Friday, 31 December 2021

Fastest Growing Economy

The government persists with this fastest growing economy trope.

We both have 10 apples; I lose 2 and you lose 8. The following year I gain 1 and you gain 4. So, after 12 months I have 9 and you have 6 and you have the fastest growing stock of apples, but I have more apples.

Having the fastest growing economy, under the current circumstances, is nothing more than a factor of being the hardest hit economy during the pandemic. It's not hard to understand and Johnson is attempting to make us believe that a sow's ear is actually a diamond encrusted Louis Vuitton handbag.

Now should it continue to grow at that rate, that would be good news, but without some underlying driver for that, you're on a hiding to nothing and just playing catch-up. This trope of his will come back to bite him in the bum when that growth, caused by catching up to where the economy was, but failing to reach it due to the negative effects of Brexit, ceases.

Also, given some countries on the continent have had lockdowns and the UK hasn't, their economies will be hard hit and bounce back fast when released, resulting in them having faster growing economies for exactly the same reasons. It's smoke and mirrors and cherry picking.

Additionally, having a fast increasing economy means bugger all if that growth is not evenly distributed and remains in the hands of a few. There are warnings already that due to the price increase of power, the rising price of 2nd hand cars, the threat of rampant inflation and rises in National Insurance, households are facing losing £1,200 a year in 2022.

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Selfish Protesters

Grant Shapps, the Minister of State for Transport, yesterday opined about the "selfish" acts of the Insulate Britain protesters on a radio station.

Good God, of course! They were totally selfish to risk imprisonment and being run over by irate motorists for having the gall to protest on behalf of the estimated 40,000 a year who die each and every year from pollution and the 8,000 who die each and every year from fuel poverty. Why could I not see the selfishness before? It's plain for all to see.

What planet is this man on? Why spend a fortune on policing it when acceding to the protesters' reasonable demands would: 

  • Get rid of the protesters, thereby 
  • Eliminating the policing, 
  • Getting rid of the disruption that angers him so much,
  • Alleviate the plight of some of the 48,000 and
  • Reduce pollution and unnecessary CO2, which is (allegedly) a government priority anyway.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Poitical Vacuum

Have we had a political vacuum over the last decade and, if so, what caused this?

I pose the question because we seem to be attracting knaves and chancers into the profession, if you can call it that and, as nature abhors a vacuum, it will fill itself with anything that's available. A vacuum is caused by a general disinterest in good policy that benefits all, rather than just a few, and changes politics to an arena where some go to specifically make money, rather than make equitable laws and govern. 

Politicians used to be MPs for at least a decade, learning the ropes, before they were promoted to be anywhere near the top levers of government, and were rewarded for expertise with a safe seat to retain that expertise, but these days it seems you can be elected an MP and be in the cabinet almost immediately, with hardly any experience of how government works.

I'm not falling into the false narrative that they're all the same, because they're not. There is still a large cohort of MPs who enter Parliament to make a difference, rather than line their pockets or make preparations for making lots of it when they leave Parliament.

The Party System is partly to blame, along with the polarisation of politics of late by ideology lacking evidence. Adherence to a party makes one oblivious of the person one is voting for at the local level - the apocryphal pig with a certain colour of rosette on its lapel who will be voted for simply because of the rosette's colour.

Crises expose the problems with political vacuums; they are filled by populists who are all mouth and no trousers, as we have seen in various countries around the world - it's not just a British phenomenon. The populists wreak havoc in their wake when a crisis requiring real leadership and gravitas occurs.

Populists can even wreak havoc when they're voted out of office, as the electorate will vote for virtually anyone in a splurge of tactical voting to get them out by any means possible, once again leading to incompetents of the other colour replacing them. Anyone but Trump was a cry not so long ago.

Analyse and discuss.

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Divine Organisation

If God created man in His own image, then He must also have created man with His own foibles. Man's natural inclination is to create organisation from chaos (as did God), or organisations with departments, and thus we can expect Heaven to be organised along the same principles. 

So, if God is the CEO, there must be a number of department heads responsible for the various functions of Heaven - a whole boardroom of minor gods, a bit like the old pagan religions.

God may well have been the first one, creating the universe in His garden shed, like any entrepreneur, but pretty soon must have needed some assistance with production, marketing, customer services and HR. Along with that would come the requirement for larger premises, like another universe - hence the multiverse.

There again, the running of the departments may have been outsourced to human agents to save money. Churches are obviously Customer Services, where you go to give positive or negative reviews. The clergy are then in charge of this department. They're also in charge of Brand Management, but the mistake there is that there are simply too many competing Brand Management subcontractors, which results in mixed messages.

The Legal Counsel was delegated to the writers of the religious texts, both Old and New Testament, the Koran, etc, but, as is ever the case with lawyers, there's a difference in opinion between them; what's permissible in the OT is no longer permissible in the NT; the Koran contradicts both the former, etc.

HR had a particularly bad reputation in the past - I mean, burning at the stake or putting unbelievers to the sword are not the best forms of recruitment. 

Like any company, there was bound to be a dissatisfied employee who left and set up in competition (probably one who's diving departmental role had been outsourced), but was more concerned with productivity and forced workers to toil in perpetuity in atrocious conditions, like fire and brimstone. I'm not sure, though, that eternal damnation produces more product - makes it sound a bit like JD Sports.

Monday, 27 December 2021


There is a forerunner to Twitter - Letters to the Editor. Resorting to Twitter is a bit easier than writing a letter or sending a considered email and it's not subject to filtering for reason or grammar, which is why there's so much background noise that's nothing more than digital graffiti. 

