Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Dinar Commas

I'm currently in Rotterdam on a business trip. Yesterday, at Heathrow, the guy in front of me in the Travelex queue was rather annoyed; he was trying to buy Serbian Dinars, but they didn't have any and he was just about to board a flight to Serbia from T4. Does seem rather an oversight on the part of Travelex to not have currency for all the destinations T4 services.

Having read some Charlotte Bronte I'm now reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by her sister, Anne. One thing I immediately noticed was that Anne uses a preponderance of commas, even in places where logic dictates a comma is unnecessary. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this?

Monday, 27 February 2017

Sporting Clothing

It's funny how 'professional' everything has become over the years. All these cyclists (of which we have hundreds around here) wearing skin-tight, aerodynamic Lycra, composite, designer helmets, and mirrored shades, riding bikes costing thousands of pounds. Not at all like when I was a kid and cyclists wore sou'westers, voluminous, yellow, oilskin capes that went over the handlebars and cycle-clips, looking like they were tacking up the road in anything more than a light breeze.

Here's a photo of my flat cap, which I call my 'George Mallory ascent of Everest' hat. It goes with a pair of plus-fours, a tweed jacket and a stout paid of boots with long, wooly socks - its all you need for climbing in the Himalayas, or indeed a bit of polar exploration....

The kefir worked out fine, even though I started out with no more than a teaspoon of the starter. Slightly effervescent (as you'd expect), but not as thick as I thought it would be, but that's probably just down to the small starter and the next batch will improve now that the starter has grown to a good cup-full. Hay is going to be the guinea-pig.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Homeless Kefir Rungs

Jeremy Corbyn is apparently determined to finish the job he set out to do; by the look of it, I guess that must be the total destruction of the Labour Party. At least the LibDems will benefit.

Talking of Jezza, I saw our local homeless person (there's only one) just off the High St yesterday. Rather than giving him money, Hay normally gets him something useful; last time it was a blanket for him and his dog. We were walking past a local gift shop when I spotted him and suggested something from there - Hay didn't think a Cath Kidston bag or a scented candle would go down too well though.

I bought some kefir starter grains on eBay and am having a go at making a litre of the stuff. Hay quite likes it and it's meant to be much better for you than yoghurt. Will report as and when (and if) I get a result. Doesn't seem much different from using sourdough starter.

The first ferment takes 24 hours - and it's looking good so far.

Hay's dad came round to borrow our ladder yesterday, but he said he only wanted three rungs as he's scared of heights. Despite suffering from flu he still seems not to have lost his sense of humour.

I see there's been a terrorist incident in New Orleans where a vehicle ploughed into a crowd - OK, I know it's not a terrorist incident, but Trump is bound to report it as such, say the perpetrator was a Mexican offshoot of ISIS - ISIM - and use it to justify all manner of nonsense.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Foo Who?

The Foo Fighters were playing a surprise gig just down the road in Frome last night. The BBC interviewed locals who, in the main, were around their early 60s and, almost without exception, no-one knew who the hell the Foo Fighters are. 

I  just cannot believe that people from my generation are just so disconnected from popular culture. 

There again, I was listening to Desert Island Discs where crusty, 71 year old history professor, Sir Antony Beevor, was picking classical music featuring mainly trumpets, when all of a sudden he selects a couple of Blondie tracks. Never saw that coming. Mind you, he looks to be more in his 50s than his 70s.

Friday, 24 February 2017

The Snell of Tear Gas

Seems that in the Stoke by-election UKIP has been soundly beaten by Labour's vehemently anti-Brexit Gareth Snell, despite Stoke having been called 'Brexit Central' due to the area voting overwhelmingly for it in the referendum and Tristram Hunt, the resigning MP being pro-Brexit. Is this down to the UKIP candidate being a grandstanding, deluded fantasist (an affliction peculiar to the many Kippers), the fact UKIP is viewed as one issue party whose issue has come and gone, or the real consequences of Brexit finally dawning on the voters? There's no denying Theresa May has drawn UKIP's teeth, but to vote for an ardent Remainer seems perverse, unless the tide is turning in Stoke.

