Wednesday, 31 August 2022


Well, along with the logs I chopped from the felled trees, £260 has brought us up to far in excess of the wood inventory required for the log burner to see us through the winter. A veritable wall of kiln dried logs, which don't appear to have increased in price anywhere near as much as oil, gas or electricity.

I don't anticipate firing up the under floor heating this winter. The solar PV, solar thermal and air-source heat pump will be sufficient for the rest. Exceedingly glad we made the necessary investment when we did. Might keep it on tick-over for the AirBnB, but not for the rest of the house which, luckily, is open plan, meaning the log burner can keep virtually the entire house warm.

I do wish, however, that we had a back boiler for the log burner.

I also wish I could donate by £400, tax free energy thingie to someone who really needs it, but it's a rebate on your bill and not a cash payment. However, I suppose it is still possible to give someone who is struggling the £400 yourself, as you will get it back off your electricity bill.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Nationalisation of Values

There's talk of nationalising power generation to cope with the cost of electricity.

I agree power generation should be nationalised, but not because it will help with the current cost of electricity.

  1. Given we are beholden to international gas prices, nationalising the generation industry will not result in the wholesale price of imported gas coming down. We are hostage to the world market. Yes, there will be savings by the elimination of profit, but these will be relatively small.
  2. Nevertheless, nationalisation of power generation would allow a national strategy to move away from fossil fuels and implement renewables at an accelerated rate. 
  3. Also, national infrastructure should be in the hands of the people, not overseas companies.
On another issue, the government-in-waiting is mooting the policy of doing trade deals with countries having questionable human rights. Given the Tory government is performing the wholesale dismantling of our own human rights, doing trade deals with other countries not having many human rights is a natural consequence and is indeed exporting our own government's values - or lack of them.

Monday, 29 August 2022

The House Martins

We have some 9 birds that skim our pond for small, flying insects. At first we thought they were swifts, but they occasionally land on the telephone wire, and I'm led to believe swifts only land for mating and egg sitting.

On closer inspection, they have some white on them, so the conclusion is they're house martins.

Sunday, 28 August 2022


 Had occasion to visit our local Morgan and Caterham dealership last week and spotted a couple of rarities.

The above is an Aero 8 Coupe, of which 40 were made. To me it's redolent of Capt Nemo's car in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. 

Not really my cup of tea, but quite rare and very expensive.

Then there's this - an even rarer and more expensive, 375BHP, Morgan Aero 8 GTR, of which only 8 were made.

This jobbie is over £200k, if you're feeling flush.

Saturday, 27 August 2022

Vanity Budget Commitments

I can't seem to reconcile Johnson maintaining he can't commit the winner of the Tory leadership contest to his budget commitments with the fact he announced a further commitment of £54m in military aid to Ukraine on Thursday.

The only logical conclusion is that vanity commitments aimed at boosting a legacy are outside of his unwillingness to commit the next PM to budget commitments.

Friday, 26 August 2022

University Fees

 Universities are wanting to increase student fees from the capped £9,000 to £24,000.

Yes, allow them to do this, but under the proviso that they make all their courses available online, in the same manner as the Open University.

This would enable students to work from home, saving them money on rent, as well as releasing housing stock for those desperately needing it.

This would kill two birds with one stone.

Thursday, 25 August 2022

Knife Crime

Many ideologues on the right are calling for Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, to resign over the spiralling knife crime in London. Let's look at a few facts:

