Sunday, 31 January 2021

Nationality

With all the talk of Scottish Independence, I pondered exactly what nationality is. 

I have a passport which declares me to be British. Being British is not really a nationality, but a concept. I certainly don't have a single piece of paper to say I'm English, and nor does anyone who claims to be English.

The English seem to identify slightly more as English than British, as this chart below from 2016 shows - although it may have changed since.


In my case I wasn't born here - I was naturalised - but even my naturalisation papers say I'm British and not English. The same goes for the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish, I believe - and this may have implications for any Scottish referendum.

How does one claim to be a Scot? Living there, being born there and having parents who were both born there, yea, unto the 20th generation? That would certainly be a valid qualification, despite the admixture of Roman, Saxon, Viking and Norman blood at some stage. 

Talking of the Normans, the freebooters and thugs who comprised the Norman war machine accompanying William the Bastard (or, The Conqueror, to his face) and became our aristocracy, had a habit of becoming more like their conquered than the natives, wherever they went - more Irish than the Irish, more Scots than the Scots, more Welsh than the Welsh, etc, etc, to the extent that they would go to war with the descendants of their ancient compatriots because of an overdeveloped sense of nationalism in their new, adopted home. It's akin to the ex smoker becoming the most ardent anti-smoker.

Perhaps, given 700,000 people were disenfranchised in the Brexit vote by having been absent from the UK for 15 years or more, there should be a cut-off for along those lines too - regardless of where you were born or how you self-identify.

How about using international sports rules - if one of your grandparents was Scots, you can claim Scottishness? I claimed British nationality through having one British (English) parent and coming to live in Britain. 

There seems to be no internationally accepted definition of nationality, other than what it says on one's passport, and I have yet to see a Scottish (or English) passport. Even citizenship is not necessarily accepted as nationality. OK, your British birth certificate and passport shows your place of birth, but not the constituent country - it's inferred by the city or town. 

British passports, in the modern sense, were introduced in 1915. Before this there were few practical restrictions on individuals who wished to travel abroad (provided they could afford to do so). Documents similar to passports were issued by the Scottish crown (prior to the union of crowns in 1603) and by burghs, senior churchmen and noblemen. These were letters of introduction or safe conduct for individuals (mainly aristocrats or their agents) travelling in Europe, sometimes on official business. In general those emigrating permanently before 1915 did not require passports. Henry V apparently created the first English passport and it was written in French. Indeed, the word passport is French.

So who gets to vote in a Scottish referendum on independence? In the last independence referendum, all EU or Commonwealth citizens residing in Scotland age 16 or over could vote, with some exceptions. So by that definition, residency is a requirement - although I can't see EU citizens necessarily getting a vote next time; however, I might be wrong. The SNP would certainly want them to vote.

But what about Scots (whatever that means) residing in other parts of Britain? While the Unionists would naturally want them included, as they would swell the No camp; the SNP would not - they chose to leave Scotland, for whatever reason. Perhaps the 15 year rule from the Brexit vote should be invoked. 

Interestingly, the Islamic view about nationality is wholly different from the western democratic concept. The Muslims' nationality is not based on the unity of geographical, language and material factors. It is based on religion. The Islamic ummah is a party or society which is founded by God and the Prophet, and its membership depends on the unity of belief, world vision and an Islamic system. Islam rejects every territorial and materialistic limitation. This is why the imposition of national boundaries on the remains of the Ottoman Empire after WWI sowed the seeds of many of the Middle East's problems - individual Muslim 'nations', which were based on arbitrary lines drawn by Europeans, can only be held together by secular, military strongmen and dictators, as events have proven. The natural, religious imperative is for a single, Islamic state embracing all Muslims.

Could I self-identify as a Scot? 


Saturday, 30 January 2021

Kono III

Being the impatient gefingerpokerer that I am, I decided to inspect the kono grill. It looked pretty dry and so I gingerly removed the central box in order to better facilitate drying - and to put the box back where I found it, before Hay missed it.


It came out quite easily - the clingfilm had done its job - and the central box was clean as a whistle (phew!). I then decided to remove the clingfilm lining.


Again, no problems.

The interior of the grill is much rougher than I'd hoped, but that was because the initial mix was quite dry, as advised. Perhaps a more loose mix would have resulted in a smoother surface, just as it did for the upper interior walls, but the weight would have increased. The bottom and lower sides resemble loose breeze block.

Not an issue, however, as I can skim the interior with some cement at a later stage to smooth it out, as I do want to be able to clean it out of spent charcoal properly between uses. Perhaps this is the stage when refractory fire cement would be called for as a skim coat - inside and outside. Haven't made up my mind yet and will wait a week for it to cure first. It's not as if it's going to be used in anger for a while.

It may not actually require skimming on the bottom, as the water will have dropped to the bottom through gravity and filled the gaps with cement.


Friday, 29 January 2021

Kono II

I decided to take a day off yesterday and tackle the kono / hibachi / yakitori BBQ / grill I'm intending to make.

Hay happened to have a perfect sized black box that would create the inside former, so I nicked it. She won't notice, unless it takes longer than a week for the percrete (perlite and cement) to cure.

I started off by wrapping the inside of the large recycling box and the outside of the smaller black box in clingfilm, which will hopefully easy the separation of the grill from the boxes, as well as keeping the boxes relatively clean.



Not the easiest of tasks, as the damned clingfilm sticks to everything.

Hay had some grey Portland cement, but I didn't really want a mottled thing comprised of white, perlite aggregate and grey cement - plus it's more than a year old and cement does go off with age. 

I should really have some white, refractory cement, due to its heat resistant properties, but I saw of YouTube that most people get away with ordinary, white cement. That involved a click and collect trip to Travis Perkins in town.

I mixed the dry ingredients - 10 scoops perlite, 4 of white cement - thinking I'd have plenty. The perlite alone looked as it it would fill the entire recycling box. However, once water was added (4 parts) it immediately shrank in volume. I used an old builder's bucket to mix the perlcrete in, but a clean wheelbarrow would have been better - I ended up having to use my hands and cement knackers skin in the same manner as hand sanitizer.


It turned out to be only enough to put a layer on the bottom, on which I rested the black box, and to come half way up said internal black box. I made another batch of half the previous volume - wishing I'd bought a pair of overalls.

The perlite is a bit like polystyrene beads, but much firmer. It's light as a feather and floats on water. Apparently it's some kind of expanded volcanic glass.

Finished filling the sides with a slightly wetter mixture and then carried it to my engine room (where all the gubbins for the underfloor heating, etc. is installed and is consequently quite warm) where it will harden and cure for at least a week before I attempt to remove it from the boxes. The longer the curing, the higher the strength - ideally it should be a month for max strength, but most people seem to get away with a week. Perlite has water retentive qualities and thus it adds to the drying time - any water present in the perlcrete risks cracks when it's heated by a charcoal fire.