Open anything to all and sundry in a democratic manner and it exposes a weakness in unfettered democracy - an abdication of responsibility, like the Brexiteers who simply aren't sufficiently engaged with reality to the extent that they are still calling for the Northern Ireland Protocol to be abandoned and WTO to be implemented. They won't be happy till they have wrung every bit of greatness from Great Britain in pursuit of ideology at the expense of sense. 7% of the public, according to a recent poll, still believe Brexit has gone better than expected.

I simply can't understand why the majority of Tory MPs are vehemently against tougher Covid rules in the New Year, if circumstances warrant it, to prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed. Are they actively seeking the demise of the NHS prior to a sell-off? Actually, I've answered my own question - that can be the only answer.

While talking of Covid, we've even go people who, because they haven't had Covid themselves, believe it's all a scam to control us and therefore no-one has died of Covid. They're like the people who, because they haven't been asked to contribute to a poll, believe all polls are useless.

The Tories are very keen on liberty in respect of Covid, but when it comes to other areas, such as the right to protest or rigging the electoral system in their favour, they love nothing better than to restrict freedoms. They are to be congratulated, however, in handing the Opposition the best election slogan ever; "One rule for them and another for everyone else." That's the genius of incompetence.

Then there's the 'you can't say anything anymore' brigade of Culture War warriors, who aren't prevented from saying what they want at all, as evidenced by social media and GB News, and are actually fighting for the right to voice their views without dissent in any form. They are not arguing for free speech, they are arguing that you should not have the right to challenge it by using your own right of free speech, plus a healthy dose of reason and evidence.

I must really complement Nigel Farage, however, and his war on the RNLI for, of all things, saving lives at sea. This man has single-handedly increased RNLI donations by 3,000%. What an accidental hero!

2022 is going to be an interesting year for those with their ears to the political ground.

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Christmas Dinners & Boxing Day Shopping

 Christmas foods and the only manner in which I can eat them:

  • Sprouts - with smoky bacon bits.
  • Cauliflower - with cheese over the top.
  • Broccoli - with Soy sauce.
  • Cabbage - with butter and salt.
  • Red cabbage - with apple, onion, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, brown sugar and wine vinegar, simmered for at least 3 hours.
  • Roast potatoes - with lots of salt, and then only a few.
  • Mashed potato - with cheese and mustard.
  • Carrots - with lashings of butter and roasted.
  • Parsnips - roasted with honey.
  • Boiled potatoes - never, if I can.
  • Turkey - I'd rather not.
  • Beef - rare and cold with salt and horseradish.
  • Duck - rare.
  • Pork - sticky with honey, garlic and soy.
  • Stuffing - soft with meat juices. I actually prefer a vegetarian nut roast as stuffing.
  • Cheese - smelly, ripe and on the verge of killing me.
  • Christmas pudding - with any sauce, but never on its own, and half the amount my eyes say is enough.

Bland food just doesn't cut the mustard for me - although I do prefer Dijon.

Spotted a LeedsLive news report yesterday which demonstrates the irresponsibility of news media, not that this headline is particularly irresponsible, just totally misleading.. 

The above headline is time stamped 17.36 yesterday, the 25th of December. The text reads "Shoppers have set out in in droves in Leeds city centre to bag the latest Boxing Day bargains, with prices slashed down significantly after Christmas Day. Customers across the city are visiting shopping centres to snap up the festive deals."

Have set out? Are visiting? On Christmas Day, when the article was written - or, rather, updated? They are reporting events, before they even happen, as if they're happening now.

Saturday, 25 December 2021

Irresponsible Journalism

Firstly, Merry Christmas to my readers - all two of them. I keep hearing people saying Happy Christmas, but that means a Merry New Year. Surely it's Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and thus the correct greeting is Merry Christmas, as Scrooge shouted from his window on Christmas Day.

To the nub of today's post. Newspaper headlines can be so misleading. One daily yesterday splashed "Omicron is 70% less likely to cause hospitalisation."

That's not technically true - the study determined, with early data, that the virulence of Omicron is between 2% and 12% less than Delta, which is wafer thin and subject to further data being needed. The additional protection to take it anywhere near 70% (and studies differ on the percentage) is provided by layers of vaccination, starting with one and ending with the full panoply of 3 jabs and prior exposure to Covid itself at some time in the past. For someone who is not vaxxed, the risk from Omicron is virtually the same as from Delta, yet an unvaxxed person reading the above headline would feel justified in not getting a jab, as he or she would feel they're more protected because of an inherent 70% decrease in the virulence of Omicron. That's irresponsible journalism.

As Bertrand Russell once said; “A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.” That applies to a lot of tabloid journalists, who tend toward sensationalism and brevity at the expense of truth.

On top of that, many people will be delaying their boosters so as to avoid feeling shit over the Christmas week. Many others will be lying about their positive lateral flow tests so as not to upset carefully laid Christmas plans to visit Nan.

As for the ones who don't want a vaccine 'because I don't know what's in it' - would they be as reluctant to accept the medication they will require if hospitalised, as they certainly won't know what's in that either. Perhaps the NHS should accept their objections and deny them the medication.

As for lockdowns; ask any lockdown sceptic as to why they're sceptical and you'll invariably get the response that lockdowns destroy businesses. That's a logical fallacy - if implemented with suitable compensation schemes and targeted at specific segments, such as hospitality, they will prevent the targeted businesses going to the wall in the same manner as furlough did. 

Businesses are already going to the wall by people cancelling parties and Christmas meals out of self-preservation, and who can blame them? It's lockdown in all but name, so providing government-backed financial support is the solution. No, there's some other reason why they don't like lockdowns, and it's probably got more to do with freedom to be inconsiderate to others., or free speech, or not taking down statues, or BLM, or wokeness, or the BBC, or migrants.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Friday, 24 December 2021

That Smell

Railway, the feral cat we feed, never ventures more than a foot or so into the house, as he's always ensuring his line of retreat is clear and doesn't get cut off by one of the other cats outflanking him. He will, however, occasionally come into our porch when it's very cold. When he does, he invariably pees against something and leaves the place reeking, necessitating giving it a vinegar spray.

