Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Drought-Resistant Horsefly Balls

Overheard in Chipping Sodbury:

Bloke stood in queue: "I have a doctor's appointment for this horsefly bite."

Ye Gods - no wonder we have to wait weeks for appointments for real medical problems! Horseflies are the bane of my life, but I wouldn't every consider going to the doctor with a bite, even if it was infected. The chemist is adequately qualified to provide advice and medication.

All this stuff about the Leave campaign's programme of lies, deceit, misinformation and financial irregularities on an industrial scale - if it was ball tampering in a cricket match there'd be a national outcry with calls for a judicial inquiry, bringing back the death penalty, as well as the match being declared null and void.

It would seem we have some kind of drought-resistant grass on the common outside our house. I spotted a tuft of it in the garden first and then lots more on the common. It only became apparent following the common being mown.

Patches of it are sprouting up all over the place while the rest of the grass remains brown.

It's very coarse, but perhaps I should be cultivating it on the garden in preparation for more hot summers.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Critical Rules

One of my 'friends' posted some conspiracy theory nonsense on Facebook yesterday from an organisation called Truth in Europe, which is nothing to do with Truth and is run by a notorious conspiracy theorist and anti-vaxxer who believes all manner of stupid stuff. These people prey on the weak minded who cannot think for themselves.

Some guidelines for critical thinking, which is sorely lacking in much of the population these days:

  1. All beliefs in whatever realm are theories at some level. (Stephen Schneider).
  2. Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong. (Dandemis).
  3. Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. (Francis Bacon).
  4. Never fall in love with your hypothesis. (Peter Medawar).
  5. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts. (Arthur Conan Doyle).
  6. A theory should not attempt to explain all the facts, because some of the facts are wrong. (Francis Crick).
  7. The thing that doesn’t fit is the thing that is most interesting. (Richard Feynman).
  8. To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact. (Charles Darwin).
  9. It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. (Mark Twain).
  10. Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong. (Thomas Jefferson).
  11. All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second, it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident. (Arthur Schopenhauer).
Do you think Bob Mugabe would be interested in the job of UK PM?

We were watching Star Wars Episode II last night. Senator Amidala left Jar-Jar Binks in charge of some crucial votes when she had to go back home to Naboo. It's like Mrs May leaving Boris Johnson with the reins of government.

Sunday, 29 July 2018


Last night we attended an annual jazz evening at one of the local houses in Old Sodbury - Camers, a 17th century pile. It's owned by a chap who made his money in electrical contracting. He's spent an absolute fortune on the place, renovating the house and its grounds over a 25 year period - it's beautiful.

For the last couple of years, Hayley's sister has allowed the organisers to use her gazebo, which she purchased as a wedding gazebo for her own wedding a few years back. It's perfectly suited to accommodating a reasonably large band. Friday afternoon was spent erecting it and Saturday afternoon we had to effect some quick repairs due to the wind getting up.

Anyway, Hay's family and attendant hangers on assembled at 6pm, deciding to pitch camp at the back, as we'd taken the precaution of bringing our beach tent, as the weather was predicted to be inclement and we didn't want it to ruin anyone's view.

Everyone else merely brought umbrellas. Numbers were unfortunately down somewhat because of the weather.

The heavens opened at around 7pm, but Hay and I were nice and dry in our beach tent.

It got worse, and for the majority of the time our view was heavily restricted.

Until, that is, I spilled my glass of red wine inside the tent, much to Hay's annoyance. The tent also contained the remnants of our last little jaunt to the Gower - rather a lot of sand. Red wine and sand is an awful mix.

Next time we go on holiday we're thinking of taking the gazebo, along with some campaign furniture; a dining table, some wardrobes, a servant or two - just the essentials - to ensure we are comfortable....

It was a shame the jazz evening coincided with the only rain we've had in two months.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Big Hair Nostalgia

A mystery package was delivered in the post yesterday, addressed to Haylay. I opened it and found this inside.

Hay must have sourced it from a fragrance museum. I think she's reliving the 80s. Here's a drawing of her in the 80s that adorns one of our walls, complete with 80s Big Hair.

Fell on my arse for the first time while skating yesterday. I blame the Tesco car park - it's not as high quality as the Waitrose one. Luckily the protective gear saved my elbow from being smashed to smithereens. I've been gingerly getting back into the skating since the knee problem, but limiting it to about 10 or 20 minutes every 2 or 3 days, very early in the morning, to keep my hand in.

One thing that has been eluding me is turning - I can turn by slightly adjusting my feet as I skate with no problem, but turning simply by leaning over to one side so as to gain a smaller turning arc has proven problematic. I've finally sussed how to do it (you have to scissor your legs while leaning), but haven't yet fully mastered the technique.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Political Dummies

You know, the problem with politics is that any idiot with sufficient support can become an MP. Isn't it about time there was a minimum qualification to be an MP - an exam to show they understand the workings of government, public services and politics in general?

