Saturday 30 April 2022

Smallpox Conundrum

Remember the query I had about having to notify the Blood Transfusion Serviceon the donor questionnaire whether I'd been in contact with someone having had a smallpox vaccination prior to donating blood? Well, here's the response I got:

"Many thanks for your enquiry regarding the smallpox question on the donor safety check form (DSC). 

"We agree that this question that needs to be removed. 

"There is an ongoing project in the background to revamp the DSC and this question already on the list. The process will take at least six months before a final version is agreed and a few more months for the new version to be printed and brought into use. 

"I hope this helps and thanks for bringing this to our attention. 

"Kind Regards 

"Senior Nurse Practitioner - Clinical Support Team "

So, it's essentially redundant.

Friday 29 April 2022

Polyvinyl Resin

I performed a full-scale experimented with the polyester resin as an alternative to the epoxy resin I'd developed an allergy to, but it was inconclusive. The result on cloth is more like flacid oil cloth than anything substantial that has inherent structure and holds a shape. There's little weight to the result, so it won't hang and drape properly.

Added to that, the smell is overpowering - I had to remove the curing cloth from the house after complaints from Hay.

I performed the experiment on Monday afternoon and by Tuesday morning it was still quite pliable. 

I tried using the heat gun to make it drape, but to no avail - the heat simply made it more rubbery and less willing to drape. I did however touch the hot metal of the heat gun and managed to weld some polyester to my palm.

By yesterday it had reached a stage where it was reasonably hard, although nowhere near as hard as epoxy. I could try thickening the polyvinyl before applying it by leaving it for 15 or 20 minutes before spreading it and may give that a go at the next attempt..

It might simply be the low ratio of catalyst, which makes polyester mixing problematic (1.5-2%). I may try doubling or even tripling the amount of catalyst.

One noticeable difference between epoxy and polyvinyl is that the finish on the polyvinyl is much smoother, which may be because it takes such a long time to cure, enabling it to flow for longer..

I'll attempt to finish shaping the shades this weekend.

Thursday 28 April 2022


I'm getting rather tired of the unspeakable defending the indefensible. 

Cake and parties are irrelevant when discussing Boris' lawbreaking, it's about breaking the Ministerial Code. 

Lawyers, surgeons, scientists, engineers, financial advisors, teachers - all of the above need professional qualifications to practice. Some of them have to additionally adhere to rules of professional conduct and, if they break them they're booted out. All this engenders trust in their ability and integrity.

An MP or minister doesn't require a single qualification in order to be part of the legislature - ability doesn't enter into it. They don't even engage in Continuous Professional Development, unless that's measured by how well they can hoodwink and gaslight the more gullible members of the public. Is it therefore too much to require them, as law makers, to at least adhere to a code of practice? If not, then how can we trust them at all?

I can imagine how even the most staunch Boris fan would react if they were about to go under the knife and the surgeon said; "Oh, by the way, I fell foul of the Royal College of Surgeons and the GMC, but I apologised and didn't offer to resign. It was only the worst offence - a bit like a speeding fine."

As an example, Alex Salmond's QC in his libel case has been found guilty of professional misconduct and is facing being stripped of his licence to practice after he discussed the case on a train.

We should stop calling it Partygate, by the way, and call it what it is - Ministerial Codegate.

Tory MPs face 2 choices. 

1) Get rid of Boris now, and hope the party can be turned around before the next election by a leader with integrity, or 

2) Support Boris and be voted out in 2 years. 

It's not rocket science. 

The Prime Minister is the person to whom the resignation of a minister breaking the Ministerial Code is offered, it being assumed that a PM is an honourable person with integrity. Well, we don't have an honest PM with integrity, which has been shown time after time. Boris, as the person to whom resignations should be offered, wouldn't accept his own resignation anyway. Marking your own homework is not honourable. There needs to be an independent arbiter of the PM's conduct, not a tame House Elf like 'Dobby' Geidt who was appointed by Johnson.

A body that polices MPs and ministers' professional conduct needs to be totally separate from Parliament because of the potential for bias, especially in a situation when there's a large majority, as now. Perhaps an existing professional body might be the answer - it may suffer from bias, but nowhere near as much as one appointed by the PM. Perhaps the Bar Standards Board, the regulatory body for barristers.

The problem with farming it out to an existing body is that there's hardly a profession that Boris and his Cabinet hasn't annoyed - lawyers, teachers, scientists, doctors, etc, and so there's ample cause for bias at present, no matter who is appointed.

