Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Hoist the Signal

The phrase Virtue Signalling has had its day. While it's meant to convey hypocrisy, in the manner in which it's most often used it's nothing more than an aggressive attempt to stigmatise empathy, usually by those having a lack of empathy with the cause they wish to stigmatise.

It's not unusual for people to say something that makes them look good - we all do it at some time or other. It's a natural part of social interaction - you certainly don't want to make yourself look bad. Even purposely not saying something can be a form of 'virtue signalling' in order to be accepted by a group. Even saying something which, in polite society, would be considered totally derogatory about yourself can be a valid tactic to ingratiate yourself with specific groups, such as terrorists or racists.

The cv is a veritable treasure trove of virtue signalling.

VS, as I shall now term it, is seen by accusers as a vanity project and that it tells others how morally superior the signaller is, but it's - allegedly - a fake superiority. The accusation of being a VS, however, does not detract from the argument about the virtue of the action or cause in question, whether it be combating climate change or any other moral imperative. There have been many instances of people agreeing a certain course of action is morally correct, like eliminating child poverty, but there being no will to change things at government level, where the ability actually sits and where the calls are most frequently heard.

A favourite target for accusations of VS is those calling on the government to house refugees or asylum seekers, with comments such as; "Well, how many refugees do you have in your home?" To many people it’s obvious that letting Syrian refugees in to Britain is a bad idea, because if even a few of them are terrorists then we’re endangering our own people's lives. Thus people who maintain this view are themselves engaged in VS about how much how much more they care about British lives and what good citizens they are.

The problem is that the vast majority of people with such beliefs would avoid having to pay more taxes to support the very fellow Brits they seem enamoured with. The sum total of their interest in British culture, which they're always banging on about, can be best summarised as Wetherspoons, football, protecting statues of people they've never heard of and killing wild animals.

Greta Thunberg - always a favourite for the accusation of VS. Those who refuse to engage with the fact that the planet is on the verge of cooking itself to death are desperate to identify some tiny chink in her armour and will not be happy unless she's living in a cave - and likely not even then. They whine about not wanting to be lectured to by VS hypocrites, when what they actually want is not to be reminded of their own Vice Signalling. Like All Lives Matter, accusing someone of VS is a disingenuous and cack-handed attempt to shut down debate over a genuine issue and deflect criticism of the accuser.

As well as being rude and stupid, accusing someone of VS encourages you to not interrogate your own beliefs and gives you a mental shortcut to dogmatism. What some see as VS is merely others having empathy and compassion. All great religious figures of the past are open to accusations of VS - Jesus was a superb exponent of VS in the eyes of those who bandy the term about.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Round 2

Overheard watching Muse on Glasto reruns:

Chairman: "Matthew Bellamy's dad was a drummer with the Tornadoes. Telstar."

Hay: "Joe Meek produced Telstar - difficult man to live with, apparently."

Chairman: "A bit like me then."

Hay: "He was a perfectionist."

Chairman: "Not like me then..."

I polished the bell I got with some car bodywork rubbing compound and it came up a treat.

The clapper is steel and a tad corroded, so I thought I'd remove it and give it a wire brushing. Looking into the bell, it's not immediately obvious how the clapper is removed, so I looked on YouTube to see if there were any hints. I was most surprised at the result.

All I got was testicular torsion. Not me personally, you understand, it was simply that all the results of a search on "removing bell clapper" produced that result.

Further research produced this; "Bell Clapper Deformity of Scrotum. Failure of normal posterior anchoring of the gubernaculum, epididymis and testis is called a bell clapper deformity because it leaves the testis free to swing and rotate within the tunica vaginalis of the scrotum much like the gong (clapper) inside of a bell."

I guess you know you have it when you go BONG when you walk...

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Round One

Our dear friends Pete and Jo called round yesterday and gave me this.

It's a bell from a speed skating club, but exactly why it was destined for the tip is beyond me - it's worth a small fortune in scrap brass alone.

It's obviously an old ship's bell, and a very nice one too. Later today I'll put my polisher to it with some rubbing compound. It has a small, professional repair mark on it, but that merely adds to its looks.

There is an inscription on it, as follows:

I have just the right position for it on the house.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Non-Workout Workout.

I want to conduct an experiment.

When you do a workout, your body expresses what's called MiRNA, or micro-RNA. Now MiRNA is linked with skeletal muscle growth. When breathing while exercising, you will breathe out some of this MiRNA.

So far, no problem - it's standard science. Now here comes the good bit. If you stand in a gym, surrounded by sweaty bodies doing high intensity workouts, you're breathing in their exhaled MiRNA which, when you breathe it in, makes your body think it's also doing a workout - or so the theory goes.

The experiment would be to join a gym, but on a reduced subscription - as I wouldn't be using any of the equipment - and simply stand there for an hour at a time. Theoretically I should start putting on muscle.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Two-Up Battles

I'm currently reading a book on the 50 greatest battles that shaped the world and, being very interested in military hostory, a thought struck me the other day that might have been a game changer in many ancient battles.

Cavalry have been used for millennia but, as warfare evolved, it became a rule that cavalry should never be used without supporting infantry, as it is infantry that takes ground. Many a battle has been lost because the cavalry set off and were incapable of regrouping after the initial charge and invariably ended behind the enemy lines to plunder the baggage train. This left them stranded and ineffective and they were hence considered a once-only tactic and not reusable.

Cromwell realised this and instilled greater discipline in his cavalry, ensuring they could regroup and be used again and again, leading to him becoming the best cavalry commander of the English Civil Wars.

Cavalry have also been used as mounted infantry, with the horse merely being a delivery mechanism to get infantry where they're needed quickly, whereupon they dismount and fight on foot - rather like the Saxon housecarls in the Battle of Hastings. Dragoons were originally mounted infantry who fought in the same manner.