In virtually every other walk of life one has to show either suitable experience or a qualification in order to do a job - more often than not, especially if a newbie, a degree in the subject of your chosen career. Not, however, in politics. Is that, perhaps, why we lurch from crisis to crisis? Should idealism (and more often than not, dogma) trounce expertise? Have we had enough of amateurs as some politicians are fond of saying?

Granted some have relevant life experience in running businesses, but they are few and far between, and many go into politics purely to peddle their influence and patronage in the hope of a directorship. They have a good line in patter and are charismatic enough to promise the earth and attract a sheep-like following, but that alone doesn't cut the mustard.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Scarface Gallagher

I was watching the Al Pacino film, Scarface, on Amazon yesterday. In one final scene Pacino is seen sat in a chair, brooding while his enemies are crawling all over the house, intent on topping him.

Could't help but thin he looked like Liam Gallagher. 

I wonder if Gallagher based his look on Pacino and not Lennon.

Crap film, by the way.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Wasp Death Paper

Both Hay's dad and her sister have wasp nests in their lofts. They're not doing anyone any harm and wasps serve a purpose (although what that might be escapes me), so they are being left in place. Said wasps, however, have been attacking our garden furniture and the oak cladding on the house, scraping away tiny amounts of wood in order to turn it into paper for their nests.

While we were on our short break in The Gower, we noticed a new house being built where the bedrooms were downstairs and the living rooms and kitchen upstairs. This got us to pondering why we generally tend to sleep upstairs and we arrived at the conclusion that, when we all lived in hovels with animals, it was more thermally efficient to sleep above the cows and the habit stuck.

It makes more sense from a security perspective to sleep downstairs too - thieves would undoubtedly wake you up when trying to break in and would abscond with nothing more valuable than your clothes.

An interesting YouGov analysis of the death penalty from yesterday:

Again, an unsurprising result from the right, but I thought the centre and left would not record such a high percentage in favour.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Tea For Two

Our local church does tea and cake on Sunday afternoons and we decided to have a cuppa and a tab-nab after Hay tended her mother's grave on Sunday afternoon.

I couldn't help but notice the teacups, which are emblazoned with a cross and the words '900 years'.

This is referring to Old Sodbury, which was founded over 900 years ago. Chipping Sodbury, on the other hand, is celebrating its 800 year anniversary this year. Chipping Sodbury is what the people in Old Sodbury call a New Town.

Talking of teacups, I spotted this one in the charity shop over the weekend and wondered whether I should purchase it...

Perhaps not, if I value my life...

Monday, 23 July 2018

Vegan Fare

No.2 Son's girlfriend is vegan. This would normally be enough to send me into paroxysms of denunciation and a show trial for good measure. However, in a moment of ennui I decided to cook a vegan meal - I was quite surprised, I actually liked it.

You have to be so damned careful with some ingredients - no cheese or eggs or milk - or even milk powders. Makes you realise how difficult it can be, unless you just stick to using real vegetables and nothing pre-prepared.

Now this recipe is called Mediterranean baked sweet potatoes and is quite simple to make, but if you look for vegan recipes on the internet - indeed any bloody recipe - you get acres of shots of the finished article and reams of waffle before you actually get to the recipe itself. Here's a prime example. So annoying.

On previous weekends I spent ages scouring supermarket shelves for pre-prepared vegan meals, but the results are pitiful, and very expensive - you'd think you were asking for the impossible. Much better to make something yourself from scratch.

Back to a meat-based diet this week...

Sunday, 22 July 2018


OK, just one more post about scything, but only because you asked....

A bit more to do today and then that's it for another year. Next year we're not leaving as much of the garden as wild - smaller unmown compartments and some wild flower seeds are called for. Leaving areas unmown is fine, but if all you get is just grass, it can look somewhat untidy and is a pain to clear up.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Communist Conundrum

I hear some of my more right-leaning friends and acquaintances constantly telling me that communism has never worked. What they seem to forget is that communism is a transition system that tries to correct the effects of rampant and unfettered capitalism. Once the correction has been effected, then a further transition to a system of capitalism, with checks and balances - social democracy, for want of a better term - is possible and indeed necessary if another revolution is to be avoided. Communism is not a system to be pickled in aspic - it's a stage in a process and not an end in itself. Many practitioners of communism, and not to forget opponents, seem to forget this.

Russia and China were countries with millions of disenfranchised poor prior to their respective revolutions - a revolution was inevitable. Communism 'freed' millions, paid everyone a living wage and raised literacy to unprecedented levels. In that manner it succeeded.