As this is my first attempt, it may simply fall apart through the walls being too thin, or the mix not being sufficiently fireproof, or I may have to demolish the boxes in order to release the grill. The latter is my greatest fear, although I have already flexed the inner box last night while it was drying and managed to lift it a centimetre and push it back down, so I don't think that will be an issue. The outer box may prove more difficult, but I don't mind having to destroy that it I have to, although there are 4 holes in the bottom of the box which will aid extricating the grill.

The 3 bags of perlite cost me £25, the 25kg bag of cement was another £15, the boxes were free. However, I'm still waiting for the aluminium angle I ordered as reinforcement for the edges (£40), the aluminium brazing rods (£10) and a blowtorch (£15 - including 4 gas cannisters). The blowtorch will double in the kitchen for caramelising food, so that won't be included in the final price. I will also need some form of sliding draught control for the holes I'll be drilling in the ends - say another tenner, max.

I still have enough perlite and cement to make another, should this attempt prove abortive. Overall cost should, assuming all goes well, be in the region of £100, plus my time. Much cheaper than the ones on eBay. I dare say I could have made it a tad cheaper.

As they say, watch this space.


Thursday, 28 January 2021

Vaccine Nationalism

With the problems in delivery of vaccines, there's much talk in the news about Vaccine Nationalism.


Herd immunity, and thus the end of the pandemic, relies on one, single factor - achieving immunity through vaccination in above (an estimated) 60% of the population. At that stage the virus is contained, with the by-product that mutations are very much less likely, as there are fewer people to infect, given the number of potential mutations is directly proportional to the number of infections.

If supplies of a vaccine are constrained, for whatever reason, then that herd immunity must ideally start at a focus point and spread outward. It is senseless to initiate a vaccination programme over an area where you're likely to run out of vaccine before the magic 60% lower estimate is reached, else herd immunity itself isn't reached and there will only be partial immunity. Once vaccine supplies do run out, the perimeter from the focus point where vaccination started (with a minimum of 60% population saturation) is the area where restrictions on movement should be imposed, as that is the limit of the region where herd immunity has been reached. It's not rocket science - it's simple logic. No-one comes in and no-one goes out, except in exceptional circumstances.

This is why countries must depend on having sufficient vaccines to achieve herd immunity within their borders, as borders can be policed. If not, it's pointless and a better strategy would be to simply vaccinate all those at the highest risk of complications, which will be fewer in number. However, it would not eliminate the virus, which would remain entrenched in the greater part of the population, with the attendant risk of mutation into a strain that those who have been vaccinated against may not be immune to.

National borders are important, as they can be monitored and controlled. Just think back on the Tier system we had in Autumn and over Christmas - that was a regional system and impossible to police. However, was it regionalism? Certainly. It attempted to contain areas of high infection and protected areas of low infection - with only sporadic success because of very porous borders between Tiers.

I'm not surprised in the least that the EU is seeking to guarantee the promised 300m doses of vaccine - that's 66.6% of its population - the magic number for herd immunity (bearing in mind that's only for one dose and some estimates for herd immunity go as high as 80% - but that does not take into account those who have already had the disease). If that were to be diluted, then herd immunity would not be reached. 

It's in every country's interests to ensure it has - at a minimum - vaccines for 2/3rds of its population. Call it Vaccine Nationalism if you want, and rail against it, but it's simple, common sense. If all the available vaccine doses predicted to be available by summer were to be shared around the world in an unprecedented act of altruism, then no country would achieve herd immunity. It would be a futile and wasteful exercise and akin to sharing a single aspirin between 10 people having a headache - no-one would benefit.

The prime directive of any authority is to protect those it's responsible for and I would expect the UK government to do no less. It's a competition for finite resources in order to bring a virus under some semblance of control, whether that be with the sole aim of preventing deaths or, indeed, to save the economy.

There is one other issue to consider - the repeated (albeit late) lockdowns were targeted at the express aim of reducing pressure on the NHS - we were told that repeatedly. Once the numbers came down to relieve pressure on the NHS, the brakes came off. It cannot therefore be said that the intention was ever to prevent infections, and hence deaths, per se. The economy took precedence over deaths and was the reason the brakes came off - several times. This must have a direct link to the fact we have the worst death rate in Europe. 

We were slow into the first lockdown in March 2020; we were slow in getting PPE to the frontline; we were slow to protect care homes; we were late with test and trace; we were slow into the 2nd lockdown in autumn; we were slow to change the disastrous Christmas mixing rules ; we were again slow into this 3rd lockdown and slow to effectively monitor our borders. Would anyone else have done better? Well, by any objective comparison, most world leaders HAVE indeed done better. At each turn, Johnson has resisted taking control until the escalating death toll left him no other choice.

I somehow think that had Corbyn or Starmer presided over this tour de force of incompetence, the blue scarf wearers would not have been as magnanimous as they have been toward Boris Johnson. The art of leadership is to be able to communicate urgency with the ability to communicate clearly and consistently; to do unpopular things and have the electorate fully on your side because they trust you. 

Johnson has shown, incontrovertibly, that he can't be trusted in anything. His focus is on the myth - the ending,  rather than the multiple cockups in between. Endings are very important to historical narrative, as those are remembered and define it. Once this virus is behind us, the only narrative will be how Johnson's performance was a resounding success due to his Churchillian handling of the vaccination programme. He will define the story of Britain’s pandemic based on the memory of its ending, not the bulk of its disastrous experience. It's little wonder there's no appetite for an inquiry, which inspects the entire timeline and not just the ending.

The Lowy Institute has compiled a report on how countries and regions have fared against a number of metrics. It makes interesting reading, especially the following comment; "The dividing line in effective crisis response has not been regime type, but whether citizens trust their leaders, and whether those leaders preside over a competent and effective state. In general, countries with smaller populations, cohesive societies, and capable institutions have a comparative advantage in dealing with a global crisis such as a pandemic."


Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Kono Madness

 I've set myself the task of making a kono grill, otherwise known as either a hibachi or yakitori grill.

What got me on to this project was seeing the BBQ grill used by celebrity chef, James Martin, in his series where he travels around the UK, cooking in the open. We both thought it rather cool and useful. 


This jobbie is bloody expensive and it's impossible to get one for under £300, despite it being little more than a huge, hollowed out  firebrick, so I thought I'd make one using perlite and white cement. 

The perlite has excellent insulation properties, as well as being ultra light. The insulation keeps the heat where it's needed, rather than escaping through the sides and bottom, as in most steel BBQs, so it's perfect for putting pans on. It will be handy for outdoor cooking on our travels in the van, once things return to some semblance of normality. 

