Monday, 30 November 2020

Black Friday Deal

Much as I detest the hoo-ha around Black Friday, I actually managed to get a deal.

On Saturday, which was not Black Friday, I took the motorhome for an MOT. It passed, but with advisories on the tyres which, on the front were from 2012 and on the back from 2006. Obviously rather old and, despite them not being in too bad a state, would have led to them failing the next MoT due to their age.

Hay and I had already discussed getting some new tyres, as the old ones weren't very good on soft ground at campsites and we'd been caught out a couple of times when parked on wet grass. Looking at discussions on various caravan and motorhome sites, it was apparent that it's worth investing in some motorhome-specific tyres, as they have a higher load capacity than standard van tyres, better tread for getting off wet grass and give improved fuel consumption.

Had a look on the KwikFit website and, low and behold, there was a 15% Black Friday discount. I was rather suspicious but, on investigating alternative prices on t'internet and finding nothing cheaper, I availed myself of it and paid £436 for 4 x Michelin Agilis Camper tyres - fitted - and they come recommended by the cognoscenti of the motorhome world. Booked it in at KwikFit just up the road, where I know all the staff, so they'll be doing the job on Wednesday. 

The other advisory was discolouration of the front indicators, but about £40 spent on eBay will sort that out. No mention, however, of last year's advisories of a couple of wheel bearings, which was rather strange.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Happy Cronamas

The annual Christmas card mass mailout will have to start soon, only this year, given most people lick the envelope seal, any that are received will have to go into quarantine for a week before opening. 

Crimbo cards have the potential to be a most efficient means of sending the virus speeding around the country to all manner of remote destinations, especially as they're the only letters many send in the entire year. There's no certainty about how long C-19 can survive on card or paper, but it can be as long as 5 days to 10 days.

Here's a summary from a paper in 1965, well before C-19.

"The possible risks of infection associated with the practice of licking envelopes, stamps and labels were investigated. Although pathogenic bacteria and viruses were not isolated from sample envelopes obtained from various sources, the gums used in manufacture were found to exert a protective effect against death from desiccation on the bacteria and viruses which had been introduced into them. Staph. aureu, and Salm. paratyphi B remained viable for several months in dried films of two out of four gums tested. An echovirus could be recovered from similar films for up to 30 days, and an adenovirus for up to 10 days."

It'll be interesting to see if there's a spike in infections just before Christmas, and whether hitherto uninfected areas mysteriously occasion infections. Merely washing your hands after putting the cards on the mantlepiece will partially ameliorate any infection, but other family members are wont, when coming into the house later, to have a look at the cards to see who they're from and washing one's hands while in the safety of the home may not be in the forefront of people's minds.

Here's an interesting chart from an American analysis of the types of people who are most and least compliant with social distancing, wearing masks and generally doing what they're told to minimise the spread of the virus.

As can be seen, those who value caring and fairness are the most compliant, while those who value loyalty and authority are less so. Starkly, those who value sanctity, or religiosity, are least compliant. Now, in America, religiosity is somewhat different to that prevalent in the UK - the American Religious Right are very judgemental, authoritarian and Trumpist, whereas British religious people tend, on the whole, to be more the caring and fair variety - or wishy-washy Anglican, for want of a better word, rather than evangelical and certain.

The chart, for me at least, is a replica of the American political landscape and, to a certain extent, the British one too. Anti-lockdowners tend very much, but not exclusively, to be of the political right (and certainly among those most complaining about it in Parliament and threatening a revolt against Johnson), which may at first seems strange when you consider their unwavering respect for authority, but in this case it's in all likelihood heavily tempered, among the political class at least, by concerns for commercial interests and the hemorrhaging of government money, with the consequent tax implications for both their donors and voters. Those on the Left are less concerned about government borrowing, being either poorly paid in the first place (and thus partially immune from tax increases), or ideologically programmed to willing pay more tax anyway.

The irony is that the more people flout lockdown, the longer the pandemic will last and the greater the economic fallout will be. It's a stark reality that those countries that imposed an early and severe lockdown have been the ones who were able to resume normal life earlier.

As for anti-vaxxers and those refusing the vaccine - put them under house arrest.

Saturday, 28 November 2020


Overheard while planning a trip after lockdown:

Chairman: "What's the fastest route to Dorchester?"

Hay: "Driving or walking?"

Chairman: "Driving."

Hay: "Yes, I agree that'll be fastest."

This experiment with unfollowing Facebook news sites is becoming a bit boring - I'm seeing the same posts over and over again and an increased percentage of totally irrelevant adverts.

Wouldn't it be great if you could add a self-destruct timer to your posts, especially the more topical ones based on news reports that will become stale in a short time. Your friend Jimmy's latest restaurant meal should have a self-destruct timer on it too. Perhaps the application could automatically delete any from your view that were posted prior to a pre-set limit that you can set - say anything older than 24 hours doesn't show. For all I know, this might actually be an option in the settings.

Talking of Apps, I've noticed of late that SoundHound app no longer seems capable of recognising music tracks. I installed Apple's Shazam yesterday, which works on Android phones. It never fails and is much quicker than SoundHound used to be before it stopped working altogether. 

Yesterday Hay decided to go through my wardrobe in order to chuck out anything she no longer liked, or didn't fit me anymore. She was surprised to discover that, with the exception of coats, I have only one item of clothing that I bought new. That was my Game of Thrones winter jumper that I only wear at Christmas. Everything else was bought at charity shops. Having watched the 3 part series on The Great Plague over the weekend, perhaps I should curtail my visits to charity shops - apparently 2nd hand clothes were a prime vector in the spread of plague. Mind you, body lice are not as prevalent these days.