He did this sometime on Wednesday. Later in the day I had occasion to nip to Thornbury on an errand with No.1 Son. We climbed into the car and set off but, by the time we'd gone no more than a couple of hundred yards, the smell of cat piss became vaguely noticeable. No.1 Son poked his nose around the car and traced the smell to my footwell - Railway had only gone and pissed on my left shoe - I leave my shoes in the porch.

Hay has made him a bed out of a polystyrene fish box and old blankets, which he sleeps in during the day. It's on the patio table, under our gazebo. He's out of the rain and up high, so he can survey threats, and we can keep tabs on him from the living room. He sleeps in there all day and then buggers off at night to go hunting.

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Optimism Bias

I've been on Twitter for quite a long time, but could never get to grips with it and therefore left it alone. However, I recently made a concerted effort and have been rewarded by obtaining information from the horse's mouth, which has dramatically changed my opinion of the medium. Yes, there's a lot of incoherent shouting taking place among the illiterati, but there are a few gems from people who are worth following.

I became aware of Adam Kucharski, an Associate Professor and Sir Henry Dale Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who works on mathematical analysis of infectious disease outbreaks.

The particular Tweet that drew my attention was about the dialogue between science detractors and science buffs over the initial 500,000 death forecast for Covid and how the news media focussed on that and not the subsequent revisions of the number as mitigating actions were implemented. The 500,000 number was not a forecast of what would happen, but what could happen - if there were no mitigation. However, the 500k number is constantly used to beat science over the head, without really understanding where it came from and how the number subsequently changed. Mitigation scenario numbers were lower than the actual number of deaths.

The table above shows the mathematical modelling for the initial outbreak, showing a wide variety of scenarios. The news media naturally settled on the sensational red column and totally ignored the rest of the model and, as you can clearly see, the yellow and green numbers are substantially lower than what happened in reality.

One response to Kucharski's Tweet was particularly apposite; "The constant companion of pandemic: decision maker optimism bias." No-one can deny that Boris Johnson's constant optimism and reluctance to face up to reality - and consequent unwillingness to act early has contributed greatly to the number of dead. More battles have been lost because of over-optimism than to caution. Anyone would prefer early intervention if they're diagnosed with cancer than leaving it for a while to see what happens. Late action in the face of a problem invariably means greater and more costly action than would have been required had action been taken earlier. Remember that every bed that's used for Covid is a bed that's not available for some other deadly condition.

I was having a Twitter debate (or, rather, argument) with a chap who obviously has a downer on science and was labouring under the false assumption that I wanted a lockdown (many believe that to win an argument you should always put words into your opponent's mouth). Let's be clear; no-one wants a lockdown, but there comes a time when it's necessary for a short period, if only to afford Covid hit businesses with government funding, as that's the only way they can obtain it (yes, Rishi Sunak has released £1bn this time, but that's £6k per qualifying business, and not all qualify). This chap accused me of not being an epidemiologist, but neither was he - the key difference between us though is that I seek out the science and can read it, whereas he couldn't even be bothered to seek it out in the first place, limiting himself to newspaper headlines. You don't need to be an epidemiologist to read and understand what an epidemiologist says - all that's required is an enquiring mind and a bit of intelligence. It's simply galling that scientists can collect all this data and turn it into something I can read and understand. How dare they! They should use impenetrable language and lots of formulae in their conclusions such that only the media can interpret it.

The fact remains that sensible precautions are rendered ineffective by people either ignoring them completely, or faking tests in their attempt to assert their freedom to do whatever the hell they want, at an enormous cost to others. Those are the very people who shout loudest against lockdowns and yet, ironically, are the very cause of them.

I saw a Tweet from a media outlet that said a study had shown that having Covid reduces men's sperm quality substantially for 3 months. One wit replied that he'd had Covid and then 2 children, so it was a load of rubbish. For a start, they must have been twins, but I enquired whether he was certain he was the father....

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Pandemic Damage

It's certain segments of the service economy, being the economic model we in the UK have followed, which are suffering most from Covid. 

Even then, it's elements of the service economy that can't take advantage of the internet. Financial services, such as insurance, seem to be holding up quite well, but hospitality, catering and entertainment (the physical presence type), which have risen exponentially over my lifetime, are badly affected.

 When I was a kid, the only restaurants you'd find in our town were more like cafes, although there was the odd Chinese or Indian restaurant. As for pubs, the most you could expect in the form of sustenance would be a pickled onion, egg, walnut or the pub equivalent of the old British Rail ham sandwich with curly ends. Anthony Worrall-Thompson is the main culprit in respect of the Gastro-Pub, although Wikipedia says otherwise.

The worst affected of all is the airline passenger transport market - you can try flying without being present on a plane, but you won't get very far.

Manufacturing seems relatively immune, as manufactured items can still be sold on the internet and logistics chains (shortage of drivers excepted) have remained operational, yet car sales have suffered, although new cars were impacted primarily by a shortage of computer chips, not demand for cars. As a result, 2nd hand cars under 8 years old and under 50k miles have risen in price sharply.

As an aside, I've noticed of late that items advertised through the medium of Facebook - sponsored advertising - . tend to be twice the price of identical items advertised outside of Facebook. Many of them are obvious scams - they're invariably items for which the price seems unbelievable. When seeing something advertised on Facebook, I always check the price elsewhere and manage to save 50% or more.

