Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Shops & Midnight

Hay went shopping yesterday for next year's Christmas cards and came away with some really good bargains.

I guess the supermarkets will be packed today in recognition of the fact that they will be closed for a full day and the country could face starvation. However, you can still buy stuff on Amazon...

I'm giving a blood donation at 11:35 today and have managed to persuade No.2 Son to watch as a prelude to him considering doing the same at some time in the future. I merely want to prove to him that there's no pain involved - well, not serious pain, unless you get a rather inept person sticking the needle into your arm, which is not unknown. Then we're headed for a country walk, followed by a late lunch in the Swan in Wotton-under-Edge.

I guess, as neither Hay nor I have the slightest interest in watching Jools Holland and will probably be woken up by the fireworks anyway, we'll be retiring early tonight at our usual time of between 8 and 9pm.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Horse Trading

In a bit of horse trading, I managed to get Hay to rise relatively early to video me in my broken free mode in exchange for a 3 mile walk with her around Hawkesbury-Upton.

No - don't ask what I have on my head - I merely perched my beanie high on my head so I could hear Hay sniggering at my balancing technique...

I merely need to get to grips with the free-mount now (although I have heard people say it can take twice as long to learn to free mount a unicycle as to to ride one in the first place) and source a unicycle bag without spending a fortune.

I'm so glad we did walk round Hawkesbury-Upton, as we went into a pub, the Beaufort Arms (one of many pubs named after the Dukes of Beaufort), for a coffee, but will return very soon for a Sunday roast - the food looked delicious and the landlord is a real character. One of the locals was talking to his mate in a broad west country dialect and I couldn't understand a single word.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Tribute Bands sometimes get a bad press, but when you think about it, they're a natural consequence of excellent bands disbanding or original band members dying, not to mention the fact that some original artists actively promote tribute bands and waive licence fees.

When all is said and done, orchestras that play Mozart, Beethoven or Tchaicovsky are no more than tribute acts.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Straight Laced

I'm fed up with the very long laces on my pumps - the damned things need double tying and I keep tripping over them. Not only that, but long, flappy laces are a bit of a danger on the unicycle.

Decided to try out some of those no-tie laces, which are made of silicone and transform shoes into slip-ons.

Fiddly to insert, but reasonably secure once threaded into place. I tested them on this morning's unicycling practice session and they were perfect.

I have started using a new strategy in my unicycling in order to break free of the support rail completely - launching myself out into the unknown at 90 degrees to the rail, and it is working. The car park has to be entirely free of moving cars to prevent accidents, but at 6:30 that's not really an issue. Managed to to a half circle around the section of the car park I use this morning. I didn't start off intending to do a half circle; I merely ran out of road and decided to try one.

Free-mounting is still an issue I need to solve, but I understand the principle - and the physics - and simply need lots of practice.

Friday, 27 December 2019

The Ghost in the Machine

Just noticed another problem with the comments page on the blog - I can now make comments, but I still can't reply to them. Oh well, further investigation is required.

I bought No.1 Son a reflective jacket for his bike for Christmas. Despite it looking light grey, once you shine a light on it it turns into a beacon. I took this photo of Hay's dad in it using the flash.

Scary. As it transpired, No.1 Son had already bought himself one last week, so it has turned into an unwanted present...

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Roger & George

Thanks to Roger and George, the problem of me not being able to reply to comments on my own Blog has been solved.

Roger knew of an issue with embedded comments and George suspected a problem with Chrome browsers, as he had similar issues himself, which disappeared on using a different browser.

I changed a setting in the Blog to make the comments into a popup page, which solved both issues simultaneously.

Thanks Roger and George.

Here are Roger (Moore) and George (Lazenby) out of their Bond personas....

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Every Lidl Helps

Have you noticed how Lidl manage their stock almost perfectly? I dashed out to the local Lidl at 5.30 yesterday evening to get some last minute biscuits and apple juice, and was amazed to find there wasn't a single Christmas item on the shelves.

Unfortunately, our Lidl is allefedly closing for 3 months in the New Year for a renovation programme.

