Sunday, 31 May 2020

Men's Wee Book Club

Heard an interesting news item that, because of their experience with C-19, more people are going to keep an emergency store of food in the house. That's not a bad thing.

Hay is a member of a book club. They visit each others houses in turn for what is ostensibly a review of a book, but rapidly descends into a white wine drinking session. During the pandemic they've been meeting online via video conference. My idea is a men's book club where we all go out on our motorbikes - socially distancing, of course - while listening to an audiobook. I think it could catch on. We could make it safer by not listening to the audiobook.

I've been experimenting with urine as a weedkiller. Hay and her sister are keen on eco-friendliness, which I don't have an issue with, until it comes to weeds on our car parking area, which is comprised of scalpings and overhung by lots of trees, which naturally distribute their seeds all over the place. Keeping on top of the weeds without the aid of chemicals is a nightmare.

Now urine contains all the nutrients plants need (phosphates, nitrogen, etc), but you have to ensure you dilute it for it to have the desired effect. Undiluted, and applied in high dosage, it kills plants with kindness. We manage to collect about 3 litres of urine per 24 hours and I repeatedly soak the weeds on the car park on a daily basis, selecting a couple of square metres at a time. I wondered whether I'd end up with superweeds, but, bugger me, it actually works! Within a few days, the perennials turn black and wither. The fact there's been no rain for weeks adds to the efficacy. God help us though when it does rain, as the entire car parking area could ming like an open sewer.

A side effect of the urine hoarding is that we're using substantially less water to flush the toilet, only flushing now for No.2s, although we do have previous with humanure when we had the composting toilet.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Majority

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that a huge, parliamentary majority is a threat to democracy as well as a curse on the party having one.

While a landslide is the goal of any party, it can sow the seeds of its own destruction, as a party with a massive majority believes it can do anything it wants to without scrutiny, and a lack of scrutiny breeds overconfidence and complacency. Indeed, it can pave the way to a totalitarian outlook.

Not having to be subject to scrutiny leads to the governing party to ignoring those who elected it and becoming out of touch and politicians ignore the electorate at their own peril. While many vote along tribal lines and are merely unthinking drones, majorities are conferred by voters who change their minds and, if minds have been changed once, they can change again. It's the voter who changes his mind, or believes sufficiently in a particular policy to lend his vote to a particular party, who holds the cards. Politicians in majority governments, and especially governments with huge majorities, tend to forget this political truth.

It's a fact of political history in the UK that parties benefiting from huge majorities have generally achieved far less than those with a working majority (Macmillan's government after 1959, with a 100 seat majority, achieved far less than Churchill's working majority of 17 in 1951. Wilson's administration of 1964, with a 5 seat majority, achieved more than his 1966 administration with a majority of 96. Both Thatcher and Blair achieved more with working majorities than landslides). The reason for this is that, with a lack of opposition, the governing party start to fight among itself. With a cohort of a couple of hundred MPs having no chance whatsoever of getting a ministerial brief, they start making trouble for the leader and rebel. We're seeing this already in Boris' administration.

What opposition there is generally tends to ditch their losing leader, along with the losing policies, performs a consultation exercise and emerges much stronger, going on to win the next general election through the complacency of the incumbent government.

This, to me, is the best argument in favour of Proportional Representation.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Hoax Isolation - Gone Phishing

I'm not exactly sure how this Test and Trace system is going to work, but what's to stop any old hoaxer phoning you and telling you you have to self-isolate for 14 days because you've been in contact with someone who has tested positive for C-14, but they can't tell you who it is because of GDPR? An App would provide me with more confidence that the instruction was genuine, but I believe the App isn't yet fit for purpose, as the contract wasn't given to a company with expertise in this area (we've had enough of experts).

I can imagine a lot of people falling for hoax calls, especially the more gullible among us. And what about those without phones or access to the internet to make a test booking. They're mainly the elderly, who also happen to be most at risk. It's going to be difficult, to say the least, but any system is better than none.

I have noticed that those who seem most prone to promulgating hoaxes and debunked conspiracy theories on Facebook generally tend to be on the far right of the political spectrum. They're also those most likely to have had various internet accounts hacked at some stage, as evidenced by the amount of phishing emails I get from their cloned accounts, which has gone exponential at present - I'm getting half a dozen a day currently.

The government maintains it's too early to draw conclusions from the UK's high death rate per million. I've never heard so much obfuscation. I have to ask what the purpose of lockdown is? No-one can say its purpose is other than reducing deaths; that's why it was devised in the first place and that's what it has done. The only reason we're gradually coming out of lockdown is because deaths have come down - due to lockdown, It does not take a public inquiry or being a member of MENSA to conclude that the earlier a country locks down, the fewer deaths there will be. Had there been no lockdown and no social distancing, Professor Neil Ferguson's prediction of 250k deaths would be entirely feasible, especially when one considers that 280k died in the UK during the Spanish Flu.

A friend sent me a humorous meme yesterday about using garlic as a means of ensuring social distancing. I don't know whether you've ever been near someone in South Korea, but they use garlic profusely and I once had the misfortune of being trapped in a faulty lift with 5 South Koreans in Seoul. I only narrowly escaped with my life - the stench was phenomenally overpowering.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Nested Communications in Space

Overheard in a socially distanced Tesco queue:

A gentleman with very a very well developed physique, very broad shoulders and not a stranger at the gym is standing in front of The Chairman, clutching a pink shopping bag.

Chairman: "With shoulders like that you shouldn't be clutching a pink shopping bag; however, with shoulders like that I don't think anyone is going to argue with you."

He smiled and then laughed - thankfully.

One of my pensions is a NEST pension. They have set me up with an on-line mailbox through which I'm sent important messages. However, when they have sent me a message to my NEST mailbox, they send me a letter to tell me there's a message waiting for me in my NEST mailbox. Why can't they simply mail me with the pertinent message, or send me an email to say there's a message waiting for me in my NEST mailbox? Seems an awful waste of paper and effort.