The intention is to use two plastic boxes as my former, as follows:



The idea is to put a layer of the perlite concrete on the bottom of the large refuse recycling box, place the smaller box on top of that and then fill in the sides. The boxes are quite flexible and taper toward the bottom, which should aid removing the formers from the grill carcase. I'll also use Clingfilm to line the larger box and cover the sides and bottom of the smaller box (Hay will kill me if the boxes are destroyed in the process). It will need to be left for at least a week to cure, plus a bit more once released.

Rather than attaching handles, I'll excavate handles from the carcase with an angle grinder (a horizontal cut and a follow-up 45 degree angle cut lower down to meet the horizontal cut) and then reinforce the edges with strips of angled aluminium that I'll braze together into a cage. I also need to drill some air vents and arrange a sliding mechanism to control the airflow, as in the commercially available one in the top image.

Watch this space. Work will hopefully commence this coming weekend.


Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Cat Behaviour II - The Pack

I wrote a short while ago about the mouse that died and rotted under our kitchen island. This week Kitty brought another live mouse into the house and let it go. Where did it end up? Under the kitchen island.

This time, however, both the neighbour's cats happened to be in the house and a concerted hunt began.



They actually hunted as a pack, which is rather amazing seeing as Kitty detests the other cats. It was eventually caught by Kitty, regardless of our attempts to coax it out and release it in the garden.

Kitty has also become Keeper of the Royal Jocks and Socks. 

She regularly takes over my sock and jock drawer, choosing to snuggle down in it if I happen to leave it open for longer than a few minutes.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Cancel Mental BBC Lockdown Brexit

A bit of a long mish-mash today that's been building up and I may have touched on some issues before..

I've made fleeting reference to Cancel Culture before and how it was invented by the right (for right, you can read aristocracy, if you will - one and the same in days of yore) and used by them for centuries to silence and oppress minorities. Examples include: 

  • 1290 - Jews? Not here - chuck them out because we owe them money. Cancelled!
  • 17th & 18th centuries -Slavery - an entire race cancelled.
  • 18th century - Empire - your nation is hereby cancelled. 
  • Till 1918 - Votes - You can't vote unless you own a property of a certain value, you poor people are cancelled. 
  • Till 1928 - Votes for women - can't have them making silly, fluffy decisions. Cancelled!
  • 2020 - Scrutiny of legislation - sorry, can't have that, I'm proroguing Parliament illegally and cancelling it. 

Now Priti Patel wants to row back on legislation against hate speech under the guise of Freedom of Speech, on which I have written many times, and in the battle against Wokeness. Priti and her neoliberal sponsors need to be very careful in this - what's good for the goose is good for the gander. We will soon all be able to go back to the good old days when bigots and racists could abuse whomsoever they wanted with no consequences. I wonder what she thinks about a man from Texas who allegedly participated in the deadly 6 January Capitol riots being charged with threatening to assassinate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after posting death threats online. Obviously, in her mind, this is nothing more than Free Speech, very dangerous Free Speech.

Woke means alert to social justice, especially racism. Patel, and the government she serves, know this and want to gaslight people to wage a war against it and turn ignorance of our past and incivility into a civic virtue. That speaks volumes about this current, despicable, incompetent, elitist, populist rabble that is in charge. Are we following Trumpism? It's a rhetorical question which doesn't really need an answer, unless you've had your head up your backside for the last 4 years.


On a related issue, the government's own trade advisors are telling companies to open up offices in the EU to avoid Brexit costs. We've gone down the rabbit hole. Nigel Farage has said; "This is a big moment for our country, a giant leap forward." Giant leap forward? More like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution crossed with 1984. One line in 1984 epitomises our current situation; “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

Fishing: The industry was promised that a Brexit deal would mean reclaiming our waters, but fishermen can't sell the fish they catch to the continent because of extra border checks and delays, so fish rots before it can get to the other side. The government has had to come up with a £23m compensation package for angry fishing crews. The problem is systemic.

Exports: UK businesses exporting to the EU have had to confront a mass of new charges and paperwork, causing delays to shipments. Couriers are imposing a Brexit charge to cover the cost of extra form-filling and separate fees apply for pre-paying the costs of import charges and inspections on the other side of the Channel. UK exports to the EU are 40% down on normal levels. HMRC has said that British businesses will face £7.5bn of extra customs costs, based on pre-Brexit trade volumes. That's more than our entire net contribution to the EU on one area alone. This is systemic.

Imports: The average cost of moving a lorryload of goods to the UK from Germany was 26% higher in the first week of 2021 than in the third quarter of last year, according to the haulage industry. This is because companies transporting items into the UK face added checks and delays, and those that then collect goods to take back get stuck on this side as well. Many hauliers are deciding not to bother coming to the UK, and some European companies are halting exports to Britain  This is systemic.

VAT: UK exporters and importers are now having to face VAT charges that did not apply when the UK was in the Single Market. Exporters are finding that their customers abroad are being told by couriers that they have to pay VAT up front before they receive their goods. Customers are refusing to pay. Exporters on the Continent are also facing VAT issues as they try to sell into the UK. This is systemic.

Tours and concerts: Last week a group of musicians shone a light on what it will mean for them and their tours to EU countries. Elton John, Simon Rattle, Ed Sheeran and the Sex Pistols were among those who said Boris Johnson's Brexit deal would make Europe inaccessible for UK-based musicians because of visa rules. Even Roger Daltrey, the doyen of Brexiteers, is a bit pissed off - I'm so happy.

In Parliament, an amendment to protect the NHS from future trade talks in the UK Trade Bill was voted down. An amendment to veto trade with countries that have known genocide activities was voted down. An amendment to maintain trade and environmental standards was voted down. MPs even voted to deprive themselves of the right to scrutinise and approve future trade deals. That's called the tyranny of the majority and the first step toward totalitarianism; it's in and of itself is an opposition to democracy.

To diverge for a second; the two inherent dangers arising from democracy are the abovementioned tyranny of the majority and a systemic short termism. Proponents of the first-past-the-post system maintain that a huge majority enables a government to get things done, but they may be to the detriment of the country, especially if based on ideology.

The BBC reports the facts outlined earlier and is accused, incredulously, of bias by an extremely biased government, backed up by the extremely biased Murdochs and Rothermeres of this land - and others, as they're generally tax exiles or dodgers (Murdoch hasn't paid any UK corporation tax since 1988). How one can claim the BBC is biased on the basis of one Facebook clip is beyond me - it's called cherry picking. When the far left is also accusing the BBC of right wing bias in its reporting on Corbyn, you know the truth lies somewhere in the middle. 