Friday, 27 November 2020


I was thinking about permanence the other day. Most people think their kids are their legacy to the world, but in terms of one's own, personal legacy, most of us are irrelevant, unless we go down in the annals of history for some famous, or infamous deed, or built something important and permanent.

Even your kids aren't the legacy many think they are - who can even name their great grandparents, never mind about great-great-grandparents? A family name too can easily die out by having only female progeny. Family names that remain are only the result of an unbroken male line since family names started, so there must be hundreds of thousands of family names that have disappeared from the record. More so now we're all having fewer children due to improved mortality.

Gravestones are a lasting legacy, but they only exist for a couple of hundred years before becoming illegible, and the penchant these days is for cremation, rather than burial.

My lasting legacy is this house we built which, given its position, should be here for 3 or 4 hundred years - possibly more. I should arrange a plaque, preferably an inscription on one of the oak beams, giving some basic information on date of construction and the names of those responsible.

There again, given the fact it has a considerable plot of land attached to it, someone may buy it in years to come, demolish it and build a small housing estate on it.


Thursday, 26 November 2020


A massive defence budget increase. Dodgy PPE contracts costing billions. £29m on a Brexit Festival (the equivalent of 12m free school meals). Brexit itself. But we're cutting the Foreign Aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP to help pay for the Covid pandemic, you might say - that's a meagre £4bn saving; 3 times what fishing contributes to the national income. Meanwhile Boris surrounds himself with Groupthink, Brexit loyalists who, by definition, are incompetent ('yes men' generally have no brains, but huge, personal ambitions). 

Proud and nostalgic nations that are losing their grip on world markets tend to start wars. If they have a leader facing multiple domestic crises, that leader will be even more likely to use the diversion of war (Thatcher) or, in the absence of a defined military enemy, military build-up to regain popularity through the illusion of regained power. 

Whether Boris believes what he says, no one, including I suspect Boris himself, can be sure. It’s difficult to decide which is the more grievous - whether he truly believes what he says, or whether he lives with his own mendacity without a blush. He has crossed the Rubicon, from old-school, Burkean Tory to militant, Jacobin populist who claims to speak for the people, but is not of the people, being firmly ensconced within the ranks of the wealthy, Old Etonian, bourgeoisie cadres who are on the make, utilising the very people they professes to represent as their milch cows. 

"Populism”, in the British context, usually means either waving the flag, bashing criminals, laying into immigrants or invoking the mythical Churchill (not the real one) - preferably all four. These are the easiest, proven ways for a politician to identify with “the people of this country,” and point to an enemy - and of course they are all hobbyhorses of the Right. The problem is they repeatedly fail to deliver on two of the above, as they require public funding to make them happen and, as we all know, the Right wants to keep taxes down for their friends and donors. One thing is certain however - Boris is incapable of delivering bad news, in whatever form - he simply wants to be loved, which is a very un-Churchillian trait. 

Boris is enormously fond of the mythical Churchill - the one comprising a false image of a plucky Britain facing Jerry alone, while simultaneously being in command of the wealth and manpower of an Empire comprising 23% of the world's population. Its conveniently forgotten within the myth that, while Britain lost under half a million in WWII, Russia lost 16 million. The Churchill of myth is, however, like King Arthur, potent in the mind of a decaying Britain desperate to regain international standing while being laughed off the stage by the rest of the world.

One day, in the light of reality over Brexit, we will say (like when we look back at the undoubted evils of Empire, colonialism and slavery, that the 10 Commandments showed Britons at the time were morally wrong, but nonetheless financially expedient); "What do we know now that we didn't know then?" to which the answer will be; "Nothing." We will have colluded in fooling ourselves in the myth of British, or, rather, English, exceptionalism.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Climate Change

Overheard while watching an advert for Simply Cremations on PBS America, which seems to have mistakenly profiled us as old people with an interest in adverts for funerals, cruises, expensive, rip-off gold coins for our children and over 50s insurance plans:

Announcer: "Simply Cremations are experts."

Hay: "What does a non-expert cremation involve?"

Chairman: "Bonfire in the back yard, I expect."

I've thought of a way of explaining Climate Change that's easily understandable for those who don't understand - although their lack of understanding is more with a wilful refusal to understand and a denial of evidence, an affliction that's increasingly affecting large swathes of the population.

It first has to be taken as read that CO2 is building up, but it doesn't take a leap of faith to realise that fossil fuels, that have taken millions of years to lay down by capturing carbon from the atmosphere, being burned within the space of 300 years, is bound to result in a spike in atmospheric CO2. It's an undeniable, scientific fact. Refuse to acknowledge that and you're a no-hoper denialist.

Another thing that has to be accepted is that any particle larger than the wavelength of infrared light will heat up under sunlight - but that's not a belief, it's just physics. Carbon dioxide strongly absorbs energy with a wavelength of 15 μm (micrometers), which happens to be in the infrared part of the spectrum (780 nanometers to 1mm).

Now, if CO2 in the atmosphere heats up under sunlight, it has the effect of increasing the total surface area that's heated - a bit like expanding the radius of the earth, but without it actually expanding. The greater the area, the higher the absorption of sunlight and the greater the heat generated. A simple analogy is the solar panel - the greater the surface area, the greater the power generated.