Merry Christmas to all my readers - however, I won't be able to reply to any reciprocations, as I still haven't found out why I can't add comments to my own blog.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Breaking Free

I had set myself the target of becoming relatively proficient at the unicycling by Christmas, but that target has been missed; however, I have managed to break free of the rail at the local Tesco. On Saturday the psychological barrier of leaving the safety of the rail was broken and I managed 5 complete revolutions past the end of it.

By yesterday I'd managed 10 complete revolutions beyond the end of the rail, which is half the distance of the rail itself, so progress is definitely being made to overcome the problem.

The next barrier is free mounting - or getting on the thing without the aid of a support of any kind. 

Monday, 23 December 2019

A Delightful Place

A nice, brisk walk of just over 3 miles around Wotton-Under-Edge in Gloucestershire yesterday. Hay had me climbing high places, but what a view over the River Severn across to Welsh Wales. Actually, what can be seen in this video is English Wales. The population heavily comprises retired English people.

Wotton is a lovely little town with a high street that, with the exception of a small Tesco, is entirely comprised of locally run and owned shops. A delightful place.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Hidden Gems

While decorating the works Christmas tree with car keyrings and remotes, I stumbled upon a natty zipper pull.

Perhaps I could get a huge one from a car bonnet and wear it as a necklace. Could become a trend...

Batman delivered Father Christmas' presents to my grandchildren yesterday.

Batman's eyesight is a bit suspect - he is getting on now though, having been born in 1939.

One was a tad shy.

On the way back home we called in at Blaise Hamlet, a small collection on houses designed by Nash and built for pensioners who had worked on the Blaise Estate in Bristol.

It's a tiny, hidden gem and the houses are still inhabited. They put me in mind of a tiny Port Sunlight.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Turning Over a New Leaf

Well, the Nissan Leaf is now on the market for "£22,995.

Yesterday I went down to the local scrapyard for some additional works Christmas tree decorations and the bloke there was as good as his word - a tenner for 10 car badges.

Also happened to call into Halfords, where I spotted some interesting car detailing spray.

Here's a close-up...

Friday, 20 December 2019


Heard an advert for Amex yesterday with the strap-line of "Shop small with American Express." It was saying that Amex can be used to shop in small, independent shops, making the pitch that by using Amex you're supporting local businesses. When was the last time you saw a shop that even accepted Amex? I used to have a corporate Amex and could only use it in larger establishments that could afford to pay to have Amex, as it charges retailers about 50% more for handling transactions than other cards.

The Nissan Leaf I bought has had its paint job and been valeted. It's ready to go on sale just as soon as we decide on the retail price. Looking at average prices, it seems we may have underestimated it. We're reevaluating it tomorrow.

Meanwhile it's on charge overnight.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Leafy Suburb

After the successful experience with the VW e0Up! I underwrote another electric vehicle yesterday - a 2018 Nissan Leaf. A bit of paint on some light scuffing, a door dent removed, a good valeting and it should be up for sale sometime next week, holiday shutdowns permitting.

An alleged range of 163~236. Really good acceleration of 7.1 ~ 8.3 seconds for 0-60. Love it.

Unlike the e-Up!, the Leaf uses a CHAdeMO connection for a rapid charge, instead of a CCS cable. Another cable and connection system to learn to operate.

The charging times are around the same as the e-Up!, but the range is twice as much.

Once prepped, it should provide a handsome return on the investment.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Free Will

Saw this advert on a solicit's window in Chipping Sodbury High St.

What if I choose not to have it reviewed? That would surely show I already had free will and didn't need it tested - or would it?

Actually no - the concept of free will is reinforced by experience but cannot be falsified by it. When we choose X without evident constraint, we feel we are free because we could have chosen Y. That we can imagine to choose Y proves nothing; it only begs the question.

The solicitor's advert should be removed as misleading, as it's not possible to review you free will....

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

The Pod

I bought some composting coffee pods in Tesco last week. Despite them being labeled as compostable, they look pretty robust to me.

The problem I have with them is that while they may be compostable, they's totally useless at delivering a shot of coffee, clagging up within a few seconds and pressurising the machine.

I've given up on them but, rather than return to plastic pods, we've switched back to cafetiere coffee. Tesco is doing a fantastic deal on Taylor's of Harrogate coffee and I've discovered their Hot Java Lava, which is delicious. 