Copeland voted to leave the EU by a factor of 2:1. The Conservative candidate maintains she voted Leave in the referendum and is prepared to tow the party line, but the fact UKIP was beaten into 4th position seems to show it as a spent force.

The extremes, whether on the left or right, are interested in 'the will of the people' only once. They use the will of the people as a key to take a snapshot in time and then freeze or pickle it by throwing away the democratic key and brook no further change of mind, thus denying what democracy is - a process, not a binary event.

Rioting French students are being tear gassed by police. It almost reminds you of the 60s.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Ripped Eyes

Spectacles are becoming a rip-off. Time was when you could get your old specs reglazed for next to nothing, but these days they bring in a frame design only to withdraw it a nanosecond after you've invested in it, meaning you have to buy a new frame every time you need a new prescription, and the frame is often, and inexplicably, more expensive than the lenses. I was ripped off for £156 the other day at Specsavers - I could buy a car for that! But at least I get the eye test for free now.

Now for the interesting part. It was £156 for one pair, but the two-for-one deal resulted in a cost of £208. I think that may be because I have varifocals.

Roll on the day they develop a reliable pair of self-adjusting specs that last a lifetime.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Stable

I ignored my own advice a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't find a Mazda Premacy or a Chevy Tacuma to add to my stable anywhere within 100 miles of where I live and the Hyundai Getz pool car was on its last legs, the exhaust having fallen off a couple of days after it just about scraped through its MoT. At £200 for a new one, it just wasn't worth it, as it's highly unlikely it would get through another MoT without some serious attention to the bodywork.

Anyway, the 2nd hand car place a couple of hundred yards up the road happened to have an '05 Jaguar X Type diesel estate hidden round the back for £995 - I thought a number had dropped off the price tag, but no, the dealer got it as a part-ex and wanted to get rid of it quickly as he needed the space for more expensive cars. 160k on the clock but, with a 2 litre diesel engine, it's good for another 140k. It also has a tow-bar - an essential requirement. With the exception of a couple of scrapes here and there on the nearside (not to the metal and which I can easily blow in myself when the weather warms up a bit) and the perennial problem of rusted window seals, it looked an absolute bargain.

Kicking the tyres got it down to £900 (tyre kicking will always produce a result, especially done while tutting, sucking your breath through your teeth and shaking your head from side to side). I spent no more than £140 on new window seals all round and gave it an oil change (regular oil changes are the secret to engine longevity on a diesel). It has one major design fault - the Jags of this type and age have Ford engines. Can't be helped - will probably make servicing cheaper though.

Even if I only get 5 years out of it, that will be very cheap motoring. To cap it all, No.1 Son's mate's mother was desperately looking for a cheap runaround and snapped the Getz up at £200 (with a full tank of petrol, which probably accounted for 1/3rd of the price). So all-in-all, a net cost of £840 for a 2 litre diesel Jag estate, with no rust whatsoever, has been added to the stable. Not a bad deal.

If anyone's interested, the '93 Mercedes 300SL (R129 model) will be up for sale come March/April. Hay won't let me keep that, the 500SL and a Jag.

Estimate of around £4.5k. 3 litre straight 6 and not a spot of rust. Under 100k miles (97k, if I remember correctly).

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Art is As Art Does

Art - what is it? Has the word lost its meaning - if it ever had one in the first place?

Everyone knows when they see a great painting or play, or hear a great piece of music that moves the body and stirs the soul, or reads a wonderful book that keeps one riveted. The problem comes in that area where art nudges up against craft of even mere decoration and it's impossible to tell whether, say a painting, is a 'work of art' or merely some commercial art or even a scrawl.

Hay maintains it's all in the intention; I have my doubts and feel a level of skill is required. There are disciplines where such levels of skill are readily apparent between practitioners and the men are easily sorted from the boys. Playing an instrument is within everyone's capability, but playing it well is evident to the average listener. Acting is also within everyone's repertoire, but most of us make a complete hash of it. As for dancing, dads the world over make a bold attempt, but few can master the necessary skills.