It also reradiates that energy in all directions, including down, and therefore forms an insulating blanket - hence the greenhouse analogy.

Nah, they won't understand that, it's too complicated for them.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

They Walk Among Us

Had an argument with a woman in Morrison's yesterday. I was queueing to collect a parcel (anther experiment with IKEA's delivery system, this time for a product that wasn't available in the Bristol store) and she insisted on standing a couple of feet behind me, maskless. On asking her to move a bit further away, in line with the marks on the floor, if not further, she said; "Oh, it's OK, I don't have to wear a mask as I have asthma, so I don't have to social distance."

Needless to say, I told her that without a mask, the purpose of which is to protect other people, she should be standing about 3 metres from me, not 2 feet. She took umbrage and flounced off.

They walk among us. With people like this on the loose, what hope is there? Somehow, we need to convince these people that on approaching within a couple of metres of an infected person, they risk turning themselves into zombies. They're probably stupid enough to believe it, but it would have the desire effect.

Till the weekend we could count on zero fingers the number of people we know to have contracted Covid, but the number is increasing day by day and the tally is now about 6, although not all from our area.

Similarly on the subject of them walking among us; Boris announces a cut in foreign aid and public expenditure to help pay for Covid, but spaffs billions on dodgy contracts and announces a a massive splurge on defence spending. The latter you can ignore - politicians' promises of money in the future are worthless. It's merely a reworking of the war ploy used by governments under pressure at home - in the absence of an enemy to fight, a military build-up is the next best thing, just in case.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Dirty Shooters

Yesterday we went for a walk from Wotton-Under-Edge to Newark Park and back. On the return journey we discovered a site where some shooting had taken place.

As you can see from the photo below, there were dozens of shotgun cartridges left lying around. These were next to a large pond, so they must have been after waterfowl. 

There were also a couple of what looked like deer stomachs - they were full of chewed up grass. Now you don't shoot deer with a shotgun, so someone was using a high powered hunting rifle.

I'm not sure who the land belongs to, but it's right next to the Newark Park National Trust site. I can't believe for one minute that it's part of the Newark Park Estate, but can't be certain. I don't believe the NT allow shooting on their properties.

Leaving plastic shotgun cartridges lying around is not really on, and I didn't shooting was allowed right next to a public footpath.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Click and Forget

Overheard while watching The Crown:

Chairman: "I note Michael Fagan was alleged to have entered the Queen's bedroom, not the Queen and Prince Philip's bedroom. Even if your snoring drove me to distraction, I wouldn't sleep in a separate bedroom to you."

Hay: "I would."

Had a go at IKEA's click and collect service yesterday. Not an experience I wish to repeat in a hurry.

I'd bought some big, church candles on-line and opted to click and collect them from the Bristol store. The process was to phone a specific number and, through a tortuous procedure, you eventually enter your order number and mobile phone number. You then sit in your car in the carpark and wait for a text to tell you to proceed, in your car, to a specific bay in the collection area, where your consignment is waiting for you.

Well, I did as instructed and waited, and waited, and waited. After an hour and a half of seeing cars going into the collection area I had a wander around the carpark, but noticed that the vast majority of the cars there were empty and must have belonged to staff, although the 2 cars next to me had people in them who were waiting too.

I decided to walk to the collection area and enquired about my order. I was given profuse apologies and presented with my order in a trolley within a couple of minutes.

The system works well if it works as planned, but not if there's a hiccup somewhere in the chain of events, as there was in my case and that of the two chaps parked next to me.

No big problem, but I would have preferred not to sit for an hour and a half waiting for the non-materialising text.

Saturday, 21 November 2020

In the Name of God, Go!

Overheard while watching TV:

Hay: "Is Johnny Cash dead?

Chairman: "Yes, he died years ago. His last record was his last one."

On the basis of a report, the private advisor to the PM on the Ministerial Code, Sir Alex Allan, determines Priti Patel was guilty of breaching the code; Boris Johnson determines she wasn't; Sir Alex resigns in protest. Priti Patel maintains she was not aware of the accusations of bullying; former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam, contradicts this and maintains he spoke to Patel several times about moderating her behaviour. Boris Johnson is accused of applying pressure to Sir Alex Allan to water down the report; Johnson refuses to publish the report. No minister who has been found guilty of breaking the Ministerial Code has, until now, managed to remain in position. John Bercow too was subject to allegations of bullying, but there's no report with evidence; Bercow was denied a place in the Lords by Boris Johnson. 

There are several administrations the following quote could be directed toward at this moment, not least that of Boris Johnson. 

"It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money. 

"Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes? 

"Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? 

"Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone! 

"So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!” 

 Oliver Cromwell – April 20, 1653

Friday, 20 November 2020

British Architecture

Have you noticed that there doesn't appear to be a British idiom anymore in domestic architecture? Travel to the Netherlands, Germany, France and a host of other countries and you know immediately where you are by the style of the new buildings, but not in the UK. The last time we had a national idiom was in the inter-war period with the iconic suburban semi. Modern housing in the UK, however, is faceless - or is that very facelessness the British style?

Sure you get some domestic architecture that harks back to a bygone era, such as the mock Tudor or Bradstone Cotswold, but it's an attempt to recapture something that's been lost, and usually very badly. 

With public or corporate buildings, there's no national idiom anywhere - an office building in London is indistinguishable from any other office, anywhere in the world. Modern public architecture is truly international and free from the prison of national idiom. There again, even the Victorian Gothic public building was a fake recreation of an imagined medieval past and the neo-classicism of the Georgian Palladian period harked back to ancient Greece and Rome.

