Thursday, 30 November 2017

Panto Season

The panto season is almost upon us, so I am reliably informed. Only ever been to one with my kids - it was in Southport in 1986 where Les Dennis and Dustin Gee were performing. Dustin Gee had a massive heart attack during the performance and died the next day. Never been since.

Talking of panto season - Trump is at it again. The point about Britain First and Trump's admonition of Mrs May is not that BF is specifically anti-Islamic terrorism, but that they're simply racist, with all that encompasses, and fascist. Trump's teeny mind doesn't understand that, or maybe it does...

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Road to Serfdom

I'm currently reading The Road to Serfdom, a book by the influential Austrian-British economist, Friedrich von Hayek, first published in 1944. It basically warns against the dangers of central planning by government and how it can lead tyranny.

He makes a valid point which has never occurred to me before - in times of war the competitive, capitalist economy is an encumbrance and government has to quickly impose a command economy, which to all intents and purposes is a pure collectivist one; it takes control of the means of production to direct it toward the production of war materiel, imposes price controls and implements strict rationing. The irony at the time of writing was that the British government had to turn itself into a facsimile of very government it was fighting. The danger comes once the crisis has passed and government is tempted to retain this unprecedented level of power.

He posits that socialism and fascism are but two faces of exactly the same collectivist religion, with each considering the other as heretical for having believed false prophets. They both have the same aim - it's only in the means by which they achieve those aims that they differ. Both lead to the citizens becoming serfs to the state.

While being an old style libertarian, he nonetheless promotes the belief that a certain amount of government regulation is necessary as a condition of liberty - an excerpt: 

"The successful use of competition as the principle of social organization precludes certain types of coercive interference with economic life, but it admits of others which sometimes may very considerably assist its work and even requires certain kinds of government action. 

"To prohibit the use of certain poisonous substances, or to require special precautions in their use, to limit working hours or to require certain sanitary arrangements, is fully compatible with the preservation of competition. The only question here is whether in the particular instance the advantages gained are greater than the social costs they impose. 

"Nor can certain harmful effects of deforestation, of some methods of farming, or of the smoke and noise of factories, be confined to the owner of the property in question, or to those willing to submit to the damage for an agreed compensation. 

"Even the most essential prerequisite of the market's proper functioning, the prevention of fraud and deception (including exploitation of ignorance), provides a great and by no means fully accomplished object of legislative activity. 

"There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision."

Wise words - exactly the type of interference the EU performs and is berated for, and precisely the kind of interference the neo-liberals detest.

Another excerpt with a warning for this era:

"It's at times of national crisis when hard-won civil liberties are most likely to be all-too-easily given up. Even more troubling, politicians instinctively recognize the seductive power of war. Times of national emergency permit the invocation of a common cause and a common purpose. War enables leaders to ask for sacrifices. It presents an enemy against which all segments of society may unite. This is true of real war, but because of its ability to unify disparate groups, savvy politicians from all parties find it effective to invoke war metaphors in a host of contexts. The war on drugs, the war on poverty, and the war on terror are but three examples from recent times. What makes these examples even more worrisome than true wars is that none has a logical endpoint; each may be invoked forever. 

"The electorate needs to be wary of such martial invocations. For a war to be fought effectively, the power and size of the state must grow. No matter what rhetoric they employ, politicians and the bureaucracies over which they preside love power, and power is never easily surrendered once the danger, if there ever was one, has passed. Though eternal vigilance is sage advice, surely “wartime” or when politicians would try to convince us that it is such a time is when those who value the preservation of individual liberty must be most on guard. 

"In Germany it was largely people of good will, men who were admired and held up as models in the democratic countries, who prepared the way for, if they did not actually create, the forces which now stand for everything they detest. Yet our chance of averting a similar fate depends on our facing the danger and on our being prepared to revise even our most cherished hopes and ambitions if they should prove to be the source of the danger. There are few signs yet that we have the intellectual courage to admit to ourselves that we may have been wrong. Few are ready to recognize that the rise of fascism and Nazism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period, but a necessary outcome of those tendencies. This is a truth which most people were unwilling to see even when the similarities of many of the repellent features of the internal regimes in communist Russia and National Socialist Germany were widely recognized. As a result, many who think themselves infinitely superior to the aberrations of Nazism, and sincerely hate all its manifestations, work at the same time for ideals whose realization would lead straight to the abhorred tyranny."

