Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Vigil & Questions

So a police inquiry into the actions of the police in respect of the Sarah Everard vigil has found the police acted appropriately. 

The word police appears rather a lot in the previous sentence, although is Her Majesty's Inspectorate comprised of police? If it's anything like the Press Complaints Commission, I'm not sure I'd have much faith in the report. As for Priti Patel, I'm afraid I find it impossible to believe a word that comes out of her mouth. It's not as if the HMICRFS is a stranger to controversy and past accusations of whitewashing.

I wonder whether Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services spoke to any of the protesters or any of the press who were present.

What I find strange is that the women weren't doing any damage and were merely holding a vigil on Clapham Common, which is a wide-open area that I'm familiar with, having lived in Clapham in the 90s, so why on earth was there an imperative to disperse them? Had they been left alone, I don't doubt they would have gradually drifted away, or at least been reduced to a mere handful. Any damage done by not socially distancing had already been done anyway. Perhaps there was a limit on police overtime...

Granted they were pressing forward toward the bandstand at the time, straining to hear a series of speeches, but there were surely better ways of handling the situation than wading in, perhaps such as giving the speaker a megaphone and asking the crowd to move back?

It's interesting to note that press footage shows that the three incidences of violence or damage that did occur were not perpetrated by women, but a small group of men.

I didn't watch the Scottish elections debate on TV, but perhaps someone who did could tell me whether the question was asked as to why the Scottish Conservatives and Labour parties are against a democratic referendum on independence, and whether there was a logical reply, if that question was indeed asked. There can be only one answer - they're afraid of losing and want to head it off at the pass. However, voting for either the Conservatives or Labour would split the potential No vote and be self defeating, unless Labour and the Conservatives joined in a pact but, given the support for the SNP and independence is marginally above 50%, even that would be a very long shot.

I do know the Labour candidate was astonished that the SNP is focused on independence during a pandemic, but Boris was so myopically focused on Brexit that he totally ignored the pandemic at a time infections were doubling every 2 or 3 days. At least now the infections are falling dramatically, so that argument is irrelevant and clutching at straws, especially when IndyRef2 has no particular date set in stone. 

The other answer, of course, is that they're focusing on it for the same reason as there's an election in the middle of a pandemic, one that all parties are willingly participating in; democracy doesn't simply stand still in a pandemic.

Like Brexit, IndyRef2 is a visceral, emotive issue and hence immune to facts and susceptible to the Project Fear mantra. Only a campaign based on emotions can combat it, but truth has to suffer, on both sides of the debate.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Economic Impact of Lockdown

The two factors that have had the greatest impact on us over the last year have been the impact of Covid on the capability of the NHS and the impact of lockdown on the economy. 

It has only just struck me, but while we've been inundated with data resulting from modelling of the spread of Covid by various university research groups, we've hard absolutely nothing about the modelling of the impact of lockdown on the economy.

Yes, we have numerous analyses of the effect of the lockdowns after the fact, but no forecasts at all at the point of lockdown - or if we have, they haven't been filling the news.

If, as we've been told, that the government was prioritising the economy at the start of the pandemic, then surely there must have been a model of the economic impact to balance the health impact in order for them to base their action on?

How many deaths, for example, are considered acceptable against what percentage drop in GDP? Almost every decision contains an element of risk, such as traffic speed vs risk of traffic deaths - a certain number of deaths have to be considered acceptable, else we'd all be crawling around in our cars

Monday, 29 March 2021


While in Tesco the other day, to stock up on Jam Shed Argentinian Malbec, I caught sight of a heavily discounted gammon joint and bought it.

As you can see, it was advertised as a Wiltshire cured joint, but I wondered what this actually means and what difference does it make? 

We tend to believe, probably erroneously, that Wiltshire ham is in some way superior to others. However, there are strict rules on animal husbandry as well as even stricter laws on the termination of animals destined for the human food chain and the processing of the meat. The entire market is homogenised - so what in particular differentiates Wiltshire ham? Only the fact it was raised in Wiltshire seems to be the answer, but even that's not necessary. I don't even know what breed of pig was used.

Further research led me to the fact that there is something called the Wiltshire Cure, which originally comprised salting the pork for a couple of weeks and was used in Calne, Wiltshire. Following WWI, a wet cure was used so as to conserve salt and reduce the curing time. However, curing pork in salt is not, and never has been, unique to Wiltshire; our ancestors were doing this to preserve meat hundreds, if not thousands of years ago. 

