Friday, 30 April 2021

Myth Busters

I think I've sussed a couple of things, like the reason for the Gobshite Press' continual attacks on Prince Harry and his wife, along with the Culture War against truth that's being waged by the right. The solution to the conundrum is the fact that both the UK and the Royal Family are built on massive and magnificent illusions that are revered by identical cohorts.

Britain is no longer an imperial power, nor is it anywhere near as powerful and important as it likes to think itself, which is why any light that's shone on the true manner in which it became great and powerful, or lost its pre-eminent position, is met with accusations of rewriting history - a history that's evidentially and incontrovertibly documented. Exploding myths is not rewriting history; quite the reverse - it's the myth that rewrites history.

Balzac once wrote; "The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed." That applies in spades to the British Empire, and pointing out how it was actually executed, as attested by documentary evidence, is forbidden and tantamount to 'rewriting history', in the eyes of the true believers.

The Empire has been replaced with an illusion of Empire - the Commonwealth, which is a very poor relation. It achieves very little and is a bit of an anachronism, but at least the Queen is at its head and it therefore serves its magical purpose in bolstering a nation that's in decline. Britain, but especially England, has gone the full King Arthur.

Another symptom of this is our preoccupation with pageantry. Ceremonial dress, whether military or judicial, is stuck in imperial times and hasn't moved forward one iota. It still provides the aura of when the world map was predominantly pink and Britannia ruled the waves. It's not stuck at the point when the Empire was at its largest extent, which was 1922, but when it was aggressively expanding.

In respect of the Royal Family, they rely on mystery and the oath of Omertà; a Southern Italian code of silence and honour that places importance on silence in the face of questioning by authorities or outsiders. Loius XIV, the Sun King, equated himself with France and everything he did, from dawn to dusk, was designed to enhance identification with France and its Gloire, whether true or a falsified illusion. The pageantry surrounding the Royal Family is exactly the same, but perhaps not quite as focussed. 

Harry is a whistleblower and has alerted the world to the fact that the Royal Family is actually just as dysfunctional as the rest of society, and we all know how whistleblowers are treated by the organisations they blow the gaff on. Similarly, those who collude in the conspiracy of silence will attack the whistleblower for exploding the myths they hang on to to cover their insecurity.

At a time when Harry needed family support due to his wife was being mercilessly attacked by the Gobshite Press, for one reason or another it was denied. The section of the press that was doing the attacking was, and remains, that section that revels in literally wrapping itself in the flag of a rather unattractive colour of aggressive,  nationalistic exceptionalism that doffs its cap and tugs its forelock to aristocracy and that totem and pinnacle of aristocracy - the Monarchy. Is it any wonder that the Gobshite Press attacks anyone who has the temerity to point out that the aristocracy has no clothes anymore?

We're always told that the Royals work very hard, but that's also a myth that's perpetuated by a colluding press. By totalling various members' official engagements, the of the number of days they actually work has been estimated. Princess Anne is the hardest-working royal, putting in a total of 167 days. Prince Charles records 125 days of official duties. The 93-year-old Queen herself worked 67 days, but she is 93. The average UK citizen works 228 days a year so, overall, the Royals don't actually work that much for the life of privilege they have and the free run of the equivalent of a National Trust property with a plethora of staff, although they do work beyond the usual pension age, but it's not exactly arduous work.

Monarchy tells us that it's OK to discriminate: that certain people get millions from the state, are respected, revered even, and that their needs and opinions are important, even if they don't do a proper job. Others are forced to scrape by on a pittance, ignored and rejected, doing unpleasant work or with none at all; and all for the trivial reason of birth in certain positions in an hierarchical construct largely based on myth. 

The media, especially on the right, ruthlessly promotes them, generation after generation, in the most appallingly fawning manner. They are associated with the military, flag waving patriotism and the institutions of the state. They are also at the apex of a system of landed privilege and class distinction and this fact sits uncomfortably with our democratic history. 

Because of the Monarchy we are burdened, as subjects, with an unwritten constitution and nebulous constructs such as 'For Queen and Country' that can be whatever the establishment wishes it to be. Not having clearly defined rights, freedoms and obligations as citizens, with a clear constitution, seems a heavy price to pay for pomp and ceremony. 

The throne upon which the sovereign sits, with the crown upon her head, is but a symbol of the establishment: the gravy train of corruption that keeps power among the elite, rich, powerful and aristocratic.

Monarchists maintain that the Royal Family provide more than they cost in tourism revenue but, of the top 10 UK tourist attractions, only one is a palace - Hampton Court - where the Royal Family doesn't even live. It's the home of dead Kings and Queens.