It struck me yesterday that if there are lots of jobs Brits won't countenance and prefer immigrants to do (fruit picking being just one example), our standard of living must have progressed considerably since the days when Brits did do those jobs.

I took a photo of Musk's Space X craft docking with the ISS last night at 9:45pm.

Good, isn't it? The detail you can get on mobile phones these days is just phenomenal.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Cummings and Goings of a T-Rex

I think the Dominic Cummings scandal will possibly play out something like this:

  • Cummings will continue to refuse to apologise or resign. 
  • Boris will continue to profess support for him publicly and refuse to respond to calls for him to sack Cummings. 
  • Public opinion will continue to drain away from both Cummings and Boris. 
  • At some stage, when the tidal wave of anti-Cummings opinion has reached a crescendo, Boris, under instruction from Cummings, will issue an order to Cummings to apologise, which he will, but still refuse to resign. 
  • Those who have been calling for his resignation will take this as a small Pyrrhic victory in the face of insurmountable arrogance and then the furore will die down, with Cummings still in place, or should that be in power. 
  • Those who have continued to defend the indefensible will feel vindicated and accuse those calling for Cummings' sacking of bullying.
Personally, I believe Cummings, along with Boris, Gove, Hancock, et al who defend him, are the best advert possible for a change of government and Cummings would better serve that purpose by not resigning.

You can tell that people are responding to the call to return to work - the number of bikes being advertised on Facbook Market has gone through the roof, and the prices are very low for what appear to be very expensive bikes.

We've been engaged in some groundwork in the garden for the last week, the purpose of which I will reveal in a week or so. While doing the groundwork we came across the bleached, fossilised remains of a complete, T-Rex...

At least that's what was written on the fossil...

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Covid Risk of Retirement

So, Dominic Cummings is brazening it out. No surprises there. His answers had all the hallmarks of evasiveness and the fact remains he broke the rules most of us abided by and transported a Covid sufferer 260 miles across the country. By his own admission he didn't even bother to seek childcare support in London, where he has at least one relative and many friends, and is it really necessary to drive for an hour to check one's vision for a 4 hour drive home? I can do it by simply opening my eyes and wouldn't risk my wife and child (who I obviously care deeply for) in the process, had my eyesight indeed been wonky.

His sycophants are heralding the interview as a triumph, but then they are people who Dominic has openly admitted he used lies on to win a referendum.

'Journalists' allegedly mobbed Dominic Cummings on Sunday and were't practising social distancing.

The amount of expensive SLR cameras in evidence suggests it's far more likely that they're paparazzi, who are not exactly known for their morals or ethics. It will be spun, however, as journalists by him and his supporters, one of which was obviously in an upstairs bedroom to capture the event.

I wonder if there's a higher incidence of C-19 among paparazzi than in the general population?

I was so glad it was a Bank Holiday yesterday - I needed the rest. I'm being sarcastic. While I've enjoyed the lockdown, it's starting to get on my nerves. When working I looked forward to the weekend, but now every day is like a weekend and I'm losing track of what day it is. This must be what retirement is like, and I don't want it. I'm much better having a routine and a busy day.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Krisis, What Krisis?

Dominic Cummings: The question is, what would have happened to me if I'd travelled as far as Cummings did with a Covid suspect in my car? I doubt I'd have had to resign from my job, but I'd have received a hefty fine had I been caught, as well as being told to go back home. There again, my job doesn't entail advising the government on strategy.

Had everyone who had a suspect in the house done the same as Cummings, the roads would have been choked with traffic as people moved Covid suspects around the country, in contravention of any notion of common sense, let alone basic epidemiology and instructions from the government. The whole point of the lockdown was to stay put to avoid spreading the virus around the country.

To break the lockdown twice is sheer arrogance. Those who are defending him are the very ones who would have called for anyone else breaking the lockdown to have been burned at the stake, as they tend to worship at the altar of authoritarianism. There again, they like giving orders, but not receiving them.

I've heard a figure of an estimated 20m people having flouted lockdown. Where that figure came from, I have no idea - probably Cummings' propaganda unit. However, it's one thing to break lockdown when you don't think you've been anywhere near a C-19 suspect, but a totally different matter when ferrying a C-19 suspect around the country.

Perhaps Cummings was simply spreading a bit of herd immunity around...

Where is that damned Russia Report?

I saw the following in the letters section of the Observer newspaper yesterday:

The Greek word krisis originally denoted that critical moment when things could go either way for the patient. We believe that our society is at a similar turning point. As we recover from Covid-19, we must confront other, potentially graver crises, and create a more caring, united and resilient society. We must: 

  • Revalue care: nurses and carers deserve a pay rise , not just a round of applause. We should reverse marketisation of our NHS, and better integrate physical, mental and social care. 
  • Reduce inequality: present levels of inequality benefit no one, fragmenting society, distorting democracy and overburdening care systems. We must reject austerity measures, house the UK’s homeless and consider implementing a , universal basic income. 
  • Get to grips with the climate and ecological emergency, by “baking in” good lockdown practices, adopting budgets in line with the UN’s 1.5 degree target, and localising production, consumption and travel where possible. 
  • Set up an independent public inquiry on the handling of the pandemic, to make sure the lessons are learned. Create a UK Citizens’ Assembly for the Future, selected at random, to counter the short-termism, lack of representation and bias of our political institutions. This body would work alongside parliament, focusing on longer-term issues such as disaster planning, institutional reform and the low carbon transition. 
There can be no doubt that we face a krisis now - we must take urgent steps to ensure a full recovery. (Full text and signatories at 

Baroness Helena Kennedy, QC; 
Baroness Ruth Lister. Loughborough University; 
Richard Wilkinson. University of Nottingham; 
Baron Rowan Williams, Magdalen College. Cambridge; 
Jonathan Wolff. University of Oxford; 
...and 33 academics, lawyers, writers and activists.