Ring any alarm bells?

While I heartily recommend the book, there are places where you can read three consecutive pages three times, and still not have a clue what he's saying.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Breastfeeding in Public

The other night we were watching an Amazon Prime TV series called Ray Donovan. In one scene Jon Voight was sitting in a plane and a woman a few seats back on the other side of the aircraft was breastfeeding a baby. Voight's character looked round and stared at the woman, ending up leering at her and winking, upon which the woman doing the breastfeeding made efforts to be a bit more discreet.

To me this summed up the public breastfeeding debate. While, as far as I'm concerned, it should be OK for a woman to breastfeed in public, she must be prepared to deal with the pervs. If she's OK with someone staring at her, no problem. If she isn't, then she should be a bit more discrete. 

I have the same view about Islamic fashion wear. It doesn't bother me in the slightest, but it obviously bothers some (why, I don't know). So long as the wearer can put up with the prejudice, fine.

Prejudice won't disappear - it might decrease, but it's always there. The reasons for it are many and complex, but it's a fact of life.

Monday, 27 November 2017


When coming back from Accrington over the weekend we called in at Rufford Old Hall, a 16th century National Trust manor house on the A59 between Preston and Liverpool. Even though I lived a large part of my youth in the area, I'd never been there before.

Rufford Old Hall is a property once owned by the Hesketh family, one of four famous Lords of the Manor in the North West - the Heskeths, the Inces, the Blundels and the Fleetwoods, whose names feature in the name of towns, parks and pubs in the area.

The Heskeths were so well off they could afford to leave the Old Hall in the 1700s and build a New Hall just over the road. This all came to an end with the current Lord Hesketh, who lost it all and seems to have a knack of turning everything he touches to dust. Hesketh Racing (James Hunt raced in Hesketh colours), Hesketh Motorcycles, British Mediterranean Airways (although he must have made a few bob on the sale of the latter) - he joined the board of Babcock, only to resign due to some injudicious comments.

Given he had a minor role as a Conservative politician, he could always rely on the Establishment giving him a job somewhere, but boy as he been unlucky - he even lost his place in the House of Lords when it was reorganised in 1999. He dabbled with  Ukip, which just shows how poor his choices are. He's a bit of a joke and all his family now have is the name.

A few photos of the Old Hall:

Sunday, 26 November 2017


Every time ISIS manage to effect some atrocity they're always seen carrying that black flag of theirs. Now there can't be too many flag manufacturers that are willing to make ISIS flags; you can't just pick one up on eBay or go round to your local corner shop and buy one. So it seems to me that if only the forces ranged against them could find that factory and destroy it, then ISIS will suffer a major blow to their prestige.

Here's a conundrum; corner shops are, obviously, on corners, but that is it about the corners of streets that makes the buildings particularly suited to shops - could it be the extra window display space, or are they not ideal for habitation? Lack of a garden, maybe?

Friday, 24 November 2017

Perpetual Poppy

On the approach to Remembrance Day we are increasingly starting to see all manner of designer poppies - even the Royal British Legion does a rather handsome enamelled one. However, isn't the production of a perpetual poppy a tad self-defeating, in that it while it may give a short term boost to revenues, it could result in fewer people buying the old paper and plastic poppy in subsequent years? Also, it opens the market to private individuals who may have bugger-all to do with the Royal British Legion's poppy charity.

Just a thought. 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Remote Democracy

Hay's dad brought over a new TV remote yesterday that he was having problems opening in order to insert some batteries. I managed to open it without much difficulty - he merely wasn't pressing hard enough on the battery compartment lid - and then inserted the batteries. Now I've never know a device that doesn't use an even number of batteries; 2, 4, 6, etc., but he gave me a pack of 5. Can't understand why batteries can come as a pack of 5. It can't be to get you to buy more of the same, as you could just as easily buy some more of a different manufacturer. Answers on a postcard, please.