You'd think in this time of Brexit and rampant nationalism, someone, somewhere would create a truly British style of architecture. Perhaps we already have it and we just don't notice - cramming as many people into as small a space as possible. In the public sphere is could be something redolent of Albert Speer's Nuremburg...

There has been a recent penchant for going 3 storey's high with housing estates? More bang per square metre of ground space. This is usually accompanied by a postage stamp garden to the rear and no garden to speak of at the front, but is it uniquely British?

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Schools & Covid

Schools, we are told, are more safe than other public places; however, take the following example. 

A kid in school shows symptoms of Covid. He's immediately sent home; however, he may have infected tens of other kids, who are asymptomatic (kids are more likely to be asymptomatic than adults). 

The year bubble is sent home to self-isolate. Statistically, there was one case in the school; however, the asymptomatic year bubble at home may have infected many parents, who then toddle off to work before showing any symptoms themselves. 

Any later work-related outbreak will be attributed to the workplace, not the school where it originated - although the word 'originated' is misleading, as it must have come from elsewhere. 

Because schools are more attuned to symptoms, they are able to curtail a spread through the school, but not outbreaks originating from the school. 

Many of the infected parents will be self-employed and will be less willing or financially able to self-isolate if they develop symptoms. If all the kids, even the first one, are asymptomatic, the school won't register even one kid, despite the surrounding area potentially being riddled with symptomatic parents and the town being put into lockdown. 

The more we tinker with letting schools and certain, non-critical businesses remain open, the longer we're all going to have to remain locked down. In the absence of a vaccine and given the transmission of Covid is human to human, a near-total lockdown for a short period is the most effective and least painful way to control the R number and get it down to a manageable level for the NHS to handle and minimise the impact on business.

For any future epidemic, and history has told us there will be another, plans need to be put in place. With hindsight - a ringfenced, government support package war chest; bolstering of NHS staff and beds; businesses being encouraged, or even forced, to put money aside so they can sustain a lockdown of 4 months as a cost of business; remote education of pupils with every student who can't afford a laptop being given one; free, basic broadband for all who want it (remember that election pledge?).

Anyone care to shoot down the logic or assumptions made?

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Weight of Evidence vs Weight of Media Coverage

Continuing yesterday's theme.

Your elderly parent is in a care home. If Covid gets into the care home, there's a damned good chance, on the basis of past experience, your elderly parent will get it and die a horrible death.

The media highlight cases where children of elderly parents are complaining about not being able to see their parents. Given the objective of elderly people being in care homes is to preserve their lives, how would you feel if there was an outbreak, caused by the relative of another resident demanding to see their parent, and your parent died as a result?

The media focuses on generating column inches to sell papers. Good news doesn't sell papers, which is why the media is always full of bad news or focuses on irrelevancies - such as Nigel Farage. Farage's comments are irrelevant in terms of his political influence, but the media hangs on his every utterance. 

Anti-vaxxers, lockdown protesters, conspiracy theorists and those who complain about not seeing their relatives in care homes are a small minority, but their influence is blown out of all proportion by the media looking for a story. A few cases where relatives of care home residents are genuinely upset is extrapolated to become a generality - it's human nature. What I'd like to see is a poll among care home residents' relatives before jumping to an unwarranted conclusion on the basis of a media interview with one or two examples where the relevant media outlet is looking to manufacture a story. Vivid examples are usually the exception, not the rule, precisely because they're vivid and rare - the rule is not newsworthy.

My experience of a care home, with my mother, was that she much preferred to chat to the other residents, with whom she had a common reference of shared experiences during the war, than talking to the likes of my brother or I, who she could no longer recognise anyway. She inhabited a world that was limited exclusively to between 1930 and 1960. However, I can't generalise from my own, individual experience of one care home.

If you care so much about seeing your elderly parent, why is he or she in a care home and not being looked after in your home, where you can see them every day? I can understand some people simply can't, due to the level of care required; however, the ones I see complaining on TV appear staunchly middle class and look reasonably well off. I get a whiff of the 'I know my rights' argument - or am I generalising?

What I do detest is the process of transferring mum's house to the children, so as to say she had no assets, and then getting the state (i.e. you and me) to pay the cost of residential care. That's basically benefit fraud. From experience, it can cost upward of £3k a month to keep a parent in a residential home, which is a great incentive to have your mum or dad living at home, unless of course, you've transferred mum's house into your name, when the poor old taxpayer foots the bill and you get to keep the inheritance, which many see as their right - which is wrong.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020


Anti-lockdown protests, anti-vaxxers, science deniers, a general skepticism about everything - who, or what, is to blame? Basically it's a problem created by populist governments and their lies, a complicit media and a lazy electorate.

Buddha said; "Believe nothing, O monks, merely because you have been told it ... or because it is traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings -- that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide." The key phrase is 'after due examination and analysis'.

Skepticism is healthy, providing you know how to access factual information but, sadly, most don't know how to do that. They're content to sit within the information silos created by the newspapers they read. The faculty of critical thinking has been lost, although some would argue, and I would agree, that large sections of the population never had it in the first place.

The fact populist governments pump out so much false information means it's hardly surprising no-one believes a word they say anymore - and that's a big problem when they have to steer the country through a crisis. It comes back to bite them on the bum.

