Monday, 26 July 2021

Save Water

Do you know what the government could do to save water? Ban the sale of bog paper that takes 3 flushes to get rid of the bloody stuff, especially when water saving loos are all the rage.

We do our best to buy the cheapest toilet paper around, as it's usually not the quilted rubbish; however, we occasionally get fooled into buying it and then using a week's worth of water to flush it down the loo when the pockets of buoyant air bring it to the top of the toilet bowl.

Think of the environment - single ply, unquilted, flushable.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Whingeing About Death

I've been contemplating my bike accident of last month; I have absolutely no recollection of coming off my bike and hitting my head on the pavement. Just goes to show that, had I woken up dead, I wouldn't have remembered the trauma, so there's nothing to fear about death and I can leave a positive review of it....

Talking of reviews, Hay has been experimenting with putting our AirBnB rental room on other platforms, such as and Quirky Stays, with some surprising results. 

With AirBnB the hosts write reviews of guests as well as the guests reviewing the room, creating a virtuous feedback loop. Some guests go out of their way to leave the place spick and span, even stripping the bed and using the squeegee on the shower doors. Others can leave the place a tip.

Unless guests have a genuine beef about their experience, they tend not to leave vexatious reviews, as they also risk bad reviews about the state in which left the property. Too many bad reviews about noise or cleanliness on the part of a guest can result in hosts not accepting guests with a bad track record., on the other hand, does not facilitate hosts reviewing guests, which can result in some frivolous reviews by guests. One guest left a review stating that the room was too hot and there was no fan - this despite it being the hottest day of the year in the middle of a heatwave and the fan we provided showing 100% evidence of having been used.

Whereas AirBnB facilitates freeform reviews, leads one down a path, asking you to point out positives and negatives in separate sections. It's almost as it they expect you to add some negatives and encourage you to whinge. Whereas we have an unbroken record of 5 star reviews on AirBnB, we get only 8/10 on and there's hardly a single review of any property on the entire platform with more than 8/10.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Donner Und Blitzen

Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening.

Strange how lightning has no e in it, whereas frightening does.

Anyway, that's the situation here as I write; however, whereas the three, domesticated house cats are cowering from the thunder, to varying degrees, Railway, the feral cat, doesn't give a monkey's and is quite happily sitting on our patio, under the awning, eating his breakfast and showing not the least concern for the thunder and lightning raging around him. 

All this extreme weather seems to be a warning of the effects of climate change yet, when you think of it, we've never lived in a more sanitised milieu. The griminess that was there for all to see in the 50s and 60s has disappeared and everything looks pristine - yet it isn't, as far as the atmosphere is concerned. It's all hidden from view and thus capable of being ignored.

I'm currently struggling to find the cause of the fridge in the motorhome not working on 12v. Works fine on 240v and gas, but nothing on 12v. All other 12v equipment seems to be working fine, with the exception of the fridge. Strangely enough, the board where you switch from leisure to cab battery shows no current on cab battery, despite there being 12v current in many other places in the loop.

I've replaced as many fuses and relays as I can find, but still not a sausage from the volt meter on the display board or the fridge itself. The display shows full power when switched to leisure battery, but zilch when switched to cab.

Friday, 23 July 2021

Newton's Slowmo Cradle

I just happened to pop into a local charity shop yesterday where I spotted a Newton's Cradle.

These executive desk toys have fascinated me since I was a kid - I just can't keep my eyes off them when they're bouncing about, obeying the laws of classical physics and determinism at the macro scale. I had to buy it and video it in slow motion.

I don't know what it is about these things that fascinate me; it possibly says something about me that they hold my attention.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Road Radiation

I was having a bit of a walk yesterday and was meandering from grassed areas and crossing several roads. As soon as I hit tarmac, waves of heat arose to hit me. It made me wonder how much of an effect all our roads are having on the planet's albedo

All that black absorbs heat from the sun, contributing to the warming of Earth. If we used a whitening agent in tarmac, I wonder by how much this could offset global warming.

Our preoccupation with grey slate rooftiles only add to the problem too, although modern houses have red or orange slates, which are an improvement.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Underfloor Cooling

Hot, ain't it? 

Being almost totally open plan, our main problem in this weather is the heat build-up upstairs, for which the only real solution is the installation of a Velux window in the vaulted ceiling to let heat escape, but we keep putting it off. Our upstairs windows are very low in the walls and hence don't really do much in clearing the heat.

Our bedroom occasionally becomes unbearably hot, forcing us to either sleep downstairs or in the motorhome, which cools down pretty fast after dusk. Downstairs isn't that much of a problem, as we have no south facing windows and the place can be kept relatively cool by closing all the doors and curtains at either end of the house during the day and opening them at night, but what heat does build up rises upstairs and remains trapped there in the open roof space, which is vast.

I've had an idea though.