That said, Wiltshire Cured does not mean it was raised or cured in Wiltshire. The only thing that can be said about the Wiltshire Cure is that the meat is British, but even that's not guaranteed, as supermarkets only follow this as a voluntary labelling code.

How about Outdoor Bred? Sows are kept in straw-bedded arks with access to outdoor paddocks for their entire productive lives. Farrowing crates are not permitted, instead the sows give birth to their litters outdoors in individual straw-bedded shelters. The piglets are reared outdoors for four weeks and they are then moved indoors for the rest of the growing period. The indoor system may be straw based (if RSPCA assured) or otherwise they may be housed on slatted or concrete floors with minimal enrichment for the pigs. It's the piglets that are bred for pork, not the sows, so this is a load of tosh. 

Even Outdoor Reared simply means the four weeks of outdoors is increased to 10 before being brought indoors for fattening - and pigs are slaughtered at between 4 and 6 months. The only guarantee of a good life outdoors is Free Range or Organic. 

Essentially, it's all flim-flam marketing and a load of porkies that we all fall for.

Sunday, 28 March 2021


The right-wing tabloid press is up in arms with at entirely predictable response to the entirely predictable reaction of the parents of Muslim pupils being shown a cartoon of Mohammed by a teacher.

Why, though, were the tabloids entirely silent when Professor Corinne Fowler, co-editor of the National Trust report on the connections between colonialism and properties in the care of the National Trust, reported three incidents of death threats to the police? 

Additionally, a project she has led to teach school children about the imperial history of buildings in their local area has been investigated by more than 50 Tory MPs of the perversely named Common Sense Group in an attempt at political intimidation, which is essentially part of the established, right wing cancel culture and political correctness gone mad trope, the very things they incessantly complain about.

Professor Fowler said; “Sadly, what Brexit has taught us is that you can make political capital out of dividing people. The most important thing about this is not to weaponise history. These kinds of interventions actually shut down the possibility of having sensible conversations because it all becomes polarised and politicised. I don’t think that anybody of any political persuasion should be using history as a way of manipulating public opinion. It’s worrying when national pride gets mixed up with historical fact. Facts should not be given equal status to opinion. Historians write history, that’s what they do. When new evidence comes to light about East India Company connections or the slavery business and how that, for example, shaped philanthropy and philanthropic giving in this country, we then adjust our view of the past accordingly, as led by the evidence. It’s good to have conversations about how to interpret certain facts that come to light but I don’t think the basic, fundamental facts should be open for discussion. That’s dangerous. Opinion is given too much sway and we end up having quite irrational conversations about history which are not led by the evidence or guided by facts.”

Adding to history as facts are uncovered, or rediscovered, is indeed rewriting history - much like the discovery of Viking artefacts in North America is rewriting history. However, the right uses the term in a pejorative manner, as if it's something bad. What they object to is the entirely legitimate exposing of a sanitised version of history - a version of history they don't want changed as the new information is an embarrassment.

To return to the Mohammed cartoons issue; one must consider that the charge of blasphemy was dropped from the statue book here only as recently as 2008 and it's not that long ago you'd receive not just death threats, but actual death, for being an alleged witch. The last person to go to prison for blasphemy did so in 1921 and, as recently as 1977, which is well within living memory, a court found the editor of Gay News guilty of blasphemy and he received a fine and a suspended sentence at the behest of Mary Whitehouse.

Islam is younger than Christianity by some 500 years and there are signs that a more tolerant, western form of Islam is gathering traction. It has a long way to go yet, but death threats are not the preserve solely of Muslims. Dissing the Union flag or simply adding verifiable facts to a glossed-over history triggers some indigenous Brits enough to persuade them to also make death threats.

Any issue such as this is going to be hi-jacked by extremists on both sides of the fence, but that's wrong with a bit of consideration for people within your community - especially when the South Asian population of Batley is now around 33% in Batley West and 54% in Batley East? The teacher must have known he was doing something extremely contentious, if not provocative, and could have asked any Muslim pupils to leave the room, if he was about to make a point to the class with the cartoon.

The argument has been posited that they cannot possibly determine if a cartoon of Mohammed is disrespectful unless they first see the image and use their rational brains to make that determination themselves. That, however, skirts the fact that ANY image of Mohammed is considered disrespectful, so they don't actually need to see the image to reach that conclusion - whether it's a cartoon or an entirely respectful portrait makes no difference; all they need to know is that it's an image of Mohammed, which it indubitably was.