Why does the government put Covid briefings on BBC? Because most people watch the BBC it and trust it. Biased, right wing newspapers owned by offshore, tax avoiding millionaires are telling you the BBC is biased. Why? Because the BBC tells the truth. Great swathes of the media are so slavishly right wing that's it makes the BBC and the centre look left wing.

What I do take exception to is the BBC obsession with balance. If the weatherman comes on to tell you it's raining, and this is something you can verify by looking out of the window, there's no need to bring someone else in to tell you it's not, purely in the interests of balance. OK, that's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you know what I mean.

Brexit is essentially an identity crisis - if you feel you are marginalised, you desperately need to hang on to something, and one's national identity could just be that. Brexit is England's version of Northern Ireland's Troubles, where a certain faction, that is being told by politicians that it's oppressed by the EU, desperately wants to gain succour from an identity, even if it's false. Historians are traditionally  the defenders of our history, not politicians.

In England's case it's a manufactured crisis of identity. Unscrupulous politicians have latched on to this and have channelled L'Ă©cuminati (a French portmanteau word I made up to simultaneously denote a cabal whose members froth at the mouth - essentially bigots, xenophobes and racists) into a self-destructive force that enables those with wealth to; a) weather the storm, and b) buy up the wreckage and reformat it in an environment with fewer workers' rights and a tax regime that favours wealthy tax dodgers. See the evidence and follow the money.

When will the electorate open its eyes? Probably never, when government panders to prejudice and ignorance and practises deceit and untruthfulness as a strategic objective and government policy.

Hang on - there's more. Modellers say we'd have had at least 470k deaths so far without the lockdowns. A fool appears on the news arguing that the lockdown will produce 2m unemployed. I can't see 2m unemployed producing that many deaths - which would you rather be - unemployed or dead? I can see that's a hard one for some. The alternative is to shield the 15m with pre-existing conditions - we can't even shield a care home, let alone 15m. On top of that, 'free ranging' would allow countless mutations (the greater the number of infections, the greater the chance of mutations), any of which could prove fatal to anyone or totally resistant to existing vaccines. 

Then there are those who believe lockdown is creating a mental health crisis. While there are undoubtedly some severe cases, feeling lonely or a bit down because you can't go out is not a diagnosable mental health condition. They should speak to someone like Natasha Devon, a campaigner for mental health charities and maintains lockdown skeptics are weaponising mental health and using it for their own anti-lockdown agenda, which is invariably something to do with profit.

Believe it or not, there were people in WWII who believed the Blackout infringed their rights. Oh, sorry, that link is to Full Fact, which is obviously left biased because it points out misinformation and lies.

One unexpected outcome of the lockdown is that, apparently, a lot of people have taken up art for the first time. Now there may well be a few gems produced, but the auction houses risk being overwhelmed with crappy Lockdown Art, as I think it will be called by posterity.

Is it left wing to believe in social justice, equal opportunities for all, regardless of age, gender, colour or sexual orientation, a fair taxation system, public services for the benefit of all, fair wages, compassion toward those less fortunate and truth? I thought it was just common decency and what civilization was all about. The main question one should ask is whether something, be it a policy or a strategy, is beneficial and good - not whether it leads to power or money or whether it benefits the few at the expense of the many.

There was a time when both main parties espoused these values and there was a hair's breadth between them. The only major difference was on the issue of nationalisation. These days the right has moved too far from the centre, for my liking, reflecting the source of their sponsorship. The left doesn't seem to have moved too far from the centre and is nowhere near as far left as it was in the days of Michael Foot and the antediluvian union bosses, despite its flirt with Corbynism.

Incidentally, the terms "left" and "right" appeared during the French Revolution of 1789, when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president's right and supporters of the revolution to his left.

There, rant over - till tomorrow and another blatant exhibition of incompetence by a government minister or our lying charlatan of a PM.


Sunday, 24 January 2021

Cash for Ash

I'm always amused by the adverts on the PBS America channel, which we watch a lot for the excellent documentaries. Obviously, the channel is watched by the older generation, as the adverts are predominantly about funeral plans and cremation services - they've obviously dome their research.

There are two that particularly amuse us. The first is for Pure Cremations which alternates between a grandad being alive and dead. If one of us is busy in the kitchen when the ad comes on, we tell the other whether he's dead or resurrected again.


The other is for a funeral plan whereby it pays your nearest and dearest a sum that should cover your funeral costs. 

I call all these adverts Cash for Ash.

The price of funerals, like weddings, is becoming ridiculous. Hay thinks we should bagsy a plot in Old Sodbury Church ASAP, in case space runs out - she's determined to bury me, rather than cremate me. The problem is that I don't know when she's going to do it, which makes life a tad anxious.


Saturday, 23 January 2021

Ice Age

I spotted the strangest ice formation in the garden yesterday, following a hard, overnight freeze after the heavy rains.



The deluge created a mini-lake in a particularly badly drained part of the garden. The overnight freeze caused the surface layer of the water to freeze, but the water underneath drained away through the soil, leaving a semi-suspended layer of ice, with the occasional latticework where the surface had only partly crystalized before the water drained naturally.

Then I saw what looked like a shag pile carpet on my car. Click on the photos to enlarge and see how the crystals grew to resemble fur.



Beautiful, ain't it?


Friday, 22 January 2021

Conundrums

In response to the systemic increase in costs involved with the EU deal, Brexiteers seem to think Britain's salvation lies in the fact that 'there's a big world out there' to do deals with. I don't think they realise that having deals with 'the big world out there' is exactly the strategy the EU is following with its Free Trade Agreements, but it already has a huge head start. So where's the advantage, especially when the EU has a market of 600m (now 540m) and the UK is a tenth of that?


They also seem fixated on Britain joining the Asian CPTPP, which is the 3rd largest trading bloc, leading to salvation, unaware of the relationship between distance and trade. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with joining CPTPP, but the gravity model posits that trade between countries increases in proportion to their combined economic mass, and decreases in proportion to the geographical distance and other barriers separating them. The typical estimate implies that a doubling of distance between countries cuts the volume of trade by nearly half. Thus there's no way a CPTPP deal could replace an EU deal without an increase in the volume of trade that's physically impossible and thus it's not salvation they portray it to be.

Of course, that's just Project Fear, rather than evidence-based statistics based on years of observation.

Brexiteers continually suggest that Scottish Independence would not be possible for Scotland as it's a net recipient of money from England and economically dependent. Well, if that's the case, then surely they should embrace Scottish Independence with open arms, as it would relieve England of a costly burden - but, inexplicably, they don't and are conformed Unionists. This is another example of where the intellectual consistency of the Brexit movement falls flat on its face. Scottish Independence has the same driver as Brexit, but with the singular exception of the desire to re-join the EU, rather than stay in a parochial and self-harming region that is losing its way and influence under the leadership of a Chumocracy.