We have underfloor heating. The heat exchanger takes warmth from the air outside via the air-source heat pump, backed up by the solar PV, and pumps it through pipes under our floors to heat the house.

Using the system as it is, but not heating the water at all and putting the thermostat to high could actually take heat away from the floor and dump it in the 500 litre tank in the engine room. It wouldn't be very efficient, as the heat would slowly build up in the 500 litre tank with nowhere to go, so eventually the system would stabilise at the outside air temperature. 

Theoretically, it should be possible, with a chiller inserted somewhere into the system, to work it in reverse, so as to give us cool floors that take the heat away from the house and chuck it outside.

That said, another idea, which I have yet to discuss with Hay, would be to roll the car into the living room, put a hose on the tailpipe leading outside for the carbon monoxide and run the aircon at full belt with the car doors open. I'm almost certain she'd me amenable to such an innovative idea. One small problem, however, would be the heat from the engine and that a car aircon is designed to cool only a small area. Minor obstacles.

Just a quick look at our electricity generation, using the initial feed-in tariff, since we moved into the house.

Click on the image to enlarge it. You can plainly see how the sunlight (yellow area) has been increasing, albeit slowly, year-on-year. The usage too has increased, but that's been subject to having two sons living at home - however, they've both left now and hence usage should reduce dramatically over winter.

Mind you, if climate change produces more weather like we're currently experiencing, then we may have to install a genuine aircon unit, using the renewable generated electricity to run it.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Freedom Day

 In my 66 years on this earth, I’ve never known anything remotely like this. 

We have taken the worst approach possible - in the world - in dealing with this pandemic. It is  self-evident from the statistics and exponential increase in infections that this government cannot learn from its mistakes and keeps repeating them ad nauseam, hoping for a different result every time. Scientists around the world, including our own scientific advisors, accuse the government of "moral emptiness" and "epidemiological stupidity". 

The spectacular advantage we gained from the vaccination lead is now being squandered by this idiotically named Freedom Day, which is actually better termed Infection Day and is resulting in hospitals cancelling elective procedures in the face of an exponential rise in infections and hospitalisations.

Who exactly is experiencing this Freedom? Certainly not those who now have to navigate around the estimated 30% of morons (according to a poll) who are refusing to wear masks, despite it remaining firm government advice that's no longer backed up by law. Only the morons will be experiencing Freedom - freedom to infect others and each other.

Personal responsibility? How can I take personal responsibility for someone else not wearing a mask and infecting me, other than by not entering anywhere where people refuse to wear masks? That's not freedom!

Johnson emphasises the risks posed by nightclubs only hours after opening the damned things and we see hundreds of young people paying not the slightest attention to protective measures. Then he says nightclubs will require patrons to have Covid Passports in September, way after the horse has bolted. Can anyone discern even a shred of logic in this?

Many on social media are saying we can't possibly wait till there are no cases reported before restrictions are relaxed. However, they're guilty of the 'all or nothing' fallacy - a false dilemma suggesting that there are only two options – either full lockdown or full freedom – when in fact there are many more options in the middle ground between those two extremes, such as masks being enforced by law when cases are spiralling out of control, along with a bit of social distancing. You'd think they were being asked to deliver their firstborn for sacrifice.

It's almost as if the Conservative government wants the NHS to fail, just so it can call in the private sector and privatise it (you first destroy that which you wish to privatise); however, it's a mistake to attribute to design and strategy what can adequately be explained by a consistent track record of incomparable, astounding and repeated incompetence.  The level of corruption, hypocrisy, incompetence and cronyism is unprecedented and laid out for all with eyes to see. 

Then there’s the self-imposed disaster that is Brexit, which just lurches from bad to worse, with blame being apportioned to anyone, rather than the very architects of this act of wanton self-flagellation. 

The racism they’re stirring up with their War on Woke and Culture Wars is in negation of any shred of compassion, decency, caring, morals, ethics or general good nature. They give licence to the worst elements in human nature to run rampant, just like Trump did in America.  

Even an anti-racism gestures, made in solidarity with an abused English national football team, are an unacceptable breach of GB News standards - that certainly makes sense in a Culture War (I wasn't aware GB News had any standards). This whole government thing about ‘we don’t do gesture politics’, is intellectually bankrupt and a blatant lie. Wearing a poppy is a gesture, handing people a leaflet is a gesture, clapping the NHS is a gesture, politicians do most of what they do with  gestures - including making promises they know will be broken.  Johnson with the huge England flag on Downing Street - that was a brilliant gesture, but nonetheless a gesture and a stunt that created fantastic photo opportunity for him.  Politics is all about gestures and symbolism.

It doesn’t help that, despite all the evidence of wrongdoing, incompetence, neglect and corruption, a lot of people continue to support this appalling government, choose to wilfully ignore objective reality and treat Boris Johnson, who has been sacked from virtually every job he's ever had for lying, as if he were the Messiah, rather than the very naughty boy he is. Why? Even Peter Oborne and Max Hastings have turned on him, and both know him well.