Sounds like sense - indeed, a manifesto for the future. Far too sensible for anyone to do anything about it.

Here's another idea. Lever Brothers built a factory at Port Sunlight and also built housing for their staff. Government should encourage, perhaps through tax incentives, manufacturers to build their factories in areas where they can also build attractive, affordable housing in the same manner as Lever Brothers did for the Sunlight Soap factory workers.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Rosebud of Carcassonne

Bought a couple of bottles of Cité de Carcassonne from Aldi on Tuesday, based on previous experience; however, the first was corked and tasted of vinegar and I'm thinking of taking the 2nd one back before testing it.

Now I wasn't aware that a screwtop wine was susceptible to corking but, apparently it is. The mould that causes it can infect the cellar where the wine is before it's bottled and a whole batch can be corked, but you'd expect quality control to pick that up. Not in this case - the Carcassone had carked.

Citizen Kane was on TV yesterday - I switched it on just where the following conversation took place:

Emily Kane: "....But the people will believe..."

Charles Foster Kane: "...what I tell them to believe!"

Seems things haven't changed when it comes to newspaper barons.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Solar Clapping Fatigue

So clapping for the NHS is to stop after next Thursday. The woman behind the mass clapping says it is becoming politicised, but I have noticed some clapping fatigue creeping in and the amount of clapping, along with the duration has diminished of late.

On another note, Wetherspoons is making plans for reopening, so I guess we're going to be clapping the NHS for a while longer in the not too distant future.

On yet another note, in the last week I've made more electricity than ever before from the solar panels, by a long chalk. The usual amount, per week, at this time of year is about £35 to £40 per week. Over the last week I've made £125 - a phenomenal amount.

Friday, 22 May 2020


Derby is the latest city to have become affected by mass redundancies, this time by Rolls Royce. Cities that have become reliant on a single company to provide jobs demonstrate the fragility of modern society. 

This made me wonder whether large factories would be better positioned between cities or large towns and drawing their workforce from a wider catchment area. The problem with that though is that this would lead to an increase in travel - and hence pollution - and it would only be a matter of time before new towns sprang up around such factories due to them acting as magnets for both housing and suppliers.

Making a more resilient society seems to be an intractable problem, but it does need addressing so we are better resourced to withstand shocks to the system, whether they be epidemiological, climate induced or economic.

Thursday, 21 May 2020


Yesterday a dragonfly was flying ahead of my bike for about half a mile. I thought it had adopted me. If there's one thing that could make me question my atheism, it's creatures that start out in one form, turn themselves in a goo and then emerge from a pupa in a totally different form (although dragonflies only go through a nymph stage).

How the hell did metamorphosis evolve? If it was trial and error, then think of the number of dead ends there must have been before something emerged from a goo that was even viable, let alone supremely adapted for a life on the wing.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Anti-Melanial, Belligerence

Donald Trump is an utter arsehole, a statement no-one with a brain can refute. He's told the world that he's taking hydroxychloroquine. My theory is that, given the side-effects can include heart problems and possible death, Melania has persuaded him to take it in the hope of shortening her pain.

Perhaps he's taking it because he misheard it's an anti-melanial drug...

My preferred conspiracy theory is that it's an attempt by his doctor to get rid of him. I hope it's successful.

Talking of arseholes, yesterday No.2 Son, who is working as an online picker at our local Tesco while waiting to hear whether he can return to university, was threatened by a customer. The customer was proceeding along an aisle in contravention to the one-way signs. No.2 Son politely asked him to turn around and follow the directions for the safety of the other shoppers. His response was to ram No.2 Son's picking trolley, which caused his shopping trolley to bounce across the aisle into an elderly lady. He then threatened to fill No.2 Son in, which I would have liked to have seen, as he's well over 6 foot, built like a brick shithouse and is more than capable of handling himself. No.2 Son then asked him to repeat his threat, knowing full well that, unbeknownst to his belligerent, a store manager was stood right behind him. The idiot chose to repeat the threat, upon which No.2 Son's manager ordered said customer out of the store, telling him he wouldn't be served. Result!

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Mask Envy

Covid masks are now a fashion statement. Remember this chap? He made masks cool way before Covid.

Then he went on to make them deeply unpopular, along with fedoras, chimps and fun parks. Here's a natty little Chanel number.

I've seen some weird and wonderful examples, from multicoloured rainbows to repurposed motorcycle bandannas emblazoned with skulls and whatnot. They're now fashion statements.

One for the disco divas.

I particularly like these classic, rock themed ones.

The question is whether they're effective enough at stopping your snot from hitting some other bugger when you cough or sneeze. 

I't plain that a lot of people are using them as a prophylactic for themselves, which is not the intended purpose.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Progress Through Movement

It's often said that necessity is the mother of invention and that's very true. However, the rate of technological progress must also correlate with the number of people coming up with ideas, and the more people there are, the more ideas will be generated. I wonder if anyone has ever performed an analysis of the rate of technological progress versus population growth. 

Now we know the world is overcrowded, which causes an adverse impact on the environment, and many advocate we reduce our numbers (which technological progress itself causes through us having fewer children), but I wonder whether this in itself would slow the rate of progress in a feedback loop.

Saw this yoga advert in a shop window in town yesterday.

A bot old now - pre-lockdown - but, for me, relaxation involves no movement whatsoever and one's eyes being closed.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

The Invisible, Silent Killer

HS2 is in the news rather a lot, especially at the present. This made me wonder what HS1 was, and it turns out to have been the high speed link between London and the Channel Tunnel, which made sense. 