Never underestimate the power of denial and seeing the world in black or white; friends or enemies; winners or losers. That's what drives Trump and Trumpism - complexity and nuance are totally absent as they require thought and the admittance and admission of possible negative consequences. It's much easier to divide the world into two distinct camps on the basis of ideology than to embrace nuance. 

I was having an argument with a Brexiteer on the Express news website (an oxymoron, if ever there was one - it's a propaganda rag worthy of Goebbels), who maintained that, as he's retired, Brexit won't affect him. However, I pointed out, politely, that he's not immune to price increases and the potential for his pension pot to go up in smoke if the economy does. He finally admitted he voted Brexit, in part, to annoy people like me. That says a lot more about him than words could ever do - it's Trumpism writ large; a virus that doesn't balk at killing its host because of its programming.


Thursday, 21 January 2021

Motorhome Camo

I wonder if anyone has had the idea of camouflaging their motorhome as a Tesco van with vinyl wrap to avoid it being stopped by the Covid police? Such camo would allow the owner to roam the entire country unchallenged.


It's rather a pity if they chose Ocado colours, as they've just changed their livery and it will be expensive to re-wrap.

People will be looking out now for suspicious looking motorhomes with bad vinyl wrap.



Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Bonus and Debacle

A double bonus over the last few days - I was invited to go on-line and apply for my state pension, which will start in March, and I received my Covid vaccine call-up papers from the local council and can expect a letter from my GP for an appointment any day now. I'm on the at risk register due to my COPD, but I have to say it doesn't debilitate me greatly, until I'm walking up a mountain - even then it just means I have to rest to catch my breath a bit more than Hay.

I'm now going to talk about something I rarely mention - Brexit. The word bonus doesn't apply to this in the slightest - there simply is no Brexit bonus.

The price of the huss has fallen to just 2p a kilo. Exports to the European Union are Brexit-blighted, with fishers across Britain poleaxed by new costs and regulations, their catches rotting before they reach EU markets. It’s costing them millions already. Boris' deal on fishing is so good he's having to offer fish exporters £23m to compensate - but you can bet he won't do it year-on-year. 

Fishermen say it's the volume of paperwork required and the timeframe in which to produce it, which doesn't lend itself to live shellfish and fish generally - that's not temporary, it's systemic. Meanwhile the blusterer-in-chief and Emperor lacking any clothes hails the deal as brilliant for UK fishermen while Rees-Mogg goes off down the rabbit hole with surreal comments about the fish being happier because they're British. I mean - WTF? Yet there are people in this country who will lap it up and believe every word. There again, there are millions in America who still fervently believe, without a shred of evidence, that the US election was rigged. Some people seem to want to be fooled and are complicit in their own gaslighting.


Last year 180 Irish horses ran at the Cheltenham Festival, but this year Brexit leaves Irish racehorse trainers fearing colossal tax bills. Likewise, the cost of taking UK show-jump horses across the Channel is prohibitive for their British owners. Motorsport faces similar fees for cars shipped to EU races. 

The fashion industry – especially companies at the cheap end with small margins – is hitting a rules-of-origin crisis, paying new duties on its many products manufactured outside the UK and EU. 

Farmers Weekly is sending up flares about plunging meat prices, due to delayed exports. 

The Sunday Times reports on the crisis in a motor industry that’s worth £42bn in exports, employing 823,000 people, where car-part delays due to border friction are halting production at some factories. 

More economically deadly is the unseen slipping away of invisibles, where services are already leaking tax revenues. Bloomberg keeps up its grim recording of no likely progress: “City of London’s plight laid bare as Brexit deal hopes fade,” it reports. 

Stena Line ferries has diverted its Great Britain-Northern Ireland sea crossings to the Rosslare-to-Cherbourg route because of delays. 

Manfreight, a 200-lorry company in Coleraine has lorries carrying exports to England return empty, doubling its costs, as English exporters find it too costly to sell to Northern Ireland, and that’s not "teething proplems" - it's permanent. 

The UK’s former ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, predicted this week that Britain would not secure a US trade deal in Biden’s first term. 

And we're only in week 3 of Brexit, for God's sake.

UK choices meant mechanical, obvious, forecasted and inevitable consequences upon leaving the Single Market, and that’s what the UK wished to do. It’s not French revenge, or bloody-minded Brussels, as the Daily Mail or Express could have their foam-flecked readers believe, but the reality of ordinary life as a third country. Yet Brexiteers refuse, point blank, to see what's in front of their eyes. That's called fanaticism.

Is it a fait accompli and we have to live with it, as Brexiteers maintain? Not by any stretch of the imagination. It was Johnson's decision to remain outside of the Single Market - a sweep of the pen can have us back in a trice, albeit probably without a discount, but even that's uncertain. It would probably also save the Union, which is fast heading for collapse (the collapse of the EU has been touted by Eurosceptics - in the absence of any evidence - to be imminent for the last 20 years). All it needs is for our leader to show some backbone and lead on behalf of the national interest (not his forte, as he prefers to govern for the corrupt Chumocracy) plus some humility and honesty on his part (again, not his forte).

Victor Klemperer made the following observation of the National Socialists in his diaries, but he could equally have been talking about our current government and the Trump administration. "Future historians will praise two features of the National Socialists: their ability to take punishment and their unscrupulousness in misleading the people. In the evening paper they have the nerve to maintain the opposite of what they maintained in the morning paper and the people swallow both." 

We've had a slew of those in the past week - the latest is about amendments to labour laws. In the morning it's denied they will tinker with labour legislation and in the evening they admit they are going to look at changing them. Such U turns have happened so often that they have become the expectation and a tradition.


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Consumer Debt

 A lot, if not the majority of people in the UK live on credit, and it has been increasing year-on-year, except 2020, when consumers paid off billions of consumer debt.


I wonder whether the Covid recession has made many reconsider their strategy of living on the never-never and saving up instead for unforeseen circumstances. While it's a good thing for individuals, it spells problems for an economy that's geared to a debt mountain, as consumers who start to save will have less to spend while saving. Those who are addicted to debt, and therefore the worst risks, will be left for the lenders to deal with.

Banks and credit card companies will have their work cut out to find new ways of persuading us to borrow, but one hopes not. Also, it's not as if interest rates are that good, but it's better having cash on hand than borrowing, unless inflation eats away at the payments.

I make it a policy to always have savings at any one time of an absolute minimum of 6 months outgoings - preferably a year. That's been my cushion against a rainy day. Also, I have never gone beyond 2.5 times salary on a mortgage. 