The truth is that we prefer our Kings and Queens dead and larger than life, if you'll forgive the oxymoron. The Hanoverian branch of the pan-European firm has been distinctly lacklustre compared to the preceding branches as larger than life characters. We like hero Kings (Richard I, Henry V, etc.), scheming Kings (John), dissolute Kings (the Prince Regent / George IV, Charles I), butcher Kings (William I, Henry VIII); Kings and Queens with no actual power hold no interest. 

If the Monarchy provides much needed tourism revenue, imagine how much more there would be without having to pay for it. Also, most of the Kings and Queens were those of England only; most can't even remember the names of any Welsh or Scottish King or Queen, unless it's in association with an English one who either beat seven bells out of them, or had them killed.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Compare the Markets

The free marketers have an unwavering faith in the ability of markets to manage everything and self-correct when things go awry. However, there are three important things to remember where markets are concerned.

  1. Markets operate on the basis of efficiency so as to maximise profit. This has the consequence that markets abhor excess capacity, as excess capacity costs money and returns no profit. This is a major drawback in areas where excess capacity creates a buffer in times of emergency. Examples include the NHS (as we have found to our cost), utilities, flood drainage, motorways, etc, etc.
  2. Markets do correct themselves, but I can think of no example where they correct themselves before the damage is done. Invariably there is a long gap between greed - the natural consequence of an unregulated market - causing a problem and self-corrective action occurring.
  3. Markets are impersonal and don't take people into consideration - they are Darwinian.
With regard to point 1 above, lack of excess capacity in an emergency situation in itself provides the potential for profit - lots of it: when urgently needed extra capacity is sought, it becomes excessively expensive due to scarcity, as has been shown by the PPE scandal, but at a huge financial cost and the human misery the lack of it produces.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Fight in the Pond!

 Oh dear - someone has been fighting again. Seems to be a occupational hazard with him. Can't be a good one though, as none of the other cats are sporting fighting scars.

Poor bugger had a large tick on his head but, given we can only get within about a foot of him before he scarpers, there's no way we could remove it; however, it seems to have had its fill of Railway Kitty's blood and dropped off.

I was looking into the pond yesterday and spotted that we have a plethora of dragonfly nymphs - hundreds, of them.

I don't think we'll see them transform this year as, apparently, they can spend anywhere from 2 to 5 years in the water before emerging. It's excellent that we have them though, as they eat the mosquito larvae. Did you know that they breathe through their arses?

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

A Close Shave

Under severe pressure from Hay and with lots of protest from me, the luxuriant Poirot (Kenneth Branagh version) moustache project has been cancelled after not even 4 full months.

Hay thought that, instead of looking like a great British eccentric, I looked like a Hairy Biker. 

The crunch came when I had a large (3 scoops) honeycomb toffee / vanilla ice cream while away in Devon over the weekend - I have to admit that it was pure, unadulterated carnage. Hay also complained about  grooming wax stains on my pillows and that, after drinking coffee or red wine, my T shirts looked like one of  Sir Les Patterson cast-offs.

Some liked it; some loathed it, in about equal measure. The fact I hadn't shaved for a week meant its removal was an easy choice, as I was back to the designer stubble.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Result for North Devon

Remember those garage doors at £140 each? Well, given they've been in the junk shop since before lockdown, I thought I'd be rather cheeky and make a silly offer - £80 per door. It was accepted. Result!

All I need now is a garage to go around them. However, this time next year, Rodney...

Returned yesterday from a 3 might stay in our favoured haunt of North Devon. Spent the first night wild camping, but decided to stay Friday and Saturday nights in a campsite called Damage Barton near Mortehoe. All very nice with all the requisites for caravans and motorhomes - electric hook-up, toilet block, grey water disposal, etc - but it was soulless and I hated every minute of it. 

Acres of caravans and motorhomes as far as the eye could see. Sterile and hideous. Left early Sunday morning to return to our usual parking place in Lee Bay and managed to get some peace and quiet, and a view.

I'll never go near a campsite again, unless it's a small, farmer's field , a small Caravan Club site or the carpark of a pub that allows it (on the basis of having a meal there) - but nothing that's windswept, devoid of trees, miles from anywhere and blanketed in holidaymakers from the Midlands. I suppose it was a mistake to stay relatively near to Woolacombe. 

Not sure if you've noticed, but the VW Transporter T6 is now the holiday van of choice. Because they're so popular, the prices are horrendously high. They're not for me though, as I like a bit of comfort and somewhere to hunker down in the weather turns inclement, not to mention a toilet and shower. 

