Saturday, 31 October 2020

Spinning Keys

This is something I've been meaning to post for a while, but keep forgetting - it's called old age; the forgetting bit, not what I'm going to post about, although a disturbing old age thing did happen this week, which I'll expand on later.

If, when in a car, you look at the wheels of a car overtaking you and then look forwards again, for a very split second, the wheel you were looking at appears stationary. It's not the stroboscopic, or waggon wheel effect from films, where the frame speed can make a wheel appear to go backwards.

It must have something to do with the sudden shift of the wheel from the focus of your eye to the peripheral vision and the different cells than kick into action. Try it yourself, as it could be just me.

As for the age related thing: Now let me remember what I was going to say.... Ah yes! I was looking for my keys the other day and couldn't find them. They're not exactly unrecognisable, having my car keys and a plethora of work keys on the keyring, not to mention a Saab keyfob.

I looked in the usual place - the key rack, but they weren't there. Looked on my desk - no. Went out to the car to check I hadn't left them there - no. Back to the key rack - again no. Went around the house several times, but still no keys. Finally went back to the key rack and bingo - there they were. I'd actually been looking at the damned things at least twice, but hand'nt recognised them.

Friday, 30 October 2020

School Meal Vouchers

Gandhi is credited with the aphorism; “A civilization is measured by how well it treats its weakest members.” This is pertinent today with the furore over free school meals for the most deprived. No child should go hungry – it’s abuse, pure and simple. 

The threshold for free school meals, essentially, is a household income of £16,190, which is a very small amount on which to raise a family and pay for all the essentials. I certainly wouldn’t like to have to live on that amount. 

That said, there are stories in the red top press of parents spending school meal vouchers on mom-essentials, such as beer. Now if someone on under £16,190 a year can afford to buy beer with school meal vouchers, that suggests to me that either the kids need taking into care, or the parent is self-employed and fiddling his or her taxes through the black economy. Given that tax fiddling among the self-employed is endemic (the ‘how much for cash’ syndrome, in which the giver and receiver collude), I would suggest the latter to be more likely. 

I saw a Facebook post from a woman in receipt of free school meals bemoaning that she’s about to go on maternity leave, which will leave her in dire straits. I empathise, but I would nevertheless question the wisdom of having more children when she obviously can’t afford to feed them herself without state support. It’s akin to buying a house you know you can’t afford. 

Overpopulation is a problem and probably the major cause of most of the ills that we suffer from in our present milieu; global warming, hunger and poverty. That said, the reasons for having children are complex and not always based on rational decisions – the desire to have a family is a powerful, innate driver or instinct in most people. I certainly would not like to be the politician that says having children will be means tested, but without a socialist model, it's hard, from a purely objective, stance to see how else world hunger and world poverty can possibly be eliminated.

Those who scam the system or are led to believe the state is there to support them, whatever misjudged life decisions they make, are the exception and not the rule. It could be argued they are actually capitalists, using loopholes in the system in the same manner as the super-rich who squirrel away their capital in offshore accounts to avoid tax. Both are robbing the state. 

Perhaps the system needs to change such that state aid reaches those who actually need it and not the scammers, but the cost of policing such a system would probably outweigh the savings, as they do in many areas of life. It’s a cost we must accept as a civilised society and we can’t penalise the majority for the actions of a few. Benefit fraud is far outweighed by tax evasion; According to HMRC it’s to the tune of a factor of between 10 and 15, although that’s only an estimate and all estimates are fraught with problems of measurement. 

It’s a fact that a lot of people’s circumstances have changed since the start of 2020 through no fault of their own – jobs have been lost and people who were employed but made redundant and went into self-employment have no access to Covid state aid in the event of a 2nd lockdown. 

In the final analysis, does the fact that a few abuse the system justify thousands of kids going hungry by not facilitating school meal vouchers at this time? Are kids to be allowed to suffer for the actions of their parents? Not in my estimation, and surely not in the mind of any right thinking person.

As an aside, I was told yesterday that a restaurant in South Glos was fiddling the Eat Out to Help Out scheme by allocating cash payments made on days of the week not under the scheme to days the scheme was operating, writing out false receipts, and also claiming the full amount was the discounted amount. I wonder how many others were operating this scam.

Thursday, 29 October 2020


We're making a house for Railway, the feral cat what's adopted us. I say adopted us, but in reality he's a mercenary who is using us as a convenient restaurant and relying on our good nature. We don't mind though, despite the fact he eats twice the amount Kitty does - literally.

It's made from a polystyrene cooler box I bought on eBay, so using recycled materials. A simple hole cut into one side affords him access and Hay is going to get some straw to form a warm bed. I'm calling it a cat igloo, or cagloo.

The issue now is where to put it. Under one of the sheds seems to be favourite, but I guess it will be a case of trial and error.

