Saturday, 30 September 2017


Working from home, as I do, I occasionally listen to the radio during the morning. Yesterday on Woman's Hour on Radio 4, I heard an item about discrimination against the traveller community. The subject of ethnicity and racial discrimination came into the conversation. 

I must say I've never seen Gypsies as anything other than British. The problem we have with Gypsies round here has nothing whatsoever to do with ethnicity, but the fact that, without fail, they leave a bloody mess behind them. About half a dozen to a dozen caravans (the modern kind with expensive 4 x 4s, not the quaint horse-drawn ones) come onto the common in front of our house and the men go to do some garden clearing work in the locality, and then leave all the rubbish dumped in the hedge, along with household rubbish, children's toys and even human excrement from their toilets.

We have to go out with bin bags and collect a dozen or more sacks of rubbish that they can't be bothered to deposit somewhere more suited - the horticultural detritus just has to be left. They're an antisocial pest. When we were building the house we used to offer them the use of our fresh water tap, but after the way we were repaid we no longer do this.

It's not racial discrimination - it's antisocial discrimination. I couldn't give a bugger what race they are.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Same Sex Marriage

Same sex marriage was in the news again yesterday with some church or other ripping itself apart over the issue.

When all's said and done, the church, whatever the denomination, is a club and all clubs have club rules. However, club rules change with the times and the opinions of the members, not to mention the law of the land.

Now the problem as I see it is that the church club is using a rule book from a long, long time ago. It's a bit like using Magna Carta or, more aptly, The Code of Hammurabi to resolve a legal issue today - plainly ridiculous. Hasn't someone thought to ask God what his opinion is today? There are many instances of God changing His mind in the Bible, after all, and if people are to be believed, they're constantly in contact with him, and prayer is meant to work.

The problem though, is that it's my supposition that if someone does indeed ask God for a ruling, He will be the consumate politician and give the person doing the petitioning the answer he or she wants - that's the way religion works, you invariably end up talking to and hearing yourself, rather than the alleged creator or all reality. 

How about a referendum? Perhaps not - they don't have a good history of providing a definitive answer, it would probably be 52% vs 48% - clearly unfinished business. A referendum following some prayer to guide those voting? I suspect you'd still be left with a schism. The various churches have a record of referendums, specifically on what comprises the Biblical Canon, but the results of asking for a bit of divine inspiration have been extremely divergent. Obviously God says different things to different people.

A sign, perhaps? A big sign across a red London bus! Now there's a novel idea...

I suppose the question to be asked is whether God is an all-loving entity, as some will have you believe, or something like a celestial version of Trump. Even those who maintain they're in daily contact with Him can't agree on this...

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Persistence of History

Yesterday I was completing the daily YouGov poll and one of the questions pertained to persistence, There were three choices appertaining as to how persistent I am at completing a task; I clicked on the very persistent answer, but nothing happened to indicate the choice had been registered. I pressed again, and again, and yet again. It must have taken me about 10 stabs at my phone screen to get it to register my choice. I did wonder it the question was a test of the truth of my answer.

I'm an avid devourer of historical biographies. History is written from official documents and, most importantly, letters. Important characters from the past, especially the aristocracy, have left enormous piles of letters. How then, in these days of transient email, will historians of the future come to know as much about historical characters as we did in the past?

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Driver

The result of a YouGov poll I participated in this week - hardly a surprising result and fully in line with my belief, given there is no economic (or other) argument, about what's really driving Brexit:

Talking of drivers, are accident rates about to go up in Saudi....

No, I don't mean with women drivers, but with the number of drivers increasing phenomenally...

An opportunity for German car manufacturers....

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Non-Linear Far Right

I'm a linear kind of person - I prefer stories with a beginning, a middle and an end. TV drama writers have, of late, developed a penchant for non-linear plots, where the action jumps forward and backward in time willy-nilly. Annoys the hell out of me. Hay's watching one at present - I'm so disinterested that I can't even remember the name. I just go to bed and read a linear book when it comes on.