Then again, they've been told that any image of Mohammed is disrespectful and haven't reached that conclusion themselves on the basis of rational thought. It's dogma that has no basis in the Q'uran, and dogma is dangerous. There was a period in Islamic history, under the Mongols and early Ottomans, when images of Mohammed were indeed permitted, but that was before the hard-liners and dogmatists took control of Islam and started imposing their authoritarian views on the Ummah. Additionally, there's a prohibition of the portrayal of any Muslim Prophet, which includes Jesus, whose image abounds in western art and outside many of our churches, yet there are no Muslims protesting outside churches.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Prepare for Threats

A week after Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party, the Sunday Times quoted a senior serving general, who warned that “feelings are running very high within the armed forces” about the possibility of a Corbyn government. “You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security,” the officer went on. “You would see … generals directly and publicly challenging Corbyn over any plans to emasculate and shrink the size of the armed forces … There would be mass resignations at all levels … which would effectively be a mutiny.” If Corbyn proved as militarily radical a premier as promised, “the army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul, to prevent that.”

Corbyn didn't propose culling the Armed Forces - he proposed strengthening the Military Covenant on 5 issues.

  1. Fair Pay – scrap the public sector pay cap.
  2. Decent housing for forces and their families. 
  3. A voice for service men and women, similar to the Police Federation.
  4. End privatisation.
  5. Support for forces children.
I wonder when the mutiny is scheduled for, given Boris' announcement on cutting the Armed Forces and the trashing of yet another election promise?

Personally, I think Boris' proposal makes common sense - prepare for the threats in order of priority. However, analysis has shown that the No.1 threat to the UK since 2007 has been a pandemic.

It's a pity we weren't prepared for that, despite Operation Winter Willow in 2007, which resulted in the outgoing Labour administration of Gordon Brown leaving us adequately prepared with huge stocks of ventilators and PPE following an unprecedented purchasing spree and training for hospital staff, the emergency services and local councils. The  successive Conservative administrations following on simply ran down the stocks and let them go out of date under the guise of Austerity.

Singapore, a country which has weathered Covid rather well, actually adopted Winter Willow recommendations and put what had been the UK's plan into immediate practice. 

While I'm on the subject of the current administration, what about Priti Patel's proposals for overhauling the asylum system? Never mind the fact it trashes our commitment to the Geneva Convention, it requires an agreement with countries where we're sending them back to - in the case of those arriving by boat, which is the main target, that will be France. Why would a country be willing to take our asylum seekers when we already have one of the lowest per capita number of asylum seekers in Europe and certainly fewer than France? Can't see that getting much traction.

Patel maintains it's to stop the people smugglers, but it's analogous to the government shooting the hostages in a hostage situation, rather than the hostage takers. "That'll teach those hostage takers!"

Then there's the story about Honest Bob Jenrick, a man who has been found to be acting unlawfully in respect of a planning application for a Tory donor, and should have resigned ages ago (if he had any honour), installing a bunch of commissioners to oversee Liverpool Council, which has yet to be found guilty of anything. Does Honest Bob perhaps want a cut of any dodgy deals that may materialise?

Next we have Cameron being investigated for corrupt lobbying.

I despair of this government, and yet the voters lap it up. It almost makes you think that Tory politicians are in it for nothing other than capitalism and greed.

Friday, 26 March 2021

Bonsai Tools

Trigger's ride-on mower was brought into action this week. Once more it required some judicious surgery on the deck.

The mower is probably going to last this year only and then I'm going to have to invest something like £800 on a decent replacement, but I'm loath to do that till I've built a garage, or at least a bit of a barn to keep it in. 

To continue on the tool thread, I happened to spot a cheap bandsaw on Facebook Market with the seller being only a mile away and couldn't resist it. Snapped it up and organised to collect it yesterday morning to add to my growing saw collection.

I was chatting to the seller on his doorstep and happened to mention a nice fir tree in his front garden that looked like he was training into a rather intricate shape with wire. It transpired he is an expert bonsai grower - a hobby I dabbled with a couple of decades ago when living in Caversham. He told me to go round the side gate into his back garden to see his collection (Covid securely) and I took these photos of the treasure trove I found.

What a collection! Some he grew from seed and others he collected from the wild and trained with wire, snippers and a lot of patience. It must be worth a fortune. He even exhibited on the continent pre-Covid. 