We were watching a programme on TV the other night about Greek city states of the 5th century BC (the one where Boris was waxing lyrical about how the Greeks invited immigrants to their cities to increase their vibrancy, culture and wealth - how times change). The programme went on about how the ancient Greeks contributed to the democracy of their cities in almost every respect. It struck me that it would be a good idea in our culture to have a system of National Service, but rather than it being military, it's 2 years of public service.

Mind you, there won't be much of public service left if the Conservatives have their way. They seem intent on selling everything off to private enterprise, which ends up demanding huge subsidies, despite cutting the wages of their staff. It's strange how politicians want to eliminate the public services to cut taxes and shrink the state, but taxes are never actually cut, as the private companies that run the public services seem rather adept at siphoning money from the taxpayer, requiring even higher taxes than when the services were in public ownership - but that's a story for another day.

I haven't the vaguest idea who Aaron Brown is, by the way, but the image just links TV remotes with democracy.

Off up north today for No.1 Daughter's birthday party in Accrington. We've got our passports ready, as well as a phrasebook in the local dialect. No.1 and No.2 Sons are looking after the house in our absence. Not sure which part of the weekend I have more trepidation about.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Drinking Illumination 2

Took delivery of the chandelier frame yesterday from Amazon, ahead of schedule.

Loaded it up with the polycarbonate, frosted wine glasses, but they looked hideous - looked more like ordinary glasses smeared with vaseline. They were sent back.

Going to give this a bit of thought - coloured wine glasses perhaps, a different colour per tier. Or frosted Christmas baubles for a festive theme. I have found a pack of 24 genuine frosted wine glasses, but at £60 it's a bit on the steep side. Will keep an eye out in the charity shops.

How about 21 frosted wine bottles? Could be a tad heavy though...

Watch this space - we'll have something sorted by Christmas.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Drinking Illumination

While in Amsterdam last week we dined at a restaurant in Badhoevedorp called La Bouche. I was struck by a couple of chandeliers made of frosted wine glasses - one large and the other small. The meals were excellent too and the restaurant is highly recommended if you're in the area.

I so loved the chandeliers that I'm determined to get one - making it if necessary - for positioning over our kitchen island. It would look brilliant (literally) hanging from the oak beam.

I managed to obtain a similar hanger from Amazon for about 25 quid, which has room for 21 glasses; however, 21 frosted wine glasses come in at quite an expense (about £70 or more), so Hay found some polycarbonate ones on Amazon, but I don't think they will give as crisp an effect - they almost look dirty.

The hanger contraption won't be delivered till next week, although we've already had 24 polycarbonate wine glasses delivered. Inspection of the plastic wine glasses has confirmed my suspicion that they won't be as good as real glass, but I'll provide an update when the hanger is delivered.

I do, however, have a Lidl sand blasting attachment for my compressor - may make my own frosted wine glasses...

Monday, 20 November 2017

Remembrance Day

I drove past the village war memorial yesterday on the way to pick up the Sunday papers and it was resplendent in swathes of poppy wreaths. This got me thinking; has Remembrance Day had its day? A contentious subject, perhaps.

Remembrance Day was instituted in commemoration of the dead in WWI and was then extended to those who died in WWII. Since then it had been modified again to include all the dead in all wars, but it nevertheless remains rooted in WWI - the war to end all wars, which didn't

YouGov did a poll a short while ago concerning whether people participate in any way in Remembrance Day and I was surprised to discover that almost 2/3rd of the UK population don't participate at all. Given there's no past figures, it's hard to say whether it's a declining institution.

Many say it helps us remember our history and prevents us making the same mistakes, which is clearly tosh - we learn nothing from history and continually repeat our mistakes. We are taking into wars by politicians and for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with cementing their own names in history.