Interestingly, the top is embossed with the word MERCK, which is a pharmaceutical company, so it must have originally been used for transporting vaccines.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Picking Storage

Hay went to the local charity shop yesterday and found this:

A bargain at £10, but she gave £15 for it. Not much of a negotiator, is she? That's the 3rd box for the back of the van that we have now accumulated. It's light though - and waterproof - but it can't be locked.

My lock picking kit arrived from China yesterday - a bargain at £6.50.

I can pick most padlocks with a couple of paperclips, having learned to do it from a YouTube video a couple of years ago, but the key for the Village Hall oil tank padlock as been mislaid by someone and it's a bit tougher than your normal padlock, and a touch rusted. As a member of the Village Hall Committee, I thought I should give it a go, as we need to fill the tank for winter.

As expected, the instructions are in Chinglish, but it looks pretty straight forward. If there's a crime wave reported in Old Sodbury, you know who to blame.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Family Butchers

I took this photo the other day of the local butcher's shop in Chipping Sodbury and pondered as to the meaning of the phrase 'Family Butchers'.

Is it a butcher's shop that is family owned and employs more than one family member as a butcher, or could it be a butcher who caters for families? Could it also be a bunch of butchers that specialise in butchering families - well, we are in the West Country. Shades of Royston Vasey.

People don't say I'm going to the butcher, but I'm going to the butcher's, just like they say they're going to the greengrocer's. The butcher's what though - shop? The apostrophe adds another layer of complexity, but it's missing in this case, so it can only refer to more than one butcher and the s indicates the plural.

Monday, 26 October 2020

Van Learning

We've done some learning on our most recent van trip to a campsite just outside of Fowey, where we parked on a perfectly level grassy area, but before the heavy rain descended on us:

  1. You should park on your anti-slip mats and not simply try to use them once you are slipping on exiting your pitch.
  2. After some research, I found out that the best anti-slip mats are apparently those criss-cross bakers' bread trays with the sides removed - they're very light, but allow motorhome tyres to get good traction on slippery grass or mud.  
  3. Another good anti-slip mat is that heavy duty rubber matting with holes in it that's used for outdoor mats, but it's very heavy.
Luckily I managed to lift some iron grating from around the toilet emptying site, which saved the day, else we'd still be in Fowey. Our anti-slip mats either couldn't get under the wheels, or shot out the other side once under them. Prevention is better than cure, so parking up on them is a must.

We made use of the electricity hook-up, seeing as it was included in the £25 pitch fee. The hardliners will be accusing us of going soft. We did end up being rather liberal with the electricity, using a 1.5kW electric heater on the first day, which we wouldn't countenance if running on the leisure batteries.

Talking of going soft, something has happened to Cornish pasty cases. When I was a kid, they were tough as old boots and made of something resembling concrete. These days they're made of something puffy - not quite puff pastry, but very near to it.

On the way back, we took in Anstey's Cove in Devon. We could have opened one of the side windows of the van and made a fortune in teas and coffees. 

While walking to Polkerris Cove and Polridmouth Cove in Cornwall (the inspiration for Rebecca's Cove in the novel, Rebecca), I made some totally useless observations about hiking sticks.

When you walk, especially downhill, if you slip you're more far more likely to fall backwards as your foot hits something slippy, rather than forwards. A hiking stick, if poking out in front of you to steady you, is actually not going to be the slightest bit of use. All a forward pointing stick is going to do is arrest any forward motion if you're going too fast, or assist in a climb. It makes sense, therefore, to dig it into the ground right next to you on a slippery descent and leave it trailing backwards until you've made 2 steps forward. If you then slip backwards, the stick will help you recover before your arse or bonce hits the deck. Two sticks would be better than one, as a single stick could simply spin you around.

I say 2 steps forward, as I noticed that when walking on the flat and using a stick in the usual swing motion, the stick takes one pace while you take 4. With it used in the manner I described in the previous paragraph, this is reduced to 2 paces.

A more useless bit of information you will be hard pressed to find.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Buy, But Don't Accept

I've thought of a new initiative to help out those businesses and employees needing support during Tier 3. Instead of Eat Out to Help Out, it's Buy, But Don't Accept.

Basically, you order something, and it can even be a meal, but ask for it not to be delivered or, in the case of a meal, not to be cooked. It's 100% altruistic and can be done by anyone with a bit of cash to spare and a desire to help out.

A bit difficult with automated, on-line ordering systems, but if you can send a message immediately after a purchase, you should be able to get the delivery cancelled, but with the retailer keeping your money.

Of course, sellers need to be honest and pass on the benefits to their staff and one way of ensuring this is to demand a till receipt. The beauty of the system is that profits would he much higher than if you simply took delivery of what you purchased, as there would be no associated supply puchases, meaning fewer people would have a large effect. Additionally, in the case of a meal, you don't have to even physically turn up and risk Covid - it could all be done over the phone.