Yes, Rushi Sunak has announced a £1bn, drop in the ocean rescue package, but it's a pity there's no financial support for the segments that are suffering most, but that's what you get in a market economy - survival of the fittest. Those who voted for this government and are in the airline sector have no reason to complain - it's what they voted for. 

There is no substantial financial support because there's no lockdown; however, the public is voting with its feet and taking sensible precautions and there might as well be a lockdown. You can hardly blame them for looking to their health, especially when government advice is to party but not party. 

Hopefully lockdowns will not be needed, but I can see Tim Martin actually praying for one so he can stem his losses through a substantial government bailout. “The typical British pub, contrary to received opinion in academia, is usually a bastion of social distancing,” he said, but who would you rather believe - a chap who depends on people going into his pubs for his living, and therefore has a vested interest in saying what he does (and welcomed the economic damage of Brexit), or a scientist who is independent and has data to support his argument that contact is the means of spreading viruses. Actually, all you need is the evidence of your own eyes and the spike following Eat Out to Help Out. After all, no-one can control a tipsy reveller and supermarkets are unable to stop unmasked people entering their stores..

If there is a lockdown, there's no-one to blame but the ones who can't obey a few simple precautions, yet they are invariably the loudest voices complaining about lockdowns.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021


Not sure whether it's age related, but I seem to have developed eightitis, which sometimes manifests itself as nineitis - the letters i  or o are starting to come out as the number 8 or 9 when typed on my phone keyboard. There again, it could just be a case of sausage fingers. 

As I get older, I sometimes wonder whether anywhere I have stayed gains the odour of old person. Our house does smell a bit at present, but that's because I found a lady on the Chipping Sodbury Thursday street market who specialises in smelly, French cheeses, and I stocked up last week. I don't have the vaguest idea what I bought, although there was a Bleu d'Auvergne among them and I have a Delice de Bourgogne on order for when she next appears in the new year. The smell even manages to evade the seals on the fridge door, which is a sure sign of potency.

I told her that I'm rather addicted to cheeses that are so high that I risk death from food poisoning and she duly obliged me. 

I have a pot of Stilton which I leave out of the fridge and merely top up ever now and again, primarily with Lidl Stilton, but occasionally a bit of Long Clawson. It reeks, but is delicious and hasn't been washed out in almost a year, but I do keep a lid on it to prevent flies laying eggs on it, which happened once in the summer. It's amazing how delicious even the most immature Stilton becomes after a few days in the pot at room temperature. If the ambient temperature becomes too warm, I pop it in the fridge for a while.

I'm a firm believer that there's no such thing as a sell by or use by date for cheese - the older it is, the more tasty it becomes.

Monday, 20 December 2021


 This is the huge espalier tree I mentioned yesterday:

Magnificent, isn't it? That must have taken many years to train.

Sunday, 19 December 2021

AndersonVision Gardening

With not much going on in the paid work front, I've taken the opportunity to get some longstanding jobs around the house out of the way.

One that's been plaguing me for ages is erecting a support for a climbing rose and a wisteria I purchased in summer. I opted for a wire support using eyes screwed into the house verticals. Took me most of Friday, as the rendering on the main house supporting walls hid concrete breeze blocks, which are like drilling into diamond.

Using the best AndersonVision (you can't see the wires) I've shown the results, but you can just make out the turnbuckles used to tighten the wire and the eyes screwed into the end piers and oak uprights.

The main problem now is to ensure the wisteria doesn't manage to creep under the oak cladding and start prising the cladding off.

Think I may try some espalier fruit trees in the spring, or repeat this on the other side of the house with different plants. Suggestions for suitable climbing plants welcome. Actually, I could use the wires to hang Christmas lights off this year.

Talking of espalier, we came to the static this weekend to add a few touches and had a wander around South Cerney. I spotted a house with a huge espaliered tree on one side - and when I say huge, it was the entire height of the house. No idea what kind of tree it is and a regret not having taken a photo, although I may take one today.

I've been intending to get Trigger's Ride-on-Lawnmower into the revamped garage since it was completed, but the mower just wouldn't start - it's been out in the garden receiving the full brunt of the weather since the last cut nearly 2 months ago. Finally managed to give it a jump start from the car and get it in the garage where, hopefully, the dry conditions will give it at least another year of life.

I must give it a de-rust and a lick of paint before it gets wheeled out again next year. I also desperately need to find a seat cover, as the existing one is ripped and the foam is waterlogged, resulting in a wet bum every time I mow the lawn.  I usually try to avoid this by using a carrier bag on the seat, but it doesn't always work. Having it out of the weather may give it chance to dry out thoroughly.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Dental Jabs

Hay had occasion to visit her dentist on Thursday and the dentist wondered why the government hasn't asked them to administer booster jabs to their regular patients, just to help out - tooth out to help out, so to speak. They're giving people injections on a daily basis, after all.

Now Hay's dentist is private (try finding an NHS dentist) and she thinks it would be a it of a nightmare, in the current circumstances, to provide private dentists with access to the NHS jab database; however, it's not insurmountable. For NHS dentists it should be quite easy.

Friday, 17 December 2021


The other day my mate Mike, who I work with, was going into Tesco and noticed a chap who had parked in a disabled space and went into Tesco without a mask. 

Now Mike is in his 30s, powerfully built, has a shaven head and sports tattoos - the kind of bloke who looks as it you shouldn't argue with him, but he's actually a big softie and one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. 

Mike casually said to the bloke; "I guess rules don't apply to you," more as a statement than a question, and then carried on about his business, not caring whether the bloke responded or not. The bloke did actually respond by asking what Mike meant. Mike said; "Well, you park in a spot reserved for disabled people, when you're clearly not disabled, and you're about to go into Tesco, in the middle of an exponential rise in Covid cases, without a mask." The bloke just shrugged and carried on walking into Tesco, sans mask.