Buy them in twos and you get a discount. I saved a fiver on 6 packs.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Your Vote Counts

I've heard a lot of people say; "Thousands died so you could vote." While that may be so in countries that overthrew dictatorships or absolute monarchies, I'm struggling to see how and when that applied in the UK. It's a throw-away phrase I've used myself without having thought about it.

The increase in the franchise happened relatively peacefully in the British Isles. Yes, we had a civil war about whether the king or Parliament had the power, but the common man certainly didn't achieve a vote because of the civil war - it was the landed interests who filled Parliament.

Perhaps it's more accurate to say; "Thousands of people died so you could retain your vote," as had Hitler won WWII, it's doubtful in the extreme as to whether any political party, other than the Nazi Party, would have existed.

It's strange, and I know it's apocryphal, but empirical observation has demonstrated that I've rarely met an ex Army person who hasn't accidentally betrayed a secret penchant for a military dictatorship at some time. Others have said the same to me. When you think about it, most dictatorships originate from within the an army, and it's on record that even the British Army has problems with a small core of fascism in its ranks - the MoD has even issued guidance on spotting right wing extremism and Tommy Robinson does appear to have a worrying level of support among squaddies.

Are fascists drawn to the army, or does army life risk turning one into a fascist? Hard to say. Perhaps they see themselves as the last bastion against a corrupt, political elite. There again, are indeed called in if there's civil unrest on a large scale and the temptation to retain that power must be overwhelming in some countries with systemic problems.

The relationship between Army and government in the UK can and does become strained a times. The British Army convinced the British government in 2006 that it could fight two wars simultaneously, with the Helmand operation being to atone for the failure in Southern Iraq, but as things went from bad to worse, this led to accusations of lack of equipment from the Army so as to lay the blame for Helmand's failure on the government. Tension between government increased and led to General Dannat breaking convention and siding with the Conservative opposition. Public sympathy for the Army grew as a consequence and has remained high, despite the Army itself having been the culprit for advocating a war on two fronts.

Given there have been many left-wing military dictatorships (Cuba being just one example), it's perhaps not correct to call military dictatorships right wing, despite that wing being the one we normally associate with military coups. Both extremes of the political divide have a penchant for authoritarianism.

I can't say the desire is so strong in ex RAF or Navy people I've known, but certainly among ex squaddies - less so among the officer class. Perhaps it's because the Army is in closer contact with an enemy in combat situations and it's more face to face, rather than taking out a capital asset like another plane or a battleship.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Illogical Tree Behaviour

Well, the Christmas tree at home was constructed and decorated yesterday. It will last the entire holiday period without dropping a single needle, as it doesn't have any.

That's 2 years on the trot we've done the tree branch concept - we're going to have to do something different next year.

I've been waging a one man crusade at work against the teaspoon in a small bowl of dirty water for some time now. You know how when some people have used a teaspoon, rather than simply rinsing it under the tap, drying it (which isn't even necessary if the tap is hot) and putting it back in the drawer, they plonk it into a small bowl of water which gets progressively more dirty and becomes a bit of a health hazard? When said bowl of water gets to the stage of looking like a petri dish experiment, they inexplicably take the spoon from the festering bowl, rinse it under the tap to clean off the gunk, stir their tea or coffee and put the spoon back into the gunge in the bowl.

Well, I took the step of removing said bowl from our work kitchen several months ago, forcing people to rinse and dry their teaspoons, which worked, but it has mysteriously reappeared.

I shall find the culprit.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Car Locator

Hay has been badgering me to take the kayak carrier off the car roof for winter, as it's highly unlikely we'll be going kayaking till spring. However, I'm reluctant to do this due to the ease with which I'm able to locate the car in the Tesco car park.

Ah, there it is... Look along the roof line.

A useful addition to a car when you tend to forget where you parked your car in a large, busy car park.

I've had a brilliant idea about a new challenge. A single unicycle is difficult enough to master, especially if you start learning in later age, but imagine how difficult it would be to use two unicycles. I could strap two together and call it - well, I suppose I could call the resultant contraption a bicycle. It would be fiendishly difficult to master. I could patent it and make a fortune. Don't tell anyone...