  1. Homicides in Conservative controlled (at the level of City Mayor and West Midland Mayor) far outstrip London, and Birmingham has 1/8th of the population of London. So why aren't they crying out for the resignation of the controlling mayors there? It's because they've jumped on a politicised bandwagon without thinking and are desperate to detract from the Conservatives' woes.
  2. Homicides in London are relatively unchanged, meaning one form of homicide is perhaps changing to another - guns to knives. When you think about it, the penalty for possessing a knife is less than for a gun - 4 years versus 10 years. If given the choice, surely carrying a knife has less of a consequence than carrying a gun.
  3. Unless they have prior intelligence, the police can only react to a crime, thus their metrics are based on solved crimes, not stopping crimes before they happen, especially something about which they will have no prior intelligence, such as a stabbing. Those complaining are doing so about the crimes, not the clear-up rate.
  4. While Khan may set the priorities of the Met Police, the Met Commissioner reports to the Home Secretary, and the vast majority of the budget is set by the Home Secretary - Khan has no influence over these external factors. 34% of funding is provided by the local authority, but given the pressures local authorities are under to increase social services, especially in inner cities, there's not much wiggle room. Even local council increases are influenced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government by the setting of a level of council tax above which a referendum is needed to enact a rise. Local council increases have been consistently higher than central government increases, the latter having remained comparatively stable over the last 5 years. Increase local authority funding further and they fall into the trap of the Conservatives accusing Labour councils being profligate. For those who believe that police on the streets stop crime, they can only blame cuts in police funding and hence numbers, not the Mayor of London.
  5. The causes of knife crime are many and varied, but drugs and the lack of a strong, male role model have an important part to play. So why aren't they blaming absent fathers. Decriminalise drugs, like they did in Portugal, and a lot of this crime would disappear, but those castigating Khan are at the forefront to wanting more and harsher drug laws, which further fuel the drug trade. There's also the fact that money for social services (clubs for kids in inner cities) has dried up due to government cuts.
  6. Many believe harsher sentences deter criminals, despite there being little evidence to support this. It's ironic that those who call for Khan's resignation are usually the ones also calling for harsher sentences, but Khan has no say over sentencing - that's the remit of the government.
So, the very things those on the right hold up as the solution to knife crime - more police and harsher sentences - are the remit of this government, not the Mayor. Many things that can help divert teens from crime are being defunded by government cuts. The absence of a positive role model is a societal problem and beyond the control of anyone.

The annoying thing is that when crime statistics are good, central government will claim the plaudits, but when crime statistics are poor, they will blame anyone but central government. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Government Hypocrisy

I see Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, after castigating P&O Ferries for hiring agency workers, is considering hiring - yes - agency workers to overcome the rail strike.

Does this government's hypocrisy know no bounds?

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Windfall Tax

The conventional, Conservative wisdom is that a windfall tax on energy producers is a disincentive to investment in the UK. However, consider the following.

  1. Energy based on fossil fuels is, and always will be, subject to geopolitics. Most of the areas that produce oil or gas in vast quantities are politically unstable of have questionable human rights records, meaning western democracies have to compromise their ethics and morals (if they have any, in the case of the UK currently) to gain access to these resources. The current inflation in prices, as an example, is due to the Ukraine War and an embargo on Russian oil and gas.
  2. Fossil fuels are both finite and a contributor to global warming. Unless you are particularly thick, or believe in conspiracy theories, there is no denying this.
  3. It behoves us, therefore, to invest in renewable energy sources as swiftly as possible so as to become self-reliant on a non-polluting and climate-friendly source of energy. 
  4. While it's agreed that a windfall tax on oil and gas production would be a disincentive to invest in those assets, the corollary is that it would bring an incentive to invest in renewables, which is exactly what we need.
  5. The energy producers have already stated that they have set aside investment on the basis of expected profits, so a windfall levy on excess profits will not affect that one bit. 
The Conservative argument, therefore, is totally spurious and nothing to do with future investment, but having shares in a dwindling and therefore increasingly expensive commodity - a commodity that has been proven to be linked to global warming and is definitely linked to pollution.

Monday, 22 August 2022

Garden Chasms

With our garden being a thin layer of topsoil over a thick bed of clay (about 6 feet of it), the dry spell has opened some horrific chasms in the lawn, as these photos will attest.

We always get a few, but never as many as we have during this dry spell.

Strangely, they seem to be worse wherever Hay and her sister decided to leave unmown areas. Going to have to put a stop to that.

Sunday, 21 August 2022

Open and Shut Case on a Bargain

Having first seen one of these Clark & Marlene desk clocks in a shop in Sherston, I've been keeping an eye out for one on various sites, but with little success.

As luck would have it, we called in at the shop this week and they had a broken one for sale at half price. It's a minor repair job that I can easily accomplish - the corners need sanding, gluing and clamping together.

I think it looks really stylish and somewhat art deco; however, once taken apart you discover it is made in the most ramshackle manner you could imagine - probably in some sweatshop in Asia - with a precision worthy of a candle clock.

Look up the address of Clark & Marlene - 46 Herley Street, London - as printed on the face, and there ain't no such address. There isn't, in fact, a Clark & Marlene clock company at all - it's a made up name for some Chinese company. Nevertheless, it does look nice.