As an aside, Tories are demanding Durham police reinvestigate Starmer's constituency meeting where he had a beer. Yes - have it reinvestigated, if you want and, if they overturn their finding that exonerated him several times, fine him. However, he never lied about it and is not a government minister, so resignation is not an issue. I doubt those calling for Starmer to be issued a fine will be calling for Johnson to resign. This may turn into yet another own goal.

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Noble Is As Noble Does

My colleague and I paid a visit to Williams Cars in Little Sodbury yesterday - we absolutely love the place. They specialise in Morgans and Caterhams and we occasionally trade their part exchanges, which tend to be on the more meaty side.

They're currently trying to get rid of this Noble M12 GTO with very low mileage, which belongs to one of the owners relatives and isn't a PX.

If interested, contact me. We haven't got the full spec yet, but it is heavily loaded with extras. Retail price is anywhere between £35k and £50k, depending on spec.

Williams is a gorgeous place to work, as these photos attest (click to enlarge).

Tuesday 26 April 2022


 A friend of mine is selling a Mustang for someone.

'66 model, 3.3 litre, £29k, drives like a Routemaster.

Contact me if you're interested.

Monday 25 April 2022

A Question of Blood

 I answered a call for emergency blood donors on Friday - apparently they're a tad short in the area.

However, on filling in the form, which I've done many times, I noted something that I'd missed previously. See question 7.

"In the last 8 weeks, have you been in contact with anyone who has had a smallpox vaccination?"

I've always said no, but anyone of my age would have had one themselves so, if I had contact with anyone of my age and over, then I would have had contact, as well as with myself.

Added to this, if they mean someone who has had a smallpox vaccination within the last 8 weeks, then that's an impossibility, as the last smallpox vaccination was given in the 70s and the disease has been declared eradicated since 1980.

Perhaps it's merely a vestigial question that no-one has thought about. However, protection against smallpox by vaccine lasts only 10 years, so no-one today is immune, unless they've had a recent vaccine because they're working on a live smallpox virus. That could only be to create a biological weapon, and that's illegal, so they'd keep that quiet and would be unlikely to tell me they've recently had a smallpox vaccine.

However, given the potential for a bio weapon being created from smallpox, people could be working with the live virus in order to create vaccines, which are attenuated live viruses. If I have to advise whether I've come into contact with such a person (if I even knew), that means there must be a chance of me catching smallpox from the recently vaccinated person, which is bloody dangerous in terms of blood donation, and from an the perspective of a potential epidemic, given it's highly contagious (R value of 3 and 30% fatality). 

That said, is an attenuated virus that dangerous? I suppose it could be to someone with a depressed immune system who requires blood.

I asked a few friends and it transpires that a small, select group of military and NHS staff are given smallpox vaccinations (the country has 30m vaccine doses) in case someone should lob a smallpox bomb in our direction and people are required to create a vaccine barrier zone. However, even if I know them, are they likely to tell me they've had a smallpox vaccination lately?

Being curious, I put an enquiry into the Blood Donation Service and await a reply.

Sunday 24 April 2022

The Garage Build & Resin

The garage and workshop build has progressed well and the concrete for the base is arriving on Wednesday.

Work will cease for 3 months after the concrete pour, as Colin has another job that actually makes him some money; however, he'll be back in August to complete the edifice. With luck, and a bit of saving, I will have a workshop and garage for winter.

A quick note on the polyester resin, which arrived yesterday. The mixing is troublesome, as the catalyst ratio is 1-2%, which is almost impossible to measure by weight if making small quantities. It's the same ratio as for silicone, but silicone is invariably made in large quantities.

I tried it on a small piece of cloth using 20gms of resin - it takes ages to cure, but that may simply have been due to an error in the amount of catalyst. One coat either side was certainly not enough to achieve the desired level of stiffness in the cloth. The fact it's colloquially known as casting resin demonstrates it's more for large quantities. Seeing as I usually mix 150gms, twice, for a couple of shades, it may prove OK in the final analysis.

On the plus side there was no allergic reaction whatsoever.

Saturday 23 April 2022

Busy, Busy, Busy

Easter weekend was a busy time - more lampshades.

Another 2 variants - zebra stripe and musical notes. Building up quite a collection now - even sold a couple to friends.