Restoring trust in evidence can only be achieved once governments stop lying. OK, all politicians lie, but the sheer scale of political lying has escalated to a dangerous level and has become an art form since Blair created 'Spin'. Government has now become a euphemism for legalised theft.

How do we stop politicians lying? By the electorate becoming more skeptical about the information politicians provide. See the problem here? It's an intractable problem with the classic chicken and egg conundrum. 

It's down to the electorate itself not becoming isolated in information bubbles and being educated in critical thinking. Heavy regulation of the media wouldn't go amiss, but that's not in the interests of the political class. Once politicians suffer the consequences of lying, as in the case of Trump, the lying will hopefully cease.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Killer Sermons

Saw an item on our local news last night about the Church making a legal challenge against lockdown for Sunday services.

Is a journey to a church to worship strictly a necessary journey? Also, most churchgoers are in the at-risk group, generally being of the older variety.

For many, the Church is a support lifeline but, from the aspect of worship, it's not necessary to be in a church to pray - why not take yourself to a woodland glade and contemplate your deity while immersed in the wonders of nature? 

Then there's the fact that the Church challenging entirely sensible legislation to protect lives by not overwhelming the NHS may open the floodgates to litigation for all manner of businesses that shouldn't be open. Is that moral and ethical?

On the pro side, it's not as if churches are milling with people every day of the week - most are only open one or two days, and then only for short times, which is enough time for pathogens on surfaces to die.

How about limiting attendance at church to those who need it for support - but how the hell do you police that? Many gym goers say they need their gyms for exactly the same reason, but I think that argument is rather specious from gym owners - open a church to those in need of the mental support and you have to open gyms for the same reason, at least according to some. 

Click and collect sermons could the the solution, perhaps?

Analyse and discuss.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Facebook News Feeds

Yesterday I decided to stop following news media pages on Facebook and I immediately felt much calmer; however, I still get news items that friends may comment on within their feeds - and adverts for expensive crap you can get for half the price on Amazon. Mostly, I'm now seeing what friends post, which is how Facebook started and what it was designed as - a social network. 

I already use Flipboard for my news aggregation - which, incidentally, manages to overcome most of the paywalls - and listen to Today on Radio 4 for several hours each morning, so it's pointless seeing the same stories on Facebook, along with all the inane and stupid comments. 

For about 5 minutes, just for a laugh, I decided to follow the Facebook page of the Daily Express, which I've never followed before, but lost the will to live at the sheer idiocy of the comments. I wonder how some of them manage to walk and breathe at the same time. It's a silo of misinformation on the subject of Brexit, which appears to be its main preoccupation.

Ended up in an hour long argument with a Brexiteer who was calling for No Deal and was spectacularly unable to provide me with one single benefit of Brexit to his daily life, as well as being blissfully ignorant of the link between tariffs and end-user prices in the shops. At least I left him knowing that his vote would cost him more for his groceries and, possibly, his job. He left convinced he could make his own laws.

I heard the Today programme being started with the National Anthem yesterday, which was apparently for Prince Charles' 72nd birthday. When is he going to retire? He's surely lost all interest in being king by now.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Starmer the Tory

I'm constantly amused by comments on Facebook maintaining that Keir Starmer is a Tory. These comments come from Corbyn supporters on the left of the Labour Party - those who are predominantly of the Momentum persuasion, fanatical Corbynists and who cannot accept that Jeremy is anything less than a Messiah having the only chance of producing a Labour government. They sound like Trump supporters who can't accept that their Dear Leader has lost.

I keep asking these commentators which Labour policy they have a problem with and have yet to receive a response. This is where the accusations fail, as Starmer doesn't have his own policies and can only work within the framework of party policy, which is democratically agreed at Conference while he is leader of the opposition. Only if in power as PM can a Labour leader assert some influence on party policy.

I believe the accusations against Starmer emanate from those who simply can't accept that someone can come from a working class background, rise through their own efforts to the middle class and still believe in social justice. They forget that Marx was solidly middle class, Lenin's father rose from a serf background to become a very minor aristocrat (in number, Russian aristocrats are like fleas on a dog), Trotsky was from wealthy farming stock and Engels' family were rich mill owners. What united all these characters was that they were intellectuals and not simply agitators. Intellectuals are key in any successful, popular, revolutionary movement.

Momentum adherents have forgotten the legacy of the Trotskyist Militant Tendency in the 70s and 80s, which was decades of unelectability. While Britain has dabbled with fascism in the past, anything that smacks of Marxism is anathema to a British electorate fed on a diet of Cold War spy novels and James Bond films. This is the reason Clause IV (the common ownership of the means of production...) was dramatically changed under Tony Blair - the old Clause IV was pure communism and not for nothing was it known as 'the longest suicide note in history'.

So, when Momentum members accuse Starmer of being a Tory, what they actually mean is that he's to the right of Leon Trotsky, not that he's anywhere near the end of the political spectrum that contains a certain straw-haired buffoon and the cast of the Keystone Cops. 

As an aside, you rarely hear mention of the Tory, backbench, 1922 Committee without the words 'the influential' tacked on the front. I always refer to it now as 'The Influential 1922 Committee'.

Friday, 13 November 2020


We've been watching a Netflix documentary series called Rotten, in which each episode focuses on the nefarious aspects of the sale and marketing of certain foods and drinks.

So far we've been put off avocados, bottled water, sugar made from sugar cane and most chocolate. I'm anticipating the next episode with some trepidation and wondering what else we have to ditch.