China is moving forward toward a quasi-capitalist economic system and is now an economy that everyone respects because of its power; Russia, however, seems to have gone too far too quickly and reverted to a rampant form of capitalism where a small clique runs the country for their own benefit and cannot be removed from office. Russia, along with Poland and Hungary - indeed a lot of former Soviet states - either are already fascist, or well on the road to fascism through rampant nationalism.

Communism, where it was implemented, did work compared to the feudal system what went before it. Communism as a permanent alternative to managed capitalism (or social democracy), or indeed a replacement for it, is not a solution. The problem with many implementations of communism, and what came after, was is not necessarily the fault of communism, but people who wanted to hang on to power at any cost, whether through a communist or fascist polity.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Anti-Luxury Holidays

Aren't some holiday experiences strange? We're currently in the Gower, taking in the local scenery for a couple of days on the spur of the moment. Yesterday we saw a place advertising shepherds' hut holidays. A shepherd's hut is a somewhat basic form of shelter that was the minimum necessary to survive during lambing and not something the average person would choose to inhabit at any time, let alone for a holiday.

It seems to me that purveyors of holidays are now scouting around for the most basic accommodation and charging a fortune for it. It won't be long before some enterprising person will be advertising one-up-one-down hovels in Black Pockrington, having a coal fire that you lay yourself and a breakfast of gruel - all for £300 a night. Fleas come extra. They might even arrange a genuine, northern, coal mining experience too.

I'll leave you with a few images of The Gower.

Here are some interesting, wooden architectural features in the Oxwich Bay Hotel (not that we stayed there).

Anyone know what this beach plant is called?

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Tea Thyme Sage

Given we regularly make mint tea from the fluffy mint in the garden, I thought I'd play with some of the other herbs and made fresh, sage tea. Very nice it is too. I wonder if a slice of onion would add anything to it, perhaps with a few breadcrumbs?

Apparently it will mitigate my menopausal symptoms.

Next I'll try thyme tea, which will apparently relieve my menstrual cramps.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Relative e-Bay Fairy

Apparently bonobo chimps are our closest relatives. Not sure about you, but my brother and my kids are my closest genetic relatives, and none of them look even vaguely like a bonobo.

Look what the e-Bay Fairy found for me.

A genuine English scythe with a steam-bent, ash snath and a reasonably solid bramble blade - only £30 from the other side of Cirencester. Chap who sold it wasn't aware of its true worth and got a bit of a shock when I told him.

The handles were a bit loose and the bolts had seized, but a bit of judicious force and they came free. A touch of oil of the threads and a nip here and there was enough to have them as good as new. The bolts on the clamp that keeps the handles in place is reverse thread due to the way your hand rotates when scything - it took me a bit to worth that out. Then a quick blade change to the 3 foot blade that belonged to Hay's great-uncle Sid.

Et voila! It works perfectly - the attack angle is just right.  I also have 2 spare blades now of varying lengths.

Tested it and I must have the meanest scythe in the area and can start entering competitions. Might paint a go-faster stripe down the blade, or a flame motif. Could go the whole hog and strap a pair of stereo speakers to the snath.

Digging through a box of old ironmongery brought Hay's great-uncle Sid's cigar stone to light too - bottom left in the photo - so the blade and cigar stone have been reunited.

No more scythe posts - I promise.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Continuity Brexit Waistcoat

Do you think men's clothing emporia up and down the country have been left with lots of waistcoats that will now remain unsold?

Spotted a continuity error on Poldark on Sunday. One scene showed poppies waving in the wind, meaning it could only have been June or early July. The scene then cut to an image of a character pulling an apple from a tree and eating it - which could only mean somewhere between August (the earliest maturing varieties) to October.

Heard Sir Bernard Jenkin on Radio 4 yesterday morning saying, in reference to the Brexit customs issue, that many countries trade across borders quite adequately, an argument that is intellectually bereft when one considers those countries are not currently in the EU, nor have ever been so. The unspoken corollary is that they never had the benefits of frictionless borders. It's like saying some people never inherit anything from their parents and do OK - yes, but those that inherit do much better, like paying off their mortgages a lot earlier.

Here's an interesting thought - if Scotland seceded from the UK and remained in the EU there would have to be border controls and customs checks. Would that impede and add cost to trade between England and Scotland? Of course it would. If Scotland seceded from the UK but didn't stay in the EU, would England and Scotland initiate a customs union? Almost certainly.

The levels of deceit prominent Brexiteers within government will go to to persuade people that Brexit is a good idea is mind-boggling. They make totally fatuous, not to say fallacious analogies and then generalise them - like Rees-Mogg and his feigned concern for 3rd World farmers. The fact is that the world’s 49 poorest countries can export tariff free to the EU as part of the “anything but arms” initiative, but JRM, for reasons best known to himself, won't tell you that. The only concern JRM has is for making money through speculation. Jenkin was a bloody expenses fiddler too.