I just sometimes wonder what goes through what passes for the mind of some people and whether pointing out their inconsiderate attitude has any effect.

Our PM can contemplate on inconsideration now with the North Shropshire by-election.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Van Damage

Prioritisation of various other jobs meant that repair of the damage occasioned to the motorhome while reversing out the drive was delayed, but it's finally been completed.

Didn't use any glass fibre this time, as the puncture was quite small and I limited it to just body filler. Getting glass fibre into the puncture would have been very difficult and merely laying it on the outside would not have been effective, given it would need to be rubbed down flat - there would have been little area for adhesion. Body filler, on the other hand, is more able to penetrate and fill the hole as a plug. In this weather, the curing process before rubbing down and painting was rather long.

You wouldn't now know there was any damage in the first place.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021


The electorate in the UK has become so disengaged from politics that the common refrain about politicians of all hues from those who have disengaged is; "They're all corrupt." But they're not all obsessed with lining their own pockets from the public purse - only a minority are thus consumed. Johnson and his cronies have so undermined trust in the truth and government probity that this is the consequence and it's seen as normal and nothing to worry about anymore, because vast swathes of the electorate believe it won't change.

Calls for stricter Covid rules are met with the response of; ""Once they have control they don't let go." Johnson's administration, with its 80 seat majority, has already grabbed control of us without any need to impose Covid controls - bullying of regulators, challenges to the independence of the media, criminalising civil protest, restricting the right to vote, attacking the independence of MPs, challenging the judiciary by curtailing its powers and reversing its decisions, abandoning the Convention on Human Rights, there are well-sourced rumours of political interference in operational policing decisions and, don't forget, we have a Prime Minister who unlawfully suspended Parliament. All the Tory politicians ranting against the Covid Passport voted for the aforementioned, which definitely are policies to control us. The hypocrisy is simply unbelievable.

What's incredulous is that people have been persuaded to become complicit in this. Stricter Covid controls aren't being called for because of some conspiracy theory; scientists and people with a scintilla of sense are behind such calls for the purpose of flattening the curve and not overwhelming the NHS, and Johnson has time after time proved himself unwilling to impose Covid controls until it's too late and he is left with no other alternative. 

Even the Covid Passport implementation has all the hallmarks of incompetence and Boris' boosterism (if you'll pardon the pun). Evidence of a booster is needed and, unless you were lucky enough to get one of the early ones, it's now virtually impossible to get one. That hasn't got the fingerprints of Nazism all over it - the Nazis were rather efficient. 

Whining about a mild bit of inconvenience like a hysterical child simply won't cut the mustard in persuading me that it's a plot to curtail my freedoms in the long run and will lead to the gas chambers. Naturally, they will argue, the Nazis started out by looking after the interests of others.

As for many Conservative MPs eschewing wearing masks, well, I though bandits always wore masks. 

Just a word on Omicron and people saying that evidence from South Africa shows we don't need to be so concerned. 

  1. It's bloody summer in South Africa for a start and winter here; people in South Africa aren't huddled indoors like us. That's the reason we have our flu season in winter.
  2. Also they're getting a lot more sunshine there, as usually happens in summer, which results in them getting relatively higher doses of vitamin D, which we know contributes to a strong immune system. 
  3. South Africa additionally has a much younger population than many European countries (27.6 in SA vs 40.4 in UK) and we know age plays an important role in mortality. 
Direct comparisons with South Africa are dangerous and lead to complacency unless all the pertinent variables are taken into account in the analysis. We simply don't know enough about the effects of Omicron yet and lowering defences in the absence of data is foolhardy in the extreme.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Ready for Guests

We went down to our new static on Saturday and stayed there the night to get a feel for the evening ambience. I also took the opportunity to mount the silver wings I bought over the bed in the master bedroom and fit the sound bar to the main TV, which has improved the sound dramatically, but adds another layer of complexity to operating the TV. The logical place for it was in front of the TV, but that blocks the infrared control, so I had to place it behind.

The lighting creates the feel we were after, so happy with that, Unfortunately, the only place where we have to place books hides two important electrical sockets for laptops and phone charging, but that can be accomplished in the bedrooms - the last thing you want when watching TV is some bugger playing with his or her laptop.

We had the good news this week; the broken patio doors are being seen to any day now, so we should be all guns blazing for opening fully on the 19th. Anyone fancy a break over the Christmas period, away from Omicron?

Hay's sister and her husband are there for 3 days from today to stress test it and will advise of anything we've not included in the inventory. Still have to obtain some paintings for the bedroom walls; it's in hand, although they won't be ready for launch and we may have to donate some of our artwork in the interim.

Monday, 13 December 2021

When is a Party not a Party?

 Can you have a party with wine, music, loads of people, but without cheese? 

There are numerous wine and host parties going on every Sunday. Wine and a form of biscuit, but a distinct lack of cheese.

Do these people enjoy themselves at these gatherings sufficiently to justify calling them parties? The Happy Clappies certainly do and I dare say the others derive a great deal of pleasure.

I don't know whether they're allowed to add some cheese to the biscuits, which are, after all, rather bland - there are many monastery cheeses that could fit the bill, especially those made in monasteries in Belgium, France and Switzerland. The Trappists, especially, make some excellent cheeses.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Small Percentage, Large Number

How exactly does one prove that one has had a negative lateral flow test in the last 48 hours, rather than proving someone had a negative lateral flow test, but not necessarily you? Am I missing something about the procedure or the way venues are able to police it, not that many appear to have the slightest wish to.