There is one drawback - the supply chain of the provider of the product or service would not benefit but, given the increased profit of the supplier, some of this could be passed down the supply chain. That, again, would rely on the integrity of the product or service supplier and an element of trust would be needed. There again, a provider doesn't want his supply chain to disappear.

I would not recommend this for buying a car or a house....

As regards the free school meals for deprived kids during school holidays, it appears to me, from what Tory MPs have said, that the Conservative argument is threefold:

  1. Many of the schemes under way are providing take-aways, which are not nutritious, 
  2. A longer term strategy is needed, which focuses on Universal Credit, and
  3. It is the responsibility of local authorities. 
I find these arguments rather specious. How no meal is more nutritious than a meal with low nutrition is beyond me. Also, we all know the problems with Universal Credit, and a longer term strategy, while welcome, does not solve the issue over the school holidays this year, especially for parents who have lost their jobs recently. As for it being the responsibility of local authorities, authorities in Tier 3 areas have been complaining, quite vocally and publicly, that the budgets allocated to them for Covid relief are woefully inadequate. Families that were scraping a living before Covid are now very hard hit, even with furlough - rent and utility bills haven't gone away.

There's still no support at all, that I know of, for people who were made redundant during or after the national lockdown and have since gone self-employed. 

I've written to my local, Tory MP, asking for his reasons for voting against the free school meals resolution. I'm not expecting a response any time soon. Whenever I have received a response from him to previous questions, they bear all the hallmarks of Conservative Central Office crafting and the Party line. I can't see him being returned to Parliament at the next election. 

I've heard Conservative apologists on social media say the country can't afford it. The facts is that the country can afford anything it wants to afford. The country paid slave owners compensation for the emancipation of their slaves, the debt for which we only finished paying in 2015. We only finished paying for WWII in 2006. How long will we be paying for Brexit - we'll start seeing a return in 50 years, according to Rees-Mogg.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Game of Cones

We're staying at a campsite just outside of Fowey for a few days and I'm always amused by the name of an ice cream shop at the eastern end of the town, near the Bodinnick ferry.

As you can see, it's called Game of Cones.

Next I expect someone to set up an Indian restaurant nearby and call it Rice Station Zebra.

Can you think of any more names of shops based on film wordplay?

Friday, 23 October 2020

Rubbish Equipment

A certain person at work who shall remain nameless, seems obsessed with replacing perfectly serviceable equipment with rubbish.

It started when the battery on our works Dyson V6 started to go. It was unceremoniously thrown in the bin, from which I rescued it and purchased a replacement, non-Dyson battery from China. It now works perfectly and has been supplementing our stable of vacuum cleaners at home for about 6 months. The replacement that was purchased was reassuringly expensive, but useless - especially when vacuuming out cars or picking up leaves from the showroom mats.

We had a wonderful leaf blower that developed a hole in the bag. Rather than buying a new bag, a totally new leaf blower was bought, but it looks as if it was meant for kids. It's all of 3 feet long.

I have to assume a stooped over gait to use it, resulting in excruciating back pain if used for more than a few minutes. The old leaf blower is residing in my shed, complete with a new bag, ready for use around the new pond when the hedge starts shedding.

I hate to see good equipment thrown away for want of a small, cheap part.

Talking of rubbish equipment, are you aware that in America, the Tesla is bottom of the list for reliability? In the UK it ties with the Landrover for that position.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Judge Jeffreys Courts

In order to speed up the backlog of criminal cases that have been held up by Covid, there are proposals to implement Nightingale Courts - the resurrection of courts that were closed down years ago and were deemed too expansive to update. Nighingale Courts is perhaps the wrong name to choose, as Florence Nightingale was never involved in the courts system - Judge Jeffreys Courts would be more apt. 

To really speed up judgements, a single court could be set up with Anne Widdecombe, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel presiding. 

Just think of the speed at which they could work if the accused were not allowed to be represented and a system of summary justice were implemented. Even the prosecution wouldn't be necessary, saving even more cash. They could just look at the accused and determine from their dress and demeanour whether they were guilty.

To avoid overcrowding in prisons, scaffolds could be erected outside the courts.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Updating Myself

I'm thinking of updating myself with some hair colour and tattoos. 

When I was a kid, people of my age with grey or white hair, like mine, generally had nicotine streaks in their hair and nicotine stains on their fingers. Beards and moustaches were invariably yellow around the mouth. 

I no longer smoke and haven't done so for over a decade, but I could have nicotine coloured streaks added to my hair and beard and orange/brown tattoos on my fingers for that authentic, 1960s older person look. The new hipster / pensioner look.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Bijou AirBnB

Overheard when our AirBnB guests departed:

Chairman: "I'm going to have to time you on how long it takes you to do an AirBnB changeover, like the Formula 1 teams, and work on how we can strip the time down to the minimum by eliminating unnecessary operations.

It didn't go down too well.

