Thursday, 30 September 2021

A Fishy Tale

Facebook has an annoying habit of putting adverts on my feed for things I have no interest in whatsoever, and repeating them, ad nauseam, on a daily basis; however, on Tuesday I noticed an advert that really caught my attention and I sent the image to Hay for her to have a look at.

It was for a rather attractive fish table lamp that I thought would go well in our new caravan, given it's on a lake. I had clicked on the advert and was taken to a page where you could enter your details in order to be kept informed of other products sold by the company, but got distracted and never completed the form.

The lamp was advertised for some ridiculously low price (around £50 for the one with 2 fish), which Hay and I thought very suspicious. Anyway, yesterday I attempted to find the advert again on my feed, which I thought would be simple due to their repeat nature, but I couldn't find it anywhere. This also made me suspicious and I sensed a scam that Facebook had removed.

Last night after giving up all hope of seeing the ad again, it suddenly popped up again on my Facebook feed. I really suspected a scam but, because the price was reasonable and I can afford to lose £50, I went ahead and bought one, receiving confirmation from a Chinese address, despite the website saying the items are made in the USA, which I very much doubt.

After having made the purchase I did a Samsung Bixby search on the image I'd captured (Bixby looks for similar images on the web) and discovered almost identical fish lamps (below) on auction websites advertising lamps made by  the famous Canadian-American designer and architect Frank Gehry, who designed the Bilbao Guggenheim museum, and his lamps sell for thousands of dollars each. They were made in the 80s from plastic ColorCore shards glued to an armature to give the impression of fish scales.

I've heard of these Facebook scams before where suppliers rip off the genuine article and sell copies through Facebook, most of the scammers being based in Russia. Some take a payment and send the copy, but others never even send the item. Only time will tell whether I receive said fish.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

The Running Man II

Broke the 2 mile (3.2 km) running barrier this morning. I managed it in 23 minutes, so that's an 11.5 minute mile - but over 2 miles. Not far off the 5k now - might persevere and get to 5k.

Again, it was easier than the last run, which was only yesterday morning, and my recovery time is decreasing by leaps and bounds, but it's still not enjoyable. It's certainly not excruciating, but I derive no joy while doing it, even though it's a major milestone for me personally.

Might take up bowls as exercise.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Heavy Metal Links

I was listening to a news report on heavy metals being ingested by fish and my thoughts were directed in the direction of heavy metal bands. I then obliquely thought of mercüry, titaniüm and cöbalt, with the heavy metal umlaut.

I then strayed to a real periodic table.

It's the Shortage, Stupid!

We had a driver shortage before we left the EU, as did the EU, yet deliveries were not massively affected, either in the UK or the EU. The only change now is that we've left the EU and a lot of EU drivers have left the UK, greatly adding to our problems, but alleviating, albeit marginally, the European shortage. 

For the UK it's the straw that broke the camel's back and Christmas is under threat. While there are delivery problems within the EU, the fact it's an area in which there's Freedom of Movement, drivers are easily able to move from areas of oversupply to areas of undersupply, and thus the problem is manageable and the irony is that those EU HGV drivers leaving the UK can find jobs anywhere across the EU.

Many UK-based EU citizens, who applied for Settled Status and may have stayed, have been trying to get their applications approved for 18 months, but with little success due to bureaucratic delays and lack of processing staff. They are now leaving in disgust.

To say this is not caused by Brexit is pure propaganda. It's a lack of planning that's directly attributable to Brexit and a government that had no plan beyond taking back control, without understanding what that meant.

In response, the government is offering EU drivers temporary visas but, given the shortage in the EU, there will be plenty of permanent positions available in the EU and EU drivers are highly unlikely to accept a temporary offer from the UK, unless they're given a year or two's salary for a 3 month stint till Christmas Eve. Then there's the irony of a Brexit government asking foreign drivers to come over here and take our jobs...

The other strand of the government response is to facilitate longer hours for drivers, or making the training shorter, which risks accidents. It is, however, the only real option that's open to them.

UK HGV drivers, in the meantime, are obeying the laws of supply and demand, and gravitating to the highest paid positions as trucking companies compete for drivers. Those companies who can't pay the massively inflated prices (which will drive inflation) will go to the wall through lack of drivers - and that will probably end up being essential council services, such as bin collection, buses, etc.

There is no shortage of fuel in the UK but there are problems getting the fuel to some forecourts - because of the bloody driver shortage and panic buying. This could feasibly get worse if drivers' pay is not matched to the inflated wages being offered and consequently drives churn within the industry. Prices for everything will rise.

Panic buying, while frowned upon, is a natural human reaction and to be expected. Some would say that not ensuring you have a supply of fuel, which is critical to getting to work, is short sighted and, therefore, panic buying is a logical strategy. 

Clear government communication is essential, but this government is not noted for either clear communication, or truth. They are a victim of their own inability to tell the truth and can't be trusted, on anything, even when it actually is the truth. 