You have to be a roughy-toughy camper or a surfer dude to love them, which I'm not - they're basically a little bit more than a tent on wheels. Hay would like one, but I'm not that desperate. On the plus side they're much more manoeuvrable and parkable, have a much lower fuel consumption, you can reverse them on a narrow lane without much trouble, plus you're less likely to get bogged down in a muddy field, but every time you want to get in or out, any warmth that has built up inside is wafted out and space is severely restricted - so, as I said, all weather touring and creature comforts are more to my liking. 

A bit plus for wild campers is that they're essentially converted tradesmen's vans, which means you can park up virtually anywhere, slap a magnetic utility company logo you've had made up previously on the side, put some red and white tape around a convenient hole and no bugger will challenge you parking there. It helps if you're minded to wear a set of overalls too.

Given Brummies inundate Devon when going on holiday, I wonder whether Devonians go on holiday in the Midlands?

Sunday, 25 April 2021

In the Groove

Something I learned last week, but forgot about till I saw some decking on a house. When laying decking, do you put the grooved side up, or down?

Believe it or not, all of these are wrong. The grooves on decking are not decorative, nor to improve grip, but to maximise the surface area to improve the drying, and where does decking remain wettest? On the underside!

So, the grooved side should be on the underside and the smooth side uppermost.

Not a lot of people know that, as Michael Caine never said.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Amish Paradise

We were watching a TV documentary on the Amish and it struck us that, leaving aside the cult thing, they had the answer to sustainable living and saving the planet some 200 years ago by eschewing rampant consumerism.

OK, so we wouldn't have reached the moon, but the only reason we need to get to the moon and beyond in the first place is because, like a cancer, we're destroying the world we live on.

I wonder if there are such things as secular Amish?

An interesting bit of information we gleaned is that, because their parcels of land are finite, many of their children who don't stand a chance of inheriting any land to work, are now being forced to work in industry, where they're renowned as hard workers.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Garage Quandary

I was browsing around our local junk emporium and spotted a couple of rather nice aluminium, 7 foot by 7 foot garage doors for £140 each. They look almost unused.

OK, wrong colour, but exactly the style I'll be looking for when I build my garage next year. I can always paint them with a nice wood effect. There again, I may go for a no doors and an open aspect with oak pillars. I'm in a quandary.

Should I get back into rebuilding classic cars, doors are somewhat of a necessity so I can work all weathers, as well as keeping the draughts out when doing any spraying.

Seems a shame to leave them at the emporium at that price. If I buy them I can always sell them again if I change my mind - they're nearly double that price new.

What would you do - and, more importantly, where would you hide them from the Mrs?

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Contextualised Clothing

Ever noticed how clothes that can be totally acceptable in one situation are totally unacceptable in another?

A very short skirt on a woman is bordering on unacceptable, unless she's playing tennis, in which case it's totally acceptable. 

Similarly, a bloke can be on the beach in a pair of skimpy Speedos, but woe betide him if he wanders around Tesco in them when shopping. Same goes for woman in a bikini.

Crazy, isn't it?

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Super League Lidl Diddle

I can't even pretend to understand the furore over the proposed Super League - I'm not even certain what the offside rule is. I have about as much interest in football as I do in the intricacies of various Mah Jong strategies. 

However, I also can't understand why Boris is wading into the argument with threats of legislation. You'd think he'd be fully supportive of companies devising different ways in which to make money, especially when it's a bunch of venture capitalists who are the driving force behind the proposal.

I mentioned the Super League to a work colleague yesterday and said it's just entertainment, and anything that increases the entertainment value is surely to be welcomed. He replied that it's not entertainment - it's war. He has a point. Even if your espoused team is rubbish and has a record of violent tackling, you'll still support it against the enemy - my team, right or wrong. Rather primitive, if you ask me. Anyhow, it all seems to have collapsed about their ears anyway.

I buy shedloads of Lidl, Naturis, cloudy apple juice in cartons that can be stored outside of a fridge, mixing it with water and putting raw ginger in it that leaches out and gives the resultant mix a wonderfully thirst-quenching flavour. It keeps for months and is made from natural apple juice, not concentrate.

Of late, I've noticed they haven't been restocking, so I decided to look in the chilled department to see whether they've done the usual trick that many manufacturers do - taking exactly the same product, but repackaging it in plastic bottles, putting it in the chilled department and increasing the price.

Hey - presto!

87p in the carton (2022 sell-by date) and 99p in the plastic bottle. Plastic may be recyclable, but it's naughty nonetheless. As for adding 12p to the price, that's just as naughty. The sell-by date on the chilled is a month hence, but I'll bet a penny to a pinch of poo it'll keep till 2022. 

