Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Trigger's Ride-on-Mower Returns

I had occasion to rethread the deck belt on the replacement rode-on-mower and decided to remove the plastic cowling, so as to make things easier in future - it exposed a catalogue of previous Triggerish repairs (Trigger's broom from Only Fools and Horses) and rust holes. No wonder it was a bargain. 




Some idiot, instead of welding new metal into a gaping hole, had pop-rivetted and bolted some aluminium over it. 

Luckily I know a guy who is a magician when it comes to welding. He has autism and has severe problems with reading and writing, but he compensates for that by being a real craftsman when it comes to welding. 

For around £200 he'll make it look like new, after which I will apply rust converter and Hammerite to ensure no return of the problem. The cost will be well worth it and the total price for the mower and the repair will still make it a bargain. I should be getting the renovated deck back today or tomorrow.

The operation manual I found for the mower surprisingly showed it has cruise control. When new, these things sold for £3,995, so I'm going to really look after it.


Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Scam Aftermath

Apropos of yesterday's post; I tried to unsubscribe from FindMyManual so as to stop the recurrence of the £36.95 payment, but had to ask for a password reset. Needless to say, the password reset email never materialised, thus confirming my suspicions that these buggers are scam artists and make things as difficult as possible.


I sent an email threatening legal action and got a resolution.

"Dear valued customer, 

We remind you that our service is a paid personal assistance service offered in the form of a discovery offer of 7 days to 0.95 GBP. At the end of the discovery offer and in case of non-cancellation by you, your subscription will be automatically renewed for a period of two months, with tacit renewal, for 36.95 GBP. 

"We also inform you that the price information relating to this subscription policy has been available to you on several occasions in the Terms and Conditions (validated during the payment) as well as on the home page, section premium plan. 

"Having said that, after reviewing your query we have decided to issue a refund for your purchase and cancel your ongoing subscription in good faith. 

"The funds have been returned to the same card used in the original purchase. Please note that depending on your bank or credit institution, this usually takes 24 hours, but may take several days in some cases, to appear on your statement. 

"You will no longer be billed on an ongoing basis and access to our services will be revoked after the billing cycle is terminated.

"We thank you for your custom and endeavor to improve our services in the future."

They may well have listed the terms somewhere, but nowhere obvious. They know they're in the wrong and have tacitly admitted it. Valued customer, my arse!


Monday, 26 September 2022

Scam

I used a service called FindAnyManual last week to find a manual for the Snapper, 2nd hand ride-on-mower I bought.


They charged me £0.95 for the service, but couldn't find the requisite manual and instead sent me a manual for a completely different mower. I eventually found the correct manual through Snapper customer support.

Today I was horrified to find I'd been charged a further £36.95, which is apparently a repeating, monthly subscription that's hidden in the small print, which I am disputing.

It seems from Trust Pilot that this is their modus operandi and there are myriad complaints about them. Beware! 


Sunday, 25 September 2022

The Tall and the Short

We have two olive trees on our patio - a large one and a teeny, tiny one, yet it's the small one that has managed to produce a crop of olives, which I never expected in our climate.


The one above was purchased from a chap who calls at our house about twice a year with stuff he's used to dress marketing stands at events, which he tries to sell off cheaply. He sold us a very nice, wooden patio set some 5 years ago, which is still going strong.


This tiddler was purchased at a plant market in Winchester, while I was visiting No.2 Son at university last year. A very immature specimen, but covered in olives.


Saturday, 24 September 2022

Motorhome

 I spotted this brilliant motorhome in the local Lidl car park this week. It had a German registration.


I don't know where the owner is going, but I don't think it's somewhere I could take our motorhome. Ukraine, perhaps?


Friday, 23 September 2022

The Garage & Workshop

Colin has recommenced work on my garage and workshop.




Walls are now at full height and the wooden garage construction is flying up. The garage part is exactly the same construction as the two cabins at the end of our garden.

Roof trusses are being delivered next week and then Colin will start reconstructing the AirBnB bedroom roof so it extends over the rear workshop area, and then cutting in at right angles to form the garage roof. The garage will be large enough to do a classic car restoration in, with ample room round the sides. I wonder if Lidl or Aldi will be selling engine hoists anytime soon?


