Tuesday, 30 November 2021


 I have never, in my entire life, owned a Ford or thought I'd own a Ford - until now.

A couple of weeks ago I purchased an old, 2008, Ford Galaxy Ghia, which seemed a snip at £1,000 (trade price). It had come into Bristol Honda as a PX, where my mate and I buy trade vehicles to sell onward within the trade, and I liked it, so I snaffled it. 

It has 7 seats and the rear, when all the seats are folded down, is vast; the other day I managed to carry 6 large pallets in the back, which were destined for our bonfire pile, and still had room for additional stuff behind them.

I have 4 grandchildren, who I don't see often enough due to my inability to transport them and my daughter all in one go. Also, with the purchase of the new static, I need something more in terms of carrying capacity than the old Saab 9-5 estate in order to transport furniture. It was only considered as a temporary purchase, but I'm seriously impressed with it and it's going to become my main vehicle.

I was totally surprised by the ride - it's really smooth, Not only that, but it's much quicker off the mark than the Saab, despite the additional carrying space. OK, it's a 2.0 versus the Saab being a 1.9 litre engine and has done 160k miles versus the Saab's 60k, but it's far heavier. Fuel consumption is also far better than the Saab - 42 MPG in town (haven't tried it on the motorway yet). Galaxy owners I've spoken to swear by them and maintain the engines are bulletproof.

I can find no reference in the service book of a cambelt change at the regulation 125k miles, so that will have to be done pretty soon, but it sailed through the MoT. The first job for almost any 2nd hand car is to replace the cambelt and water pump, just to be on the safe side. A cambelt change is a couple of hundred quid, whereas a replacement engine, should the cambelt fail, would be four or five times that, fitted.

The previous owner had obviously had problems with a gatepost - more than once. One rear wheel arch showed signs of repeated damage, but that was resolved with a bit of paintwork performed by a tame sprayer I know through the trade.

One wing mirror cover is damaged, however I ordered a new cover and the correct paint and lacquer for under £40. The handbrake handle is missing some non-critical parts, but that will be easily fixed with a £16 replacement. It's missing the roof rails, but I fortuitously managed to find a pair on Facebook Market for £50. Once installed, my exiting crossbars with twin kayak carriers can be transferred from the Saab.

The only thing I can't fix cheaply is the missing, bolt-on towbar swan-neck; it's simply nowhere to be found in the car and I don't think it's an original, Ford fitment. I can't find a similar one anywhere on the internet, so that means if I want a towbar I will have to go for a complete replacement at between £200 and £300. I'll leave that for now.

 All told, I've spent a total of £1,500 on a car that will easily retail for £2,500. A veritable bargain and much more practical than the Saab, much as I love the Saab. I'm so impressed by it and am now a confirmed Ford owner, something I thought I'd never, ever be - with the possible exception of a 5 litre, V8 Mustang....

Monday, 29 November 2021

Role Models

I'm coming a bit late to this, but Conservative MP, Nick Fletcher, has suggested that young men are committing crime because of lack of role models on TV.

For a start, young men don't watch TV - they're more into films on Netflix and stupid YouTube videos. 

Secondly, aren't their fathers role models? No-one has has mentioned the word positive in this debate and there are such things as negative role models.

Thirdly, they have that epitome of muscular manhood, Boris Johnson, as a role model. Actually, serial infidelity, constant lying and betrayal are not perhaps the attributes sought in positive role models for one's children. Not knowing precisely how many children you have is possibly another attribute that's not ideal in a positive role model. 

As for Dr Who, I've always wanted to see Victor Meldrew as Dr Who's sidekick, if not an the actual Doctor himself - or herself.

Last night we accidentally tuned into Dr Who while channel surfing and saw a Yorkshire Terrier with a Manchester accent controlling a spacecraft. Amazing - not that it was a Yorkshire Terrier, but that a Mancunian could control a spacecraft.

I've always wondered what Dr Who's PhD was in. I just looked it up and he apparently gained a doctorate under Joseph Lister in Glasgow in 1888.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

That Bloody Surfboard

Gave the surfboard its first coat of primer and put it in the Engineroom to dry, due to the inclement weather.

Once dry I turned it over to give the other side a spray and, bugger me, if I didn't spot yet another lumpy area that needed filling with bodyfiller. How I'd missed it is incomprehensible, but with so many indentations it's partially understandable.

However, I had bigger fish to fry from a bodywork perspective, as Hay had once more managed to back the motorhome into a pillar when trying to get it out of the drive to take it for its annual MoT on Friday.