To quote Rory Stewart, one of a small number of true, old-style Tories I can respect  (although now an ex Tory): "Johnson is after all the most accomplished liar in public life - perhaps the best liar ever to serve as prime minister. Some of this may have been a natural talent - but a lifetime of practice and study has allowed him to uncover new possibilities which go well beyond all the classifications of dishonesty attempted by classical theorists like St Augustine. He has mastered the use of error; omission, exaggeration, diminution, equivocaton and flat denial. He has perfected casuistry, circumlocution, false equivalence and false analogy. He is equally adept at the ironic jest, the fib and the grand lie; the weasel word and the half-utruth; the hyperbolic lie, the obvious lie, and the bullshit lie."

It's as if there's a headlong rush into speculative risk taking, in the hope that at least one risk will pay off. This is despite, with the exception of going it alone on vaccines, hardly a single risk having thus far transformed into one with even a low pay-off.  A large section of the electorate has turned into infantile, self-absorbed toddlers who care for nothing but themselves.

Monday, 19 July 2021

Cruiser Catastrophe

Well, it transpires the beach cruiser is unsuitable for converting to an e-bike. There are two reasons for this:

  1. The rear, pack-peddle hub brake is incompatible, and
  2. The gap between the rear forks is too small to accommodate the motor wheel.
The gap between the rear forks wouldn't be insurmountable on a steel-framed bike as they could be bent to accommodate the wheel, but the frame is aluminium and could therefore fracture during the bending process, or even at a later stage. The existing rear hub being a pack-peddle brake would not be an issue, as I'm not that keen on this method of braking anyway and was intending to affix a normal rim brake.

It's a nice bike anyway and I'll keep it as a run-around for flat terrain.

Another, 2nd hand base bike has been purchased for the conversion and will be taken to the local bike emporium today to have the motorised wheel and Pedal Assist Sensor fitted, while simultaneously being given an overall health and safety check.

The replacement LED screen and controller for the fried parts on my original creation have also arrived from China so, hopefully, I'll have two, fully functional e-bikes by the end of this week. I need both operational by the weekend after next, ready for our next outing in the van to the Brecons.

I'm not looking forward to performing the work outside in this weather, but Hay is taking her dad and his partner on a holiday to Cotswold Water Park for a few days later today, which means I may be able to accomplish the task in the living room without her knowing.   Perhaps not....

Talking of the van, I have a small issue with it currently. The fridge, which has a gas, a 240v and a 12v supply, won't work on the 12v, which is meant to be used while driving between destinations. I've checked all the fuses, which are fine. The electrical display panel additionally registers no power in the 12v system, which is driven from the starter battery. Now the battery is fine and has plenty of power, so I can only assume a 12v relay has packed up, but I'm buggered if I can find the 12v relay for the fridge. 

The wiring diagram is of no use, as the relays on the diagram bear no relation to locations within the physical space of the van. Might have to call in an auto-electrician. Not a massive problem, just a niggle, especially in this weather - it can be overcome by packing the fridge with frozen chill packs before setting off on a journey. Once on-site, I can use either the gas or 240v hookup supplies. It is possible to use the gas supply en-route, but it's not recommended at all for safety purposes.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Small, Yet Big

Since Thursday we've been in a field in Widdecombe in Devon, where the owner has been providing camping facilities for about a month to 6 weeks. 

He told us when we arrived on Thursday that he was expecting some 20 happy campers to arrive over the weekend, but what's stark is that our motorhome, albeit a relatively small one, is the only one on the site. Most are cars with tents or VW campervans, the latter being extremely popular at present, with prices for T5s and T6s going exponential and being far in excess of their intrinsic value.

I think it must be down to motorhome owners, in general, preferring the larger sites where everything is laid on - toilet and shower blocks, along with a shop and even entertainment. A simple field just doesn't cut the mustard for those seeking luxury; however, it's just what we look for. I can't actually stand the larger sites and much prefer the off-grid life. 

Being an old Fiat Ducato Sundance, our van contains all the luxuries we need - and far in excess of what the others in the field have and who are continually packing and unpacking their VW vans to make room for themselves or their gear. 

I think we've hit the sweet spot with the size of van we have - just under 6 metres gives you the best of both worlds; small enough to get through narrow roads to the smaller sites (albeit with a few hiccups), but large enough to be self-sufficient (cooker, toilet, shower, power, beds, etc.). Any larger and we'd be forced to go to the larger, less enjoyable, more sterile camping sites where you're cheek-by-jowl with hundreds of other people.