We're really getting into this AirBnB thing though. Our AirBnB room is proving quite popular, albeit with the Covid situation. I have suggested Hay make up some fliers for the local elderly care homes - most of our guests live well out of the area and come to see parents in the local care homes.

Some of the places available on AirBnB are ridiculous - and even more ridiculously priced because of it. Sheds seem to attract a high premium and, the worse the state, the higher the premium. Quirky names seem to sell well too.

We have an old shed that No.1 Son used when he came to stay with us when we lived in the caravan while building the house. It has electricity (not always a prerequisite) and is insulated with 75mm of polystyrene (sheer decadence for some) - it was attached to the caravan and he lived in it for 3 years. It's now a bit dilapidated and used by my brother-in-law as his drum practice shed. I could evict him and put it on AirBnB as "The Drum Shed". Nice, quirky name.

I'm trying to persuade Hay that we should rent out our motorhome when we're not using it - not as a motorhome, but as a static in our top par park. It can be hooked up to one of the cabins and water is readily available. We could easily get £50 a night for it.

We could even rent out a carboard box on our doorstep for that real, Spartan, homeless experience and make a killing. 

Renters would be provided with a dog and a guitar and kicked out every morning at 7am after being hosed down, only being allowed to return when they've managed to beg the requisite, and very high rental fee for the next night.

Monday, 19 October 2020


Charity is a strange thing. 

On the one hand, you want to see the effects of your charitable donation, which means you feel the need (well, I do) to place it personally with someone, as giving produces its own joy in the giver. It's a reciprocal thing. I get more back in emotion from giving to a homeless person on the street than a faceless charity. I certainly don't expect to gain a place in heaven by my charitable donation, as I don't believe in heaven. For me, at least, it's a form of natural socialism, which I do believe in. In essence, it's empathy, and too many of us lack this attribute.

Should I have joy in giving? Should altruism be free from reciprocity?

On the other hand, giving personally means you become the arbiter of succour and it can become a competition among those deserving your largesse. That is the downside - the number of deserving people you will leave disappointed and still in dire straits.

Giving to a charity removes the personal aspect of giving, as the donation is distributed in a faceless way where you can't interact with the recipient, but it does overcome the responsibility associated with you playing God with your money. There again, the various charities are themselves in competition for your donation, and retain a large chunk for administration purposes, a lot of which goes into advertising, which is essentially a competition for your money.

The saddest thing is that in the modern world and the relatively rich West, domestic charities are needed in the first place. It's an indictment on our culture.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Drink Hacks


Hay: "When it comes time to bury you, I'm going to bury you on your side."

Chairman: "Why would that be?"

Hay: "If I buried you on your back, you'd keep the entire graveyard awake with your snoring."

Chairman: "It won't bother me - I'll be dead."

Hay: "I wouldn't bet on that.!

In September I published a blog post about artificial sweeteners and their adverse effect on the gut microbiome and have since given up on using them, or any artificially sweetened products. 

While putting brown sugar into a full cup of coffee and stirring it is not a problem, it tends to linger at the bottom of a small espresso and having to stir it for a while brings the temperature down very quickly. To overcome this, I've started to use a dash of maple syrup with my morning espressos, which disperses immediately and tastes delicious.

Maple syrup, however, is quite expensive when compared to the sugary coffee condiments you can purchase from supermarkets specifically for this purpose - the Monin syrups. I've looked at the ingredients and there seems to be no monkeyed around chemicals or corn syrups in it, which surprises me.

Another food hack I've developed is mucking about with cloudy apple juice, which I mix with about 5 x the amount of water and keep in a bottle in the fridge as a very effective and inexpensive thirst quencher. 

During the first lockdown, Lidl's Naturis cloudy apple juice wasn't available and so I started using Clawson Press' cloudy apple juice with ginger from Tesco - it was delicious, but hideously expensive at £2.30 a carton, as compared to Lidl's £0.80. To recreate this I simply bought some ginger root from Lidl, peeled it, and cut it into French fry sized chips, which I store in the freezer and add to the Lidl cloudy apple / water mix as needed. One ginger root will last months and I only decant the ginger chips from the bottle when the taste dictates, which might be every 5th or 6th refill of the bottle.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Non Market Marketplace

I'm selling a car on Facebook Marketplace and really get pissed off with people who send a message, enquiring whether the car is still available, and are then never heard of again.

It happens time after time on Marketplace, and I'm at a loss as to explain why people express an interest when they demonstrably have no interest at all. Moronic behaviour.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Benign Neglect

I came across some interesting phrases the other day in respect of parenting; benign neglect and free-range children. The former results in the latter, which are, allegedly, better able to cope with life.

This form of parenting is the antithesis of helicopter parenting and is analogous to the gardener, as opposed to the carpenter. The gardener parent sets the scene, establishes clear boundaries and watches what happens, with some occasional corrective interference, which can result in unexpected fowerings and cross-fertilisations. The carpenter, on the other hand, plans everything to the last millimetre, not allowing room for self-expression, creativity or deviation - in other words, micromanagement.