We were watching Simon Reeve's programme on TV on Sunday about his travels across Russia, a country that's very rich, but where most of the people are poor. Putin engages in building projects that are totally unnecessary, ensuring the contracts go to his cronies and, of course, he gets a kick-back. I fear Britain is heading the same way under the Brexit Ultras - Brexit will benefit the few, not the many. Speculators and those in government with their hands on the levers of influence and patronage will do very well, thank you - not that this is any change from the current situation. Many go into politics with public service uppermost in their minds, but a number go into it to make money through influence, both during their tenure and after, with lucrative board positions.

Monday, 16 July 2018

A Good Read

My latest read - and I wish I'd read it years ago. Fascinating book, I kid you not. It's incredible to think it was written in 1970.

I'm wondering whether I'm conforming to a patriarchal, male stereotype...

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Invisible Man of Pop

We were watching some old pop videos on Vintage TV last night and I swear Alicia Bridges is Pam Butcher off Eastenders.

Ever heard of Rod Temperton? No, me neither. He was the keyboard player for the 70's band Heatwave, wrote all their songs and was behind much of Michael Jackson's Off The Wall and Thriller albums. Listen to this Paul Gambaccini radio broadcast about him - fascinating. He died in 2016.

Most people believe Michael Jackson wrote his own songs, but nothing could be further from the truth. This makes one realise how much more of a musical genius Prince was, as he did write all of his music, and a lot for other people.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Boy Racers

Overheard while listening to JRM on the radio:

Hay: "How old is Rees-Mogg?"

Chairman: "About 150, I believe - could be older."

The other day a hatchback passed me with rap music blaring out of the open windows. For a start, it was one of the very hot days, so the owner must have been baking, unless he had his aircon on with the windows fully open, which is a severe waste of power.

He also didn't seem to realise that all those decibels were going to waste on the outside environment when they would be more usefully employed on his eardrums, if his windows were closed. Decibels also cause an electrical drain, which again uses power - power that slows down his boy-racer car.

Talking of boy racers, Mr Trump seems intent on giving us a masterclass in The Art of Anti-Diplomacy. Firstly he says Boris would make a good PM (which is nonsense anyway) when he was invited by the current PM, who is not planning to stand aside, and then he says Mrs. May's Brexit plan would scotch any trade deal with the USA (since retracted - you can imagine his advisors continually slapping their collective foreheads in disbelief), which is a perfect argument for staying in the EU. All he seems to understand is force, and the EU is a much larger force than the UK alone.

We seem to have Trump wanting the UK isolated and becoming the 51st state and Putin wanting the EU and NATO fragmented so he can pick off former Soviet states with impunity. The incredible thing is that we're helping both of them.

There again, it might be his revenge for people flying a baby Trump blimp over Parliament. Revenge is something he does understand but, unfortunately, he usually makes a mess even of that. It's just pure theatre and all part of his 'Art of the Deal' persona. Never take anything Trump says at face value.


Friday, 13 July 2018

Grim Reaper II - Friday the 13th

I ordered an Austrian scythe clamp off Amazon, thinking it would be of a suitable size to clamp the blade for my English scythe, but, alas, it was too small by a midge's nudger, so I effected a temporary bodge with a couple of exhaust clamps. 

Not the most elegant solution, but it works - I'll see if I can get a couple that are a tad smaller to make it look more aesthetically complete. I tested it on the field and it now just requires some proper sharpening, following which I'll dismantle it and paint the snath in a suitable Farrow and Ball country colour - French grey, or something similar. I did the blade edge in a silvery grey and the chine black.

Here's a photo of a man outstanding in his field...

It does have a tendency for the point to dig in, but that is just a matter of practice and the fact it's what we experts call a 3 foot blade, which is the longest (and hence heaviest) you can get. It's good to see Hay's great-uncle Sid's blade back in action after what must be at least 50 years out of service.

The bad news is that the grass in our field has flattened in many places and that makes cutting it very difficult. It has formed a thick, dense mat and hand scything is perhaps not the best method of cutting it. Even the sharpest blade would have problems. Cutting young grass isn't a problem at all and I could easily use the scythe as a (slow) lawnmower.

Unfortunately, one of the cats decided it would be a good idea to make a hidey-hole from the cut hay. I must be careful when pitchforking the hay not to spear a cat or two.

At least I managed to scythe the common before midday and then bale the hay in the afternoon...

Obviously, the common was cut by a tractor with attachment - the whole thing was done in a day. they usually leave the hay to dry for a few days, turning it a couple of times, but it's been so dry that this wasn't necessary this year. Also, there wasn't as much hay this year as usual, by a long chalk.  Would have liked them to come into our field and save me a job but, due to the size of the equipment, there's simply not enough room to manoeuvre the equipment down the lane and into the field.

Next on the fixing list is the peat cutter, but we don't have much in the way of peat hereabouts.