Saturday, 17 July 2021


The coolant leak on my SAAB has been resolved - it was the water coolant by-pass valve. If I'd had the time to perform a diagnosis, I could probably have effected the repair myself. However, I left it to our local garage to do the job, not having enough time to devote to searching the internet for reasonably cheap parts. Given there was a rip on the top intercooler hose, I got them to order the necessary hose for that too.

What a shock! In a reversal of all logic, the rather complex by-pass valve was £35 plus VAT, which I thought quite reasonable, but the lump of rubber hose, which isn't at all complex, was £65 plus VAT. I looked up both parts on eBay and found the by-pass valve for £26, including postage (not a great difference) and the hose for £38, including postage (a massive difference).

All parts were sourced from Simply SAAB in Bristol - a rather handy facility for parts for a car that is no longer manufactured but is, nevertheless, essentially a Vauxhall under the bonnet.

How is it possible that a simple hose is so expensive when a much more complex by-pass valve is so cheap? You'd think that hoses, being more susceptible to wear and tear damage, would be in higher demand than a by-pass valve and therefore relatively cheaper.

Friday, 16 July 2021

Post Hoc Rationalisation

I was listening to a radio phone-in programme yesterday where the subject of the moment was makeup in schools.

After listening to the opinions of the callers, it struck me that this is one of those subjects where people have opinions that aren't rationally considered. They are essentially emotional judgements for which rational arguments are made post hoc, almost all of which don't stand up to scrutiny, which is usually the case in post hoc rationalisations and the result of the human condition.

Some justified cosmetics being used by girls under the age of 16 as a means of gaining self-confidence, whereas the counter argument was that self-confidence should therefore be taught in schools, but not allowed through the use of cosmetics. Easier said than done, when one considers that a lack of self-confidence is invariably why cosmetics are used by women over the age of 16. A lack of self-confidence is at the root of a lot of things we, as humans, do. 

The judgement on cosmetics being used by school children is invariably one made on the basis of one's own past experience - if you weren't allowed to use cosmetics as a child, then future children shouldn't. No rational analysis, simply a continuation of what happened to you, but for which you feel compelled to come up with a rational justification. It actually stifles progress and is at the heart of a lot of what ails us as a species. I can think of a lot of hideous things that are perpetuated in this manner.

One caller suggested cosmetics should not be allowed so as to level the playing field, but beauty is not a level playing field to start with. One kid is beautiful and another is ugly - where's the level playing field in that? The use of cosmetics by the ugly kid is that very levelling of the playing field.

Cosmetics are a fashion and there's no justifiable, logical or rational reason why a kid under the age of 16 shouldn't be allowed to utilise fashion, especially when parents utilise fashion when they dress their kids or style their hair.

Could it be to do with the sexualisation of children? However, it's the very act of prohibiting cosmetics use by children until they reach puberty and beyond that creates this sexualisation link, which is entirely contextual. The link is created by the action.

All girls try to emulate their mothers - we smile when a kid plasters itself in its mother's makeup. They also care for dolls, which emulate their mothers. Why don't we frown when this happens in the same manner we frown at childhood cosmetic use?

I too feel kids under the age of 16 shouldn't use cosmetics, but I can't think of a single, rational argument why not. Can you?

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Do & Don't

So the Conservative government relaxes virtually every law regarding the pandemic, yet Grant Shapps, Minister of State for Transport (and flags), is rolled out on the radio yesterday to say people should still wear masks. How's that for mixed messaging?

The only conclusion that can be gathered from this tour de force of ineptitude is that the government is abdicating all moral, ethical and practical responsibility so it can tell its different constituencies - the lunatic far right and the semi-reasonable centre - exactly what it wants to hear, despite the messages being diametrically opposed.

Where does this leave the owners of premises that don't want to cater for those who refuse to wear masks? They're providing a service and, without protection of the law, it's debatable whether they can insist on those without masks leaving their premises. It has overtones of the case where a devoutly Christian woman was taken to court for not serving a gay couple due to her beliefs. 

Retailers may be able to attempt to enforce their own face covering policies, but in the absence of a legal requirement, as has already been highlighted by the British Retail Consortium, this could result in further significant increases in abuse, threats and violence towards retail workers. London Transport has overcome the problem by changing its conditions of carriage, but that isn't a solution that's available to all and sundry.

As an aside, a friend of ours, who is double-vaxxed with AZ, tested positive yesterday and is waiting for a PCR test to confirm whether he has it or not.

As another aside, I found out yesterday possibly why Priti Patel is rather a handful - her dad, Sushil, was a failed Ukip council candidate, which explains a lot. It's also very possible, as the daughter of Ugandan Asians, that her family has a deep-seated dislike of people of Africans heritage because of what Idi Amin did to the Ugandan Asians. Her parents left Uganda before Amin started his persecution of Ugandan Asians, but there are bound to be family relatives who suffered at Amin's hands.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Levelling Up

China has an edge over the rest of the First World in terms of trade for one, very good, single reason that no-one disputes - the fact it currently has low wages. That advantage will not be perpetual but, in a single party state, it will last for a long time as the state controls wages, albeit with regional variations.