It might even rekindle my love of bonsai growing, although it's primarily a young man's game if you're starting from scratch - you have to live long enough to see the fruits of your labours, or at least have someone to pass your collection on to when you peg it.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

The Flag of Aldi

Remember what I said Sunday about Brand Tory and the Union flag? Now the instruction has been issued that the Tory brand will permanently fly from government buildings, not just on special occasions. I wonder what they will do to mark special occasions, such as the Queen's birthday? The jingoism is strong within the Party, but they don't think these things through clearly, do they?

Strangest thing happened to me on Sunday morning as I was trying to access the Aldi website. I got onto the website and was about to click to the section I wanted, only to be kicked off into a holding pattern after a few seconds, receiving the message below:

But if they're having issues, why was I able get on to the website in the first place? It's not as if Sunday morning is a particularly busy time for websites. 

Curious, to say the least.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021


This is a birthday card I received from Hay's sister, who is an artist. Just about sums it up...

And this is a painting I commissioned from Laurence Huntley, my boss from a couple of decades ago, who has retired to America and paints recreationally.

It's a painting of Periglis Cottage on St Agnes in the Scillies from a photo I took many years ago. It's being posted to me this week.

I still have to commission a painting / drawing from Lizzie Huxtable, the wife of an old school friend, who does couture illustrations and has a lovely line of greetings cards (Lizzie - I haven't forgotten).

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

For God's Sake, Close the Borders

We are in the process of getting Covid under control, but stocks of vaccine are delayed and no-one is safe till everyone is safe. A 3rd wave is hitting the Continent and Boris is on record, with an astounding complacency, saying that it will inevitably wash up on our shores.

Surely, surely, now is not the time to repeat some of the egregious mistakes of the last year and we should follow the examples of the countries that have weathered the storm far better than the UK and close our international borders?

Domestic businesses will be able to continue to operate on a near-normal basis and we in the UK will be able to mix while the 3rd wave progresses across the Channel. 

If the borders aren't closed, the chances of a new variant arriving in the UK from the Continent will increase exponentially, as the more people are infected the greater the chances of mutations, and mutations can undo all that's been achieved so far.

If we've learned anything in the last year it's that early and firm action results in fewer human casualties and less damage to the economy.

I fear, however, that lessons won't be learned.

Data & Bill

I think I've figured out the motive driving the minority who rioted in Bristol - it was all a misunderstanding of nomenclature. The protest was called Kill the Bill, referring to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill. The rioters and thugs thought it was an invitation to kill the Bill - the Old Bill.

The data allegedly says schools aren't epicentres for Covid.

No.2 Daughter has 4 kids, all under the age of 10. They've weathered Covid for over 12 months, without a single one of them getting it. 

They returned to school 2 weeks ago and, hey presto, the eldest tests positive and the whole family is now self-isolating.

It would be handy for No.2 Daughter if she could ascertain whether her other kids are similarly infected, but that's not possible unless and until they show symptoms - but kids can be asymptomatic. After the self-isolation, she will be unaware whether her other 3 kids are safer because they've had the virus and have antibodies.

I simply can't believe, from both personal and logical perspectives that schools aren't vectors. If pubs, restaurants and anywhere where people congregate are vectors, then why aren't schools? It simply doesn't make sense, especially as kids are more likely to asymptomatic and can bring it home unbeknownst to their parents.

No.2 Son gave me Failures of State, a book on the failures by our current government during the pandemic, as a birthday present yesterday. It's written by two award winning Sunday Times investigative journalists. I'm only on the 2nd chapter and already in despair at the dithering that took place.

Monday, 22 March 2021

The Curate's Egg - or Tool Box

Overheard while watching a cancer charity advert on TV:

Chairman: "If you had to have a double mastectomy, would it make you feel any less a woman?"

Hay: "Certainly not. If you have to have your brain removed, would you feel any less a bloke? Actually, it'd make no difference to blokes."

Have you noticed that artisans no longer look after or tend things? They 'curate' them now. This weekend I decided to 'curate' my tool bag.

We went to Aldi in Thornbury for some shopping and I spotted a ToolZone tool bag, which allegedly comes with a 49 piece toolkit. However, it had no tags on it and someone had opened the cardboard box containing the tools and spilled them all over the inside, it not being clear whether everything was present and correct.