The visual arts are where opportunities open up to mere mortals and virtually anyone can pass themselves off as an artist, with the consequence that charlatans abound. Not, of course, in traditional painting and drawing of reality, but the more modern visual art forms, such as expressionism and art installations, which can mask a total lack of talent, as demonstrated below.

Marcel Duchamp's famous 'Fountain' had the following said about it; "Whether the artist, with his own hands, made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object." To me that sounds like pretentious twaddle - it's declared as art merely because the person who 'created' it says it is. If that's the case, a bricklayer can declare his wall a work of art and Colin (our tame builder) has been creating art all over our property for  the last 10 years. Not the house, of course, as the designer was an architect and Colin merely the assembler.

Duchamp did have talent though, but this is only evident through his early work before he started his experimentation and went from what he called retinal art to a form of art that challenged the intellect. He was actually challenging the very notion of what art is.

The concept of a work being defined as art (rather than decoration) purely because the maker defines it as such not only democratises art, but opens the floodgates for all manner of charlatans, as evidenced by the burgeoning 'modern art' market controlled by the Sarotas and Saatchis of this world, who cannily set themselves up as arbiters of not only of what art is, but what constitutes great art (because no-one actually knows). It's a master class in creating a market demand, fulfilling it and making a fortune through patronage. It's a con on a massive scale, but because institutions and luminaries have bought into the scam with vast amounts of money, it's self-perpetuating and there's too much to lose by highlighting the fact that the Emperor has no clothes.

Don't get me wrong - I have no issue with artists who have demonstrated talent in a more conventional sense then pushing the boundaries and experimenting, but when someone starts out as an experimenter with no underlying talent whatsoever - and some modern art forms facilitate that - then it becomes a decorative gewgaw at best and a scam at worst. Even then, one can't tell whether what's produced is great art and it all boils down to whether the artist showed earlier skills in the more traditional works, and even that is not a guarantee.

One only has to remember that great artist, Pierre Brassau, who wowed art critics in Gothenburg in the '60s. Only one critic saw through the hoax. Pierre died aged 10 from tuberculosis - not a common ailment among chimps. Below is one of his works.

Much of what's termed modern art is the equivalent of someone pressing random keys on a piano and declaring it an artistic endeavour.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Crackling-meister Fiver

I have finally become a crackling-meister. While I've never had a problem getting a lovely crackling on a pork roast bought fresh from a butcher, I've always had problems with vac-pack pork bought from a supermarket, resulting in some chewy, flacid stuff that had to be thrown away. 

The secret with waterlogged pork is to raise the heat for the last 30 minutes of roasting (not the first, as seems to be the orthodox recommendation) and to leave the roast in the oven with the door slightly ajar while cooling and resting.

I was stood in a queue at our local Tesco on Friday evening and had to endure some punter inspecting a new, plastic fiver for one of those micro engravings that signify it could be worth £50k and discussing the issue with the lady on the till for five minutes, oblivious of the ire he was causing to those waiting to be served. Some people really don't have a clue.

The lady on the till seemed to think all you had to do on finding one of these fivers was to take it to the bank and they would give you £50k. I had to tell her that it might be worth £50k, if she could find someone on eBay who was daft enough to pay £50k for one, but the bank would only give her an exchange fiver.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Post Truth Memory

Blair calling for a coalition of the willing against Brexit is attracting all manner of opprobrium, including calls for him to be tried as a war criminal. My, my, how short memories are.

Polls conducted well before the Iraq invasion showed majority support for the invasion (more than the number supporting Brexit), with only a small minority of the left being against it - and this was before the release of the 'Dodgy Dossier' in February, a few weeks prior to the invasion. People were citing Saddam's ruthless killing of up to 300,000 of his people as sufficient reason to remove him. Statistically, most of the people reading this today supported the invasion with no dodgy dossier. Where have you all gone? Some people need to inspect the deeper recesses of their memories and consciences.

The Dodgy Dossier is attributed to Blair and Alistair Campbell, but he had no part in its production - it was produced by the Joint Intelligence Committee, part of MI6. Blair's fault, perhaps, was not to question its veracity with sufficient robustness. It was Andrew Gilligan who claimed the government had 'sexed up' the dossier; a claim that was totally untrue and led to his sacking. Chilcot absolved Blair of any part in the dossier.