Cavalry's primary use is to roll up enemy infantry in a flanking attack, which is why they were always put on the wings of an army. However, the tactic of the infantry forming squares bristling with spears or bayonets when cavalry attack was a very good foil to a cavalry charge, as horses aren't suicidal and will not jump a hedge of bayonets, leaving the enemy infantry to puck off the cavalry with rifle volleys. This was used very effectively at Waterloo by Wellington, where not a single infantry square was breached by repeated French cavalry charges (see the image below from the film, Waterloo).

Now, if cavalry should be used with infantry support (as they weren't at Waterloo), having a dual saddle would facilitate the cavalry with the ability to quickly bring supporting infantry with them, with the infantry dismounting just prior to the cavalry proceeding with a charge. 

I wondered whether there was indeed a double saddle, and there is, but its use is mainly for allowing kids to ride with their parents.

Granted, the horse might be a tad tired on arriving at the infantry dismount area, and the number of infantry would be limited to the number of cavalry (infantry normally far outweigh cavalry numbers), but the tactic could have been a game changer in some historic battles and, to my knowledge, has never been used. There's probably a good reason for this, but I'm not aware of it.

It's interesting to note that mounted artillery, in the form of mounted archers, were a game-changer when they were introduced by the Mongols.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Unreasonable Behaviour

Proving unreasonable behaviour in a divorce case can be quite difficult, unless you're Melania Trump. All she has to do is present Donald's collected Tweets.

So, within a few days we'll be fully operational as a country again - no new normal, but the bad old normal. The virus hasn't gone, it has merely been attenuated by the summer and most people have been careful.

Come the seasonal flu period in October, it will be back with a vengeance and we'll have the 2nd spike ripping through the Darwin Award people. Remember that the epidemic in the UK started with just one person - although some scientists reckon it was some 1,300 people who brought it into the country, which is even more alarming in some respects.

I bloody well hope the government has learned something from the last 6 months, but I somehow doubt it if past experience is anything to go by - I have learned plenty about the government and its priorities.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020


It's amazing how the BLM movement is polarising opinion and drawing out some covert racists who maintain the BLM movement risks making people racist. It says more about them than the BLM movement and uncovers their hostile intent. If you don't get the BLM message then you're either very naive, a bit thick, or racist.

As for the Burnley Football Club plane banner stunt - it was done by an EDL supporter, and thus nothing to do with any lives mattering, but solely to have a dig at ethnic minorities; however, there's no law against being ignorant and crass and there is such a thing as free speech. Conversely, there's a an equal right to criticise free speech, so here goes.

Consider these two statements:

“Black lives matter.” 

“All lives matter.” 

Seems eminently reasonable. Now consider these two statements:

“Black people are disproportionately discriminated against by the justice and police systems.” 

“All people are disproportionately discriminated against by the justice and police systems.” 

The first statement has the statistics to back it up (Windrush, Hostile Environment Policy, Macpherson Report, statistics on stop and search, etc.) while the second is patently absurd. The two sets of statements address the same issue and mean essentially the same thing. The difference is the shorter sets fit on a badge or poster and the longer ones do not. When writing a slogan for your movement, 3 words are better than 12.

It's arguable that the BLM slogan should have included the word "too" in order to underscore the difference - hence BLM2 in my title.

When trying to undermine a movement, deliberately misinterpreting their slogan is both dishonest and tends to underscore hostile intent towards the group and the people they represent (like deliberately misinterpreting ”taking a knee" as disrespect toward a flag).

Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence speech in 1776 proves the point. He proclaimed: “all men are created equal...,” - that must either be a lie or he did not believe ‘all men’ included black men, as we all know the slavery in the US wasn’t abolished until 1865.

So yes, in this context, “All Lives Matter” is an intentionally provocative and essentially racist statement that attempts to dilute, hide and deflect from the elephant in the room. "All Lives Matter" can logically be translated into: "I'm not giving to Cancer Research as there are other diseases too!" Or; "NSPPC? But all children matter!" Or "Save the Earth? But all planets matter." That illustrates the idiotic stupidity of the trope and the fact it's an excuse to ignore the problem, which certain people don't perceive (against all evidence to the contrary) as being a problem in the first place. Nor do they want you to see the problem - so they dilute it to hide it.

If you are using it, you either really are defending racism, or you've been suckered into using it in the mistaken belief that it's something noble to say. Not all lives are being oppressed or killed solely because of their colour.

Racism comes from three prime sources, in order of impact.
  1. One's parents, and this is the prime determinant,
  2. One's peer group and,
  3. Experience.
It's essentially a learned behaviour, as children are not born racist, although they do notice difference.

With regard to the 3rd factor, humans are pattern essentially recognising machine and so, if we have a bad experience with someone, it clouds our judgement of all people having the same attributes or pattern, and someone's colour is the most obvious pattern we can see. The unconscious mind extrapolates the slight or harm one suffered at the hands of a certain person to each and every every person who exhibits that same pattern. It's a deeply embedded survival mechanism - if you've had a bad experience with a cat, you tend to become scared of all cats, not hanging around to see whether they're actually friendly or not. A knee-jerk which can save you at times, but can become a hindrance in the modern world and can lead to all manner of unwanted consequences.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

A Trike

Went to look at a car over the weekend and discovered this work of art being built in the bloke's garage:

It is absolutely perfect in every respect and will be totally road-legal. Almost everything on the trike is bespoke or repurposed - for example, the hubcaps on the rear wheels are drum kit cymbals that have been machined. It's built around a Harley engine and is totally unique.

It's not yet finished and the chap explained his ethos thus: it's a hobby, and as such it had to take 2nd place to paying off the mortgage and ensuring his wife had everything she needed. Now that the mortgage is paid off, he can devote more time and money to finishing it. He's been working on it for 7 years already.

This is probably the first time anyone has photographed it (according to him). He has been offered a six figure sum for it once complete, but he couldn't bear to part with it for anything.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Queueing Questionnaires

Overheard in a supermarket:

Customer to Friend: "If my dad hadn't died at 84, I'm sure he would have lived to 90."