I took it to the checkout and asked whether, given it had been opened, I could have a discount. The price was apparently £30, but I got it for £20. Bargain!

Got it home, unpacked it, and discovered everything was indeed present. Each screwdriver bit is counted as a separate tool, so 2 rubber holders of 10 bits each accounted for 20 of the 49 items. Even so, there was a good selection of tools, enabling me to cull some of the stuff in my old tool bag.

Added some stuff that isn't included in the kit - plumbing and electrical items - and managed to fill it to the top. Damned thing weighs a ton, but it's comprehensive enough to take anywhere, especially when we go touring in the van and I'm unexpectedly forced to fix something.

That's when the curation aspect kicked in. I used to have 2 tool bags - a large one for the most commonly used tools and a smaller one for the less frequently used ones. However, there was a lot of duplication. 

Once I'd collated everything essential into the new tool bag, I thought to myself; "Why have I just thrown an assortment of open-ended and ring spanners into the bag when I have an adjustable wrench in there? While I'm at it, why do I have an assortment of screwdrivers when I have a a box of screwdriver bits with a magnetic bit screwdriver?"

On the left are the tools I managed to cull in the process of curation. Not many, but enough to get my blowtorch in the bag.

When you think about it, there are very few occasions when an adjustable spanner won't do the job, and an assortment of screwdrivers is just wasted space when they don't cater for a vast array of hex, Torx and other esoteric standards. This is where true curation comes in....

I also took the opportunity to make yet another enhancement to the kono grill - the addition of rubber feet at the corners to prevent the pop rivets heads on the underside rubbing off when the unit is placed or dragged on concrete.

It being my birthday today, I caught Hay lugging a huge box around yesterday. It turned out it was my birthday present. Her and a good mate of mine had gone halves on a sliding, double bevel, laser-guided mitre saw. I was ecstatic, it being the 255mm model. I'd dropped enough hints over the last couple of weeks.

Spent ages assembling it - there was even an instruction manual and if you scanned the QR code on it, it launched an assembly video, not that I used it of course; blokes don't do instruction manuals.

Anyway, I got it assembled and was ready to cut a plank, only to discover a yellow caravan-type hook-up plug - it was a 110v version and not the 240v, meaning I either had to return it to ScrewFix for a swap, or buy a transformer. Given it was impossible to dismantle it and get it back into the box, I decided to get a transformer, which is safer for working outside anyway. Hay was mortified - especially when I also castigated her for not making it a cordless one....

Next I think I'll curate my nut, bolt and screw drawers. Hay is set for curating my jock and sock drawer. She tods me I need to curate my moustache...

Sunday, 21 March 2021


Robert Jenrick apparently had a large Union flag and a drawing of the queen in his office, the former of which came in for some laughter, but for some reason that laughter triggered a lot of people, especially those who look at the pictures in the Daily Mail, Express and Sun while chewing their crayons.

Then there's Boris with his humungous, industrial-sized flags, the draping of which seem somewhat scarily redolent of the flags used in certain rallies in the 30s.

We Brits generally don't seem to have the same, intense relationship with our national flag that the likes of the Americans have. They treat it with a deep reverence and salute it in the morning in schools. American presidents don't make a speech without some absolutely massive stars and stripes in the background. Contrary to popular opinion, it's not a criminal offence in America to burn the flag in protest at something, as long as it's your own flag.

We Brits, however, seem to have a penchant for much smaller, understated flags of maybe under 9 inches long on a small wooden flagpole sitting on a desk. We don't seem to need to push the flag into people's faces. Most Brits wouldn't even recognise if it were flown upside down and even more insist on calling it a Union jack, which is the term only used when it's flown from a ship's jack staff.

Yes, of course, there are those who plaster their Facebook pages with Union flags, present themselves with bulldog or crusader avatars, worship Churchill and Enoch and belong to highly suspect political parties far out on the fringe of the fringe of the right, but they're an anomaly. 

Of late though, Boris' marketing department seems intent on aligning the Conservative brand with the Union flag - and the bigger the better. Could this be part of the ongoing Culture War the government and right wing media seems intent on waging against someone? They seem to be equating themselves with patriotism, which Samuel Johnson described as the last refuge of the scoundrel. He was referring to the false patriotism of the ultra-nationalist.

I'm almost certain that thinking is as follows - knocking the flag is knocking the country is knocking the government is knocking the party of unthinking and rabid patriotism - the Conservatives. If you knock the flag you're a traitor; if you knock the Conservative party you're also a traitor, by association. 