Once the aftermath of the invasion showed the result to be a litany of incompetence on the part of the occupying forces, people started to conveniently change their minds and failed to recall that they'd actually supported the invasion in the first place. A case of post truth memory. The mob can be extremely fickle, as well as riddled with hypocrisy.

The charge of war criminal has been repeated so often that it seems to have acquired the status of a self-evident truth, although a court of law is the only place where this question could be definitively settled, and the likelihood is that a properly constituted court would find that Blair is not a war criminal at all.

If Blair is a war criminal, then the charge must also lie at the feet of St Margaret Thatcher, who purposely rejected military advice (and the advice of Peter Carrington, who resigned as a consequence) to beef up forces in the Falklands and incredulously withdrew HMS Endurance from the area, basically inviting Galtieri to invade, safe in the knowledge she could send a massive task force, win an astounding victory, and gain another term as PM (which at the time was against all odds) on a wave of popular triumphalism. She certainly had blood on her hands, but we'd best forget that, as we won with no nasty aftertaste. Blair's mistake was to win, but not convincingly, and the mob can't forgive him for that as it's on their conscience.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Packaging Show Titles

I don't know if you get calls from recruitment people, but I get them quite frequently (a result of having some 2,000 plus Linked-In contacts). I've noticed that recently recruitment executives seeking people for relatively lowly positions call themselves headhunters. Time was when a headhunter was retained purely to seek out high level CEOs, MDs and FDs.

We started watching the One Show on TV last night and listened to some 3 minutes of self-congratulatory bollocks before realising it was totally irrelevant to us. Didn't have a clue as to who the presenters, or the first guest, were. We need a TV channel that has wall-to-wall reruns of The Two Ronnies, Rising Damp, Porridge, The Morecambe and Wise Show, Only Fools and Horses, Tomorrow's World, etc., with the odd documentary (not about people on the dole or people merely doing their dreary jobs) and some good films or dramas. The odd talent show lasting no more than 30 minutes might be tolerated, but only if hosted by a resurrected Hughie Green (and I mean that most sincerely, folks) and not some orange arsehole with a show-biz career spanning all of 10 seconds. The contestants must have learned their craft in northern working men's clubs and be able to suffer heckling without requiring a trauma counselor.

Lidl really need to d something about the excess of packaging in their coffee pods. Aldi do it so much better.

And before anyone has a go at me for the coffee pods themselves, the coffee is recycled in the compost and the blue plastic pods go into the plastic recycling.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Sheltered & Protected Food

Sheltered accommodation. Isn't all accommodation sheltered? Bit if a dart term really.

As part of its focus on Brexit, the Today Programme on Radio 4 yesterday was focusing on Cornwall. A Pasty Baron was interviewed about the Cornish pasty and it being a protected species under EU rules and the fact this may be under threat following Brexit.

Load of bloody nonsense all this protected food designation. For a start, a Cornish pasty has to be made of minced beef, potatoes, swede and onions. If it has anything else in it, it's not a true Cornish pasty, meaning the cheese and onion ones and the chicken ones you can buy at any pasty emporium in St Ives and labelled as a Cornish pasty is, by implication, not a Cornish pasty.

Should it matter where a foodstuff is made? It's not as if it's a guarantee of quality in any way, shape of form, Why is it that Stilton has to be made within a few square miles when Cheddar is made all over the world? This is especially daft when Stilton is not even real Stilton anymore as it's now made from pasteurised milk and by some quirk of fate this has been enshrined in the rules on Stilton manufacture. Idiocy! The real Stilton recipe with unpasteurised milk has to be called Stichelton. 

For a start it's anti-competitive and protectionist, as well as resulting in many millions of additional food miles in transporting it from its small region of manufacture to the point of sale. Foods should stand or fall according to their quality, not where they were made, unless they have a patent slapped on them, which I believe is almost impossible anyway and certainly not on simple recipes.