I don't personally know anyone who died in any war, and I'm 62. I would guess that goes for the majority of people alive today in the UK and that's reflected in the YouGov poll. Yes, there will be people alive today who lost comrades or fathers in WWII, but they're a fast declining number.

We don't commemorate the deaths in the Wars of the Roses, the English Civil War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War or any war prior to 1914 - they've simply left the folk memory due to the distance in time and the fact (with the exception of the aristocracy) that we don't even know whether any of our ancestors took part in them. Yes, we have Waterloo Day and Trafalgar Day, but they're events that are generally restricted to the Army and Navy, are regimental and celebrate victory, as opposed to remembrance of the dead. There's also the fact that many who participate in Remembrance Day, especially from the right, undeniably use it as a form of triumphalism, which was not the original intention.

Then there's the fact that Remembrance Day is not exactly ecumenical, despite the large number of Empire troops who died in both world wars. The cenotaph was designed by Edwin Lutyens to commemorate all Empire dead and is devoid of any religious iconography; however, the CofE appropriated it and Remembrance Day has ever since been an affair with heavy CofE overtones. Recently some poor vicar tried to make his church's Remembrance Day event ecumenical, but was howled down by more vocal members of the British Legion.

I can't help feeling that, within 20 years or so, Remembrance Day may die out - unless we have yet another massive war. We already have the relatively new institution of Armed Forces Day, which honours living servicemen and women - perhaps it will become amalgamated with that at some stage.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Retiring Green Birds

Spotted in Lidl by Hay a few days ago:

Wonder if they're a bit stringy and if they provide a cage.

I keep hearing from Brexiteers about us having the lowest unemployment for ages and this being attributed to a booming economy. No-one seems to have paid attention to the fact that more people than ever before (the Baby Boomers) are retiring from the workforce and those numbers have to be replaced from a smaller pool just to keep up - it's nothing to do with a booming economy. It can't be when productivity is declining.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Headless Concorde Cheeses

There was something on the local news last night about the Concorde that's been opened to the public at Filton. Good to see it's finally set to turn a profit for someone, even though not in the way it was designed to.

I see Gregg's has come under fire for using a sausage roll to replace Jesus in a nativity scene. I'd have thought they'd use Baby Cheeses. What with all these calls for banning the hijab, I'd challenge anyone to find an image of Jesus' mother, Mary, without one.

That mad Italian scientist who wants to perform a live head transplant is crowing about a recent success, but on a corpse. To be fair, just using Superglue would work on a corpse. You wouldn't notice any difference.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Newspaper Russians

Spotted this yesterday, and I fully agree. Newspapers no longer reflect their readers' viewes, they formulate them. All the newspapers owned by these five are 100% pro-Brexit, print misleading, anti-EU propaganda and, most. importantly, desperately want to avoid an impending EU-driven crackdown on tax havens.

Seems the Russians not only want to destabilise the west through interference in cyberspace, but the use of their UN Security Council veto in the Syrian chemical weapons investigation extension will have the effect of prolonging a civil wart which is the main cause of refugees entering Europe in their droves.

I'm starting to join the dots and conclude that Putin is doing everything in his power to destabilise Europe and the USA.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Russian Leaks

All this Russian interference stuff - Russia is one of the most corrupt countries on earth, being the result of capitalism on steroids (and a warning to those who would let business run a country), yet it's somewhat strange that WikiLeaks publishes almost no Russian leaks. It's almost as if WWIII has already broken out, but in cyberspace, and Russia is winning.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Double Dutch Newspapers

Spotted this sign at the exhibition in Amsterdam yesterday:


Given the others I'm with had decided to attend a few of the parties that surround the event and I wasn't in the mood, I decided to walk back to our digs (getting a taxi at a show this size is impossible). A nice, 2 hour walk through various districts. Some enterprising person had set up a Christmas stall in their drive.

Before anyone mentions it's too early, don't forget that the Dutch have Sinterklaas on the 6th December.

Some more photos from my wander back.

What I like about my home country is that the people are very egalitarian. You may be better off than someone, but it's not something that you rub into their faces. The houses are all very similar and decorated is the same cosy style - conspicuous consumption and envy (and corruption) play a much smaller role in defining people here than in the UK.

