Tuesday, 31 August 2021

E-Bike Mounting

Despite No.2 e-bike not being 100% complete, yet fully functional (waiting for a black box for the controller and the wiring requires rerouting), I thought I'd try mounting them on the motorhome bike carrier. Not an arduous task, I hear you say, but they're very heavy and unwieldy.

I'd bought a hand-held weight gauge for weighing the refillable LPG cylinder, so I know how much LPG is left in the bottle (15kg is full and 10kg is empty). Seeing as it goes up to 50kg, I thought it ideal. The bike rack carrying capacity is 60kg max. My first e-bike with the 29 inch wheels weighed in at a whopping 29.5kg and the 2nd one was slightly less at 26.5 - just within the capacity.

Next I had to contend with the extremely wide handlebars of the 1st e-bike. along with the 29 inch wheels, but overcame the problem by putting the smaller bike on the inside and the large chappie with the humungous handlebars on the outside. You can see the size difference by the positioning of the wheels.

So the handlebars wouldn't foul each other, I placed one bike facing the offside and one facing the nearside. A couple of straps for added security finished the job. I reckon that should do the job without too much trouble, but it's a 2 person task because of the weight of the bikes.

I think I'll remove the batteries for actual transport, as it will reduce the weight by at least 15kg, as well as preventing people nicking them. A nice, protective rain cover wouldn't go amiss either.

Monday, 30 August 2021

Lawn Clearance

Work progressed yesterday on clearing the unmown areas of the lawn - I bloody hate them, despite them being a haven for wildlife (although not much chance of that with 5 cats in the neighbourhood) and wildflower seeds.

Piles of mown grass all over the place and the patches where they came from are now brown stubble. The long stuff first needs attacking with a brush cutter, as the ride-on mower just runs it down without cutting it. The cut grass is then left for a few days to dry out and for the wildflower seeds to spill out on the ground before being raked up and the entire lawn mown.

Trigger's Ride-On Mower struck again yesterday when the clutch no longer worked. The problem was traced to the bolt holding the clutch and main driveshaft in place having loosened, resulting in the entire clutch assembly becoming disengaged. Turned the mower on its side, forgetting to switch off the fuel, resulting in the engine becoming flooded, which pissed out when put back upright. I thought I'd damaged something in the fuel line at first.

At least the lawn can now recover and be back to my preferred, verdant nature. I always mow the lawn with the grass box off, as it returns organic material to the soil. Hay hates it when I do this as, if the wind is in the wrong direction, the cut grass blows into her pond/lake. Yesterday, however, necessitated the grass box being mounted and me dumping piles of it all over the show for manual removal by Hay and her sister (I have to give them something to do in return for allowing the unmown areas).

I can't believe how the plants and trees have burgeoned this year - it must be the CO2...

Sunday, 29 August 2021

The Patio Heater

I managed to rescue some ironmongery from a car dealership in Chipping Sodbury, which shows some potential for upcycling.

It's one of those old containers for draining an engine sump into while the car is on a ramp. I thought I would cut a large dog kennel access shaped hole a few inches from the bottom, as a door, hack out the pipe on the top, widen the hole and weld a length of wood-burning stove chimney into it, which I just happen to have spare. A circular grate on the bottom would hold logs and insulate the bottom somewhat and a few holes in the bottom, perhaps with a circular damper, would facilitate a nice airflow.

To finish it off I'd burnish it with a drill-mounted wire brush and paint it with heat resistant engine paint. The fact it's on wheels makes is mobile and ideally suited for wheeling around the patio.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Dream Slips

I woke from a very short sleep the other day with an involuntary start. My brain translated this as me slipping on ice in a dream, yet the dream I was having didn't involve me walking on ice - the slip suddenly materialised in my head. 

Was it the start that caused the image in my mind, or was I indeed dreaming of walking on ice and slipped, causing the start - chicken or egg?

According to sleep experts, it's called a hypnic jerk and occurs as you're falling asleep and means absolutely bugger all, despite the army of dream cranks interpreting it in a myriad different ways.

One scientific hypothesis posits that the hypnic jerk is a form of reflex initiated in response to normal bodily events during the lead-up to the first stages of sleep, including a decrease in blood pressure and the relaxation of muscle tissue. Another theory postulates that the body mistakes the sense of relaxation that is felt when falling asleep as a sign that the body is falling. As a consequence, it causes a jerk to wake the sleeper up so they can catch themselves.

My opinion, and it's merely an opinion, is that my body jerked and my brain filled in the gap, conjuring up an image of me slipping so as to rationalise the jerk. The brain is very good at filling gaps and colouring in what's not actually there.

Friday, 27 August 2021

HGV Conundrum

So there's a shortage of HGV drivers, caused mainly by EU drivers not returning to the UK, for one reason or another. Pundits are calling for the training of UK candidates, but with driverless trucks due to be on the road by 2030, who in their right mind would spend money on training to become redundant within 9 years?

The push toward autonomous trucks would mean fewer trucks, as there's no human at the wheel, who is limited by the number of hours he or she can drive without sleeping. The cost savings to operators would be enormous, so you can bet your bottom dollar that research into this technology will be massive, driven primarily by large supermarkets.