Given we have supermarket shortages, it's only logical to assume the problem will extend beyond supermarkets and hence the merest hint of forecourt shortages at a handful of forecourts leads one to take preventative action by ensuring one has a full tank. It's worth noting that not every HGV driver has a licence to drive a fuel tanker, but every tanker driver can drive an ordinary HGV. Army HGV drivers will drive whatever they're told to drive but, if HGV drivers are underpaid, surely Army HGV drivers are too - they earn only £22,3k p.a. Will we see a push for comparative pay for Army HGV drivers?

The petrol companies are apparently focusing on motorway service station deliveries, but who in their right mind, except for lorry drivers, fuels their cars at motorway service stations with the exorbitant prices they charge?

Some accuse the media, especially the BBC, of irresponsible reporting as the cause of the panic buying, but it's the responsibility of the news media to report news honestly and truthfully, although some within the print media publish little but propaganda in support of the indefensible. Those who defend the indefensible love nothing better than to throw stones at the BBC, precisely because it doesn't support their propaganda agenda.

In these times of uncertainty, it's a logical and rational strategy to secure your supply lines of critical goods. It's not stupid, but it could be construed as selfish by those not being able to put two and two together and join the dots. The lesson is to keep your fuel tank no less than three quarters full and to get a good supply of bog rolls, pasta and KFC.

Panic buying will, however, result in profiteering, so get in early, or corner the market and become a free marketeer.

Sunday, 26 September 2021


Why do drug dealers make themselves so conspicuous? They sport numerous tattoos, especially on the neck, look as thick as two short planks, are sartorially challenged by a deep-seated desire to wear expensive sports gear at all times and drive cars that no-one looking like they do could possibly be able to afford by legitimate means.

If it was me, I'd be in a suit (albeit a nice one) and driving something rather pedestrian, like a Ford Focus, so as to not attract any attention. Not very Albanian though, as it would seem Albanians run most of the drugs in the UK.

There again, Hay has been complaining of late that I'm currently a triumph of comfort over style when it comes to my sartorial choices, and she's not wrong. We're scheduled to attend a family event up north in a couple of weeks and I don't have anything suitable in my wardrobe to wear. I'll look more like I'm attending an old people's conference.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

The Running Man

 Yesterday I broke a barrier.

1.6 miles, non-stop, to the local garage and back. The next target is to get out of our drive.

Seriously though, I never thought I could run 200 yards when I started this running lark, let alone over a mile. It's still not becoming any more enjoyable, but it is certainly becoming easier.

I made it to within 100 yards of the Old Sodbury garage and thought; "I'm not knackered! I reckon I could run to Commonmead Lane at least," and when I reached Commonmead Lane I though; "I can go the whole hog," and did, ending up quite pleased with myself and smug as hell.

My problem, however, it to not gratuitously use up the finite number of steps my knees and hips have left in them and ensure I reach the Mean Time Between Failure, or beyond.

Friday, 24 September 2021

The Green Man

 Hay's sister, the family ceramicist, has made a bunch of Green Men (and women) wall plaques.

We've chosen this one bekow for the outside of the house:

The character on the left is a cat woman with a bee on her head and the bloke on the right is a badger. Hay's sister said she had us both in mind when she made them.

Thursday, 23 September 2021


I've waxed lyrical about this before, but it's well worth repeating - our polity is founded on a very fragile base.

Every time a new technology comes along, whole industries are built around it without adequate risk analysis concerning the problems that could develop should that base technology be unstable and collapse, whether it be from geopolitics or other reasons.

It's as if we're addicted to building our civilization on an inverted pyramid and yet we express deep surprise when the edifice we create tumbles. Just-in-time can easily turn into just-too-late and relying on 'The Market' to sort things out is not a solution, as the market doesn't take people or interconnected reliance into consideration.

Our latest problem is gas, the roots of which are an inadequate amount of UK storage and Putin, who is certainly not an ally, playing geopolitics with a necessary commodity. The knock on effects are electricity prices for gas power stations going astronomic and a dearth of CO2 production for food preservation. We have the worst of the effect in Europe through failure to stockpile due to inadequate storage facilities.

In response, we get some utterly unbelievable bollocks from government that many, who have had their minds successfully hacked, believe wholesale due to the lobotomization of their critical faculties.

Rather than Global Britain, we need to become more resilient and self-sufficient in essentials, limiting imports to what we can't make, and yet need, from close (and geographically near) allies, rather than regimes which don't have our best interests at heart and may be half way round the world, relying on long supply chains. That way we are less reliant on the whim of tin-pot dictators, bottlenecks caused by problems elsewhere -  and help to combat climate change.

The essentials are food and power. Arguably, computer chips are also an essential to keep industry going. Some would add KFC to that list.

Thinking of the HGV driver shortage, driving a lorry is not that difficult. Most of us drive on a daily basis and those who tow caravans tow articulated vehicles without the need for a specialised licence. Agreed, getting round corners in an artic can be difficult, but not insurmountable with a bit of practice. Hay's dad was an HGV driver and didn't believe it difficult, just boring.