Since the easing of the lockdown and the consequent increase in traffic, I've noticed that for the last 4 days I've been suffering a tightness in my chest and my COPD symptoms have flared up again, to the extent that I've had to go back on to my inhaler medication. Not only is the Coronavirus a silent and invisible killer, but pollution is too.

According to 2019 research by the Max Planck Institute, air pollution is estimated to kill 64,000 people a year in the UK alone, which puts C-19 into perspective. The UK's death rate translates into 98 early deaths per 100,000 - compared to 120 worldwide and 129 in Europe. Researchers believe the lower UK rate could be in part because Atlantic winds help disperse the pollution - while it has less heavy industry and agriculture and more renewable energy than some EU countries.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

No-Dig Bond Villains

Overheard while watching season 3; episode 3 of The Last Kingdom. Æthelred - a Mercian, Saxon villain (not villein, just to be clear) - has just killed one of his own men:

Aldhelm (Æthelred's right hand man): "Lord, you cannot simply slay your subjects - this is the 9th century."

Can't get used to Alexander Dreymon, the actor who plays the part of Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Seems too much of a pretty boy, with whispy chin hair, to be a hirsute, Saxon/Danish warlord.

Bond villains - Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Auric Goldfinger, Jaws, Alec Trevelyan, Francisco Scaramanga, Le Chiffre, Dr. No. Why is it than none have ordinary names, like Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn? It seems that to be a villain you have to have an exotic moniker. Mind you, Boris does sound a bit shady, like a Russian operative in a report.

I was listening to Simon Armitage, the current Poet Laureate, yesterday on Desert Island Discs. I'm not comfortable with the idea of poetry on demand. I wonder whether he'll be forced to do a Brexit poem by Boris. What's an ex Poet Laureate called - Emeritus Poet Laureate?

Hay, being a keen gardener, is rather enamoured with the No-Dig method of vegetable cultivation.

I told her I was an expert in the no-dusting and no vacuuming method of household management...

Friday, 15 May 2020

Theatre of the Damned

Theatres are under financial pressure due to the regulations on social distancing and many might close for good.

I don't know about you, but I hate going to the theatre, even for good plays. It's the theatre experience itself that I don't enjoy. The journey to the theatre, crowds of people, uncomfortable seats, some bugger with a big head sat in front of you, queuing for a drink at half time, bad view, etc, etc.

To my mind, theatre is eminently suited to live televising, perhaps on a pay-per-view basis. You're sat in the comfort of your own home and get a perfect, unobscured view - in fact, multiple views and closeups. I'm convinced televising theatre productions would bring in a lot more money than the current system where one has to be present.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Chain Mail Tesco


Chairman: "This hoodie is impervious to wind."

Hay: "What - as well as arrows and spears?"

Chairman: "Yup, but it isn't so good at protecting me when you throw boiling chip oil over me."

It has become by favoured clobber for bike rides in this changeable weather - very thin, and so easily packed into a small rucksack, while still very warm.

Now that the National Trust is opening up its car parks, I can use it to sneak into the venues as a ghost or tour guide.

Our local Lidl has been closed for most of this year for refurbishment and I can't wait for it to open again later this month. I've been spending a bloody fortune at Tesco since January and it's making a severe dent in my shopping budget. Not even half way through the month and the budget is already 3/4 spent. I blame the wine prices; they're astronomical.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

A Greek and His Yoghurt

Made the perfect Greek yoghurt the other day. I've found a new method which makes for a creamier and thicker consistency - heat the full-cream milk up to 82 degrees, stirring all the time, which monkeys about with the proteins and makes them more susceptible to the yoghurt's bacteria. It's then allowed to cool to about 46 degrees before adding the live starter. The kilner jar is then wrapped in a blanket for about 3 hours, where it remains surprisingly warm throughout. Check occasionally to ensure it's not separating and, if there are the signs, then shake the jar.

That in itself does not make Greek yoghurt, but it does make a creamy one. To turn it into Greek yoghurt you have to strain it, getting rid of some of the whey until you reach the desired consistency.

My first attempt was a little too hot before adding the starter, resulting in the yoghurt splitting; however, I strained off the whey in a straining bag and ended up with a cottage cheesy curd residue, about 1/4 of the volume of the original milk, that tasted vaguely of yoghurt.

The 2nd batch worked but, to make it even thicker, I added the result of the first batch of curds and blitzed it for a few minutes to homogenise it. The result, after being chilled, was the perfect consistency.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Boris Blackadder

I can't make up my mind as to whether Boris is channelling his inner Baldrick through his Lord Melchett persona, or the other way round. He certainly seems to favour a cunning plan, if ever we find out what it is.

The creeping consensus, and I'm tending to agree, seems to be that he's shifting responsibility to the public and away from government in a sloped shoulder strategy. Given the idiocy of certain sections of the public, that's perhaps not such a good idea if we want to avoid a 2nd wave, although it might improve the nations general IQ. The public should have access to medical and scientific advice and not be allowed to simply make up its own mind based on what's trending on social media.

Both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump epitomise the dangers of the electorate allowing their emotions to cloud their capacity for rational thought. Where there's a contest between emotions and rationality, emotions generally win - and invariably lead to disaster. It's just the nature of our species where, for millions of years, our emotions have been what have saved us from being eaten by something larger and more vicious. With a more complex, nuanced society we must learn to allow our recently evolved rational side to overcome primitive emotions - using our rational neocortex rather than our emotive bainstem. Political marketing is aimed at the latter, with soundbites and catchy, but vacuous slogans.

That said, I do have a certain sympathy with the logic of the current strategy. We had about 20,000 seasonal flu deaths in 2018/19 and the NHS was severely strained, but there was no dramatic government action. The objective of the government with C-19 is not complete eradication, but a flattening of the curve and for the NHS not to be overwhelmed. That has been achieved and thus, so long as the NHS remains capable of handling any future resurgence, it's job done - no matter how many deaths there may be in the longer term. They merely become an accepted, systemic problem - like seasonal flu and road deaths.