However, it's definitely the resin itself that's causing the allergy - it's called contact dermatitis and can arise months after the first exposure. 

I used gloves throughout the manufacturing process this time and had no reaction, but did have a slight reaction on handling the completed lampshades when showing them off to friends and relatives. This may curtail the start of a nice little business, unless I can outsource the manufacturing to child labour.

I have one more set to make from the material Hay bought me for my birthday.

After a suggestion from a friend and a little research, I'm going to try polyester casting resin instead of epoxy and have a 5kg pack on order. It's also much cheaper than epoxy, thus reducing overall cost - a 5kg pack of polyester costs the same as 2kg of epoxy.

Friday 22 April 2022


Hay's sister, Michelle, got a freebie from one of the local sheep farmers - she thinks it's a fleece washing sink.

It's galvanised (some having worn off) and has sink fittings in the bottom of each half.

I, however, think it would make a great BBQ for a large gathering.

A couple of years ago we went to an apple cider season BBQ in Worcs, where there were two large BBQs - one for meat and a 2nd for vegetarian fare. Woe betide you if you contaminated the veggie one with meat, or used implements that had been used for meat on it.

One of these would be perfect as a dual, meat and vegetarian BBQ. Just requires some grating over the top.

Thursday 21 April 2022

Bore That Grey Away

I think I've discovered a solution to grey hair - bore a few holes all over your skull.

I kid you not. No.1 Son and Hay have noticed that the patches of hair over the 4 holes that were bored into my skull, following my bike accident, have darkened.

See what I mean? They've even gone darker than my pre-grey hair, which was more of a dirty blonde.

Wednesday 20 April 2022

Crossfire Persuasion

About a month ago I bought a rather nice 2004, 3.2L Chrysler Crossfire at trade price, intending it as a gift to Hay who, since the demise of her Mercedes SLK 2.8, has been driving an old Daewoo which I bought for No.2 Son for when he passes his driving test, which will be no time soon (it's strange that kids today aren't that bothered about driving).

She protested about the size of the engine and the fact it was automatic, so I decided to sell it on and make a few bob. However, it was suffering from a common problem Crossfires have - a sagging headlining.

To fix this, rather than remove the headlining and re-glue it, I decided on a quick fix comprising tiny, spiral pins that dig into the headliner backing and hold the headlining material in place. Unfortunately, these had to be sent from China, which took several weeks.

In the meantime, the Daewoo's Engine Management Light came on, indicating some fault. In addition to that, it's due an MoT in May and I'm a bit doubtful of it passing without requiring some hefty expenditure (it was bought a year ago on the assumption it would be good for a year). Naturally, I played up the EML problem as something pretty terminal, despite not having a clue what had caused it {chances are it's something easily fixable).

I persuaded Hay to have a little run in the Crossfire - and she loved it. It's basically a Mercedes SLK 3.2 litre with a Chrysler body, so she was instantly familiar with the controls and handling it. In addition to that, the road tax is, for some inexplicable reason, half that of the old Daewoo.

Job done! 

These cars are fantastic value for money, simply because they have the Chrysler badge on them. Punters think they're American, and hence expensive to maintain, whereas they're essentially Mercs and no more expensive to look after. They're also less prone to rot than the R170 SLK.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

The Old Sodbury Pyromaniac

Not me, this time, but Hay's sister, Michelle.

She lives next door, is a ceramicist and regularly does raku firings in a couple of insulated bins specifically for the purpose. The process uses wood shavings to develop the typical raku glaze in the firing.

One evening I went outside for a breath of fresh air while Hay was watching some stuff on TV that I wasn't the least bit interested in, and smelled the remnants of a  wood fire. Hunting around, I found one of Michelle's raku firing bins, which was still quite warm and had obviously been used that day. I thought nothing more of it.

The next morning, Hay and I were on the patio and the smell of wood smoke was very powerful. Hay glanced at her sister's small studio and saw some smoke coming from it. On opening the door, smoke billowed out - she'd only left the other raku firing bin in the studio, thinking it had extinguished itself.

Anyway, later that day, Hay's sister emptied the contents of the bin, now believing it to be fully extinguished, on the general bonfire which, by this time, was quite large. A little while later I walked past the bonfire and noticed it was smouldering. I poked it a couple of times and it suddenly burst into flames.