While on the issue of driving, rather than manufacturers aiming for the fastest electric vehicle, we should be building cheap, speed-limited vehicles that aren't exactly design classics (although I'm sure that could be done), but get people around at acceptable and safe speeds at low cost. Limiting cars to the actual speed limits would negate the need for heavy crash protection, enabling such cars to go further on less power. Our priorities simply need to change.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

M25 Protests

I've been trying to get my head around the M25 protests and I think I've got there.

If you think the Insulate Britain protests won't work, you have to come up with something that will, when climate change risks the lives of millions of people, if not the very existence of humanity itself. 

You may be intellectually in synch with the facts about climate change, but not yet emotionally synced. Until you're emotionally in synch, you're not fully engaged with what's necessary to avert global catastrophe and not ready for the consequences to your life. For these protesters, the lives of millions outweigh the lives of one or two people - they're acting for what they consider to be the greater good. They have done the weighing of the alternatives and have come down on the side of a small amount of collateral damage being acceptable - and collateral damage is an accepted risk in battles. 

40,000 people die each year in Britain from pollution. That's far more than the one who suffered a stroke on the M25. The protesters are campaigning on behalf of the 40,000, not the one, or even 10 or 100.

The democratic process didn't work in the first instance for abolitionists, children up chimneys or votes for women until the majority were engaged on an emotional level, and that took a very long time. You can't, however, wait 3 or 4 years to vote to put a fire out - the building will be ashes. 

"I agree with the message, but I don't agree with the tactics," is a common refrain. So what are you going to do? Sit around and wait for the politicians to eventually understand the urgency? There's no guarantee of that ever happening, as democracy simply doesn't like the consequences of the hard decisions that a command economy can take in an instant.

The government itself, by allowing lorry drivers to increase their working hours to overcome the shortage of goods in shops, caused in part by the very thing they were elected for (Brexit), is risking the lives of drivers and other road users, but nobody is complaining about that, precisely because the risk to the many (people going without food) outweighs the risk to the few lorry drivers who may have an accident through falling asleep at the wheel. 

So, why is it so easy to inflame the public about road traffic accidents caused by the protesters, and yet not inflame them about the potential for road accidents caused by government policy. The answer is, of course, the level of inconvenience caused to those not engaged with the emotive side of climate change, not to forget the actions of the climate change denying media to persuade their readers to ignore the obvious elephant in the room. Certain pro-government media outlets will stir up venom against the protesters, knowing that if they're neutered by hate from the public, the government can escape scrutiny. Cognitive dissonance on a grand scale. 

I wonder sometimes whether those furious at the protesters were secretly wishing for some dreadful accident to happen, just so they could hang their fury on the protesters, as being late just doesn't cut the mustard as an excuse not to engage. 

Meanwhile Boris Johnson chastises world leaders for not acting fast enough on climate change, while simultaneously not acting fast enough himself. We all know he has only a tenuous relationship with truth, but this is beyond the bounds even of doublespeak. He has proven, beyond all doubt and time after time, that we can't put our trust in him or his ilk, or any who are in the pay of industry or the fossil fuel lobby, where money matters more than lives.

What's strange is that those who detest the protesters seem confused as to who they are. For some they're all workshy scroungers on benefits, while for others they're virtue signalling crushed avocado munchers who drive 4x4s. This, to me, just seems a lazy categorisation born of rage. In truth they're merely ordinary people who have made a decision to work toward saving the planet because others won't - or deny there's a problem in the first place.

I've struggled myself to condone the protesters' actions, but am starting to realise where they're coming from by being a little more analytical.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

The New Venture

We're in the process of buying a brand new, 4 berth static caravan on a lake at Hoborne Water Park near Cirencester, in just about the best position on the park. We've been considering buying a static caravan on the park for some time, keeping an eye out for a nice 2nd hand one, but they are sold the minute they become available and invariably to someone already living on the park and plugged into the local network. We were just very lucky to hear about this one new one early on and snapped it up.

The intention is to rent it out as a high-end let for the duration of the ground lease of 15 years. Even allowing for 2 completely fallow years, due to another pandemic or some other disaster, and allowing a conservative 75% occupancy (the park's average, pre-Covid was 85%), we should pay off the van in just over 4 years and make a healthy profit, after costs, of some 200%.

After the 15 years site lease we have to remove it and leave, or replace it with another new unit. Ours could feasibly be transported to our house and sited next to the new pond, or sold for its residual value, which will still be several tens of thousand quid - if I make it past 81 years old, that is, and Hay makes it past 71, but I'm ever the optimist.

It's was put on site last week, but has yet to be levelled out and have the decking fixed into place. We hope to take possession around the 1st of October.

To that purpose, we're in the process of buying all the necessary kit for it and decided yesterday to go to IKEA in Bristol for some kitchenware. However, the shelves were almost bare. Hay managed to get a few items and a crockery set but, when we got to the checkout, the queues were hideous. We abandoned the trolley and left as quick as we could. On-line is the way to now go.

The Wi-Fi on site is awful, so we're going for a 4G router to provide internet for the 2 smart TVs and guests' mobile phones and computers. I found the Three network to be the most cost-effective solution for unlimited data and am now considering a 4G router as a replacement for our wired home broadband, as we never use the phone, despite being charged for it, and it's cheaper than our home broadband.