Social media commentators have suggested paying truck drivers a decent wage, but they can earn from £32k up to £47k, which isn't exactly chicken feed. Even then, paying a driver more might attract larger numbers to the industry, but it is only a long term solution - paying a driver more won't get him driving two trucks.

The only short term solution is to encourage EU drivers to return to the UK, but why would they when the government has spent the last 6 years making them feel unwelcome and their prospects will be shortened by a drive to recruit British drivers to replace them?


Thursday, 26 August 2021

Justice and the Law

 Been reading an interesting book on the rise of democracy in ancient Greece, or Athens, to be precise.

The Athenians had a special regard for justice, which they believed every person was able to discern, regardless of their biases. If they did wrong, they might try to justify it using all manner of tricks but, in their heart of hearts, they knew they'd done wrong.

A respect for justice must not be confused with respect for the law, as many bad laws are made and, as we all know from history, many laws were made by the one section of society or another to protect their position, wealth or influence. Laws are revised all the time because of this. Laws are merely an attempt to codify, however imperfectly, natural justice, free from bias.

Below is an excerpt from the Funeral Oration of Pericles, the foremost statesman of his age who, despite a law stating politicians should serve only one term, was elected time after time, due to his successes and acknowledged incorruptibility: 

"Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. Our government does not copy our neighbours', but is an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while there exists equal justice to all and alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty an obstacle, but a man may benefit his country whatever the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbour if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private business, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having a particular regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment."

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Exponential Bias

I'm sick and tired of hearing people say masks are only 10% effective at preventing the spread of Covid and it's therefore not worth wearing one.

For a start, there's a German study (beware of isolated studies) which showed they were around 40% effective and a more recent systematic review and meta-analysis concluded they are effective but, due to it not being possible to conduct randomised trials to exclude other factors, like social distancing, the exact percentage is unavailable.

Regardless of that, let's model a 10% effectiveness on a pandemic in which cases are doubling at each time period, be that a day, a week or a month - it's easy enough to do in Excel. A doubling of cases results in over 2m cases on the 22nd time period - the result of exponential increase. Applying a 10% effectiveness is itself compounded at each iteration. 

I produced the above chart, which shows the effect of a 10% reduction in spread on an exponential rise. As you can see, it's far out of proportion to the small initial effect, precisely because it's compounded and amplified. There are only some 230k cases - a tenth of the original, forecast number.

This 2nd chart shows the result for an empirical 40% effectiveness derived from the single German study. Over the same time period, wearing a mask results in only 46 cases, as opposed to over 2m cases when not wearing one.

Many people simply don't understand that a small change can produce such a huge difference when you're in the realm of exponentiality, which is whenever the R number is above 1. They're wont to apply a linear effect, when it's actually exponential, in line with the infection increase.

Even a 5% effectiveness would result in a 66% reduction in cases. The important caveat, however, is that everyone must wear a mask for these figures to be even remotely relevant, and wearing a mask is the easiest thing in the world to do..

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

2nd E-Bike

At long last the 2nd e-bike (the one designated for Hay) is back from the bike emporium with the motor wheel and Pedal Assist Sensor fitted - and I have learned a lot.

  1. Don't use an aluminium framed bike, unless you're certain that the gap between the rear forks matches the required gap for the setup you're contemplating, as you can't bend aluminium like you can steel - it will fracture.
  2. Don't go above 7 gears on the freewheel or cassette - it complicates matters enormously and you probably won't be able to use the extra gears above 7 anyway.
My setup was 9 gears, which is rare, which required the addition of a 9 gear freewheel and the emporium had to lock out the top gear anyway so as to avoid the chain snagging bolts on the motor hub.

You can see the size of the motor on the rear wheel, and it's really heavy. The bike actually rides quite nicely though; however, uphill would be tough without the Pedal Assist.

I added the display and wing mirrors yesterday, but siting the battery and controller is fraught with issues; the perfect position for the battery means the wires come out of the front of the bike (they need to come out at the back) and the pannier that carries the controller doesn't fit the bike. I could re-site the controller somewhere nearer the front, but it would look jury rigged.

Mudguards and a decent set of lights need to be added too.

Once complete, the next headache will be ensuring the 2 e-bikes don't exceed the motorhome's bike carrier weight limit. Removing the batteries will probably be necessary for transporting them, but they should be easy to remove fairly quickly.

Monday, 23 August 2021

Metal Umlaut for the £1 Bus Ticket

When we were in the Peak District for the weekend, Hay and I took a hike into Buxton and then caught a bus into Bakewell. I paid for the return ticket by contactless payment, receiving in return two tickets marked as £6.40 each, a total of £12.80.

On returning home yesterday I checked my accounts and was astonished to discover I'd only been charged £1, despite the face value of the tickets being many multiples of this. Inexplicable, unless the Buxton £ is of higher value than the Old Sodbury £.