I do several questionnaires for various studies on a regular basis; one for the Protect Study, which monitors mental decline with age (not that I'm declining mentally) and one for how people are coping with lockdown.

One of the questions asked on both studies is whether I ever get overcome by feelings of worthlessness. The problem is that there's no tick box for 'Only when I talk to my wife'.

Remember when a barrier to going into a supermarket was the queues at the till? Social distancing has almost overcome that and has moved the bottleneck to the entrance. The knock-on effects of this are twofold:

  1. With fewer people entering a store at any one time and the shorter till queues, the fewer people the stores need to employ at the tills.
  2. The presence of a long queue outside a store acts as a deterrent, bringing fewer people in the store in the first place, leading to even fewer people needing to be employed.
I think my breaking point is about 10 minutes in a queue. Any more than that will result in me going elsewhere, even if I have to pay more when I get there - or simply not bothering at all. Our local Tesco no longer has queues, but Lidl can have one of 20 people. If there are indeed 20 people queuing for Lidl, I'll go to Tesco and spend more for the same items, especially if it's raining, as there is no weather protection at Lidl. This amazes me, as our local Lidl was shut down for the best part of 4 months for renovation and only opened in late May. Given the current situation you'd think it would be small fry to make the necessary changes to accommodate the new way of working.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Bottled Boris

I came across the strangest thing the other day. I noticed a Facebook page that seemed to be dedicated to Boris Johnson . Whether it's his personal Facebook page or a tribute act, I don't know. However, it showed a photo of Boris with a birthday cake (below).

Now, Boris' birthday is the 24th of July, not the 19th June, as any cursory search will confirm - unless he's taken to having an official birthday - and the story behind the photo is nothing whatsoever to do with his birthday. Yet those jumping on the page assumed it was indeed his birthday (Boris supporters are apt to jump to unwarranted conclusions, such as him being brilliant) and the page was littered with gushing, fawning and sycophantic birthday wishes to Boris - and here's the strange thing - they were all from women. Admittedly women who are very confused as to when his birthday is and couldn't be arsed to read the story behind the image but, nevertheless, 100% women.

The comments ranged from the utterly deranged (like he's the best PM ever) to the knicker-waving, hysterical type that are more suited to a youthful rock god. He was advised 'not to listen to the negativity' - i.e. the observed facts of reality, from the utter fiasco of the tracing App to his inept mismanagement of Brexit and his dire handling of the C-19 crisis (including Durhamgate), resulting in more deaths than anywhere else in Europe.

If that's the measure of him being the best PM ever, then the bar must be pretty low. Even Anthony Eden, acknowledged to be the worst PM in history, was the epitome of professionalism in comparison to Johnson, who is such a good PM that even his own party is now coming to the late realisation that he is a liability and has to go - soon.

What is this hold Boris has over women? Even his Wiki page lists the number of children he has as a rather vague 'at least 6' - a rather unique distinction usually reserved for those with a reputation for what is colloquially referred to as 'putting it about a bit'. Even Mick Jagger knows how many kids he has (8).

Is it that he's seen as dangerous bad boy, which some women are attracted to? He's certainly dangerous, but more in the manner of a Frank Spencer from Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, rather than a rakish Capt. Jack Sparrow. Do they perhaps simply want to look after him like a son? There is a certain validity in the latter observation, as mothers are notorious for being blind to the failings of their children.

Boris is cut from the same cloth as Trump, but without Trump's streak of narcissistic nastiness. Boris's strategy is to display the disarming and buffoon-like charm of a circus clown. Both, however, are terminally incompetent and their administrations are no more professional or competent than governments run by 5 year olds.

Whatever is it that attracts women to Boris, he should bottle it.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

A Lucky Escape

Yesterday I had to deliver a car to a customer in Launceston, so Hay and I decided to make a day of it and call in at Lee Bay on the north Devon coast, a favourite haunt of ours, and take a chance that it would be as deserted as usual, which it was.

We were mooching around a couple of small bays on the north eastern side of the large bay before settling down in one of them for a lie in the sun. I decided to go off an do some fishing on the other side of the main bay and was walking along a concrete pathway when I heard an almighty noise, like a lorry tipping out several tonnes of gravel. I looked over in Hayley's general direction and saw a massive cliff face collapsing into the small bay next to the one Hay was sunbathing in - the very one we'd been scouting not 30 minutes before. I've never seen anything like it in my life. The collapse comprised about 50 tonnes of rock at the very least and enough to kill outright anyone who might have been unlucky enough to be sat under it.

Had it been a weekend, it's likely that at least one or two families with kids would have been sat in that bay, close to - if not directly under - where the rockfall occurred. The site of the rockfall was behind a small cut that can be seen just to the left of the centre of the photo above, which is where one gains access to that bay.

The geology or the area is comprised of very friable morte slates made from compressed mud, which come apart with relative ease and were laid down some 350 mya.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Connecting Performance

America has the highest use of antibiotics and hormones in meat production in the world. I often wonder if this is the reason a lot of their athletes tend to fail performance-enhancing hormone tests.

Are you on Linked-In? I'm constantly annoyed by notifications of people's work anniversaries and invitations to congratulate them. You don't even have to construct your own congratulatory message - they're pre-prepared for you. I get bombarded with the damned things on various anniversaries. Mind you, these days you're lucky to have lasted a year with one company, so I guess it's reason to celebrate. 

I get particularly annoyed by people, with no discernible link to me whatsoever, asking for me to connect with them on Linked-In and not providing a reason why. It's like collecting contacts is a competitive sport.

Have you noticed how Facebook hardly has anyone under 40 on it? Seems it has been taken over by old gits like me, whingeing on about how the country has gone to the dogs (which it has), their pet hates (I have several), their aches and pains (not me) or obvious fake news (Trump and Boris supporters). Also, the adverts have gone exponential. It's almost impossible to find any original thought on Facebook now. No wonder the youngsters have abandoned it. Whatever happened to photos of people's dinners, their pets and parties?