Avocado growers in places like Chile rob villagers of water in order to grow their avocados. Sugar cane involves what's tantamount to slave labour, bottled water manufacturers are simply ripping people off and selling tap water, and in a lot of cases, plundering local water supplies, and the chocolate trade involves decimation of national parks, child labour and nefarious practices on the part of the handful of chocolate traders.

The one thing the series reinforces is that without regulation, unfettered capitalism doesn't give a toss about people or the environment. You'd think we'd have learned our lesson in the 1800s, when flour manufacturers cut their flour with chalk and all manner of contaminants to increase profits. It also illustrates how politicians can connive with big business against the interests of those who elect them.

We're not great avocado eaters, but we certainly won't be buying any in the future, unless certified as ethically sourced. 

Hay has a condition which means the fluoride in tap water affects her adversely, so she drinks the cheap Tesco or Lidl bottled water; however, there are ways of getting rid of tap water fluoride, like reverse osmosis.

As for sugar, Silver Spoon sugar is made from British sugar beet and therefore totally ethical - last I heard, Norfolk sugar beet farmers were not using slave labour, although I do think they should press Brexiteers into their labour force.

In regard of chocolate, we're going to switch to Tony's Chocolonely, a Dutch brand that deals direct with cocoa farmers in West Africa and guarantees them a fair price that's 20% above what they get from the traders. The branding looks hideously American and I have no idea what it tastes like (I never really liked Dutch chocolate as a kid), but Waitrose sell it and we'll give it a go, even if it is more expensive. 

The one problem we have is that we have several bars of chocolate in a cupboard, but I have volunteered to sacrifice myself in order to get rid of them.

Yes, we know about Fair Trade, but there are concerns that much of the money Fair Trade generates doesn't reach the producers and is frittered away in the supply chain.

Last night's episode focused on cannabis, but I don't use the stuff, so there's no need to change anything.

Thursday, 12 November 2020


Overheard in the kitchen:

Chairman: "There's a jar of capers in this cupboard. What on earth are they used for?"

Hay: "They give things a salty taste."

Chairman: "You mean just like a sprinkling of salt?"

Greg Clarke, the Chief Exec of the FA, with a face like a diseased turnip, has resigned over the use of what is, apparently, an outdated term that has been deemed offensive. This despite, incredulously, the fact he was commenting on the lack of diversity in football and was making supportive comments.

Anyone spot the deliberately offensive, yet entirely valid descriptive above?

Who exactly determines whether a word is offensive and how many people have to deem it so before it catches on? Is there some clandestine cabal that sits in judgement on what is and what is not offensive. Does it take just one person to deem it offensive? It's a fact of life that what one person finds offensive another doesn't.

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with what someone, somewhere, deems to be offensive and chooses, instead, some mangled expression that contravenes both grammar and logic. It seems almost a fashion trend.

Are disabled people now to be referred to as people of disability? Redheaded people as people of red hair? Is any descriptive than ends in the letters 'ed' to be extrapolated into something beyond all recognition? It's especially difficult when not all the people so described are offended by a term and you hear it used by many of those very people on TV, in the media and in Parliament. That's precisely what makes it confusing.

It's almost as if there's a competition to take a descriptive, any descriptive, and turn it onto an offensive term. Once it catches on, then the next item on the agenda is to turn that very term you just invented into the next offensive one.

Diane Abbott took offence at the descriptive; "Black community leaders," in reference to the Stephen Lawrence affair and immediately launched into an attack against; "White people," obliviously unaware of the irony in her use of the word 'white'. A black writer, Joshuah Adams, has criticised the term 'People of Colour'. Why? Because it marginalises what he calls 'black people', a term some find offensive. There simply is no agreement - and there never will be. To quote No.6; "I am not a number, I am a free man."

I say, let a reasonable, grammatically correct and logical descriptive be used and judge the comment on what's being said, not the descriptive. If the entire sentence is offensive, then shout about it; if the sentence is supportive, what, exactly, is the issue and is there some hidden agenda to make someone feel uncomfortable?

If, in a face-to-face conversation, someone claims a term is offensive to them, I'll take notice and make a mental note for next time, but I will enquire as to why they consider it offensive - quite often it stems from some intensely personal experience and not something generic that can be extrapolated. In public discourse with an audience, however, it's infinitely more difficult and someone, somewhere, will take offence, whereas others wont.

However, I'm white in a predominantly white country and can therefore say this. No doubt someone will take offence at that statement of fact. The very word 'they' or 'them' can be considered offensive, and can engender accusations of 'othering' - but what other descriptive of a collection of people can you use? Any group that does not include me is, by definition, a 'them' or a 'they', and that can simply be people without beards - the bastards!

What I really take issue with is the self-appointed offence police, who make arbitrary decisions without reference to the very people they maintain they're protecting or, in the case of social media, not even reading beyond the inflammatory headline. There was a lot of that in the case of old turnip face.

Calling out blatant racism is a good thing - but nuance bypasses the more zealous self-appointees, just as in the case of Greg Clarke. The descriptive word 'coloured' was the focus of the condemnation, not the sentiment of the sentence in which it was embedded. Those people (they) do the anti-racism cause more harm than good.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Natural Deletion

 It's ironic that vaccines are our best defence against and best chance of getting rid of anti-vaxxers.

They'll simply die out through natural selection - or, rather, natural deletion...