Sent their customer services an email, but got a non-committal bit of nonsense back that said bugger all. I was going to conduct an experiment on the bottled stuff to see how long it lasts, but Hay went and drank the damned stuff. Meanwhile, I'll see if Aldi to cloudy apple juice in cartons cheaper.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Funerary Fridge Wars

Given we watch PBS America documentaries a lot, we're inundated by adverts for low-cost funerals, where someone collects the body and returns the ashes by hand, leaving the rest of the family free to have a party on the basis of the savings made. Hay and I wondered if Prince Philip ever considered this no-nonsense type of funeral - he always struck us, after all, as a no-nonsense kind of person and didn't want much fuss over his funeral. The saving would have been huge in his case and would have funded a massive party for the Royals.

Talking of Prince Philip's funeral, did you notice that no-one was wearing spectacles? Not many of the Royal Family do wear specs, but you do see the Queen wearing them a lot. However, imagine the embarrassment of having fogged up specs due to having to wear masks and blundering into everyone else or sitting in the wrong place. Mind you, without your specs, you're just as likely to sit in the wrong place - and she was sitting on her own without her specs on...

Now tell me this, if you know. Hay has a habit that annoys the hell out of me, although I'm not sure why it annoys me.

When I buy, for example, some blueberries, I'll place the container in the fridge and leave it there till I've used them all up, at which time the container - which is invariably the plastic, supermarket tray, goes into the recycling.

Hay, on the other hand, will swap the container for a slightly smaller one, from our stock of plastic Tupperware containers, whenever the volume of blueberries decreases, generating a heap of extra washing up.

My theory is that the larger the container, the less the fridge has to work to keep chilled - a full fridge uses less energy than an empty fridge. Hay, I think, just wants to keep as much room available in the fridge.

Is this a female thing?

Monday, 19 April 2021

Knight Attire

While idly trawling FlipBoard, the news aggregator site I use, I came across an item about great medieval knights and spotted this image of a knightly tournament in France.

It shows Jacques de Lalaing fighting the Lord of Espiry at the Passage of Arms of the Fountain of Tears. Now these knights were meant to be tough old buggers, but I never realised they fought while wearing pink tutus. Mind you, he was French.

Now, Jacques de Lalaing was either putting two fingers up at his opponent, or he's the reason the English won at Agincourt, Crecy and Poitiers against the effete French. 

He went down in history as being one of the first knights to be killed by gunfire.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Upload / Download

Isn't it a shame that you live for decades, picking up knowledge, learning from mistakes and gaining wisdom, only for it to disappear the second you kick the bucket. You're unable to pass all this experience on to your progeny, except perhaps a few snippets.

I wonder whether, before I shuffle off my mortal coil, science will progress to the point where all the memories  and experience locked chemically into one's brain can be downloaded to some technological device and then uploaded to whomsoever.

I don't mean the conscious you - that would be nightmarish and akin to immortality - but merely the accumulated data.

There again, one's experiences determine who you are and, it could be argued, that someone else's uploaded knowledge would reshape the conscious you. Uploading Honest John Major's knowledge to Boris Johnson, for example, might result in a slightly more honest Boris. No - I agree, far too fanciful.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Legalised Plunder

Here I am, banging on about the slave trade again, but does anyone else find it ironic that when the slave trade was banned and compensation had been paid in 1837, the trafficking of opium to China took on a sudden exponential trend? 

It's even more ironic when it is constantly trumpeted that Britain was the first country to ban the slave trade, as if it was some act of altruism, rather than a contract involving massive amounts of compensation from the public purse for loss of earnings; compensation that was immediately invested into an equally nefarious business that brought misery to millions of Chinese.

The East India Company had kept shipments of opium to China quite low, so as to increase profit margin, while farming out the actual smuggling to smaller operators so as to keep their hands unsullied. However, once the British government took over the East India Company (and India) and realised the huge profits to be made, shipments rocketed, resulting in prices falling dramatically, necessitating further increases in shipments and a vested interest in spreading the habit of chasing the dragon as widely as possible among the Chinese. In the mid 1800s, Britain was, in effect, the world's largest drug trafficker, but greed eventually killed the golden goose when the trade was no longer profitable. 

The two Opium Wars the Brits engaged in with China (fondly remembered by the Chinese to this day - not) were fought in order to force China to legalise the trade through gunboat diplomacy, which the Chinese Emperor had banned since the early 1700s. The ban was, after all, a barrier to free trade. The wars seriously weakened the political system in China which, indirectly and arguably, culminated in the emergence of the People's Republic of China.

The French economist, Frédéric Bastiat, once said; "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorises it and a moral code that glorifies it." Nothing could be truer.