The majority of the scrape came out with some rubbing compound and a buffer, but a plank from Hay's dad's patio roof had punctured the extreme right corner, being forced in by the rubbing strip on the join between the side and back panels. It left a nasty gouge that had breached the watertight integrity and needed sorting ASAP. Luckily there was no damage inside the van.

Filling that was a nightmare due to the temperature yesterday - the filler was like hard, grainy putty, rather than smoothly flowing, necessitating me having to simply blob it on and then apply some heat from a heat gun to get it to set. Aesthetics were not a priority, as I wanted it watertight before the rain and snow started (yes, we had a short-lived flurry of snow yesterday).

I had to go to ScrewFix to get some more sandpaper, but that was fraught with the usual problems - I ordered a roll of 120 grit sandpaper online and went to ScrewFix to collect it but, while waiting in the queue (comprised mainly of young, maskless builders), I surveyed the special offers on display and thought; "Ah, I'll have a couple of those tubes of clear silicone, and possibly some of that brush cleaner, and I do need a new tape measure, and those Varta batteries look good value, and..." By the time I exited the shop, rather than spending 6 quid on a roll of sandpaper, I was the best part of 30 quid down. 

The filler will take a lot of rubbing down today, but I learned that the filler spreading job is made easier by putting the filler tin in some hot water indoors before mixing it with the hardening agent, rather than trying to to it outside in the cold.

So today's job is rubbing down the rough blobbing and then smoothing the edges and small craters with warmed bodyfiller. It isn't worth painting it till the weather turns somewhat warmer this coming week, or else I'll just end up with paint runs all over the place, although I may attempt it, but facilitating the adhesion and drying by use of the heat gun to warm the fibreglass prior to spraying.

Saturday, 27 November 2021

The Left

A lot of derogatory terms are bandied about by proponents of market led policies to describe left wing policies.

Left wing politics is described thus in Wikipedia: Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition of social hierarchy. Left-wing politics typically involve a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others, as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished. According to emeritus professor of economics, Barry Clark, left-wing supporters "claim that human development flourishes when individuals engage in cooperative, mutually respectful relations that can thrive only when excessive differences in status, power, and wealth are eliminated." 

Could anyone on the market led side of the political divide tell me what's wrong with that? After all, it was the system that brought about civilization itself. 

Left wing policies would have avoided many of the deaths in the Irish potato famine, whereas market led policies directly resulted in a million dying. 

Left wing policies are being used the world over today to combat Covid's effects on economies, whereas the worst affected countries tend to use market led policies.

Market led policies ignore the consequences for and on people; they're impersonal and mechanistic. Left wing policies, on the other hand, put people at their core.

Friday, 26 November 2021

Come Forward

Essex Police are allegedly asking people who were severely inconvenienced by the Insulate Britain protests to come forward. The reason is obviously to build a case so as to prosecute the protesters for endangering life - ambulances being delayed come to mind. Seems Priti Patel is scraping the barrel to find cause for prosecution of demonstrators.

There again, even if an ambulance got through, it would be queued at the hospital for hours and patients are dying because the NHS is overwhelmed. Why is it overwhelmed? Because Boris Johnson is refusing to mandate mask wearing in public places when Covid cases are climbing. 

Shouldn't he be prosecuted too, in the interests of fairness?

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Black Friday

When I first became aware of Black Friday I thought it was something to do with Robinson Crusoe. 

I now understand its purpose and think that it's brilliant that Black Lives Matter have an entire day when others can share in and celebrate their movement.


Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Building Work

 There's some building work going on at our place.

Hay's dad's flat garage roof has been leaking for years, so we decided to get Colin, our tame builder and neighbour, to re-model it and fit a proper roof, with a view to a possible addition to our AirBnB empire at some stage in the future. It would make a nice, self-contained, self-catering holiday home, but would first require the floor digging out and a concrete pad being made, but that ain't going to happen till Hay inherits her dad's house nextdoor.

My own garage has been put on hold while this is being done, as this has blown a large and unexpected hole in my garage finance pot. Hopefully, my garage, which will include a decent workshop, and possibly a kitchen for the AirBnB adjoining it, will get the go-ahead next spring or summer.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

The Expanding Motorhome

I'm rather impressed with this motorhome we spotted at Pembury while we were away for the weekend.

Two slide-out sections to make it larger once on the pitch. I'm going to have to get me one of these, when they get a bit older...

Monday, 22 November 2021

Dog Poo Fairy II

I feel I have to correct my post of yesterday as I may have been a bit unfair about some dog owners who appear to dump their dog poo sacks along paths.

Yesterday we came across a dog owner at Southgate in the Gower whose dog was doing a rather niffy poo that we could smell about 10 yards downwind. She collected said dog's poo and we got into a conversation about the poo sacks we had seen the previous day at Burry Port. 