However, when you think about it, that advantage is limited solely to areas of the economy that are dependent on people. Remove the human element from the equation and there is no advantage and, in fact, the transport cost of finished, manufactured good becomes the dominant differential cost, which is to the disadvantage of any remote production facility, such as those in China - not to mention the effect of that transport on climate. 

This will stimulate Western companies to level the playing field by repatriating manufacturing and replacing people in the manufacturing process with robots to negate the wage differential.

In response, it will become incumbent on China to respond by investing in production facilities nearer to its markets by direct investment, but without using expensive, local people in those markets. That also is achieved by fully automating manufacturing processes and replacing people with robots.

It costs the same to run robots in the West as it does in China.  However, the use of robots to manufacture goods does not bode well for the employment prospects of people, either in China or the West. That means fewer people employed worldwide, which also means fewer buyers of the manufactured goods.

That's the conundrum that faces us in the future. Analyse and discuss.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021


 If you want some ammunition against the anti-vaxxers in respect of mRNA, show them this graphic, which shows mRNA work has been going on for a very long time.

Click to enlarge.

Monday, 12 July 2021

Covid's Coming Home

I missed the match in its entirety - fell asleep on the settee just prior to kick-off, awoke at half time and, on the basis of England's 1-0 lead and the fact I felt knackered, went to bed at 9pm, buoyed by the thought that England could feasibly win. 

I woke up again at 23:30 to discover we lost on penalties, which is a great shame after such good performances leading to the final and the result was more a matter of luck. I also discovered groups of England fans had marred the match with violence outside Wembley and in Leicester Square.

News scenes from pubs up and down the country added to my disappointment with hordes of maskless fans cavorting with each other in a manner that's guaranteed to further fuel the current exponential rise in the Delta variant of Covid and potentially spawn yet another variant - possibly a vaccine-resistant one that could feasibly take us back to square one.

The government exhorts us to use personal responsibility now in the battle against Covid. There are sections of the public, however, where personal responsibility is totally absent, as was displayed for all to see last night. To proceed with the so-called Freedom Day, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it is a massive folly that will come to bite Boris on the bum and lead to needless deaths, is stupidity on a grand scale and a total abdication of responsibility.

The number of people in the UK who believe masks are for their own protection, rather than the protection of others, is simply staggering, despite all the efforts of the scientific and medical community to educate them. Heaven protect us from these idiots, because our government refuses to - and protecting us is the prime directive of any government, first and foremost.

One positive to take away from this year's Euro competition is that our current crop of footballers seem to be such nice people. When you hear of them in the news it's invariably something positive, rather than lurid tales of extravagance or misdemeanours, as was the case in the past.

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Channelling My Inner Ben Gunn

Has any reader managed to find any Lancashire cheese in a supermarket recently? Can't seem to find the stuff for love nor money - haven't even seen it for decades. All supermarkets seem to sell these days is hideously insipid cheddar and perhaps a few speciality cheeses from France, but hardly any decent, reasonably aged, varietal English cheeses of quality.

The few British cheeses they do sell - besides the ubiquitous cheddar - such as Wensleydale or Red Leicester, are invariably adulterated with several species of fruit that some people must obviously relish, but merely hide the poor quality of the mass produced cheese.

Don't get me wrong; I like cheddar, but only the vintage stuff with hard bits in it, which is incredibly hard to find among the plastic crap in supermarkets which if only fit for cooking with.

Even supermarket bought stilton has to be air matured for a week at room temperature to get rid of the soapy taste.

I currently lust after a hunk of mature, crumbly Lancashire with a decent bite to it - the kind of thing Ben Gunn was desperate for, mostly toasted. Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire would be just the thing. A Welsh rarebit made with mature Lancashire cheese, mixed with Dijon mustard and a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, toasted and topped with a poached egg!

I feel a trip to The Fine Cheese Company in Bath coming up in the not too distant future. A visit there is aroma heaven.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Lifetime Guarantee

Got a new car battery yesterday and it came with what's called a lifetime guarantee, which is a slippery chap.

Rather than my usual modus operandi of getting one on eBay and fitting it myself, I resorted to using our local KwikFit, as I was rather busy and Hay was wanting to use my car on Sunday for a kayaking trip with a friend of hers - or, rather a paddleboarding trip,

What shocked me was Luke, the KwikFit manager, tossing me the keys to the car while saying; "The battery has a lifetime warranty - if it fails within 4 years we'll give you a new one."

It was the mention of 4 years and lifetime in the same sentence that threw me. However, when you think of it, a battery is recommended to changed every 3 to 5 years, so 4 years is the usual lifetime of a battery. It's not my lifetime, nor the lifetime of the car, but the average lifetime of a car battery.