Should the rise of the far right in Germany be a worry? Any extreme movement is a reaction to a certain section of the electorate feeling they aren't being listened to and they are very susceptible to control by demagogues. Mainstream parties should use them as a barometer, not necessarily to change policy toward the extreme (who would consider it politically appropriate to swing policy toward ethnic genocide?), but to change the manner in which they engage with the electorate to make them feel more included.

One thing that's certain about extreme movements is that they all eventually tend to self-implode due to their tendency to focus on very narrow issues to the exclusion of everything else. Demagogues, who are attracted to the extremes, also don't like other demagogues, which leads to infighting and terminal splits caused by the very nature of extremism.

Extremists use the cloak of patriotism to further interests so narrow that they miss entirely the wider political issues that are essential not only to their own country, but to civilization and liberty itself. The danger is in the length of time it takes for them to self-implode - it took the Nazi Party over 10 years, with incalculable damage having been done during that time. That, however, was because the country was in the salvage yard and willing to consider anything, and anything was indeed an improvement on the situation then prevailing.

Monday, 25 September 2017


Fed up with paying an arm and a leg for Dolce Gusto covfefe pods (at current consumption levels I'm spending about £37 a month), I decided to take advantage of a Nescafe offer I was alerted to by, Roger, a regular reader. 

For the princely sum of £19 and 11 monthly payments of £18 (the lowest option), I can avail myself of a new Essenza Mini covfefe machine and 60 Nespresso pods a month. Now, given our consumption of covfefe pods is higher than 60 a month (we must average out at about 5 a day), we can top up with Lidl or Aldi pods, switching over to them exclusively once the year is out.

Having taken delivery of the machine and our first consignment of assorted Nespresso pods, I have to say that some of the flavours are divine - the vanilla one is particularly yummy.

Yes, I know it's more expensive than using a cafetiere, but the quality is consistent and it's so much less faffing about. I use far less water and power, for a start, plus there's less washing up afterwards, again saving on water, power and washing up liquid. Also, I simply refuse to drink reheated covfefe - it's not good for you.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

The English Party

Hard on the heels of a contemporary biography of the Duke of Marlborough, I'm currently reading a biography dating from 1896 by Viscount Wolseley, a distinguished general of the Victorian Age. The purpose is to see how time changes opinions.

I came across this passage in reference to William III, who was a Dutchman: "William III deeply resented the attacks on his countrymen. In his campaigns on the continent he had always been accustomed to dealing with armies made up of contingents from many countries, and commanded by officers of various nationalities. He could not therefore understand why English soldiers, more than others, should object to serve under foreigners; nor was it intelligible to him why Englishmen should entertain so strong a prejudice against all men born outside their own islands. It is curious that these sentiments should exist even today, seeing that few nations in the last thousand years have been longer ruled by foreign kings. As late as the last century we had two who did not even speak English."

As pertinent today as it was a hundred years ago, indeed 300 years ago. I guess a lot may have to do with the fact that continental borders have been very fluid over the ages and citizens were living cheek-by-jowl with other nationalities, whereas the UK's borders are fixed by the sea. There is, of course, the perennial question of Eire.

It's pertinent that since devolution there has been a programme to popularise and promote Welsh and Gaelic - languages the English overlords were intent on stamping out.

Another passage in the book caught my eye: "William returned to England on October 30, and opened Parliament eight days later with a speech in which he deplored the national failures by sea and land. Being a soldier, and not a party politician, he always told the people the whole truth about the army and navy, and stated plainly to Parliament what he believed to be essential for both services in the interests of the State. He kept back nothing, and Parliament was consequently able to judge whether his demands for men, money, stores, etc., were or were not necessary. It is to be regretted that this practice has not been continued to our day. But in 1693, the system of government by party had not as yet perverted the sense of public duty, and led men to put the exigencies of party before the great interests of the nation. William never disguised his contempt for the political divisions and animosities which prevented educated men from combining in support of measures calculated to strengthen the kingdom and to further the welfare of the people. He looked upon party government as fatal to our best national interests, and regarded both Whigs and Tories as placehunters who could always be bought at the price of employment."