While on the subject of Brexit, Tony Blair has gone on a crusade to persuade the British public to to change their view on Brexit. Blair is perhaps not the ideal choice as persuader; however, Iain Duncan Smith said Mr Blair's comments were arrogant, utterly undemocratic and showed that the political elite was completely out of touch with the British people. It's a bit strong to say 'completely' when the majority was extremely narrow and all the polls say that if the referendum were to be rerun today the vote would go the other way. It's Duncan Smith who seems out of touch.

Thursday, 16 February 2017


Still nothing from BT as to why they never turned up to install the new line on Monday and when they will return, if ever. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Customer Service

Whatever happened to customer service? Last month it was the people who install new power supplies and it took 3 missed appointments before someone actually came out on site and put a meter in. This month it's BT, who were meant to have installed a new phone line on Monday - not only didn't anyone show up, but BT themselves don't know what went wrong and say it will be 24 hours before they do - needless to say that 24 hours went by without feedback.

Bad customer service seems to be peculiar to public utilities where the product is a commodity and the only differentiator is price. That said, customer service is also a differentiator, but one that affects price. So I guess utility owners have taken a gamble that the instances of customers having to utilise customer services are so few that they're prepared to take the risk. However, it's a mistake to take the risk at the start of a service.

Regardless of any of the above, all the utilities outsource new power supplies to, I believe, 4GS and you have no alternative to BT for a new line, so that's just a case of hostage taking.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Back to the Wood in Headscarf Prisons

I wasn't aware that Wetherpoon's has been taken over by Punch Taverns...

I've been cultivating a luxurious muostache and BIG beard since before Christmas, but of late it's been getting on my nerves as I  couldn't drink a coffee without the moustache soaking half of it up and then dripping it on whatever I'm wearing. Waxing it and turning it up was one solution, but moustache wax doesn't react well with hot drinks and you just end up where you were before, but with added wax on your shirt front.

Anyhow, I removed the lot yesterday and took my face back down to the wood - or rather a designer stubble that's just a fraction longer than my usual length. The following was overheard:

Hay: "That's better, you look 10 years younger."

Chairman: "Ooh thanks."

Hay: "Yes, you now look 61 instead of 71."

The Chairman is 61. Just as well she's gone off on a business trip and won't be here for Valentine's eve...

She's right though - beards do age one, especially when they're grey.

The Swedish government has defended its decision to have its female officials wear headscarves during a trip to Iran, saying that failing to do so would have broken Iranian law. However, to mollify the protesters, why don't they just get the men in the delegation to wear headscarves too? They could call them turbans.

Overheard on a BBC News item about UK prison overpopulation:

Mark Easton: "Why is it that the prison population has doubled when crime has halved?"

Chairman: "Am I mistaken or wasn't the answer given in the question?"

Monday, 13 February 2017

Illogicality of Morgtgages

We are about to come to the end of our fixed rate mortgage and so had a conflab with the building society over the weekend. The upshot is that the interest rate has doubled to 5.44% variable, we're going to be paying the same amount we've been paying for the last 4 years (which was actually double when we needed to pay) and we will pay the mortgage off a year quicker (in 1 year 9 months). There doesn't seem to be any logic in this, but I'm not complaining. Looking forward to being completely (and I mean completely) debt free in 2019.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

The Ideology of Debt & Labour

How is it possible for a court, Supreme or otherwise, to be divided along ideological lines? The purpose of courts is to uphold and, if necessary, interpret the law. Courts must be above ideology, else they mock the very law they purport to uphold.

The USA is obviously not in so much danger that President Chump can't spend a week arguing the toss with the courts and then jetting off to Florida for the weekend, rather than immediately and humbly withdrawing the existing order, redrafting it and issuing a new legal one. Methinks this  is a vanity issue, rather than the stated one of security. The courts are an obvious scapegoat for his incompetence.

I was having a discussion with Hay about the situation in the UK and the prevailing opinion among commentators that politicians are out of touch with the electorate. I  think it's an over-simplification - many of them are themselves from the working class and all have teams of people within their constituencies producing surveys and seeing people in surgeries. What I think is the issue is that much of the electorate has totally unrealistic expectations - free NHS, libraries opened, buses subsidised, social care for the elderly, but with reductions in taxation while we're trying to pay off a huge bill for the 2008/9 financial crisis. It simply doesn't work like that - no party has ever been elected that stood on a manifesto of increasing taxation. It's the electorate that's out of touch with reality, as evidenced by the record, unsustainable, personal debt mountain.