It didn't, however, resolve my problem, as the car sprung a massive coolant leak yesterday from some place deep within the engine cavity, requiring a ramp to locate and fix it. Unfortunately, Steve, who owns the garage we use at work, can't book the car in before Tuesday. Hay is going to have to take the van, which a better proposition as she can make them both something to eat and drink.

Friday, 9 July 2021

Snatching a Triumph From the Jaws of Defeat

I was meant to take No.2 Son to Winchester on Wednesday to take possession of his university digs ready for September and so he could start the job he had lined up that was meant to start today.

Firstly, Student Finance hadn't received Hay's financial information, which had to be posted because it proved impossible for her to logon to her Student Finance account.

Secondly, his deposit for his flat hadn't been received yet by the organisation holding the key.

Thirdly the flat people additionally required my financial information as guarantor of No.2 Son's rent.

The Student Finance issue wasn't on the critical path for collecting his keys, but the flat deposit certainly was. This, naturally, led to a delay and thus the schedule was delayed from Wednesday to Thursday, with his new employer being informed he couldn't start work now till Saturday.

Thursday arrived and the organisation handling his student accommodation still hadn't received his deposit, despite it having been sent on Tuesday by bank transfer.

Additionally, the on-line guarantor system accepted only one proof of income form, whereas I have multiple sources of income. Decided to lodge my last self assessment, which is irrelevant for this year, but it was accepted.

The intended departure time for Winchester yesterday came and went, but still the deposit hadn't hit their bank account. Finally, by 2pm, they conformed receipt. My car, having been packed and fitted with a bike carrier for his bike, was ready and waiting. We jumped in the car and - nothing - the battery, which I'd been meaning to replace for the last couple of months had packed up in a terminal fashion and no amount of jumping it from a spare, also well depleted battery, would cajole it into starting.

Luckily, Hay's dad next door was home and I hurriedly commandeered his car, moving the bike rack from my SAAB estate to his VW Passat saloon - no mean feat. Set off at 2.30pm and arrived at the key collection place on the outskirts of Winchester with just under an hour to spare before they closed.

Took No.2 Son shopping at Aldi, decanted him, his effects and his shopping at his flat and raced back home just in time to greet the bloke who had bought my Triumph Daytona and wanted to collect it. 

No.2 Son then contacted me to tell me his Wi-Fi in the flat wasn't working - which for a young man is a humungous disaster. However, it transpired that the router had simply been unplugged due to no-one having been there for ages.

All-in-all, a successful conclusion to a fraught day in which everything was conspiring against us.

Now is when I'm meant to start suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome....

Thursday, 8 July 2021

That Statue

 Don't know about you, but I think the new Diana statue is - er - not very nice.

I guess if it looked vaguely like her, then it might be marginally acceptable. 

I know art isn't meant to represent reality that faithfully, but it should if it's a statue of a person. It also looks somewhat wooden and lacking in life - more like a Next mannequin in a shop window. Each to their own though. I would guess that, for the average and dedicated Diana fan, it simply wouldn't pass muster, although I could be mistaken.

Don't get me wrong - I quite liked Diana, but this statue is simply hideous and a crime against art, despite being sculpted by the acclaimed Ian Rank-Broadley, who is noted more for his coinage relief work. I guess everyone is entitled to an off-day.

There again, William and Harry raised the money and commissioned the statue and they're obviously happy with it - or are appearing to be so - even if it isn't particularly nice. I think a competition would have produced a better result, as it has with many public works in the past.

The cost of the statue hasn't been made public, but I can think of better ways of spending £100...

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Renault Vauxhall

P-bike is fixed and I've been persuaded by Hay to take an offer on the Triumph Daytona. She promised to make up the shortfall between the offer and my asking price and thus owes me £200. 

I've just become aware of a small irony. 

You know that the government has given undisclosed bungs (aka taxpayers' money) to both Vauxhall and Nissan in order to persuade them to keep their factories open? 

Well, Nissan's primary shareholder is Renault, with 43.4% of voting shares, which gives them control, as well as 15% of non-voting shares. Renault's main and controlling shareholder is the French government, with 15% of the shares - thus Boris is paying the French to keep one of their factories open in the UK.

Similarly, Vauxhall is a 50/50 merger between Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot and is Dutch domiciled since January of this year, thus Boris is paying the the French/Dutch to keep one of their factories open.

I'll bet that caused a few red faces in Tory circles and it's something they would rather be kept quiet...

On the plus side, however, a friend has informed me that we're due part ( or possibly all) of an £18bn windfall from the EU for fines imposed on tech giants by the EU, although I can't find any reference to it myself. That said, we'd get that within the EU anyway, so it's not really a gain and was afforded only by virtue of being in the EU in the first place.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Herd Immunity

It appears to me that the government's current strategy is for the nation to gain herd immunity through infection while we have a less virulent version of Covid doing the rounds. At first glance, this seems an entirely valid strategy, especially as the Delta variant is ripping through the population, but hospitalisations and deaths are remaining low.