Just a quick financial tip, if you're a NatWest customer. Get a NatWest Rewards credit card and make all your purchases on that, paying off the balance immediately after your purchase. You get 1% back. NatWest has given me several hundred quid back since I got the card. It costs £2 per month for the card, but you get that back for merely logging into your NatWest App a couple of times per month. I recently used the card to pay a £5,000 deposit and am eagerly waiting to find if I get £50 back. I'm sure other banks have similar promotions, but they're certainly worth it to save a bit of money.

While wandering around Buxton I spotted this gentlemen's shampoo bar - something we used to call a bar of soap in the old days. It's manufactured by a company called grüum

Now despite the umlaut in the name, the product is actually made in Manchester, so the Metal Umlaut, made famous by bands such as Blue Öyster Cult, Motörhead, Mötley Crüe and the parody band Spın̈al Tap, seems to have made the cross-over into men's toiletries.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Bottle Brilliance

Hay bought a couple of bottles of wine the other day in bottles I've never seen before, but are perfect for a number of reasons.

The bottles are plastic, but flattened.

  1. They are a more efficient shape for stacking in a box or the fridge.
  2. They won't roll away when laid flat.
  3. Of great use in our motorhome.
  4. With deep enough pockets, you can use them as large hipflasks.
All bottles should be this shape, but preferably in glass, rather than plastic, which is better for CO2 than plastic.

Saturday, 21 August 2021

Taking Offence

There's a bit of a furore going down in Stroud. A local clock, which is surmounted with an image of a tethered black boy, is the subject of both offence and the insensitive vocalisations of a local Tory MP who has gone to the Dark Side of the War on Woke, which has just about overplayed its hand and is becoming a joke in its attempts to egregiously cause offence in the cause of nazionalism.

Who is best qualified to determine if a tethered black boy clock in Stroud, incidentally dating from the height of the slave trade and colonialism, is offensive to black people? A white, Tory politician with a penchant for the new wave, pantomime fascism of the anti-woke brigade, or a black descendant of the Windrush Generation? 

A stab in the dark here, but I'd hazard a guess at the latter, as the former doesn't have a clue how the latter feels. Offence is in the eyes of the one voicing offence, not the apologist for the offence.

Only a year ago the anti-woke warriors were saying that the policy should be 'retain and explain', meaning the addition of explanatory plaques. This entirely sensible policy, however, is now referred to as 'rewriting history', which is as illogical as you can get.

Friday, 20 August 2021

Chairman's Kitchen Tip

Overheard in Lidl at the checkout:

Chairman: "I think you've made a mistake. These walnuts are on special (Chairman shows checkout lady the Lidl weekly specials list)."

Checkout Lady: "I think you'll find that's only a weekend offer."

Chairman, after checking magazine: "You're right."

Checkout Lady: "I'm always right."

Chairman: "But you're not my wife."

Checkout lady smiles.

A quick, time-saving tip for all you ladies out there who dote on my blog and know everything. It's something I dreamed up myself a couple of months ago.

Those wet but clean tea towels? Don't throw them in the wash; simply bung them in the microwave for 3 minutes, giving them a shake half way through. The heat kills any bugs that might feasibly be on them and they dry within a few minutes.

Thursday, 19 August 2021


We were having lunch at our favourite cafe in the picture-postcard village of Sherston the other day. Hay had ordered pancakes with syrup, which attracted a couple of wasps.

Wasps have a smooth sting which can be used as a defence mechanism many times over with no ill effect. The bee, on the other hand, has a barbed sting which, when used, sticks in the skin of its victim, resulting in the bee disembowelling itself as it attempts to flee.

It's a strange to be possessed of a defence mechanism that, when used, kills the one who wields it. How did evolution work that logical inconsistency out?

There again, it might be down to the bee being prepared to lay down its life to protect the hive, which may be in danger. The good of the many outweighs the individual's needs. Strange, however, that the wasp didn't evolve to be as altruistic. There again, of the 7,000 species of wasps in the UK, only 9 build communal nests (and they last only a matter of months) and therefore there's nothing to protect. It's still a strange defence mechanism.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021


Why were we and the Americans in Afghanistan in the first place? Revenge for 9/11 and to get Bin Laden! Not always the best reason to go to war. Afghanistan has bugger all of use to us. Yes, it's a breeding ground of anti-Western fundamentalism, but precisely because we marched in there in the first place and decided to stay there.

Perhaps we should have learned a lesson from Edward I and his wars with the Welsh hill tribes - build a network of huge castles and hand them over to Normal overlords (the Normans were rather fierce and loved nothing better than a bit of butchery). The only problem there is that the castles were located on the coast for ease of supply by sea - and Afghanistan is landlocked.

What was the objective after punishment of the Taliban? If it was to instil the country with democratic values, then the prerequisite for that is eliminating corruption. Even Russia hasn't managed to do that, and we're falling back into it big time. You can't instantly democratise a corrupt population - any attempt to do so will result in a corrupt dictatorship.

The only manner in which Afghanistan could be democratised is to remain there in perpetuity. Is it worth it in terms of lives lost and financial cost, when we get very little in return?

I think the West is best out of the place. It's a local problem that requires a local solution - but the countries surrounding Afghanistan are just as corrupt and so can't solve it either.

