Saturday, 21 October 2017


What with the weather going a tad cooler over the next few days, I thought I'd give the under floor heating a quick test drive. I'd forgotten how to turn it off - took me all day before I twigged a couple of valves in the engine room were closed. I'd been fiddling with the manifold most of the day, not realising I'd switched it off further back along the circuit.

Normally I'd be in shorts till near Christmas day - the record being New Year's Day a couple of years ago; however, this year the transition was made yesterday. I must be getting old. It's more to do with the damp than the cold.

That said, I must put some trousers on...

Friday, 20 October 2017


We were watching a programme on TV about the history of Chinese porcelain, presented by Lars Thrup, who I'm sure is not really called Lars Thrup - I'm convinced he's the younger brother of Christopher Biggins; he's a dead ringer for him.

Anyway, he mentioned the Ming and Ching dynasties, and it struck me that one of the local villages here - Minchinhampton - is actually a corruption of Ming Ching Hampton, and must have been an entry point for Chinese porcelain in the 18th Century...

I have a pair of Chinese porcelain vases - unfortunately one was accidentally broken by a friend and I don't have all the pieces. Bonhams in Henley valued them (pre-damage) at £800 over 12 years ago. Hearing that some old dear's vase, that she was using as an umbrella stand, sold for £43m has raised my interest in having the pair revalued. My dad brought them (along with a lot of other stuff) back from Shanghai in the 60s when the Chinese had a downer on imperial antiques and they were being sold off for a song.

No.1 Son is coming home from university for the weekend. Looking forward to having a chat with him about university life after his first month. All he will probably be interested in is having his laundry done and getting some nourishing sustenance.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Dark Overdraft Materials

Overheard in the kitchen:

Hay: "Oh, according to their magazine, Waitrose are doing half bottles of wine. The worrying thing is they're calling them mid-week bottles."

Chairman: "Have they got anything called a breakfast bottle?"

No.2 Son inadvertently managed to go a few quid overdrawn on his bank account. I pointed out to him that this will incurr a fee, as it was unauthorised. He asked me how much that would be and I answered that I didn't have a clue, as it's more than 30 years since I was last overdrawn at the bank, and that's the honest truth.

I hear Philip Pullman has released a sequel to the excellent 'His Dark Materials' trilogy, but who is the he of 'His'?

Grape jelly was a success and the test jar set quite nicely. The problem was we didn't have enough empty glass jars for about a litre and a half of jelly; they all went to the charity shop last week. Plastic containers had to do.

Will be delicious on cheese.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Jelly Data Selfie

The grape jelly making progresses:

Had to collect another bowl full of crab apples to provide enough pectin. The thing about crab apples is that once they fall on the ground they keep for months, as no creature in its right mind would eat the damned things - they're inedible. Producing pectin is the only thing they're any use for.

Had another look at my Facebook data selfie a couple of days ago - the predictions allegedly improve over time. The first two analyses are reasonably accurate but, for reasons already stated, I'm not so sure about the last two. Click to enlarge.

As for my overall personality traits - can't really complain.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Grape Jelly

Hay's taken it into her head to make some grape jelly. We have loads of grapes from this year's harvest and plenty of crab apples to provide the necessary pectin, without which she'd just have grape juice. Here are the boiled crab apples from the garden.

And here are the boiled grapes.

Can't wait to see the final result...

Monday, 16 October 2017

New Blades for Old

As a prelude to watching Blade Runner 2049, last night we watched the original's final cut on Amazon. Hay noticed a necessary continuity error; just prior to making a run for it, Zhora is seen pulling on a pair of boots with killer heels, yet when she's finally shot and falls over, the heels have mysteriously disappeared and the boots are flat. Now were the heels jettisoned automatically by the boots to enable Zhora to run, or was it a necessity so she could run?

I've always wondered what Rick Deckard's job was that enabled him to immediately take up becoming a Blade Runner again. I mean you can't normally just drop your job immediately and he obviously had some occupation in order to keep body and soul together after retiring from being a Blade Runner. I've lived over 30 years thinking Harrison For's character was called Dekker.

It's strange how the female replicants have exotic names, whereas the males have normal, boring ones.

We're looking forward to seeing Blade Runner 2049, especially given the reviews.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

That Old Canard

It's becoming self-evident that, despite the Brexiteers' demonstrably false cries that they need us more than we need them, the EU will not give the UK special status; the broad, sunlit uplands of Utopia are a myth. This was known before the referendum, as giving the UK concessions would provide the green light for other EU members to demand similar treatment and herald the demise of the project. Ukip, however, in an act of national hubris, refused to listen to reason - people with irrational, dogmatic prejudices don't like being challenged by facts.