That's not to say this is the only issue - the loss of manufacturing to a service economy hits the poorly educated and low paid more than the well educated, as it's manufacturing and assembling things that provides them with jobs, so yes, globalisation and the search for cheaper labour is a contributary cause of disaffection with the world order, but how can that be changed within a capitalist system that demands competitiveness for growth?

Perhaps it's time the powers that be gave consideration to the concept of a universal wage, funded by creaming off some of the profits from a rampant system that cares more for profit than people. But then those companies will simply move to a country where they can continue to operate as they always have. It's a difficult question that requires a global solution (there's that word global again), or simply higher taxes for those who have the money but can't move - the better paid electorate. We've come full circle though, as turkeys don't vote for Christmas.

The usual answer is populists politics that promise everything but deliver nothing, except a loss of freedom and possibly igniting war in the process. That said, war is good for making things and eliminating surplus populations...

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Wing Damage

On the way back from Athens on Thursday I took a photo while crossing the Alps. I think it's a disgrace that planes are allowed to fly with accident damage to the tips of the wings.

I fell asleep shortly after take-off, only to wake when the drinks and snack trolley had finished visiting my row. Took me an hour to get a coffee, as it was taking the Trolley Dollies about three times longer than usual to do their rounds due to having to collect money from the customers. Can't help thinking that this new thing of charging people for drinks and food is a retrograde step that had adversely affected customer service.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Class Warfare

In these days of social mobility through education, your class is not determined by how much you earn, but what you spend your earnings on.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Pot, Kettle, Black

Trump attacks a judge several times over the weekend and on Wednesday said federal judges opposed to the travel ban were acting politically. He then makes an appointment to the Supreme Court based on nothing but political considerations.

Pot, kettle, black?

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

You Are Remoaning

Had an alert on my mobile; thought it said; "You are Remoaning," turned out it said; "You are Roaming."

Went to see a prospect yesterday that is involved in LNG transportation. The illumination on the foyer is a work of art - it's designed to look like some massive, hydrocarbon, molecular chain.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Strange Email Flights

Overheard on Facebook Messenger:

Hay: "You watching the BBC News?"

Chairman: "No - can't get it here. Watching National Geographic channel."

Hay: "BBC story about East Lancs Accident and Emergency Dept."

Chairman: "Riveting! I'd rather watch National Geographic. Story about Atlantis possibly having been Morecambe."

What with email hacks and people's private thoughts being blasted all over the media, I would suggest that celebs go back to writing letters.

Got to chapter 8 in "It Can't Happen Here." Found this bit; Trump seems to be using article 15 of Buzz Windrip's manifesto as a manual:

Used the BA App yesterday for my flight to Athens and, for the first time, I used the mobile phone boarding pass - with great trepidation, I may add. What if your phone decides to go tits-up, or runs out of battery? You'd be stuffed!

Saw Dr Strange (the film) on the plane - total load of twaddle. Cumberbatch must have been paid a fortune to star in it, as I don't think it will do his credibility much good.

Not on The Chairman's list of recommended films.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Speed Vaccines

I wonder whether all these anti-vaccine movement people have their pets inoculated?

It doesn't bode well when Trump castigates both the media (who are not snow-white anyway) and the judiciary - especially the latter, who merely uphold the law of the land. Here's a couple of pertinent quotes from Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here:

“I know the Press only too well. Almost all editors hide away in spider-dens, men without thought of Family or Public Interest or the humble delights of jaunts out-of-doors, plotting how they can put over their lies, and advance their own positions and fill their greedy pocketbooks by calumniating Statesmen who have given their all for the common good and who are vulnerable because they stand out in the fierce Light that beats around the Throne.

“The Executive has got to have a freer hand and be able to move quick in an emergency, and not be tied down by a lot of dumb shyster-lawyer congressmen taking months to shoot off their mouths in debates.”