Again, as pertinent today as then. Winston Churchill once said; "A good party man puts his party above himself and his country above his party." Unfortunately the bunch we have these days put party before country and self before party.

As an aside, I found this neat Android App called Text Fairy, which converts an image from a page into text. The only problem is that I think it's responsible for plastering full-page ads on my screen at intervals. I tend to download it when I need it and then delete it afterwards and that has seemed to cure the adverts..

Saturday, 23 September 2017


Hay's dad is an inveterate salt eater. He will put salt on everything before even tasting it. In fact, he makes a pile of salt on the side of his plate. How on earth he has survived to 82 is a miracle. I can just imagine chefs in restaurants he frequents contemplating suicide on being told that a customer asked for the salt cruet.

The only item of food I will add salt to is chips. Many years ago I stopped automatically putting salt on my food and my taste has adapted accordingly.

Friday, 22 September 2017

The Democratic Fetish

Democracy is, in its purest form, the philosophy that the mob knows better than 'experts'. However, modern society is a direct result of experts knowing more than the mob. Democracy depends on an educated electorate - sadly, much of the electorate the world over is lacking in political and economic education. I have read that evidence exists that as people become more educated their thinking aligns with that of most economists (the economic consensus) - but the mob vilifies the consensus of expert economists. That said, there's no denying that ideology affects some economists' predictions, as has been proven in the UK.

Should a democratic decision, even if morally wrong (due to the effects on people) or economically wrong (due to the detrimental effect on the economy), or factually wrong (most people at one time believed the earth to be flat) nevertheless be carried through simply because it's democratic? This is the government by numbers argument, in which quantity matters more over quality and sometimes prefers the worst over the best. It relies on the fallacy that one person's vote is as valid as another's - or that the vote of the uninformed person is as valid as that of the informed person, which is plainly ridiculous - especially in referendums affecting the constitution, the effects of which can be permanent. This is why, under normal circumstances, a referendum on constitutional matters requires a 2/3rds majority and not a simple majority.

Even if you believe all people are created equal, their environments can be vastly different, and thus their character. Also, people are tempted to vote for their team, as opposed to a dispassionate analysis of the issue in question - the 'my country, right or wrong' argument.

One huge problem with democracy is that the electorate is never held to account. If a candidate advocates curtailing the rights of a minority and, on finding him or herself elected, carries out that plan, those who voted for that politician are morally responsible, but not in law, especially if the law is changed in order to implement that plan.

In May 1945 the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, suggested holding a referendum over the question of extending the life of his wartime Coalition until victory was won over Japan, and he should be allowed to continue in office. However, Clement Attlee refused citing ‘I could not consent to the introduction into our national life of a device so alien to all our traditions as the referendum, which has only too often been the instrument of Nazism and Fascism.’ implying that referendums were a totally unknown and alien device to British politics.

In March 1975 Margaret Thatcher also quoted Clement Attlee that referendums are "a device of dictators and demagogues" as Napoleon, Mussolini and Hitler had exploited their use in the past.

The Duke of Wellington harboured an intense distrusted the mob - he believed they could carry you in triumph one day and be throwing stones through your windows the next. He never courted the mob and went out of his way to avoid popular demonstrations, even if in support of him.

The mob is highly susceptible to passion, demagoguery and populism, while being relatively immune to reasoned argument. Decisions should be based on reason, not passion. Reason produced science and the enlightenment - the engine of modern society; passion produced religion, superstition and dogma, which has an unenviable record of opposition to advancement and reason. Religion has tried repeatedly to harness rationality to support its dogma, but has failed at every turn. Populist politicians focus on emotion before reason and 'common sense', which more often produces bad ideas that will be defended with the obstinacy of a mule (ref. Trump).