An unexpected benefit of the Covid vaccine is that you'll get much better 5G reception.... I'm being sarcastic, before anyone accuses me of spreading fake news. 

By the way, has anyone seen any evidence of this lockdown we're supposed to be in? With the exception of a few shops being closed, everything else seems to be at pre-lockdown levels - far in excess of the activity during the previous lockdown.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020


We always thought that our yellow rosebush was relatively unique in blooming till after the New Year, but a red rose we planted a couple of years ago seems to be following the same pattern.

Perhaps we have a conducive microclimate. It seems to be the first frosts that kick them into flowering again.

Perhaps they're not that unique and others also have roses budding and flowering over autumn and into winter?

Monday, 9 November 2020


On Remembrance Sunday we tend to think of plucky Britain, fighting on alone against all odds, but three quarters of all German casualties were on the Eastern Front, which sapped German materiel and prevented Hitler crossing the Channel.

I came across this chart yesterday, which is somewhat sobering:

It shows the percentage of the population, by country, that died in WWII, along with the absolute numbers.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Gym Closure

Gym goers and owners are up in arms about gyms being shut down. They complain that only 2.8% of cases are linked to gyms.

  1. The Track and Trace system cannot, with any high degree of certainty, identify the exact locus of an outbreak.
  2. 2.8% of cases could feasibly mean 100% spread through gym attendance if only 2.8% of the population actually go to gyms.

Now, in the UK some 7% of the population has gym membership. Not all of those who have membership actually use their gyms - the New Year's resolution that went awry and the unwanted birthday present for some husband or wife. Most gym memberships are taken out in January and half of these new members quit their membership within 6 months. In the USA, only 18% of gym members are regular attendees and I have no reason to believe it is any different here. Consequently only a very small percentage of the population attends gyms - 1.16% of the population. That has a big impact on the 2.8% of cases attributed to gyms. 

The cases attributed to supermarkets is 11.2%, and I'd estimate that the vast majority of the population goes to a supermarket at some stage during a week. I don't know anyone who attends a gym, but everyone I know visits supermarkets.

Looking at it this way, which is with the benefit of an understanding of percentages and absolute numbers, gyms are far more likely to be places where you'd catch Covid - and that's hardly surprising with sweaty, breathless bodies. Supermarkets, on the other hand, are relatively safe places in comparison from a statistical view. Supermarket attendance outstrips gym attendance by orders of magnitude.

In essence, 1,16% of the population is responsible for 2.8% of cases and upward of 95% is responsible for only 11.8%. Direct comparisons of percentages are misleading at best if absolute numbers involved are not taken into consideration.

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Van Accoutrements

 Put the new seat covers on the van yesterday and we're well pleased with the result:

A more refined and colour-coordinated look than the hideous, multi-coloured stuff underneath them. Had to take both seats out to get a proper fit, but they were on within an hour. The pockets at the back of the seats have been lost as a consequence, but that's no great hardship.

We put the Fiamma lightweight box on the van as well, but we think it's just to flimsy for the intended purpose, added to which you just need something sharp in the bottom and it will rip to shreds. 

The ordinary, black plastic box we bought on eBay is much better suited to the task, and doesn't block the rear window.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Socialism = Communism

I've never understood why a lot of Americans, granted they're Republicans, equate socialism with communism. Democracy itself is a socialist concept - although many Republicans seem to have a problem with democratic elections. I even have a teenage friend who was British, when upon migrating to Florida, had his critical brain removed and has become a loud exponent of the socialism = communism theory.

Many Republicans portray Joe Biden as an avowed Marxist when nothing could be further from the truth. Corbyn is described by many as a Marxist, but he's more a Keynesian, although he has described Marx as a great economist, despite Marx having worked with hardly any data, and what data there was being fundamentally flawed. This lack of data brings into question almost everything Marx wrote that relies on factual data.

Republicans ignore that the vast majority of European states are socialist in that they are social democracies, and far in advance of America in many areas.

What I find even more astounding is that a large proportion of the socialism = communism theorists in the USA are vociferous in their assertion that they are Christian. If Christianity is founded on providing succour to those most in need, then it must indubitably lie somewhere on the left of the political spectrum.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Which Generation Are You?

Trump accuses Biden of cheating. Why? Because Biden wants all the votes cast to the counted. Welcome to the lunatic asylum, where not cheating is interpreted as cheating. I sincerely hope this piece of shit and his infection will be history in a day or two and he goes to jail.

I found this interesting chart about the various generations since 1880.

Click to enlarge it.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020


I think it may be lost on many Americans that Afro Americans have a longer history in America than most of the white people there now. 

The schooner Clotilda was the last known US slave ship to arrive in the USA, berthing in 1859, despite the slave trade having been banned since 1806, whereas the largest waves of white immigration took place after 1859, or slightly before in the case of the Catholic Irish escaping the Potato Famine.

Between 1750 (total population just over 1 million) and 1800 (total population just over 5 million), the black population was hovering around the 20% mark. From 1800 this decreased to 9.7% in 1930, when it started to increase slightly as European immigration tailed off. They remain the 2nd largest largest ethnic group. There has been a recent rise in the number of foreign-born black people.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Reform of Panic Buying

Went into Yate on Sunday for some batteries, but thought better of it when I couldn't even park in Lidl's car park as people were engaging in their favourite pastime - panic buying. Ask people why they're panic buying and they'll respond; "I'm not panic buying, I'm just getting in before other people panic buy." I just hope there will be enough Waitrose Essential lilies to last for the lockdown.