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Meeting One's Mobility Waterloo

Waterloo Day today- 205 years since Napoleon got his comeuppance from the combined forces of the British, Dutch, Hanoverians and Prussians. A very close fought battle that was only won by the allies by the timely intervention of Blucher and his Prussians arriving at Napoleon's right flank and Wellington's left at the last minute, after the Prussians had fought several battles on the way to the link up.

As far as I can determine, Arthur Wellesley didn't own any slaves and favoured Catholic emancipation, so his statues should be reasonably safe. Beyond slaughtering a few thousand Indians in favour of colonialism, he seemed to be a decent cove, although not that good as a Prime Minister. Having been a Field Marshal and experiencing total control of armies, he tended to see his cabinet members as brigade commanders and expected total obedience.

If you're interested in seeing whether your family name appears in the list of people compensated for their slaves, you can search the digitised list here.

One positive about pubs opening with social distancing rules is that one will no longer have to stand at a bar for half an hour, waving a £20 note under the noses of the staff, only to be constantly ignored.

While out shopping yesterday and seeing all the nobility scooters around, I realised they suffer from two major drawbacks - speed and range. They're fine for tootling around a shopping centre, but if you live out of town, it can take you ages to return home, and you risk the battery running flat on the way.

I thought it would be a good idea to combine an electric mobility scooter with an auxiliary two stroke engine for getting to and from the shops, but I was a bit downcast when I discovered someone has already come up with the idea.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Mother of Dragons

Overheard at dinner:

Hay: "That was a nice risotto you made. What's for tomorrow night?"

Chairman: "I'll think about it."

Hay: "I think you should use up that pak choi and the mange touts."

Chairman: "Are you having a go at me and telling me once more what I should cook?"

Hay: "Of course not. You can cook whatever you like."

2 minutes later

Chairman: "What was it again that you said I should cook tomorrow night?"

Hayley has planted the pond plants. We had to let the pond go a tad green, as it's algae that the plants feed on. Equilibrium and homeostasis will be established in about a month, but we do need some more plants.

Meanwhile, we've had our first wildlife - two dragonflies were flitting over the pond and laying their eggs in it.

When any pond is first constructed, there will be an initial algae bloom as the nutrients in the water are food for algae - and yes, tap water contains plant nutrients. The result is a pea soup after about a week; however, as the nutrients are exhausted, the algae start to die and the pond gradually clears until there's a balance in the Force. Unfortunately, we're at peak algae season at present and there's a dearth of plants in the pond.

Adding plants has two effect - firstly, the plants use the algae as food and, secondly, they provide shade, which cuts down on the algae.

We're learning as we proceed.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Multi-Purpose Masks

These new Covid masks that Hayley bought have a major drawback - your visibility is slightly compromised. I may have to drive to a famous beauty spot in Durham with the entire family in the car just to check It's not too serious an impairment.

They're quite cheap at about £5 for 5 of them from Marks and Spencer. Apparently they're multi-purpose, but I have yet to determine their other function. They don't however, fog up your spectacles in the way dedicated ones do.

Monday, 15 June 2020

All Life is Matter

A lot of people are using All Lives Matter as a foil to the Black Lives Matter trope - and don't be mistaken, for a foil it is, even if you use it unthinkingly in the mistaken belief that it says something deep and meaningful. It doesn't.

The people using this are primarily those high in the ultra-nationalism, ultra-patriotism and Uber-Brexiteer range of psychological disorders and use it as a deflection. Some get suckered into using it, as they believe it's a noble thing to say, but they haven't thought it through.

Obviously all lives do matter, but that's ignoring the elephant in the room and there's an agenda behind it. Let's analyse All Lives Matter:

  • At first glance it seems an eminently reasonable statement, but not all lives are being oppressed or killed solely on the basis of their colour (the elephant in the room).
  • Black people in the USA and, arguably to a lesser extent in the UK, are treated differently by the police and the justice system. If you can't see that, then there's no value in continuing the conversation (although it's not strictly a conversation unless you reply) and you've obviously never heard of the Windrush Scandal.
  • "All Lives Matter" can logically be translated into: "I'm not giving to Cancer Research as there are other diseases too!" Or; "NSPPC? But all children matter!" Or "Save the Earth? But all planets matter." That illustrates the stupidity of the trope and the fact it's an excuse to ignore the problem, which they don't perceive (against all evidence to the contrary) as being a problem in the first place. Nor do they want you to see the problem - they dilute it to hide it.
  • The right is fond of taking liberal terminology and twisting it as a weapon against social justice - this is simply another example of that.
  • "All Lives Matter" reflects a view of racial dismissal, ignoring, and denial. It implies that all lives are equally at risk, and they're not. It's a lazy justification that black lives aren't all that important and an excuse to not give a damn.
  • The ALM adherents don't actually care about the BLM protests, even if non-violent, any more than they care about immigration detention centres, threats to the rule of law, the illegal suspension of parliament, Windrush, the Hostile Environment policy or any of the other affronts to freedom and equality which logic would dictate should be contrary to the values they maintain they espouse, but don't actually believe in. 
  • The critical word missing from Black Lives Matter is the word 'Too' at the end.
A slight aside, but I've noticed that people are far more concerned about being perceived as anti-semitic than racist. I wonder why this is? However, let's not confuse anti-Israel with anti-semitism - they are not the same thing, despite some desperately wanting to portray it as such. Could it be because slavery finished long ago (despite its legacy still being with us) and the Holocaust is within living memory? Jews have a far longer history of persecution in Britain than black minorities - they've been here far longer. The average Jew, unless announcing his or her Jewishness by dressing as an Hasidic, is indistinguishable from an indigenous, white Christian. Many Jews must be relieved that racists now have a focus other than them.

A friend sent me this image yesterday, which I think speaks volumes and echoes the teachings of a famous, Jewish holy man who some follow to this day.