I simply cannot understand the mindset of anyone who would vote against additional measures to combat the spread of Covid. Are these people, who are overwhelmingly Conservative, so ideologically wedded to putting the economy over lives that they'd risk the lives of themselves and their loved ones? I know they have no regard for others outside of their own circle, but you'd think they would value those within their circle, who would be most at risk from them and from whom they'd be most at risk themselves.

Those ranting against additional measures are the very ones who are creating the necessity for the additional measures in the first place through their cavalier attitude to public health and their fetishisation of 'freedom'. It's pointless having freedom if you're dead.

Regardless of whether Omicron turns out to be a mild variant, the mere fact that it's highly infectious, and appears capable of evading the defences of the double jabbed, means vast swathes of people will get infected and, the more people are infected, the higher the chance of a further mutation that could be lethal, especially when Omicron itself is highly mutated and highly infectious. I know two double jabbed people who have already caught it. 

Hay, despite being eligible for the booster, can find nowhere local to receive it. She seems to have been missed off the list for vaccination at her local GP. She can go to a walk-in session at Cabot Circus in Bristol, but it's a double-edged sword, as you have to negotiate a crowded shopping centre to get the jab, which seems somewhat counterproductive, if not idiotic. She could easily catch the virus before the booster has chance to work. She's basically at the same risk from Omicron as an unvaccinated person.

Now, having said all the above with the vehemence of a zealot, if the Omicron variant produces only mild symptoms in the majority of cases, then there is an argument for letting it rip and for everyone to contract it, including unvaccinated, single jabbers, double jabbers and, yes, even anti-vaxxers (they couldn't avoid it), thereby obtaining natural antibodies which, hopefully, would offer some protection against future Omicron variants and finally defeat the bug. 

The problem with the above is that a percentage of those, albeit a small percentage, will be hospitalised but, given almost everyone will be exposed to it, that small percentage will still be a lot of people all needing hospitalisation at the same time, with the obvious consequences for the NHS and those needing other procedures.

Also, if the symptoms are mild and many will be asymptomatic, the risk of spread is far greater.

We're basically in uncharted territory, but it's imperative that all steps are taken to slow the transmission of the virus down so that the NHS can cope with that small percentage, but nevertheless large number all wanting care near simultaneously..

Saturday, 11 December 2021

More Building Work

The building work on Hay's dad's garage, which was part paid by us, due to the ride-on mower, the rotovator and my e-bikes being kept there (on the right hand side), has finished. As previously reported, the old flat roof leaked like a sieve and so we decided to put a normal roof on it and bring it into keeping with our house from an aesthetic view.

Below is the photo from a couple of weeks ago when the roof trusses were heaved into place.

And here is the finished article.

Clad in oak, it matches the house, or will do when the summer sun has worked its magic and turned it silver grey.

Colin will be starting work on our garage in March (which will incorporate a potential kitchen for the AirBnB and a workshop for myself), but will be doing it in phases. The 1st phase will be the base, enabling us to save up for phases 2 and 3. 

Phase 2 will be the oak clad, brick and block extension to the AirBnB (comprising my workshop the and AirBnB kitchen - although we're not fully decided on the latter) and phase 3 will be the garage itself, which will be built of oak-clad 2 x 4 timber on a low brick wall, with a few, large pine verticals to support the roof. However phase 2 can't be completed till the roof of phase 3 is completed, as the roof of the garage will have to cut into the roof of the house extension at 90 degrees. Phase 2, however, can be made weatherproof while waiting for phase 3 to finish.

Despite the garage section being timber, we're nonetheless having full footings all round, so as to give us (or any owner in the future) the opportunity to remove the timber construction and replace it with blockwork without having to dig new footings.

Friday, 10 December 2021

No Drills

No, not a post about losing a drill from my toolbox, but about sustainable and more efficient ways of farming.

I was listening to a farmer on Radio 4 interviewing other arable farmers who have taken experimental approaches to their production.

One farmer he spoke to had moved to no drill agricultural production whereby, rather than ploughing an entire field prior to sowing seed, he used a slicer to cut very narrow channels into his field, into which the seed is laid and the turf folded back into position. Using this methodology, the field remains looking natural with a covering that looks like a hay field ready for cutting.

The farmer maintained he had much similar results overall, but substantially increased his profitability as he wasn't spending vast sums on ploughing, fertilising and weeding. He said yield was for vanity and profitability was for sanity. Additionally, rather than his contribution to nature being limited to the hedgerows, his entire field was a nature reserve.

Not only that, but he was always told to use a certain insecticide on his crop due to the prevalence of aphids, but leaving the field au naturel attracted beetles which predated on the aphids, so he saved on insecticide too.

He said that the internet allows experimental farmers to share their experiences, whether bad or good, for the benefit of all, rather than experimentation being restricted and filtered through normal channels, such as the Royal Agricultural College, which has only finite resources.

Apparently, some 40% of the world's crop goes to waste, 15% of that being before ever getting off the farm, which is an incredible amount.

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Last Few Jobs

Got just 4 more jobs to do on the static caravan (2 small and 2 larger) before it's stress tested by Hay's sister and her husband this coming Tuesday for 3 nights, prior to being available for paying guests.

The two small ones are connecting the remaining TV aerial wires; secondly and installing the sound bar for the main TV; the larger ones are mounting the silver wings I got from Facebook Market over the master bed headboard and installing the surfboard seat(the Clearwater decal has arrived), but I fear the latter is going to have to wait, as the weather isn't conducive to large scale spraying, although I may get a mate in the trade to do it in a proper drying kiln. Installing the surfboard seat isn't really imperative till Spring.