Yes, human rights will be violated and generations of women will not get an education, but the cost of doing something about this is huge and requires a completely novel approach that doesn't risk lives. What that solution is, I have no idea. Until we have that solution, then we should stay out.

Someone on social media asked whether the Afghan refugees we're taking into the UK will be Covid tested. Afghanistan has a total of 372 cases, and declining. We have 28,000 and increasing. They're in more danger from us than we are from them. That, however, depends on the accuracy of their Covid stats. 

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Sartorial Elegance al la Chairman

Hay seems to think my sense of colour coordination and sartorial style has gone a bit adrift since my head injury.

I can't, for the life of me, think what's making her think this. She said I had to change my clothes before we went out else people will think she's either in charge of a head injury patient or that I'm a Timmy Mallett stunt double on children's TV.

The fact the zip-on legs for my shorts are a different colour to the shorts has an entirely logical cause - the beige legs were wrecked and thrown away ages ago and the only legs available were the ones belonging to my blue walking shorts. Entirely pragmatic, if you ask me.

Bright orange hoodie? Well, I am Dutch by birth.

Sandals? Convenient when constantly going outdoors and then indoors - saves time.

Sky blue T shirt? Camouflage against the sky.

See - I told you there was a reason.

"Grey socks with sandals?" I hear you ask. OK, I'll give you that one.

Monday, 16 August 2021

Art Deco in Le Mans

The freewheel for the 2nd e-bike arrived yesterday and, yes, it looks like the correct part. 

Yesterday I watched the Steve McQueen film, Le Mans, which was made in between 1970 and 1971. I pondered on the fact that when the film was made, WWII was as far back for my father as 1996 is for me today, and 1996 is a blink as far as I'm concerned. In 1971, when I was 16, WWII seemed an eternity away. 

It was funny seeing what passed for state of the art caravans in 1970 for the drivers at Le Mans to live in during the race. Not a patch of modern, luxurious motorhomes the size of lorries.

I also watched some of the Formula E race from Berlin, which is specifically for electric racing cars. It sounded like a bunch of milk floats parading around the circuit. That said, a competitive Formula E series will do wonders for the technology of electric cars, as F1 did for fossil fuelled cars.

On Sunday we went to an antiques fair at Westonbirt School (a rather posh, local girls' school which has recently gone co-ed to make ends meet). I spotted these lights, which were absolutely fabulous and I wish I could afford them for the house.

They were originally from a Russian factory of the soviet era. Simply beautiful and perfect for lighting your tractor factory.

Sunday, 15 August 2021

Lying in Parliament

A petition calling for it being a criminal offence to lie in Parliament has been doing the rounds. It currently stands at some 90 odd thousand signatures, 10k short of the figure where it has to be debated in Parliament and thus dangerously close for the government.

To forestall this, the Leader of the House of Commons, one Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is renowned for committing the statistical and logical fallacy of generalising from the specific and has been called 'the physical embodiment of arrogance, entitlement and contempt for parliament', responded at 88k that lying in Parliament is a matter for Parliament and there are processes and procedures in place to deal with it, namely the existing Code of Conduct, which clearly doesn't deal with the problem.

Below is Rees-Mogg's response:

The Government does not intend to introduce legislation of this nature. MPs must abide by the Code of Conduct and conduct in the Chamber is a matter for the Speaker.

It is an important principle of the UK Parliament that Members of Parliament are accountable to those who elect them. It is absolutely right that all MPs are fully accountable to their constituents for what they say and do and this is ultimately reflected at the ballot box.

Freedom of speech in Parliament is an essential part of our democracy. It is a right that enables Parliament to function freely and fully, ensuring that MPs are able to speak their minds in debates, and to represent their constituents’ views without fear or favour.

Parliamentary privilege, which includes freedom of speech and the right of both Houses of Parliament to regulate their own affairs, grants certain legal immunities to Members of both Houses to allow them to perform their duties without outside interference.

Once elected, MPs are expected to abide by the seven principles of public life which form the basis of ethical standards required of holders of public office. These are set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life and are: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. It is a requirement that any holder of public office must be truthful and must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

MPs are also subject to the House of Commons Code of Conduct and the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members. The code includes a general duty on MPs to “act in the interests of the nation as a whole; and a special duty to their constituents”, alongside a requirement that MPs “act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in them. They should always behave with probity and integrity, including in their use of public resources.” 

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is an independent officer of the House of Commons and is responsible for investigating allegations that MPs have breached the rules in the Code of Conduct. Further details about the role of the Commissioner for Standards are available on the Parliament website at: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/standards-and-financial-interests/parliamentary-commissioner-for-standards/

Conduct in the Chamber is beyond the remit of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. This is because the House has determined that how Members conduct themselves in the Chamber, including their adherence to the principles of public life, is a matter for the Speaker, and Parliament is responsible for its own procedures. 

Office of the Leader of the House of Commons.

He clearly doesn't wish the matter, which is crucially important in a modern democracy, to be dealt with, hence his response before the petition reaches 100k. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, also seems disinterested in her role.

