Monday, 16 January 2017

Big - Small - Big

It's strange how technology starts of big, becomes much smaller and then gets bigger again. A prime example is the mobile phone. However, consider the humble pram too. They started off as massive carriages, minus the horses - aka the Silver Cross prams that mothers and Norland nannies all over the world used to perambulate their charges. The Silver Cross basically required its own garage. Mothers and nannies had to leave the kids outside any shop they had occasion to visit and I'm certain a lot of babies were nicked while their mother popped into a shop of some bacon.

Then came the Maclaren buggy. Small, efficient and convenient for packing away in a car boot. If ever you see anyone in their late 50s or early 60s with a missing fingertip, you can almost guarantee they lost it while folding a Maclaren in the 70s. No problem at all going through a shop with one of these, as they were only as wide as a child.

Then some bright spark decided to combine the function of a baby car seat with a pram, and now we once more have humungous Swiss Army prams that mothers insist on bringing into crowded coffee shops. They're designed so as to accommodate the entire kitchen and a massive Kath Kidston baby bag containing everything required for a week's stay in the Cotswolds.

One day someone is going to cross a pram with a 4x4...

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Phone (or Write) Home

Another day of volunteer phone box scraping and grinding yesterday.

No.2 Son and I took the 10 to 12 watch. 

Tried an insular uncial script with the calligraphy pens yesterday. Not too bad, but again, practice is required. It's not a script I've ever tried before. I'm really getting back into this.

I'll probably get into trouble for that. Who are the Romanes?

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Animatronic Egg Discs

Overheard while watching a local news item about the BBC Natural History Unit's use of animatronic spy creatures:

Hay: "Would you notice if an animatronic Hayley suddenly replaced me?"

Chairman: "I thought you were animatronic."

Hay: "Well, I'm not."

Chairman: "Just what I'd expect you to say if you were animatronic..."

Overheard listening to Desert Island Discs and demonstrating the change in language.

Chairman: "Hideous choices - these tunes were probably popular when she came out."

Hay: "Was she a bloke then?"

Chairman: "I  mean in the sense of being a debutante...."

Trump says he'll work with Russia. I  bet he will, given the recent events.

This week's egg delivery showed up what must have been a painful lay for one of the chickens.

One of our neigbours also had a similar delivery with just one humungous egg out of 6.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Bill's Epistle to the Blogosphere

The Sheaffer calligraphy pens arrived yesterday. Much broader nib than I'm used to and, not having done this for well over a couple of decades I'm rather rusty. Must see if I can obtain finer nibs, else I'll be constrained to jumbo-writing.

I had my own way of doing letters and I seem to have forgotten how I did the letter g. A bit of practice when I have more time and I'm sure it will all come back. Given there were three pens and a whole range of colours I tried a bit of decoration, albeit somewhat cack-handedly.

I'll probably bore everyone rigid now with hand-written blog posts.

Stop press: Just looked more closely at the nibs on the 3 pens and they are indeed of varying sizes, but I was so keen on having each pen for a different colour that I didn't realise it.

My Book of Kells book with the colour plates also arrived a few days ago. I'll never be able to replicate these capitals if I live to be 100.

Click on them to enlarge and appreciate their exquisite beauty.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Crowd Coach

Heard that Jose Mourinho has said that supporters need to up their game. Given that the level of crowd support can have an important psychological effect on players, this is an interesting concept. Support for teams in the USA is almost a professional job, what with cheerleaders, etc. Perhaps football companies need to invest in employing crowd coaches...

Wednesday, 11 January 2017


Stirred into action by watching the biography of the Brontës on BBC over the holiday period, I purchased copies of Villette and The Professor last week, the former being Charlotte Brontë's first novel and the latter being a later and shorter reworking of the former.

Unless you have a good command of French, don't bother with Villette. While the novel starts off in England, it swiftly moves to Belgium, where Charlotte Brontë seems desperate to display her knowledge of French. While I can cope with the odd word here and there, she quickly moves to entire sentences, then paragraphs and finally complete conversations, at which point I lost interest and gave up in disgust. It requires substantially more than just a rudimentary knowledge of schoolboy/girl French.

Very much a woman's book, meandering around stream-of-consciousness emotions and long, descriptive prose. You can miss paragraphs and even entire pages and not lose anything of the plot - it's just acres of descriptions. Extremely well written, but nevertheless boring for a bloke - not a steam engine or piston in the entire novel, and it's set in the Industrial Revolution, for heaven's sake. 

She and her family were spot on with the heavy metal umlauted 'o' in the surname though - good marketing ploy, well before its time and designed to attract the young.

Stop Press: got to page 9 of The Professor and decided to scan ahead for signs of French. Yes, littered with the abominable tongue, which is only to be expected with a rewrite. If only it had been set in Antwerp and not the French speaking part of Belgium. Will have to move on to some other classic novel set in Blightly.