I had to spend 8 quid on a picture frame corner clamp on eBay, but that will come in handy anyway. 

Glued the frame together and will fill the joint gaps with a some brown resin.

Took this photo in Sherston while there.


Saturday, 20 August 2022

The Mexican Roundabout Problem

Autonomous vehicles are in the news, but I wonder what would happen if 4 autonomous cars arrived simultaneously at a roundabout from all 4 directions?

With human driven cars, one car (usually the BMW or Volvo) would make a slightly different risk assessment and slam the pedal to the metal, thereby gaining an advantage over the car to the right.

Autonomous cars, however, would adhere to the Highway Code and cause a traffic jam by sitting there in a considerate manner to allow the car on the right to proceed. A Mexican standoff.

Roundabouts may have to be replaced with signals giving sequenced priority. The only other solution would be for manufacturers to programme their vehicles according to stereotypes of their usual clientele - BMW and Volvo autonomous cars would be controlled by an AI wanker chip that behaves in an inconsiderate manner at every opportunity.

Friday, 19 August 2022


 Saw this chap in the jumble area of a local garden centre.

His (or her) teeth look alarmingly real and somewhat scary.

When I was a kid in Holland, it was a traditional, if somewhat macabre thing to put your kids' first teeth into a gold setting as earrings. My mum had a pair with my first two front teeth in them.

Thursday, 18 August 2022

The Great Stink

I have two cheese pots which don't go in the fridge and are never cleaned out - I merely add more cheese to them when they get low and keep them on a shelf in the kitchen.

One is for Stilton and has certainly not been cleaned in more than 3 years - I have written about this pot before. The cheese that matures in it is simply heavenly. The saving grace is that it doesn't smell much.

However, for the last 9 months I've been cultivating another pot for French Chaource cheese, which is a soft cheese I buy in Tesco. I discovered, purely by accident, that the taste of the cheese is dramatically improved by allowing it to rot slightly. Instead of washing the plastic tub out between cheeses, I left the detritus in so that it could quickly infect a new cheese, such that I had a perfect midden percolating within the pot inside 12 hours.

Things came to a head this weekend when Hay and No.1 Son complained about the smell from the opened tub, which I have to admit is very pungent (redolent of very mature socks) and fills the entire kitchen within seconds. It was probably a result of the very hot weather. 

I washed the tub and replaced the cheese with a fresh round, but not before smearing a spoon in the old cheese and plunging it into the centre of the new one, thus seeding it with the right strain of bacteria. Hay thinks I'm dicing with death, but my gut biome must be fantastic - and I haven't yet caught Covid.... Yes, I know, correlation isn't causation, but you never know.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

The QWERTY Problem & Diversity

I've been reading a book called Corruptible (Who Gets into Power and How it Changes Us) and came across a section on recruitment and HR.

It began with the QWERTY problem, which I wasn't aware of. Apparently, our keyboards are laid out to the QWERTY protocol because of a problem that's no longer applicable, This problem was that old fashioned typewriters in the 1870s had problems with frequently used letters that were next to each other and led to the keyboard sticking. The solution was to separate them, resulting (after several iterations) in the QWERTY layout we're all familiar with.

With the advent of the electronic keyboard, this mechanical problem no longer exists, yet we still use keyboards laid out in the QWERTY layout. This has given rise to the QWERTY problem - that of allowing processes and procedures to be influenced by old thinking that no longer applies or is biased in some way.

This is particularly prevalent in recruitment, where there are many hangovers from the days where only white men were employed in the workforce of advanced economies, which has a huge influence on diversity and maximising the potential of a pool or resources.

From the book:

"Multiple randomized experiments have demonstrated that the language used in recruitment advertisements for leadership positions makes an enormous difference in who applies. For example, language is often subtly gendered. Researchers have found consistent evidence that a recruitment ad that refers to something like establishing “dominance over the competition” is perceived by prospective applicants as indicating a more male-heavy organization. Such aggressive language has been shown to reduce the number of women who apply to those positions of authority. Because the bias is subtle, you need to consciously counteract it."

Arise the progressive role of Diversity Officer, which those on the far right of the political spectrum call Woke. No, they're not Woke - they're looking to implement processes and procedures that put people in positions of power who can add value to a company, rather than sticking with the old paradigm which promotes those actively seeking power, who are statistically more corruptible.