Despite democracy's shortcomings, we have nevertheless fetishised it to the extent that we have raised it to the apogee of political philosophy. Winston Churchill said; "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others," implying therein that it has its faults, which is why we have a representative democracy, where an informed, political elite decides (hopefully) what's in the best interests of the country, bearing in mind the much overrated 'will of the people'. Parliament, not the mob, is sovereign.

What has happened in recent decades is that we have become very bad at selecting our elites. To quote John le CarrĂ© in a recent interview; "It’s extraordinary to realise that Clement Attlee commanded a regiment in the war. Even Heath had experience of the war. 'It isn’t the war that’s the defining factor, it was having to work with men and women of all classes. They were blooded, those people. They knew whereof they spoke. What we now have is the wrong set. Surely the definition of a decent society is: one, how it chooses its elite; and, two, how it looks after its losers. Now we choose our elite horribly badly and, as long as private education commands the scene, don’t talk to me about levelling the playing field - the social contract is bust in this country." I tend to agree with him.

Plato favoured rule by the reluctant philosopher, but we all know the old adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Romans instituted the concept of the dictator, who took control of government and the military during a period of crisis and was immune from prosecution, but for a limited term which could be renewed, depending on whether the crisis had been averted. A neat idea that worked for several centuries, but given the state and the military were led by the same individual, the opportunity for permanent dictatorship was ever present and finally realised in the shape of Gaius Julius Caesar.

Analyse and discuss.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Jehova's Lava

Had our quarterly visitation from our local Jehova's Witnesses yesterday - two very nice ladies, but they don't seem to live in the real world. We invite them in (we know them quite well - the son of one of them is our window cleaner) and end up having a chat about all manner of things for about an hour, but then there's always the 5 minutes of God Talk at the end, when they appear to be living in an alternate reality. 

They know we're both non-believers, but nevertheless we're still subjected to the 'lesson' and asked a few philosophical questions. Without fail, we answer these questions honestly, and sometimes I think I see one of the ladies wavering in her belief. The other, though, remains deadpan and her eyes seem to glaze over when we speak of science; she just doesn't want to know.

At the end of yesterday's 'lesson' I asked them to both comment on Leviticus 17-21:23, where God forbids anyone who is disabled or disfigured to enter the holy of holies to make food offerings and how this is interpreted in light of anti-discrimination law in a more enlightened society. They were a bit at a loss for words. There was a half hearted attempt to explain it away, but it failed miserably and still condoning discrimination on the part of God.

They then moved on to Creation and if we believed anything could come from nothing. I countered with the proven fact that particles wink into and out of existence all the time from the quantum foam. This was new to them. I also used the analogy of 1 + -1 = 0 and matter annihilating antimatter to produce nothing. If nothing can be produced from something, then why can't something be produced from the potential within that nothing? There ended the lesson, till the next time. We received our copy of The Watchtower, which Hay usually reads with incredulity when there are articles on science. I don't even bother.

Got the bulbs for the lava lamp in the post yesterday and got it working finally.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Ferdinand the Fighter

Rio Ferdinand taking up boxing at an age when most boxers are either retired or considering retiring must be manna from heaven for the betting industry.

Although, to be fair, it's more about reality TV.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Lava Zebras

Ever tried getting a replacement bulb for a lava lamp? These LED bulbs are energy-efficient, and that's achieved by them emitting less heat. What does a lava lamp need? Yes, you guessed it - heat!

You can get them, but it's not that easy. While they can be obtained for under £2 a pop, most outlets charge an arm and a leg.

Our local Tesco has a covered car park, where it's naturally dark. I detest looking for a car parking space in there due to the numerous zebra crossings for pedestrians. You have to simultaneously keep an eye out for a parking space and a zebra crossing, all in the gloom. Hideous! They'd be better getting rid of the zebra crossings and giving cars the right of way. Pedestrians, after all, have only one thing on their minds and not two.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Rubbish Flowers

For our wedding anniversary last week, Hay received a beautiful bunch flowers that included some lilies. While they look fantastic, the lilies make the house smell like a funeral parlour and I'll be glad when they've gone over.