Yesterday I was halfway up the stairs in order to start my morning ablutions when Hay shouted out  from her bed for another cup of tea. This is rather a dangerous situation, as once the human (or, in my case, part human) brain has made a conscious commitment to the body's once-a-day poo, the bowels gird their loins and anticipate having to kick into action within a very short space of time. Certain peristaltic contractions begin.

I did go back downstairs and prepare another cuppa, but it was a tense couple of minutes.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Ride Like the Wind Egg Art

Overheard while re-watching Wolf Hall on iPlayer (got fed up with Hilary Mantel's punctuation 3/4 of the way in):

Hay: "Henry VIII was a bit of a bastard, wasn't he?"

Chairman: "Be careful what you say - people have had their heads chopped off for less."

Hay has had the bright idea of using the goose eggs we're buying as embellishments to our collection of tea light holders while they're waiting being used - the eggs, that is; well, both the eggs and the tea light holders, actually.

Happened to listen to Christopher Cross' 1980 hit, Ride Like the Wind in the radio. A phenomenally talented songwriter, but suffered from the fact he wasn't very photogenic and fell foul of the MTV generation who wanted pop stars to look like pop stars.

He'd be great now, as kids these days don't give a shit what their pop stars look like as long as the music is good - just look at Ed Sheeran; a pudgy ginger in NHS specs, for God's sake.Or is that too gingist and specist?

Are you confused by what Johnson said last night? I certainly am, along with anyone who has a job. Naturally, his apologists maintain he was perfectly clear, but seem only to give contradictory explanations when asked. I do wish he'd get another body language coach - one who can make him look less wooden and like a glove puppet would be a start.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Printing Money in PPE

On the 27th March I suggested that a solution to the economic impact of C-19 (to be with the programme, you have to use the name C-19 to have any credibility now - Covid-19 is so Q1) could be the printing of money by central banks. A possibly naive suggestion, but one that made eminent sense to me.

It transpires that this is exactly what some central bankers are now contemplating. It's called 'helicopter money'. 

The theory is that simply printing money is inflationary but, we're currently in a deflationary spiral, so there's no danger in a bit of inflation.

The rest of the argument goes like this - give people money during a crisis and, because they fear it's going to be clawed back in taxes later, they tend to hang on to it, thereby defeating the object of getting it circulating in the economy. Ensure the message is on-target and people are aware that the helicopter money is free and gratis, then they will spend it.

Perhaps I'm not so naive after all...

The football clubs are meeting tomorrow to discuss the future of football for the rest of this season, or non-season, as it's turning out to be. How about playing games in PPE? Should be interesting - the PPE League, perhaps? The licencing for club-branded PPE would be a money spinner.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

300 Routine on VE Day

There's an irony about VE Day that's lost on many:
  • 8th May 1945, VE Day. 
  • July 5th 1945, a grateful nation votes out Winston and the Conservatives and votes in a Labour government with a 146 seat landslide majority. 
Churchill's problem was that, for the duration of the war, he'd paid little or no attention to domestic politics. In the 1945 General Election the electorate was in the mood for change and reform. The Conservatives didn't offer it, relying instead on Churchill's war record.

Hay was reading about how an actor beefed up for his role as Captain in 300, the film about the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae. He lost 2.8 stone while training for the role and was 55 at the time. I think she was trying to tell me something.

His trainer was from an organisation called Gym Jones and the secret is to not allow the body to get used to a particular routine so as to put it under the maximum stress.

Hay said I should try it, despite already being at the Stage 2 physique in the photos of the actor above, using a mild regime of press-ups and weights every other day, combined with the 2/5 diet, which I'm not as religious about at present, in terms of the total carbs consumed on the skinny days, as I have been in the past. I'm not really dedicated or focused enough to try to get to stage 3, much as I'd like to, and content to merely be 'reasonably fit' for my age as a means prolonging my time on this blue marble and getting the most return on the Ponzi scheme that many call a pension.

I really do like the concept behind the workout though - not allowing your body to get too used to a routine. So, I'm going to start on day 1 by reading Wolf Hall. Day 2 will be a bit of arguing with morons on Facebook. Day 3 will be reading some of Trouble with Lichen. Day 4 will be some shopping, taking care to ensure that, each time I go shopping, the weight of the shopping varies considerably. Day 5 might be a bike ride. Day 6 would require me to rest, obviously. Day 6 mowing the lawn, but using different routes each time I perform this taxing routine.

That overall programme would stress any man's body to the limits of endurance.

Friday, 8 May 2020

The Best Scientific Advice

The government never tires of telling us that it's acting on the best scientific advice, which is debatable given the initial, politically motivated, herd immunity strategy.

However, why is it then that they ignore the best economic advice and continue to plough ahead with that disastrous Brexit which only a handful of economic experts support? Deadlines, especially self-imposed deadlines, favour those who are a) well prepared for the consequences of not meeting the deadline and, b) competent. This government has shown itself, time after time, to be neither.

Boris' actions and words, like those of all unprincipled men, are to do and say what's in the best interests of Boris alone. In that manner he is highly predictable and can be relied upon to ignore reality if it doesn't suit the purpose of promoting Boris Enterprises Ltd. He takes advantage of the fact that people are apt to believe a lie if they want it to be true and it confirms their biases and worldview.

Neil Ferguson has resigned from SAGE because he ignored his own advice, and rightly so - he did the honourable thing after dishonourable conduct, although having had the virus, it's highly unlikely he could spread it. The tabloids have excoriated him, but strangely didn't have a go at Boris for shaking hands with C-19 patients, ignoring the scientific advice, and becoming a vector himself. The glaringly obvious difference between Ferguson and Johnson, however, is that Ferguson is competent and his competence wasn't called into question in the tabloid attacks.