A sure road to a totalitarian state. I'm only on page 37 (I'm saving it for the flight to Athens later this morning) and already the similarities with the Trump administration are startling. I wonder when Trump will inaugurate the Minute Men?

In the book there's a bit about an evangelical preacher who uses the (then) new medium of radio to gain a massive, radical congregation, much in the same manner that Trump is using Twitter.

Mercedes has done it again!

At £143k, I guess I'll just wait till they come down in price as 2nd hand objects of desire. Might buy a low mileage one when they get to about £5k on the 2nd hand market which, if the 500SL is anything to go by, will be when I'm 82.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Have I Become a Toe Jam Brexiteer?

Overheard watching the England v France 6 Nations match:

Chairman (having heard repeated reference to toe jam): "So what's this toe jam business?"

No.2 Son: "Toe jam?"

Chairman: "Well, obviously I know what toe jam is, but what's the reference to rugby? Is it a new manoeuvre? Kept hearing it during the match."

No.2 Son: "Do you mean Itoje, the England player?"

Chairman: "Do I?"

Hay: "It's the name of a player, you daft bugger."

Chairman: "Sounded like Toe Jam to me."

Why wasn't Dallaglio playing, or Guscott, or Wilkinson, or Austin Healey? Can't recognise any of these whippersnappers.

I think I may have become a Brexiteer, but not through any argument I've heard put forward by the Brexit camp or even the government. I'm more than willing to change my stance, providing it's based on logic and not just wild speculation, wishful thinking, not taking into account our low productivity or unions, ignoring the fact we lost the Empire or the facile non-strategy of saying; "Let's all pull together and hope for the best."

It's not based on the traditional Brexiteer fallacy of 'because we buy more from them, then they need us more than we need them', which, if you have any basic understand of percentages and their effects, is just laughable and shows them up as pitchfork wielding rustics without the benefit of a GCSE in maths. Nor is it based on deceitful miracles suggesting we live on a golden highway to Utopia, rather than the UK - with all its warts.

Let's take a look at some figures:

Cost of EU membership = £8.5bn
Exports to the EU           = £220bn

That means an effective export tariff of 3.86%; however, that's currently paid by the government (i.e. by you and me in taxes) and not directly by the exporter.

The WTO tariff on our current level of exports to the EU (weighted by segment) would be 2.4%, which is lower that 3.86% currently being paid indirectly; however, that will shift from taxation to the export supply chain, making exports more expensive for the buyer and putting the UK exporter at a competitive disadvantage in Europe.

But, when looking at the import side, imports account for £510bn and will attract a (once again weighted) tariff of 2.53%, resulting in a gain to government coffers of £12.9bn. If that were used to subsidise the WTO export tariffs, then there could be an overall benefit from exports staying the same price, while imports would become more expensive and less competitive, thus boosting domestic consumption and helping the balance of payments. Subsidies under WTO are accepted, but can be actionable, meaning countermeasures could be taken; however, there are ways of manipulating subsidies via loans and all manner of skulduggery (fiddling with VAT, perhaps).

The beauty of this is that exporters wouldn't need to find other markets to replace lost business with the EU, which is easier said than done, although the majority of Brexiteers seem ignorant of this. Also, there will still be enough left over from the import dues to perhaps give substantial tax breaks to start-ups, thus encouraging innovation and investment, rather than focusing solely on tax breaks for mega corporations.

It all boils down to what else we get for the £8.5bn and whether the loss of that outweighs the potential economic advantage outlined above (e.g. holding the government to environmental regulation, etc.). Undoubtedly there would be an increased drag on trade due to the customs barriers. It might not be as simple as outlined - akin to me believing wine being part of my 5 a day as it's made from grapes. Certainly we could regulate the free movement issue that seems to be the sole concern of Brexiteers.

The old Adam Smith dictum of unrestricted free trade is no longer a fixed paradigm (for the benefit of the average Brexiteer, he plays for Wolverhampton Wanderers) and, if your balance of payments is shot to hell and gone (as ours is), careful use of tariffs can be a way of getting things back into kilter, providing there's a strategy for export growth. You can't simply keep buying from abroad and not sell anything near that amount back to Johnny Foreigner yourself - that applies whether we're in or we're out of the EU.