However, this is herd immunity against the Delta variant, not necessarily future variants (which is why we have modifications to the flu vaccine on a yearly basis). If the virus is ripping through the population, then the chances of a new variant emerging are increased exponentially, any one of which could be lethal and vaccine-resistant; the chance of a variant emerging is directly proportional to the number of infections, and we currently are 4th highest in absolute cases and with the 3rd highest in numbers per million, thanks to Johnson not closing air corridors between the UK and India.

Managing Covid will have to be along the same lines as the way in which we manage flu - annual booster shots based on the prevalent variant. Masks and social distancing in the Covid season may also be necessary.

The question I have is, considering that the wearing of masks is more for the protection of others than oneself, why is the government relaxing mask usage when countries such as Israel, which has an enviable record on containing Covid, is doubling down on measures to prevent infections when it has only a fraction of the infections the UK has? 

There again, Johnson has an unenviable track record of imposing restrictions too late and relaxing them too early - why would we expect him to learn lessons from the past when he's refused to do so on every other occasion? It looks rather like repeating past mistakes in the hope of a different outcome.

Talk of taking personal responsibility is a diversion, as one is relying in the personal responsibility of others to oneself and, based on the inconsiderate actions of a considerable proportion of the population, I have little, if any, trust in the personal responsibility of many toward others. That's why we have speed limits and traffic lights. Smoking in pubs was banned because of the effects on other people - it wasn't left to personal responsibility. Is it such an imposition to wear a mask, for God's sake?

Then there's the fact at least 8 cases of the Lambda variant have been discovered in the UK and, according to science, this is more lethal than the Delta variant. Of most concern to scientists is its "potential increased transmissibility or possible increased resistance to neutralising antibodies" - meaning it could spread faster and be more resistant to vaccines or antibody treatments. 

I'm still seeing people on social media maintaining that masks are useless anyway. The most comprehensive study yet has shown science that everyone wearing masks cuts transmission by 25%. They also reduce particles exhaled by 62%. They're used by surgeons to prevent their patients getting bugs from surgeons - they're to protect others.

As for giving the NHS the George Cross, I feel a gesture that would be infinitely more appreciated is cancelling the outstanding university debt of all staff who worked during the pandemic. Care home staff too, although they're less likely to be doing university degrees.

Why is the government following this strategy? It has been argued many times that the government is more concerned about the economy than health, but that can't be right when we're hurtling into the effect of Brexit, which certainly isn't beneficial to the economy. Is it, perhaps, more to do with some form of masculine individuality, regardless of the consequence? That certainly ticks all the boxes on both Covid and Brexit. There is, however, another factor, which is it's currently not in the interest of the government to eradicate Covid, as it's a rather convenient smokescreen to hide the harmful effects of Brexit. 

There again, it could be a ploy to persuade more people to get the vaccine.

Perhaps it's worth quoting from Dom Cummings' blog about Boris Johnson: 

"Boris is complex portrayed as simple. Behind each mask lies another mask — but there’s no masterplan behind all the masks, just the age old ‘will to power’. He is happy to hide behind the mask of a clown, mostly unbothered by ridicule, while calculations remain largely hidden (including from parts of his own mind). 

"He rewrites reality in his mind afresh according to the moment’s demands. He lies – so blatantly, so naturally, so regularly – that there is no real distinction possible with him, as there is with normal people, between truth and lies. He always tells people what they want to hear and he never means it. He always says ‘I can’t remember’ when they remind him and is rarely ‘lying’. He trusts nobody including his own family yet bears almost no grudges. He will sacrifice anybody for his career yet wants to make up with people who have screwed him over. He will use anybody for anything but is more polite than most top politicians towards junior staff. He is totally untrusted by anybody in No 10. He’s almost as comfortable with living in chaos as Floyd Mayweather but panics all day about the media. He sometimes compares himself to historic titans (Octavian is a favourite) and regularly admits it’s ludicrous he’s prime minister. He’s hopeless at bureaucratic infighting and examines every room he enters for physical escape routes. 

"He is both much more useless than the media portray and much more capable of self-awareness and ruthlessness than they ever portray, or his enemies usually discern. He routinely says and does things so foolish that people are open-mouthed, and is so hopeless at getting rid of duffers, so determined to avoid difficult situations, that people are usually shocked when he suddenly moves with ruthless speed to remove them. He was desperate to be prime minister but has almost no interest in the job."

Cummings bears prime responsibility for getting Boris into the job he desperately wanted, but shows no interest in.

Monday, 5 July 2021

Old Sodbury Accident Investigation Bureau

Found the cause of my accident on the p-bike while doing some repairs on it - the hole in the clutch lever that holds the pin to keep it disengaged had sheared off.