It probably won't belong before the Conservative party emblem is simply a Union flag without the tree. The Conservatives are the only party to co-opt the iconography of the flag for its logo - other than the BNP and the DUP, which aren't major parties, but on the same end of the spectrum. That alone tells one why there was laughter at Jenrick's office.

The problem is that the Conservatives are are actually more aligned with the Jolly Roger or the flag of a South American banana republic. I'm fully expecting Boris to appear on a press conference in his £2.6m press room dressed in the gaudy uniform of a Generalissimo. 

Saturday, 20 March 2021


This committee that Mrs Sturgeon has been giving evidence to is no more a system of justice than the impeachment of Trump. It's not independent and the verdict depends on whether it's stacked with your opposition or your supporters. None of them can be expected to vote on the basis of evidence - it is purely along party lines.

Of greater importance is the independent inquiry under the stewardship of James Hamilton, a former DPP in Ireland. Should he find that Sturgeon misled the Scottish Parliament, then she should do the honourable thing and resign her position. However, if I were her, I'd say; "I'll resign the minute Priti Patel does." That would be a reasonable thing to do and force the Westminster government to show its hand as to whether it considered the Ministerial Code as being worth the paper it's written on. 

In fact, she should go further and say she will resign once Boris Johnson does, as he misled Parliament too. In fact, Boris has made it into an artform and even misled Her Majesty, which is a capital offence to many Conservatives, unless Boris does it, in which case it's not necessarily a bad thing.

This could, of course, lead to charges of whataboutery, but changing the name of hypocrisy to whataboutery does not change the charge of hypocrisy.

Friday, 19 March 2021

That's Better

The griddle for the kono arrived on Tuesday, along with the bespoke poker. The poker is the perfect shape for spreading the hot charcoal. I'll just have to shave a couple of millimetres off one side of the griddle for a firm and close fit.

Hay also ordered a tiny, one person, flatpack, stainless steel version of our firepit from the fabricator. It only measures 25cm square and is meant for taking on hikes. Given you need wood and to carry it with you, it's a bit of a luxury on a hike. It's not as if the weight is inconsequential when walking - it must weigh at least a couple of kilos.

I wanted our large version to be stainless, but he only makes them in mild steel, which is obviously subject to rusting.

The new bell rope also arrived (I couldn't be bothered buying a load of rope and getting it wrong 20 odd times). This one was made to order and to my specific dimensions.

I think I will move the bell slightly higher, as it risks braining anyone walking past it at its current height. The got a lacquering to protect it from UV and dirt. The bell itself may require lacquering too, if I don't want to be polishing it every week.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Catch Up

We had a nice, long chat with my elder daughter last night. She lives in Accrington, is very much into her church activities but, since all the lockdowns and given she's not been able to attend her church, she's joined a plethora of on-line churches.

Her problem now, however, is that given church services on Sundays all start around the same time, she finds it impossible to Zoom with them simultaneously.

I suggested she start up a new service whereby congregations can catch up and call it i-Prayer.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021


Why the hell do cat crunchies come in different shapes and colours? Are there cats that perhaps say to themselves; "Hey, I like these triangular crunchies and I'll leave the rest,"? I somehow doubt it. Or are there cats that will only eat the red ones? Again, I doubt it.

The ones that really get me are the ones shaped like little, cartoon fish. Cats may like fish, but they don't hunt the buggers and so haven't a clue as to what constitutes a fish shape, let alone a cartoon one. If anything, they should be mouse or bird shaped.

The coloured ones are even more strange when one considers that a cat's vision is like that of a human who is red / green colour blind. 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

First They Came for Charlie Hebdo

 So Charlie Hebdo has a pop at another target - Her Majesty and The Firm.

I can imagine Colonel Blimps across the country, who revelled in the publication of the Mohammed cartoons in the interests of Free Speech, spluttering over their copy of Majesty Magazine with moustaches bristling, while drinking a cup of Darjeeling from a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee souvenir mug, giving their bulldog, Winston, a quick kick, casting a glance at their Indian Mutiny themed calendar for any royal birthdays or anniversaries and floridly huffing and puffing with righteous indignation at this egregious abuse of Free Speech.

That said, I can't see them getting together to form a hit squad to target Charlie Hebdo's office in revenge for an attack on their idol (although the palace flunkies may mobilise MI6).