Essentially, benign neglect is how parenting was conducted when I and my peers were kids. We were sent out in the morning and told not to get into strangers' cars, not to accept sweets from strangers and to be home by a certain time, not forgetting to wear clean underwear in case we were run over and ended up in hospital. Those, and a few other strictures, were the guidelines, which we mainly followed. We were free to make mistakes and have adventures, many of them involving brushes with danger, which gave us either painful lessons or confidence.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

It Was Normal Then

It was claimed that in the 18th century slavery was 'normal'. It was considered normal only by those benefiting from it, who also happened to control the government through their vast wealth derived from slavery. Obviously there were circles where it was not considered normal, else the abolitionist movement would never have existed. 

In a nation of self-professed and devout Christians, anyone who professed the Golden Rule of do unto others, could not, in all conscience, condone slavery and was guilty of hypocrisy on a grand scale - and bishops owned slaves. However, that was the equal to the 2nd paragraph of the United States declaration of Independence, which states that; "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That statement obviously did not apply to black people.

In his judgment of 22 June 1772, Lord Mansfield held; "The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from a decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged. "

It was far from 'normal'.

Had a farm worker or villager of the time, of which there were many more than city dwellers, been asked as to whether slavery was good or bad, I somehow think they would not be on the side of slavery. They were practically slaves to the landed classes themselves. That the proceeds of slavery were used to build schools and hospitals in the UK was better than not is a rather specious justification - it condones El Chapo in the eyes of his cartel; the ends justify the means argument. Had the proceeds been used to recompense the enslaved or build hospitals and schools for them, that would have been infinitely better. However, greed precluded that, as it does in so many human endeavours. 

Once slave owners - which included widows, who had possibly been bequeathed just a single slave and depended on the income that slave generated - had been paid off with vast amounts of cash, the borrowing of which was some 40% of GDP and which only been paid off in 2015, only then could ex slave owners claim the moral high ground, however false that was, and the entire mood of the nation swing toward a more moral and ethical position aligned with its self-professed Christianity.

Given over £20m was paid to slave owners and there were over 40,000 claims, that averages out to £500 per slave, which in today's money is the equivalent of over £40,000. A powerful incentive to abolish slavery but, nonetheless, a prime cause of 19th century inflation.

The Africans who went out and caught the slaves were, to all intents and purposes, free market capitalists who spotted an opportunity to make money off the backs of the misery of others and as such, were no different to their European customers, but they were not the largest beneficiaries in the chain. My, God - they remind me of some politicians of today.

I keep hearing people say; "It wasn't my fault - I and my family had nothing to do with slavery." The all-inclusive 'we' in; "We beat the Germans in two World Wars," when they were not even a glimmer in their parents', grandparents' or great grandparents' eyes during either WWI or WWII, becomes a positive disassociation when slavery is mentioned; it's no longer 'we', but 'them'.

Accusations of rewriting history in respect of highlighting past heroes' links to slavery are logically incorrect and profoundly mistaken - they add to the history and complete it, rather than whitewashing it. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Blame Game

It's reported in the news that some people are having a Covid-spreading last hurrah at cinemas and similar venues before the regional lockdowns, ignoring the entire point of the lockdowns and risking making a bad situation worse and longer lasting.

I remain shocked by the number of people I see walking around without face coverings. I also find it incomprehensible why people claiming to have asthma are exempt. If a face covering distresses you, you should be wheezing, at the very least, without one. 

I have COPD, for God's sake, and I can wear a mask. It seems to be the easiest excuse in the world to fabricate, as no-one is going to challenge you. I personally know someone who will go into a pub and claim he has asthma so he doesn't have to wear a mask, and then goes outside every 10 minutes to have a fag. He no more has asthma than I have beri-beri.

Are we too quick to blame students for the current increase in infections? The government said they had to go back to university, travelling from all corners of the country - not a good decision to start with. They mix in accommodation, pass each other in packed corridors and share kitchens. Is it any wonder universities are hotspots? 

Yes, you hear the odd story of parties, but a single party is perfect fodder for the tabloids, which are renowned for blowing things out of all proportion. The £10k fine for each of 3 students who held a party will put paid to that - as well as their degree chances. If one of my kids got fined for holding an illegal party, I certainly would not be footing the bill for them. Many students are more sensible than a lot of older people I'm acquainted with - witness the smoking, alleged asthmatic above.

Meanwhile, pubs in Liverpool are shut down, but not if they also happen to sell food. Now, if you're closing pubs, it must be because there's a link to infection - else why close them? To exempt pubs that sell food doesn't make any logical sense - both use tables. That's Wetherspoon's safe then - and the north screwed.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

The Price of Animals in Shorts

I can adopt a rhino, a gorilla and a snow leopard for under a tenner a month, but if I want a pedigree dog it will cost me the best part of a grand. Where's the logic in that?

