname though - good marketing ploy, well before its time and designed to attract the young.

Stop Press: got to page 9 of The Professor and decided to scan ahead for signs of French. Yes, littered with the abominable tongue, which is only to be expected with a rewrite. If only it had been set in Antwerp and not the French speaking part of Belgium. Will have to move on to some other classic novel set in Blightly.

While I'm aware that virtually, if not every word in English that ends in able is French in derivation, it only struck me on reading the novel that the English word 'chamber' is obviously derived from the French 'chambre'. Obvious when you think of it, which I never did. Strike out everything French in our language and you're left with just a bit of German and Scandinavian and a drop of Roman. So much for Brexit...

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Bland Media Cuckoo Strikes

Surely there must be a market gap for a news media source that identifies news, checks the facts and isn't just a propaganda machine for its owner's political views?

Heard something on the news this morning about someone in government wanting to introduce legislation requiring higher levels of support for strikes from union members before they can be called. I somehow think the government has stymied itself by requiring only a simple majority for Brexit, a decision of far greater importance to the country than whether a union goes on strike or not.

My company has just switched travel services provider and yesterday I was inducted into the web-based travel booking system. You have to set up your profile, including passport number, airline and hotel loyalty cards, etc. On entering your flight preferences there's a section on in-flight food, which you can't leave blank. Whereas it has some 20 options for every conceivable food nutter in existence, there's no option for just normal food. In order to simply get beyond the option I had to select the low calorie option - it was the least mad. There was even a 'bland' option. The latter must be for anyone wanting to sample British cuisine.

Went to our local National Trust property, Dyrham Park, on Sunday just for something to do. Feeling a bit flush, we had a light lunch in the cafe. Next to us was a family comprising mum and dad and four kids, none of whom were above 5 years of age. What was spooky was that mum and dad had dark hair while every one of the kids were was bright blond and looked like an extra from the Midwich Cuckoos. Scary.

We felt a bit under-dressed being in charity shop chic and simply couldn't compete with all the mums and dads with their Dubarry / Hunter / Kath Kidston wellies, Barbours and tweed caps. Why do parents insist on taking humungous buggies into crowded spaces? When I had young kids the object of the exercise was to own a buggy that folded into nothing, whereas today's objective is to have the buggy equivalent of a Humvee or small Sherman tank that caters for every eventuality, including off-roading.

Monday, 9 January 2017


Overheard while watching a TV advert:

Voiceover: "Tempur mattresses conform to the shape of your body..."

Hay: "Perhaps not the best idea in your case, Badger."

Chairman: "Mmmm, my thought exactly."

No.2 Son's phone has once more had to go in for repair and the only spare phone we have is a very, very old Nokia. Now the battery on the Nokia lasts an entire week or more without recharging, as it's simply a phone and nothing more. Now here's an idea; develop a mobile phone with two batteries - one dedicated solely to the essential phone functions and another for the less essential social media, email and web stuff that takes all the juice. That said, I would hazard a guess that, for kids, the social media functions are considered infinitely more essential than the phone.

Talking of mobile phones, we were in a local cafe on Saturday and a woman on the table next to us answered her mobile and proceeded to have a live video conversation with her daughter. Now, I don't know why, but it made me feel very uneasy. Why should I feel like that when it was no different to her having a conversation with her daughter had she been in front of her? Hay felt the same too, but neither of us knew why. It wasn't even as if the conversation was overly loud - it was just at normal conversation level. Any thoughts?

I've discovered the joys of AM radio of late. I'm fed up having to re-tune my FM car radio every now an again when travelling long distance on motorways. However, with AM it stays on the same station for the entire journey. OK, it's a bit crackly at times and you get interference when going under bridges, but given I mainly listen to Radio 4 and it's voice, there's very little detriment to my enjoyment.

Am I becoming steampunk?

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Wren Unitasking

Overheard while walking:

Hay: "I'm not talking to you while you're on that bloody phone!"

Chairman: "But I can multitask."

Hay: "You can barely unitask!"

Later in Lidl:

Hay: "Those are the apples you got last time. I wasn't keen on them."

Chairman, pointing to another box: "No, I got those apples."

Hay: "You're pointing to another box containing exactly the same apples."

Chairman: "Oh, yes, but they are still the apples you're not keen on..."

A family of wrens regularly get under the eaves of our house and inexplicably lay eggs in the middle of winter. The baby wrens fledge about now and manage (don't ask me how) to enter the upstairs of our house on their way out of the nest. 

Yesterday we had a couple of fledgling wrens in the upstairs bedroom. One succumbed to Kitty, but we managed to shoo the other out to safety - although I don't know how it will survive in the middle of winter.

You can just imagine the wren parents thinking; "Let's nest here; it's quite warm, and it will give our kids an excellent chance of survival," not realising that their progeny are going to have to run the gauntlet of Kitty on their way out from the nest.

Last week Kitty caught a bird outside, brought it inside, dismembered it under the stairs and then was sick. I believe she got a bad case of thrush...

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Alien Knowledge

Mrs May is to meet Donald Trump shortly after his inauguration. Will he Tweet that is isn't really Mrs May, but an alien in a Mrs May suit?

I often wonder whether our tendency to revere ancient knowledge (even though much of it is complete bunk) is due to the fact we had a Dark Age when a lot of knowledge was lost, and thus when the lost knowledge came to light it was indeed perceived as venerable compared to what was then known.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Lost in Translation

MPs and peers say migrants should have to learn English. I have no problem with that, but if other countries were to impose similar rules on Brits migrating to their countries, I believe we'd have very little emigration, except to former colonies. 

If you start a Google search with the words 'the British are notoriously bad', Google automatically, and amusingly, completes it with 'at learning foreign tongues'.