We went for a walk yesterday and, as soon as we got out of our drive, I found these items, which had been casually thrown out of a car window.

A Tesco pasta salad (half eaten) and a couple of Tesco chicken sandwich packets. Why do people do this? It's antisocial and shows a lack of concern for the environment, regardless of whether it's in the countryside or in the middle of a town.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Defining Moment for Fees

Well, No.1.Son is ensconced in his en-suite room in the student halls at Royal Holloway and No.2. Son has moved from the caravan next to the house into the room vacated by No.1 Son. 

It didn't go completely smoothly - the electronic pass key to his halls didn't work - none of the students could get in. The powers that be used the PIN code to open the door, but neglected to tell us the code, so as soon as the door closed again they were locked out yet again on the next trip to decant possessions from their parents' cars.  Luckily, I'd remembered the code that was punched in the first time.

It's amazing what some students bring with them. No.1 Son just had a couple of holdalls of clothes and a box of essentials, like bedding and cooking utensils. One girl opposite No.1 Son's room  seemed to have brought the entire contents of her bedroom, and more.

A defining point in life - almost, but not quite, self sufficiency. Oh well, one down, one to go in another 2 years.

I see the Chancellor (of the UK) has realised how important the student vote is with a proposal to cut tuition fees. What the hell Boris is up to is anyone's guess, but he does seem to be defending the indefensible yet again. With friends like Boris, Mrs May needs no enemies...

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Fresher Hunting Solution

Well, seems I was wrong about the portrait. My friend George Spearing has discovered it's Frederick Francis I, Grand Duke of Mecklenberg-Schwerin, and the portrait is by Rudolph Suhrlandt, court painter to Fredrick Francis.

George says: "I'd like to say it was my vast historical/art knowledge but nothing so impressive. I used Googles 'reverse image' function to find him. Cropped and copied the main part of the image from your blog. Brought up Google search in my browser - selected the 'Images' function and then clicked on the icon of a camera that's to the right of the search panel. Uploaded the cropped image of Frederick, and Google then produced the mirror image. (and close variants)." Never knew Google had that function.

Hunting with dogs developed to hone the knight's skill while not engaged on campaign - it exercised his horse and ensured his riding skills were kept at peak performance in case he was called up to go to war. It was also a means of obtaining game for the pot. Doing it as a sport, with no thought to using the kill as food, is against my principles, as it is with a lot of people. However, when it comes to hunting with birds of prey, a lot of people are more accepting and see it as romantic. Prey is generally nothing larger than a hare, although an eagle can indeed take down a fox. Unless used as a means of obtaining essential food, I'm still against this, as a bird of prey should not be kept in captivity.

Any thoughts from the audience? Yes - the lady with the Aussie hat!

Taking No.1 Son to university this morning - a whole new adventure for him.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Antique Conundrum

I've had 2nd thoughts about the bloke in the painting from, yesterday's post. Not French and definitely Prussian - a general too.

Looking more closely at the sash, it's not Legion of Honour, but yet another Order of the Black Eagle, as proven by the blue Maltese cross at the end of the sash. Not only that, but I'm sure the epaulettes are silver and not gold. Silver epaulettes were used almost exclusively by the Imperial German Army before WWI (aka Prussian Army), and long tassels indicate a general.

I went through the list of German/Prussian Generals going back to God knows when and found this chap, who I've placed either side of my subject. I think he looks to be the same chap. How about you?

It's the snake-eyes that do it for me, plus there's no-one else who looks remotely similar. He's Bogislav Friedrich Emanuel von Tauentzein.

Here are a couple of photos I took of objects at the hotel we stayed at (Miller's at the Anchor in Porlock - a wedding anniversary present from Hayley). The hotel was started by the bloke who wrote and edited Miller's Antiques Guide (as well as Miller's Gin), hence it being stuffed to the gills with antiques.

An early steam iron...

I haven't the vaguest idea what this object is - any guesses?