I see the owners of the Daily Telegraph. the fabulously wealthy and tax avoiding Barclay twins, are keeping up the pressure for Brexit, and avoiding a planned EU crack down on tax havens, by resorting to bullying.

It's strange (and I'm being ironic) that newspapers owned by millionaires, such as the Times and Sunday Times, the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Express are all in support of Brexit and are doing their utmost to spout negative propaganda (and in some cases outright lies) about the EU. They very obviously don't want their owners' taxes investigated too closely. As usual though, much of the British public can't see further than the ends of their noses and are willing to be led like sheep by newspaper proprietors who prey on their insecurities and prejudices.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Remembrance Parade

There was a Remembrance Parade in Chipping Sodbury on Sunday. Here's one of the photos showing the village memorial where the name Percy Dash can just be made out (6th from the top on the left-most panel - click to enlarge). 

Percy was Hayley's great uncle, who was killed in in one of the first large battles of 1914. His name is also carved into the oak portico of Old Sodbury church. I believe he was 21 when he died.

YouGov did a poll yesterday of whether people participate in Remembrance Day events. As many as 61% take no part, which surprises me, whereas 36% do. Strangely, 3% don't seem to know what they do. When analysed for age, the older you are the more likely you are to participate. Women are less likely to participate than men, but only by a very small margin.

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Redwood Conundrum

I hear John Redwood, one of the Establishment Brexiteers and chairman of an investment committee for the Charles Stanley Group (for which he earns £180k a year), has been advising investors to move their money out of the UK and suggests the European Central Bank will pave the way for more fruitful investment than the Bank of England.

That's rather strange advice for a man who has long argued that the UK economy will flourish after leaving the EU.

I've long argued that the main beneficiaries of Brexit will be The City and speculators. Hardly surprising that those MPs with links to capital management firms, hedge funds and private healthcare operators are all for a hard Brexit. A classic case of The Establishment looking after its own interests first.

I'm currently reading Owen Jones' book, The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It, an eye-opener as to how business and vested interests are running UK for their own benefit. It's main premise is that a lot of politicians see Parliament as a stepping stone to lucrative boardroom positions following a couple of terms in the House and one in government, and they use policy, which is invariably propaganda spewed out by the press barons to manipulate public opinion, as a means of achieving this. A very well researched and interesting read about the collusion between politicians and the 4th Estate.

We've rented a house near Schiphol Airport for the duration of this maritime trade show we're exhibiting at in Amsterdam. Don't you just hate it when you have a state-of-the-art TV system with a separate box of some description and two remotes, neither of which seem to do anything meaningful, like just turn the TV on to a local TV station? Against all odds I at least managed to get YouTube up and running last night and had to suffice with that. Time was when you could simply turn a TV on, press a number and you'd get a TV channel corresponding with that number. Now you have to perm one input from half a dozen - most of which are superfluous - and read two or three manuals.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Smeared Clooney Trade Show

This thing about porn being found on Damian Green's computer years ago is sounding more and more like a political smear by the dark forces of the Brexit Establishment. They've lost the the economic argument, the intellectual argument - in fact any argument - and they know it, so they're resorting to smearing any Remainers in the cabinet.

The only beneficiaries of Brexit will be a few immensely wealthy people, as more wealth is concentrated into the hands of a few via the City, regulations designed to protect consumers and workers are rolled back and public expenditure comes under increasing pressure, with attendant calls to privatise everything in sight as a solution, with the prime target being the NHS (a surprising number of MPs have links to private healthcare firms). It has finally dawned on the Lincolnshire seafood industry that Brexit will be bad and they're lobbying for Brexit exemption, directly contradicting the Brexit propaganda machine; similarly Cornwall has crops rotting in the fields as there's no-one to harvest them and are also asking for immigration exceptions. Stand by for more smears in the coming weeks and months. Hammond will probably be the next target.