Now, according to her, what some dog owners do is leave the bags at certain locations on a walk where they know they will be returning along the same path in order to collect them on the way home. That way they're not having to cart bags of dog poo with them for the entire walk.

It makes sense, if leaving other walkers (like Hay and I) pissed off about the bags being left there.

Sunday, 21 November 2021

The Dog Poo Fairy

We're currently in the motorhome in Pembrey (the other side of the Gower Peninsula), by a beautiful stretch of beach that's somewhat redolent of Newborough Beach in Anglesey - pine trees, sand dunes and a long, flat beach that goes on for miles and miles.

Now this area seems to be a haven for dog walkers, but what I can't understand about some dog owners is this:

Why go to the trouble of taking dog poo bags with you, scooping up your dog's muck and then leaving the bag by the side of the path? Who do they think is going to remove it - the dog poo fairy?

They'd be better leaving it on the beach and letting the tide wash it away, rather than this act of idiocy..

I love dogs, but some dog owners - a small minority - are simply stupid.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Minister for Culture Wars

Nadine Dorries has raised her head above the Culture Wars parapets, rather late. She said "people have become afraid to say what they think for fear of being "cancelled", and that left-wing activists have "hijacked" social media.

She's obviously mistaken; I've never seen so many people on social media being unafraid to say the most hideous things. What they don't like is having their views challenged sensibly, honestly and constructively. That's not being cancelled; it's being called out. 

They are perhaps afraid that what they would previously have got away with saying in the privacy of the snug down at the pub, is there for all the world to see on social media, attracting far more attention and condemnation by those with a lot more humanity.

She also said she doesn't agree with removing statues and other memorials connected to the slave trade and other aspects of history, such as the Bank of England's removal of paintings and busts of past governors and directors. "You can't, with this whole cancel culture, wipe it all out like it didn't happen and pretend it didn't exist," she said. "You can't wipe away our history, either the good or the bad."

It's not pretending it didn't happen - the whole point of a statue is to honour the person the statue represents. Who would want to honour a slave trader? Is Germany Woke for demolishing every single statue of Hitler, who engaged in genocide in a systemic manner? Is Zimbabwe Woke for changing the name of Rhodesia? It doesn't eradicate them from history at all - it merely doesn't honour them. 

The Culture War warriors rant against the National Trust for, of all things, adding to the history of National Trust properties and call it rewriting history. You couldn't make it up. OK, lets admire the country piles, but totally ignore and overlook the source of the money that funded their construction - which is obviously what they want. It's a denial of history. 

The rewriting history trope has been thoroughly debunked for what it is; a last ditch, intellectually bankrupt and misguided attempt to normalise the indefensible, but trust Dorries to jump on that particular bandwagon after it has already left its trailer park and been scrapped. 

Friday, 19 November 2021

Electric Things

The following charts show our annual electricity generation in kWh from the solar PV aray since we moved into the house, and our annual usage.

The above chart is the annual generation on the 1st January every year. There's a variance of no more than 200 kWh between the years, which is not a lot.

The following chart, accepting there's some missing data, is the daily annual consumption over the previous 12 months and therefore more granular than the previous chart.

The spike occurs last winter, when I had my two sons living in their own caravans next to the house. No.1 Son left on January 8th to take up residence in his own house and No.2 Son left in July and moved to Winchester in preparation for his university stint. Heating caravans is an expensive business. No.1 Son worked from home and thus used phenomenal amounts of power, whereas No.2 Son worked in town and was only home in the evenings.

Annual usage since they left has since plummeted to below the 15,000 kWhs prior to them inhabiting the caravans. It currently stands at 14,000 kWhs and is still heading south; however, I expect this to increase during winter due to the unseasonably warm weather we've had this year.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Captain Magnum

Yesterday I was watching a programme on Frank Zappa which included some footage of Don Van Vliet, or Captain Beefheart, as he was also known (of Trout Mask Replica fame).

I was struck by how much he resembled Tom Selleck. 

See what I mean. It's not simply the moustache, but the eyes and face shape. I'll bet DVV and TS were never seen in the same room together.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Laptop Directions

 Every time I leave the house I think; "Who the hell has left a bloody laptop on the wall?"

Then I realise it's the house sign Hay put out for our AirBnB customers who get confused between her dad's house next door and ours.

It will take time to register on my brain.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Sea Level Rise

Yesterday I was looking at a map of the results for selected sea level rises and, should there be a 95m rise, our house (marked) would have a nice sea inlet a couple of hundred metres up the road, which would be perfect for kayaking.