The problem was that there was another pile of wood next to the general bonfire, surrounding The Wedding Tree - a plum that someone had bought us for our wedding in 2016. There was a pile of wood shavings between the bonfire and the pile of wood, which was showing signs of becoming a slow fuse.

Hoses were reeled out to try and dampen down the wood shavings, which was successful in preventing our plum tree from going up in flames, but the bonfire flames had started to light some of the dry grass leading up to Hay's sister's new studio.

Disaster was, however, averted.

Monday 18 April 2022

Trigger's Ride-On Update

A quick update on the ride-on mower; collected it from the repair man in Calne but, before attempting to start it at his place, I added a litre or two of oil. She started first time, much to the dismay of the repair man, who could have done exactly the same and charged me a hundred quid or so.

Got it on the trailer, brought it home along the M4, decanted it, added half a can of Wynne's oil treatment and she's running sweet as a nut. No difficulty starting it whatsoever and the compression is perfect.

However - there's always a however with this machine - within 10 minutes of taking a few passes across the lawn, a pulley stanchion came apart, so some welding for, ehich was accomplished yesterday.

There is, however, yet another downside to the story. The mower nearly fell through the bottom of the trailer. The base is made of OSB and over the winter it had become rather waterlogged, rendering it as strong as thick cardboard. I'm going to either have to re-bottom it in marine ply, or buy some aluminium plating.

The back car park is starting to look a bit full, what with brother-outlaw's old Porsche, the caravan No.2 Son uses when he comes to stay from Uni, the motorhome and the trailer, not to mention the Topper sailboat (not in the photo).

Sunday 17 April 2022

Rwanda Trojan Horse

The government is up to its usual tricks with this Rwanda diversion. It's not the action that's the diversion, it's the consequences - which are more of a Trojan Horse and a trap. A silly trap, but a well used one we should be used to by now.

  1. It's illegal under our current laws, and the government knows it's illegal.
  2. It's an opportunity for the government to claim they tried to do something, but were stopped by 'lefty lawyers' and the judiciary.
  3. Cue headlines in the Tory press accusing the judiciary and legal system of being 'Enemies of the People'.
  4. The racist and brain-dead arm of the Tory faithful will lap it up.
The problem with this tactic is that it will only appeal to the brain-dead Tory racists, who are not a majority within the party - in no way will it save the Tories from decimation at the local elections. It will, in fact, galvanise those on the brink of being exasperated with the man-child who is leading the government into becoming determined opponents.

The Express is maintaining that Labour is being hypocritical because Tony Blair came up with a similar policy in 2004. However, Blair suggested setting up processing centres near to the countries most affected by war - an example of Tanzania was used in respect of refugees from Eritrea and Sudan. It was not proposed that Tanzania would be the only processing centre.

Additional to the foregoing, Tony Blair was PM in 2004, not Keir Starmer, who was not even a politician in 2004 - he was not even DPP till 2008. It's not logical to associate Starmer and today's Labour Party with events of 2004. How far back does the Express want to go in its desperate attempt to justify the unjustifiable - Gladstone?

Lastly, a statement by the UK’s international ambassador for human rights, Rita French, in July 2021 expressed “regret” that Rwanda was not conducting “transparent, credible and independent investigations into allegations of human rights violations including deaths in custody and torture”. The UK itself has given sanctuary to some 200 refugees from Rwanda in the last 10 years.

In summary, it's designed to fail - much as the Ukrainian refugee system- and is merely a Trojan Horse to justify attacking the left, which these days is everything to the left of the rightmost part of the Tory Party, which is becoming more UKIP by the day. 

It's also a well established modus operandi of the government when faced with problems of their own making - Brexit being an example. No-one gave the slightest thought to Northern Ireland, so blame the consequences on an intransigent EU, rather than your own ineptitude. Again, the walking dead lap it up.

Saturday 16 April 2022

Trigger's Ride-on Mower

 Sadly, Trigger's Ride-on Mower may have met its end.

My fault entirely. When I had it on its side last year, while performing a bit of welding, oil had run out of the sump and I neglected to check it at the start of this year's mowing season. Consequently it was running dry, which has scored the cylinder and resulted in a loss of compression. This makes it almost impossible to start on a full battery load, or even with the addition of a jump pack.

The only way to start it now is to jump it from a running car. However, if I refill the oil sump and add some Wynne's oil treatment, it may just gunk up the cylinder sufficiently to get one more season from it before it's sold as spares or repairs.