My friend's words accompanying the photo are this: "Madiba (Mandela) beside the grave and statue of the architect of Apartheid, HF Verwoerd. The eloquence of his deeds cannot be overestimated and perhaps a younger generation can but strive for a sliver of that wisdom."

People often say; "What would Jesus have done?" Well, we know the answer to that, Wasn't it something to do with forgiveness, even in the face of insuperable provocation? MLK understood this, but rioters apparently don't.

As regards old statues and judging people by the standards of their time - we do get a bit bogged down here when it comes to religion, where the standards are very, very old, and yet remain as valid today as they were when written (or uttered in this case) and certainly in the times within which Edward Colston lived.

"Do unto others...."

It's called the Golden Rule and forms the basis of many religious and cultural beliefs older than Christianity, and if that's not an admonishment against slavery, I don't know what is. A classic case of morality (and Christian ethics) vs what was considered legal - probably because it was enormously profitable. I am reminded of the neo-liberal free market where profitability justifies legality and throws morality to the wind, as the free market does not consider people. The get-out clause is to not even consider black people as human....

I didn't know this, but France outlawed slavery in 1315 but, crucially, only withing the kingdom of France and thus its later colonies were free to use slaves.

Another consequence to consider when saying 'we cannot judge yesterday by the values of today' is that you can't logically criticise the Nazis. Think about it - Britain was having its own flirtations with fascism in the 1930s.

So to sum up - i) learn to forgive, and ii) do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Lessons for both sides of the argument, but you can't have one without the other.

I never thought I'd be using religion to bolster my arguments, but there is wisdom in much of it, if you don't engage in wilfully misinterpreting it for your benefit. It's in the woo-woo where religions go squonk.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Slavery by Another Name

Another slant on the statues debate - if you can call it a debate. There just seems to be a lot of shouting on both sides (as an aside, Mary Beard did a thought-provoking piece in the TLS).

Penrhyn Castle, on the outskirts of Bangor, in North Wales (which I have visited and blogged about previously) was built by the 1st Baron Penrhyn, who was both a slave owner and the proprietor of a large slate mine in North Wales.

Talk about Penrhyn Castle in North Wales and you'll get some rather angry looks from many of the locals. The 2nd Baron Penrhyn was notorious for his mistreatment of the workers in his slate mine and there are locals who, to this day, will not step inside Penyrhn Castle because of the manner in which their grandparents or great-grandparents were treated by the 2nd Baron.

Ask these people as to what they would do to any statue of him and you'll probably get the same response as from those who want statues of slavers removed. It's personal to them in a manner it isn't to others. In the case of the Penrhyn family, the slaving (the loss for which they were compensated by the government) was compounded by the abysmal  treatment of their Welsh workers.

It's essentially a clash between the personal and the impersonal. From the personal side, there's nothing more that the locals would want than to tear Penrhyn Castle down due to it being built with the blood of their ancestors. For the impersonal it's a monument to Victorian, gothic architecture and a view into the lives of the nobs of that time and should therefore be preserved for posterity as a slice of history. Which is right? Both are. How is that managed by the National Trust? By bowing to pressure, not whitewashing the story of Penrhyn Castle and making it part of the historical narrative and exhibitions on display.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Metric Martyrs in Apples

Am I missing something? A cough or a sneeze gets propelled 3 feet, which is approximately 1 metre. Tory backbenchers want the 2m social distance, which is a very sensible distance, reduced to 1m.

Call me old fashioned, but something about this sounds idiotic and ironic to me. We're in Britain,  for God's sake, which is heading (stupidly) toward Brexit with a Brexitish and very nationalistic government - the most nationalistic government in my lifetime - and they're still using metres? Disgraceful!

Heard Trump yesterday saying that wherever you go you will find bad apples. He was talking specifically about the police. He didn't mention, however, presidents.. As far as the Republican Party goes, with one of two notable exceptions, it would seem the entire barrel is rotten...

Friday, 12 June 2020

It's All in a Meme

There's a popular meme that has been doing the rounds for a while now.

My reaction on first seeing it was a smile; however, further reflection on the meme shows that, for Britain at least, the facts don't bear it out.

The common belief is that Britain was fighting fascism but, in reality, Britain were no more fighting fascism than Henry V was fighting monarchism at Agincourt (yes, I know the soldiers in the meme are American).

In the Spanish Civil War Britan was tacitly supporting Franco's fascists, firmly believing that Spain was threatened by communism. France had wanted to provide materiel to the Republican movement, but was persuaded by the right wing Conservative government of the time to pull back from the offer as it wanted Franco to prevail.

The British aristocracy of the 30s was notoriously sympathetic to Nazism (including, allegedly, Edward VIII as the Duke of Windsor) and the number of fascist parties that sprung up was legion - Sir Oswald Mosely's British Union of Fascists being the most famous. A number of British newspaper magnates were overtly sympathetic to Hitler - The Daily Mail's Viscount Rothermere being a prime example, to his eternal shame. The reason fascist parties never succeeded in Britain was not due to an antipathy to fascism itself, but because they were hideously undisciplined and the various factions spent more time attacking each other over small points of ideological doctrine than working together in the pursuit of power.

Anti-semitism, while not as high as in some other European countries, was nevertheless present in Britain in the interwar period, especially in terms of media attacks. Delegates from 32 countries met in the French resort town of Evian-les-Bains in July 1938 to discuss ways to help Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi Third Reich. In the months following Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938, Nazi persecution of Jews reached horrifying dimensions. Germany had offered its Jews to the world. Many delegates attending the Evian Conference publicly professed their sympathies for the Jewish refugees. However, most countries, including the USA, Great Britain, and Australia, offered excuses for why they could not accept more refugees. The official delegates from Romania, Hungary, and Poland proposed that their countries also be relieved of their Jews. Only the representatives of the Dominican Republic, and later Costa Rica, agreed to increase their quotas.