A bone of contention between Hay and myself is the bedding, which I believe should be plain white or grey, which easily complements the acanthus-patterned curtains, small pillows and short bedspread. Hay, on the other hand, has gone for a totally different patterned set, believing it to be more practical for a rental and easier to launder. I totally disagree and, on the basis of the high rent we're going to be charging, maintain we could afford a new set of bedding every month, if necessary. If you're going for high-end clients, it has to look the bollocks, not like it has my mum's bedspread on it. We shall see who is right once the reviews some it but, the problem is, you can never recover from initial bad reviews you could get. Practicality has to take a back seat to what you would consider the bee's knees and what you'd like to see yourself.

While in IKEA I spotted some bedding with exactly the same acanthus leaf pattern as the curtains, but in reversed colours. 

The above photo is a mash-up of the IKEA bedding (upper half) and the curtain material (lower half). It would have been perfect as a compromise, but Hay had already spent a few hundred quid on what I consider the be totally inappropriate bedding in a small, grey floral pattern.

The wife of an old school friend, who specialises in 1950s and 60s themed fashion art has, agreed to do some artwork to adorn the walls at mates' rates.

Given the decking takes 6 to 8 weeks and that currently there are additional delays due to the scarcity of building materials, we probably won't be fully up and running before November - hopefully in time for the Christmas and New Year market. Until the decking is in place, we'll probably rent it out at mates' rates to friends and family, hoping they can critique the service we'll be offering (and, hopefully, the bedding).

Hay herself wouldn't mind us staying in the van occasionally, but wild horses would not get me staying in a static of my own free will. I much prefer the motorhome and the freedom it gives us to roam around the country and stay in out-of the-way places devoid of holidaymakers. Staying in it ourselves would also impact the earning potential.

Monday, 20 September 2021

Vaccine Approval

Jonathan Van Tam is furious about the British Novovax trial participants not being allowed to travel abroad because the Novavax vaccine has not yet received full MRHA approval. On the face of it, this is quite understandable. In response, JVT wants the government to withhold data from the EU to force their hand into accepting a double-jabbed Novavax trial participants.

JVT does have a point, as the data on efficacy has been published and shows Novavax to be effective at over 90%, but that's not the be all and end all of vaccine approval - there are side effects to be considered, which take time to manifest and thus delay approval. Side effects, however, affect only the trial participants and any adverse effects aren't transmitted to others.

Given we are in an emergency (although you wouldn't think so from the hordes of people not wearing masks in public spaces), one would think countries would come together to thrash out a protocol for such occasions. The question to which, however, I can find no answer is, what the UK government's protocol is for travel to the UK for participants in foreign communicable disease vaccine vaccine trials that haven't been fully approved domestically or internationally. If it's the same, then JVT is batting on a sticky wicket.

One trial participant was looking forward to a holiday in the US in January and was moaning he felt like a prisoner in his own country. I suggest he gets a life - many haven't travelled outside the UK in decades and yet don't feel like prisoners. In any case, MRHA approval is only 2 months away - well before his planned trip to the USA.

Once more to the matter of masks; a journalist interviewed maskless London Underground passengers to ascertain the reason they weren't wearing masks. As expected, they were so full of misinformation about exactly who is protected when you wear a mask, whether you can still contract Covid when double vaccinated, the efficacy of masks and many were taking their cue from the fact the Cabinet weren't wearing them. Mixed messaging is to blame. 

Sunday, 19 September 2021

The Incredible Bulk

I've taken up exercising again, as it's well over 6 weeks since my brain bleed and I was starting to pile on the pork though an overindulgence of sweeties.

I'm alternating my exercise regime over 3 days - one day of running, one day of upper body exercise and one day of rest.

It's amazing how quickly I've managed to reach almost the same level of energy expenditure as pre-accident. I can already run, non-stop, to the local petrol station (about 0.9 miles, or 1.45 km) and part run, part fast walk the return journey. Being able to run 0.9 miles non-stop is quite a feat for me due to my COPD and, by the time I'm at the far end, my lungs are screaming for oxygen. I am currently back at 50 press-ups, but the 40 x 10kg arm curls (10kg in each hand) are still 5 short of 40.

Now, exercising increases muscle bulk, which in turn increases oxygen demand when those muscles are worked. However, my COPD means my lungs are basically screwed, so their oxygen intake will likely never improve. That presents a problem - how can I exercise without increasing muscle bulk? I suppose the vasculature can improve on getting the most of the limited oxygen available by an increase in efficiency, a bit like the way in which altitude training increases the red blood cell count, but I don't want to end up with an enlarged heart.

Strangely enough, when I go for my COPD lung function tests, my lungs are about 25% greater capacity than average, so I guess they have compensated for the damage within them. However, when it comes to lung function, I have the lungs of someone 10 years older.