Another irony is that the type of people who were profiting from the Chinese opium trade were cut from the same cloth as those who today are busy declaring a War on Drugs. Perhaps there's a lesson here for the War on Drugs - make something legal and it becomes unprofitable. 

Friday, 16 April 2021

Uniformly Consistent

Members of the Royal Family will not be wearing uniform for Prince Philip's funeral on Saturday. Commentators maintain it's to spare embarrassment to Prince Harry, who has no leave to wear uniform since being stripped of his honorary military ranks. 

Being so stripped, he is a veteran, and veterans are not allowed by law to wear their uniforms after leaving the services, as Harry has done. All they can wear are their service medals. The rest of them have honorary ranks which were given by the Queen, and are therefore still considered to be on active service.

I don't believe for one minute that Harry would be embarrassed - quite the reverse, it's the rest of them who would be embarrassed at dressing up like extras in a North Korean version of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, when it's Harry who we most associate with honourable active service in wartime. 

Of course, Prince Andrew saw active service in the Falklands, but he's somewhat blotted his copybook of late, and he's still a bloody Rear Admiral, despite never progressing beyond the real rank of Commander RN and himself being retired, and therefore not entitled to wear uniform, unless of an honorary rank bestowed by the Queen.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Autistic Cats

We have some new neighbours and they also have a cat. It's already investigating our garden and it won't be much longer before it's joining our cat, our adopted stray - Railway - and our other neighbour's two cats that have made our house their home. It's the underfloor heating that attracts them.

However, the new cat has a problem - its tail is permanently curled under its body. It must have had an accident to its tail at some stage - but that means that, as far as other cats in the neighbourhood are concerned, it's wandering around with the equivalent of two fingers permanently stuck up at the them. 

Railway and Kitty are still not getting on too well, but Railway only gets as far as our porch, where he occasionally sprays.

Come summer, I think Railway might be tempted to come into the house through the open French doors, but I honestly hope he doesn't. He must be riddled with fleas and spraying in the house won't be appreciated.

The only cat Kitty doesn't mind too much is the neighbour's ginger tom, but he's probably the most unthreatening cat in the world and, since his road accident, wanders around as if he's in a permanent daze, showing not the slightest hint of aggression to anything or anyone. I think all the other cats realise he's not quite the full shilling.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Failures of State

I'm about 2/3rds through reading Failures of State, an analysis by two Sunday Times investigative journalists into the multiple cock-ups perpetrated by our current government in its handling of the Covid crisis, and came across this damning paragraph, which I have to say is, sadly, one among many.

"On the day that Northwick Park was at critical level, Public Health England made a confusing announcement that sent out the wrong messages. The threat of Covid-19 was being downgraded so it would no longer be classed as a High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID). This seemed inexplicable, as the virus was fast becoming the deadliest pandemic the world had seen for more than a hundred years. The downgrading, the government said, was a technical matter of terminology. The virus may have killed a lot of people, but it was a low percentage of the total numbers infected, according to the official line. Yet an investigation by the BBC programme Panorama discovered the move was at least partly a way to get around the shortage of protective equipment in the NHS. The problem was that the Health and Safety Executive had earlier ruled that the very top level of PPE should be worn when dealing with a disease ranked as an HCID. The change in classification therefore meant health workers could be kitted out with less protective equipment - making the most of the threadbare stocks available. The government had requested that the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens remove Covid-19 from the HCID list. Sources on that committee said it had taken the decision pragmatically based on the PPE stockpile shortages at the time. On the same day, NHS staff were told it was fine to wear less protective aprons and basic surgical masks."

Regardless of what you think of the Sunday Times' politics, it has an admirable record on investigative journalism, with numerous journalists receiving multiple awards.

Then there's the fiasco of the Nightingale Hospitals, which couldn't be used because there simply weren't enough staff to man them, which was in part also due to the woeful state of our PPE stocks, which meant doctors and nurses were dropping like flies.

Then there was the triage system the government introduced, meaning the elderly with pre-existing conditions, the very people they'd promised to protect, were denied intensive care treatment and left to die due to the shortage of ventilators, all so the government could say the NHS hadn't been overwhelmed. As they hadn't been tested for Covid, they didn't appear in the Covid death stats, even if showing the signs of Covid infection.

Doctors and nurses were warned by Health Trust managers about whistleblowing and threatened with all manner of retribution if they complained about lack of PPE, or indeed anything.

The litany of incompetence and skullduggery is breathtaking - and this was during the 1st wave of infection. It's no wonder Johnson isn't too keen on a public inquiry.