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Mystery Portrait

Been trying to establish the identity of this chap, whose portrait hangs in the hotel we've been staying at in Porlock. There's no writing to suggest who he is, unless it's on the reverse of the portrait. None of the staff have the vaguest idea who he is either.

Now, while it's not certain what colour epaulettes he's wearing (could be gold or silver - it's quite dirty), he does seem to be dressed in the uniform of a French Marshal at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, complete with the red ribbon of the Legion of Honour. The epaulettes should be gold.

Here are a few clues.

Around his neck is what looks like the Prussian Order of the Red Eagle, but with the ribbon colours reversed, and on his left breast is the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle. I've been through the recipients of these and suspect he's Jaques MacDonald. However, I'm at a loss to understand why A Frenchman is wearing Prussian Orders.

While we were out in Lynmouth and Lynton yesterday, one of those monkeys that nick cameras and take selfies had a go with my phone camera.

Managed to wrestle it back though....

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Waitrose Selfies

This monkey selfie and the copyright issue - a silly court action:
  1. The camera was stolen,
  2. Pointless giving the monkey copyright - it has no concept of money as a medium of exchange,
  3. Aligned to 2 above, it has no pockets for cash and can't open a bank account,
  4. Perhaps it wanted to forge the photographer's name on the photo and cash in on his fame,
Silliness aside, PETA, the animal rights charity that brought this action should be censured for misusing funds in this way.

Anyone know what Waitrose loyalty cards are for? With Tesco loyalty cards I receive vouchers every so often, but despite having God knows how many Waitrose points, I never, ever hear from them. Perhaps they run out at the end of every month - after all, I only visit Waitrose once in a blue moon.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Road Configurations

Went to collect Hay's dad's girlfriend yesterday and spotted this unusual road configuration:

I kept wondering if I'd see Hitler Close, Hess Way and Goebbels Gardens...

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Spirit in the Machine

Having listened to the talk by the author of the book on knives that I bought at the Ludlow Food Festival has got me thinking. He was talking about objects having a spirit, or what the Japanese call wabi-sabi, being the aesthetic appeal of something worn and shaped by age and use, taking on some of the character of the user. Patina, if you will, but more than that.

The imbuing of objects with a spirit is a form of transference. I wear my father's watch, not so much because it's old and an Omega, but because my father wore it and it is a constant reminder of him. The fact it gains or loses a few minutes a day and is practically useless for accurate timekeeping is immaterial. Despite it not containing a single atom of him, it contains his essence - but that's all in my own mind and not something that's tangible.

Perhaps this is the way religion started - attributing a spirit to something inanimate through its interaction with the person who made it or wielded it. Extending that to objects having no human connection is just the next step. The sacred glade is sacred only in the mind of the human contemplating it and has no innate sacredness within it.

Machine-made knives have gradually replaced artisan-manufactured knives, and they too are expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as handmade ones, primarily because it's almost a lost art and very few people do it anymore.

This got me thinking about how lost arts are back in vogue - anything containing the word craft or artisan can command a high price, despite the tolerances achieved being nowhere near as precise as the machine-made equivalent.

It strikes me that someone wanting to clean up just needs to focus on some activity that has been completely replaced by machines, preferably in a marketable area, such as of one of the current national obsessions - cooking, gin or coffee - and turn their hand to making whatever it is by hand. Of course, it helps to have a ridiculous topknot, some tattoos and a beard, oh, and for you to be called Justin or Piers. It's surprising what people will pay for an imperfect, handmade object in a world of manufactured, homogenised perfection - so long as it's not a jet engine part or a pacemaker...

The key, though, is to stick with trends and not wander into segments that produce no money, such as farming implements, dry-stone walling or thatching. It has to be something that appeals to the middle classes, where trends are quickly adopted, but equally quickly dropped. Anyone for handmade solar panels that operate at 10% efficiency but where imperfections give them wabi-sabi?

When all's said and done, what's the difference between talking to a sky god and your car, to which many ascribe a personality, especially if classic or handmade? Both ignore you most of the time and are insanely capricious.