I suppose the secret is not overdoing it and the 3 day regime is quite well adapted to that, although my eventual aim is to run to the petrol station and back without stopping at all. I may even extend that by running, non-stop, to the school and back, which is exactly 2 miles. I'd be more than happy with that as a target, as I've never, ever, been a runner and struggle with steep inclines when walking, whereas Hay leaves me huffing and puffing on hilly, coastal paths.

At school I'd get a stitch, also known as Exercise-related Transient Abdominal  Pain, when running and always managed to dive out of the cross country by volunteering for something infinitely boring, but not as painful. In rugby I was handy in the scrum and for short bursts of energy, but chasing a ball up and down the field of play knackered me, which is why I was rarely picked for the Bantams and Colts teams. That wasn't COPD (caused by decades of heavy smoking), but asthma, with which I also suffer.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Mobile Literacy

I regularly see young women pushing prams while communicating with their friends by social media and this made me wonder whether social media and the availability of mobile phones has done anything positive for literacy, not necessarily in the UK, but more specifically where mobile technology is becoming more prevalent.

All we ever hear about mobile technology is invariably bad, but this is primarily the media promulgating scare stories, which sell more than good news. 

Certainly a lot of people message each other using an argot, but that is just as much a version of literacy as correct spelling and grammar - it's a step in the right direction, providing it's intelligible to the recipient. Much of it is simply a convenient shorthand.

I looked it up and, yes, a UNESCO study has indeed shown that mobile phones are improving literacy in the 3rd World. 

Friday, 17 September 2021

Jimmy Nails

A new cat has entered the neighbourhood and upset Kitty. His name is Jimmy and he's taken to coming into our house, as all the cats in the area are wont to do (Railway, Spooks and Ginge). He belongs to our new neighbours and yet hangs around our house and sneaks in through the open doors. It may be the extensive garden or it may be the lack of screaming kids, but it certainly isn't due to the lack of cats.

Below is Jimmy.

And here is a rather pissed off Kitty.

Jimmy and Kitty are very similar, being back and white and fluffy, but Jimmy has a black face.

Now Jimmy is a bit of a bugger and is frightened of no-one, not even Kitty, who is known as a bit of a bad tempered bruiser who dislikes other cats on her patch and has no truck with them, growling, hissing and spitting at them.

Jimmy doesn't, however, give a damn about Kitty's warning growls. He's hard as nails, which is why Hay called him Jimmy Nails...


Thursday, 16 September 2021

Game Over

I know I keep banging on about it but, for many among the public (and inexplicably, given the numerous cockups), the government's response to the Covid numbers is their touchstone. They may catch a glance of the 6 o'clock news, but that's it as far as keeping abreast of the latest developments is concerned. As far as they are concerned, if the government doesn't mandate masks then it's OK not to wear one in enclosed public spaces because it's game over for Covid - they've been lulled into believing there is no danger.

What they forget is that Boris' aim is not to prevent deaths per se, but to ensure the NHS isn't overwhelmed, as keeping the economy going is his first priority. To that purpose he's reported to have said privately that he's willing to accept 50,000 deaths. That's nearly 40% of the number that have already died - and around the number than died between January 1st and the end of August last year. The number of hospitalisations would be far in excess of this.

I don't want to be one of those 50,000 - obviously some don't mind at all, or are simply oblivious to the problem. All it will take is one mutation too many and we'll be back to where we were at the start of 2020.

Travel industry associations and airlines are meanwhile lobbying for all travel restrictions to be lifted. Can't say I blame them - their businesses are at risk and before the pandemic they were more concerned with pumping money into their stock value than putting something away for a rainy day. For this reason they have a vested interest in denying the obvious and deaths are a price they don't have to pay. Thank God corporations don't run the country, as they aren't subject to the ballot box.

At the end of the day it's a balancing act between avoiding deaths and the keeping the economy going - we get that. Both can be satisfied by simple precautions that many (including our government) are incapable of recognising as necessary. It's not as if they're knuckle-draggers either; they just blissfully unaware.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Where Are the People?

Job levels are reported to be back to pre-pandemic levels and yet there's a record number of vacancies - over a million, to be precise - so many that they can't be filled. 

So, if you consider the above, the Covid effect has been eliminated from the equation by virtue of the opening statement and the million vacancies can only be due to Brexit and departing EU workers not returning. The catering industry alone is short of 92,000 workers.

The government response is that, rather than recruiting from abroad (which would be an admission that Brexit hasn't panned out as planned - not that there was any plan in the first place), they suggest businesses should be paying higher wages, which will obviously result in higher prices and not the lower prices Brexiteers promised. Fault me on my logic, if you can.

A corollary of paying higher wages while there is a shortage of staff is that those able to afford it will be enticing staff away from those who can't afford it, with a consequent flow of staff away from lower paid establishments. Nothing will be solved and the smaller operators will go to the wall. Pay higher wages and you can't, 5 years down the line, reduce them again - the higher wages will become the new baseline below which you simply cannot go, and thus systemic.

Paying decent wages is not a bad thing in itself, but it must be recognised that the cheaper prices promised by Brexiteers as a result of Brexit was a myth.