The lifetime on the virus within humans is anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks. In a perfect world, if everyone, without exception, could stand still  for 3 or 4 weeks, the virus would logically burn itself out within that timescale. Every slightest bit of societal movement within that 3 to 4 week period would extend it by an indeterminable, but finite amount, as it would initiate some spread of the virus. In some instances movement and societal interaction can't be avoided - in order to care for infected people, for example, which itself spreads the virus. Given enough warning though, even supermarkets and food delivery could close, provided steps were taken to prevent panic buying of a month's worth of supplies.

Here's a novel idea - a one week pandemic exercise every year, where everything closes and a law is passed that makes it mandatory for everyone to have 4 weeks supply of food in stock at any time. If the exercise were to be held at the start of the flu season (coincidentally at the end of the tourism season), moving it from an exercise to the real deal in the event of an epidemic would be relatively simple. Those who live week to week could be given financial help to pay for the additional food. Wages would be 100% for that week with companies saving enough to cater for that. Even the contact tracing app could be drilled with a dummy, electronic virus seeded randomly to monitor its effectiveness.

Yes, by all means open parts of the economy that inherently do not contribute to the spread of the virus (e.g. jobs that can be accomplished by working from home), but certainly not the parts that can only operate by humans being in close proximity to one another.

While we are likely to have a vaccine against C-19 soon and its danger will reduce commensurately, that may not be the case in any new pathogen and we must prepare ourselves for that eventuality, which is becoming a certainty.

Went into Yate yesterday to get some shopping and turned back - it was as if the lockdown had ended. Lockdown fatigue has set in, and that's the danger with long lockdowns - the variables change dramatically. A total shutdown for 2 or 3 weeks is far less damaging to the economy and you can better guarantee the behaviour of people over a short timescale; over a longer timescale they become unpredictable.

Forecasts are subject to many variables and a pandemic forecast for the number of potential deaths is no exception - some are very high and some are low. However, pragmatism would favour using the worst case scenario. If the remedy is short lived, then the impact of an over-estimation is not much different to that of an under-estimation; however, procrastination or mistakes will make the result of the under-estimation catastrophic.

Just as an aside, many do criticise Ferguson's forecasts, but they make the mistake of criticising an initial, worst case forecast, based on no action, with the result of the action taken to mitigate that initial forecast.

There's no denying that the economic consequences of the C-19 lockdown can be as significant as the epidemiological consequences for those at the bottom of the pile. There's no denying Trump's switch of focus on to getting the economy up and running again, even thought deaths are still increasing, is focused solely on a desperate attempt at getting re-elected - that's merely a consequence of how unprincipled he is and has continually shown himself to be.

If the economic consequences of C-19 on society are bad, then surely is makes sense to ensure that, in-so-far as possible, the optimum outcome is achieved by focusing all resources, including economic ones, on eradicating the virus from society completely, in the swiftest time possible. To do otherwise risks wave after wave of lockdowns, wave after wave of bankruptcies and wave after wave of deaths.

The health of the economy itself is contingent on the virus being eliminated swiftly. The virus being eliminated is not as contingent on a healthy economy. However, if sufficient planning is done beforehand (such as the annual exercise I suggested above), the impact on the economy would be minimal as it would be expected and people would know how to behave - as they do with regular lifeboat drills and fire drills on ships. If something is expected, then companies would ensure there were sufficient cash reserves to weather the storm.

Am I being too naive?

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Bike Tales

We were out on one of our usual, country road bike rides the other day and a rather amusing accident happened to me.

I heard a car behind me on a narrow lane. Rather than merely dismounting so as to facilitate the passage of said car (which turned out to be a van), I decided to remain seated, slow the bike to a stop and extend my left leg out as far as it could go. Now I have my seat adjusted such that my leg is almost fully extended at the nadir of the downstroke, meaning it's almost impossible to touch the ground while seated, necessitating a classic (leg-over) or semi-classic dismount (the latter risking the possibility of damage to the crown jewels, being the manner in which ladies tend to dismount from bikes lacking a crossbar). 

I came to a near halt and my left leg started extending, with my toes pointed downward, in an attempt to feel the ground. There was none and I could feel the bike starting to topple over in slow motion. Momentum and Newton's laws of motion took control and I rolled into the ditch alongside the road with the bike on top of me - right into a patch of nettles and brambles. Luckily the ditch was dry.

That's not me in the image below, by the way. It's just there for illustrative purposes and names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Hay, by this time, was well ahead of me and totally oblivious to my predicament. Obviously this saved me some embarrassment, although the driver of the van, when looking in his wing mirror, must have had a good old chuckle.

I managed to extricate myself from the ditch and pedalled furiously after Hay, coming alongside her nonchalantly as if nothing had happened. She immediately noticed some vegetation clinging to my cap and enquired where I'd managed to pick it up. I had to confess, which was fortuitous, as the nettle stings were irritating my legs something horrible and Hay fortuitously had some cortisone cream in her rucksack. 

This, apparently, is the new way in which puncture repair outfits are sold.

8 patches and a piece of sandpaper. Time was when you had a tin that was virtually impossible to lose and always turned up when you were looking for something else - this thing can be lost in your spare change. That said, repairs are much easier and I spent half an hour yesterday repairing 3 inner tubes that have been sat in the garage for a couple of years - one was for the mower. Most of that half hour was spent looking for the kit after having put it down somewhere between repairs. While looking for it, I came across my old puncture repair kit in a tin - 3 times.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Trouble With Football Books

Heard Hancock yesterday say that the government wanted to get football back on the societal agenda ASAP as a morale booster. Surely a football match is a morale booster for only half the fans as, in the average match, one team has to lose the game, which isn't much of a morale booster for them or their fans. That aside, without precautions it's probably going to kick off another round of deaths, which isn't at all a morale booster.