There is, of course, the problem of Diversity Washing, where companies appoint a Diversity Officer and pay no attention to them whatsoever. If you Google for images of Diversity Officer, you are overwhelmed by images of ethnic minority Diversity Officer appointees.

As an aside, Age Washing is now also becoming quite prevalent. MacDonald's is actively promoting the idea that they welcome people over 50. It's not because they value the over 50s, but they simply can't get enough youngsters willing to work for a pittance. It's born of necessity, not consideration.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Bonfire of Rules

It strikes me that there's no way any Tory government can afford to burn all the EU rules and regulations in one fell swoop.

Why, you may ask - because they're a convenient fig leaf. 

Get rid of them all immediately and, if things still go from bad to worse, as they will, then there's nothing they can blame it on. 

A working pool of EU regulations have to be retained so they can be trotted out at convenient times to be blamed for something or other - probably something to do with that other, great diversionary tactic - Wokeness. 

I don't know if you've noticed, but whenever there's something the Tories want to hide, their client journalists in the Mail, Express, Telegraph or Spectator start banging on with stories about some Woke thing as a diversionary tactic.

Monday, 15 August 2022

Counting the Cost

Did another couple of stints at the boarding kennels this weekend and came across what we call a 'counter'. They're the people who tally the dog food that's handed back to them and complain if Fido hasn't eaten all the cans of food they supplied him with.

What they fail to realise when complaining is that Fido was traumatised by being abandoned in the kennels for a couple of weeks while they went on holiday, not knowing whether they were going to return and, quite understandably, went off his food. It has also been rather hot weather, which generally tends to put dogs off eating anyway. They tend to be a bit put out when you tell them that.

There is one customer, who I haven't met, who acclimatises her pooch to a kennel stay by leaving him for one night, then two nights and finally 3 nights before going away for any length of time. The dog is then habituated to the owner returning, which shows an owner who really understands her dog.

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Cat Heaven

 Not only do the neighbourhood cats descend on out house in winter, because of the underfloor heating.

They also descent on our house in summer, as I have aircon and blackout blinds, that turn the house into the coolest house in the area. 

The one above is Jimmy, aka Jumbsie (because of his excess weight), who I had to chase out the other day as he had a bad botty, which left cat shit all over the cat flaps. He's a nuisance, but Hay has a soft spot for him.

This one is Spooks, who is no trouble at all, except for the fact he nicks Kitty's food. He regularly takes a position on our bed once we are asleep.

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Offence vs Defence

Amnesty International has come under fire for saying Ukraine is purposely putting citizens at risk by billeting troops in schools and hospitals. It is pointed out that the troops are engaged in defending populated areas and such locations are the best places from which to engage in defensive action, which naturally includes offensive action in the instance of attack. Of course, that's not to say that Ukraine isn't engaged in offensive actions - they're aiming to win a war against invaders.

However, if one turns to Gaza, Hamas is vilified for doing exactly the same thing, and Gaza is a very small and densely populated area with little choice of where troops can be stationed.

The difference, however, is that a lot of Hamas' activity is not defensive, but offensive, in response to which Israel last invaded in 2014.

Friday, 12 August 2022

Green and Brown

The annual hack of the unmown areas, which I hate, has started. Hay's sister, as the prime mover on leaving vast swathes of the communal garden unmown for the bugs, has accepted it's her responsibility to perform the main strim, while I go over it with the Flymo to reduce the resulting stubble to grass level.

What was a magnificent display of crocosmia around the house toward the end of July has been reduced to a frazzled mass of brown due to the lack of rain.

However, they're still resplendent in the more shaded areas of the house.

The pond has dropped by more than a foot - it desperately needs lots of rain - but it has miraculously stayed relatively clear, meaning the plants at the shallow end are doing their work at filtering the water.

There again, Hay and her sister are in it almost every day, clearing any pond weed and swimming. The goldfish my mate put in there last year is now allegedly about a foot long, but I've rarely seen it as it tends to lurk among the weed and plants.

The fruit trees are doing just fine - plums, greengages and apples galore.

This Italian pine (Stone Pine), like the archetypes you see in the Italian countryside, has been in this position for about 3 years now and is growing like wildfire. 

The Monkey Puzzle, which languished for years in a pot and grew very little, is now 8 feet tall and performing well in its location by the pond. It's growing at around a foot a year, and accelerating.