Remembrance Day seems to be becoming increasingly important in the British psyche - more so than ever before. Rather than a quiet contemplation of the senseless loss of life, it's assuming a worrying triumphalist tone. I'm not sure whether much of this is to do with the centenary events around WWI, but of late I've noticed how the fallen from two world wars are being used as unwitting recruits to the Brexit cause.

Jingoistic slogans are appearing on Facebook, such as; "We didn’t fight two world wars for this,"  and; "We saved you Europeans and you owe us." Very few of us alive today actually fought in WWII, so it morphs into; “Our fathers didn’t fight in WWII for this.” My father was in WWII; he didn’t have the luxury of a gun in his hands – he was a sitting target in a Dutch cargo ship and was torpedoed. Nevertheless, he was an ardent pro-European. Just because your father fought in WWII does not mean you speak for all people who fought. They also seem to think Britain beat the Nazis single-handed and forget about the Dutch, Poles, French, Australians, Canadians, Americans, Russians, Balkans, Indians, Norwegians, etc., etc. – a grouping referred to as the Allies.

The EU project was started to tie European nations closer together with trade, hoping to create one bloc, rather than constantly competing powers who went to war every 25 years or so.

To quote Herman Goering: “Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.” Sounds worryingly prescient. 

Harvey Weinstein - whatever happened to i before e, except after c? Not an attractive man, is he, no wonder women are coming out of the woodwork with harassment claims. I wonder if women are queuing up to be sexually harassed by George Clooney?

Off to Amsterdam this afternoon for a marine trade show till Friday, so posts may be somewhat sporadic this week - and very maritime.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Afro Secutiry

Saw an interview on the BBC news last night with the model Naomi Campbell about sexual harassment in the modelling industry. When asked about Lupita Nyong'o, the black model who had her hair digitally remastered to make it less frizzy at the back, she castigated the enhancement. Now I'm not sure whether the interviewer, Will Gompertz, asked the question tongue in cheek, as Campbell was sitting there sporting a European style wig.

I went to a business meeting at a satellite earth station just outside of Guildford yesterday:

It's not often you see field artillery at a business meeting:

Now that's what I call security. The owner of the facility is a bit of a military equipment fan - he also has a number of personnel carriers and tanks on site.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Computer Security

Here's some computer and security advice: Systems can be fast, open, or secure, but only two of these three at a time. The three rules of computer security - RULE ONE: Do not own a computer. RULE TWO: Do not power it on. RULE THREE: Do not use it.'

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Kippers for Tea

If you see a social media posts of what someone is eating, there's a high chance they're a Kipper.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017


Anyone remember this exchange from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin?

REGGIE: Who are you going to fight against when this balloon of yours goes up?

JIMMY: Forces of anarchy. Wreckers of law and order. Communists, Maoists, Trotskyists, neo-Trotskyists, crypt-Trotskyists, union leaders, Communist union leaders, atheists, agnostics, long-haired weirdos, short-haired weirdos, vandals, hooligans, football supporters, namby-pamby probation officers, rapists, papists, papist rapists, foreign surgeons, headshrinkers who ought to be locked up, Wedgwood Benn, keg bitter, punk rock, glue-sniffers, ‘Play For Today’, squatters, Clive Jenkins, Roy Jenkins, Up Jenkins, up everybody’s, Chinese restaurants - why do you think Windsor Castle is ringed with Chinese restaurants?

REGGIE: Is that all?


REGGIE: I see. You realise the sort of people you’re going to attract, don’t you, Jimmy? Thugs, bully-boys, psychopaths, sacked policemen, security guards, sacked security guards, racialists, Paki-bashers, queer-bashers, Chink-bashers, basher-bashers, anybody-bashers, rear Admirals, queer admirals, Vice Admirals, fascists, neo-fascists, crypto-fascists, loyalists, neo-loyalists, crypto-loyalists.

JIMMY: You really think so? I thought support might be difficult.

You could just replace Jimmy with whatever right-wing party you want to.

Here it is on YouTube:

I see the government wants 3 weeks to fiddle the Brexit Impact Study. I wonder when a leak will happen, as it surely must?