Saturday, 14 August 2021

Geronimo - It's Friday 13th

Friday the 13th struck yesterday. We were going to have a trip in the motorhome to Brecon and wing it, hoping we could park in a pub carpark for the night; however, we didn't even get as far as the Severn crossing, as the skylight over the bed above the cab blew off on the M4. Had to turn back and abort the journey, but given it rained in Brecon last night and it's raining there today, it was just as well, as it wouldn't have been a nice stay anyway..

I ordered a new skylight from eBay and I hope it arrives early in the week, as we're off to the Peak District for a couple of days next weekend. Some hope - the 9 speed freewheel I ordered for the 2nd e-bike on Monday was posted only yesterday. 

Geronimo the alpaca was tested for bovine TB four years ago and had two positives, yet he hasn't died from TB or exhibited symptoms. That, surely, is evidence that something was amiss with the tests, which are not 100% certain.

Geronimo lives some 6 miles from us in Wickwar, hence the local interest in him. There is a number of alpaca herds in our immediate area - I'm aware of at least three.

Rather than sticking to dogma, why can't DEFRA simply give him a new test? A bovine TB test costs £14 plus VAT, so it's not expensive. Is DEFRA perhaps afraid of being exposed as dogmatic and that some of their processes and procedures may show up as questionable?

Even the link between badgers and bovine TB is an unproven hypothesis and it's doubtful culling has any effect and could possibly make matters worse.

I simply can't understand DEFRA's decision, nor Keir Starmer's support for it when a simple, £14 test will resolve the issue.

Friday, 13 August 2021

Freedom- From What

These were the figures for Covid increases in the Southwest yesterday. 

Red all over the place, and yet idiots are still going into shops with no mask and thronging into pubs. It's far from over. I just hope the deaths and cases of Long Covid don't rise commensurately.

Nationally the figures are also increasing in the run-up to winter and pockets around the country are rising dramatically. The cause is the very people who moan about lockdowns who can't seem to join the dots between their actions and the logical consequences, especially when it comes to hospital waiting lists.

Canberra is in lockdown because they've had the first case in over 12 months; New Zealand won't be opening its borders till at least next year. We have 30 odd thousand cases and - nothing.

As a nation, not being able to see consequences of our actions has risen to epidemic levels across a whole range of issues.

Thursday, 12 August 2021

Forest Fires

I was listening to an American firefighter on the radio the other day, He said that firefighters there have spent the last 50 - 70 years putting out small fires forest fires, leading to a massive build-up of fuel stores which, when a serious fire occurs, makes things cataclysmic. 

Redwood forests before Europeans arrived burned every 6 to 25 years which, as the above chart shows, was far in excess of what's happening now.

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

We Don't Need No Vaccination

Have you noticed the recent plethora of stories about the deaths of anti-vaxxers from Covid? It's a shame some people have an almost religious fervour about something they know practically zero about.

To all anti-vaxxers - should we listen to the science? Yes, 100% yes! What research is an anti-vaxxer with no qualifications going to do that is will be in any way superior to, or more valuable than, research conducted by universities and government agencies that spend billions a year studying diseases? 

Do they honestly think their Google and YouTube skills are worth more than the billions a year of  research by scientists specialising in that field? You listen to the scientists and statisticians (risk managers) when they say how to handle a pandemic. End of. 

Anti-vaxxer research skills are so pitiful that a bunch of them turned up in the wrong place to protest, thinking they were outside the BBC. I'm sick of them saying they've done their research - where is their data, which laboratories did they use, are their papers (if they produced any - which I doubt) peer-reviewed? Their 'research comprises nothing more than seeking out conspiracy theories on YouTube, spurious nutter blogs and articles by shady think-tanks who refuse to disclose the source of their funding.

Nothing good has come from the far right or the far left - both are comprised of idiots. However, the B word (Brexit) does seem to have a high correlation with anti-vaxxers. They comprise only a small cadre within the B group, but none of them are centrist and sane. In America they're predominantly on the right of the political divide, where one's personal rights seem more important than the responsibilities that go with those rights.

Fine - don't have a vaccine, but the absolute minimum they should put a bloody mask on. It's literally easier for them to put a mask on than to have this argument. That's how easy it is; it's the easiest thing in the world. They need to stop being petulant children and do the easiest thing in the world to help people not die. 

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Olympic Art

The Olympics are over - thank God! Perhaps TV can now return to normal without wall-to-wall sport coverage.

When does sport cross over into art, or is sport merely a branch of art? Spend enough time doing either and one will become proficient. You can dedicate your entire life to either and still not reach the heights of those who are at the absolute top.

Monday, 9 August 2021

John Innes

Hay and I went with my younger daughter to Sherston on Saturday and visited a local nursery, where I was extremely surprised at the low cost of the plants. I was so impressed that I bought a wisteria (which I've always wanted to grow against the house) and a climbing rose (for the other end of the house).

While there I spotted some bags of compost containing a John Innes mix. Now I always thought John Innes was a horticulturalist from the 1950s, but he was born in 1829 and his father owned a number of sugar plantations in the Indies, which made his father a slave owner. Surprisingly, his father became an abolitionist and ended up selling off his West Indian investments and ploughing his money into property development, an occupation John Innes continued with great success, developing Merton Park in London.