Monday, 18 January 2021

Accent vs Education

There used to be a time when those with thick, regional accents, were thought of as thick. The Brummie, Somerset, Scouse, Geordie and Essex accents were particular targets for attack. It was a regular prejudice in the 70s. 


However, since larger numbers of working class people started going to university, you're treading on dangerous ground by accusing someone with a thick accent of actually being thick. Now you're as likely to find a person with a cut glass accent exhibiting the intelligence of a sloth.

I'm reading a book called The French Intifada by Andrew Hussey, who I heard speak on the radio last week. Hussey has the thickest of Scouse accents, but speaks fluent French and is an extremely erudite academic with a PhD. 

I wonder if British regional accents come through when those who possess one speak a foreign language? It has been said by teachers of Mandarin that they can tell if the student is from the UK, Australia, America or South Africa by the way they speak Mandarin, so I guess regional British accents must come through in some manner when Brits speak a foreign language.


Sunday, 17 January 2021

Vaccine Dilemma

The government now has a genuine dilemma with vaccinations. There are two aims:

  1. To protect the elderly, who are at most risk of dying from Covid, or
  2. Keeping hospitals functioning so we still have an effective health service, thereby preventing needless deaths from treatable conditions.
There is a 3rd, which is to keep the economy ticking over, but that seems to be playing a reduced role in the current wave and is antithetical to the prime two aims above and not something they're playing up/



Now, when you think about it, these two objectives are diametrically opposed with regard to a vaccination strategy. The elderly need to be vaccinated first to prevent them dying, but it's the young who are spreading the virus most and therefore threatening the HNS with being overwhelmed, added to which, every time the virus replicates, the chance of a mutation increases. Which do you vaccinate first?

It appears that vaccination of the elderly has won, but that could still be the wrong strategy, as some scientists have argued. You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. I guess it depends on the models.

The restrictions on movement and the wearing of masks are designed to assist in helping out the NHS AND preventing the elderly contracting Covid, but there seem to be many more people moving in public and working than in the first wave. The irony is that if restrictions and mask wearing were being strictly adhered to, then vaccinating the elderly would certainly be the right strategy. The problem is a small and vocal minority.

Scottish church ministers are getting into a tizzy about their churches being closed and are asking for a judicial review. They maintain there's no evidence of Covid spreading in churches, but how can that be determined when incubation takes 2 to 3 days after infection? What's incontrovertible is that Covid spreads where people congregate, and what's the collective noun for a bunch of people in a church? Surprise, surprise - it's a CONGREGATION. Additionally, such congregations generally contain a high proportion of elderly people who know each other and will therefore be more inclined to chat in close proximity - the average age of churchgoers is 61, compared to 40.5 in the general population.


Saturday, 16 January 2021

Travel

This week, Google decided to tell me about my movements during 2020.


It does seem that I was rather parochial and stuck mainly to the SouthWest.

Almost all of that travel was conducted prior to the March 2020 lockdown. I really hope and pray that people obey lockdown the restrictions so we can all travel once more - I have an appointment to take No.1 Grandson to Lee Bay sometime this year in the motorhome in order to teach him how to swim and kayak.


Friday, 15 January 2021

Opinions

When people say; "I respect your opinion," do they really mean that? I will only use that expression when I'm genuinely unsure, but when an opinion is obviously bonkers it's not an expression I could ever countenance.


"I respect your opinion, but I disagree," is a nonsense too; it's an oxymoron. I can try to understand what's happened to someone for them to reach a certain conclusion, but respecting an opinion that's clearly that of a lunatic or conspiracy theorist is madness. Just look at Trump's opinions - you'd need to be certifiable to respect those.

Perhaps it's more a tactic to diffuse an argument, like; "Let's agree to disagree," which means neither party can concede defeat or declare victory. A stalemate. There are genuine stalemates when each party has valid arguments, but it usually means that one party refuses to acknowledge fact or logic.

I can certainly respect someone's right to hold an opinion, but not respect said opinion in the slightest. 


Thursday, 14 January 2021

Thoughts on Free Speech

Eric Trump has accused social media of Cancel Culture in banning Donald Trump. Firstly, Cancel Culture was owned by the right for centuries and used to oppress minorities, that's merely the pot calling the kettle black. That, however, is by-the-by. What he's taking aim at is the perceived curtailment of Donald Trump's right to free speech. All  that's happened is that he's had a couple of megaphones taken from him and can still, and does, way what he wants.


Free speech is a democratic mechanism - totalitarian regimes, whether fascist or communist, do not allow free speech. Therefore, free speech that aims to undermine democracy is an abuse of a democratic mechanism.

It could be argued that there are times that a government itself borders on the totalitarian when it persistently does illegal things, or changes the law to allow it to do things in an undemocratic manner. Free speech criticising this is permissible, as its aim is the restoration of full democracy.

Using free speech to foment a coup is not a legitimate use of free speech, as it aims to destroy the very thing it claims a right to, unless that coup has the intent of restoring democracy. The Trump-inspired storming of the Capitol did not and was the action of a tyrant who lights a fuse for others to act on.

Trump likes to portray his 'Stop The Steal' meme as a democratic initiative but, when no evidence is presented, it's an initiative to undermine the very thing it purports to uphold. It's an oxymoron; it's an attempted coup against a democratic process; it's a lie.

Trump and his supporters are desperate to portray themselves as patriots, but they're nationalists. To quote David John Moore Cornwell, aka John le CarrĂ©; "Nationalism is quite different from patriotism. For nationalism you need enemies." Trump sees enemies all around him, just as fascists do.

The BLM protests have been likened by white supremacists to the storming of the Capitol, but they are entirely different. Research has shown that 93% of the BLM protests were perfectly peaceful, although you won't hear a racist admitting to that. Any damage that was caused was not aimed at government property or symbols of government but at private property. Nor was it a coup attempt; it was an outpouring of pure anger at a society that ranks black people as 2nd class. Yes, some police stations were targeted, but it has to be remembered that the protests were in response to police brutality. The manner in which some of the protests were policed was in itself highly confrontational, aggressive and antagonistic. The Capitol storming targeted the seat of democracy and was an attempt to overthrow the democratic process, although it lacked the intellectual basis and tactics required for a successful coup.

Umberto Eco wrote an essay on fascism, which he believes has the following attributes by which it can be recognised:

  • The cult of tradition. 
  •  The rejection of modernism. 
  • The cult of action for action’s sake. 
  •  Disagreement is treason. 
  •  Fear of difference. 
  •  Appeal to social frustration. 
  • The obsession with a plot. 
  • The enemy is both weak and strong as need dictates. 
  • Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. 
  • Contempt for the weak. 
  • Everybody is educated to become a hero. 
  • Machismo and weaponry. 
  • Selective populism. 
  • The use of Newspeak - an impoverished vocabulary and elementary syntax.
How many do you recognise in many of today's leaders?


Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Cat Behaviour

Our neighbour's cat, Spooky, has a habit in the evening of coming into our house and sleeping on our bed. I can go past him numerous times during the evening on the way to the loo and he doesn't budge, but as soon as I come upstairs when we're about to go to bed, he immediately vacates the bed and rushes downstairs to exit the house.


I was scratching my head as to what it is that triggers him to know when I'm about to go to bed, as opposed to going to the loo once more. I thought for a while that he may be psychic, but last night I twigged - he smells the candles being put out, of which we have some half dozen burning throughout the evening, and associates that with being hoofed off the bed and chucked out within a minute.

Our neighbour's other cat, Gingey, is a bit autistic, having had an accident a year or two ago, following which there was a marked change in his behaviour - he went a bit simpleminded. He's a lovely, docile chap, but always has a bemused look on his face, a bit like you see on the face of Roman Abramovich in magazine photos of him.


Both are attracted to our house because of the underfloor heating and, turf them out as much as we do, they simply keep coming back. No-one own cats - they choose which houses to inhabit.

Our own cat, Kitty, who is a permanent lodger, is constantly traumatised by these interlopers and seeks solace in cupboards, but will viciously swipe and hiss at either of the other cats if they come too close. She doesn't mind Gingey too much, as he isn't threatening and quite docile, but Spooky will try to steal Kitty's dinner, which leads to some noisy confrontations. Spooky is a bit like a persistent teenager.


If we throw Spooky and Gingey out, they then trek over to Hay's dad's house, as he has a log fire burning most evenings, and curl up in front of it, in preference to going to their own house.

All the cats hate Railway, the feral cat that comes to our back door every morning and evening for a meal. But he's really feral and will fight anything, as his battle scars will attest. The closest we can approach him is a couple of feet when feeding him.



Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Weird II

Continuing on from my post last week about our penchant for Cheddar with Christmas cake, I decided to try Stilton and Christmas cake the other evening for accompaniment to our evening coffees. 


Very nice it was too. I tend to buy a large block of Stilton and put it in a pot to fester for a while at room temperature. It mellows the sharpness most Stiltons seem to have, and deepens the umami taste. A couple of days short of a week is usually sufficient to get it weeping and I then put it in the fridge, after pouring off the liquid fraction, which can be considerable.



Monday, 11 January 2021

It's Psychology - Jimmy

It's intriguing how advertisers use accents to market their products, and I don't mean regional UK accents, although they are used quite a lot. 


A Scandinavian accent, at least to me (and Hay) instils trust, which is probably why IKEA tend to use Swedish accented voice-overs on some of their adverts. That said, if you were in Lindisfarne in the 8th century, a Scandinavian accent would have made you shit your pants.

German accents convey reliability and precision, but once conveyed aggressive warmongering, especially if that accent hissed; "Ve haff vays off making you tok." 

Mediterranean accents perhaps engender hedonism. French brings sophistication. I shudder when hearing an American accent on an advert as I always think I'm being fleeced if I buy the product - they do false sincerity quite well.

I wonder whether foreign companies use British accents - even devolved regional accents - to convey any subliminal messages? The Americans do like to use British accents, although villains always seem to have British accents in American films. I suspect in future that they'll sound like Trump.

Does any foreign-based reader know of any examples of British accented voices being used to sell products?


Sunday, 10 January 2021

Changing Tastes

We've been watching a series on Cornish fishermen on BBC2, which was filmed over last year (Cornwall: A Fishing Life). If I were a fish and wanted to hide from fishermen, the best place appears to be in the middle of a fishing harbour. The professional fishermen never, ever fish in their harbours. The most you get is anglers.


The subject of Brexit obviously came up and a minority of the fishermen expressed concern about their viability if tariffs were introduced (the series was filmed prior to the deal), as much of their catch is destined for the EU, but the majority simply wanted a larger share of the existing quota, which primarily went to to the larger UK operators when the quotas were auctioned off to the highest bidder. A large catch  for the larger concerns perhaps means another house or car, rather than survival, as is the case for the small operators who fish in-shore.

One fisherman was rather pragmatic and admitted that fishermen were greedy and that increasing quotas would be counterproductive, as overfishing would once more plague the industry, which was the cause of its decline ever since the early 1900s. A redistribution would be more effective.

Fishermen who rely on selling to the EU are now complaining that the introduction of health certificates, customs declarations and other paperwork that they didn't have to deal with previously has added days to delivery times and hundreds of pounds to the cost of each load sent to the EU, undermining a system that used to put fresh seafood into French shops just over a day after it was harvested. They're fishermen who spend all their time fishing to make a living, not bureaucrats. They were sold a pup, as well as being sold down the river.

Because the UK's taste for fish has changed dramatically over the years, to the extent that we favour imported species to domestic ones, it strikes me that all it would take to change this would be for fishermen to lobby a few TV chefs to create dishes based on domestic species. Whatever Delia, Nigella or Jamie promote on their cookery shows immediately sells out on the next day. The aim has to be to change the market - it simply doesn't make sense to import fish for domestic consumption and export fish for EU consumption. Perhaps Farage could move into becoming a celebrity chef to help clean up the mess he's made...


Saturday, 9 January 2021

Debating Strategies and Tactics

I always thought it was easy to be on the right wing of politics; you just repeat the dogmatic mantras, ad nauseam, and rubbish anyone who thinks there are logical inconsistencies in the dogma or voices that the ideology is lacking in evidence or nuance and is next to useless in a crisis. 


OK, occasionally you have to use manipulative psychology and tell the lazy thinkers in the electorate that the other tribe has taken something away from them, as nothing motivates people more than a perceived loss - even if it's patent rubbish - such as sovereignty, freedom, fish or whatever. Telling them they stand to gain something useful is much less effective and a well tested psychological phenomenon.

However, hats off to the right wingers; I now realise it's actually very difficult to simultaneously maintain two diametrically opposed views, reconcile them and argue that both are logically consistent without appearing to be a prat.

I listened to a right winger on the radio on Friday morning maintaining that isolating the people in the UK with pre-existing conditions is less damaging to the economy than a total lockdown. It may well be true, but it's physically impossible, as 24.4% of the UK population has pre-existing conditions that put them at severe risk if they catch Covid - well in excess of 16m people. It's even higher in the USA, where nearly half the population has pre-existing conditions. We've seen already that isolating a single care home is impossible, as contact with potential virus carriers cannot be avoided for support.  