Thursday, 22 September 2022

Waterfalls & Pools

Hay and her sister, as their homage to QEII, went hiking up the River Neath at Pontneddfechan on Sunday, seeking out pools in which to swim and waterfalls to stand under.




Hay and I went there earlier in the year, but didn't reach the pools and waterfalls in the photos above.


Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Stability of Monarchy vs Chaos of Government

Even die-hard republicans, such as myself, are voicing muted approval of the pageantry that surrounded the Old Queen's funeral. Why is this?


I think I have an answer; it's because the monarchy personifies stability and continuity (despite a few wobbles along the path), whereas our government has been in permanent chaos since 2016, with 4 Prime Ministers so far. That chaos is now set to increase, as the government sanctions inflation busting bonus increases for bankers of up to twice their salaries (and laying the ground for a return to the 2008 financial crisis, caused by excessive risk taking in the pursuit of financial gain), while a 7% increase at the bottom of the pyramid for public sector workers unable to pay bills is simply too much to countenance. Perhaps the government thinks the bonuses will trickle down to public sector workers..

Republicans are casting a glance over the fence and envying the stability that the monarchy, under Queen Elizabeth, has shown. It's therefore an understandable and emotional reaction against instability.

One thing I've come to realise is that before abolishing the monarchy, we first need to fix our democratic system. By that I mean the elimination of massive political donations that give corporations and individuals unrepresentative and undemocratic influence on policy, and the adoption of Proportional Representation to more accurately represent the electorate.

I wonder whether Charles III will introduce a mandatory retirement age for the monarchy - perhaps 80 would be a good retirement age.


Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Gilbert & Sullivan

I dipped in and out of the Old Queen's funeral service while grouting the AirBnB shower room and mowing the more overgrown areas of the lawn - more out than in, if I'm honest - but what I did see was pure Gilbert & Sullivan and spectacular theatre, which Brits seem world leaders in performing. I was surprised Danny Boyle hadn't been involved. It's little wonder we have the best theatre in the world.


It is strange, however, that the military's full dress uniforms stopped evolving in the early 1800s and they wouldn't have been out of place at Waterloo or Balaclava, which is probably a massive contributor to the spectacle, although how they fought in such finery is a mystery. 

Not the RAF, of course, as that wasn't invented then, but I'd bet my bottom dollar that the RAF dress uniform doesn't evolve as time passes and remains stuck between the Wars. Interestingly, a full dress, plumed hat was developed for the RAF, but it proved unpopular and eventually dropped, although George VI, when Duke of York, carried one at his wedding (but didn't wear it).


Can't wait for Charles' coronation next year, although he's meant to be considering a much slimmed down version from the one his mother had.

Got my call-up papers for my next Covid jab, which is being administered to me today at Bath Racecourse. 


Monday, 19 September 2022

Power

We will all mark the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in our own way. Some will be glued to the TV to watch the ceremony itself, while others will be glued to Lord of the Rings (The Rings of Power) and/or the latest Game of Thrones (House of the Dragon) series.


No matter which of the above are chosen, they all represent a fascination with hierarchy and power in all its different forms - even the illusory type.


Sunday, 18 September 2022

The Problems With Democracy

 I was having a little think about democracy the other day and a few things became clearer:

  • First and most obviously, the UN is not a democratic institution when any member of the Security Council can exercise a veto. This must change.
  • Ignoring the above, the UN operates on democratic principles, yet it admits to its members countries that are implacably opposed to democracy. Chucking them out, however, facilitates a powerful cabal of dictators. Keeping them in the fold at least blunts their actions, although they gum up the wheels of democracy.
  • One of democracy's inherent weaknesses is accountability and the length of time a democratic government has a mandate. In ancient Athens, accountability was more immediate and, if a leader was showing signs of weakness or exercising policies that clearly weren't working, that leader could be chucked out immediately, not after 4 or 5 years during which time fortunes could be made by the unscrupulous and corrupt. We need to develop more immediate accountability so disastrous courses can be changed early; however, would the short-termism we already suffer from then turn into hyper-short-termism and little, if any, long term planning?
  • Most importantly, the largest weakness in democracy is we the electorate, who are occasionally phenomenally adept at putting people in charge who are eminently unsuitable to wielding the levers of power. We simply love poking ourselves in the eye because many of us are totally ignorant of consequences. As someone once said, half of us are below average. Should there, indeed, be a test of suitability for receiving the precious gift of a vote, beyond simply breathing? What shape would that test take though, as even a highly educated person can show incredibly bad judgement when it comes to voting - Eton proves that. A minimum term in public front-line service, perhaps, to show concern for others?


