Monday, 31 December 2018

Marshalling Birthdays

We visited Chepstow yesterday and went into the castle (William Marshall, a one-time custodian, being a hero of mine). I actually got an OAP discount from Cadw, the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage. I wouldn't mind, but I'm only 63. Cadw categorises OAPs as anyone over 60. There seem to be advantages to getting older and I'm looking forward to more.

If we have BC and AD and this is meant to be from Christ's birth, but why on earth does the new year then start on January 1st and not December 25th? It's more of a rhetorical question, as December 25th is not actually Christ's birth date, but neither is January 1st.

Tomorrow people will be making New Year resolutions and then start breaking them at the earliest available opportunity.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Empire Laid Bear

A child has noticed something about the Toblerone logo that has eluded most people - the image of Mont Blanc contains an image of a bear.

Apparently the bear is the emblem of Bern, where Toblerone is headquartered.

I was looking at the New Year honours list yesterday and it struck me that perhaps the names of some of the honours should be updated. 

Most Excellent Order of the British Empire? The Empire ceased when Hong Kong was handed back, and some would say earlier than that. There again, we do like things to be frozen in time.

Saturday, 29 December 2018


Received the DMX Controller for the laser display system yesterday - 11 days after ordering it and far too late to be able to program the laser for a show, so I'll just be using a preset display for tonight's show at our local car dealership's showroom.

Nice piece of kit, but bloody complex and the instruction manual is filled with jargon, all of which is impenetrable at the present time. No doubt I'll pick it up - but not for a while.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Ninja Plumber

The plumbing course I attended a couple of months ago has finally paid off. A plastic stop valve on a hot water boiler sheered off, leaving water pouring all over the place.

Turned off the water and bought a much more reliable brass ball stop valve, but it was about 1cm shorter than the plastic original, with no slack to manoeuvre the pipes - one plastic and one copper - closer.  Got some copper pipe and an elbow, extending the feed pipe, and it was all fixed - in not in a jiffy, then within a couple of hours.

It was the first time I'd had occasion to use my training, but it saved having to call out a plumber, who a) would have charged about £150 and, b) would probably have given a date a week hence and then not turned up, based on previous experience.

My Master, Obi-Wan Dave, pronounced the repair excellent, so obviously the Faucet was with me. It's not something I'd have tackled without the course, or the help of some of Dave's tools. Must get myself a blowtorch now - wonder when Lidl will sell them...

Thursday, 27 December 2018

A Bracing Walk

A bracing, 7 mile, cross country, Boxing Day walk to Horton Court and back, and only soup to eat in the evening - to try to make up for the excess of booze.

The National Trust has just spent £2m renovating this beautiful building (it was used in Poldark), but now they have no clue what to do with it. It can't become a tourist attraction, as the roads aren't suitable, so they're looking to rent it to an oligarch for £7k per month and open just the gardens to the public 2 days a week in the summer. Can't see an oligarch wanting people peering into his windows though.

Crocuses in December?

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Christmas Presents

I was overjoyed with my Christmas present from Hay - a slow cooker that steams, sautes, sears and pressure cooks, all in one.

Is she trying to tell me something?

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Merry Bessie

A Merry Christmas, a Happy Yule or a Superb Saturnalia to you all.

Just remember when you eat your Christmas dinner that the Aunt Bessie's factory kills 110 million Yorkshire puddings in the run-up to Christmas.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Noughts & Crosses at Christmas

Just had to buy this for myself as (yet another) Christmas present:

3D noughts and crosses. Of course, you're limited as to the number of noughts and crosses you can use, plus any at the top require there to be pieces underneath, which adds another layer of complexity. Nice for the coffee table though.

A last minute enhancement to the Christmas cake - grated white chocolate. Should have crated it on to the cake while the dark chocolate was still runny.

Made one of my Christmas favourites yesterday - Dutch red cabbage. Apples, onions, red cabbage (of course), butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar and white wine vinegar. Slow cook for about 6 hours and you have Christmas on a plate.