Friday, 13 December 2019

Jehova's Lights

Well, it looks like another 5 years of misrule in the UK. Thankfully, Corbyn will step down and (hopefully) make way for a more centre left leader. Boris won on the basis of lies and deceit, which the British people seem somewhat susceptible to of late. We are turning into America and we now have our own mini-Trump. Our capacity for self-immolation seems to know no bounds.

You reap what you sow and I don't hold out much hope for the NHS, nor indeed any public service where there's a quick buck to be made from selling it off to the highest bidder, once it has been run into the ground by starvation in the name of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Politics is broken - not longer is it seen as a calling to public service, but a route to riches with lucrative directorships after a spell in government. We, the electorate, collude in that, by voting for deceit.

Boris can now get on with getting Brexit done, but getting it done will not happen at the end of January - it will take years and years, years during which the UK will be diminished and wealth inequality will grow. The turkeys have indeed voted for the proverbial Christmas.

However, perhaps Boris' two-faced approach to the election has been a ruse all along. In the First Past the Post system, any party which can consolidate support from either the centre right and far right (or centre left and far left) is at a natural advantage. There are too any nuances between the centre and the left for that to happen on that side of the equation, but all Boris had to do was out-bigot the bigots in the Brexit Party, which is what he's achieved and is evidenced by all the lies and double-speak that has been the hallmark of his campaign. Perhaps, now he's gained his majority, we'll see a new Boris who realises he has to put public services first to stand any chance of winning another election in 5 years.

As an aside, I always thought that with having a rampant SNP north of the border, it was a bad strategic decision to choose a LibDem leader from a Scottish constituency.

I wonder whether politicians have ever thought of recruiting a hunting pack of Jehova's Witnesses for door-to-door canvassing. I'm not so sure it would work though, as Jehova's Witnesses are renowned for discovering that everyone is out, even housebound agoraphobics 

Took a little trip down Mill Crescent in Westerleigh before coming home yesterday evening to see whether their annual, charity Christmas light show had started yet, and it had.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Job Done

The showroom Christmas tree is now 90% complete - all I'm waiting for is the pile of old keyfobs and a handful of car boot emblems. They're not really necessary though.

Naturally, Hay put the final touches to it and added a few of our own decorations, plus the lights.

We won't be putting our own version up at home till next week. Perhaps we should hire ourselves out as bespoke Christmas tree designers...

It's the News

No-one can doubt that there's a big problem with politicians lying through their teeth and not being brought to account by the media. Part of the problem is that the political journalist relies on access to politicians; lose that access and you could be out of a job. Politicians have learned to guard that access and only give it to journalists who play their game. It also leads to accusations of journalists being politically biased, which is not to be confused with newspapers, which are definitely politically biased toward the financial interests of their millionaire owners, such as those below.

Another problem is the spread of misinformation, which again is abetted by journalists, the 24 hour news culture and the rush to be first with a story. Time was when a story had to be triple checked from three different sources before it was put out, but now there's no checking, which results in misinformation being promulgated at an alarming rate and stories increasingly having to be retracted.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Works Xmas Tree

Made a start on the showroom Christmas tree yesterday - a bough from our old plum tree, which is slowly dying anyway. I was going to get a traditional tree, but with a root ball so it could be replanted after Christmas; however, there wasn't a single one available in the area, so I decided to so something innovative based on our home 'tree' last year.

I got a few strange looks when I dragged half a tree into the showroom, but once it was put in place and dusted with silver spray paint, opinions became quite favourable. A couple thought it didn't even require further embellishment. 

I've ordered a bunch of old car keyfobs with marque labels on them, which I may paint before hanging from the branches. The local car breaker has promised me half a dozen or so car boot badges to use as adornment sometime next week for a tenner. I'll add some marketing leaflets on ribbons, some alloy wheels we have in the store will be arranged around the base and it will be completed with some warm, white lights. The whole theme will be car related, as befitting a car showroom.

I may have to temporarily adorn it with standard, red baubles till my proper deccies arrive next week.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Trekkie Owl

Switched on the TV news last night and thought I'd inadvertently switched to an episode of Star Trek..

While walking on the road outside our house on Saturday, Hay found a very badly injured tawny owl. It had probably been hit my a car while swooping down to catch a rodent scuttling across the road.