Another solution proposed by the government is for employers to invest in training - but where are these people to come from that need to be trained; there simply aren't enough people to fill the available jobs, let alone be trained. Added to the foregoing, training places in those industries most affected, such as catering colleges, are full to capacity.

All the above combined will result in lower tax returns and less government spending. 1m divided by the 32m of the working population means a 3.13% tax drop, on average, with the government having less to spend.

Again, fault the logic.

Now, there is a whole bunch of workers on furlough, who are included in the employed figures, but many will stand no chance of remaining employed when furlough ends. These currently furloughed employees facing redundancy may therefore add to the unemployed, freeing up some of the population for the job vacancies - if qualified. There again, a good proportion of these may have already filled other jobs (facilitating the high employment figures), which was their right under the terms of furlough. Throwing this into the mix complicates the issue, but I can't see it improving it any.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Your Parcel is Arriving Today

Have you noticed that parcel deliveries are all over the place at present and that the estimated day of delivery bears no reality to the actual day it's delivered?

I keep getting messages from courier companies telling me that my parcel will be delivered today - but which is it of the 4 parcels that are in bloody transit?

It would help if there was some indication of what the parcel contained or, at the very least, the sending party, which the courier company must know. Your entire day can revolve around knowing what's in the parcel - is it the important one, or the unimportant one?.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Elderly Tennis Bikes

On the bike innertube issue of yesterday's post, I've been advised to go one of two ways; tubeless tyres or double-ended innertubes, which are a single length, plugged at each end and don't require you to remove the wheel. My next problem is innertube and tyre sizes, which are a bit of a mystery to me in respect of imperial and ISO. 

Moving on; so, in the final analysis, the shine is coming off Boris' plan for funding care of the elderly. Can't say I'm surprised; when the Tory Party attempts socialism as the only logical solution to a problem where the free market is incapable of response, you know the wheels are going to some off once people see through the smoke and mirrors and the brunt will fall on the less wealthy to the benefit of the wealthy. It will be a pleasure to watch the Red Wall crumble. 

So, Britain has a new tennis star, which is bound to cause some intellectual inconsistency among the more reactionary wing of the Daily Express readership (which is large). Emma Raducanu has a Romanian father (we don't want those Eastern Europeans coming over here and taking our jobs, or getting benefits - whichever suits the cause of the day), a Chinese mother (the Chinese are our enemies - oh, hang on - we desperately need their trade - panic), was born in Canada (Trudeau is so Woke) and came to the UK aged 2. 

Something has to be grabbed with both hands and lauded in our current, parlous state and so the Express, for whom immigration was 75% of the argument (and the only one to which it could attach some credibility - not of fact, but of xenophobic emotion it stoked up within its readership), has to embrace a multicultural tennis star who doesn't have a drop of British blood in her, or merely revert to type and tell her to go back where she came from, like it does on the other 364 days of the year.

This does, however, raise some important questions about nationality when it comes to participation in sport. Sportspeople can represent a variety of countries, depending on heritage - if your grandmother was Irish, for example, you can play football or rugby player for Ireland. Surely it should be based on your passport and, in the case of dual nationals, where you mostly live?

Sunday, 12 September 2021

E-Bike Drawbacks

 Had my first drawback with the e-bike - a puncture in the rear hub wheel.

Because of the back brake, the derailleur and the power lead from the motor hub, it's rather a task to remove the back wheel. I couldn't accomplish it in the normal manner of putting the bike upside down due to the display poking over the top of the handlebars, so I chose to put it in the stand.

The battery had to be disconnected and the controller had to be unhooked from the motor - two connections at the controller - and all the zip ties had to be removed. The brake wasn't a problem and the derailleur was on the other side. However, the hub, being very heavy, caused some consternation when it dropped, tipping the bike forwards on the stand.

I managed to get it off, remove the innertube, fix the hole and reinsert the tube. Reassembling the rear wheel in the correct position, however, required an additional pair of hands due to the bike being the right way up, but on a stand and the hub being so heavy. No.1 Son duly helped with the reassembly. 

The problem compounded itself when we'd reassembled everything without first pumping the tyre up - it blew spectacularly. Had to disassemble the whole caboodle again, replace the innertube with another and then reassemble once more.

Next time I'll leave the bike upright - not on a stand. What would help would be a connector on the hub lead near to the hub itself, rather than the connector being at the controller end of the circuit. Repairing a blowout on the road requires quite a bit of kit - adjustable spanner, Allen key for removing the disk brake, wire snips for the zip ties, new zip ties, crosshead screwdriver, pincer nosed pliers and, of course, the innertube. A hub-end connector would eliminate more than half of such a toolkit.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Take Back Control

I don't know about you, but I'm struggling to determine what, exactly, Britain has managed to 'take back control' of.

It's certainly not illegal immigration, which was the primary argument in support of Brexit and the entire thrust of one Nigel Farage.

I believe people are realising that the rousing and simplistic solutions offered up by populist demagogues cover up very complex situations that are filled with nuance. Such nuance is entirely lost in the fervent calls to faux patriotism. Populists are experts at selling a vision of heady triumphalism that has little basis in reality and even the basics are now falling apart because of EU workers returning to their countries of origin.