While I'm aware that virtually, if not every word in English that ends in able is French in derivation, it only struck me on reading the novel that the English word 'chamber' is obviously derived from the French 'chambre'. Obvious when you think of it, which I never did. Strike out everything French in our language and you're left with just a bit of German and Scandinavian and a drop of Roman. So much for Brexit...

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Bland Media Cuckoo Strikes

Surely there must be a market gap for a news media source that identifies news, checks the facts and isn't just a propaganda machine for its owner's political views?

Heard something on the news this morning about someone in government wanting to introduce legislation requiring higher levels of support for strikes from union members before they can be called. I somehow think the government has stymied itself by requiring only a simple majority for Brexit, a decision of far greater importance to the country than whether a union goes on strike or not.

My company has just switched travel services provider and yesterday I was inducted into the web-based travel booking system. You have to set up your profile, including passport number, airline and hotel loyalty cards, etc. On entering your flight preferences there's a section on in-flight food, which you can't leave blank. Whereas it has some 20 options for every conceivable food nutter in existence, there's no option for just normal food. In order to simply get beyond the option I had to select the low calorie option - it was the least mad. There was even a 'bland' option. The latter must be for anyone wanting to sample British cuisine.

Went to our local National Trust property, Dyrham Park, on Sunday just for something to do. Feeling a bit flush, we had a light lunch in the cafe. Next to us was a family comprising mum and dad and four kids, none of whom were above 5 years of age. What was spooky was that mum and dad had dark hair while every one of the kids were was bright blond and looked like an extra from the Midwich Cuckoos. Scary.

We felt a bit under-dressed being in charity shop chic and simply couldn't compete with all the mums and dads with their Dubarry / Hunter / Kath Kidston wellies, Barbours and tweed caps. Why do parents insist on taking humungous buggies into crowded spaces? When I had young kids the object of the exercise was to own a buggy that folded into nothing, whereas today's objective is to have the buggy equivalent of a Humvee or small Sherman tank that caters for every eventuality, including off-roading.

Monday, 9 January 2017


Overheard while watching a TV advert:

Voiceover: "Tempur mattresses conform to the shape of your body..."

Hay: "Perhaps not the best idea in your case, Badger."

Chairman: "Mmmm, my thought exactly."

No.2 Son's phone has once more had to go in for repair and the only spare phone we have is a very, very old Nokia. Now the battery on the Nokia lasts an entire week or more without recharging, as it's simply a phone and nothing more. Now here's an idea; develop a mobile phone with two batteries - one dedicated solely to the essential phone functions and another for the less essential social media, email and web stuff that takes all the juice. That said, I would hazard a guess that, for kids, the social media functions are considered infinitely more essential than the phone.

Talking of mobile phones, we were in a local cafe on Saturday and a woman on the table next to us answered her mobile and proceeded to have a live video conversation with her daughter. Now, I don't know why, but it made me feel very uneasy. Why should I feel like that when it was no different to her having a conversation with her daughter had she been in front of her? Hay felt the same too, but neither of us knew why. It wasn't even as if the conversation was overly loud - it was just at normal conversation level. Any thoughts?

I've discovered the joys of AM radio of late. I'm fed up having to re-tune my FM car radio every now an again when travelling long distance on motorways. However, with AM it stays on the same station for the entire journey. OK, it's a bit crackly at times and you get interference when going under bridges, but given I mainly listen to Radio 4 and it's voice, there's very little detriment to my enjoyment.

Am I becoming steampunk?

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Wren Unitasking

Overheard while walking:

Hay: "I'm not talking to you while you're on that bloody phone!"

Chairman: "But I can multitask."

Hay: "You can barely unitask!"

Later in Lidl:

Hay: "Those are the apples you got last time. I wasn't keen on them."

Chairman, pointing to another box: "No, I got those apples."

Hay: "You're pointing to another box containing exactly the same apples."

Chairman: "Oh, yes, but they are still the apples you're not keen on..."

A family of wrens regularly get under the eaves of our house and inexplicably lay eggs in the middle of winter. The baby wrens fledge about now and manage (don't ask me how) to enter the upstairs of our house on their way out of the nest. 

Yesterday we had a couple of fledgling wrens in the upstairs bedroom. One succumbed to Kitty, but we managed to shoo the other out to safety - although I don't know how it will survive in the middle of winter.

You can just imagine the wren parents thinking; "Let's nest here; it's quite warm, and it will give our kids an excellent chance of survival," not realising that their progeny are going to have to run the gauntlet of Kitty on their way out from the nest.

Last week Kitty caught a bird outside, brought it inside, dismembered it under the stairs and then was sick. I believe she got a bad case of thrush...

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Alien Knowledge

Mrs May is to meet Donald Trump shortly after his inauguration. Will he Tweet that is isn't really Mrs May, but an alien in a Mrs May suit?

I often wonder whether our tendency to revere ancient knowledge (even though much of it is complete bunk) is due to the fact we had a Dark Age when a lot of knowledge was lost, and thus when the lost knowledge came to light it was indeed perceived as venerable compared to what was then known.