Gave my reading at the local church carol service last night - Micah 5: 2-5 in a suitably sonorous timbre - a vague enough passage that could mean virtually anything. Take this line, for example: "Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel." What? - that's pure Nostradamus. It's not even meaningful as a sentence, even in relation to the preceding one, in fact it's rather reminiscent of the Prophets scene in Life of Brian.

The book of carols kindly had the dates the carols were written and it struck me how the church is stuck in the 1850s, as indeed is anything ceremonial in the UK; court dress, judicial garb, military dress uniform, fox hunting clothes, academic clothes, etc. No wonder so many fall for Brexit, we're a Nostalgia Nation. It's a wonder top hats aren't still worn in Parliament.

Well, Merry, Victorian Christmas to anyone reading this.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Dryathalon Cake for Paddy

Paddy Ashdown - an MP with integrity in a viper's nest. Would that there were more like him. RIP Paddy.

Dryathalon? No way!

Cakeathalon more likely. Topped my Christmas cake with Lidl orange chocolate yesterday - or rather Hay did, but I did the decoration:

Not exactly traditional, but it satisfies both our respective pet hates - marzipan and icing.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Early Christmas Lights in Gatwick

I do wish the news media would cease all this human interest stuff. There was an issue with drones at Gatwick; flights were stopped; chaos ensued; two suspects have been arrested; things are back to normal - that's all we need to know; that's news. That Doris from Dagenham missed her mother's birthday and is distraught is of no consequence to me, nor that Sid from Blackpool has had to cancel his holiday in Spain. - that is not news. Too much news time is consumed by waffle.

Went to B and Q (can't do ampersands on this blog platform) to seek out a half decent Christmas swag for the fireplace on Thursday, but there wasn't a Christmas item to be had - all sold out. Whatever happened to the days when you'd decorate your house on Christmas eve? My God - it's not Christmas Day till Tuesday.

After adding a few battery operated fairy lights to the cartwheel candelabra I converted to candle power, I came up with an idea - to put a plug socket next to the ceiling fitting to facilitate mains operated fairly lights. The battery ones are too short and it takes two of them to go right around the wheel, plus the battery compartments are a tad unsightly.

I'll try to find something sympathetic that doesn't stand out too much. I could just wire some fairy lights in permanently, using the wire I pushed back into the ceiling cavity, but that would mean we couldn't change them easily. A good job for the New Year - perhaps New Year's Day.

In fact, there are several areas, specifically on the oak beams, where a plug socket or two wouldn't go amiss.

Friday, 21 December 2018

God's Chocolate Sundae Vikings

What's the betting that a couple of Russians are innocently holidaying around Gatwick Airport? Talking of Russians; if Putin thinks Brexit is a good idea (along with Trump), then perhaps it's not such a good idea. Cui bono.

The Christmas cake I made! I don't like marzipan and Hay isn't that enamoured with icing. We came up with the perfect solution that we both like:

We're going to melt some Lidl orange chocolate and pour it over the top.

Found some frosted sundae glasses in a local charity shop yesterday - perfect for the wine glass chandelier. Been looking for a decent set of frosted glasses for ages, but they only seem to come up in singles, hideous colours or in plastic.

they were a snip at £16 for six. Just need to find another couple of dozen from somewhere now...

Talking of Sundaes; Old Sodbury's No.1 atheist - aka yours truly - has been asked to do a reading at the carol service in the local church on Sunday evening. I agreed, as I did last year (no-one else would volunteer in the group I'm representing). It's becoming a regular feature and I'm starting to think I'm a conversion project for them.

The reading is from Micah 5 2:5 and I might stumble over the word Ephrathah - several times. That'll teach them! I wouldn't mind, but the reading makes little sense; it's one of those 'hedge-your-bets prophesies that can be taken an million different ways. The last bit could be said to be coming to fruition now - something about Assyrians treading on the soil of the soil of Israel being given short shrift by some shepherds.

Didn't realise Johnny Mathis was the US Defence Secretary; didn't even know he was a general.

Is it me, or has the Amazon series Vikings suffered the ultimate fate of all these series and gone a bit daft? I'm finding it increasingly hard to remain focused on it and wander off to do the washing up or clean out my shed, etc.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Things Wot I 'Av Bought

I had occasion to use one of these gadgets the other day to start a car with a flat battery.