I could rebuild the engine, but mower engines are fiddly bloody things. Replacement engines are almost impossible to find and, even if you can find one, they cost an arm and a leg.

I have, however, bought a large Flymo as a reserve.

Hay's upset it doesn't have a grass box, but I explained to her that, given it's the largest petrol Flymo you can buy, the addition of any extra weight would not enable it to hover. Additionally, given we have clay soil, it benefits from leaving the clippings on the grass.

Should have got one of these years ago as an adjunct to the ride-on, purely for the banked areas, which are expanding year on year.

I mowed the lawn with it on Friday and it took about 3 times the length of time it does on the ride-on, but I could reach the bits behind the pond, which are starting to look decidedly unkempt.

Friday 15 April 2022

Chop Chop

Decided to make a start on chopping up the logs I split and stacking them next to Hay's Woman Shed, where a natural overhang provides shelter from the rain.


Only a few layers ti go now. 

While splitting the logs with the wedge was relatively easy, splitting the resulting quarters has proven more difficult. The reason for this is the knots. Quite a few times I had both the axe and the wedge firmly stuck in a log quarter, requiring judicious use of the chainsaw to free them.  

Thursday 14 April 2022

Anyone for Starters?

 A couple of weeks ago we decided to get with the programme and binge watch Peaky Blinders.

We're currently on Season 5, in 1929, and there was a scene where Polly drove off in the family Rolls Royce after starting the car with a key.

This made me wonder if there had been a continuity error, as I was convinced that the electric starter was an artefact from the late 30s.

I did a Google search and discovered that the electric starter was patented in 1903, which surprised me, as this was 5 years before the first mass produced car from Ford.

Wednesday 13 April 2022

Lies in Dover

So the serial lying charlatan has been fined - 6 times allegedly, although that could be shared between him and Sunak, with possibly more to come. He's lied again, not only to the public, but to Parliament, and refuses to do the decent thing after becoming the only sitting PM n history to be thus fined.

His supporters are saying it's nothing and; "Don't you know there's a war on?"

The UK changed PM,

  • Four times in the war in Afghanistan,
  • In the Iraq War,
  • In the Gulf War, 
  • In the Korean War, 
  • In the Second World War, 
  • In the First World War,
  • In the Second Boer War, 
  • In the Second Opium War, 
  • In the Crimean War,
  • Twice in the Peninsular War. 

And we're not even in the Russia / Ukraine War, except as an arms supplier, for which I'm sure he's getting a kickback. Should we become involved, isn't it vital we have a PM with integrity, instead of a 3 legged donkey with not a single redeeming quality and who can't remember attending parties.

The same defenders of the lying charlatan, those with a moral compass that is so low that it must be at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, are also maintaining that the queues at Dover are nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with P&O Ferries withdrawing ships on the route. 

How can that be when,

  • There are no similar queues in France,
  • The remaining ferries are leaving half full because of uncompleted paperwork, and
  • A crucial IT system failed - a system that wasn't even needed prior to Brexit.

Naturally, introducing delays can't possibly result in delays being introduced.

One has to feel a modicum of sympathy for Boris and you can't blame him for trying to cling to power- he's now unemployable in any other role, except as Communications Director to Putin. He can't even rely on the traditional income source of an ex PM - the memoirs - as it will simply be a pack of lies.

Perhaps he can write a new political satire - Yes Crime Minister...

Tuesday 12 April 2022

The Non-Dom Affair in Kyiv

Non-Dom is a contentious issue. If nothing else, the Sunak issue has brought it to the fore once more, which could raise the hope of eliminating it. The problem was, however, that the Chancellor had a conflict of interests and could not be relied upon to address it at a time when we need every tax penny.

That situation has now been resolved, and one would hope he will now tackle the issue although, as his wife is retaining the Non-Dom for inheritance tax purposes, I think we can safely say it will not and he remains compromised.

Some are saying it's unfair to target Sunak's wife when she's done nothing illegal. Then is it fair to go after Putin's daughters with sanctions when they have done nothing illegal either?

I note the Non-Dom affair (sounds like something from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) is being spun by Boris fanboys as a Labour plot, but it has all the hallmarks of a No.10 leak. I wonder which Cabinet colleague and possible replacement Boris will target next?

Talking of Boris and his recent and very convenient trip to Kyiv.