The reason Charlie Hebdo can get away with this is because while royalists may identify with the Royal Family as the very pinnacle of the apex of an hierarchically ordered society, they're not that bound to them in terms of identity as a Muslim is with his or her faith. Also, they're afraid of being labelled as hypocrites. It boils down to the degree of personal identity that's attacked and the consequences - and few things go deeper than faith.

I'm no royalist, but I can empathise with royalists who feel mortally offended, just as I felt empathy with Muslim reaction to the Mohammed cartoon, which was totally expected, despite condemning the extremist reactions by many to the Mohammed cartoon. 

As I've previously said, Free Speech comes with consequences and those consequences have to be weighed, especially when they can be directed at some innocent party and with terminal effects. While satire is a weapon in the iconoclasts armoury, it is by no means the only weapon at his or her disposal. Deliberate provocation can have devastating and unintended consequences. 

Free Speech, for many, is fine, providing one agrees with what's said. 

This brings us on to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, a wholly unnecessary bit of legislation to curtail our right to protest and subject it to arbitrary decisions. The existing laws, brought in under Margaret Thatcher, are sufficient for effective and efficient policing of demonstration; however, this legislation has been led by the policing of the BLM, XR and Reclaim The Streets demonstrations, which the government hates, along with other protests against the government.. 

While this new legislation will play well to the tabloid readership, it also has consequences for other demonstrations that are less controversial. Under the proposed legislation anyone can make a vexatious complaint about feeling offended or complain about the noise level and the protest can be broken up. 

A charismatic leader tells you what you want to hear in terms of policy, but is deliberately vague about the strategy and tactics needed to achieve that policy. That allows others to perpetrate whatever tactics they want, or interpret them to their best ability, with the leader's hands being unsullied. The police are being left in an untenable position.

Remember this?

"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist. 

"Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist. 

"Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. 

"Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me."

Protest is part of a democratic process and curtailing it can lead to a police state. Mind you , nothing surprises me with this government.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Neolithic vs Contemporary Design

 Well, I flashed up the Neolithic kono yesterday, but the results were disappointing.

The sides of the kono became very hot to the touch; 80-90 degrees, according to my infrared gun. The heat was leaking away through the perlcrete like there was no tomorrow. It's not that good an insulator.

Hay tried to cook some sausages in a pan on the griddle, but eventually had to place the pan directly on the coals. It didn't help that there was a fair bit of wind. Admittedly there wasn't a lot of charcoal, but certainly more than I'd used in the MkII on Saturday.

All in all, when all's said and done, at the end of the day, in conclusion, in the final analysis and to coin a phrase, the firebrick kono was a resounding success, whereas the Neolithic one needs further refinement. It could simply be that the air holes aren't large enough or that it's too deep (charcoal BBQs are usually much shallower), but it's fine as a firepit, leaving much to be desired as a device for proper cooking.

The base can easily be raised with some firebrick or the addition of a layer of fire cement, but that wouldn't cure the heat leakage through the sides and lining the inside sides isn't really an option. It would also increase the weight considerably and it weighs a ton already.

Handles are a must for moving it while it's on, whereas the MkII is easily moved by virtue of being much cooler on the outside, even though hotter inside.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Bingo BBQ

The bronze bow shackle arrived yesterday - just need a 12mm bronze one now for the smaller end of the link. I also ordered a longer and thicker bell rope..

The neodymium magnet handles arrived yesterday morning too.

Why use one handle when 6 will do? Flashed the kono up at midday with a thin layer of charcoal and a bit of kindling.

It didn't take long to get going and the digital vent worked like a dream.

It worked brilliantly, enough to cook some bacon.

It retains the heat far more efficiently than a metal BBQ and directs it upward, where it's needed. Hay also boiled a kettle on it. Here's a video of it working.

The griddle is a tad too flimsy, so I had an idea to use the griddle from our flatpack, steel firepit, which is far more beefy.

It's slightly too large, but adequate. It has a couple of lugs at each end, which help keep it on the kono  in the lateral direction and it's only a couple of mm too wide in the fore and aft. OK, it adds to the weight, but robustness is required in this case.