During WWI, British intelligence subsidised Benito Mussolini's activism. After he rose to power on a fascist agenda, Mussolini was initially accommodated by Britain, with the Hoare-Laval Pact accepting the expansion of Italian Eritrea's sphere of influence over all of Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia). However, the treaty's unpopularity forced Hoare's resignation and future British governments showed more opposition. It was not Mussolini's fascism that was the problem, but popular opinion concerning Italy's invasion of Abyssinia and the League of Nations' support for Abyssinia. It was Mussolini's pact with Germany that did for him.

So, anti-fascism appeared to play little or no part whatsoever in the decision to go to war with Germany. It was more the fact that Germany was becoming a major imperial power that threatened Britain's hegemony and authority within the world order and its Empire. That could not be countenanced.

Makes you think how the narrative changed during and after the war and it was turned into a war against fascism when fascism was initially incidental. So, while the meme is amusing, it's not strictly accurate - even for the Americans, who are notorious for having propped up tin-pot dictators in their war against communism.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Stirring Kids and School Statues

I do love this quote from Machiavelli in The Prince:

"Let no-one stir things up in a city, believing he can stop them as he pleases, or that he is in charge of what happens next."

Insights from the past provide many lessons today, especially for populists.

Many authorities are now reevaluating their statues to luminaries; however, I feel much of this is being driven not from a genuine belief that they're doing the right thing, but to prevent public disorder. I could be wrong - but that's a rarity....

What is the purpose of a statue? Many, such as statues commemorating WWI or WWII, are not of historic individuals, but anonymous representations of people who fought, so an amalgam to commemorate an event. Others honour individuals, but such people are invariably permanently represented in the historic records and erecting a statue is not really necessary - especially several hundred years after they died. I think I'm correct in believing there's not a single statue of Hitler remaining in Germany, but he's permanently writ large in the history books and even remains an icon for a few. Simon Schama, in Radio 4 yesterday morning, made the entirely valid point that Roman Emperors regularly melted down statues of the predecessors and even attempted to erase them from history, yet they remain in the history books.

Moving on to schools. Call me stupid but, despite children being at a lower risk of contracting C-19, they nevertheless come into contact with adults, in the shape of teachers, parents, dinner ladies, etc. It's not a great leap of credulity to understand that they can still act as vectors by having the virus on their hands when going home. They're not renowned for washing their hands and are dirty little buggers. Only dogs are worse at spreading disease, and even that's debatable.

The fact kids are less affected gives credence to the theory that C-19 unmasks our intolerance to air pollution, which makes the symptoms much worse. Young people, while exposed to pollution, haven't had as long an exposure as the elderly although, by the time they die, the dosage will be much higher, unless something is done about it now.

Returning to schools opening and classes being limited to 15; I came from a grammar school with classes of 30 and was put in a public school with classes of 15. The improvement in my education was phenomenal, and it was nothing to do with more qualified teachers - they weren't more qualified, they were merely able to devote more attention to the individual pupils. There is universal agreement among educators that the single, most critical factor affecting educational outcomes is class size. Perhaps we should be planning for a permanent shift to classes of 15. Not only would it improve the overall level of education, but it would mitigate any future pandemic and make the education system more resilient, as well as the economy by virtue of releasing parents from childcare duty in order to return to work earlier.

Some solutions just stare people in the face - the only drawback is money. That's another word for tax. It's also an argument for big government and higher taxes, which is contrary to right-wing ideology in which the devil takes the hindmost, and almost everyone except the well off.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

The School of Teasey Weasey

Decided to get a haircut yesterday as I could no longer wait for the barber to open and so and allowed Hayley to attack me with a pair of scissors and a hair trimmer.

Hair by Hayley, beard by Worzel Gummidge...

If the C-19 lockdown experience changes men's hair fashion back to a longer style, I'm going to miss out on it.

Schools returning: a possible suggestion, in my opinion, would be for the year to be repeated. As for the new intake in September, we're one of the few countries in Europe where kids start at age 5; most start at age 6. I've no idea what continental schools are considering - possibly not starting school till age 7....

Another partial solution to consider would be to dragoon churches into becoming temporary, field schools during the week and persuading retired teachers to come back temporarily, in the same manner as medics have come back into the NHS. There can't be many schools that are more than a short walk away from a church and it's not unusual these days for pupils to travel between affiliated schools in an area for lessons. It happens here in Chipping Sodbury - both my boys had some A level lessons in a different school. If not enough ex teachers can be recruited, use video technology to split a class between classroom and field classroom, with a teaching assistant maintaining order at the field classroom.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020


The Colston statue - why throw it in the harbour? Colston was a slaver - we no longer have slavery. Is Colston honoured by the statue? Most people don't even know who he was, except that his name appears on a number of streets or buildings, but yes.

The vast majority of stately homes here in the Southwest were built on the proceeds of slavery. Indeed, most of London was paid for by plundering India and fortunes exist to this day that were founded on slavery. Should all these monuments to Empire be demolished?

90% of African slaves were traded to Europeans by Africans themselves, because slavery was endemic in Africa. They were supplied from African communities, tribes and kingdoms, including the Alladah and Ouidah, which were later taken over by the Dahomey kingdom.

Caesar enslaved 500,000 Gauls during his expeditions against them. Should all statues of Caesar be taken down? Shouldn't any reminder of Ancient Rome be demolished, as the entire economy of the Roman Empire was based on slavery? There again, Roman slavery didn't produce a racism based on ethnicity - almost anyone living in the Roman Empire could become a Roman citizen with rights. Your skin colour did not bar you from the professions.

I can't help feeling though that history should not be whitewashed, nor can you judge people of yesterday by the values of today. Just 60 or 70 years ago, virtually everyone in the UK was racist or xenophobic (No Dogs, Blacks or Irish). Progress has been made without the demolition of statues, albeit slowly.