  1. Boris can't bear to be upstaged by an EU leader, and Ursula von der Leyen and several Eastern European leaders beat him to it. He had to go.
  2. He's desperate for a Brexit win - Ukraine is the perfect shop window for UK Arms Plc and, for the world's 2nd largest arms exporter (on a rolling 10 year average), it's a wonderful marketing opportunity (despite having bugger all to do with Brexit).
  3. In no way could Zelensky ever afford to criticise Boris for the pitiful refugee response - he ain't going to bite the hand that gives him weapons, so he's neutralised.
  4. Boris has no other interest in Ukraine, as proved by the 'designed to fail' refugee system, which is still showing signs of being a barrier to entry.
  5. He had to be absent while Sunak was defenestrated on the Ides of April to avoid suspicion.

Monday 11 April 2022

Aims and Objectives

What is the purpose of our involvement in the Russia / Ukraine affair? 

We stand on the sidelines, providing defensive weapons and sanctions, cheering on Ukraine, but we don't provide Ukraine with what it really needs to win - offensive weapons and/or troops and a guaranteed security blanket.

Why is that? Why don't we really want to become involved ourselves and are quite happy to cheer from the sidelines, like kids in school surrounding a playground fight? Isn't it a bit ghoulish to merely egg the Ukrainians on in a war they're likely, in the long term, to lose, or at best likely to have to repeat ad nauseam? Do we perhaps just want to see Putin get a bloody nose, but want someone else to do it?

Say Ukrainian forces prevail this time and Russian forces withdraw from Ukraine. It's an unlikely scenario, given the situation in the east of the country, but what would happen under this assumption? Sanctions would cease and Putin would once more build up his war chest, ready for the next attempt. There would be nothing in place to stop him. He will try and try again.

Thus it will merely be a hiatus and the West will repeatedly have to supply defensive weapons to Ukraine, at great cost, repeatedly impose sanctions and assist in rebuilding a country that's ravaged by sporadic wars, one of which may be lost decisively. That's a massive drain on our economies and achieves nothing in the long run.

So, how is this ceaseless repetition to be avoided?

If we became involved, it is believed Putin would use nuclear weapons but, given he's currently losing and hasn't yet resorted to tactical nukes within Ukraine, which would give him an almost instant win, is that likely? Providing the theatre is restricted to Ukraine and doesn't involve the very existence of Russia, then it's entirely possible he won't resort to nukes. The chain of nuclear command involves a string of people and all it takes is for 1 in that string to refuse.

Russia's alleged doctrine in any case is not to use nuclear arms unless its very existence is threatened. So, don't threaten Russia itself, but ensure Ukraine wins by providing it with offensive weapons and, if necessary, boots on the ground, but limited to within the theatre of Ukraine.

Once that is achieved, the West needs to ensure a permanent win giving Ukraine NATO membership, as only that will prevent another incursion. It's a logical and pragmatic solution - there is no other way without Ukraine being a permanent, running sore.

Undoubtedly, the best result for everyone is for Putin to go and Russia to become a fully democratic nation. However, that's not likely and could only come about through Putin losing the Ukraine war permanently, which could result in his removal through internal revolution. Even that could simply result in nothing more than a change of face at the top.

The West needs to define its objectives more precisely, if indeed there are any, and develop a strategy to achieve that objective. It's not necessarily to remove Putin, but to neutralise him permanently until such time as his own people have had enough of him. Either that, or simply give up and allow him to take Ukraine in an act of unfortunate but necessary realpolitik and regroup on the borders of Ukraine, hoping an internal resistance movement has some positive effect.

Sunday 10 April 2022

Dependence on Russian Gas

When it's another country using Russian gas, the rhetoric of condemnation is easy; when it's your country, there are invariably compelling reasons not to, not least of which is the wellbeing of your voters and their ability to heat their homes until other sources can be found.

Sanctions are meant to work asymmetrically - they should do the object of sanctions more harm than to do the entity performing the sanctions, else what's the point?

Like Norway, the UK benefits from North Sea gas for half its supply and isn't as reliant on imports as other European countries not having extensive coastal waters - Britain's position on gas (and hence its smugness in relation to Germany) is purely an accident of geography. 

If we didn't so benefit, we would possibly be equally reliant on Russian gas, especially as China and India move from coal to gas and drive up demand for a dwindling resource with no more than a 30 year lifespan. China alone adds 15m households to the gas network each year, whereas the UK has only 25m households in total being heated by gas.