When Innes died in 1904, never having married, he left a bequest in his considerable will to set up a horticultural institute, which took his name. He himself had an extensive house and garden in Merton, which became the foundation of his institute, moving to Norfolk in the 1960s and becoming the John Innes Centre.

Sunday, 8 August 2021


Just before my admission to hospital, I called in at the local bike emporium to check on the progress on my 2nd e-bike, which was having the motor and Pedal Assist Sensor fitted, along with a general health check-up. 

The bike was nearly complete, but required a replacement, 9 gear freewheel. Blokey said they were quite rare and he was trying to find one from one of 3 suppliers. I was then admitted to hospital and forgot about the bike. 

I called in again on Thursday, only to ascertain that there had been no progress, but they'd neglected to call me to let me know. It had been languishing there for 2 weeks. I said I'd find one.

Came home, opened up eBay, put '9 gear freewheel' into the search box and was inundated by 9 gear freewheels. Bought one for £13 and am awaiting delivery. For good measure I had a look on Facebook Market and, lo and behold, there's a Shimano 9 gear freewheel halfway between here and Bath going for £20.

So much for them being hard to find. Mind you, the one on eBay is probably a cheap Chinese one with a lifespan of a nanosecond, but if that's not suitable I'll nip a few miles to collect the £20 Shimano cassette from the Facebook Market seller - can't see it being sold fast.

Hopefully, I'll have two, fully functioning e-bikes before the end of the week, ready to take with us on a planned trip in the van to the Peak District in a few weeks.

Saturday, 7 August 2021

Crack Down on Crime

This is just an aimless ramble.

All governments, of whatever hue, want to crack down on crime - it's a natural vote winner, yet nothing government does (which is invariably based on ideology that lacks any evidence) does anything meaningful on crime statistics. If they go down temporarily, then government steps in an attributes such drop to some initiative, with no evidence except correlation, only to keep silent when the figures go up again.

Harsher sentences appear to do little to deter criminals; at best they keep them out of circulation for a bit longer. When the chances of being caught are minimal, harsher sentences have little, if any, effect. Threats of death and transportation had little effect in Victorian England. 

Sociologists are convinced of the link between single-parenthood and crime. If this is indeed the case, and some 34 studies bear this out, then the problem is systemic and no amount of governmental tinkering with the justice system will change that. How do you persuade parents who aren't particularly interested in each other, and may indeed hate each other, to stick together for the sake of the kids? It can do more harm than good.

In 2019, 14.9% of the families in the UK were lone parent families (2.9 million). Over the last 10 years this number has not changed significantly, but between 1999 and 2019 there has been a statistically significant increase of 14.5%. 

Lone parent mothers remained the most common type of lone parents in 2019, accounting for 86% of this family type. However, from 1999 to 2019 the number of lone parent fathers has grown by 22%, while the number of lone parent mothers also increased but at a slower rate (13.4%). These increases are both statistically significant.

What causes single parent-hood? The causes are many and varied. Some politicians maintain the welfare state is the cause, but it was be equally argued that the reverse is the case. We simply lack evidence and have nothing but correlation - and correlation is not necessarily causation.

There's no doubt that single parenthood is no longer frowned upon as much as it was in the middle of the last century and it has become socially acceptable the more we have become inclusive.

The following chart is the recorded crime per 100,000 people in England and Wales during the 20th century.

And below is the crime stats per 1,000 population for 2002 onwards (note the scale change):

Nothing much has changed and we're still around the top end of the previous chart.

Of course, much depends on how crime is recorded, which depends on whether people bother to report it in the first instance. It also depends on new laws on what constitutes criminal activity and the more laws that are brought in, the more crime will be reported. Since the mid 50s, for example, which is when crimes seemed to go exponential, more and more people started owning and driving cars, which gave plenty of people the chance to engage in crimes as new laws were brought in to control drivers. Cars also became an easy target for theft - it's less risky to attempt a theft in a driveway than entering a house.

It's an intractable problem where one can easily put the cart before the horse and reach all manner of ridiculous conclusions.

Friday, 6 August 2021

Spreading the Risk

Boris Johnson has asked pension funds to invest more in start-ups. There's a dichotomy here, as pension funds are looking after the long-term interests for their fund members, who are generally rather risk-averse with their futures. That said, most pension companies provide their members with a spread of risk strategies so they can invest in the more risky but high return investments in the early years of contribution, and less risky investments the closer they are to retirement - you don't want to lose your retirement fund by placing it all on red.

However, surely this is the realm of Boris' friends, the venture capitalists, rather than pension funds? At least that's what you'd think, but venture capitalists aren't that keen on risk these days. They're notorious for not investing in young companies and there's generally a cut-off age before which they won't invest and behave more like private equity investors, who prefer evidence of a history of growth and income stream.

There is, however, a method in the desire that start-ups should be the focus of investment. America was a powerhouse of innovation and growth precisely because it held the record for business failures in the 1800s, but what made it a powerhouse was the fact that start-up businesses failed early and the associated cost of failure was therefore very low, enabling investors to pull out and reinvest elsewhere without being ruined, fuelling the stock market growth. The vast majority of start-ups fail in the first year anyway.