OK, I don't really have the room in the garden for a rhino and I guess a leopard would need something in the way of a very expensive cage to protect the cows and sheep in the area. I don't need a gorilla - I come across many of them daily on Facebook Leave pages.

Talking of animals, I think Hay would like another cat. OK, we have 4 currently, but one is feral and only comes here for food and two belong to the neighbours, but seem to prefer being in our house, much to Kitty's annoyance. I wouldn't mind a Maine Coon and would call it Stanton or Muesli.

Hay put me into long trousers yesterday before packing me off to work. I was hoping I didn't spot Stu, our postie, as he'd probably call me a wuss. Stu wears shorts all year round.

Monday, 12 October 2020

The Continentals

Our MD decided to take a punt on a 2004 Bentley Continental with a 6 litre engine. The 4 litre is more popular, but I call this the Eco model - with 6 litres to satisfy, you're unlikely to drive it more than once or twice a year, so you'll save enormously on fuel. The rest of the time you'll be saving up for the next outing.

In keeping with large, luxury cars with big engines, they are starting to approach their price nadir, precisely because they're not that rare yet and they cost a bloody fortune to keep in fettle. Can't see anyone clamouring to buy this beast- it's the least popular version. One day, though, if it's kept at low miles and regularly serviced, it will become expensive again, although it's a mass produced Bentley under the VW brand and not coach-built.

There's no denying it's a nice looking car that was well ahead of its time in 2004, but I wouldn't like to own one today. Parts are phenomenally expensive, so It's not like the 1996 Mercedes SL 500 that I own and is almost comparable in performance (it ain't as heavy, for a start). 

My SL has doubled in price since I bought it for £5.5k, but I ain't selling it (unless something older in the SL marque comes up at a good price). The Continental is still falling in price, so best bought for laying down.

I still haven't cured the SL's misfire. All the diagnostics point to a faulty mass airflow sensor, but I've bought 3 x 2nd hand ones so far and it hasn't sorted the issue. It is possible I've purchased 3 faulty ones in a row, but highly unlikely. I've replaced both the inlet and exhaust manifold gaskets, but it continues to exhibit an air leak symptom. I'm in no rush to resolve it, as it's keeping the mileage below 100k while it increases in price.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

2nd Thoughts

The Fiamma UltraBox is back on the market - it's simply too big and too impractical for what it is. The fact it opens diagonally means its carrying capacity is half of the dimensions. It also prevents the kitchen window from opening more than a crack and obscures the rear view mirror.

I had another scour around on t'internet and found this:

The perfect size and only £118. However, Hay had a look too and found this:

£16 from Argos and, given she had some Argos vouchers, it was actually free. Not as stylish as the aluminium job, but equally effective and a fraction of the cost. Fits well on the bike rack, but has to be strapped on, rather than clamped, and can easily be put in the van should we decide to take the bikes with us anywhere. You can even padlock two corners - and it has wheels.

I still like the aluminium one better but, for the price difference, my natural stinginess has superseded my design sense. We can always go for the ally one later, if the black plastic jobbie doesn't come up to scratch. The black one does have alternative uses around the house and so won't be wasted.

So, if anyone is in the market for a Fiamma UltraBox 500, let me know.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

UltraVox RS

Overheard in the living room while watching TV:

Points West Sports Commentator: "And we're looking forward to the women's domestic events..."

Chairman: "Women's domestic events? Do they take place in kitchens?"

Hay: (Glower.....)

Bought a 2nd hand Fiamma UntraBox on Facebook Market yesterday for the van. The damned things are £550 new, but I got a perfect one for £300 in Frome. Still bloody expensive for what it is, but having one made from aluminium would be around the same price and heavier, so I though; "Go for it!"

Perfect for folding chairs, the firepit, wood for the firepit, walking boots, chocks, slip mats, tools, etc. At least it means we're not having to dig into the depths of cupboards and under seats for outdoor stuff that's very possibly dirty.

Yesterday I had occasion to drive a 2009 Ford Focus RS that we bought at work. What a surprise! 2.5L turbo engine, 300 BHP, 163 MPH top speed, 0-60 in 5.7 secs. I managed to get wheelspin in 3rd purely by accident as I wasn't expecting the torque - a veritable beast, but the disappointing thing is that inside it still looks like a standard Ford Focus. OK, it has Recaro seats, but every boy racer puts them in his dilapidate Ford Fiesta.

I didn't realise Ford did cars like this. A bit prone to rot under the wheel arches though, according to the body shop we use for paint. Told them to do the wheels black with red brake callipers - that should improve the looks slightly. An MoT and service and it will be ready to retail.