The prime directive of the political right is to ensure wealth is retained within the ranks of the wealthy, while simultaneously maintaining a facade of concern for the less well off. That's incredibly hard to do, especially when policy is enacted, and is demonstrably designed to benefit the wealthy with lower taxes at the expense of public services, which are used, primarily, by the less well off. If Covid has proven anything, it's that crises demand well funded public services.

Similarly, other two-faced policies that require a high degree of subterfuge to negotiate include; 

  • To express support for the NHS while simultaneously keeping staff wages low and stripping it of resources. 
  • To revere British history while systematically attacking those who merely demand the full, unexpurgated history to be recognised, including the more embarrassing episodes. 
  • To believe in free trade while exiting the largest, bar none, free trade area in the world and actually erecting bureaucratic barriers to free trade. 
  • To believe in dropping all tariffs, while simultaneously committing to protecting British jobs from cheap imports. 
  • To risk people's lives in order to save the economy, while simultaneously ignoring experts and risking trashing the economy with Brexit. 
  • To mouth that they're following the experts, while blatantly ignoring them until left with no choice.
  • To uphold respect for the law, while illegally prorogueing Parliament and placing lucrative contracts with totally unsuitable suppliers linked to their party. 
  • To castigate Cancel Culture, when the right actually invented it and has used it to marginalise people for centuries. 
  • To maintain that a Labour policy of free, basic broadband for the poor is unaffordable and then introduce an internet voucher scheme so kids from poorer families can learn at home during the pandemic. 
  • To portray your party as the party of family values, while electing a leader as sexually incontinent as a rutting stag.
  • To claim to care for the environment while planning to reintroduce neonicotinoid, bee-killing pesticides banned by the EU (just announced).

See how difficult it is for them? 

Their favoured debating tactics include the straw man, extrapolating from the unrepresentative specific to the universal (a favoured ploy of a certain Mr Rees-Mogg) and simple lying, repeatedly, before the fact checkers and truth can catch up, by which time another slew of lies are out in the Twittersphere for the dullards to consume and propagate.

Their favoured strategy, when logical and practical inconsistencies are pointed out, is to go off at a tangent to avoid the issue, or employ logical fallacies, which takes some considerable skill in the face of a determined and intelligent interlocutor who insists of dragging them back to the point, not to mention reality. The logical fallacies to learn to employ as a right wing debater include:

  1. The burden of disproof, 
  2. Assuming a false conclusion, 
  3. A faulty premise to draw the desired conclusion. 
  4. Appeal to hypocrisy, and
  5. Appeal to the majority.


That's not to say the left isn't completely free of ideology and dogma, and the further left one goes, the greater the dogma, but the left was born of an intellectualism that's non-existent in the right's dogma of simply keeping the wealthy rich.

Just a quick note on the right's Culture War in the UK. “We are proud of this country’s culture and history and traditions,” Boris Johnson told the Conservative conference this year as he attacked amorphous political enemies. “They literally want to pull statues down; to rewrite the history of our country; to edit our national CV to make it look more politically correct.” 

No, they merely want a more truthful CV that doesn't gloss over the embarrassing incidents. He can't agree to this, because he self-identifies with the national CV and wraps himself up in it as part of his persona; he cannot allow any bloody stains to show; he therefore has to maintain a mythical fiction about it. 

History is fact, not a PR exercise; and the statue of Colston was pulled down in a rage after 10 years of argument where the right would not budge on the question of a plaque that acknowledged Colston's slaving links. The pulling down was a consequence of intransigence, not an original intention.

The classic, right wing deflection on slavery is to bring other countries into the debate, but what other countries do is down to those countries - we're talking about British history. Africans selling Africans to British slave traders doesn't dilute the stain; it tarnishes both equally. There again, I'm not aware of any statues to African slavers in Africa.


Friday, 8 January 2021

Weird?

Are Hay and I alone in thinking there's nothing weird about Christmas cake and a nice, crunchy, vintage cheddar?


There's something about the moist, sweetness of the cake, juxtaposed with the salty bite of the cheddar, that I find irresistible.


Thursday, 7 January 2021

Architectural Fakery

 You can tell that fakery is mainstream when new houses sport blocked up windows  that are mean to represent the windows on Georgian houses that were blocked up to avoid the hated window tax.




Wednesday, 6 January 2021

The Bells, the Bells

Regular readers will know that nearly a year ago I was given a rather nice ice skating bell by a friend. It's a heavy old thing and I've been searching ever since for a suitable piece of ironmongery on which to hang it outside as our doorbell.


A couple of weeks ago I spotted a scrap metal skip at a local car dealership and noticed what looked like the perfect item.


I'm not certain exactly what it came from, but it's obviously a major suspension part. I cleaned it up and applied a coat of Jenolite to cure the rust. Some brass effect Hammerite will weatherproof it. 

The upper left piece has a vertical hole through it, which lends itself well to a gate pintle, but I still need to do something with the lower part to stop the whole contraption swinging. I suppose I could weld the pintle in place, but I'm reluctant to do that. The lower hole could have a metal bar placed though it, bent into a U and welded to a backing plate. 

The upper right bush and spindle (which is seriously bent) will need drilling out to afford a shackle to be inserted from which to hang the bell.

 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Good, But Bad

So, Julian Assange's extradition to the USA hasn't been allowed - but for the wrong reason. The reason given is his mental health, but that's a condition and a judgement that can be reversed at some time in the future. It still leaves the door open for another application to extradite him.


The problem with the accusation against Assage is that the charge of espionage in the USA does not allow a defence. The government determines what constitutes espionage, not an independent 3rd party. The fact Assange is not allowed to defend himself means that he would be subject to a kangaroo court. 

Was it genuinely espionage, or the action of an embarrassed government? Critics have said that the Espionage Act has become a tool of suppression, used to punish whistleblowers who expose governmental wrongdoing and criminality. Given the vagaries of the Trump presidency, it's a chilling criticism when corrupt people are in power.


Monday, 4 January 2021

eBay Brexit Transaction Friction

Installed the GPS tracker in the van yesterday and can now perform all manner of fancy tracking actions. The function I really like is geofencing, whereby I can designate a GPS location and get an alarm on my phone whenever the van strays beyond a preset distance from it. Brilliant little gizmo. Went on to eBay and bought some window stickers alerting potential thieves to the fact that the vehicle is tracked.

While on eBay I was idly browsing for a Cona B sized coffee maker for No.2 Son's 21st (shh - don't tell him), when I alighted on a rather nice one situated in Germany.

Time was when you saw something for sale on eBay in the EU and thought nothing of it, accepting it would cost a bit more in postage. Now, however, I discover than the VAT exemption on anything less than £15 has disappeared and there's a VAT element. 


Not only that but, if you sell anything into the EU via eBay, you have to look up the Rules of Origin and all manner of red tape which now makes European eBay transactions a nightmare.