The mindset of professional investment companies these days is to invest in mature companies with an existent track record of growth. Mature companies, however, focus more on buoying their share value and dividends, rather than ensuring they have the cash reserves to innovate or weather storms, such as the Covid pandemic. The end result is companies that become too large to fail and have to be bailed out by the taxpayer - they're companies which don't actually deserve to exist through lack of foresight, and certainly not into the increasingly uncertain future.

Start-ups therefore have to rely on crowdfunding platforms to generate operating revenue - precisely the kind of investment that is spread among a large number of investors and is money such investors can afford to lose without it affecting them disastrously. 

When you think about it, the largest possible spread of investor risk is when the risk is spread across the entire population of a country - and that's done via taxes that are allocated to supporting start-ups. Thus, while I agree with the strategy of investment being focussed on start-ups, this should be coming from government through taxes.

There are government schemes, such as EIRC, which we ourselves have taken advantage of, whereby the investor in a new business gets 50% of their initial investment back within a tax year in the form of cash-back from the government. However, that's still down to individual investors who have sufficient cash to risk losing, which isn't a large number. That is, however drying up and the percentage the government put in by way of a tax rebate has reduced.

A few years ago the UK government committed £250m to start-ups, but that's a pitiful amount when you consider the number of start-ups and them being, by definition, companies that either don't yet have a revenue stream or have not reached break-even.

Prior to Brexit, the UK was actually a hub for start-up investment but, having cut ourselves off from the world's largest market, we're no longer such an attractive proposition; it making sense to base yourself within a large market.

Thursday, 5 August 2021


Today is the first since my operation that I've had no dressings on my bonce and it has been exposed to the elements.

I've been primarily confined to the house by Hay., in case I have a relapse, although I have been allowed a daily walk as far as Yate. Plenty of time to catch up on my reading and there's now little I don't know about the Spartans, Peter the Great or the beginnings of Athenian democracy. I am, however, going a bit stir-crazy and need something practical to divert my attention.

While incapacitated I caught up on a few YouTube videos by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the Lebanese American risk analyst, and commend this short video to you.


Wednesday, 4 August 2021


The staples came out of my head yesterday - 36 of them, 9 per hole. Removal was relatively painless, except for 3 that had scabbed over and were deeply embedded as a consequence, resulting in a lot of pain, but not insurmountable.

The nifty little tool used for their removal has a lower arm that slides under them, one by one, and the upper arm bends the middle downward against a V shaped indentation in the lower arm, allowing the ends to automatically rise and disengage the skin. 

I now have a couple of dressings on the wound for a couple of days before they can be exposed to the air and I can proceed with life as normal.

When in hospital I was given one of these for the first day of recuperation.

A recycled, papier-mâché urine bottle, as I was unable to rise from my bed. One doesn't immediately think of papier-mâché as being waterproof and, after having done what was necessary, I was constantly checking the underside of said urine bottles to check they weren't about to collapse into a mush on my bedside table. Surprisingly, they didn't, even after several hours of being left. 

Apparently they're treated with a waterproofing agent, which remains effective for a predetermined time - sufficient for normal hospital use. When collected, they're emptied and then macerated. They allegedly result in fat less cross-contamination than metal bottles.

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Trans Athletes

Is there any answer to the trans athlete dilemma? I don't think there is - so many issues are coming to light that the only solution is a debate to tease them out and analyse them, rather than a dogmatic adherence to a particular camp.

We split competitions into male and female as a means of levelling the playing field; however, there is a number of events where no distinction is made between male and female, as strength is not the determinant of supremacy - equestrian sports and a particular sailing event, for example.

Within boxing there are weight categories, again to level the playing field and facilitate the smaller chaps (and women) with a chance.

Trans women have to undergo testosterone reduction therapy and, unless their testosterone level is below a certain value, they are barred from competing. However, any competitive trans woman would naturally aim for the upper testosterone limit, rather than the middle of the reference range. A woman, using supplements to get to the upper limit would be accused of doping. Is that fair?

When you think of it, almost all world class athletes have an advantage which isn't necessarily conducive to a level playing field - extra-large lung capacity, huge hands or feet, an ability not to express the normal amount of lactic acid. These attributes are not spread among the population in any equitable manner and are the result of pure chance or genetic mutations.

Perhaps there should be no categorisation at all, with men, women and all categories in-between competing on the same field. Sure, men will dominate the brute strength sports, but I'm sure there are events where men would have no natural advantage at all - shooting or archery, for example. Whether there are any where women would naturally dominate is an question I'm struggling with - perhaps ones where a small and light frame is the prerequisite for success, although I do believe that women consistently outperform men in ultra sports. If the search is for the best performer, then let it be the best performer, not the best within a myriad categories that are prohibitively expensive to cater for.

Am I convinced by the arguments made by one camp or the other? No, albeit that my emotional brain says it's not in the interests of fair competition, so it's merely an opinion with no evidence backing it up. Perhaps we need to hear more from women athletes about the issue.