However, if you know the history of the statue, which few do, you are apt to reconsider. The statue was erected in 1895 to commemorate Colston's philanthropy. During Colston's involvement with the Royal African Company in the late 1600s, it's estimated that the company transported around 84,000 African men, women and children on journeys to the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas as slaves. You can understand the anger of the local black population when there's a statue of a slaver who treated your ancestors worse than people treat animals.

That said, the manner of the taking down of Colston's statue did nothing to get me to side with them. People lying down, peacefully and socially distanced affected me far more. I could see myself joining such people, but not those engaged in destruction - that kind of activity is self-defeating and is simply a channel for the alleviation of anger, not change.

Do I feel guilty about the white involvement in the slave trade? Not in the least - my family on both sides was of solid, yeoman farming stock and therefore could not possibly have been involved in it, unless in some extremely oblique manner. Am I concerned about its effects - certainly.

Demonstrations always run the risk of a small minority acting in criminal ways. They can also be subverted by those on the other side of the argument in the manner of an agent provocateur. A peaceful demonstration is a strong barrier to such subversion. In the battle for hearts and minds, venting one's anger in a destructive manner rarely achieves much. Peaceful protests have achieved far more than violent ones.

Has the destruction of Colston's statue achieved anything? Among many black people it will have made them feel better; among non-racist whites, it probably made them feel somewhat uneasy; among racists, it has probably reinforced their racism. Making yourself feel better through venting your anger doesn't necessarily contribute to change. The Abolitionists didn't achieve their aims by rioting and destruction, nor did the Indians in Gandhi's India.

In the photo above, it's striking that that vast majority of the rolling the statue to the harbour are white. That's not to say white people can't be outraged by racism, but it does lend credence to the rent-a-mob, professional protester theory beloved of the far right and plays into their hands. Masks also create the perfect environment for them to operate within.

Then there's the fact that all lives matter, and the lack of social distancing exhibited by many of the protesters shows that, perhaps, no lives matter to them, given their action could in all likelihood result in a 2nd C-19 spike, putting even more NHS lives (which incidentally comprise a high number of  ethnic minorities) at risk. Ironically, more black and Asian people are killed, proportionately, by the virus than white people - that kind of makes a bit of a mockery of the purpose behind the protest. 

Here's a novel idea - leave such statues in place, but modify them somehow with additions that highlight their involvement with slavery, as a reminder of man's inhumanity to man - like draping the statue in manacles and chains. Perhaps erect a statue of a slave next to them (even the death camps of the Nazis were retained as memorials). The only problem with that suggestion is that the even the democratic process of simply having Colston's plaque changed to acknowledge his key involvement in the slave trade has come to naught on the intervention of a Tory councillor, Richard Eddy, and the vetoing of a proposed plaque by Mervyn Rees, the Labour Mayor (himself of white British and Caribbean heritage), about the wording. No wonder the local black population is a tad irate.

The PM's spokesman (code for Cummings) said Mr Johnson "absolutely understands the strength of feeling" but if people wanted the statue removed, there are "democratic routes" which can be followed. Unfortunately, democratic routes had been exhausted. On top of that, Mervyn Rees has said he has a finite budget (actually a £60m deficit) and removing a statue is low on the list of priorities when the drug and homelessness problems are huge.

Simply removing the statue achieves little lasting effect. It makes the anti-racists of today feel vindicated, but what about people of the future? Will it teach them anything? Erase every vestige of Bristol's involvement in the slave trade and pretty soon no-one will realise it ever was involved, except anecdotally.

As for putting it in a museum; half the exhibits in museums never see the light of day.It would have to be a museum dedicated to Bristol's role in the slave trade for it to have any impact, but who would pay for that with all the competition for public funds?

At the end of the day, any decision on how Bristol's role in the slave trade should be portrayed is best made by descendants of those who were sold into slavery, but it shouldn't be whitewashed out of our conscience, or at least not until such time as racism no longer exists. That is the time when people can finally move on.

If you can't see racism at work in the UK then you either need to open your eyes, or you're defending the indefensible. It hasn't gone away - it has merely been suppressed. The actions of some with power are giving it licence once more. I doubt the thoughts of anyone who maintains, in the face of ann evidence to the contrary, that Britain is one of the most welcoming countries in the world.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Lockdown Project II

We decided to get the Olive filter operational yesterday.

The bottom of the Olive is filled with something called Alfagrog, which sounds like a particularly potent drink for alpha males, but is actually a ceramic substance similar to the ceramic coals you find on flame-effect gas fires, having a huge surface area on which to attract a biofilm. It additionally acts as ballast. The total surface area of the Alfagrog in the Olive is 80 square metres, more than enough to support the size of our pool.

The first attempt was successful in demonstrating its basic operation, but the device required some trimming adjustment, which Hayley performed in order to attain the correct draft and balance.

Just the plants to wait for now, along with some gabion baskets we ordered. Next on the project plan is to consider the pool edging, so no more updates for a while.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Lockdown Project

Here's the project we've been working on for the last couple of weeks, which was a spur-of-the-moment decision and done on a shoestring budget. It's a pond cum swimming pool measuring 11m x 5m x 2m at the deepest.

Day 1: Excavation begins, using a local farmer who had the necessary equipment and had done a few of these.

End of day 2: Fully excavated, with a stepped area for plantings.

Day 5: Pond lined with carpet scraps obtained for free from a local carpet warehouse skip. The carpet prevents any pond liner punctures.

Day 6: Made-to-measure pond liner inserted.

Day 8: Filling starts.

Day 14: Pause to build up raised planting areas from bags filled with ballast.

Day 15: Planting area complete and back-filled with gravel for plants to grow into.

The Pond Filter: Works in 3 ways to clear biofilm naturally and aid filtration. It floats around on top of the pond, using compressed air to do its business.

The plants are on order and have to be mature so they can start working on water filtering immediately. They're arriving in about 10 days from somewhere in deepest, darkest Somerset.