I heartily recommend the book unless, of course, you're one of the many for whom Boris and his bunch of incompetent slackers are nothing less than gods and incapable of doing wrong and the fact the government managed to get its vaccines before the EU (despite the EU signing its contract with AZ 24 hours before the UK - 27th vs 28th August 2020) somehow atones for the death of 127,000 of the citizens it was responsible for defending. Modelling has shown that had we locked down 2 weeks earlier, as advised by the science at the time, the death toll would have been halved and the most dominant strain across the USA and Europe would not be the UK variant.

Shame, in this country of ours, has gone the same way as honour - it has disappeared.

Some will say that we should withhold judgement till a public inquiry, but does anyone actually believe there will be an independent inquiry? There may be a whitewash, but Boris, with his majority, will resist a real inquiry. It would be too embarrassing, especially this close to an election.

Talking of public inquiries, the government has announced it will initiate an enquiry into the conduct of David Cameron and his lobbying activities on behalf of a company that the German anti-corruption service was trying to close down a while ago; a company with dubious links to Liberty Steel. The irony is that David Cameron himself promised in 2010 to implement policies to prevent him doing exactly what he has spent the last 12 months actually doing. Dennis Skinner was famously chucked out of the House of Commons for referring to Cameron as Dodgy Dave.

The double irony is that Boris Johnson has a habit of ignoring the recommendations and results of inquiries anyway. Indeed, his own independent advisor on the Ministerial Code resigned over this very issue of ignoring recommendations - and he has still not been replaced. Given such a replacement may have a lot more to say before this government itself is replaced, I doubt a replacement independent advisor will be appointed this side of an election. 

As for the Cameron inquiry, while the result won't implicate Boris, it could result in a call for tighter restrictions on him when he leaves politics, so I wouldn't imagine he'd be in no hurry to implement any recommendations arising from it. Nigel Boardman, the lawyer appointed to lead the inquiry, is compromised from the start; he is a non-executive director of BEIS which supervised the British Business Banks which is the very entity which lent money to Greensill.

While I'm at it, Boris Johnson said, when Foreign Secretary, that it was 'unconscionable and inconceivable' for any Conservative Prime Minister to do do exactly what he has a done as PM in respect of Northern Ireland and for which the EU is currently being blamed by the Tories.

What is it about the British public that allows this kind of malfeasance to proliferate and defend the indefensible?

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Cyclehome II

While investigating potential bases for a cyclehome, I came across these:

That last one would be excellent as the basis for a van, requiring bugger all pedalling and be considerably faster.

Monday, 12 April 2021


I'm really tempted to build something like this, but fear that without electric assist it would be impossible to cycle up even a small incline.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Orange and Green

I was listening to someone yesterday talking about the situation in Northern Ireland and he said something that is so blindingly true, but had never struck me before.

What he said was that, in Northern Ireland, the political discourse is not between left and right, or red and blue, as it is elsewhere in the UK, and indeed most of the world, but solely between Orange and Green - Unionism and Republicanism. That's its tragedy. Everyday politics of big government vs small government or low tax vs public spending, simply doesn't enter into the equation. It's all about identity and nuance is the price paid.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Prince Philip

When I was born in 1955, the name Philip was quite popular as an homage to Prince Philip and I was named accordingly, despite being born in the Netherlands and having a Dutch surname. It must have primarily been my British mother's influence. I wonder if the death of HRH will reignite the name's popularity.

Just before I was sent to my naval school in Plas Newydd in the late 60s, Prince Philip came to open what was called the New Block, a purpose built school to replace the ramshackle camp that had replaced the wooden vessel that was originally the school (a model is in the lower photo), but had accidentally been wrecked in the Menai Strait when returning to Liverpool for a refit.

I love this cartoon of Philip, which sums him up:

Friday, 9 April 2021


Apparently someone started a petition to have the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol reinstated. 

It was rejected, as the government is not responsible for local statues. However, it would be like a city in Germany petitioning for a statue of Hitler to be reinstated. When all's said and done, Hitler did get the trains running on time, so he couldn't have been all bad...

It's sad state of affairs when people care more for statues than people.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Release Your Inner Garage

Seeing loads of adverts urging people to release the equity tied up in their home - equity they've slaved over for 25 years or more in order to own the damned thing; equity their kids are hoping to benefit from some day; equity that these loan companies are itching to get their grubby hands on. The best way to release equity in your house is to downsize, rather than hand a large chunk of it to loan companies.

Talking of equity, I'm at the early planning stage for the garage extension. 

The garage extension is the asymmetric bit on the left. I was going to have the workshop at the rear of the garage and the AirBnB kitchen to the rear of that, but it would have meant the AirBnB bedroom being right next to the workshop. Better to have the split at 90 degrees and have the AirBnB kitchen as a bit of soundproofing.