Any volunteers with suggestions as to what we're now in control of in a positive way?

Friday, 10 September 2021

I Know My Place

KPMG wants to take more people from the working class to better reflect the UK's diversity. That, however, calls into question the construct of class - what is it?

There was a time when there were only 2 classes; the aristocracy (albeit having its own ranking system within it), and the rest. The aristocracy owned the source of wealth - the land - and had no need to work. They settled for martial pursuits and jostling for position close to the reigning monarch or, occasionally, supplanting him or her, if not to their liking.

Then there arose a bourgeiosie - a class that created wealth through inventions or new processes. The aristocracy always hated 'trade' as these entrepreneurs were termed, precisely because they demolished the aristocracy's monopoly on wealth, which was based on land ownership.

So, you have the aristocracy, who have no need to work, those who rose to become the middle class (i.e. the ones who used their own skills and the skills of others to create wealth) and those who merely laboured for others.

There's a slight conflict here with another form of class distinction. The first becomes upper; the middle stays the same, but the working class is now transformed into the lower class, but they are two entirely separate things. Working class people can and do frown upon lower class people and no one wants to believe they're lower class. 

Then there are the younger scions of the aristocracy who have to enter 'trade' so as to provide a living for themselves. They go into merchant banking marketing and high-end drug dealing. By any strict, mercantile definition, they're middle class, but they don't consider themselves as such and form cliques on the coat tails of the aristos. The Tory Party loves them and some even entered into the ranks of Labour Party. 

Class is a spectrum and there's no clearly defined cut-off between one class and another. There are even strata within this spectrum whereby one can be middle class according to one stratum (say education), but lower class in another (say taste or appreciation of art). 

Think of the barrow boys of the financial boom of the 80s and 90s. Many of them ended up with fortunes that meant they never had to work again. That puts them in the upper class bracket, but they're not accepted as such because their fortunes were derived from trade and are seen by the upper class as lower class made good, or middle class if they're lucky.

The problem is that, while there are some people who are vociferously and proudly working class and refuse to acknowledge their transition to a higher class through education, the vast majority of the hoi polloi want to be thought of as middle class. Essentially it's a form of insecurity and engenders Britain's preoccupation with the class system.

Could it all boil down to the manner in which one pronounces the word class?

Thursday, 9 September 2021


QAnon conspiracy theorists in the USA are demanding that they are treated for Covid with Ivermectin, a horse dewormer.

Meanwhile, a study has shown that Ivermectin use in humans results in sperm dysfunction in 85% of men who use it, making them infertile.

Let the conspiracy theorists do their research and use it to treat Covid, I say.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Dunning-Kruger Driving

The Dunning-Kruger effect is 'a cognitive bias whereby people with limited knowledge or competence in a given intellectual or social domain greatly overestimate their own knowledge or competence in that domain relative to objective criteria or to the performance of their peers or of people in general', and it affects a lot of us in one or other area of our lives.

Take the following example: say it becomes scientifically proven that autonomous vehicles are safer than cars driven by people. Which would you prefer - to drive yourself or be driven in an autonomous vehicle controlled by AI?

According to polls, the vast majority would would choose to drive themselves, precisely because they overestimate their ability to drive. If an autonomous vehicle has an accident, it's something out of your control, whereas when you're driving you feel more in control, but you're more at risk of an accident. Many people don't make a logical assessment of the risk, but go on gut feel and the belief they're brilliant drivers. Strangely enough, they'd even feel safer being driven by someone they don't even know.

It's probably an explanation as to why many people believe WTO is the preferred Brexit option - in fact it's the reason for any form of Brexit. Also why some believe their own Facebook research trounces science in respect of masks and vaccines.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

State Protected Brexit Inheritance

While I feel I have earned the right not to pay National Insurance, it is rather iniquitous that I should be exempt from a rise which would go to fund my old-age care, should I need it. A general tax should be levied, but not to fund the social care of those who can afford to pay it from assets.

I do have a problem with the people I hear saying the state needs to pay to prevent their parents' house being sold to pay for care. What they are asking for is the tax payer to fund their inheritance. 

If your elderly parent requires care and has a valuable house then, under the current system, it's not only right, but just that the fees are paid from what would be your inheritance. I don't have a problem with that. I also don't agree with shuffling the house into the children's names such that it appears the parent has assets below the threshold for the state to step in - it's legal, but immoral and therefore unjust.

On the other hand, dementia is just as much a disease as any other long term, chronic illness and should therefore come under the NHS. It's not as if everyone will get it - the total population prevalence of dementia among over 65s is 7.1%. This equals one in every 79 (1.3%) of the entire UK population, and 1 in every 14 of the population aged 65 years and over. What is perhaps a scandal is the cost of care home fees, which can produce a 35-40% profit.

The NHS does actually fund some long term care, depending on the nature of that care, but the rules are complex and mind-bendingly difficult to negotiate..