I contacted the guy in Honiton who made the firepit and enquired whether he did the griddles separately. Unfortunately he doesn't do them in stainless steel for our size of firepit, but the mild steel ones are only £25 plus £5 postage, so well worth getting one. Hay wouldn't be too keen on me using the one from the firepit anyway, as that's her baby. I will probably shave a couple of mm off the sides to get a 100% fit within the longer, aluminium cage rails. Hay's also ordering one of his pokers to use on the kono and the firepit. Oh, and a small, stainless steel firepit was ordered, as it transpires, for use when walking, although I wouldn't like to be the one lugging the logs. We'll soon have more BBQs and firepits than an American at this rate.

It was still belting out a fair amount of heat by 6pm - 6 hours after lighting it. I tipped the ash out to see what, if any, damage had been done to the interior, but beyond a bit of discolouration of the stainless insert, which was expected, it was pristine.

This project has triggered an interest in metal bending and folding equipment and I now have a hankering for a metal die set and a sheet metal brake. I guess that's going to have to be for my next birthday after the one in 2 weeks.

The kono has cost me, in total, £270, which is a bit less than a bought one, but I'd have to pay postage from Japan or the USA for one of those. However, given the savings I know I can make by not ordering double quantities and knowing exactly what parts I do need, or can adapt, I reckon I could make another for that price and turn a decent profit in the process.

Today I'm hoping to test the Neolithic kono.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Kono Finale (Almost), Bell & HMV

Got the damper back from my tame fabricator in exchange for a few beers and it now fits perfectly.

Had a slight mishap in that I'd suffered a puncture in my rear, offside tyre as a result of going to the fabricator's yard, which is littered with discarded bits of metal, one of which stuck in the tyre. Managed to get a mate at the local tyre place to plug it for £5, so there's another cost to add to the overall budget. 

I decided that, rather than cutting a rectangular hole for the vent to cover, I'd drill 3 holes, providing 3 distinct vent settings and used bolts with washers to attach  the top slider rail. The bottom slider rail slid perfectly and snugly behind the lower aluminium retaining cage stay and didn't require any fixing to the unit. The top rail and slider ensure it won't move from its seating.

The 3 holes make it digital, just to bring it into the 21st century, but I may yet decide, depending on how well it functions, to join the holes and make the vent control analogue - for that retro look.

I also stapled some metal mesh, salvaged from a defunct tower desktop carcass belonging to No.1 Son that was destined for the tip, over the inside of the vent holes so as to prevent hot cinders falling out through them.

All that's now required is a handle for the slider. I was thinking of drilling and tapping a screw hole to take a screw-in handle, but it suddenly struck me that a neodymium skittle magnet would be perfect, not requiring any drilling at all, plus I can move the magnet to wherever I want on the slider, or remove it completely if it's in danger of becoming too hot to handle. A pack of 6 is on order from eBay for £4, scheduled to hopefully arrive today.

OK, so it cost me a small fortune to make, but it was an experiment, necessitating some additional expenditure as I felt my way through the construction, but the next one will be much cheaper (although Hay maintains there will be no next one - I don't know where she gleaned that silly idea from...).

The bell rope has arrived, but it's pitifully small. I guess I'm just going to have to drag my memory on how to make one myself.

It's not so much the length as the girth, as the actress said to the Bishop.

Finally managed to find a couple of large, bronze bow shackles on Facebook Market for the very reasonable price of £7 each and £18.90 including postage, although I made it up to £20, which is still good value. I'm hoping they will arrive today too.

Now for the HMV, 1930s heater - it finally arrived on Wednesday after a bit of a kerfuffle with the seller, and I'm ecstatic about it. I think the seller wasn't happy with the price she got and it was telling that she had a negative review on eBay for exactly the same item a year ago, where the buyer complained she had reneged on the deal. She maintained the buyer hadn't paid her, but I find that argument somewhat specious, especially as she hadn't sent me the heater when she should have and had to be pressurised into it. You don't complain you've never received something when you haven't paid for it. 

I actually found her on Facebook where she was also selling this item on her Facebook page. I left a few words. She wanted me to message her on Messenger, but I insisted she contact me through eBay, where I had an open case on the resolution centre and an audit trail. Her excuse was that she was self-isolating, which I again thought an exercise in evasiveness, as she'd made no effort to contact me after the sale.

Anyway, it is fully functional and has just a couple of minor, superficial dents, which I can remove myself with a dent puller I bought a while ago. A light polish with silver polish and it looks an absolute treat - real 30s chic.

There can only be a handful of these left in the country and I was a) extremely lucky to find one and b) as lucky as a very lucky person to get it for the price I paid.