The whole of the UK would, admittedly, be an archipelago comprising many small areas of land, with Wales being dominant. 

Old Sodbury would change to Sodbury on Sea. Knowing our luck, there would probably be a mega oil terminal built in Sodbury Bay.

London would simply disappear and Buith Wells in central Wales (Wales Island), or possibly Birmingham, might be the new capital.

However, that's an impossible scenario as, even if all earth's ice melted, sea levels would rise by only 70 metres, so I'll have to pack away the beach towel.

Monday, 15 November 2021

Slogging it Out

Well, we marshalled the Sodbury Slog admirably. It was tough, but we survived the whole 3 hours.

Those top three photos are of the leaders in the race at the 7 mile point, where we were stationed- red, yellow and white shirts respectively. They were serious and didn't engage in any banter whatsoever.

Then came the rest - some 300 odd in all, strung out over a couple of hours.

For some reason they kept shouting; "Thank you Marshal," but I kept telling them my name was Phil, not Marshal.

I encouraged some of them by shouting; "Get your cigarettes, beer and performance-enhancing dumplings here," but was ignored.

Some were dressed as Vikings, others were in full suits and one was dressed as Spiderman. The Viking was in the top 25th percentile, despite having to lug an axe around the course.

The stragglers were encouraged by me shouting that they had 5 minutes before the Old Sodbury Hell Hounds would be let loose to pursue them.

One poor chap was violently sick just before our station and was administered to by Hay. Fit looking chap too and not at all the kind of physique you'd expect to have to give up, but he was obviously excessively stressed.

One thing I noticed was that all the male race leaders were quite well proportioned, not bulky nor too lean, whereas all the female leaders were built like racing whippets with hardly a scrap of fat on them.

Hay and I took it upon ourselves to train for next year's Slog. Hay may accomplish it, but I'm simply not built for running more than a mile or two and will probably have to intersperse the run with leisurely walks.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

The Sodbury Slog

Hay and I are participating in the Sodbury Slog today - a running race that's held every year around Chipping Sodbury, Horton, Little Sodbury and Old Sodbury.

It's an arduous, 10 mile course over fields, through brooks and embracing several hills and a huge escarpment. We both fully expect to be dog tired after the event, as it will tax our endurance to the limit, what with standing in one position for the best part of 3 hours with runners streaming past us as we perform our marshalling duties.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Cookie Consent

Have you noticed recently that some websites allow you to not consent to cookies, rather than just accepting them or going through a tortuous process to select exactly what cookies you are willing accept, with none at all not being one of the options? 

Some smuggle a popup into the process that allows the website in question to send you endless notifications, many of which are impossible to unsubscribe from. That's sneaky.

Friday, 12 November 2021

Net Zero

Rather than hearing promises about dates for reaching net zero, I do wish leaders would commit to staged deadlines for certain percentages of CO2 reduction. Just saying we'll be net zero by such-and-such a date is an excuse to do nothing now.

Here's a thought to contribute to net zero - switch street lights to LEDs and turn them off after 10pm - that could easily be accomplished within a year. We in the countryside have very little in the way of street lighting and it doesn't hinder us one bit. Cars have headlights and people simply aren't on the streets after 10pm.

Worcestershire Council has slashed its street lighting bill by 56% through a program to switch street lights to LED. Switching them off after 10pm would add to that enormously. Apparently 7 out of 10 councils already do this. On the down side though is a possible rise in accidents.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Upcycle - Again

I tried an Ood light (globe) in the ship's magnetic compass gimbal I bought from a junk shop and renovated. 

I call it an Ood after the aliens in Dr Who who carry round globular lights, and the name stuck.

OK, the cable needs to be black and channelled underneath the plinth, but Hay wasn't impressed with the repurposed article for some reason. Back to the drawing board, which will probably result in plan A, which is the large ballcock I bought alongside it being painted by Hay's sister and rested in the gimbal.

I spotted these items in a car dealership skip the other day:

Now the old car brake disks are just screaming to be piled on top of each other in a vertical tower as a water feature, with the water cascading down the disks. The bare metal would need de-rusting and painting to avoid a puddle of rusty water and the disks would need tack welding into a tower. Hay, however, says no. Again, I can't fathom out why...

As for the cylinder head - I haven't made up my mind as to whether to litter my shed with it yet. It's only small - any ideas would be welcome. 

The surfboard is as smooth as a baby's bottom and ready to be primed. I'm thinking of a couple of logs as legs for a bench seat.