Kids talk to their toys all the time.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Blue Cheese Ice-Cream Knives

It was our 1st wedding anniversary yesterday, so Hay took me to Ludlow for the Ludlow Food Festival, where I got the latest 'must have' festival wrist band that I have to keep wearing for many weeks, just to show all my acquaintances that I've been there...

Inside the festival grounds, a cup of tea, served in a steampunk jam jar by a top-knotted hispter, was £2.80, whereas the tea from the owner of the burger van outside the grounds was £0.80 and infinitely superior.

There were various 'trails' at the festival - the beer trail, the sausage trail, etc. Wherever we went we found queues of people (at least 100 per queue) lining up for a sausage in a bun, for which they probably paid a pretty penny. The bloke in the burger van did exactly the same sausage in a bun for £1.50, and you didn't have to stand in an interminable queue with 99 other people.

Hay was persuaded to part with £39 for a bottle of artisan gin, which I thought a bit on the high side; however, I do have to admit it was the closest in taste to a genuine Dutch gin I've tasted in the UK - it's the coriander that does it. 

I also parted with £20 for a book on knives, the author of which was giving a talk on with an absolute passion that was infectious. 

We stayed at Downton Old Lodge, way in the back of beyond. A very nice converted set of barn buildings.

Didn't stay for the £60 a head tasting menu, as we thought that a bit steep. Instead we went to the Riverside Inn at Aymestrey for an excellent meal for £100, including wine and tip, where as a dessert I chose blue cheese ice-cream with sliced pear and caramelised walnuts. It worked! Going to make that for our Christmas meal for the extended family.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Mutt Piling

Overheard while our neighbour, Colin, was speaking to Railtrack contractors when complaining about the intense noise at night from piling works for the electrification of the Paddington main line:

Colin: "Why do you have to do this electrification piling work in the middle of the night and keep us all awake?"

Contractor: "Because there are trains on the track during the day."

Colin: "The rail line was closed weeks ago - there hasn't been a train on the track for weeks. In fact, Bristol Parkway station has been closed since the 2nd and all trains are diverted around us. I'd have thought you lot and Railtrack would at least speak to each other!"

They're having problems with the piling work, which shakes all our houses when it occurs (which is invariably at 3am) - the piles are 7m tall and the contractors have hit solid rock at 3m.

My own suspicion about the piling work is that the contractors are working nights because it brings them more money.

Cockapoo - isn't that what years ago we'd have called a mutt?

Friday, 8 September 2017

Tolerance & Statues

Been reading a biography of Frederick the Great and this jumped out at me:

"In society tolerance should allow everyone the liberty to believe in what he wants; but tolerance would not be extended to authorising outrageous behaviour or licensing young scatterbrains to rudely insult the things that others revere. These are my views, which suit the maintenance of liberty and public security, which is the first object behind all legislation."

Analyse and discuss.

What with all this argument over statues of one-time heroes from an imperialist or dubious past, it strikes me that the Indians and Pakistanis had the perfect solution - to merely move the statues to a backwater, allowing them to moulder away out of sight.

As an aside to the above, while the benefit of British imperialism is debatable in an age when there was a mad, European scramble for foreign soil to dominate and with which to trade, British rule was infinitely preferable to the alternative - French, or later German rule. When all is said and done, the Mughals were foreign imperialists too.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Confidence Trick

Regulars will remember I had a plan for identifying the probability of good weather on each day of the year by charting the average solar energy production of our Solar PV system over the last 4 years.

The issue was that using the average wouldn't necessary show the level of confidence as there could be a wide disparity in the readings. So what I did was to include a column showing the standard deviation. However, the SD works counter-intuitively, in that a low number equates with high confidence and a high number a low confidence. To overcome this I divided the SD into 1 and plotted this figure, which shows a more intuitive value for confidence.