Here's a suggestion; the state pays for your care in case of dementia, but it gets your house until you die and rents it out to help defray the cost of care. Once you die, the house is returned to your family within 6 months.

Moving on:

"The HGV driver shortage is due to Brexit."

"No it's not, it's due to Covid."

"No it's not, it's Brexit."

"Liar, it's due to Covid."

Who presided over both Brexit and the government's lax and tardy response to Covid? Let me guess...

The truth is that the driver shortage developed well before Covid appeared on the scene. It has been years in the making. An aged workforce, IR35 and low pay all (the average starting salary is £21,300 and top salaries £60k, with an average of £32,100) contributed. Brexit undoubtedly had an effect as Europeans were a high proportion of the driving workforce in the UK and many have left. Covid also had an effect, but the Pingdemic is past us and yet the shortage still persists due to the lack of new blood, retirements and European drivers not wanting to stay, quite understandably, in a hostile country.

Monday, 6 September 2021


I've started to think that you know you're getting old when the BBC's headline story is the death, at 39, of someone you've never heard of.

Talking of things I've never heard of before, I can't say I've ever seen this before:

A car with a 240 volt, 3 pin socket in the back.

Talking of the unusual, I've had an idea about some foliage for the house. I'm currently arranging the planting of a climbing rose and a wisteria against the house on our front patio - one either side of our French doors. 

It's rather a pain, as I had to grind some existing patio slabs and get down under the cement, membrane, rubble and hardcore that forms the bed for our patio. I still have compost to source and have simply placed the pots in the holes for now.

The idea I came up with is to grow runner beans on a trellis against the house on the other patio. It would be an annual crop, would provide some leafy adornment and provide food within easy reach.

The mobile patio heater is now fully operational.

While I was at it, I welded some areas of attention on Trigger's Ride-on-Mower. Hay has urged me not to de-rust and paint it, as she likes the rustic and utilitarian patina. The oil, inside and outside, burned off during the test firing. The draw on it is good and it doesn't require holes in the bottom, but I am going to put some in anyway as a rain drain.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Complete and Not So Complete

Both e-bikes are now complete. 

As you can see, the wiring on the 2nd one (on the right) posed some particular problems, mainly from the fact I couldn't find a suitable pannier to go over the rear wheel, which meant positioning the controller in the centre, resulting in wires being either too long or too short, depending on the function.

The box I ordered for the controller, being strapped to the battery with Velcro, is a fudge at best, but it offers protection and looks fit for purpose. I may even get one for the first bike, as it looks better than a black canvass bad. I may just finish it off with some silicone sealant where the wired enter, so as to prevent water ingress.

It would be nice to affix it to the underside of the 45 degree strut, but the length of the wires currently precludes this; however, I may adapt it in this manner at a later stage. Suffice it to say it works and is doesn't look too bad.

Made a start on the mobile patio heater I wanted to upcycle from an old, garage oil sump I rescued from a local garage. I thought I'd drained all the oil out of it, but it just kept pouring out the further I cut into the base of the aperture I was making with a grinder.

The problem was that the pipe poking out from the top of the unit went from the top down to a few inches short of the bottom of the barrel, resulting in an airlock that was trapping a couple of litres or more of thick, black oil. Some washing powder and plenty of water on the stones will clear that though.

I'll probably arch the top of the aperture. I removed the pipe sticking up from the device, widened the hole and replaced it with a spare, wood-burning stove chimney that I' hammered down to a small, circular protrusion a couple of centimetres from the bottom of the chimney for a snug fit and then welded it into place. A bit difficult with the chimney being cast iron, but I managed it. Any tiny holes remaining will be covered with a layer of fire cement.

A grate for the bottom needs sourcing and that may prove problematic in terms of size and I may have to weld something myself from scrap iron. Hay quite likes the rusty patina so I'll leave it like that, rather that de-rusting it and painting it with heat resistant paint.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Supermarket Sweep

 I've done a rough survey of supermarkets over the last week:

  • Waitrose - virtually everyone is wearing masks.
  • Tesco - about 30% not wearing masks.
  • Lidl - 50% not wearing masks.
  • Aldi - very few not wearing masks - less than 10%.
Now I don't attribute all these results to socio-economic group, but it does seem that supermarket prices drive the mask wearing and the more wealthy (and therefore middle class and educated) the clientele is, the more they will wear masks, No-one can demy that Waitrose, being hideously expensive, is frequented by those more receptive to sensible advice.

The outlier in this survey is Aldi, which is an alternative to Lidl, but we don't have one in Yate. The one I visited was in Thornbury, which is predominantly and staunchly middle class and will skew the results. which could be the reason for the high levels of mask wearing I saw there.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Pass the Remote

Saw this the other day.

A remote controlled rids-on mower, you don't ride on. Want one!

I wondered what was going on, as the mower was moving and the bloke was walking alongside it. 

However, it it actually worth using a remote control on large areas such as the one he's mowing? I can see it possibly being useful in confined spaces, but not wide open fields of grass, unless you're sat to one side on a hilltop, relaxing while having a mug of champagne and a caviar butty.