Monday, 2 August 2021

Maskless Checkout Queues

Hay and I went to Lidl yesterday and we both felt incredibly uncomfortable - at least 30% of the customers weren't wearing masks. They were predominantly younger customers; however, there was a smattering of older ones who should know better and some who were wearing their masks in a totally inappropriate manner with their noses poking out over the top.

You can do your best to give the non-maskers a wide berth in the aisles, but that's impossible when you're in a checkout queue surrounded by the idiots.

I sought out a manager and suggested they create a dedicated checkout only for those who choose not to wear masks. 

  • Firstly, it will leave them to infect themselves,
  • Secondly, it will make the mask wearers more comfortable at the checkout and,
  • Thirdly, if there's only one checkout for non-maskers it might persuade them to don a mask to get out quicker.
The manager himself wasn't wearing a mask, so I don't think my suggestion will leave the space between his ears. I will, however, call Lidl's Customer Services line today to repeat the suggestion.

If we do enter another lockdown, I can guarantee that it will those not wearing masks who will complain the loudest and fail to see their level of responsibility and stupidity.

There are those who maintain, without any evidence, that masks do very little but, in the area of risk management, a little can have an effect many times larger than that little. Because Randomised Control Trials are almost impossible to conduct, modellers have estimated that mask use by the public could significantly reduce the rate of COVID-19 spread, prevent further disease waves, and allow less stringent lockdown measures. The effect is greatest when 100% of the public wear face masks. They found that, with a policy that all individuals must wear a mask all of the time, a median effective COVID-19 R number of below 1 could be reached, even with mask effectiveness of 50% (for R0 = 2.2) or of 75% (for R0 = 4).

Our government has decided to abdicate all responsibility for ensuring the citizens are protected and I'm furious. The only reason there's such an urgency on the part of the government to open the economy is because they were consistently late - time after time - in locking down, which resulted in such a high loss to the economy in the first place; it's a desperate measure with huge risks. 

It's less costly, in the long term, to nip something in the bud early than to tackle things when the horse has already bolted, as Johnson's government has done. Having the fastest economic growth means more to them and their paymasters than the safety of the electorate, and he who recklessly opens the economy first is bound to have the fastest growth rate - it's a self-fulfilling prophesy and not an equal contest, given the possible consequences down the line, with even more damage should the risk not pay off.

A holidaymaker in the Gower was refused indoor service when he refused to wear a mask, claiming he was exempt, but unwilling to provide any evidence. In Wales, of course, mask are still mandated. He videoed the exchange and put it all over social media, but I wonder whether his partner was wearing a mask - she wasn't shown. If she was, then surely he could have simply sent her in. There again, the shopkeeper wasn't wearing his mask properly either - his nose was exposed.

Anyway, look what I found in Lidl...

Tempting, no?

Hay photographed the staples in my head yesterday.

They make me look like one of the Borg Collective.

Sunday, 1 August 2021


I have to apologise for my absence since last Monday. The fall and crack on the head I sustained at the end of June resulted in a bilateral subdural haematoma, which didn't manifest itself till a week last Friday, resulting in blinding headaches, vertigo and vomiting.

Last Monday I was taken to Southmead hospital in Bristol where I had my bonce shaved and was fitted with four brain drains to relieve the pressure. I had to wear bags dangling from pipes into my head for a couple of days before having them removed on Thursday. I was finally discharged yesterday and have to take it easy for a couple of weeks.

The bags were a pain and sleeping with them on was a nightmare - every time I rolled over I risked squashing them and an explosion of tomato sauce all over the bed.

My care was first class, although the same can't be said of the hospital food which, for the most part, was tasteless and inedible. I must have lost a stone while there.

Breakfast was a choice of either a small bowl of cereal or a single slice of cold toast. I asked the HCA whether I could expect eggs or bacon during my stay, to which she responded; "Tomorrow," but she was joking, as I found out the next day. Most of the food remained untouched.

I stress tested the system on my final night by ordering a take-away pizza and having it delivered to the main entrance, from where a very kind Health Care Assistant collected it for me. It worked and I gorged myself on a rather delicious and substantial pepperoni pizza, with enough left over for breakfast on Saturday morning. I offered her a slice, but she declined.

I have sutures in my head that will be removed on Tuesday, providing I can get an appointment with my local Practice Nurse; however, failing that, Hay is quite capable of removing them.

When I was moved from the neuro ward to the general surgery recovery ward, one of the private rooms (they're virtually all private rooms - 960 of them) contained a patient with dementia. He was continually screaming due to his undoubted distress. Nothing the staff could do would comfort him and the screaming would continue to well pas midnight. There was nothing that could be done due to the scarcity of beds and the Covid situation - it was heart-breaking. While sequestering him in a soundproof room, had one been available, would have relived the other patients of the noise, it would have done nothing for him and possibly made him worse. It's one of those things you simply have to accept if you're in hospital.

Another elderly patient had a habit of continually pressing his alarm buzzer for no reason whatsoever, stressing out the staff no end and who had enough to do already. Selfish bastard! We seem to have a large number of such self-entitled individuals in the country at present.

At least I now have a buzz-cut, which I've been wanting for a while now. Thinking of putting my comb on the market through eBay...