She picked it up and brought it home, placing it in a warm, cardboard box. It was still breathing, but totally immobile. We took it to a local vet after phoning an owl sanctuary in Gloucestershire, having been advised that, if any bones were broken, it would in all likelihood be euthanased. 

She left her phone number with the vet, but she received the sad news on Sunday that the owl was too badly injured and was put down, that being the kindest action.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Elecktrickery IV

Well, after only 2 days of being up for sale, the VW e-Up! sold for the asking price, the customer being from Lymington on the South coast. My strategy of taking a calculated risk and underwriting the car for the dealership, simply to prove a point, has paid off. Hopefully, we'll now be buying more, if we can find them.

OK, so I'm doing a bit of blatant advertising for my employer...

The customer wants it delivered. Given I'm headed to Winchester next Sunday to collect No.2 Son from university for his Christmas break, I'll probably drop it off with Hay following me in our car. She can do a December swim in the sea off Hurst Castle too, thus killing three birds with one stone.

Looking at the route and consulting the PlugShare App, I can recharge the car at Chievely Services at the junction of the M4 and A34. That will save us £200 on the hire of a transporter. It also means I can perform a proper hand-over of the car.

We were doing some fixed point photography of an ecological site between Slad and Painswick yesterday and I spotted this wonderful sign of solidarity and common sense on the Ecotricity HQ building in Stroud.

Ecotricity is a very interesting company, especially in the way it's promoting the use of EVs. I'd rather trust Dale Vince, its CEO, than any politician when it comes to green matters.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Pencils and Broomsticks

We've been watching all three and a half hours of The Irishman on Netflix (reasonably watch-worthy, if you like watching pensioner actors renowned for playing Mafia mobsters). Overheard while The Chairman had Wikipedia open on Rober De Niro:

Hay: "How many times has Robert De Niro been married?"

Chairman: "Twice."

Hay: "To who?"

Chairman: "A couple of women."

Hay: "You don't do detail, do you?"

The new unicycle came with a book and a video. I read the book and watched the video yesterday - and learned that there was a minor problem with my technique.

It's actually better to be further off the ground with the seat than too close to it. This is explained best by the analogy of balancing an uright pencil on your finger and a broomstick; the broomstick is easier to balance because it unbalances more slowly due to its greater inertia, which is why tightrope walkers carry a long pole.

I heightened the seat by an inch or so, resulting in my legs being almost straight at the bottom of the pedal cycle - and it did make a noticeable difference in the stability when moving.

I still think it will be a while before I graduate to unicycle jousting though...

Saturday, 7 December 2019


Since the start of the year I've been tracking my daily mileage. While perusing the Excel spreadsheet I use, I came across a graph of the results for weekday miles, which I forgot I'd made.

You can click on the image to blow it up. 

Nothing particularly interesting about it; however, it does show that, on average, it could warrant the use of an electric car in terms of the average mileage, which is generally under 100 miles a day.

That said, many of the miles can't be travelled in an electric car, as I'm moving petrol and diesel cars between HQ, the bodyshop, the MoT station and the valeters'. The remaining miles, which are travelled in the company runaround, certainly could be.

The very high daily miles were when I was collecting cars from auctions around the country, including some from Glasgow, but these have disappeared since we started buying from nearer home and having them delivered.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Electrickery III

Contrary to all expectation, the wall charger for the VW e-Up! actually arrived yesterday and so will be installed at work today. Of course, it's not just for the e-Up!, but will hopefully be amortised over a large number of EVs in the future.

I performed some training on the |EV yesterday and imparted all I had discovered to the rest of the crew. Even Hay attended - and had a drive of it. She fell in love with it immediately. 

The car is now on the front row of the dealership and has already attracted an enquiry from someone with a Renault Zoe EV to part exchange. Now the Zoe has a larger battery than the e-Up!, so it will be interesting to see why she wants a change.

Having inspected AutoTrader, ours would appear to be the only 2nd hand e-Up! in the country. As of this morning it has had 141 views on Facebook Marketplace too, which is encouraging.

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, to coin a phrase, as it were, this is an experiment to get us into a new and fast increasing market area, and as such is a bit of a risk - but a risk Hay and I willing to take, as we underwrote the purchase and all the risk is on us.