All these people who are disobeying the lockdown and going to beaches and parks - do they realise how dangerous this is for them? They should at least go equipped with factor 30 sunscreen.

Hay saw these charts yesterday from Professor Neil Ferguson's analysis and forecasts of deaths in the 7 hardest hit regions in Italy if social mobility is increased as little as 20% of pre-lockdown mobility.

We have a long way to go yet and life is going to have to change dramatically. We probably won't get back to normality and will have to accept massive societal changes to enable us to cope with future pandemics, which modern travel methods ensure will happen again at some time. It's not a case of if, but when.

Hay and I were talking about John Wyndham books the other day in reference to her book club (more a wine club, if you ask me). One of the few Wyndham books I've never read is Trouble With Lichen, so I bought a 2nd hand copy on eBay.

Looking forward to a good read.

Still plodding through Wolf Hall - just over half way though. It's hard going. Hilary Mantel has a habit of not saying who is speaking, making it difficult to keep track of conversations. You start a paragraph thinking one person is speaking, only to realise at the end that it's someone completely different. If you don't know the history, it must be very confusing.

She also uses quote marks with the same cavalier approach to the rules of punctuation as Boris has toward truth. She will start someone talking within a set of quotation marks, but the response from the other party lacks any quotation marks whatsoever - you don't know whether they're talking or thinking or whether it's merely descriptive narrative. It seems I'm not the only one who thinks this and it's a common criticism of her style.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Muzak Soothes the Savage Jumbo

Overheard in the living room.

Hay: "You should make yourself known to science. I'm convinced you're the closest, living relative to homo sapiens."

She can be cruel.

I had occasion to call two of my pension providers last week due to them not being quick enough to process authorisation letters for my financial advisor to act on my behalf.

I have come to the conclusion that they have employed a psychologist in the design of their help line. On initially calling and being held in the inevitable queue, some rather jaunty muzak was piped to me. Once someone has answered the call and realised it was a complaint, the next 'on hold' session changed to some soothing classical music to calm me down, and it worked.

Queues cause anger. The CEO of Heathrow said yesterday: “Just one jumbo jet would require a queue a kilometre long.” A jumbo jet has, on average, 366 passengers. Assuming a 2m separation between passengers in a queue, that equates to a queue of 732m - well short of a kilometre. That also assumes a full jumbo jet, with bugger all separation between passengers. At a minimum you'd expect a jumbo to be half full, which equates to a queue of 366m in length. 1,000 / 366 is 2.7m between passengers in a queue comprising a full jumbo.

Had occasion to go to the Post Office yesterday to drop off a pre-paid parcel for Hay. Just as I arrived, blokey managing the queue asked the reason for my visit and I told him it was just do drop off a pre-paid. He offered to take it in for me, but asked if I could stop anyone joining the queue while he was getting my receipt, as the Post Office was about to close. He disappeared inside and, right on cue, one of Yate's finest (fat lady in a shell suit, smoking a fag) attempted to join the queue. I told her that the PO was closing and no-one else was to join it, whereupon she told me in no uncertain terms that I was a effing Hitler and who did I effing think I was. Blokey then emerged from the PO and handed me my receipt and advised said 'lady' that she would have to return tomorrow. She went puce.

Monday, 4 May 2020

The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg

When Hay and I went out on a bike ride a couple of days ago, we discovered a place where they sell goose eggs outside their gate with the usual honesty box. The geese were on display in a run just inside the gate. Never having tasted goose eggs, we bought one, leaving the requisite £1 in the jam jar provided.

On getting home Hay scrambled and accompanied it with toast and fried, cherry tomatoes. Absolutely divine and more than enough for two people. A greater depth of flavour and more creamy than hen eggs.

I returned to the vendor's place later in the day to see whether I could get any more, but they'd all been snaffled. Went again yesterday morning, but early, and manged to get 4 of them.

OK, they're not cheap at £1 each, but one goose egg is the equivalent of 3 hen eggs. That works out at £4 for a the equivalent of a doz hen eggs, compared to £2.40 for a doz from our usual hen egg supplier in the village. The taste is well worth the extra.

I don't know about you, but I detest American recipes on the internet. Go to a British cooking site and you dive straight into the ingredients and method. Go on to an American site and you get about 10 pages of waffle about how the writer first found the recipe, what pans she uses and where she got them, how her cats are - you bloody name it, you get it. The recipe is generally the last thing you find, and then it's in some archaic measurement system comprising cups, quarts (which bear no relevance to our quarts), gallons (again, not Imperial gallons - they make everything in industrial quantities) and something called Fahrenheit. Every damned thing needs converting into a rational measurement system. Even the most ardent Metric Martyr would become unhinged.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

The Khyber Pass

This week I attempted, with some success, the Old Sodbury Khyber Pass. When we first built the house, the foundation spoil was dumped round the perimeter of what would become the garden and at the time was just a field. 

We ended up with a 5 foot wall of clay, which we thought we'd leave to settle for a few years. The few years became 10 and, while it did indeed settle, more spoil from various other projects was added to it and it remained a jungle of weeds, tussocks and hummocks that were impenetrable to a hand mower, let alone the ride-on-mower.

This year it looked like it was feasible to at least attempt at forging a path through it and risking bending of mower blades on bits of rubble before the weeds once more took control.

While not being fully able to clear the high plateau of all its vegetation, a good start was made. Some judicious tamping of some tumps and I should be able to clear it all within a week and then start levelling it further with every mowing. This should result in a ha-ha of sorts.