The workshop and kitchen would be blockwork clad in oak with a stud wall between them, whereas the garage area would be constructed of wood on a brick plinth and clad in oak. That reduces the overall cost. Probably won't have a traditional garage door, but either an open aspect with baulks of timber (oak or pine) or large, double doors with glass insets in the upper half, like you get in 1950s garages.

The AirBnB has exposed, oak toof trusses right to the top, but the extension would have a flat ceiling in way of the AirBnB kitchen and workshop, meaning I can use ordinary pine trusses to reduce the cost.

Heating in the kitchen would have to be electric, as there's no way we can extend the wet, underfloor heating to it. Domestic water heating would be with a small, 5kW geyser-type boiler, like we have in the cabins.

You might notice that all our external doors open outward, whereas the standard in UK house construction is for them to open inward. This is to save space inside the house, as inward opening doors create dead space. I've noticed most Scandinavian houses use the same outward opening design.

Going to be next year anyway, so there's plenty of time for modifications and to price the build. 

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Discriminatory Passport Tools

Apparently there's growing criticism of Covid Passports, as it would be discriminatory. Would it be any less discriminatory than the vulnerable having to shield for a year, or having to have a driving licence to drive on the road, or showing evidence of your age before being able to buy a pint? 

How about designating all pubs as British Overseas Territories, requiring the presentation of a valid vaccination certificate prior to crossing the border? The only drawback would be that British alcohol duties would not be applicable. Hang on! Pub landlords would be appointed as Governors of each Territory, establish their own police force, levy an independent tax system and issue their own passports to dual nationals....

I really can't understand those who are against Covid passports - they're designed to assist in ensuring places are as Covid-free as possible and thereby opening up the economy. A bunch of Tory MPs are complaining that it's an infringement of civil liberties, but given the fact they are totally focused on rolling back civil liberties with impending legislation and embarking on a programme of authoritarianism, the idea that Tory MPs are concerned about civil liberties is, frankly, laughable. 

On another tack, I've found a new tool I want - seems to accomplish just about everything!

Brilliant piece of artwork!

Tuesday, 6 April 2021


There was a bit of untoward excitement here yesterday.

I was mowing the lawn when I heard a helicopter close by. Not an unusual event in itself, as James Dyson lives nearby at Doddington House and regularly uses a helicopter to travel to and from his home (and I don't think it's for trips to Waitrose). We also occasionally have Wessex, double rotor 'copters flying low over us for some reason. However, this got closer and closer.

On looking up I saw a chopper hovering maybe a hundred feet above me and I was convinced the bugger was about to land in our garden. I wondered if, perhaps, I was mowing the lawn in an illegal manner during lockdown and the rozzers were on to me. On closer inspection I noticed it was an Air Ambulance from Southmead Hospital in Bristol.

It continued very slowly over our garden and then proceeded to touch down on the common just the other side of our hedge. On rushing out to the drive I noticed there was a kerfuffle further up the road and there appeared to be an RTA with traffic was building up and a couple of ambulances were in attendance.

The casualty, which was a biker who had been pranged by a car turning into a drive, was taken away by a road ambulance and the chopper wasn't needed, but I took the following video of it departing.

A little later I had cause to go into my work, which is only a couple of hundred yards down the road, in the direction of the RTA, and asked the guys next door at KwikFit what had caused the accident. They said a motorbike had been hit and the culprit had fled the scene in his or her car.

Now our work site has CCTV, with one camera facing along the road in the direction of the accident. I alerted my boss and he looked through the footage, discovering that not only was the accident captured (although it was quite far away), but the fleeing car went pas our premises twice - once before the accident and then again when fleeing. While I could discern the car make and model, the registration was hard to determine.

Hay then contacted the police to inform them we had evidential footage, but rather than being put through to an officer to take a statement and accept the video evidence, she was incredulously sent an on-line form to fill in. We're still waiting to hear from the police.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Serious Kono Test

We were determined to have a family BBQ yesterday, regardless of the weather, which turned out to be much warmer than expected.

Both the Neolithic and MkII Kono grills were duly lit at 1.30pm, about half an hour before the meal was to be prepared.

While the MkII proceeded to consume the charcoal as expected, the Neolithic remained smoky for rather a long time and appeared to 'catch' only a one end - the one with the ventilation holes.

The MkII, however, started performing like a professionally designed and manufactured item. The griddle did bow upward slightly due to the intense heat in the middle, but not sufficiently to cause any problems.

While the Neolithic took longer to reach the right cooking conditions, both performed admirably when the food was placed on them, but the MkII superseded all expectations to the extent that Hay wouldn't mind me making a 2nd one, but larger.