Friday, 9 October 2020

Hands, Face, Space

We're are all used to the Conservatives' 3 word slogans; Get-Breakfast-Done, Brexit-Means-Breakfast, Oven-Ready-Deal, Take-Back-Control (of Breakfast). There are also the Covid slogans, which weren't 3 words, but 3 phrases; Stay Alert, Control the virus, Save lives. A bit more wordy, but they made sense, although they aren't having much effect at present with the dramatic rise in infections.

The new slogan of Hands-Face-Space is, however, simply a jumble of words. What with Boris' promise of the UK being driven by wind power (given his rhetoric, it's already led by wind power), I believe it's actually a code for where the next wind farm is to be located.

Put Hand, Face, Space into What 3 Words and you come up with a location in the sea, just off Little Orme in North Wales. Get your wallets out and invest in a patch of sea...

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Causing Offence

Seen this meme?

Those good old days were when if you voiced your opinion, be it good, heinous or indifferent, it was to a limited audience down at the pub, where you were in all likelihood surrounded by your mates. There was a chance you would offend someone, but it was relatively small due to it being limited to people like you. Social media has vastly expanded your audience and exponentially increased your chances of causing offence.

Perhaps social media is responsible for polarising opinion so much, precisely due to expanded audiences. Even combatting bonkers draws attention to bonkers, thus spreading it to those among your acquaintances who have a predilection for believing bonkers. 

That said, the news media is just as bad. Nothing sells newspapers better than a disaster story or opinion masked as news. Factual reporting is a thing of the past, but even when just facts are reported, the ability for people to comment on-line admits unfounded and ill-informed opinion, lacking any evidence whatsoever, that just sours the debate and ends up as a slanging match between opposing factions.

Time was when outrageous and patently false statements were put through the sanity filter of the press and rarely saw the light of day, but that was in the days when the press had a code of ethics and no hidden agenda. It was also before 'balanced reporting', which gives bonkers the same legitimacy as fact. 

Social media has acted as an amplifier and the more outrageous the statement, the wider the audience, as nothing gains traction better than something outrageous, as that hideous woman, Katie Hopkins, has proven. She makes her living from being controversial and obnoxious, but in very cynical and contrived manner.

The ill-informed latch on to these statements and what were the idiotic ravings of the London taxi driver, the lunatic pronouncements of the grumpy old blokes down Dog and Duck or the delusions of the crowd at the local Wetherpoons, infects Glasgow and Birmingham taxi drivers, the grumpy old men at pubs up and down the country and the breakfast beer morons in every Wetherpoons in every town. It becomes an infection - a veritable pandemic of idiocy spread by social media.

In the world of politics, the failure to admit to mistakes is all pervasive and I find that particularly offensive; disasters are spun as wonderful victories, in the face of all evidence to the contrary - it insults the intelligence of the electorate. This, more than anything, is causing a loss of confidence in politicians across the spectrum, but the lack of humility seems more concentrated on the far right and far left. Within democracies, it's the far right that is the arch proponent of mind-blowing spin that beggars all belief, except for the belief of the bonkers tendency.

I watched Boris' party political broadcast last night, which was full of empty promises. After having contracted Covid he promised to lose weight - if anything, he's gotten a bit more rotund and certainly hasn't made good on his promise. There again, he's not exactly renowned for delivering on promises.

Have you noticed that his thatch has grown more unruly in the last couple of months? The epithet Worzel Gummidge used to be levelled at Corbyn; it's now more apt for Boris.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

The Death of Mao

Overheard on What's App:

Chairman: "What do you want from the Chinese?

No.2 Son: "Sweet and sour chicken, egg fried rice, a portion of prawn crackers and for them to stop persecuting the Uighurs."

I'm currently reading The Private Life of Chairman Mao, by his personal physician, Zhisui Li.

Dr. Li looked after the health of Mao for over 22 years, right up to his death, and had unique insights into his private life, which was quite dissolute. 

Li, whose background was middle class and was an American-trained doctor who returned to China after the revolution, had access to Mao and the highest echelons of the Chinese Politburo, but it was a poisoned chalice.

Can you imagine the fear Li felt when Mao died and there was a need for a scapegoat during the internal power struggles for succession? The man must have been paralysed with panic in case he was blamed for having done something wrong.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Crystal Clear Doctors

The new pond / pool has stabilised and we can now see right to the bottom, even at the 6 foot end.

The amount of life in it is phenomenal. I'm buggered if I know how much of it actually gets in there in the first place. Waterboatmen, for example, live their entire lifecycle in water, so how did they get in? There's a plethora of dragonfly larvae there too. Now Hay can get on with filling it to the top with rainwater, although the weather seems to be doing a good job of that by itself.

Called my surgery yesterday because I'm a bit concerned about this numbness in my upper thigh. However, I was told to phone back later, as their system was down. Phoning back later was pointless, as everyone else was also phoning back. They don't seem to be able to do anything without their bloody system; what happened before they had systems? I remember those days - I'd leave my number and the doctor would phone me back for a telephone consultation, which is exactly what happens now, but my number and symptoms have to be logged on 'the system' in order for the process to work. A slip of paper is no longer suitable.