Having the spoil removed while building the house would have been sensible, but we were looking at a cost of around £5k to achieve that, which was the price of a couple of weeks of labour by Colin and his crew.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

I'm a Burgundian Cyclist

According to the Telegraph, "The Health Secretary said 122,347 tests for Covid-19 were achieved on the final day of April, the self-imposed deadline he seemed likely to miss even earlier this week. However, the announcement swiftly attracted controversy as it emerged the tally includes swab kits sent to private homes and satellite testing sites not yet delivered to a laboratory for a result. More than 40,000 of the total announced fell into these two categories, but officials could not say how many of these - nor what proportion of the dramatic surge in numbers announced in the past few days - were made up of kits that have not yet been processed."

An argument now rages about what a test actually comprises. Logic would say that if 100,000 people have been tested (past participle), then 100,000 results would have been received. This does not seem to be the case. Targets where reputations are at stake should be achievable, rather than simply figures plucked from the air.

In a way, this also applies to Brexit. A self-imposed and, some would say, impossible target of a deal by the end of the year exposes poor thinking. Nothing is stopping the government from going for the full-fat WTO option now - in fact, many Brexiteers with little brain are advocating it. So why on earth wait till the end of the year? A half-arsed deal is, by the government's own admission, better than WTO. A fully-fledged deal, negotiated over a proper timescale, must therefore be even better than a half-arsed deal. It can only be a strategic move to force a deal which the UK desperately needs. This has all the hallmarks of a strategy that will backfire massively simply because it's so transparent.

Saw an interesting take yesterday on country comparisons for the handling of the pandemic - days to R, the Effective Reproductive Number, being under 1. "That's clever," was my first reaction; however; to know what R is, you still have to accurately know how many people have contracted the disease, which is in turn dependent on testing. A disease like measles is easy to identify through marks on the body, whereas something like Covid is difficult when many will be asymptomatic and  not all cases are reported. Perhaps not that clever after all.

Against all expectations, and after having received a text only yesterday that I could expect it on Tuesday next week, my new, burgundy passport arrived in yesterday's post.

I'm still Burgundian, despite Brexiteers repeatedly insisting we have already left the EU, and all that bollocks. Couldn't run a Brexit in a brewery.

We use the term 'all that bollocks' for fripperies and excrescences that are unnecessary. Why would this be when bollocks are somewhat essential accessories for the average bloke? Should we perhaps not use the term 'appendix', 'celebrity' or 'lockdown breaker's brain' to denote something that's not essential or under used?

Here's a conundrum that's a load of bollocks, but pertinent during the lockdown. You can get early at a place and be first in the queue; however, you then have to wait for whatever it is that has to open, and you may have to arrive half an hour early in order to be at the front of the queue. Arrive later and you still have to stand in a queue, but at least it's moving. It's an impossible calculation, as the variables are too great; however, if you do arrive first, it's almost impossible to say to yourself; "Oh, bugger it, I'll come back later." The feeling of loss would be too great - it's a proven psychological phenomenon that the sense of loss (leaving the 1st position in a queue) far outweighs a sense of gain.

My bike has returned from the repair shop, requiring a spoke replacement and a few gears replacing. I've fitted the new armchair seat, and very comfortable it is too. Added a rear mudguard to prevent splashes up my back.

The Chairman's Fat Arse Special.

Friday, 1 May 2020


The deadline for 100,000 covid tests per day expired yesterday and we'll see later whether the target was reached. It has always been a maxim of mine, derived from my time working in IT, that you always under-promise and over-deliver. That way you avoid criticism, keep everyone happy and get a reputation (possibly undeserved) for being a fast worker. Sure you can be forced into an over promise, but it's wise to say it's a tall order and you're probably not going to meet it, but you'll try, thus reducing the expectation. It's all about managing expectations - as a rule of thumb, always add 25% to the timescale for any project, as that gives you a fudge margin, as well as enabling you to improve the other two sides of the project management triangle (cost and quality) if you have the available time in hand.

Many of my friends will already have seen this, but I did my own flypast tribute to the excellent Tom Moore last night.

Talking of expiry, both my driving licence and passport expire this year; driving licence in June and passport in August.

I thought I'd get in early, just in case there's a screw up along the line plus, if possible, I'd like a nice burgundy (the colour, not the place, or wine) passport, if there is still a stockpile, rather than a drab black/blue one.

Note: should the colour burgundy have a small b, or a capital B? If it's a capital B, then it's unique among the colours in being capitalised, but Burgundy is a wine from Burgundy and the colour burgundy is called burgundy because it resembles the colour of Burgundy wine. If you were to say Burgundy coloured, comparing it to Burgundy wine, it would have to be capitalised, because that's the way you spell Burgundy wine.

The driving licence was a nightmare when I tried on-line - the system just wouldn't recognise me, so I had to fill in a form and take it to the Post Office. There's a section on the form where you have to tick the reason for renewal, but there isn't a box for the fact yours has expired - I even got Hay to look it over and even she (who has more patience with bureaucracy than me) couldn't find a logical box to tick. Anyway, I took the form into the Post Office and was pleased to discover that you can do it on-line there and the bloke behind the counter does it all for you. All finished within about 5 minutes.

The passport was another nightmare, as the online system refused to accept my photo without providing a reasonable explanation. Thankfully you can override the rejection and I availed myself of that option. I've since received notification that my old passport has been received, my new application has been approved (including the photo) and the process of renewal is under way.

Talking of expiry - I believe the time of the slim margin companies has ended, for the foreseeable future anyway. It seems that the companies having the biggest problems during this emergency are the ones which were in a heavily competitive market where the ethos is to pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap on a very slim margin. They're simply not robust enough, in terms of having deep pockets, to withstand the lockdown, unless they were some of the few that managed to remain open. Whether they rise again in a different form is moot, but it will have to be under another name and with no debts. Doubtless new entities modelled along the same lines will arise, but they too will disappear if we have another pandemic, which we most certainly will at some time.