Becoming the laundromat for bent, Russian money, however, is not something foisted upon us by any external pressure - it was a simple choice. Roman Abramovich is a Non-Dom, as is Viscount Rothermere, the media tycoon who likes Brexit and places his media empire in a complex structure of offshore holdings and trusts. I bet the latter is playing down the Sunak Non-Dom story.

Saturday 9 April 2022

Material Science

My new isopropyl alcohol sanitiser arrived last week and I've been playing with resin again, but in controlled conditions so as to see whether the allergy returns. I didn't use gloves, but minimised touching any of the resin. I did, however, use the hand sanitiser liberally on my hands, which did cause a flare up around the eyes, which I cut short with antihistamines.

It would appear that I've developed an allergy to isopropyl alcohol - an allergy which was not there before. I found a paper on it here. Apparently it's possible to develop an allergy to something you've used all your life.

There are 2 solutions - either wear gloves and avoid needing to use isopropyl alcohol at all, or switch to acetone (nail varnish remover) to dissolve the resin on my hands. Knowing my luck, I would probably develop a reaction to acetone. Gloves seem to best solution, but what a thing to become allergic to in a pandemic!

My sister-in-law, on seeing the lamps I made, asked me to make a couple for her in the cheetah print material. I dug out the remnants of cheetah print I had and started to cut out two 55cm squares, but there wasn't enough material. This got me to thinking about a more efficient use of cloth by adapting the size of the squares to the standard size of bolts of cloth. 

It turns out that thinner, cotton-based cloth comes in bolts of 1.10m width (1.09m when measuring to the pattern, as there's usually a white border). 55cm squares are not the most efficient use of the material, when allowing for a fudge factor. A better size is 50cm x 50cm, which allows me to buy 1.5m of cloth and guarantee to get 4 squares from it. 

I also investigated a new technique to prevent me getting loads of resin on my hands and therefore having to use vast quantities of sanitiser. This involved clingfilm under and on top of the resined cloth and allowing it to fully cure before  removing the clingfilm and draping the cloth over the silicone former with the aid of a heat gun. 

The cat in the background is not ours, but one of the interlopers that take advantage of our underfloor heating.

The experiment didn't work so well, as it proved impossible to remove the clingfilm from parts of the resined sheet - it tears too easily. What's needed is a couple of silicone squares, about 1mm thick, from which the cloth can be more easily peeled. 

Additionally, it's difficult getting heat into the sheet when fully cured, so it doesn't drape well at all and the chance of creases increase. You need something like 10 hands to keep one side draped while trying to drape the other side. The cloth has to be very pliable when placed on the former so it falls correctly, which means semi-cured, despite that meaning there's a large risk of the folds sticking to themselves and me having to intervene manually at various stages of curing to unstick them.

Stop Press: on forming the lampshades for my sister, I used no hand sanitiser whatsoever. I also used gloves, but did touch the resin occasionally while it was curing. I now think I'm allergic to the resin, or the catalyst, rather than the isopropyl alcohol..

Friday 8 April 2022

Both Wars

There was something on the news the other day about a WWII Normandy veteran who had just died, which got me to wondering how many British soldiers fought in both WWI and WWII.

I'm not sure why, but plenty of people of my generation believe that a lot of the WWI veterans also fought in WWII, but that could not have been the case.

Anyone who was 18, and had signed up in the last year of WWI would have been 39 at the outbreak of WWII, but there was an upper age limit of 41 for those conscripted into the services in 1939. So, unless people had falsified their ages, very few would have fought in both World Wars.

I dare say that many of those who had remained in the Services at the end of WWI, and had progressed to senor ranks, such as Monty, would indeed have fought in both wars, but they also would have been relatively few, given the numbers thin out at the higher ranks of the command pyramid.

Thursday 7 April 2022


 The log splitting wedge I ordered on eBay arrived a couple of days ago and it works a treat.

The fir logs are really juicy and will need a long, hot summer to season, although 12 months of seasoning is best.

Bloody good exercise. No.1 Son came over to help, but he makes the usual mistake of the neophyte - taking a run-up before striking the wedge. The secret is to maintain your position so you can gauge your reach from a stable position; move every time and you end up hitting the log more often than the wedge.

He was also keen to put the point of the wedge in the centre of the log, which is a mistake. It needs to be about 1/3rd of the way in from the edge and preferably in an existing split. What with these logs being on the wet side, there are few natural splits from the drying process.