Of course, the above strategy works only because of the huge deficit with our largest trading partner. Once (and if) that disappears, a new strategy will have to be formulated.

Please feel free to criticise the above while I'm away (flying to Greece tomorrow for the week). Given I've not heard this put forward by Brexiteers makes me suspicious that there's a flaw in the logic and I'm talking out of my backside (I'm no expert...). Subsidies are frowned upon (especially agricultural subsidies) due to them encouraging inefficiency, yet that doesn't seem to stop other nations effecting them - the CAP, for example, and Chinese subsidies on steel, and China has been a member of the WTO since 2001.

Then the other issue to consider is whether the government would implement such a plan, even if feasible, or just bumble along without a clue. It's not an argument for leaving, but a way of making leaving possibly work without the devastating impact on trade, so I guess I'm still a Remoaner.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Difficult 2nd Powerhouse Air Ram

I've plateaued at 85kg, down from 89kg just after Christmas. I've hit what Hay calls my difficult 2nd album phase in my effort to lose some plumage. I'm either going to have to cut back a bit on the cheese, or convince myself that 85kg is the perfect weight for a 5' 11½" 61 year-old. Onwards and downwards...

Hay has borrowed the latest G-Tech Air Ram to see how it compares to the older one. While she was out shopping yesterday I thought I'd vacuum under my desk, but no matter what buttons I pressed I simply couldn't get the handle to tilt. I managed to almost disassemble the bloody thing and even had the entire handle off, but could I get the handle to tilt - could I hell.

I queried her indoors when she got home and apparently, contrary to all logic, you just force it with more pressure than you'd deem acceptable.

The Northern Powerhouse. Seems it's another one of those wishlist things and doesn't seem to be materialising. If the government can't create a Northern Powerhouse within the confines of the UK, what chance is there of making Brexit a success within a global context?

Friday, 3 February 2017

Lost Wax Method

Overheard while settling down to watch TV:

Hay: "Have you seen the state of your Father Jack chair?"

Overheard watching a documentary about 1930s poverty:

Narrator: "Sometimes, 60 people would share a single toilet."

Hay: "You'd be used too that, being a Northerner."

My God - I put a few pictures of some ships on my blog and the page hits go through the roof! What does that say the majority of my friends are?

Not at all impressed with IKEA candles this year. They just burn down in the middle, wasting half of the wax.

Waste of money.

My local MP, Luke Hall, was in the remain camp during the referendum, but the area as a whole voted for Brexit. Naturally, he reflected the wishes of the majority of his constituents and voted with the government, and I respect that. I equally respect those MPs who voted with their constituents. People calling for their lynching and threatening them obviously are not fans of democracy.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Of Ships and Shoes.... and Brexit

Time for a bit of nostalgia. I thought I'd show a small selection of the vessels I sailed in during my seagoing career, from 1971 through to the early 90s, starting with my first ship, the Onitsha, through to my last vessel, the container ship, Tokyo Bay.






Tokyo Bay

They got better as time went by, although they lost some of the soul of the earlier ships.

I don't envy the MPs having to vote on Brexit. The Brexit camp keep saying that if they don't vote their way then they won't have a job at the next election (a hollow threat when half the country is for remaining). I was surprised though that the vote wasn't more reflective of the referendum split. However, if it all goes tits-up (as it will, as I've not heard a single valid economic argument for leaving and all the Brexit camp talk banging on about is free movement), then the MPs will still get the blame for the fallout, as the fickle electorate is never willing to take the blame for the consequences of their actions. The MPs are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Hipster Phones

Overheard watching TV:

Hay: "What's the name Molly short for?"

Chairman: "Molybdenum?"

No.2 Son has broken his phone - irretrievably. As an interim measure, until he can afford a new one, Hay has lent him her Hipster phone.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's positively steampunk.

I think I've found out what's causing my phone to bootloop. I removed Dashlane and had no problem for a couple of days; reinstalled it and the problem returned, although less frequently than previously.