I had foolishly not lubricated the cable and sheath sufficiently, making pulling the lever a monumental effort. The continual strain had weakened the lever itself and, while coasting up the pavement, the lever must have given up the ghost in the area of the retaining hole, engaging the drive unexpectedly and throwing me off the bike.

I've been advised to take up bare knuckle cage fighting, as it's safer than riding motorised bikes.

Sunday, 4 July 2021


Yesterday we were watching the comedy film, Murder on the Blackpool Express, on TV and someone appeared in one shot (we joined late) and I could have sworn it was Robert Plant, but it turned out to be Griff Rhys Jones.

See what I mean? There is a high degree of similarity, but it was even closer in the shot I clocked Griff in and could be forgiven for the mistake. There again, I have had a blow on the head.

I've decided to send the new LCD screen and controller for the e-bike back to the sellers. The screen is lacking a full cable and the controller has an entirely different colour coding for the wires from the original and totally different connectors. Not worth the hassle. The lesson is that it's best to buy a complete kit than mix and match parts from different suppliers - a kit supplier will ensure there's some standardisation in the wire colours and connections.

Instead I have messaged the seller of the original 1500W kit and enquired whether they sell the controller separately. If they do, then I'll buy one from them. Much easier to effect the connections and the wire colours will all match.

Saturday, 3 July 2021


By transforming the ritual of standing to attention during the National Anthem, footballers woke us up. Parts of our brains activate as soon as we spot deviations from routine, social norms, and in-group tendencies. We want to know what’s happening and why. We need to know if the deviation poses a threat to us or our group. This may start to explain why so many people reacted with such fear and rage to a few athletes kneeling on the field in the midst of a national ritual. 

Breaking these norms is used intentionally to signal disagreement with the norms, as well as to signal that one is not conforming. It sparks strong emotion and backlash precisely because of its symbolic meaning - a threat to the status quo and existing power dynamic. 

When you mix power differences with intergroup dynamics, more factors come into play. High-privilege people, such as a numerical majority, are more likely to misinterpret nonverbal behaviour. The experience of having power makes us less accurate in reading suffering on the faces of strangers and emotions in static photos of facial expressions. Powerful people are less able to take the perspective of others and they’re quicker to confuse friendliness with flirtatiousness or silent protest with threat to their power structure. This is the empathy deficit of people with long-term power.

What do you think?

Bits and Bobs

Well, I received all the parts for the e-bike yesterday - the new LCD screen and the new controller - but guess what?

  1. The LCD screen ended in a short Julet connection and no extension to reach the controller and,
  2. While the controller had many connections similar to the old controller, half of them are totally different, requiring me to chop and change connectors on either the peripheral or at the controller end.

I asked the vendor of the LCD screen whether they supplied an extension and you'd think I was asking for Mars dust. They maintained all SW900 screens are the same, until I showed them the first half dozen I found on eBay, which had full tails to reach from the front of a bike to the rear and with the correct JST-SM connection.

In terms of connections between parts manufactured by different suppliers, it's currently the Wild West and you take your chances, as there are no accepted standards, unless buying a full kit from one supplier. The connectors all come from the RC (Remote Control) model market, so it would be handy to have a model shop nearby, but the nearest is in Frome.

My bike repair stand arrived, so working on brakes and gears is somewhat easier now.

One thing I must stop doing is fiddling with the bikes on gravel. The chance of losing a critical screw or nut in the gravel is rather high and I've simply been lucky thus far and have a strong magnet.

Friday, 2 July 2021

Bike Tales

Well, apparently I fell off my bike on Tuesday afternoon returning home from work and have no recollection of anything following that till waking up on Wednesday afternoon in Bristol's Southmead Hospital Neurosurgery Ward on Wednesday morning with a black eye and some gashes on my forehead.

A scan showed I'd sustained a fracture between my left eye's orbit and nose, necessitating taking it easy for 4 to 6 weeks - certainly no exercise and no wine. I'd been trying to mount the pavement and something had gone wrong, leaving me sprawled on the pavement with blood streaming from my bonce - although headwounds are notorious for looking worse than they actually are.

Of course, I wasn't wearing my crash helmet due to the distance home being only a couple of hundred yards - sheer stupidity on my part.

On the plus side, an old school mate happened to be in the country and came round in her Winnebago to wish me well while on her way to a holiday in the Brecons.

I was due to take No.2 Son to Winchester today to take possession of his flat ready for him starting university in September but, due to a number of administrative cock-ups, that has thankfully now been delayed till tomorrow.

The black eye will take a little while to disappear, I fear.

However, I'm in the very capable hands of my carer...

I was shocked no-one thought to take a selfie next to my inert body on the pavement though... 

Thursday, 1 July 2021


Update tomorrow, if I'm out of Southmead Hospital by then....