Now the call is for a hard Brexit - which is exactly what was predicted, and the start of the decline of the UK to a position of near irrelevance on the fringe of Europe, with declining productivity, rising inflation and a debt mountain larger than before the global financial crisis.
  • We will reclaim our national waters, only to be barred from fishing in the rest of the EU's waters and having up to 24% tariffs imposed on fish exports to the EU - our larges fish export market.
  • German car makers will not come to our rescue, as they don't want to see the UK becoming a back-door for cheap imports from the rest of the world and threatening the emerging markets of eastern Europe.
  • Japanese car makers will be subsidised to stay in the UK to the tune of their entire wage bill.
  • Logistics supply chains reliant on input from Europe will be thrown into disarray.
  • Air transport, be it passenger or cargo (according to IATA) will suffer a severe downturn due to policies not being in place and many routes will be closed.
  • We will lose all current Free Trade Agreements under the EU, and as a nation of 65m compared to the EU's 600m, we will fall to the back of the queue in future FTA negotiations.
  • Being a nation of only 65m, we will not get better deals than were negotiated under the EU - in fact, logic dictates we'll get worse ones as we're a smaller market.
  • Tariffs, combined with the additional friction and beaurocracy necessitated by customs procedures, will raise the cost of both imports and exports, adding to inflationary pressures and a loss of competitiveness on exports.
  • We will lose the Euro clearing business to Germany or France, along with 83,000 jobs and €930 billion of trades per day.
  • Economists have estimated the loss to the economy would be between 4% and 9.5% of GDP - between 12 and 29 times the cost of membership.
That's not to say there won't be winners, which is why they're heard arguing their narrow viewpoints, but they're only interested in their companies, not the UK in general. The CEOs of such companies have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders, not UK Plc.

Our only hope now is that Mrs May is using Fabian tactics with the Brexiteer's and delaying the break till such time as it becomes obvious to even the most hardened Brexiteer than this is pure folly, and calls for a 2nd referendum. My fear, though, is that the dogmatists who hate Europe with a passion and are dishonest about their reasons, just won't listen.

Polls, however, are encouraging and there is a gradual and growing swing to remaining. There will be cries of; "The will of the people should not be thwarted," but what if the will of the people changes? If a defendant is found guilty and subsequently evidence is uncovered that he or she is innocent, does justice demand that the original sentence stands? As David Davies said in 2012; "If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy." Democracy is a process, not a binary event.

The only people who Brexit will definitely benefit as a group are the speculators, who thrive on uncertainty. Lots of Conservative MPs have links to the City and some, indeed, own wealth management funds. It's hardly surprising they're Brexit fanatics. Parliament, for the unscrupulous, is a route to untold wealth.

Saturday, 14 October 2017


This is the latest book I'm reading:

I've learned a few things:

  • The reason men's coats button left over right is so it leaves the sword hand free if you need to unbutton your coat during a sword fight - as I have occasionally had to do.
  • Women are escorted on the gentleman's right arm due to the sword being on the left hip and an encumbrance.
  • Rapiers proliferated in Elizabethan times due to their much lower cost of production. This fuelled a high increase in violence (a lesson for the NRA - violence decreased considerably when the wearing of swords in public was banned).
  • Because of it's lower cost, the rapier was originally the weapon of choice of the lower orders and its use was frowned upon by the nobility, who were used to hacking each other to death with the broadsword, where size, strength and endurance won the day, rather than skill and tactics.
  • The Elizabethan fencing master was considered on a social level with a juggler, actor or vagabond, but this changed once the nobility adopted the rapier out of necessity.
  • The Germans turned fencing into a sport and the custom of shaking the right hand came from there, using the sword hand to signify disarmament and peace.
A certain personage is mentioned in the book - the splendidly named Palfry Alpar, who was former Arms Master at the Royal Hungarian Military Academy. His name sounds like a quaint village in the heart of  the Cotswolds, a bit like Meryl Streep, although that is in Somerset...

Friday, 13 October 2017

Dyslexic Cat Mirrors

Hay's new kitchen island is causing problems. Because it takes up a sizeable area of the kitchen, the various cats in the house occasionally go round a corner of it and run, unexpectedly, into another cat. With the black and ginger cats this is not an issue - they are brothers; however, when it comes to Kitty, it's a different matter and a fight is called for, with fur flying and cat screams.

We need cat mirrors at each corner so the cats get advance warning of Kitty being just round the corner. 

A new dyslexia centre has been opened in Bristol, according to our local news. You'd think there would be a simpler word for the condition - how the hell is a dyslexic person meant to find the centre if they can't read such a complex word? Non-dyslexics can even have a problem with it, for God's sake.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Camembert Catastrophe on Facebook

Not content with one disaster, I compounded it last night while Hay was away for a couple of days. I made baked Camembert for No.2 Son and self, using Lidl Camembert, forgetting it should be made with pasteurised Camembert and ending up with the usual curdled, rubbery mess.

The image below is what it should look like; mine was more like one of those plastic replicas of food you see in restaurant windows in Japan.

Well, it's skinny day today, so I shouldn't be able to make a mess of a simple soup toight.

Facebook is becoming rather a nuisance. I'm constantly having to move my cursor to view what I want to view when scrolling, as things keep popping out of the background whenever the cursor goes over hyperlinks, of which there are simply too many these days. if it's not a damned advert for something I'll never buy, it's unnecessary information about people having posted a reply.

There's a PC-based application called Data Selfie that monitors your Facebook usage and makes an attempt at interpreting that, drawing a conclusion about your proclivities. However, it doesn't take into consideration why you're looking at a particular page, just the fact you're there. Nor does it take into account your smartphone viewing habits. The application has me down as as a conservative Christian, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. The only reason I visit such pages is to have arguments with conservative Christians. I wondered why I kept seeing adverts for guns and bibles - all is now clear.