Worked a treat and can reputedly start a car some 20 times before needing to be recharged. In addition to that, it can charge any USB device you may have about your person - for several weeks, if the blurb is anything to go by.

I was so impressed that I bought myself one as an early Christmas present. Handy to keep in the car - jump leads are fine, providing there's another car in the neighbourhood you can use to jump you. Not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination, but damned useful.

Designed in the USA and, as many things are these days, made in China - but at least the instructions are in English and not Chinglish...

Perhaps I should change the blog to reviews of crap I've bought - might make some money like that kid who has made millions reviewing toys.

"'Ere, I bought this Brexit thing, but it doesn't work. I want a refund."

"It only has a 12 month warranty and that's expired."

"Isn't it 2 years for a warranty?"

"No - that's EU law and we did away with that on your instruction. That's expired now anyway, and even then it's only valid if you haven't flashed it with 3rd party lies and deceit software from Leave.EU - unless you can prove it's hardware related. Have you got a job?"


"It works just fine then!"

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Tree Innovations

Saw some innovative Christmas trees / decorations yesterday in Dartmouth.

This one is decorated with scallop shells; quite apt for a seaside town:

A variant of a dress tree that Hay made a couple of years ago. This one was in a charity shop and the bodice is comprised of a basket, although it's quite hard to see with the reflection in the shop window.

A better view from inside the shop:

Spotted this mug in the same charity shop:

I think charity shops are a barometer of a town's wealth.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Workbench Spirits Headed for France

Bloody desk is starting to look like a workbench...

Am I just a typical bloke or particularly messy?

We're in Dartmouth for a couple of days. Spotted a postie who has entered the festive spirit.

Talking of festive spirits, is it wise for a bottle shop to sell a gin that's advertised as a chauffeur's reserve?

Drink driving is not recommended...

It being the middle of winter and us being near the sea, Hay decided to have a swim at Mill Bay, just round the corner from Kingswear.

Last saw her heading for France...

Monday, 17 December 2018

Darth Santa

I'm preparing a laser show for our local car showroom between the High Days and tested the laser equipment and fog machine last week.

I thought of dressing as Santa for the actual show, but Hay thought I'd be better dressing up as Darth Vader, complete with the voice effect and walking out of the fog from the fog machine. Might recreate the light sabre fight scene from The Phantom Menace - the kids would love it.

Darth Santa?

Sunday, 16 December 2018

The Upcycled Festive Spirit

Overheard while the Chairman is faffing with his e-cig and considering changing the coil:

Chairman: "I think I need to change my...."

Hay: "Attitude?"

Hay started to decorate the house yesterday in preparation for Christmas. Her annual tree innovation was up to its normal standard - this year it's a branch from the apple tree and an ice theme:

I prepared the new chandelier with candles from IKEA:

The old Edwardian chair we'd bought for £30 was finally returned from the local upholsterer yesterday - cost was £300, including a complete rebuild, which was a snip considering another upholsterer wanted to charge £500 just for the reupholstering. Fit for another 100 years and well worth the money spent. I hadn't seen the upholsterer before, as Hay had conducted the negotiations. When I stepped into the shop I thought Johnny Vegas had come to Chipping Sodbury visit some relatives - he was a dead ringer.

Santa's Ghetto in Yate was gearing up for production yesterday, but I think Santa was on the bottle somewhere.

I would be, if I had to face the prospect of hordes of kids.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Fear Oral-B Estate Agents

Seen the Oral B advert on TV - the one where it shows an Oral-B toothbrush head surrounding a tooth from the top? Ever know anyone who cleans their teeth from the top in that manner? The bristles aren't even long enough to completely envelop a tooth from the top, or bottom, depending on which set of gnashers you're cleaning.

Here's an interesting thought. We hire estate agents to sell our houses and conduct negotiations with prospective purchasers - they, after all, are the experts. I wonder if anyone has ever hired as estate agent in the capacity of a buyer, using their expertise in negotiation once a house has been selected. Obviously it couldn't be the same estate agent as the seller is using.