It looks low in the photo, but those logs are merely the two closest in size that I could immediately access from the pile of cut down leylandii logs. There is doubtless a more suitable pair in there somewhere. They'll need a bit of sculpting so that the surfboard fits snugly without wobbling around 

I was thinking of painting the surfboard anthracite to match the colour of the rails on our caravan and the rattan patio furniture. I'll get a large vinyl logo to place along it saying Clearwater (the name of the static caravan) in light grey before applying the lacquer topcoat, if for no other reason than it will prevent people nicking it.

This old lamp base is being upcycled for the static with a new shade - charcoal outside and gold inside.

Now that WILL look nice in the static.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Christmas Card Writing Service

This week I came across a service I never knew existed - Christmas card writing services. These are people who send handwritten Christmas cards on your behalf, but I'm buggered if I can understand why people use such services; by the time you've given the writer all the names and addresses and told them what you want to say, you may as well have done it yourself. Or, perhaps, such services use generic greetings.

The advert for one of these services writes; "There are many advantages to sending a handwritten Christmas card - it shows you have gone the extra mile, it is great to keep in contact...". Using someone else to send your Christmas card is surely the exact opposite of going the extra mile?

To be fair, I think these services are aimed at businesses, rather than individuals, but the irony stands about going the extra mile.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

MPs' Terms and Conditions

MPs have come under considerable scrutiny over the last week. A number of questions remain to be answered. Here are some possible solutions.

  • MPs' salary to be linked to what they earned in the 12 months previous to them joining Parliament, excluding earnings from investment income. This would allow the admission of higher earners who may have critical skills, but are put off by the salary. An MP must be selected for his or her desire to enter public service and not for pecuniary gain, nor lose out financially.
  • Additional increments for levels of responsibility, such as serving on committees or being ministers.
  • Given the uncertainty of the position of MP, a departure package of a full year's salary, if not 2 years.
  • MPs to be able to lobby (it might be to generate jobs for their constituents, for example), but only for companies having operations within their constituency, and such lobbying to be free of charge, just as it is for the average constituent.
15 of the last 6 consecutive Tory party treasurers (the 16th is still in position) have been promoted to the House of Lords after having donated more than £3m prior to becoming treasurer. This has been called a coincidence by a government minister, but how many times must something happen before it's considered customary, traditional or corrupt? 

Tradition is one of the pillars of conservatism and I can see, in the not too distant future, the Tory party resorting to the defence of tradition to cover up money for peerages.

Monday, 8 November 2021

Mark Drakeford

I've heard the Welsh FM, Mark Drakeford, giving several interviews over the last couple of months, as well as his performances at PMQs, and I must say I'm quite impressed with him.

He doesn't bat away issues with false hope and optimism, misplaced bumptiousness and gaffe-laden cof humour, rather he tackles them in a matter-of-fact manner while radiating a calm competence, confidence and mastery of the technical detail, unlike some I could mention in government who radiate incompetence, false confidence and a total lack of understanding of detail.

Sunday, 7 November 2021


One of my regular readers, Roger, came up with a brilliant idea for hanging the heavy mirror in the static caravan - fix a vertical batten to the wall with several cage fittings and hang the mirror from that. 

A bit more research showed that Amazon do something called a Z bar which is specifically for this purpose.

However, I thought an aluminium door strip, for edging carpets where a door transitions from lino to carpet, would perform the same function at half the price.

Screwed into the wall, horizontally, with half a dozen screws, would provide a very secure anchorage for the mirror, with the weight spread out over the width of the wall in way of the mirror's width. For added security, cage fixings would be used to secure the strip to the wall.

Post Script: I had success hanging the mirror, despite some caravan owners telling me it wasn't possible. I had bought some carpet door strip and a bunch of cage fixings from ScrewFix before departing for the caravan yesterday, but on getting there I tried tapping the bulkhead to determine whether I could find any upright framework woodwork and - Eureka!

I found two of the buggers, at the regulation 400mm apart and in the perfect positions. The frame timbers themselves are not very wide, but wide enough to use to hang pictures and mirrors from.

That table lamp in the photo above is destined to go and be replaced with something much larger. Hay's now looking for some luxury curtain tie-back tassels to hang on various cupboard handles. These are quite swish and would fit the bill.

But not at £240....

The 4G router worked a treat with excellent download speeds and I managed to connect the Smart TVs without a hitch. Once my standard, telephone line home broadband contract expires, I think I might go for a 4G router for the house.

The decking is complete, except for the glass panels facing the lake and the lights that go atop two of the stanchions at the corners of the lake end. Hopefully that will be completed this week.

We're considering whether to switch the chrome HMV heater for a Opti-myst heater, which are the bee's knees in fake, log-effect fires, using steam with lights shining through it to give a really realistic flame effect.

Not cheap, but rather Wow! And not burning any wood, which is more environmentally friendly.