It coped well with sausages, chicken and all manner of marinaded veggies.

We reached the conclusion that the Neolithic requires some more vent holes at the other end of the unit to create a more distributed flow of air, but the lack of a damper might result in it burning too fast. Rather than trying to light it homogenously, it might be better to light it at a point furthest from the vent and allow the draught to pull the fire toward the holes. Using firelighters might be a solution too.

Both were still pumping out heat well after 6pm, when we retired indoors to hold surreal conversations with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law about things like 'wossisname and thingymajig - you know, the film stars who appeared in that film that I can't remember the name of; one of them was in that other film, which I also can't remember the name of - or was he?' They type of conversations only those over 60 have, where nothing is remembered clearly and everything is confused.

I may have a go at some different BBQ designs, but I first need to add to my saw collection - the next one is going to be a gas saw - or an oxy-acetylene torch, as we experts call it... 

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Recycling Footie

While engaged in my usual morning ritual of listening to the Today Programme on Radio 4 yesterday morning, the sports news came on. It struck me that there can't be anyone, except perhaps Hay, who knows less about football than me.

I have absolutely no idea what the Premier League is, except that it's probably comprised of a number of teams with very expensive tastes when it comes to footballers.

The last time I had any interest in football there were four divisions, with teams going up or down these divisions at the boundaries, depending on how well they performed, and Liverpool won practically every cup going.

On Saturday evenings there was a reading of the score of every football match from every match, which was an institutionalised ritual before the national news and an episode of Dr Who.

Now I'm the kind of person who, on returning from the newsagent's on Sunday morning with the newspaper, first pulls out the sports pages, along with the advertising flyers, and immediately puts them in the recycling without casting a glance at what they say.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Maximum Adulthood

The relationship between parents and their children changes over the years - there comes a time when the children become the adult in the relationship; organising their activities, arranging things for them, doing all the things their parents used to do for them, etc.

When do you think maximum adulthood occurs, following which the parent slowly, but surely, reverts to becoming the child in the relationship? Is it when, for example, the child reaches a certain age; is it when the parent becomes overwhelmed by new technology or does it creep up slowly and it happens without you even realising it until, one day, it clicks and you realise you're now the parent?

Friday, 2 April 2021

It's a Wrap

Overheard when getting back into bed after a 4am fridge raid and reading the news:

Chairman: "I found a news story earlier that would interest you, but I can't find it now. It's about the role of some gene in something, but I can't remember what."

Hay: "Memory?" 

Went to collect a car yesterday at our bodyshop supplier who does all out spraying and saw this Porsche, which was in to have the wheels painted black.

Understated, or what? 

I think just because you can, it doesn't mean to say you should. Especially when it comes to doing this:

Must be a cat lover.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Not Another One?

 Guess what I found? Yes, another saw - this time a scroll saw.

£70 on Facebook Market, used only once. So, of you're counting, that's the sabre saw I already had, the sliding, double bevel, laser-guided mitre saw, the bandsaw and the scroll saw. 

All I need is a decent workshop now, but I'm working on that - a temporary one for this year and a garage extension to the house for next year, once Colin, our tame builder, is available. We've already booked him for a job in late summer and he's stacked out with work, so my garage will have to take a back seat.

I've managed to get the idea for the extension past the planning committee (Hay) by positioning it as a double garage / workshop with a galley kitchen at the back that connects to the AirBnB. It's the AirBnB connection that won the day, as it makes the AirBnB fully self-contained.

Once I have a garage, I fully intend to get a classic car to work on. Something like a Triumph GT6, perhaps. I could go back to MGBs, but I had my fill of those in my youth and they're just about the most ubiquitous classic these days. GT6s are much rarer and are faster, with a 2 litre engine in a superlight body. The forward tilting bonnet also makes working on the engine and front suspension much easier and the shape makes it a poor man's e-Type.

Who wouldn't like something like this? 1972 Triumph GT6 MkIII, which is quite sought after. It's only £5k too, but no storage space for it precludes a purchase.

Talking of classic cars, there are some strange definitions of a classic car these days. Put it into a search on Facebook Market and you come up with some cars that are only 10 years old.

Many modern 'classic' cars are not the kind of cars I'd like to work on - they're simply too complex and you have to be an electronics engineer to work on them. I prefer something basic, preferably with carburettors. Even my 1994  Mercedes SL500 is too complex for me to work on by myself, what with ECUs and all manner of electrics to go wrong. When it comes to an old MGB, I can dismantle the engine almost blindfolded and the bodywork is pure steel, not composite and plastic.