I heard a Brexiteer argue yesterday that Scottish Independence you'd be disastrous for the Scottish economy as it would be kicking its largest trade partner, England, into touch. Brexitland must be an irony-free territory. Isn't this exactly the 'Project Fear' stuff Brexiteers have been accusing we realists of?

Friday, 14 December 2018

Recycled Brexit

Overheard on Messenger:

Hay sends me a photo of some recycling by the back door:

Hay: "Quote - I always take out the recycling every morning before you get up, always - unquote."

Chairman: "There wasn't enough there to warrant taking it out this morning. You're being unreasonable. The world won't crash and burn because I don't take out the recycling."

Hay: "Now you're sounding like a Brexiteer. I can't change the strategic plan on how we organise the recycling just to suit you. You made promises you were unable to deliver on."

Chairman: "Bully!"

Thursday, 13 December 2018


I often laugh at some expressions I hear on the news:

'Slept with' is one. Sleeping is invariably the last thing on the mind of those who 'sleep with each other'.

Another is 'denied any wrongdoing', which usually turns out to mean guilty as hell.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Having Your Cake and Eating It

I baked the Christmas cake over a week ago and have been adding scotch, brandy, rum and calvados in equal quantities. It's now well wrapped in cling-film and just about ready to finish off, but I detest marzipan (despite loving almonds and Stollen) and Hay isn't that enamoured of Royal icing.

The compromise is going to have to be almonds and glacé cherries with an apricot jam glaze. Just one, big Dundee cake.

Any other decorative suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Men and Our Cars

We men have a strange relationship with cars. Last week I posted a photo of a BMW Z4 Coupe on Facebook and it engendered more comment than a post about Brexit, and those who commented were exclusively men. Suggest to a man that a particular car looks rather nice, and it's almost as if you impugn their masculinity by denigrating the car they drive - we take it very personally. The conversation (or argument) invariably revolves around 0-60 times, not necessarily aesthetics - a tenth of a second means a lot to a man. Is it perhaps because we men see our cars as an extension of themselves and the speed and acceleration of a car makes up for our own lack of speed and acceleration - a sleek and fast body substitute?

The number of men who believe women are attracted to men with fast cars is legendary, but women seem more preoccupied by colour, comfort and practicality, with muscle cars holding little or no particular attraction for them - at least not in my experience. Readers may differ in their opinion.

The following observation is not exclusive to men - the vast majority of drivers will happily sit in a queue to ensure they arrive at a petrol pump with the filler next to the petrol pump. The other day I drew up to my local filling station and there was a queue of 5 cars waiting on one side, with none on the other - I drove into the empty side not having a clue anyway as to which side the filler was on the car I was driving. Modern petrol pump hoses are more than long enough to reach the other side of any car. I suppose it's to do with the prospect of acute embarrassment in the instance of parking a little too far from the pump and having to perform manoeuvres in front of an audience, should the hose not reach.

The other day a friend posted an item on Facebook about diesel technology having progressed to the state where new diesels are less polluting than petrol cars, yet diesel cars are nevertheless scheduled to be banned. This is an example of complex problems being reduced to simple problems and a simple solution being proposed (a bit like Brexit). It would be better to merely specify performance standards that all cars have to adhere to and forcing engineers to tackle the problem with innovation, rather than simply banning diesels. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

Dirty Stamp on Christmas

Overheard in the kitchen:

Hay: "Which part of 'don't stamp all over the kitchen in your dirty shoes' didn't you hear.

Chairman: "All of it."

Hooray - the bank agreed to the massive loan to pay for the stamps required to send all our Christmas cards. Managed to get them all off yesterday morning - until, that is, we receive a Christmas card from someone we accidentally left off the list. They'll naturally see that as an intended sleight, which means we'll end up sending them one that arrives well after Christmas. Never fails to happen.

I'm now feel I've been poisoned by envelope gum. Hideous concoction that I'm sure has some nasty side effects.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

New Lamps for Old II

Finished the conversion of the electric ceiling light to candle power.

Quite effective and we're pleased with the result. It will look lovely with some Christmas decorations on it, taking care, naturally, that whatever it is adorned with is not a fire risk.