The silver wings were a bit of a pain. They had some hideous glitter on the feather ends, which I had to sand off without damaging them. They were additionally designed to be hung vertically, whereas I want to hang them horizontally over the bed in the master bedroom. Doing this with two wings requires two new fixings per wing and ensuring they are both level would have been a nightmare, so I solved that issue by using a batten across the back to link them together in a near-rigid manner, meaning a spirit level would be all that will be needed to hang them by the joining batten, across the 40cm spaced vertical battens of the caravan bedroom.

Before taking them to the caravan on Sunday, I may reinforce the brace with a patch of fibreglass and resin on the back.

To finish them off I'd like to add a circular, silver and black mirror over the join between the wings. That would certainly set them off and give the bedroom a bit of over-the-top wow factor, but watch this space.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Mandation vs Guidance

The government is being criticised for mixed messaging on social gatherings - nothing new there - but why are they so reluctant to mandate, rather than merely issue guidance?

Could it be because that if government guidance were to become mandatory, venues would be forced to give customers who cancel a refund. Under guidance, they needn't, thus aiding the economy.

Some are also railing against the profits being made by Big Pharma vaccines. Anyone, however, is welcome to develop their own vaccine and invest the huge sums involved in research and testing. It's a bit off to criticise companies that engage in such work. 

Before Covid, ROI on research and development was 1.8%, down from between 8 or 10%. Who would invest for such returns? However, that's likely to increase with the Covid vaccine, and can you blame them - they're not altruists. Big Pharma don't develop new drugs in isolation; they're developed is association with university research groups funded by Big Pharma and, in the case of the UK, with the NHS, who have the patients for trials.

That said, with warnings that future viruses could be far more devastating than Covid, is there now an argument for nationalising medical research, as it is fast becoming critical infrastructure? The problem there is that it's in the hands of Big Pharma precisely because such companies are far more efficient at developing new drugs than government and take risks which, under government control, would result in finding cuts in the event of failure, which is commonplace in drug development.

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Spray Day

Spent Saturday fixing the Ford Galaxy's handbrake handle and spraying the replacement passenger wing mirror cover with primer, a topcoat of Ford Tango and some lacquer.

Bugger me, if on the car's first outing on Sunday, some idiot in the Tesco car park didn't clip my wing mirror. Luckily there was no damage.

Also managed to give the surfboard a couple of full coats of primer - it's looking good now.

It's been in the engine room curing for a couple of days. I have a 1m vinyl logo on order with the word "Clearwater" in Magneto font - cost about £15. That will go over the colour coat and underneath the lacquer coat. Given the grey primer is the same colour as the caravan decking, I may just use that as a topcoat, although a shimmery, metallic grey would be nicer.

Then comes the fixing of the surfboard to the two logs that will form the base of the surfboard seat, but  permanently, in such a manner that the seat can't be nicked by the odd tealeaf. I'll probably glue it and add a couple of recessed bolts glued into the logs that will make it a 3 or 4 man job to move it, but I'll do that on site at the caravan.

Monday, 6 December 2021

Hisense Hi-Jinx

Some 6 weeks ago, Hay ordered what was meant to be a new, 40 inch, Hisense SMART TV for the static caravan. A week went by, and then another week, and still no TV delivery. 

Using the tracking number, she discovered it had been delivered to an address somewhere in Surrey. The seller wasn't responding to email and the Post Office seemed capable of intervening and having it delivered to our house, as it had been delivered to the address on the package, which the seller had gotten wrong, so she raised a dispute with e-Bay in the hope of getting a refund.

Refunds on e-Bay take a while, as there has to be a waiting period for the seller to respond. A week went by, and possibly more, and the refund finally came through.

She then looked at what Argos had to offer and found a 40 inch Bush TV. Now I haven't seen a Bush TV since they were black and white, were sat in a walnut cabinet, had no more than 2 channels and came from Radio Rentals. However, it was her decision and she ordered it. She received an email to say it would be available for collection sometime between the Saturday and the following Saturday, but she'd receive a text message with a PIN first. No PIN was forthcoming. 

It was now getting very close to the day the photographer was to come to the caravan to take the official advert photos, so we bit the bullet and she took our TV to the caravan on Friday, leaving us with no TV. 

She called Argos on Friday, who said there had obviously been some glitch in the system and that it would be available the next day, which was Saturday which finished the week it would allegedly be there for collection. I duly went into Argos on Saturday morning and, you guessed it, the TV still wasn't there.

The lady I spoke to said there was yet another glitch in the system, but she could let me have a 40 inch Hisense or a 32 inch Samsung at the same price, which was a Black Friday deal. Alternatively, she could register a home delivery of the Bush between 7pm and 10pm that evening. I opted for the home delivery.

At 7pm the Bush TV duly arrived. I then spent the next hour attaching the legs, plugging all the cables in and trying to get it to work. There were problems I couldn't quite fathom out - while I could get it to connect to the SkyBox and to the internet, there were no Apps for Netflix and the like. I looked at the TV box and, bugger me, it wasn't a SMART TV. Yet another night without TV, but we crowded around my laptop again to watch BBC iPlayer.

I now had a couple of choices; return the TV to Argos the next day and buy a seller refurbished SMART TV on e-Bay (seller refurbished meaning nothing other than it was a shop return and still came with a 12 months warranty), meaning I'd have to rush to South Cerney and repatriate our Samsung, so we had a TV till the seller refurbished one arrived, or see if Argos would exchange the Bush for the Hisense I knew they had and had offered me the day before. I wasn't holding out much hope for the latter.

Luckily the same lady was in the shop, so I didn't have to wade through the story again, and she happily exchanged the Bush for a Hisense SMART TV, which was a dream to install at home (although the sound is garbage, as it is on all flat screen TVs). She also told me that they sold a lot of Hisense TVs and she hadn't had a single return, which was good news, as I'd never heard of the brand before.

I blame Hay for not ordering a SMART TV in the first place, but there again she isn't conversant with the latest technology, so she has an entirely valid excuse. But what a palaver!