Wednesday 6 April 2022

Why Cycle

I always thought that cycling was intended as exercise, so why do cyclists go out of their way to make things easier for themselves?

Rather than cycling on a one-geared bike, dressed in a duffle coat, a sou'wester, Oxford bags, brogues, cycle clips and a pith helmet, which would give them plenty of exercise within a very short space of time, they ride bikes made out of carbon fibre having umpteen gears, wear micron thin Lycra and sport helmets that are designed in a wind tunnel for minimum wind resistance. Riding bikes dressed like that isn't exactly exerting.

You see the buggers clogging the country lanes in huge gaggles and they obviously aren't racing each other. They seems to head for the nearest village coffee shop, clip-clop inside in their curiously designed footwear and commence to scoff all manner of cakes, washed down with a mug of tea or coffee before heading back to whence they came from.

Tuesday 5 April 2022

P&O Ferries

The government has said it intends introducing legislation to ensure vessels calling at UK ports pay the minimum wage.

I can understand the reasons for doing this, which is admirable, but I'm not sure this will be productive, especially in respect of foreign owned and crewed vessels that have absolutely nothing to do with the UK, beyond bringing the goods we need.

In respect of P&O Ferries, it may even make things worse, if it's not already too late to save the jobs of those already sacked. The CEO is on record as saying that this process was a last resort in order to keep the company afloat. If they re-employ the sacked staff, then the company may have to go into liquidation, resulting in even more job losses in the supply chain in the ports used by P%O Ferries. It all depends on whether the CEO was telling the truth.

I would suggest that one way of making this work, if the CEO is being truthful, is to nationalise P&O Ferries, but that's ideologically impossible for the Conservatives. 

Monday 4 April 2022

Mopping it Up

Apropos of yesterday's post and the facial swelling relapse; I had occasion yesterday to make a payment using my banking App. Now this App uses facial recognition as a secondary security feature - the bloody thing wouldn't recognise me!

A couple of weekends a year, Chipping Sodbury holds what's called a Mop Fair from a Friday to Saturday, and there was one this weekend. It's an excuse for a bit of a party with funfair rides in the High Street, along with lots of food and drink. I avoid it like the plague - it's a funfair on steroids.

The name Mop Fair comes from history. In days gone by, employers would hold a fair at which they recruited staff and labourers - a kind of employment exchange. Depending on what hind of employees they were looking for - farm labourers, shepherds, domestic staff, etc. - they would wear a coloured tassel on their lapel, each colour being associated with a particular kind of employment. These tassels were called mops - hence Mop Fair.

In preparation for the Mop Fair, the street is cleared of all parked traffic, which lines both sides of the wide street, so as to give maximum space to the event. Chipping Sodbury has an unusually wide High Street, due to it having been a market town for the sale and purchase of sheep and cows. The animals would have been driven into the High Street and penned up for sale.

On Sunday mornings after the fair, the scene is unlike any other Sunday morning, as the stalls have all been cleared late on the Saturday night, yet the cars, which normally line both sides, thickly parked at 90 degrees to the line of the street, haven't returned - it's eerie.

This was Chipping Sodbury High Street at 7 o'clock yesterday morning, when I went to get my Sunday paper.

Sunday 3 April 2022


Had a relapse on the eyes on Saturday.

I was having a go at making a couple of resined cloth lampshades from the material Hay had bought me for my birthday. I was careful as hell that I washed my hands thoroughly after using the hand gel to remove the resin from my hands, but it seems it wasn't enough.

The series of photos below commence from the 29th March, when I posted about the problem and it was receding, the last couple being the relapse photos.

And - bang! Saturday.

And getting slightly better today as a result of taking antihistamines straight away.

As you can see though, the shades have worked out well.

I used the bee motif fabric; however, I'm going to wait for the pure liquid hand sanitiser to arrive before I make any more. I'm convinced it's the gel sanitiser that's causing the reaction - unless it's the oil I'm using (like a nut allergy), but I changed from olive oil to corn oil for this session, as it's less yellow and doesn't stain.

It can't be the resin itself, as I've been working with that for months, although Hay thinks differently, but I'm going on the evidence to hand. I will, however, start wearing disposable, rubber gloves when I recommence manufacturing.

Anyway, using the rotary cutter with the cutting board and the aluminium sheet was a cinch, reducing the cloth cutting time by 90%.