If God is indeed an Englishman, then he won't be able to understand prayers in any other language...

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Illuminated Manuscripts

Hay bought me a marvelous book for Christmas - Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts, by Christipher de Hamel. Heartily recommended for any with an interest in medieval manuscripts or simply the beauty of medieval calligraphy. A really entertaining and educational read, although I'm not even half way through yet.

On the back of it I bought Sir Edward Sullivan's The Book of Kells on Amazon (1927 edition), which allegedly has superb colour plates at the back, although I may unbind it in order to frame some of them (at £9.80, I can afford to do that, although it will be next week before I receive it and determine the state of the plates). I would have liked the original 1914 edition, given those plates will be over a century old themselves, but, at around a grand, it's out of my price range.

These are copies of some of the insular illuminated capitals (as the Irish ones were called) in The Book of Kells, drawn by Helen Campbell d'Olier. 

It  beats me why British people cover themselves in Pacific island tribal tattoos when these from closer to home are simply stunning. However, that said, recreating the sheen of gold on a tattoo just ain't possible - yet.

In my late 20s I bought an italic nibbed fountain pen and learned a form of gothic script, using it for all my logbook entries aboard ship. The captain was so impressed that he bought one himself, but he just couldn't get the knack and his entries were almost indecipherable. I haven't done it for decades though, although reading this book might stimulate me back into writing real letters, rather than just typing.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Wide Awake Tips & Predictions

Overheard in the morning:

Hay: "I was awake most of the night."

Chairman: "Yes, you were so wide awake I had to jab you in the ribs twice to stop you snoring."

Now for Mystic Chairman's 2017 Tip and Prediction Time.

Chairman Bill's Grooming Tip for Men:

Unsightly nose hair? A proliferation of ear hair? Eyebrows like curtains? Use this neat gadget to get your spurious, age-related hair growth under control (you'll never look the same again). Doubles up as a plumbing blowtorch, so a two for one bargain.

Chairman Bill's Technological Prediction:

Someone will invent a device for playing vinyl on a mobile phone, but it won't take off.

Chairman Bill's Expert Opinion Prediction:

The "will of the people" will not encompass the use of post-truth surgeons, architects, dentists, lawyers, car mechanics, plumbers, etc., who operate on the basis of gut feel rather than objective facts and expertise.

Chairman Bill's USA Political Prediction:

Republicans in the US House of Representatives voted to weaken the body that investigates claims of misconduct against members of Congress. Although since dropped, this would have had unexpected ecological benefits, in that the Republicans would, instead of Trump's much-vaunted policy of "draining the swamp" (which in any case would inflict untold damage on reptiles) have facilitated reptilian proliferation within Congress. Despite the U turn, the Chairman envisions the entire USA now turning into a political swamp with all manner of slimy, slithery creatures emerging and thriving on taxpayers' money and corruption.

On another tack, the Republicans will make it mandatory to carry a concealed weapon and then blame the resultant explosion in gun crime and accidental shootings on Mexican immigrants.

Chairman Bill's UK Political Prediction:

So, the Fabian Society reckons Labour is too weak to be a threat to the Tories. UKIP are in a stronger position since the referendum, what with Mrs May's dithering, but I'd hazard a guess that they're still not strong enough to be a major threat.

Lib Dems? Hard to say - they suffered from the coalition through no fault of their own as junior partner with limited power, but I think they could be a serious threat in an election due to them being the only party not riven by splits (you could argue UKIP isn't split, but it will be on every policy other than Brexit).

Mrs May has kept her powder dry and her strategy has been to not give away anything regarding Brexit plans. I don't blame her, as I believe she doesn't want to go down as the PM who oversaw a precipitous decline in the British economy, so, my prediction (despite vinyl sales being at a 25 years high and indicating a return to the industrial disputes of the 70s) is a snap election in the near future while Labour and UKIP are weak, possibly standing on a platform of no Brexit or a 2nd referendum, thereby drawing the teeth of the Lib Dems and possibly being prepared to enter another coalition with them if necessary.

She'd win hands down, as many who were ineligible for the referendum would be eligible to vote in a General Election, and a lot of those are natural Remainers.

Actually, I only said that to annoy the Brexiteers.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Schlock Swiss Holidays

Christmas decorations came down on Sunday and the tree went on the bonfire yesterday - thank God that's over for another year. The no booze during the week rule started again yesterday, as did the two skinny days a week (under 600 calories). Must shed the extra plumage gained over the last week and a half. We still have a shed load of uneaten food in the freezer, as I guess most people must.

I'm meant to be on holiday for the rest of this week but I'm all holidayed out. What with Hay asking me to go on long walks or hovering around and looking at me askance every time I showed signs of wanting to sit down, I just felt guilty and anxious when trying to relax. I pity male pensioners - they have to put up with this every day of their lives. Hay's working today, so I may just take today off in order to get a day of well-deserved rest and then get back to work tomorrow.

Watched Sherlock on iPlayer on Sunday night. Got completely disinterested after about half an hour. I fear it has strayed too far into the surreal for its own good and has interbred with Dr Who (hardly surprising when you consider Steven Moffat writes for both), although there are still a few excellent one-liners. Even Hay, who is an ardent fan, decided to go to bed after an hour and watched the rest last night. I believe it's a new series and not a New Year Special - I guess I'll be washing my hair, or something equally riveting, when the next episode is on.

After removing the Christmas tree it became clear that my prize Swiss Cheese plant is starting to suffer from a split personality. Being in a corner, under the stairs and facing two windows, it appears to be wanting to grow in two different directions, leaving very little in the middle. Given the foregoing and the fact it's starting to become too large for the space, I reluctantly put it on Freecycle yesterday where it was snapped up in a trice and should go to a good home. The search is now on for a new plant to replace it. Any suggestions?