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Chips With Everything

All cats will have to be chipped, according to new legislation. Failure to chip a cat could lead to a £500 fine.

The problem is, how is this going to be policed? Even someone taking their cat to the vet for some work could claim it's not their cat and they acted purely out of altruism. There again, the vet could say you have to pay for the chipping, else he or she doesn't go back home with you and goes straight to a cats' home, not that this is the kindest act.

Take Railway, the feral cat we feed; there's no way in hell we could get him into a cage to take him to a vet for chipping, except if he were incapacitated by illness. He's certainly not our cat - he's feral.

Given the legislation kicks in at 20 weeks, chipping can't be verified at kitten inoculation, which occurs at 9 weeks and 12 weeks. It could be picked up at annual booster vaccinations, but not everyone gives their cats annual boosters.

It's rather difficult to prove a cat belongs to someone, unless it has a collar with an address tag, and very few cats will put up with one of those. A cat chooses you; you don't choose a cat - if it doesn't like you, your environment or what you're feeding it, it will pretty quickly bugger off and seek someone else to sponge off, and that's usually us.

There again, chipping a cat doesn't cost an arm and a leg - somewhere between £9 and £20.

The biggest benefit of chips, in my opinion, is that they can selectively activate electronic cat flaps, barring unwanted interlopers from your house.

People often think that if a chipped pet becomes someone else's, the chip has to be reprogrammed, but the chip contains only a number. It's the registration database that contains the name and address associated with that number. What pet owners often forget to do is to have the database changed when they become the new owner of a cat, or move house.

Saturday, 4 December 2021


Many, including a Sage scientist, are saying that the Omicron Covid variant is nothing to worry about, simply because it's less virulent and that banning flights is an overreaction. It is, however, far more infectious, having 30 odd mutations and 15 mutations on the spike protein alone, which increase the number of binding sites on human cells to give it an R number of 6 or 7, according to reports.

Given it is highly infectious, given reports suggest it can even infect double vaccinated individuals (albeit mildly), given it has a distinct possibility of becoming the dominant strain and given it has shown a capacity a for high mutation rate, letting it rip through the population exponentially increases the risk of a highly infectious virus mutating once more into something more lethal, while simultaneously being highly communicable and somewhat resistant to current vaccines. That doesn't come from an in-depth knowledge of virology, but simple logic and joining very visible dots.

It would be wrong to ascribe intelligence to a virus but, rather like water running downhill finds the path of least resistance, it proliferates when conditions, such as the human body, are right for replication. With each replication comes the chance of a mutation - that's simply the nature of organic replication. Mutations can possibly be self-destructive, leading to them being short lived, or they can be advantageous, like mutations to the spike protein, making it more infectious. Some can be deadly to humans. Certain combinations can be devastating on human hosts

Omicron itself may be no cause for concern; what is of concern is what Omicron could become, especially when it becomes dominant and has far more humans in which it has the opportunity to mutate. Reliance on early, weak information is foolish, just as relying 100% on a single scientific paper is foolish (such, however, is the staple of sensationalist tabloid journalism).

It's not a great strategy in warfare to lower your defences when you know little about the disposition of your enemy's forces or the strength of his weaponry. What is needed is vigilance and intelligence gathering. Better safe than sorry.

To quote General Helmuth von Moltke, Chief of the German General Staff in WWI; "No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main enemy forces. Only the layman believes that in the course of a campaign he sees the consistent implementation of an original thought that has been considered in advance in every detail and retained to the end."

I would add a rider to that; "Unless the enemy is asleep and totally unprepared," as we were in January 2020 and several other instances since.

Friday, 3 December 2021

Apt Typos

Saw this on the i-News website yesterday:

They obviously mean Cold Weather Payment, but the typo is rather apt, as they're for pensioners. I got mine last month.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

The Cowl

We've recently become addicted to latest PD James Dalgleish detective series. Bertie Carvel is a marvellous actor and you can't see a trace of the actor in the characters he plays.; he inhabits the roles he plays.

In the latest episode we watched, Dalgliesh was surprised from behind by a monk in a habit, scapular and cowl who had his cowl over his head. It struck me that a symbol of intense religiosity can simultaneously be seen as something extremely sinister. 

This is especially the case where the face is hidden by the cowl and the feeling overcomes cone that there's something evil or incorporeal hidden within it.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

The Static

Well, the static, aka Clearwater, is nearly ready for habitation by paying customers - I was down there yesterday to put up a few ornamentations. Just a few more artworks are needed to complete the image we're trying to convey. Click on the images below to enlarge them.

A couple of things need changing, such as the electric fire, which I consider to be a particular fire hazard after the fan failed yesterday (although the elements heated up), and a lampshade or two, which Hay will be attending to on Friday. The TV for the lounge also needs to be installed, once we get it, which should be any day now. I want a couple of large, 80cm silver wings over the bed in the master bedroom, but Hay's not so sure, believing that if they fell off they'd kill the bed's occupants. The space is perfect for them.

I have yet to install the Hive system to control the central heating remotely and I also want a couple of outdoor electrical sockets, plus an outside tap for swilling down the decking. An external camera connected to the Hive system would be a good anti-theft precaution.

I showed my mate Mike's parents the van yesterday, as they had just bought a 2nd hand one and were taking delivery of it. Mike's father particularly liked the glass patio fencing facing the lake and called it an 'infinity patio', a term which I really liked and will get the company which is managing our rentals, Cotswold Retreats, to use.

The advert is already live and we're taking bookings from mid December, by which time we hope to have the patio doors, which were broken in a failed attempt at entry by a thief, replaced. The advert photos are temporary and a professional photographer is coming on Saturday.