Saturday, 17 September 2022

Goodwood Revival 2022

My oldest friend from primary school, John, was given two free tickets to the Goodwood Revival and he offered me one. This is a video I shot of the assorted classic cars, motorcycles and scooters. Beware - it's half an hour long and if you don't like wall-to-wall classics, me and John oohing and aahing over them and a touch of E-Type and Cobra racing, then this isn't for you (the E-Types won about the first 6 places).

We were infinitely more interested in the motors in the classic car area of the free carpark than the exorbitantly priced clothing, food and beverages in the ticketed area.

Next year we may bring our motorhome so as to have free refreshments, a personal toilet and somewhere to rest between forays.


Friday, 16 September 2022

Mower Replacement

Found a replacement for the dead ride-on-mower.




It even has a coffee cup holder and place for a mobile.



It's a Snapper, powered by a Briggs & Stratton, OHC, V-Twin, 656cc engine and cost me £450, after a bit of haggling. Briggs & Stratton acquired Snapper in 2002, which is enough of a recommendation for me. It has a magnificent 38" cut, which certainly reduces the time it takes to mow.

I collected it yesterday morning and within half an hour the lawn was nearly back to how it should look. These are views up and down the garden.




I can now get to parts the Flymo simply can't reach and chop down grass that the Flymo struggles with. I may soup up the Snapper, put some racing stripes on it and use it for racing....

A mate managed to get a couple of tickets for the Goodwood Revival and offered me one, so I'm off early to get to the track.


Thursday, 15 September 2022

Watch the Sharks

Took my mate, Mike, kayaking at Lee Bay in Devon on Tuesday. Mike has had only one previous experience of kayaking when I took him to a lake on the Cotswold Water Park, during which he generally got the hang of it, although it was a bit like a mill pond.

The main problem he has with kayaking on the sea is an irrational fear of sharks, as evidenced by his head shake in the initial few seconds of the video below.

We arrived at 8.15, just before high tide; the weather wasn't good and the sea was a tad rough around the edges, making it a baptism of fire for him. I kept having to tell him to leave his legs dangling over the sides to aid stability until he got into deeper water, but he eventually mastered it, despite a ducking or two while trying to embark. He made it into the middle of the bay, but wouldn't risk going round to the next bay because of the swell, which was understandable for a first timer.

Hopefully the galeophobia has been laid to rest. I told him it was a particularly bad day for sharks, as they don't like rain and he might fare better at spotting one next time. I then went on to tell him the totally invented tale of the locale being a Mecca for shark fishermen. He loved Lee Bay and I bequeathed the location to him so he can pass it on to his two boys.

Meanwhile, vast swathes of the population descend on London to do what the British do best - queue. Hay and I are rather doubtful that the Queen is in that coffin that everyone is filing past and it's actually filled with bags of sand. She's probably still in the hands of the Royal Undertakers and there will be a quick swap at a tactical moment before the interment.


Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Line of Succession

Elizabeth II was only Queen of Scotland by virtue of the 1701 Act of Settlement. There are other claimants, such as Franz, Duke of Bavaria, and Arthur Stuart, 8th Earl Castle Stewart, the latter having the best claim.


The photo above is Duke Franz, as I can't seem to find one of the 8th Earl Castle Stewart.

I wonder whether the Old Queen's funeral rituals are a wet run (as opposed to a dry run) for Charles' own funeral in a few years time. Whereas not many had experience of George VI's funeral as a template, many will have had experience of that of the Old Queen, meaning any wrinkles can be ironed out quite swiftly.

 

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

It's All in the Name

 I wonder what caused this name for a Tesla?