I confidently predict that, instead of pop-up Christmas decoration shops, we'll see pop-up toilet paper shops. Was there ever a shortage of bog paper in March? Can't say I noticed any shortage.

So Farage is to change the name of The Brexit Party to The Reform Party. Presumably it will still remain a Ltd. company. The party intends to campaign against the lockdown in favour of herd immunity.

  1. Herd immunity only works in the context of long term immunity, invariably through an effective vaccine.
  2. Thus far, Covid antibodies have been shown to last no more than 6 months and people are on record as catching it twice.
  3. The whole point of a national lockdown is to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed with Covid patients, which is BOUND to have a knock-on effect on other diseases being treated, meaning lots of people could die from cancer, heart attack, stroke, etc. if the flawed herd immunity strategy, which does not have the support of science, is followed.
  4. Even if people who get it 2nd time get it less severely and protection lasts a bit longer, a massive percentage of the population hasn't even had it the first time yet, so hospitals will still be clogged up with Covid patients.

Farage knows this, as he's on record in March saying as much, although that was before we knew that protection is only short term. I must therefore assume, his strategy is to fleece the mentally challenged and paranoid of their cash - cash they desperately need for tin foil hats.

That said, his effort will serve no purpose other than to dilute the sane Conservative vote (if such a thing exists these days), as that's where the majority of anti-lockdown sentiment, which is primarily from psychopathic business interests, exists. So, all power to him. The longer the problem lasts, the more the government has to borrow and the more pressure there will be on the very wealthy to stump up more in tax - no wonder the anti-lockdown ethos is strobg in the Conservative Party.

As it is, that other disaster, Brexit, will be happening, potentially while still in a lockdown, leaving business no time whatsoever to prepare for rules they're, as yet, totally ignorant of, as a deal has not been finalised because of Boris' ill-advised and self-defeating brinkmanship.

I keep seeing people going on about the Great Barrington Declaration, despite Harold Shipman and Donald Duck being signatories. Putting fake signatures aside, it still fails on logic for the same reasons I enumerated above.

It's amazing how conspiracy theories proliferate in times of crisis. It's understandable though, as people crave certainty and conspiracy theories prey on that desire. Religious conversions and other superstitions increase during crises. 

Monday, 2 November 2020

Pond Update

Nearly a month since the last report on the pond. With the heavy rains over the last few weeks, it is rapidly coming up to it's design level with rainwater. Won't be long now.

I just need a dry spell to re-rotavate the edges, clear out any weeds from the soil and then Hay can get on with planning the planting for spring. It's going to look really nice next year as it matures and the plastic gets hidden by algae. Gabion baskets need filling to the top yet and the pond liner in the bottom right corner still looks a tad ragged. That might ,however, be hidden by some marginal planting in spring.

Hay is in it regularly, both for maintenance purposes on the filtration / aeration system and the odd cold water swim.

We're certainly going to have plenty of time to play with it over the next few weeks of lockdown - or rather I am, as Hay will continue to work from home, but my work will cease for the duration.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Free Speech

Heretofore I've been a staunch defender of freedom of speech in all circumstances. I believed, and to a certain extent still do, that freedom of speech allows criticism and the challenging of ridiculous claims in open forum. Banning it simply drives it underground, where it festers in bubbles, unchallenged.

However, when you consider the concept of liberty, none of us are entirely free to do whatever we want. The fact we live in a civilization means we allow certain liberties to be curtailed as a quid pro quo. You can't, for example, shout; "Fire!" in a cinema because the resultant stampede could result in fatalities.

This is where the concept of responsibility enters the free speech arena. It's fraught with problems though. The fact someone denies the Holocaust may upset a few people, but it won't result in any serious, physical harm, as it's understood the Holocaust Denier is either a complete twonk or an extremist with an agenda. He, or she, is best ignored and not given the breath of publicity. 

The consequences of one's free speech should be taken into account. That doesn't mean to say one has to kow-tow to every lunatic pronouncement, but one should consider knock-on effects to oneself and one's polity.

Next we must consider collaterality - or the consequential effect, not on yourself, but others. Using the above example of shouting; "Fire!" in a cinema, it's not you that may be trampled to death (you'll be safely standing back), but others could.

Let's look at the Charlie Hebdo affair. We now know with a reasonable degree of certainty that if a cartoon of Mohammed is promulgated, some poor bugger is going to be attacked by a religious fanatic wielding a knife - not the nicest of prospects. It might be the cartoonist who is attacked, but it might equally be someone unconnected with the cartoon. You may say; "Well, that's the price of free speech," but what if that someone was a person dear to you and entirely unconnected with your prank - your spouse or child? I doubt you'd be so favourable toward free speech in those circumstances and you'd stem your pen.

Those who vociferously espouse their right to free speech have to take the above into consideration. It's not without consequences and merely saying we can't give in to terror doesn't means others should take the consequences for your action. You can't poke a snake with your finger and blame the snake when it bites you - it's in the nature of the snake.

Drawing a cartoon of Mohammed, knowing the consequences, has only one purpose - to take the piss and stir up trouble - trouble that might result in someone else's death. Is it entirely necessary to draw a cartoon of Mohammed, except to make a very contentious point?

It would be nice if all free speech was responded to with rationality but, sadly, we live in an irrational world where irrational beliefs, whatever their nature, are a constant danger. Merely ridiculing it won't make it go away, no matter how superior it may make you feel. Debate may.