You have to click on the image to see it in any detail, but the red line is the average solar generation over 4 years for each day of the year and the blue is the level of confidence in that average - anything in excess of 0.5 (on the right hand scale) is a high confidence. As can be seen from the chart, confidence, whether that be of sunny or dull weather, is highest at the start and end of the year. I suppose that's to be expected in cooler weather, when the air is more stable.

5th of August has a high confidence, here at least, of being a crap day.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Crows & Coffee Pods

I regularly put old bread out in the garden for the birds, which generally comprise crows and magpies; however, you can always tell when it's autumn and harvest time, as the bread can stay on the grass for days, rather than being immediately snaffled by the birds. This year the effect is even more pronounced and, looking at the bounty of berries in the hedgerows, it's not at all surprising they are uninterested by my junk food.

Thinking of getting rid of the Krupps coffee pod machine I bought from eBay. I have no issue with the machine itself - it's the price of the damned Dolce Gusto coffee pods that's the killer. Searching on eBay for a machine that uses the much cheaper Nespresso pods, which can be bought at Lidl and Aldi, shows that they are more expensive due to their popularity and much lower running costs. There's also the fact that the Dolce Gusto pods are left with some 30ml of water inside them after use, making one hell of a mess in the bin.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Political Class

Spotted this in the Sunday Times from an interview with John le Carré (aka David Cornwell:

"It’s extraordinary to realise that Clement Attlee commanded a regiment in the war. Even Heath had experience of the war. It isn’t the war that‘s the defining factor, it was having to work with men and women of all classes. They were blooded, those people. They knew whereof they spoke.

"What we now have is the wrong set. Surely the definition of a decent society is: one, how it chooses its elite; and; two, how it looks after its losers. Now we choose our elite horribly badly and, as long as private education commands the scene, don’t talk to me about levelling the playing field - the social contract is bust in this country.

"I understand why people who are socially deprived, with the safety net taken away from them and treated as second-class citizens, have every right to vote for some other dream. I understand that, and I understand it needs a desperate remedy, and fast, but Brexit isn’t the answer."

Monday, 4 September 2017

Breeching Data

Been getting incessant calls from Vodafone about a bill that was over the standard monthly direct debit - it was one of my sons' phones, and he'd asked for more data and paid the £10 a month extra to get it. Finally acquiesced to speaking to an operative and was pleased to discover there was a cheaper way of giving him even more data.

While I was on the phone to them I asked if my mobile plan could be better arranged, as I'm not getting my bill refunded by work anymore. I was delighted to find I could go from 24GB of data to 60GB and pay £3 a month less than I was paying. Not a clue, however, what I'm going to do with 60GB of data when I'm lucky to even use 3GB a month.

Data is becoming as cheap as chips.

John Lewis customers are getting their knickers in a twist over genderless clothes labelling for kids. It's just the labels, mind you. They've obviously cann't remember the term 'unisex' from the '70s, or the term 'breeching' from an earlier age, where boys wore dresses till anywhere between the ages of 3 and 8 - and that wasn't just a labelling issue.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Trump & Kim Show

The Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has apparently castigated Trump for 'unscientific thinking'. I'm surprised to learn he thinks at all.

His arch nemesis, Kim Jong Un, who looks suspiciously like an early Bond villain, is seen here inspecting what's alleged to be a new type of nuclear warhead.

I think they mean a new kind of BBQ, or possibly a liferaft.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Nursery Care

I was watching something on the local news a couple of days ago about this free childcare that the government has initiated, but nurseries can't afford it on the money they've been promised. The owner of one nursery said they simply couldn't afford the yoga, drama and cake making. Couldn't believe my ears - yoga? - what's wrong with giving kids a box to play with, or a couple of chairs and a sheet? Is it any wonder childcare is unaffordable these days?

Friday, 1 September 2017

Drone Veg

There is a drawback to growing your own veg - you get a glut and can get sick of it.

My father had a smallholding and we used to get heartily sick of kale and broad beans, to the extend I detest them as an adult.

All this business about Amazon using drones - will they go south of the river after a certain time?