Are they, perhaps, built in Wales?

I'm taking my mate Mike kayaking at Lee Bay today. He's a tad apprehensive, as he's frightened of sharks....


Monday, 12 September 2022

Dry Stone Walling Weekend

Finished the 2 day dry stone walling course arranged by Stroud Valleys Projects yesterday. It's the 2nd course I've done with them - the first was scything - and they run numerous courses in traditional country crafts.

The course cost me £150 and was money well spent. I feel confident enough to tackle most local dry stone walls and Hay has me lined up for constructing a stepped amphitheatre in the back yard, like the one we saw last weekend at The Cotswold Sculpture park.

There are qualifications you can obtain in the art, which made me wonder why? However, whereas 100 years ago dry stone wallers were plentiful in the countryside and if you wanted a wall repaired, or a totally new one, the chances were that you knew a local who did nothing but that and his work was visible all round the area. These days, with practitioners being rarer, you need to convince yourself that whoever you're contracting is competent, meaning a recognised qualification is the only real option. 

We placed 10p pieces in the wall for the next repairer to find, probably in another 100 years time. Had I known we were going to do this, I'd have made a small time capsule from a cigar tube.

Played havoc with my back, but it's perhaps the impetus I need to get back into an exercise regime.

I really want to do a flint knapping course now.


Sunday, 11 September 2022

All Change

Apparently, as I recently discovered, since Charles II, successive monarchs' heads are reversed on coinage? Charles will face in the opposite direction from the Old Queen, of whom we have a right profile on coins. Whether that will apply to notes is debatable, as Elizabeth was the first monarch to have her portrait on notes.


Also, QCs will now become KCs again, but will there be a whole bunch on Sunshine Bands among their chambers staff?

On a side issue, if Scotland goes independent, will Scottish peerages be rescinded, especially considering the Dukedom of Edinburgh, which is currently held by King Charles and may go to Edward?

Yesterday and today I'm on a dry-stone walling taster course near Stroud, and loving it. Back breaking work though. I'll do a post on it later in the week.  


Saturday, 10 September 2022

Foreign Aid

Overheard at the butcher's.

The butcher is making lamb kebabs:

Chairman; "Are those Queen Elizabeth II kebabs you're making as a tribute?"

Butcher; "That's a good idea - I could sell them at £10 each."

Chairman; "Given the last coronation spawned Coronation Chicken, you need to focus on something for Charles III - like a Charles III kebab."

Butcher; "What would that look like, I wonder?"

Chairman; "3 heads on a stick?"

A substantial percentage of the population supports calls for Foreign Aid to be scrapped, citing India's space programme as a key shibboleth; however, they don't see Foreign Aid as a tool of influence internationally.


A 2014 ODI report showed that in 2014 every $1 of UK aid spent generated an increase in UK exports alone of $0.22 thereby providing an estimated 12,000 extra UK jobs.

Cut Foreign Aid to an area that suffers from instability and then Russia and China rush to fill the void, causing all manner of disruptions down the line, not least in the realm of trade. The UK spends $19.37Bn in aid while China spends $38Bn, slightly more than the USA - yes, China has a much larger GDP than the UK, but it's the absolute amount that counts in terms of global influence.

Russia's Foreign Aid is miniscule in proportion to its GDP; however, under Putin it has ramped up dramatically as a tool of foreign policy.


Those who call for the scrapping of Foreign Aid are usually at the forefront of shouting that charity begins at home and it should be used to home the homeless and feed the poor, but that's never happened, even when aid was cut - it simply doesn't generate votes. Our government had to be shamed into providing free school meals for the poorest kids during holidays in the lockdown.


Friday, 9 September 2022

Dr Dre

Not only was Queen Elizabeth II the longest reigning monarch and the oldest monarch, but Charles III is the oldest to ascend the throne. Two records set on one day.

We follow the YouTube videos of Dr John Campbell on Covid. He analyses data and statistics and is very good. We call him Dr Dre. However, he has recently come under fire from YouTube for making claims that contravene YouTube's policies on Covid, but are nevertheless scientifically correct.