Monday, 5 October 2020

Business Disruption at Christmas

I heard something a couple of days ago that's concerning for businesses, yet obvious - when you think about it.

Insurance is predicated on two basic principles:

  1. The rarity of the event being insured against, and
  2. The event happening to only a small percentage of those insured.
Most think it's simply insurance against a rare event, but the number of people affected by that event at the same time means the insurance contract is null and void. That's why Acts of God are excluded, because they tend to affect everyone.

Assume 10 people are insured against an event. Should one of the insured suffer that event, then the premiums from the other 9 people pay out to the 10th person suffering from the event. It's basically a mutual pact.

Now transpose that to a national lockdown - it affects virtually everyone, which only a few exceptions and certainly not enough to cover the payout for the rest. I don't envy anyone trying to take out insurance against business disruption through a pandemic.

Talking of disruption, it seems there's a spree of Christmas pudding panic buying. Hay's dad has been stockpiling them for years - we all overestimate the amount of Christmas pud we can consume at Christmas, and he is one of the biggest overestimators, resulting in some vintage puds that were layed down years ago. He could make a fortune selling them.

I think a lot of people are looking forward with glee to a Christmas where they can spend the entire period at home and not have to face the annual pilgimage to the homes of in-laws they detest for the inevitable family argument...

Sunday, 4 October 2020

On the Level

Got a cheap, new toy for the van.

A circular spirit level for the dashboard costing only a couple of quid.

When parking up the van on deployment, we invariably end up in an undulating field, requiring us to use the wheel chocks to level the van out. It's basically a 2 person job - one stood outside looking at the angle of dangle from both elevations and the other manoeuvring the van on the chocks, as you can't gauge both longitudinal and athwartships levels from the driving seat accurately. Using a dashboard spirit level allows the driver to effect the full operation solo while in the driving seat.

The van had a new cambelt and water pump this week. The interval is 10 years or 50k miles, whichever comes first. As there was no record of it having been done previously and it's almost 20 years old, yet has only done 38k miles, I thought it wise to spend the £300. The old belt showed very little sign of wear, so it could have been done in the past, but there was no record of it, so better safe than sorry. The water pump was on its last legs though.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Moving With the Times

Some sitcom favourites could do with an update. The makers could, for example, make the following follow-ups:

  • The Bishop of Dibley.
  • The Old Ones.
  • Only Fools and Mobility Scooters.
  • Grandad's Army.
  • Old Men Behaving Badly.
  • Both Feet in the Grave.
  • League of Old Gentlemen.
  • Fawlty Care Home

Any other suggestions out there?

Friday, 2 October 2020

Sensational Fire Pit

I tallied two people in Lidl yesterday without masks - a father in his lagte 20s and an old bloke. The father was challenged at the till and left with a scarf over his mug; not sure what happened to the old bloke. I suppose he could be exempt, but I only saw him enter as I was about to leave.

The strangest thing happened to me yesterday - I lost all touch sensation on the skin on my right, upper thigh. Apparently it's called meralgia paresthetica and is caused by a compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, which supplies sensation to the upper leg. While I can't feel touch, I can feel heat and cold. Hopefully it won't last too long, although it can become chronic.

I'd obviously trapped the nerve while hunched over a particularly filthy car during the process of cleaning its interior, as evidenced by a bad back. It's curious, but of all the cars I've valeted in the last 14 weeks, the worst are those owned by women. Filthy creatures. Pet hairs, children's detritus, dust and gravel by the bucket load, what looks like sick on the carpets - hideous.

Our new fire pit cum BBQ arrived yesterday:

It's extremely swish - just hope it works as it should. It will get its first showing the next time we go away in the van - which might be a while. Might cause some fire pit envy among fellow campers...

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Sanitised Debate

Hay went to our local greengrocer's yesterday and the lady who served her was angry and fuming. An elderly customer had come into the shop and refused to use the hand sanitiser. On being asked to use it, he responded with; "No-one tells me what do put on my body."

Hay said she would have frog marched the old bugger straight out of the shop and old him to go to hell.  It's not just partying students who are a threat.

The Presidential Debate - what a farce. In an attempt to shut Trump's loud mouth, the rest of the debates will be subject to microphone cut-off should any of the candidates (which means Jabba the Trump) attempt to interrupt.

While Trump's team has complained, the BBC reports that Kate Bedingfield, deputy manager for Mr Biden's campaign, said the former vice-president would participate "under whatever set of rules the commission develops to try to contain Donald Trump's behaviour". Actually, that's incorrect, as she said it in American - what she actually said was that Biden would participate "under whatever set of rules the commission develops to try to contain Donald Trump's behavior".