The edges of the pond have yet to be started and we're not 100% certain how we're going to do that - paving stones, gabion baskets, decking - whatever. The tyres currently surrounding it are temporary and were obtained for free from KwikFit up the road. I'll probably get rid of those as fenders for boats at Bath Marina, or somewhere similar.

So far the cost has been in the region of £2,500, which is phenomenally little for such a huge pond. The groundwork was only around £800. The majority of expenditure went on the liner, which was produced in only a couple of days due to the company, which specialises in marquees, having no other work on during the lockdown. The filter alone was £700, but was well worth the purchase. Here it is in action:

The land here is pure clay under a very thin layer of topsoil. I was considering merely puddling the clay and not using a liner, but we hit limestone bedrock at 2m, and that would have acted like a wick to the water table. Additionally, we live very close to a railway cutting and had there been any fissure in the clay, water could have ended up in the railway cutting, which is about 60 feet or more below the surrounding land level.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Anti-Snoring Pillow

Hay has developed an anti-snoring pillow. It's nothing fancy and nowhere near as expensive as the ones you can buy in the shops - it's just a normal pillow, but when your husband snores, you simply place it over his face and smother him to death.

In my case, I apparently snore whenever I lie on my back. I've never actually heard myself snore, so I don't actually believe I do.

The C-19 test arrived yesterday on cue - it's a nasal swab test for live virus. It was sent because Hay is on a trial as part of a study. I have signed up for a pinprick, antibody blood test, once a month for 6 months, as part of another study trial, but heaven knows when that will arrive.

I was listening to an American doctor and researcher talking about C-19 and he pronounced the word disease as dis-ease, which is exactly what it is when you look up the etymology.

Friday, 5 June 2020

A Blow-up of Covid Sharks

I was intrigued by a news item concerning a smooth hound shark that was trapped in a tidal pool on Caswell Bay Beach in the Gower, where we go a lot for weekend breaks.

While looking up information on the sharks found in British waters, I discovered that there has only been one shark fatality in the UK. Apparently, in 1956, 3 Royal Navy officers came across a harmless basking shark off the Lizard and decided to blow it up with explosives. They strapped the explosives to the docile beast and let it go. Unfortunately for the naval officers, the shark swam under their vessel and blew it, and them, to kingdom come. Poetic justice.

The day before yesterday Hay ordered a C-19 home test kit and, wonder of wonders, it's scheduled to arrive today. How's that for efficiency? Currently faster than Amazon Prime - if it's actually delivered.

In response to a couple of comments on my post of yesterday; i) I haven't considered a yoghurt maker because they're simply too expensive and they seem less artisanal. Added to that, they seem to make it in small quantities in lots of pots, whereas I want about 2L at a time, and ii) yes, I'm aware milk powder thickens yoghurt, but I prefer to not add artificial thickeners. I tried it earlier in my experiment, but it affected the taste negatively.

I'd have answered the comments within the comments section, but I have discovered it would necessitate logging out of another Google account that I frequently use for Google Analytics. Having two accounts open simultaneously prevents me adding my own comments where they're meant to go.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Yoghurt Update

I made a discovery during my yoghurt making. In order to achieve the Greek yoghurt effect, the trick is to take the milk to 92 degrees C and then cool it to 46 degrees before adding the live starter culture and incubating it at around 43 degrees. However, the results can be a bit hit and miss in terms of thickness.

What I discovered is that it's best to take the milk to 92 degrees slowly, and then hold it at 92 for as long as possible before cooling it. On enquiring as to why this should be, the family biochemist (Hay) explained to me that this gives the casein proteins, which cause the coagulation that thickens the yoghurt, more time to denature. In effect, it turns the proteins into long chains, like a polymer. It's the long casein chains that give Greek yoghurt its thickness.

Worked a treat! I did 5 minutes this time, but will extend to 10 this coming Sunday, which is my usual yoghurt making day. I must, however, source a larger Kilner jar. I also wish the oven was a bit more friendly at low temperatures - it would be nice to perform the incubation in the oven, rather than using a blanket, but the temperature feedback of the oven is too laggy under 100 degrees to guarantee a stable temperature and it can vary too much.

All these street parties where people are breaking lockdown. Absolutely fantastic - they will be the guinea pigs and touchstones for the rest of us. All we have to do is sit back and watch the results to see if they get an increase in the infection rate. However, the downside will be the fact the NHS staff will have to look after them if they do get infected.

Parliament too. If they return and all's well at the end of 2 weeks, we'll know it's relatively safe to venture out.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Trigger's Bench & Table - in Cyanide Blue

I've given you the saga of Trigger's Ride on Mower, but I now bring you, in glorious Technicolor, Trigger's Patio Bench:

...and Trigger's Patio Table (painted after replacement of some slats):

This bench and table is part of a set that I got for free about 3 years ago on Freecycle, (which I seems to have lost contact with - reminder to self; find out where Freecycle is now hiding), having been destined for the local tip.

Each year some part of it collapses with rot and, each year, I effect a repair from some old wood or skirting I have available. Not sure how many years I can keep it going though. I suppose I should paint the bench, but it seems a waste of paint when I might have to burn it next year.

I came across this video below a few days ago - Hayley suggested I watch it. It joins some dots as regards the C-19 epidemic, which seem obvious when they're explained. Hay has confirmed some of the medical conclusions surrounding the cocktails of drugs some (like me) are prescribed for high blood pressure and how they make us more susceptible. It's NOT a conspiracy theory video, although American production techniques do have a habit of making videos appear as such.

It's very long, but very informative and enlightening. I highly recommend it. What you have been led to believe about the virus isn't really true, especially when the evidence points to people being taken ill presenting not with respiratory failure, but hypoxia reminiscent of cyanide poisoning, for which putting them on a ventilator is the worst possible remedy. The link that joins the dots is pollution.

I was particularly horrified about the lake of seething pig shit at an American pig farm that's so hazardous that it can't be transported.