One bone of contention is that he's not allowed to say vaccines can be totally ineffective; however, it's a scientific fact that when an incubation period is very short, a vaccine given just before infection doesn't give the body sufficient time to generate antibodies. Covid vaccines, for example, give you protection around a month after vaccination, but the incubation period averages out at 6-7 days (and is getting shorter with every mutation), thus there is a large gap in time when you're not protected. He's not allowed to say this.

Below is Dr Dre's video explaining this.

He overcomes this ridiculous ban by using the House of Cards defence - "So-and-so may say this, but I couldn't possibly comment," when So-and-so is a recognised expert in the field of vaccines and virology.

It's doubly ironic when there's so much obvious crap on YouTube.


Thursday, 8 September 2022

New Scientific Test

Apparently, scientists have developed a new test for intelligence.


It's called a General Election.

That said, yesterday's PMQs were a welcome return to normal, political jostling, rather than the circus of lies and misinformation that Johnson presided over. That's not to say Truss didn't make any mistakes, as she did, but I think they were genuine mistakes, rather than purposeful lies - she is prone to mistakes, after all. I'm sure Starmer set a few traps for her in PMQs, which will be used later.

Truss' argument against a windfall tax are spurious in the extreme. Firstly, energy production companies investment schedules will not be changed one iota by a windfall tax, as highlighted by BP's CEO a few weeks ago in an interview. 

Secondly, a windfall tax in an incentive to get rid of excess profits in the future by investment, preferably in renewables. 

Borrowing to allow energy producers to retain their extraordinary profits - profits that came from consumers - will result in a tax to pay for that government borrowing, regardless of where it's levied, so her aversion to a tax increase is also spurious - she's trying to hide a tax increase by spreading it over 20 years. It seems Truss is yet another victim of ideology. 

We are suffering for our support to Ukraine, whereas the energy producers are profiteering - that's not right. If Truss wants our continued support for Ukraine, then she needs to focus on reducing the pain resulting from that, else patience will wear thin. Eliminate the pain by taxing profiteering and she would reduce inflation, whereas inflicting a 20 year tax to pay for the borrowing will extend inflation.

The Tory Party faithful are making much of the diversity within the upper echelons of the government; however, Johnson culled much of the talent within the Parliamentary Party and Truss has continued with that by culling Sunak supporters, leaving a rump of loyal sycophants. There's not much left to choose from when looking for competence. 

Yes, there may be one or two competent ministers, but they're very much in the minority. Race, as the Cabinet has shown, very obviously plays no part in becoming far right; wealth, however, increases the chances of becoming far right, regardless of race. On this basis, the Tory Party should perhaps be doing as much as possible to raise the aspirations of the BAME community, as it seems to be a fertile recruiting ground. 

By the way, can anyone list any of Nadine Dorries' achievements in Parliament? All I can ascertain is that her entire parliamentary career has comprised apologising, withdrawing Bills that lacked support, smirking, simpering and shouting wildly about Woke. Hardly a qualification for being raised to the peerage.


Wednesday, 7 September 2022

The Road Sign

I simply had to post a picture of this road sign I saw last week on a road between the Cotswold Water Park and Malmesbury.


There, Back and Murmansk. Brilliant!


Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Just Photos

Spent most of the week, bar a few days we had to work, with my brother and sister-in-law at our static at Hoburne Cotswold. Tip - always stay close to your brother, in case you need a kidney....

Here are some photos from the Cotswold Sculpture Park, which we visited on Saturday. I thought I would be miserable, but it was excellent, with at least 170 works of art. Many were clever or hilarious. Click on them to enlarge.


So this one above is not an exhibit, but an old AC. Can anyone cast a light on the model? It looks like the AC 2 Litre, which has an ash frame and aluminium body. You can see the wooden frame and there's not a spot of rust on the panels.







This one above is quite cool - a frame with engine blocks and exhaust bits for branches, with an old Morris 1000 perched on top.










I particularly like the one above. If you look at the reflection in the metal cylinder you see a hand. 






This one above is made from discarder tyres. It's huge.



This one above is my favourite - a dragonfly made from an engine and gearbox, mounted by an alarming looking creature. Below is one without a rider.